Lords of the Fallen review: Soulslike truly embraces the dark

By Sam Smith
By October 18, 2023 November 1st, 2023 Game, Gaming, Reviews, Video Games / Gaming

Lords of the Fallen is both the sequel and a reboot to the 2014 game of the same name. However, is this return to Mournstead worth you attention?

The first thing that struck us about Lords of the Fallen (2023) is that is looked and felt a lot more like a Dark Souls game than the original LotF from 2014. This is interesting, as that original title was often compared to From Software’s flagship series – and was sometimes even accused of being a clone of it. However, this more recent entry leans heavily into the grim dark aesthetic of Dark Souls yet also manages to blaze its own trail at the same time – an impressive tightrope walk that most Soulslike games struggle to pull off. 

Since the release of Elden Ring, games that mirror the Soulslike approach without an open world to explore have felt like a step backwards in some cases. Yet luckily, Lords of the Fallen pulls the mechanics of Dark Souls and Bloodborne into this generation without becoming lost in Elden Ring’s shadow. It simply doesn’t need an open world to explore and benefits much more from the carefully curated approach, just like the earlier From Software games did. Those who’ve always wanted a Dark Souls 4 or enjoyed the Demon’s Souls remake will find a lot to love here. 

Lords of the Fallen

Umbral is scary nightmare realm!

“A fine Dark Soul to you”

The developers have crafted a truly dark and grim playground of gothic horror to explore, one that is incredibly fun, addictive and creative all at the same time. While some player freedom has been sacrificed on this altar – it was worth it. Lords of the Fallen isn’t trying to be the next Elden Ring, it’s trying to remind us why we fell in love with games like this in the first place. In doing so, we truly believe that the Lords of the Fallen franchise has established itself as the next leader in this space, after From’s games, of course. But this is still rarified air in an increasingly saturated genre. 

Those who struggle to go back to traditional Soulslikes after Elden Ring, no matter how impressive they are, may not take to Lords of the Fallen. Also, those who’ve never enjoyed this genre of double-hard games won’t find anything to bring them around here either. However, those who dream of returning to Lordran, Boletaria, or Yharnam will be well served. Those who obsess about frame rate may also feel left out in the cold. Lords of the Fallen looks great, but is prone to the occasional stutter. 

Calling Lords of the Fallen the Dark Souls 4 we never had may actually be reductive, as the game sets itself apart from its peers by making use of an ambitious new system – one which it absolutely nails. This is using the spectral lamp to cross between Axiom and Umbral, or, the world of the living and the world of the dead. The game seamlessly blends these two realms, empowering players to explore both, with Umbral being a twisted and dark mockery of the real world where danger lurks behind even more corners. 

The system is hard to grasp at first, but once players have managed to wrap their minds around it,  leaping between worlds is incredibly fun and rewarding. Both Umbral and Axiom bleed into each other in increasingly creative ways, and some routes, quests, puzzle solutions can only be achieved in one or the other. This also goes for bosses, which adds another layer of danger and intrigue to encounters. 

lords of the fallen

Lords of the Fallen will finally feature multiplayer.

Get good, again

Speaking of bosses, these are more impressive in Lords of the Fallen (2023) than ever. Bosses in the original game were often formulaic and uninspired, but this time, such enemies are truly awe inspiring and horrific at the same time – which is just how we like it! There are creatures here that will haunt your nightmares and epic battles that’ll thrill even the most seasoned Soulslike veteran. The game has also doubled down on the interesting NPCs and side quests, and fans of the original game will be excited to learn that some classic characters return, but we’ll let you discover who for yourselves.

Also unlike the original Lords of the Fallen, this sequel/reboot introduces multiplayer, co-op and PvP. You’ll find yourself faced with opportunistic invaders from time to time or you may choose to invade others yourself. Duals are tense affairs where only the strongest or most crafty will survive. Co-op play is a lot like From Software’s games, however, once a boss is felled, guest players will be able to stick around and continue exploring with the host – a move we absolutely love. It’s also great news for those who want to buddy up with another player and go through the whole game together. 

To conclude, while Lords of the Fallen isn’t going to convert many new fans to masochistic delights of the Soulslike genre, it is going to remind lapsed players why they adore it though. Moreover, those who’ve always been looking for a truly credible alternative to From Software’s games (to which there are admittedly more of), Lords of the Fallen may be exactly what they’ve been looking for, and represent the pinnacle going forward.