Lords of the Fallen
Tea: Extra strong Sencha (I really needed it for this)
Oh boy, here we are. Lords of the Fallen was, as you may have noticed yourself, a free PSN game recently and thus I was not spared the pleasure of playing this… project. While I was familiar with the name, Lords never aroused my interest due to its art direction and back then I was aware of its blatant connection and “inspiration” by Dark Souls. Being the fan of the more sinister essence of the self – The Game, I jumped into Lords of the Fallen to test the depth. Now I am back with broken legs and a mouth full of sludge to recount my experience.
You might think I am giving my hand away early with that introduction, but I have just gotten started, let me tell you. It has been awhile since I played something utterly abysmal and now that I have dragged this to my slaughtering bank, I won’t let it off the meat hook so easily. At this point I would usually give a basic introduction to the story and I can attempt that, but I haven’t finished the thing and by the time I put it down I still could not see a greater picture (implying that there even is one to begin with), the only thing I saw were dudes in armour by the millions. There is a rather confusing opening cutscene, during which the main character (yes, no selection like DS, you are a bearded white dude with muscles the size of water coolers) curses the gods Kratos-style and a beast attacks him. A battle ensues during which we learn nothing apart from the fact that the monster design is going to be bland if this thing is the best they can come up with for the opening hook of the game. After the battle a big hand moves in the background I am supposed to be impressed by the scale of things and possible battles to be fought and so on and so forth. Problem is, I already knew that battle would either not take place or be completely disappointing, because the only battle with an oversized monster I ever enjoyed was in Bayonetta and that game had something this utterly lacks, but we will get to that, don’t worry. Story-wise it might get interesting after I put it down, I wouldn’t know. I had no sense of how far I had progressed so take my word with a grain of salt, but I did a bit of research and watched one of these “All Boss Fights” videos and judging by this, I was halfway through. And even if I wasn’t, I simply wasn’t engaged, neither with the overarching plot, nor the personal journey of my guy, I can’t even remember his name that’s the extent of the impression he made.
– Better watch out, it has way more horns and spikes to be practicle that means this things means business. –
You are familiar with Dark Souls? Good, then you won’t have to learn many new gameplay mechanics or general game mechanics. You can also take a glass of tea and something lovely to eat, since you will have quite some free-time playing Lords of the Boring. To say that this game feels a bit clunky and slow is like saying World War I was sometimes fought in trenches or that the new President is a bit of a controversial figure. Simply walking from A to B feels like moving heavy furniture. Whenever you run I feel I must stop miles before as to not crash into something. And this doesn’t even mention swinging weapons. There are heavy weapons like greatswords and maces and so on and they earn their name. Swinging one of these things takes long and I mean looooooong. The main character does this odd wind-up where he always moves the weapon to an unnatural position to swing it in a weird arch other than say simply downward. No, it has to be this elaborate spinning move with a huge chunk of iron. And to make it even worse, swinging this has no pay-off. No meaty huge impact with a feeling of cathartic satisfaction. You’ll stagger the enemy, sure, but judging by the costs the effect should be the poor little zombie-thing flying across the room. All of that only happens IF you hit, however, and that is a big if, let me tell you. Every attack will knock you out of your animation. The enemy could sneeze and this fridge of a man would stumble backwards. And while we are talking about fridges, let’s talk about the main character’s design. I hate it. It follows the design philosophy of Warhammer 40K or Darksiders with armourpieces that could well be used to form a refugee raft and so many decorative belts, monster faces, or symbols the Vatican would turn white with shame. He is so bulky I cannot fathom how he can move within this armour, let alone fight. He feels like a huge amalgamation of metal and belts. Back to the weapons now. Heavy weapons to slow? Just pick a smaller faster weapon, right? Well no, the only weapon which truly hits in an acceptable frequency is the staff and this staff… First, for some odd reason the staff is faster in one hand rather than two. Second, that backstab animation, send it to hell! Whenever you attack someone vaguely from the back and backstab is initiated. Remember how fast and satisfying those were in Dark Souls: Sword through back, kick it off the blade, and keep going. Now let’s go through the same routine in Fallen: First you knock on the enemy’s back like it’s his front door then he turns around slightly surprised and you stab him with your staff in a very unsatisfying manner which feels more like piercing cheese with a fork. Then a few wet sparks of electricity dribble out like you have hit his electricity bag hidden underneath his coat and then you pull it out again and sometimes he falls flat on his ass like the sheer surprise of his secret electricity bag getting stabbed got to him too quick. Sound satisfying? It isn’t. Whacking a tree with a wet fish feels more satisfying and cathartic.
