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I have a bottomless appetite for soulslikes. Any game that emulates the formula of frustratingly unforgiving combat, from conquering Sen’s Fortress in Dark Souls to showing Lady Maria back to the grave in Bloodborne, makes any small victory a massive celebratory milestone.
And yet, while that recipe of limited health, spaced checkpoints, and infuriating bosses attracts me, few soulslikes have managed to channel the same RPG building, world exploring, and captivating lore that makes Dark Souls so appealing.
Enter Lords of the Fallen, another Soulslike that twists in the mechanics of almost every soulsgame, from Sekiro’s second life system to Bloodborne’s recoverable health, thoroughly transforming the soulsborne experience into something altogether new.
Even if the game is crawling with poor graphical optimization, exceptionally laggy multiplayer, and a baffling lore system, I was in awe of Lords of the Fallen’s terrifying Umbral world and thoroughly juicy combat.
Between its portable bonfires, traversable worlds, and strangely satisfying parrying system, I can highly recommend Lords of the Fallen to any Dark Souls fan looking for a fascinating new take on the challenging genre.
Still on the fence? Let’s go over Lords of the Fallen in the below!
Lacking in Lore Points
Though I adored Lords of the Fallen’s bleak, decrepit world, its approach to storytelling felt very strange and frustrating. For our part, we play as a Lampbearer, a being that can travel between the landing of the living and dead, tasked with ending an exiled god’s demon incursion.
While it takes the same Dark Souls approach of opening with a bombastic cutscene, giving you an inkling of your main objective, then leaving the world’s story in item descriptions for us to unravel, Lords of the Fallen painfully decides to withhold item descriptions if we don’t have enough points in our Radiance (Faith) or Inferno (Pyromancy) Stats.
Though I understand this was meant to reconceptualize our understanding of the main antagonists, Adyr and Orius, based on our playstyle and encourage multiple playthroughs, it effectively excludes Strength and Dexterity players from gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the story.
To conquer this issue, players can respec for what I’d jokingly call a “lore-master build” at the end of the game and take 20 minutes to consume every morsel of item descriptions and boss remembrances and better understand the story or result to reading their descriptions on the wiki.
Frankly, Lords of the Fallen’s writing is excellent with morbid tales of an estranged lover’s violent revenge or an eldritch force devouring an academic, so it’s a shame we have to look online to enjoy it.
To its credit, the game introduces several freeze-frame character scenes that expose a dark anecdote, like a Hallowed Sentinals kicking their companion off a cliff or an aristocrat trying to bribe a Rhogar Demon that usually exceeded the traditionally vague and confusing Dark Soul environmental storytelling.
However, these scenes were also plagued by issues, as the highly populated Umbral Realm usually meant I was being pursued by three demon dogs and a hoard of faceless aberrations while trying to make sense of the interactions.
All-in-all, while I feel at odds with the game’s decision to hide story elements behind character stats, Lord’s of the Fallen still managed to tell a bitterly grim story that left me fascinated and horrified by its end. While I wish we could access more of the story without compromising a character’s optimal build, I appreciate that the stories there were exceptionally well written.
Taste My Lamp!
Even if Lords of the Fallen’s storytelling made some questionable decisions, I adored its complete revamp of almost every iconic soulslike element.
Though it emulates Dark Soul RPG character building through level-ups, dodge roll combat, and reinforcing weapons with titanite-esk mechanics almost beat for beat, Lords of the Fallen introduces some clever new mechanics like a world-traveling lamp and portable bonfires.
Specifically, the lamp system plays like Seikro’s second-life mechanic, allowing players who died in the real world of Axiom to spawn back in the undead world of Umbral until they find a safe point to return to Axiom.
Frankly, while I appreciated the extra life in Axiom, especially for dealing with some of the game’s nailbiting platforming sections, I adored the gamble of exploring Umbral for special upgrades for this game’s version of our estus flask (the Sanguinatrix) as well as gaining up to 3 times as many souls if we were willing to endure the late game boss that eventually comes to hunt us down if we remain too long.
Besides its iconic lamp, which can rip out enemies’ souls and temporarily turn us invincible with the right upgrade, Lords of the Fallen incorporates portable bonfire-style seedling checkpoints to save our progress and a regainable health system akin to Bloodborne.
Frankly, while I felt Lords of the Fallen was rather stingy with the areas where I could place a checkpoint earlier on, I eventually grew to appreciate these rests as a way of deciding whether I wanted to risk going through a hellish gauntlet and cut down on needless backtracking to try for the next checkpoint and save myself a checkpoint seed.
As for the regainable health, Lords of the Fallen allows us to survive nearly every hit if we block or parry each strike and then regain a portion of our health (usually all of it if we have a massive strength weapon) and even open a boss for a high damage riposte if we perfectly parry three or four times in a fight.
