Lords of the Fallen is a pretty interesting attempt at creating an aRPG that follows on the formula of Dark Souls, but with a more Enclave and Blade of Darkness feel to it. Where it succeeds it does things very well, where it fails it fails pretty hard.
A lot of mechanics and even controls work pretty close to how they do in Souls series, but Lords of the Fallen is a lot more restrictive in ways you develop your character and how you play. While the game differentiates three classes, in actuality they seem to work more like variations on a warrior class – one that focuses just on pure brute force, one that focuses more on quick moves and one that focuses on mixing magic and weapons. There’s only one ranged weapon you get and it can get elemental damage and the “spells” work more like active skills, usual to aRPGs. Those spells are quite similar between classes and if you play the New Game+ and then ++ you will be able to get all the class-specific magic spells, if you want.
What feels most off about the entire game is, probably, that the game feels much more script/pre-made animations heavy, than Souls games and the classic Blade of Darkness. Enemies track you with absolutely perfect precision, even when they run around like crazy, unless they are in the attack animation, they can get into block or attack animations (that hit/block) even sometimes right after standing with their back turned to you (I once got hit by a projectile of an enemy that was looking in the opposite direction and lots of ranged enemies will turn and shoot without missing a beat and always hit) and most projectiles track you insanely well. All of those CAN be avoided in most cases, but they still look and feel like player input reading AI perfect creations, rather than creatures who exist in the game’s virtual world. Which is very unlike Souls games, where enemies feel much more “flawed” in a natural way – like fighting another player, not a computer. Another huge issue of the enemies in the game is that lots of them sit in full defense mode most of the time, requiring you to wait till you can backstab or parry/riposte them, with enemies 100% controlling the rhythm of the fight. Which, more often than not, actually feels boring, because enemies rarely feel unpredictable.
And the predictability even goes with the bosses. You don’t learn to counter their different moves that they can mix in various ways. With most bosses, you learn one, yes ONE, pattern they will always follow, slowly but surely chipping at their health and doing the same thing over and over until they finally die. There are exceptions, but usually bosses are more frustrating and boring than any fun.
What about the world and the story? The design of the levels (and there are distinct “levels” in the game with loading in-between, but you can go back and forth) looks good, as does the art design of most of the game, but they are actually rather boring. Especially when you realise, that even if you do explore them early and completely you will still need to redo that again and again after, because some things will just appear or change, sometimes without rhyme or reason, in them. You found a locked door behind which is just one square room with a chest and can’t open the door? You will be able to get the key to it only by the end of the game. Even if you don’t even need to go back there, even if the item you get isn’t really worth it, there’s no story reasons behind it – it’s just that. And story itself is, actually, pretty dreadful and told via voice acting that ranges from passable to pretty bad. Which is sad – game actually has some potential to tell some interesting and variable stories and the NG mechanic even seems to hint that maybe something similar to Eternal Darkness replayability. But nothing like this is here and even those variables that can change the ending sometimes glitch out.
Lords of the Fallen has some good ideas, it’s actually rather fun to play, but it’s questionable decisions keep annoying you and by the end part of the game, they can build up so you might want to drop it. Sadly, there might not be a sequel that actually improves on the game’s ideas, because this was a pretty good first try.