– Lords of Wind-Up would be a far more fitting title. –
But of course, normal enemies are merely bumps in the road to a boss fight. Lords has already shown in its intro that it places huge emphasis on bosses, so it surely won’t disappoint in this regard. I actually thought the first enemy was a boss, since his design surely looked like it. Black armour with red cracks and a helmet straight out of Sauron’s closet. I was a bit baffled when the first boss turned out to be the exact same enemy. I am not even kidding. Big guy with black armour, cracks, huge sword etc. Same deal in a different package. I thought the game was slowly taking the piss when the third guy turned out to be the exact same guy again, now fitted with a shield and a slightly curvy helmet. Maybe they were playing tricks on me, like twins pretending to be the same person, but I sure as hell wasn’t laughing. The next boss turned out to be a slightly chubby version, but still a guy in armour with cracks and a huge weapon and the same tactic as the ones before, except this one had an annoying habit of getting his axe stuck in the ground which didn’t stop him from making this mistake roughly 50 times. And here comes another train loaded with fun straight into your face: boss health. These are bulky dudes, let me tell you that. Fights do not feel like fights (maybe with yourself to stay awake). The windows to hit the enemy are small and you will only do so much damage and these life bars feel endless. You will be hacking away for days and not make a dent. It is not challenging only tedious. I feel like I am supposed to mine with cocktails sticks here. You have a bit of magic to help you out. You can make a clone of yourself which has you create a magic aura in front of you, stepping in and out again. There are also shield spells which have the exact same animation so they must have been really proud of this one little sequence. But they are of almost no use since whether the enemy will target you or the projection is entirely unclear. The boss can swing at the project but turn around halfway through to clog you in the face.
– Meet the main enemy/boss design for the entire game: Sleeveless Sauron –
The best I can say about Lords of the Fallen is this: it physically exhausts you. The story is somewhere to be sure, but tugged away where I cannot be bothered to check. Gameplay feels unresponsive at best and clunky and unsatisfying at worst. I can write an essay about the importance of responsive controls in the time this guy takes a swing of his huge penis extension. (Remember when I mentioned Bayonetta at the start? That game has controls. Controls so tight I want to – .) Bosses and enemies are not fun to fight and their design is lacklustre and never seems to change. This is a general problem with this game, once you overdesign it is hard going back. When you start the game with armour with infinite little details it is hard to feel invested in better gear, since they are never indicative of their value. And making the first enemy Sauron himself along with all the bosses takes tension away. You want a progressive arch of boss designs, not throwing the most badass one in your face right at the start. There are creatures with multiple limbs, but they are never grotesque since it is the same formula (again!!!), make a guy have 6 arms, make all the guys have 6 arms. When you think, the scenery can save it, think again, because this game has a love for snowy battlements. You are always on, near, or below them. Remember this one mission in Diablo III where you are supposed to defend the stronghold and demons keep coming? This is this game’s setting, in its entirety. So, screw any environmental pleasure. Boss fights are long and arduous without any reward or fun to be found. Stay away from this game, I am not kidding. Do not download it, not even for free, the hardware space is utterly wasted. I felt obliged to play it and never once wanted to and that is one of the worst things I can imagine saying about a game. To boil it down: Lords of the Fallen is like visiting a dentist, you will dread it before, it will be a long time before anything happens, and when something happens it hurts, a lot, and for a long time to come.
Image sources in order of appearance:
- https://i.ytimg.com/vi/SfbM8KhMcN0/maxresdefault.jpg (Last date of access: 04.12.2016)
- http://www.giga.de/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Bild-4.jpg (Last date of access: 04.12.2016)
- https://assets.vg247.com/current//2014/04/lords-of-the-fallen-5.jpg (Last date of access: 04.12.2016)