The developers of Lords of the Fallen don’t like all the comparisons to Dark Souls, but there’s really no other way to put things. This is Dark Souls, next-gen… and is that such a bad thing?
Depends on how you feel about such a blatant copy, I suppose. It's not so much the style, although the game is as vicious to you as FROM Software's modern classic, the kind of game that makes you learn from your mistakes death by death. The copying goes down to the buttons as well, with Lords of the Fallen controlling exactly the same way, the same buttons performing the same manuevers and the same mechanics in play.
It's a tiny bit more cartoony than Dark Souls, a bit more stylized, but it's still dark and depressing. You play a hulking, armored knight who’s carrying a shield and a sword. He has a bit of magic and even an estus flask of sorts that can heal you- it has three uses before it has to be refilled at a checkpoint.
What’s more: when you are killed, your experience lays there, daring you to return to it and claim it before it is lost forever. Much like with Dark Souls (there we go again) it will disppear if you die on your way to get it but this game's even worse- it will slowly drain of experience points the longer you leave it there, thus encouraging you to get to your death site as soon as possible. Of course, there's generally something awful there that caused your death so that's usually harder than it sounds.
The E3 demo starts you off in a narrow corridor of what seems to be a crypt, with an enemy staring down at you from the top of a staircase. At least you think it is- the first creatures you face are blind, disgusting, slimy beasts. You can sneak up on them to get an initial hit in but if they hear you clanking around they'll be right on you. Much like in... other games, even the simplest enemy can kill you if you're not careful. You have to block, knock them back with your shield, and only attack when you have a free moment. The first few battle quickly taught me that, as this one foe whittled away my health as I figured out the controls, and the importance of dodging. (As in other games.)
After the initial enemy you came upon a round room that looked somewhat like a dungeon, and were soon faced with three of them. "You might want to back up," commented the helpful dev taking me through the game, and it was good advice. Facing one of them at a time can be trouble enough.
After taking care of them I forged on ahead, only to hear a horrible thumping noise coming towards me, reverberating through the hall. A gigantic armored knight, almost twice my size, came rumbling down the hallway, his massive armor almost scraping the sides of the wall. I immediately turned and ran like anyone familar with how these things usually go (not cowardly, thoughtful!) and went back into the room I was just in. The circular room had a pit in the middle that was covered with rickety boards- could it be? I aligned myself on the other side of it and when the knight charged me, sure enough, he crashed right though, flying down with a cry to his death. Much easier than anticipated.
That little moment of triumph was soon destroyed moments later when coming across even more of the gooey little enemies and yet another giant knight. That guy is basically impenetrable from in front, so large is his shield. The only chance to hit him is to manuever around him, which is tricky in the tight, stone corridors you are stuck in. Fortunately you have a trick up your sleeve- a fire spell that can take out almost all of his health, and knock him down as well. I found (through numerous deaths) that slamming him with a fireball and running up to attack him with a heavy blow while he was down was an effective way of taking him out.
Get past this next one and you'll be faced with a giant spider that falls down from the ceiling and immediately tries to spit green acid at you. It's not hard to dodge, since it rears back to spit it out, but it can also release small eggs that hatch tiny little spiders that instantly attack you, born into a world of rage and anger such as they are. The spider is all that prevents you from hitting a lever that opens a gate standing in your way. That's not a good thing. Walk in and a boss battle triggers, a giant hulking beast that comes charging right at you, sometimes slamming tendrils into the ground that weave their way to you and explode from underground.
After that, well, you'll have to wait for the full game, because I wasn't able to get past this monster. This game is tough.
While it's hard to separate Lords of the Fallen from the game that so obviously influenced it, CI Games is promising a much more robust story than Dark Souls ever offered. One thing is obvious- it's a really beautiful and polished experience, exactly how you'd want a next-gen title to look.
Will gamers be able to forgive it being so close to a beloved game, especially with FROM Software working on their own next-gen followup Bloodborne? Time will tell. All we know is- a lot of people are going to die in the future.
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