"You Should Try" is a series of articles where I'll showcase you a game I really enjoy while explaining what exactly makes it fun. This can be any game, new or old, indie or AAA, the only requirement is that it has to be something I've found myself greatly enjoying and in need of sharing with the world.
Today, I think you should try Lords of the Fallen, a Dark Souls inspired action RPG that brings with it a unique but familiar take on the standard Souls formula.
Much like the Souls series Lords of the Fallen features a slow and methodical combat system that rewards positioning, patience and timing. Wildly flailing around with a sword is only going to result in your death while the more careful approach of baiting enemy attacks and countering them will leave your enemies in pieces and you unharmed.
There are plenty of weapons and combat styles to chose from, everything from the gigantic and extremely slow greathammers to the nimble and precise daggers. The only complaint I have is that the magic system is far simpler than in the Souls series and while you can make a purely spellcaster build the spells are clearly designed as support options.
Luckily the melee combat feels great with each of your swings having the proper amount of heft and weight behind it, especially if you use some of the heavier weapons. I played through most of the game using a greatsword, even when its stats weren't optimal, simply because its impacts felt very meaty and caused the enemies to recoil back due to the sheer force of the blow.
Every good demon-hunter knows you have to put your hips in to the swing
Many of the same combat mechanics from Dark Souls are present here as well. You can go completely light and rely on dodging and careful positioning or you can equip yourself with so much armor you look like a walking fridge and use a tower shield to block attacks or even just go with something in-between, each choice is valid and completely up to you.
You can wield your weapons in one hand, two hands, dual wield them or in combination with a shield. The only difference compared to Dark Souls 2 is that you're only capable of dual wielding agility focused weapons, so if you're a fan of dual wielding two gigantic greathammers I'm afraid you're out of luck.
All of your moves and attacks are dictated by the energy system so everything from dodging to sprinting and attacking costing a certain amount. The energy costs are fairly realistic so light weapons won't tire you as quickly as swinging a greatsword nor will sprinting in light armor be the same as sprinting in full plate.
Unlike the Souls series the different types of shields in Lords of the Fallen actually act differently. The lighter shields are capable of parrying blows, the medium shields have offensive uses and the tower shields can completely stonewall enemies. But the really interesting part is that quite a few of them have special abilities you can use which help spice up combat, for example there is a tower shield that allows you to reflect an enemy's attack, provided you have enough mana.
This doesn't bode well
Lords of the Fallen also shares the interconnected levels and exploration aspects of Dark Souls 1. Even half way through the game you will always be a couple of doors or shortcuts from the very start because the map loops around itself in very natural ways.
Since the world is so interconnected the developers were wise enough to place plenty of secrets even in early areas that you simply can't access until you gain either the required ability to do so or a special key. Its a great way to give players a reason to explore areas for the second time because the cool weapons you might find are a very enticing prospect.
However, unlike Dark Souls, Lords of the Fallen sometimes changes out a couple of enemies in old areas after you've sufficiently progressed through the game so don't be surprised if you end up facing some old "friends" while exploring areas that should in theory be a cakewalk for you.
I mentioned secrets already but this is an aspect of gameplay I truly enjoy so I'm going to mention them again. Lords of the Fallen is filled with various weapons and items you can only get trough tricky platforming, keen observation or just through the use of good ol' common sense. You will find everything from items hanging on ledges you need to jump to, to items hidden behind fake walls you need to bash down.
Just to put things in to perspective, even the very first room of the game has a rather well hidden secret area that most people will probably just overlook as because we've been conditioned to ignore the game's background.
Nothing like the promise of a locked chest to make people risk their lives wading through spider infested caves
One of the most common complaints with the Souls series is that people find them incredibly hard to get in to because of the grueling difficulty which sadly means a lot of potential genre fans end up being scared off before even giving them a chance. So I'm very glad to say that Lords of the Fallen is a much more accessible game compared to Dark Souls, here's a few reasons why:
Weapons are divided in to categories (such as greatswords, bastard swords, shortswords and so on) but weapons in each category don't differ from each other in move-sets only in stats and special effects so you won't have to complete half of the game before finally getting to play with the weapon you want like you have to do with some Souls weapons.
The second reason Lords of the Fallen can potentially be a much easier game is the rune system which allows you to enchant your weapons and armor with special effects such as poison resistance, fire damage or even just increased stat scaling. Its very similar to the upgrade system used in the Souls games but it comes online a lot earlier and is more potent so it can serve as a crutch while you acclimate to the combat system.
Finally, you have access to a lot more healing potions than you do estus flasks when it comes to the early game so if you're struggling with a boss you could just beeline for him while avoiding any enemies on the way and fight him fully stocked up with a dozen potions.
If you ever need a bit of a damage boost a flawless luck rune will go a long way
But don't think that Lords of the Fallen is an easy game because it most certainly isn't, it carries with it all of the devious traps and enemies the Souls series is famous for. Even the simplest of enemies can kill you extremely quickly if you underestimate them and let your guard down.
Traps and hidden enemies are everywhere but if you pay attention you can spot them ahead of time and turn an instant death type of a situation in to an advantage for yourself. In other words, Lords of the Fallen is hard but never unfair in its difficulty. It will punish you for your hubris but it will also reward you for skillful play.
If you kill one of the game's many bosses in a challenging and unique way you will be rewarded with an extremely good weapon which will not only last you a while but will have special powers as well. These challenges can range from simple "never get hit" objectives to more tricky ones such as forcing the boss to beat down his own summoned help. They aren't mandatory and you will still get a reward for beating the boss without doing them but for the players willing to go the extra mile there's an incentive present.
As far as diversity goes there are plenty of bosses and monsters for you to spar against, almost all of which require a specific approach to handle them properly. The only real complaint I can level against Lords of the Fallen here is that there are too many variations on "dude in armor" as far as enemies and bosses go but given how the story is set its an unfortunate side-effect. Still, its a bit of a shame especially since the monstrous enemies are so creepy and well designed.
Dudes in armor fighting dudes in armor
Graphically, as you can see, Lords of the Fallen looks great. Personally I think it looks better than the Souls games though this might be because the graphics are very similar in theme to those found in Warhammer 40k, a franchise I absolutely adore. Its hard to explain why exactly I'm drawing these parallels but its mostly due to how bulky the armor looks as well as how your character moves and wields his weaponry.
The music is also rather well done but suffers from the usual problems when all of the music is done by an orchestra - it tends to sound similar to everything else. It certainly fits the game and gets you pumped for the boss fights but if you asked me to hum any melody right now I'd draw a complete blank.
As for the story, well, the best thing I can really say is that its there. Its a bit on the cliche side and the cheesy voice-acting certainly doesn't help so its a very good thing that Lords of the Fallen is otherwise extremely solid so one could completely ignore the story-line and still have a fun time playing.
The blacksmith has seen better days
Lords of the Fallen is a nicely made and well polished action RPG that quite successfully copies most of the elements that make the Souls games great. The combat has a good sense of weight behind it and requires you to think on your feet because while you are extremely powerful so are the enemies.
Is it better than the Souls series? Despite liking Lords of the Fallen I would still say the answer's a definitive no but don't take that as a massive flaw because it is very, very hard to match the amount of polish and well thought-out design choices that go in to any From Software game. So having Lords of the Fallen be a slightly clunkier Dark Souls from a developer that has never done this sort of game is actually high praise.
So if you're interested in the action RPG genre but could never get in to it due to the difficulty or if you just want a really solid Souls inspired game that does enough things differently to make it unique then I recommend you try Lords of the Fallen, I certainly enjoyed it.