Though I usually avoid parrying in soulsgames from the sheer frustration of the tight windows, Lords of the Fallen’s combat felt appropriately satisfying to encourage new strategies like this and employ rechargeable throwables against towering demons.
I will admit that some gameplay interactions were outright unfair, with giant bugs that would eat you within an inch of your life if you picked up the wrong collectible and horrendous multiplayer invasions with a poor net code that would cause a fatal half-second delay for the invader.
Even some of the platforming sections were unforgivingly brutal, with single spear enemies that would camp out by the end of the cliffs and hilariously off.
All-in-all, even if there were some unforgivably frustrating scenes in the early game, Lords of the Fallen excellently incorporates some of the best elements from beloved soulsgames to make for a fantastic, multifaceted addition to the series.
Though the RPG mechanics and combat are in the same vein as earlier Dark Souls entries, every new addition felt like an especially violent treat to enjoy.
An Eldritch Eyeball Wonderland
I was utterly astonished by Lords of the Fallen’s terrifying Umbral world. While Axiom’s enemy design and locations are passable, Umbral was an utter realm of nightmarish terror with towering behemoths looming above or a creature’s spindly finger we’d have to run across to reach a faraway piece of loot.
Lords of the Fallen even succeeded in jump-scaring me a few times after transitioning to Umbral with massive eyeballs that had been intently observing me the entire time or the chilling horror of the secret route’s mother feeding on me and all of creation.
Though these same visuals managed to extend to a few of the bosses, like Spurned Progeny, a massive demon that plays dollhouse with corpses, or the Sundered Monarch, a ruined hunchback king mourning his dead family and fighting with a statue of his wife, most of the enemy designs felt somewhat generic and overused.
Any boss you fight early on usually becomes a repeated enemy in the next level, and the devout spear enemies and commonplace faceless aberrations felt overused and uncreative seeing the same enemy in almost every setting.
Even so, despite some generic NPCs and a boring swamp level, Lords of the Fallen boasted some incredible visuals with its Umbral world that I’d likely gawk at for hours if the Scarlet Shadow wouldn’t hunt me down.
Regardless if souslikes aren’t your cup of tea, I highly recommend checking out these terrifying visuals for some of the best Eldritch horror across any medium.
Husky Voices and Zombie Screams
To complete terrifying visuals, Lords of the Fallen employs some top-tier music, voice actors, and sounds to realize its dark setting.
From an opening that’s straight out of a Lord of the Rings orchestral battle, with a holy choir governing a fight between good and evil, to the Umbral music that slowly builds to a crescendo when the Scarlet Shadow invades, I was in love listening to this dreary dying world.
Especially for the voice actors who nail every story scene and interaction, Lords of the Fallen’s characters made me feel for the two doomed lovers before their execution or a fallen hero who realizes he’s condemned the world.
Though the sounds of the enemy variety are the standard mix of rotting zombie noises and horrifying screeches, it still made me more afraid of traversing to Umbral or fear of what lay behind the next corner.
Overall, Lords of the Fallen’s audio feels scarily appropriate for each setting and appropriately drives home every betrayal and boss fight.
Follow Red Light Road
Despite an annoying swamp level and a few platforming challenges, I thoroughly enjoyed Lords of the Fallen’s decrepit world from start to finish.
Even if the game’s difficulty peaked in the mid-early game, as getting a powerful strength weapon and abusing a holy hand grenade took care of most mobs and ranged foes, the interconnected, open-ended world exploration made each area feel like a treasure trove of fun new opportunities.
From javelins that would increase our damage in a small circular area when thrown on the ground, umbral eye abilities that enhanced our lamp’s powers, and even a low-cost spell that would reduce our incoming damage by 30%, each area offered a fantastic new set of skills I was thrilled to experiment with.
Better yet, Lords of the Fallen’s system of branching paths meant I could go explore a different path if I was having too much trouble with an Ice King guarding the next area or return to the previous area in Umbral and look for any loot I missed.
Though I was somewhat confused about where to progress towards the endgame, as no character told me I had to return to a previous area and interact with a heavy set of doors, the giant red beams in the sky generally made it easier to navigate and brute force my way to the end.
While two of the endings feel less worthwhile, the narrative build-up and payoff towards the secret ending is fantastic, with a devasting Umbral conclusion that expertly wraps the grim story together.
All-in-all, while the challenge mostly dissipated towards the end, I thoroughly enjoyed what new enemies’ abilities and narrative payoffs Lords of the Fallen built, too. While I’ll admit, there were a few gameplay letdowns, like the final boss with Adyr, the secret final boss of Elianne The Starved offered a wholly satisfying end to my playthrough.
Undead Infest the UI
My most significant complaint with Lords of the Fallen is its extremely poor optimization. Though most of my technical complaints have already been handled in recent patches, the intensive framerate drops still plagued more populated areas, causing drastic stuttering and fatal framerate drops.
