Lords of the Fallen has been a divisive game when it comes to reviews, especially because of its performance on PC. But there are a lot of things the game just does right. We'll show you in our review why we loved the latest Souls-like by Hexworks.
Lords of the Fallen is CI Games' reboot of their previous title of the same name. Although reviews so far are mixed, especially because of the game's poor PC performance, there are a lot of things the game does right and there's a lot to like here.
Especially on the PS5 version we got to play, we barely experienced any issues and were able to enjoy Lords of the Fallen the way the game was supposed to be enjoyed, and it was a blast!
Lords of the Fallen | The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
When it comes to Souls-likes, many competitors have tried dethroning FromSoftware and none of them have been successful so far. This claim still remains true, as although Lords of the Fallen is a lot of fun, it falls short in some areas and doesn't quite measure up to masterpieces like Elden Ring, Bloodborne, Dark Souls or Sekiro.
There is still room for improvement, but Lords of the Fallen has some unique ideas that we'd love to see explored in future titles. Overall, we had a lot of fun with the game and especially once the performance issues are fixed, we would consider it one of the best Souls-likes to ever come out.
World Building & Exploration
Lords of the Fallen is a whole lot of fun, and especially the exploration of the world, including the Umbral Realm, was a lot of fun. The world's design reminded us of the first Dark Souls, with intelligently placed shortcuts and interconnected areas that left us baffled.
Still, it can be hard to keep track of where you need to go and at one point, I actually ended up accidentally skipping 6 areas before pulling out the phone to google the progression route.
The way the lantern is integrated into exploration, though, is incredible. Just walking around occasionally shedding some Umbral light on a structure, just to see an enormous skeleton appear out of nowhere, never got old. Overall, the game looks metal AF and the art designers definitely deserve a raise with how awesome everything looks!
The dual realm concept is by far the coolest mechanic any Souls-like competitor introduced into the mix, although it might be the reason for the games' performance issues.
Switching to the Umbral realm really makes you feel like Frodo putting on the One Ring at The Prancing Pony, especially once the eyeball on the side of your screen turns red, and you get chased around by the literal Reaper.
One thing that they kind of fail at, though, is the way the story integrates into the world building. In Elden Ring for example, there is lore behind every enemy that you can have a lot of fun watching a VaatiVidya video on. The same can't really be said about the enemies in Lords of the Fallen.
For most enemies, it feels like they got designed with the intention to look cool, which they do, but it kind of feels lacking in substance. This might also be related to the fact that the item descriptions are not really intriguing and hard to find because of a clunky interface.
If you find the bits and pieces and really dig into the lore, it's pretty cool with some genuinely interesting characters, that sadly, most players will never really get to enjoy.
Gameplay & Performance
Talking about gameplay, we kind of have to address the elephant in the room: the pretty bad performance issues that have people review bombing the game and gave us Cyberpunk 2077 flashbacks.
Although we were mostly spared from FPS drops, game crashes etc. especially in the beginning, and before they released some hotfixes and before adjusting the settings from "Quality" to "Performance", cutscenes felt like slideshows. Playing the game also triggered a headache that made us almost drop the game altogether.
After adjusting the settings and downloading the first Lords of the Fallen patches they rushed out, the game has run smoothly for us and gameplay felt the way it was intended. At that point, we would like to mention that we focused on the single-player and didn't dive all that deeply into the multiplayer, so we're using that as a benchmark.
As one of the most important aspects of any Souls-like, combat was a lot of fun and felt surprisingly smooth. Sure, it feels like sometimes you're locked into your attack animation for way too long, but you get used to the difference real quick and every action you take has a nice impact to it. Lords of the Fallen feels similar to Mortal Shell in that regard, although movement feels a lot smoother and there is way more variety to the combat.
One thing we particularly enjoyed was the way that they tried to integrate the lantern, as well as the Umbral realm, into the major boss fights, although it falls flat in a lot of areas, which is why we mostly resorted to the basics.
Boss fights in general are well-designed, even if you could argue that the move sets are a little too telegraphed, this doesn't take away all that much from the experience. Boss fights are still plenty challenging, but don't feel like they got artificially made harder by adding bullshit attacks that can easily one shot you *cough* Malenia.
Despite more enemies pretty much being canon-fodder than in other Souls-like, you'll still spend your fair share of time being banished to the shadow realm, which feels intentional, so players have to explore this new world some more.
One thing that really did grind our gear a lot though, was the poor interface, which just felt really clunky. If you're used to the smooth and well design of Elden Ring you're in for a rough awakening.
When trying to upgrade your weapon, it can be hard to see how much material you need, and it also took some getting used to for us to find the things we were looking for.
Although it has its fair share of issues, Lords of the Fallen is a lot of fun and once we got going it was hard to put down the controller. The combat sticks to the basics of the Souls-like genre and could be a little more fleshed out but gets the job done quite well.
Where the game really shines is in its more unique aspects and especially the dual realm mechanic and the way it influences exploration. But combat as well, is where things start falling into place. The overall design of the game is incredible, and both Axiom and the Umbral realm show a great deal of attention to detail. The game feels like a passion project brought to life by some genuinely talented people who, given a little more time, could have probably solved the glaring issues the game has.
Talking about issues; Where the game fails is mostly the technical aspects, but even without those there would be room for improvement. It looks like the developers bit off more than they could chew, as especially PC performance has been pretty miserable. We would still consider Lords of the Fallen one of the best Dark Souls competitors to come out in recent years, and that is a pretty big compliment considering we got bangers like Lies of P, Mortal Shell & Remnant 2.
That doesn't change the fact that this game left us longing for more, so whether it be DLCs or another game entirely, we're definitely onboard for more Lords of the Fallen.