Slated to release later this year, the history behind Lords of the Fallen is slightly confusing. You see, a game called Lords of the Fallen originally came out in 2014. Following on from this, a sequel was announced and set to drop in 2017. That never happened though, with development shifting to a brand new studio and HexWorks taking over the reins. The game resurfaced in 2022 sporting a new title, The Lords of the Fallen. But one final change at the beginning of this year got us to where we are today, and ‘The’ was dropped off the front leaving us with Lords of the Fallen.
Now that we’re all up to speed, Lords of the Fallen is a reboot of the game released a decade ago. This action RPG takes a considerable amount of inspiration from soulslike titles, and after getting a few hours of hands-on time, it’s clear that HexWorks are big fans of Dark Souls and the other games FromSoftware has delivered in the genre. There is undoubtedly an enormous player base absolutely chomping at the bit to dive into games that can give you a similar experience – as the recent success of Remnant 2 has shown. But while Remnant focuses largely on a selection of ranged weapons, Lords of the Fallen could easily be passed off as a FromSoftware game if you hastily gave a Souls fan the controller and shouted at them, “Who made this?”
While on the surface Lords of the Fallen looks like a carbon copy of Dark Souls – which I don’t mean as negative criticism – it is putting its own spin on the formula and introducing new ideas that separate it from what we’ve seen before.
A Love Letter to FromSoftware
In Lords of the Fallen, Vigor is the equivalent of Souls, and Ancient Vestiges are your Bonfires. Although everything at first glance appears familiar, the biggest departure is the ability to traverse two parallel realms within the game. The world of the living, Axiom, and the world of the Dead, Umbral, serve as the locations you’ll travel between as you embark on your crusade. Both Axiom and Umbral provide different paths to navigate the environments you’ll come across, with each allowing you to solve the many puzzles that will be thrown your way.
Players will wield a lantern that can be used in the Axiom world to reveal secrets and hidden items that are in the Umbral. Some puzzles will require you to be transported completely into the Umbral, but doing this can be dangerous, and isn’t easily reversible. In most cases, you’ll have to rest at Ancient Vestiges to go back to the world of the living. Because if you don’t, you almost have a ticking clock present on the screen while exploring this dark and volatile world of the dead. The longer you stay in the Umbral, the more hostile the enemies become.
Visually, both parallel worlds offer unique perspectives on each environment you’re in. Being one of the first titles to take advantage of the power of Unreal Engine 5, players can use their lantern to peak into the Umbral surrounding them and get a glimpse of another layer of the world. As the player gazes or moves into the Umbral, there is an interesting reflection of themes here, though, as eyeballs plastered across the world of the dead glance at your character while you maneuver the location, watching your every move.
I’ve had the opportunity to review every FromSoftware soulslike title before release over the past decade, and working my way through those games without any guidance is a different beast to most other pieces of work that come across my table. With that in mind, Lords of the Fallen is going to be punishing, that’s for sure. I died quite a bit during my brief hands-on time, but it did take a moment for the game to finally land some punches (humble brag). After ferociously taking down the initial boss and making my way through the next few areas, things got tougher. As more adept enemies started to appear, I also found myself having to deal with sneaky creatures that would hide behind corners to try and shove me off a cliff to my doom – which caught me off-guard a handful of times.
Aside from learning the ropes of the combat to see how far I could push myself before having to crawl back to a rest point, it was the exploration of Lords of the Fallen where I was having a load of fun. I forced my character to descend deeper into the depths of a cliffside, which seemed to be throwing everything at me to send a warning I was in the wrong place – but I clearly didn’t listen. That all came to an impeding halt when I finally reached a boss in the pit below which absolutely walloped me before I could get a hit in. But it didn’t matter, I had a blast even reaching that point.
Trying to take inspiration from other titles that have come before it definitely isn’t something new in the landscape of gaming. Without Medal of Honor, would Call of Duty exist? Does League of Legends happen if DotA didn’t have a following? If it wasn’t for PUBG, would Fortnite have been what it is today? Despite these games still borrowing a lot of the core concepts of what came before them, they also added some big sweeping changes that helped define and evolve those genres today. In the long run, that’s a good thing.
Yes, Lords of the Fallen is based on what FromSoftware has been perfecting for the last 15 years, but the development team at HexWorks seems to be doing a great job from what I’ve seen. As a souslike fan, Lords of the Fallen looks like a game that is going to fill a void I’m craving for. This is one I’m definitely going to spend loads of time with, in what is an already stacked end-of-year.