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E3 2014: Lords of the Fallen Hands-On Preview

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I should probably get this out of the way first, just to clear the air: Lords of the Fallen is definitely very similar to games like Dark Souls from a very basic gameplay perspective.  It’s a game predicated on being difficult and unforgiving, as well as learning the environments through repeated visits.  You learn enemy attack patterns, find gaps in attacks to parry, and even use the environment to your advantage–or demise.  This being said, Lords of the Fallen is going for a different kind of story, following the journey of a single named protagonist with his own back-story.  And from the thirty minute section I played, it was clear that it uses tried and proven mechanics found in the Souls series while also introducing plenty of it’s own.  Lords of the Fallen feels familiar, but fresh.

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The build that I played was running on PS4, and it was definitely apparent.  The game looked gorgeous.  The stronghold environment of the incredibly detailed, and the game ran fairly well, barring some minor frame-rate hiccups in the presence of fire effects.  Probably the most interesting differential for Lords of the Fallen is the game’s wealth of weapon types.  The demo build included a smorgasbord of weapons to test drive, including a class sword, a staff, hammer, dagger, and claws.  Every weapon controlled differently–the daggers being swift and lower damage weapons and the hammer hitting hard and hitting slow.  The demo also introduced several types of shields, included a tower shield that–instead of having a shield bash function–could be dug into the ground to make a stronger stationary block.  In addition to all of this is an additional weapon category, the magic gauntlets, which serve a sort of sidearm while using one-handed weapons.  They replace your shield, and are used as magic projectiles.  And depending on the gauntlet equipped, the projectile changes.  One fired in a shorter range similar to a shotgun, another was longer and faster, and another had an area of effect upon detonation.

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Also interesting is that the game features checkpoints periodically throughout the world that restore health as well as resupply your healing potions, familiar to any Dark Souls veteran–but using a checkpoint doesn’t respawn enemies in the area.  This means that you can theoretically kill any surrounding foes and then use a checkpoint afterwards.  Enemies will respawn upon death, and lost experience has to be picked up in a subsequent life to regain it.  It’s unclear exactly how Lords of the Fallen will use experience with regards to leveling up.

From the section I played, the game controlled remarkably well.  There was never I time when I felt like I was injured or killed because of a fault to the gameplay.  Similar to games of its genre, Lords of the Fallen would rather the player face a tough enemy, die, and live to fight again than be walked through a fight.  The game wants death to be a learning experience.  And due to my experience with similar games, I was actually able to use instincts developed through those games to make myself naturally more in-tune with Lords of the Fallen.  I had to hide my excitement when I finally defeated the boss in the demo.  I was able to do so because the experience felt familiar, and I knew what approach to take to defeat the charging beast.

 

Lords of the Fallen feels just new and different enough to be fresh.  The unforgiving action RPG is a genre that I can’t seem to get enough of, and Lords of the Fallen has already left me wanting more.  I’m interested to see what a more story-involved approach does for the game.  Look for Lords of the Fallen on PS4, Xbox One, and PC this fall.

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