Review: Lords Of The Fallen on PS5 – A Battle Against Replicas


Lords Of The Fallen – the most unnecessary reboot ever (Picture: CI Games)

Yet another Soulslike tries to beat From Software at their own game, with an unlikely new reboot that desperately wants to be Dark Souls 4.

Before we start, can we just talk about the absurdity of giving this the exact same name as its predecessor from 2014? Especially as it was originally going to be The Lords Of The Fallen, but they then decided that wasn’t quite confusing enough. The original was known for being the first competent Soulslike that wasn’t by Dark Souls makers FromSoftware, but it was so similar in look and feel that it felt largely superfluous – and even more so now that such games are ten a penny.

If you’re buying clothing or other off-brand knock-offs the main benefit is that they’re considerably cheaper than the real thing, but that doesn’t happen with video games. Or at least not with anything that’s not an indie title. The most recent Souslike we reviewed was Lies Of P and that was less than a month ago; it was a shiftless clone of Bloodborne but at least its steampunk puppet theme ensured one point of difference with the game it was copying.

With Lords Of The Fallen there’s almost nothing to latch onto. It’s so desperate to look and play like Dark Souls it doesn’t allow for even a sliver of its own personality. Which means that ultimately the only real difference is that it’s just not as good. And yet because it’s a competent copy it’s not entirely without its own pleasures, which only makes things even more frustrating…

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The strangest thing about the name is that Lords Of The Fallen 2 was announced almost as soon as the first game came out, but after changing developers twice it eventually got cancelled and so this is a reboot instead. Although if there’s anyone in this world, beyond the developers, who remembers the plot well enough to care whether this is a continuation or restatement we’d be very surprised. For the record, you’re trying to stop a demon god from being resurrected, or something, but it really doesn’t matter as your motivations are rarely brought up.

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For anyone that has ever played a Soulslike before, you’ll know exactly what to expect from Lords Of The Fallen. The combat is almost exactly the same, as is the UI, the use of stamina and health flasks, the bonfire equivalents that allow for fast travel and levelling up, and the fact that you lose in-game currency (souls in Dark Souls, vigor in this) when you die and then have to collect it when you come back.

There are features that weren’t in Dark Souls but those are just copied from other games, such as the idea of regaining lost health by quickly counterattacking – which is clearly cribbed from Bloodborne and was also copied by Lies Of P. Oh, and you use ‘Charred Fingers’ to invade another player’s game… the whole thing is just utterly shameless.

The most distinct difference between Lords Of The Fallen and Dark Souls is the idea of there being two realities that you can move between, in other words the light/dark world concept from Zelda: A Link To The Past – always a favourite of less inspired developers. Since it is at least stolen from a non-FromSoftware game it still ends up being the most interesting part of the game, as you use a magic lantern to see the alternate layout of the dark world, including hidden switches and treasures.

You pass into the dark world automatically when you die but you can also travel into it when alive, although you’ve only got a short time until an almost unstoppable enemy appears to chase you out again (in what seems to be a nod to the Death enemy in Gauntlet). The only actually unique idea is the ability to physically rip the souls out of enemies while in the dark world, which is essential for destroying some otherwise unkillable opponents.

Apart from a temporary checkpoint that you can set-up yourself (but only fast travel from and not to), that’s the closest the game comes to anything original. Even many of the bosses are direct copies of those in other games, with the first proper encounter being such an obvious clone of Malenia from Elden Ring you begin to question whether you’re actually playing a new game or just having flashbacks to the infamously difficult original.

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Lords Of The Fallen’s version is considerably easier, in fact the majority of bosses are, with most of the worst difficulty spikes coming at the end, when the game starts spamming crowds of enemies at you and reusing previous bosses as ordinary enemies. If it hadn’t done that, we would’ve said this was considerably easier than From’s games and therefore useful as a first taste of the genre for newcomers. But it’s not, so we can’t.

Lords Of The Fallen – despite what it looks like this isn’t Lordran (Picture: CI Games)

What makes us angry about all this is not the fact that the game hasn’t got an original idea in its head but the fact everything is copied with a frustrating degree of competence. Nothing is as good as the source material, but this is a professionally made facsimile. Developer Hexworks clearly has talent, so why are they wasting it making worse versions of things that already exist?

They clearly understand what is necessary to make a good Soulslike and they’ve got the circular level design down to a tee. But why go to all that trouble and still have you just wandering around the usual rundown castles, underground mines, poisoned swamps, and snowy ruins? We’ve seen all those things before, multiple times, so what is the point of doing it yet again but not quite as good? It’s infuriating.

What’s also infuriating is that the game suffers from serious performance issues. There’s been a series of patches during the review period, but the frame rate is still a disaster, making the game virtually unplayable at times. There’s lots of texture pop-in too and the AI frequently goes haywire. We’re also not sure whether the lock-on is just generally unreliable or if it’s being affected by the other issues.

Performance problems can be fixed but the real issue with Lords Of The Fallen will never be resolved by a mere patch. To see this much time, money, and effort wasted on such a derivative and thoroughly unnecessary game is almost painful. Lords Of The Fallen feels less like a homage to Dark Souls and more like a counterfeit, one whose creators should have used their obvious talent to far more constructive effect than this pointless forgery.

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Lords Of The Fallen PS5 review summary

In Short: An absurdly generic Dark Souls clone whose general competence is all the more frustrating for the fact that it refuses to come up with a single new idea of its own.

Pros: The level design is very good and, apart from the lock-on, the combat is solid. The light/dark world concept is a little underutilised but at least it’s stolen from something other than Dark Souls.

Cons: Pitifully unoriginal in terms of gameplay, visuals, and setting. Serious performance issues pre-launch.

Score: 5/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox Series X/S, and PC
Price: £59.99
Publisher: CI Games
Developer: Hexworks
Release Date: 13th October 2023
Age Rating: 18

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