The rising popularity of Souls-like games has thrown a gauntlet down to developers: simply mirroring the mechanics and narrative design of Dark Souls is not sufficient to spur player interest anymore. There is crave for innovation in the genre. Attempting to answer this call, we evaluated Lords of the Fallen, a game that not only imitates the revered Souls-like blueprint but translates it into a distinct, immersive experience.
This tale transports you a millennium deep into a landscape curated by the 2014 game bearing the same name. The godly antagonist, Adyr, imprisoned for millenia, seeks revenge and spreads pandemonium across the lands of Mournstead. As a Dark Crusader and Lampbearer, your quest is to overcome this nemesis and cease their reign of terror. The narrative approach is subtly laid back, allowing the environment to narrate most of the lore. Journeying through snowy mountains to marshy bogs, you gradually decipher the story, making it an enjoyable experience.
Mechanically speaking, if you have dabbled with Souls-like games, much will be familiar. Challenging combat, punishing enemies, numerous shortcuts to discover, and the ability to activate Vestiges—Lords of the Fallen has it all. Through the game's currency, Vigor, you will enhance your character’s stats and weapons, gearing up for the formidable bosses. While this aspect of the game is satisfactory, it isn't awe-inspiring. The combat mechanics don't match the finesse of games like Elden Ring, there's a lack of enemy variety, and the distance between Vestiges can appear unreasonably long. Boss battles are entertaining but lack the fear factor seen in its genre contemporaries.
However, the game's distinguishing feature — the dual world mechanic — significantly elevates the gameplay. Here you encounter two parallel universes: Axiom, the world of the living, and Umbral, the realm of the dead. As a player, you can shift to Umbral or observe it using your Umbral Lamp.
This mechanic might initially feel like a novelty, but it soon becomes a fundamental part of gameplay. For starters, switching to Umbral reveals new routes for exploration. If you perish in Axiom, you revive in Umbral, providing an additional lease on gameplay. However, the Umbral realm is fraught with dangers. While you get a Vigor multiplier, Umbral spawns new adversaries in addition to the existing Axiom foes. The more time you dwell in this world, the more aggressive foes become, until healing items are restricted, and you are hunted by an invincible creature. These intense moments can leave you on the edge of your seat.
The choice of switching between Axiom and Umbral becomes a strategic gambit, incorporating an entirely new dynamic layer to gameplay. In the later stages, potent enemies and valuable resources populate the Umbral landscape. Thoughtful decision-making becomes paramount in choosing when to switch realms.
Having been developed with Unreal Engine 5, the game's immersive graphics can be appreciated on the PS5. Each castle wall and derelict village feels like an ancient relic. Stepping into Umbral radically alters your surroundings, seamlessly merging two realms into an integrated whole. Despite some occasional stuttering with the frame rate and minor audio issues in the PS5 version, Lords of the Fallen is a delightful visual experience that makes the most of next-gen technology with its unique dual world narrative design.
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