While I enjoyed exploring Mournstead and appreciate what Lords of the Fallen brings to the soulslike formula, it ultimately fails to maintain consistency throughout
I was reaally interested to try out Lords of the Fallen. When it was revealed, the first thing that jumped to me was how good it looked visually with the other interesting part being the whole two-world mechanic. Playing it on PS5, I found it to be a mixed experience - it shows promise but struggles to reach the quality of the genre's best.
The world of Mournstead that Lords of the Fallen creates is its biggest strength. Exploring the decaying gothic environments across both the worlds of Axiom and Umbral, more on that later, is truly compelling thanks to excellent art design. From dark massive castles littered with statues, to the decaying cities and forests filled with a sense of dread, the game is absolutely stunning. The same can be said about all of the dark and creepy creatures that you will encounter and inevitably slay in your journey to save this land... as you usually do in these types of games.
I say this cause the story, in these games, is always kinda the same. You are an unnamed hero with some mystical power that allows you to "cheat" death and you are tasked with saving the land from a main evil creature. Supporting you on your journey there's always a cast of "interesting" NPCs that apart from allowing you to upgrade your character and gear, will also slowly feed you lore and exposition that kinda builds up the world in hopes that you understand what's happening. But let's be honest here, you won't know what is happening and you don't really care at all.
What I am trying to say is that I have no idea what the story of Lords of The Fallen is as I mentally checked out of it after the pretty amazing intro CGI cutscene ended. I just don't really care about the story all that much when playing soulslikes, I am there just to explore a cool world, slaying monsters left and right and die a lot of times in the process.
Lords of The Fallen does a pretty cool thing with its world or should I say worlds as there are two different versions Axiom and Umbral. Axiom is the land of the living while Umbral is well, the land of the dead. Apart from looking different in terms of color tones, the layout of these worlds is also different. One path that is blocked in Axiom for example, is opened in Umbral or viceversa. Using the Umbral Lamp while in Axiom, like a flashlight, allows you to see the Umbral world and interact with it. For example, if you are in Axiom, use the lamp and see a bridge, as long as you hold the lamp up, you can walk on top of that bridge.
Alternatively, you can use the lamp to just transport yourself to the Umbral world altogether. The Umbral world is well, darker and harder than the Axiom, where healing items don't really work as in Axiom and there are more enemies that will swarm you and make your life way harder, which by the way is really weird for a soulslike. Luckily, there are some things that allow you to go back to Axiom. Oh and also when you die in Axiom, you get a second chance in Umbral and if you die there too,, you'd have to restart from a checkpoint.
Switching between the two realms using the Umbral Lamp adds an engaging layer of complexity to the game. I also appreciated innovative ideas like temporary player-planted "bonfires" you can place in specific places and the intense challenge of surviving in Umbral after dying.
However, it's in the level and enemy design that Lords of the Fallen begins to falter. Later areas feel overly samey and repetitive, with some dull stretches punctuated by annoyingly overwhelming enemy encounters. While I enjoy a challenge, fighting room after room filled with numerous foes starts to feel artificially difficult rather than skill-testing. The lock-on system doesn't help in these crowded situations either.
Combat remains the soulslike standard of balanced melee/magic and quality feedback. While for the most part, it is OK, often it just feels off, like it's not as responsive as it should be. You can't really cancel an attack with a dodge or if you press the attack button a couple of times then the dodge button, but you don't want to dodge anymore, you can't cancel that last dodge. It just feels off.
Boss fights represent a mix - some are highlights showing clever mechanics and fair difficulty. But others miss the mark by being either too easy or overly tedious. Luckily there are NPC or online summons that will make your life a little bit easier against some of the challenging bosses.
While I enjoyed exploring Mournstead and appreciate what Lords of the Fallen brings to the soulslike formula, it ultimately fails to maintain consistency throughout. Repetitive second half levels, combat that too often feels off and some weak bosses lessen the overall experience. For soulslike fans willing to endure flaws, it shows glimpses of promise but falls short of genre greats. Maybe wait for a sale and then give this game a try. Thanks for reading!