After just a couple of hours with Lords of the Fallen, I can comfortably say it’s a well-polished, grimdark fantasy that is going to be incredibly engaging and equally challenging.
Despite Elden Ring proving how well the souls-like formula can work in an open-world setting, the developers at HEXWORKS have opted for a more concise and thematic world. In a similar vein to the original Dark Souls, or my personal favourite Bloodborne, the world of Axiom is a dense and well-crafted labyrinth of twisting paths riddled with monsters and loot alike. The gratifying process of opening gates or kicking down planks and ladders that have been just out of reach as you’ve been exploring will make the next suicidal dash towards the current boss just a little bit less tedious.
As with most souls-like games, at the start of the game there are several different classes to choose from, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, and tool-set. I wasted no time heading straight into the game, but it is possible to customise how your character looks. I chose the Hallowed Knight build, armed with a short sword, a shield, and some healing items, and jumped right in. During my play-through, I managed to find a heavy, two-handed axe. I was pleasantly surprised that the axe hit hard enough to sometimes knock enemies back, or in some cases actually interrupt their attacks, which more than made up for the axe’s slower attack speed
Lords of the Fallen is divided into two separate worlds. Axiom and Umbral, the land of the living and the dead, respectively. Axiom is the world you will normally traverse, the dark and mysterious plane you’ll have to survive and navigate though.
However, when you are defeated, you’re sent to Umbral. A more sinister and potentially dangerous world that occupies the same space. Whilst you’re in the land of the dead, monsters become more and more aware of your existence and will eventually start actively hunting you down. Dying within this world will cause you to be sent back to the last Vestige that you rested at, Lords of the Fallen’s bonfires, and in typical soulslike fashion, your Vigor will be placed where you died and you must make the journey back to reclaim your valuable lost currency. Waiting too long to reclaim it however, leaves it open for other monsters that roam the land to claim them for themselves meaning you’ll have to defeat them to recover your stolen Vigor.
One of the tools at your disposal is a magical lantern that allows you to peer into the land of the dead as you travel through Axiom. This mechanic makes for some really interesting traversal puzzles.
Fences that are sturdy and impassable within Axiom may be broken or even missing within Umbral. Raising the lantern allows you to see the alternate world around you, however, using the lantern does come with its own danger. Foul monsters and creatures are aware of you peering into the land of the dead and may use your own eerie light to traverse through the worlds in an attempt to hunt you down.
This adventure doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to experience any multiplayer during my time with the game. Yet it will be possible to play through the entirety of the game as a seamless experience with another player, something that none of the Fromsoft games have yet to offer. Your partnership does come with a price though. If you’re playing through the game with a companion it means that you are susceptible to other players invading your world and ruining your day.
Ultimately the game looks fantastic and it should tick all of the boxes for most fans of soulslike games. Lords of the Fallen’s combat strikes a balance between heavy and impactful blows while still managing to keep the controls feeling tight and responsive. The bosses I faced were quite a spectacle, they looked menacing, and had incredible animations and some rather cool and terrifying attacks and combos. With over a hundred weapons at your disposal, you’ll likely find the right tool to help you survive the grimdark worlds of Axiom and Umbral as you slice, jump, and roll through all of the haunting scenery and overbearing bosses.