Lords Of The Fallen: Pride cometh before being eviscerated by a giant knight

From Software should be flattered, really. Either that, or vaguely terrified and on the cusp of filing for a restraining order. This derivative third-person slasher wants to be Dark Souls so hard, it might as well sellotape an Estus Flask to its face. Imitation may well be flattering, but when you’re following in the Hollow steps of the greatest series of its kind, your execution needs to be impeccable.

Last time I checked, 6/10 hardly screeched, “impeccable.” Yes, Lords Of The Fallen is that saddest of doppelgängers: a game that desperately wants to stand on the shoulders of an industry great without fully understanding what makes its inspiration so special. Parts of this darkly handsome actioner are commendable, yet Deck13 Interactive can never replicate the elusive wonder of discovery and masterful combat that makes the Souls titles such modern greats.

Lords is also utterly shameless. Instead of bonfires you have near conceptually identical ‘save shards’. Die, and you have to pelt it back to where your corpse dropped to recover XP. Want to fight a boss rocking an obscenely fat health bar? Here, push your way through this fog… alright, ‘mist’ gate. The game does have its own quirky design wrinkles there’s a modifier that awards you extra XP for killing enemies if you resist the urge to bank your points haul at every save shard. Still, this is an experience that suffers from a chronic lack of fresh ideas.

Harkyn Mad
Not that there aren’t areas where Lords doesn’t honour (and on extremely rare occasions) improve on From’s masterworks. For one, the animation is sumptuous. As ye olde generic knight Harkyn, each swing of your array of blades and axes oozes with a fluid sense of weight and inertia. Snazzy camera cuts also make nailing counters feel like hitting a WWE finisher, giving an often ponderous combat system a much needed injection of theatre and style.

Pity fighting the game’s plethora of undead ghouls and soldiers is akin to moving through marshmallow fluff. Wearing titanium trainers. While hoofing around six shopping bags. Yes, Lords is
oh-so slooooooow. It might look forceful in motion, but the pause between jabbing R1 and Harkyn teeing up an almighty hack feels glacial.

This taps into a deeper problem that lies at the core of Lords: it often feels unfair in a way Dark Souls rarely is. Every damn enemy in the game seems to be considerably faster than you, while swapping targets with the lock-on is unreliable in the extreme. I died a colossal 14 times on a boss because I couldn’t switch to the bugger’s respawning minions.

This is still a close enough facsimile of an undisputed great to make it quietly enjoyable. Yet Lords lacks the Souls to make it truly standout on its own.

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