Besides that, the poorly implemented net code made connecting to and invading other players much more challenging, creating a half-second delay in response time that led invaders to get unfairly stunlocked death.
As a veteran Souls player, I only had three successful invasions throughout my 30 attempts, primarily due to environmental hazards that killed the host rather than my own skill or cunning.
Though I expect the developers to patch this eventually, the poor multiplayer will likely remain prominent for the next few months, so I don’t recommend invading others until it’s properly fixed.
Even if I was annoyed by its UI issues, Lords of the Fallen employed some of the juiciest replayability I’ve seen in a soulsgame. Specifically, beating the game with one of the three endings unlocks a powerful specific class tailored to that ending with its own set of spells, weapons, and even a sprinkling of lore that cannonizes a new playthrough.
While this design was utterly genius and encouraged me to play the game thrice more to try out these three new classes, New Game Plus took it a step by gradually removing the permanent bonfire-esk vestiges on each playthrough until you only have access to the portable seedling vestigial.
I adored this commitment to making the game drastically harder and having to leverage the many sidepaths that reconnected back to the main base offered.
Overall, between the three main paths to follow, classes to unlock, and an ultra-punishing New Game Plus mode, Lords of the Fallen had some top-tier replayability I wish more soulsgames would emulate.
Overall Pros and Cons
- Satisfyingly Challenging Gameplay
- Fantastic Umbral World
- Intricate Replayability
- Diverse Ways to Tackle a Boss
- Poorly Optimized Graphics
- Generic Enemy Design
- Occasionally Fatal Pickups
- Sloppy Multiplayer Invasions
Alternative Fallen Lords for Your Consideration
Frankly, Lords of the Fallen isn’t for everyone. The brutal difficulty, laggy multiplayer, and poor graphical optimization can turn off players looking for a more forgiving entrance to the challenge of soulslikes.
Fortunately, various other From Soft titles and souls games offer a better implemented multiplayer with fewer graphical constraints. If Lords of the Fallen wasn’t your cup of tea, I highly recommend the titles below:
JT Spent 40 Hours across three playthroughs slaying demons and kicking priests off ledges. He built an unstoppable strength build, defeated every boss, and purified/corrupted/withered every demon beam.
Though he had a fantastic first playthrough and more fun on vestigeless playthroughs, he can satisfyingly call it quits, knowing he’s exhausting everything Lords of the Fallen has had to offer.
However, once its multiplayer is properly fixed, other players can dread JT’s return as a pure PVP player intent on wrecking other’s worlds and collecting their severed arms as trophies.
Until then, JT will occasionally return whenever he’s in the mood to get devoured by an unimaginable maternal horror from beyond the pale or kick rotting religious zombies off ledges for his amusement.
Question: How Hard is Lords of the Fallen?
Answer: While its early game is quite challenging with low health and high damage foes, the second life system and umbral lamp offer a generous crutch that softens most of the game’s severe frustration. Players looking to make the game even easier can focus on building a strength build with a massive hammer or great club to obliterate most foes.
Question: Is Lords of the Fallen’s Multiplayer Fixed?
Answer: Though players can technically engage in multiplayer, invaders will suffer from poor net code that usually inhibits their ability to strike before their host. I advise sticking to cooperative play to find a less frustrating way to play with others and gain access to Lords of the Fallen’s multiplayer rewards.
Question: How Long is Lords of the Fallen?
Answer: About 15-20+ hours, depending on the player’s skill level and picking the appropriate build for a given situation. Players can significantly cut down the length of most boss fights by switching to powerful heavy weapons and leveraging spells that reduce damage and employ throwables that increase player damage at a given range.
Verdict 8: Great
Considering all the criticism regarding its poor multiplayer and graphical limitations, Lords of the Fallen is one of the best Soulslikes I’ve played in recent years.
While I’ve enjoyed other recent additions to the genre like Lies of P or Mortal Shell, they usually managed to outstay their welcome with uninteresting combat and boring worlds, whereas Lords of the Fallen continued to astonish me with ever more horror from its umbral realm.
Though this game’s brutal difficulty makes it far from a recommendable entry for a newcomer to the soulslike genre, any veteran of From Soft’s series can appreciate the incorporation of Bloodborne’s health regen system, Sekiro’s second life system, portable bonfires from Dark Souls mods, and host of fantastic mechanics that flow together into something wonderful and new.
Even if I can’t give the same praise to the game’s laggy multiplayer and graphical slowness, I appreciate the developers are still working on the game and intend to fix almost every major criticism I found fault with.
All-in-all, I highly recommend Lords of the Fallen for longtime fans of From Soft Suffering looking for a wholly new take on the soulslike series. Though it may take some getting used to, I promise you’ll be more than willing to feed yourself to motherly eldritch eyeball by the end.