Lords of the Fallen Review : Metal as Hell
Over the course of the last year, the soulsborne genre has seen a smaller boom than in previous years. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In that time, we have seen more innovation from the genre than anything. Specifically, if you look at Lies of P and even the mediocre Wo Long Fallen Dynasty tried some new things. This is where Lords of the Fallen excels.
The story of Lords of the Fallen is convoluted, but like any decent soulsborne, it pays off the more in-depth you dive into it. Thankfully, diving deeper into the lore mainly involves activating these creepy death or pivotal point statues in the Umbra. These statues will give you an exciting look into the past of certain characters and what led them down their individual paths.
My favorite part about these statues was that almost every boss had one. This meant that after a long, grueling fight with some particularly nasty bosses, there was a moment of calm where you found out, for example, that the giant monster made of a human corpse was turned because he was trapped and with nothing but a corpse nearby he had to turn to cannibalism to stave off starvation.
But, the base-level story in Lords of the Fallen is that centuries ago, there was a Demon God named Adyr, who eventually fell. S formed the legion of Hallowed Sentinals, who took it upon themselves to guard against his return by crafting these beacons of light across the world of Mournstead. Eventually, these sentinels died off, and Adry and his demons started to garner more power. The remaining sentinels’ descendants found a lamp that let the user pass between the two planes of existence. In comes our player character, who the lamp passed onto upon the death of its previous user, so the church essentially conscripts us to help fight against the demons and their attempt to fully revive their master Adyr.
That is the setup alone, and from there, it gets incredibly dark, like I had mentioned with the one human turned to demonism by needing to commit cannibalism to stay alive. While the story is dark and confusing in Lords of the Fallen, it does lay itself out in the player’s way if you choose to gather the whole picture. By the end, I was going back to ensure I had seen them all and put the story together. I was surprised by how well some NPCs were written and how their battles and woes became my own as I talked to them and learned their stories.
The look of Lords of the Fallen is incredible. Imagine Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Doom all had this heavy metal as hell baby. Loads of metal, gore, and generally body horror are strewn throughout the land. It helps create this sense of immortal gods playing with their toys no matter the cost to the living beings. Initially, I was not too fond of the enemy and boss design. But, eventually, it really grew on me and showed me it was varied, horrific, and unique outside of the opening section. There is a section of frozen lands that comes across as very bland not only in environmental storytelling and locations but enemies as well. But save for that, CI games did a great job.
The most crucial aspect of any soulborne is its combat. Lords of the Fallen stumbles a little here as it tries to balance too many game mechanics. Between the basic stamina-based fighting, there is magic that handles pretty well, but add in the umbral aspect and needing to know when to switch back and forth, and all the lamps abilities. While a cool thought experiment overall, it ended up leading me more toward confusion and frustration than anything else. This is a shame because being able to shift and change your surroundings on a dime was awesome. But again, when it came to the frozen lands, it demanded so much shifting that it became more of a chore.
There are a few abilities tied into the lamp as well. Your shifting powers, which also help the game become a little easier when you die in the regular, your body shifts to the Umbral, where you retain roughly half your health and half of it is “whithered” damage, which you can regain health on as long as you keep damaging enemies without getting hit. It’s the other abilities that bog it down a little bit. Soul stealing is just a cool idea that lets you rip an enemy’s soul and gives you a window of opportunity to attack freely. Siphon, which enables you to recharge your sou flay ability, and sometimes, when enemies are protected by umbral spirits, it destroys them so you can start doing damage. And finally, the soul vestige lets you plant only in specific spots these flowers that allow you to rest and shift back. This also creates a temporary fast travel point.
Overall, Lords of the Fallen is a good time. While I don’t think it stands up there with Elden Ring or Dark Souls, it sets itself apart enough and tries to elevate the genre in unique and exciting ways that honestly work most of the time. With a convoluted but metal-as-hell story and solid gameplay, Lords of the Fallen is great.