Lords of the Fallen: has fallen and he can't get up

Harkyn is not a nice man. He is a criminal and by and large an unrepentant one. His sins are writ large for all to see in intricate facial tattoos and aside from wearing a helmet in combat he does little to hide this fact. He’s not an anti-hero who did the wrong things for the right reasons or a man seeking redemption, but rather a man who has been called upon for a mission with little chance of success because he’s both useful and expendable.

Early in the game, Kaslo, the man responsible for releasing Harkyn sums up Harkyn’s role in the world of Lords of the Fallen early on, telling the protagonist, “We need hard men to do hard things. You have neither my absolution nor my approval for your crimes.” These two simple sentences neatly sum up the tone of the game. It’s about a hard man doing something that seems near impossible killing gods and stopping evil from re-entering the world. With little more than some armour, a few spells of specific but surprising usefulnessand a seemingly endless well of rage, Harkyn feels up to the task.

Comparisons to the Souls series are both inevitable and ultimately necessary when talking about Lords of the Fallen. It’s a game that couldn't really have existed without the Souls games and in many ways emulates From's masterpieces. Lords of the Fallen takes place in a medieval fantasy world and revolves primarily around a combat system built around three bars health, stamina and magic. Players can wield weapons in one or two hands, dual wield, use a shield, dodge roll, drink from a limited number of potions, refill them at checkpoints, and even leave behind a ghost with all of the accumulated XP at point of death, a pool that disappears if the player dies before reclaiming it. LotF isn’t all emulation, however. There are enough innovations and neat ideas to give it a personality and presence all its own.
During character development, players have the choice between three different starting archetypes for Harkyn as well as three different schools of magic. The Rogue archetype concentrates on stamina and agility but lacks the strength for heavy armour. The Cleric is a more balanced starting point with fairly even attributes allowing Harkyn to wear heavier armour. The Cleric also has more of a focus towards faith, the magic stat, making them more proficient at early stages.

The Warrior is all about strength and constitution so can wear the heaviest armour and wield the largest, most damaging weapons. The three schools of magic roughly match the archetypes, with one focussed on obfuscation and critical damage, one on debuffs and defence and one on taunting and outright power. Any archetype can choose any form of magic, with the other schools of magic being unlockable on subsequent playthroughs with the same character. As with the Souls games,
the starting archetype is more a beginning statistical framework than a class, as players are free to allocate statistics as seen fit as they are accrued. Also much like the Soul games, statistic and magic points are gained by “banking” collected XP, with each additional attribute or magic point having a higher XP cost than the last.

Combat balances nicely between fast paced and technical, with combos based on timing and stamina as well as weapon speed. Faster agility based characters can deliver brutal multi hit combos with correct timing but light armour makes them very vulnerable to damage, with one hit kills all too common from anything but the weakest of enemies. Dodge rolls are the defence of choice for these characters. The heavier armour gets, the more defence it offers but the harder it is to dodge. Medium armour can dodge decently with correct timing, but heavy armour is all about mitigation, not manoeuvrability. Dodging in heavy armour is horribly slow, energy consuming and cumbersome. It’s more comedic than functional and resembles a Youtube video of a horribly fat person trying to do a commando roll (they exist) rather than a functional combat ability.

Shields block 100% of damage but larger shields are somewhat unwieldy and sap more energy upon a successful block. Weapons wielded in two hands can also be used to block but only absorb between about 65% and 85% or incoming damage.

The game world of Lords of the Fallen is both structured and open. Each area has a definite end goal usually killing some sort of boss but is open for exploration, with numerous areas to explore to find hidden treasure, more enemies to kill for XP and optional quests that can be completed for extra rewards or useful information. These side-quests are entirely optional Harkyn always seems to have a dialogue option that basically translates to “tell someone who cares” and often seem to have multiple solutions. One of the first side quests sees Harkyn meeting a monk who has been bitten by a "spider" (spiders in LotF seem to be four legged fleshy horrors with tumorous bodies) and needs help.

Harkyn tells him to cut the arm off, then offers to do it. He can then either head to the monk’s quarters to retrieve a potion for the now bleeding to death holy man, or can offer one of his own. It’s pragmatic, brutal, a little unoriginal but full of character an apt description of the game itself.

One of the more unique features of Lords of the Fallen is the Gauntlet, a magical weapon that acts as various kinds of ranged attacks. Depending on what gauntlet skill is equipped, the gauntlet works like a grenade launcher, a rifle or a shotgun. Although the magic cost is really too high to make it usable as a primary weapon, the gauntlet is hugely useful for pulling enemies into areas in which you can manoeuvre better or for chipping away at the vulnerable points on some bosses.

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