Lords of the Fallen remains enigmatic just months from release

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Lords of the Fallen remains enigmatic just months from release
Lords of the Fallen, a methodical action RPG with more than a few similarities to a game whose name rhymes with Bark Voles (Snark Bowls?), was one of E3 2013's quietest contenders. Amidst the many sequels, reboots, and other familiar faces accompanying PS4 and Xbox One's debuts, it was one of the only games for those boxes at the show that was not only original but felt fully formed. There are more than enough medieval fantasy games out there, but even with its somber story about a world where men toppled their own god Fallen stood out.

The guided demo through a crumbling castle and through its snowy courtyards, hosted by a clearly passionate executive producer Tomasz Gop, just sang. Here at E3 2014, Lords of the Fallen is fully playable on PlayStation 4, and while it felt fine to guide the demo's paladin through a gauntlet of vicious beasts, swinging a swift staff in steady combos, CI's game feels more unknowable now than it did last year.Part of the problem is that a bite-sized playable chunk of any sprawling RPG isn't going to give a keen sense of what the game will ultimately be like. Covering even less ground than in last year's demo, this section from somewhere near the middle of the game is just a few castle halls populated with a handful of enemies. Slavering undead purple beasts that will resurrect after putting them down, shield-wielding bruisers, and poison spewing spiders before a boss; even though they're scant, these enemies, demonstrate handily just how difficult it is to contend with foes in Fallen. There's even a trap to trick one of the biggies into falling down a pit. But the grand scale from last year's demo is lost here.

So too is the nuance of the combat. With only one character class to try, there's no way to get a feel for how the hammer, sword, and dagger weapons work since they're not as effective as the paladin's preferred staff. Magic, including fireball shooting gauntlets and far stronger grenade-like blast, feel like essential tools, but scant magic potions render them moot by the demo's halfway point. (A better player than I might not use up the allotted magic potions before then, but I had to to survive.) It's clear that Lords of the Fallen has intricate options to customize your play style and character, but there was no way to see how they compared to From Software's famous Dark Souls.

Dark Souls is simply inescapable when playing Lords of the Fallen. The combat here is swifter thanks to its weapons, but simultaneously slower since there's no devoted dodge. Even with those differences, it still feels as intentional as Souls'. And just like in that game, you regain lost experience when you return to a spot where you were killed last. Fallen distinguished itself at E3 2013, but in 2014 it simply can't get out from under Souls until it's actually out in the wild or playable in a more substantial setting.
[Images: City Interactive]

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