DEVELOPER City Interactive might well have called this Dark Souls 3 were it not for stringent copyright laws. Lords of the Fallen owes a huge debt, nay its very existence, to From Software’s notoriously punishing third-person brawler.
But with the Dark Souls franchise stuck in the last generation of consoles, there must be an opening for a next-gen take on the brutally difficult supernatural hack-and-slash RPG. LotF takes a decent crack at the task but in the end it lacks the same craft, imagination and polish that makes the masochism of Dark Souls so rewarding.
The forgettable storyline merely puts a procession of monsters and bosses in your way, offering not much in the way of the creative level design seen in the first Dark Souls. But at least the scenery impresses, an agreeable mix of gloomy, desolate locations pierced by beautiful lighting. Exploration off the linear beaten path reveals secret areas if you poke around enough.
There are enough glitches, though, to suggest a couple more months polishing wouldn’t have gone amiss, with texture pop-in regularly noticeable.
LotF tries to distinguish itself from its inspiration by going easy on the player – though that’s a relative term. Anyone unfamiliar with Dark Souls will find the combat frustratingly tough, requiring patience and perseverance to chip away at enemies’ health bars at close quarters.
But compared to the devastating attacks in Dark Souls – in which you can lose half your health bar in one hit – here your opponents are more forgiving, more easily dispatched. When you acquire the gauntlet part way into the game, it effectively functions like a grenade launcher, meaning you can take out low-level enemies before they even get near you.
Combat-wise, it doesn’t help, however, that the familiar dodge-roll – indeed the controls overall – don’t seem as precise as it should. The wayward camera - which has a habit of targeting anything but what you want it to – introduces its own complications.
Helpfully, LotF doesn’t remove all your items when you die, and introduces an interesting risk-reward mechanic via an XP multiplier that grows as long as you don’t bank it at a save point. It’s a nice balancing trick that ensures more hardcore players can ramp up the challenge while the rest of us are just grateful to survive.
Lacking any of the multiplayer features of Dark Souls, LotF hasn't got enough sparkle in the single-player yarn to be a true successor. The generic RPG elements and compromised combat are tolerable but if you’re a true fan, you’d be better off waiting for From Software’s Bloodborne, out next February.