In the case of challenging action-RPGs where death can be met with a quick swipe of a claw or a crushing blow to the face, the Dark Souls franchise has pretty much taken the crown as the champions of this audience looking for challenging (but rewarding titles), with From Software’s Bloodborne shaping up to be one of the most anticipated titles coming in the first half of next year.
Though Bloodborne is still several months away from its February release, Bandai Namco Games is hoping to fill in that gap, and maybe pull in a few new believers, with its own take on the rapidly-growing fan base for challenging action-RPG titles with Lords of the Fallen. While many whispers of “Dark Souls” and “Bloodborne” where heard among the lines at New York Comic Con 2014 to try out the game, DualShockers got some hands-on time with the upcoming hack ‘n slash RPG to see just where Lords of the Fallen falls when compared to its many other peers, and where it might just stand on equal grounds with them.
Taking shape as a challenging action-RPG where players might traverse dungeons and other locales while fending off monsters, baddies, and enormous bosses, the challenge of Lords of the Fallen comes in figuring out how not to die. And it’s a challenge indeed – you will die A LOT. So much so that even at the Bandai Namco booth for the game at New York Comic Con, those that were able to complete the demo mission without dying once were able to win prizes for their adversity and triumph. So, while Lords of the Fallen may not be for those with a low tolerance for defeat (or humiliation), the exact same sort of rewarding progression found in Dark Souls seems to be making its way into Lords of the Fallen, while allowing the game to take a shape of its own.
As a slower-paced and more deliberate action-RPG, the strategy in Lords of the Fallen comes down to figuring out the attack patterns and combat styles of enemies, while also modifying and tweaking your characters’ own combat strengths and equipment to best them. Playing as the struggled Harken, a man bound by sin seeking to destroy an evil god taking control over a stagnant, decaying world, players have the options to modify Harken’s abilities and equipment to suit the particular challenges ahead.
Though the NYCC demo only had a small selection of abilities at hand, it’s easy to see that Lords of the Fallen will suit many different play styles and strategies, whether players wish to place more of an emphasis on long-range and magic, or settle more or up close and personal combat through stronger defense and melee options.
Playing in a selection from one of the game’s missions against a gigantic boss capable of ramming me into smithereens, the challenge of Lords of the Fallen came down to figuring out the best way to defeat the boss against the strengths of my own equipment. As a boss that moved quickly by ramming into walls but discovering a weak point where him bashing into a wall where give me a window of opportunity to attack, my strategy in the demo came down to quickly (and carefully) roll out of the way of his charge attacks, and waiting for him to bash into the wall to unleash a fire spell to both hit him from long range and do some pretty effective burning damage.
Of course, like all best laid plans, this ended up working effectively at first, but one slight misstep by getting too close to him left my Harken’s brains splattered against the wall in a swift moment of axe-wielding terror by the boss. Though the gameplay, style, and challenge will be very, very reminiscent of From Software’s line of action RPGs, the challenge of Lords of the Fallen combined with an emphasis on story and discovering more about Harken may give the game a more engaging pull, aside from just relying on its solid combat and challenge.
Though the game’s biggest struggle will be overcoming the criticisms and comparisons in regard to Dark Souls claim on the throne of challenging action-RPGs (along with the imminent arrival of Bloodborne, early next year), it won’t be much of a surprise if Lords of the Fallen takes a hit of skepticism for fans of the wildly-popular series. But with engaging, fun, and rewarding combat that gives players as much depth and thought as they do excitement and progression, taking Lords of the Fallen at just a first glance in comparison to Dark Souls derides a lot of the game’s strengths, especially its graphics that gave an impressive display of dark caverns and luminous explosions and fire. For some it may be stopgap until Bloodborne, but Lords of the Fallen is still shaping up to be an adventure of its own achievement.
Lords of the Fallen releases for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 28th, 2014.