This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews Lords of the Fallen. And if you subscribe to The Escapist Patreon or YouTube memberships, you can view next week’s episode on Sonic Superstars right now, as well as an uncensored version of this and every Zero Punctuation going forward!
For more major games Yahtz has reviewed lately, check out Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon, El Paso Elsewhere and ?, Mortal Kombat 1, Chants of Sennaar and Lies of P, Bomb Rush Cyberfunk, Starfield, Sea of Stars, En Garde! and Blasphemous 2, Baldur’s Gate 3, and Viewfinder and My Friendly Neighborhood.
Lords of the Fallen (2023) Zero Punctuation Transcript
Here we bloody go again. Don’t just rip off the title of another, completely unrelated game, Lords of the Fallen, did we learn nothing from Prey 2016? Think of the poor confused audience, you’re going to make them forget all about the previous Lords of the Fallen. “There was a previous Lords of the Fallen, Yahtz?” …well, never mind. I’m sick of complaining about it, anyway. Let’s just add the current year in parentheses to your title with this hot branding iron and we can move on. As I say, Oh No More Lords Of The Fallen has almost nothing in common with its namesake but for the fact that it’s a soulslike with a dark fantasy theme, but I repeat myself. It’s got all the usual soulslike trappings: you’re an immortal dude on a pilgrimage through various doomed lands where the locals have apparently been informed that you’ve been shagging their collective missus, boss fights, checkpoints, free healing potion refills, elevators with buttons in the floor. But wait a sec, I tried to do that thing I always do in Dark Souls where after using a lift I’d send it back and quickly hop off it so I don’t have to wait for it next time, but I couldn’t do that in Lords Of the Fallen because the doors closed too quick for me to hop off. So… zero stars, better luck next time.
Alright, well that summarizes the one part of my notes where I wrote down “BLOODY LIFTS” in block capitals, let’s look at the rest. For the soulslike connoisseur, Lords of the Fallen plays it pretty straight dark fantasy with a dash of that Catholic guilt vibe that Blasphemous does, and just to skip to the weaselly asshole damn with fine praise summary, in the field of offbrand Soulslikes I would describe it as “okay-ish.” Which makes it worth talking about, like discovering a supermarket own-brand knockoff Cola that’s actually halfway drinkable. Obviously it’s not as good as the real stuff but it’s pretty amazing that I tolerated it for as long as I did before using it as toilet cleaner. It’s got an interesting suite of bespoke gimmicks to set it apart; ammo for ranged weapons refills at checkpoints like your mana bar does, for example, and that’s something in itself – a soulslike with a viable bow build that isn’t an optional challenge mode for people who pride themselves on their ability to manage the weekly shopping. Just as well, ‘cos you bloody well need an accurate ranged option.
This game loves ranged enemies. If it can bean you in the temple with an unexpected crossbow bolt just as you’re creeping up for a backstab then that’s the day made as far as Lords of the Fallen’s concerned. It loves plonking them everywhere in concealed elevated spots, similar to the relationship I have with bottles of whiskey I don’t want the wife to know about. Also, the checkpoints are pretty far apart but you can use a consumable to create little mini-checkpoints at designated spots, like when you do a little poo in the woods when you can’t wait for the next rest area. And if you’re anything like me you’ll keep doing this not knowing you’re literally around the corner from the next big checkpoint and get very cross. But the big main unique selling point in Lords of the Fallens is dual world gameplay in a Metroid Prime 2 sort of area. Where you can shift from the living world to the world of the dead either by making an elaborate hand gesture or, you know, getting killed, and the world of the dead has extra paths and treasures but also extra enemies and spooky environment design, although the level of spookiness tends to be inconsistent.
You’ve got a magic flashlight that lets you glimpse the dead world version of the current area in case you want a quick viewing before you commit to a lease, and sometimes it’s a whole alternative appearance evoking Zdzislaw Beksinski throwing a Halloween party in the Warhammer 40k universe, with a gigantic skeleton looming over everything like it’s had a long night and mistaken our current environment for a puke trough. And then sometimes they just selectively smear some skulls and a bit of dryer lint about. And sometimes it just looks exactly the same as the living world but with the lighting saturation turned down a notch. And that communicates what became my broad impression of Lords of the Fallen A Little Bit Further This Time – that there were varying levels of could be arsedness in play. But the dead world does make for an interesting extra factor to consider – simultaneously expanding the exploration potential while giving you a little more wiggle room against the high difficulty; getting killed isn’t an immediate failure but more of a getting bumped down to remedial school where you get one more chance but you’ve got to start applying yourself or the pale faceless dudes with the skinny legs will overtake you in the grade rankings.
But I find these days there’s only one metric by which I can judge soulslikes, and that’s how long I can play them before the soulslike fatigue sets in. And I’d say Lords of the Falling Down did quite a bit better than average. The dual world gimmick gave it a freshness, ironically, since the dead world looks like it smells like the inside of a packet of airline pretzels that was forgotten about in a seat pocket for a year. And the game doesn’t seem to be doing the usual offbrand Soulslike thing of trying to outdo From Software when it comes to unreasonable difficulty, at least not where the boss fights are concerned. Very few visits from the Manus Father of The Abyss twitchy last second lockon spazz-out brigade that took over Elden Ring. I remember defeating this one hearty lad who was guarding the objective in the swampy area and being absolutely astonished that he didn’t have a second phase. ‘Cos he’d only taken, like, four goes and I still had all my teeth. It doesn’t hurt that the game’s generous with NPC support. Half the boss fights there’s just three dudes politely lined up outside like schoolkids waiting for you to pick teams. Frankly it made me suspicious. Yeah, you say you’ll help no strings attached but how do I know you won’t need help moving house next week?
Maybe this will turn off all those twitchy weirdos apparently in the majority who like it when soulslikes get less and less reasonable but I’m hoping to still have working wrists in my old age. So the bosses were fine, it was all the stuff in between that eventually wore me down. I’d say from around the snowy mountain area onwards the game gets more and more cheeky about the gauntlets of enemies it expects you to deal with. There was one particular hillside path that took me through, like, five groups of assholes, multiple of those burly shield men who all need to be carefully danced around unless you want their shields widening your bumhole by a factor of two feet, about three of that one thing who was an early game boss fight who’s clearly bitter about not getting a special health bar anymore, and you can’t just run past them all because the path is narrow and they’re a dogged bunch, especially the dogs. So it was after banging my head against that for an afternoon only to discover it was just a shortcut that didn’t even lead to progress, I soured to Lords of the Ballsack wholeheartedly. Still, it’s definitely a better game than the first Lords of the Ballsack, for what that’s worth. Hey, we walked across a room without breaking our ankles this time. Although we did tread in the cat’s litter box and punted the dog through a wall.