Bandai Namco is hoping that you're still prepared to die. Dark Souls brought that question to bear with difficulty so crushing, it could turn the most seasoned gamer into a blubbering mess as visions of the Capra Demon dancing over their head. Breaking through the difficulty barriers is what made Dark Souls and Dark Souls II an amazing experience. They forced the player to develop patience and a keen eye to track, memorize and interpret enemy movements and attack patterns. Lords of the Fallen builds on the beautiful nightmare From Software created and throws you headfirst into a world filled with enemies waiting with baited breath to bash your skull in over and over and over.
Unlike the majority of E3 appointments, Lords of the Fallen was an entirely hands on experience. Unfortunately, there was no one on hand to deliver any sort of setup of discussion as to what I was about to see. As such, I had no idea what to expect. At first glance the game looked to be related to Darksiders because the aesthetic took some inspiration from comic book illustrator, Joe Madureira. With that mentality, I moved forward and faced off against my first target, a gangly demon that made incredibly short work of my approach. Just like Dark Souls, every death in Lords of the Fallen is a lesson and considering the viciousness of my initial decimation, school was in session.
The demo's starting area consisted of a set of stone stairs placed directly in front of a giant glowing crystal that functioned more or less like the Dark Souls bonfires. Interacting with the crystal would instantly refill your character's health, magic and stamina meters. Where From Software's games would respawn enemies with every trip to a bonfire, the defeated creatures in Fallen did not come back after being killed. However, they do come back if you're defeated. A small mercy, though I wonder if such generosity will make it into the final version of the game.
There were two paths to go from the crystal. A tunnel opening at the back of the stairs or the second floor. Being a fan of verticality, I decided to climb the stairs and battled the monster, switching between sword attacks and shield blocks. The main character moves at quite a clip and was nothing like the slow, deliberate movements of the Souls games. Enemies move with the same amount of speed, making my tactic of backstabbing difficult to perform. My sword felt pretty ineffective and a trip to the character status screen revealed three weapon options: light, heavy and magic. I switch to a hammer-like weapon that took a good chunk of health from the monster with each strike. Moving forward, I reached a platform on the second floor consisting of two more of the stairwell creatures and a bigger, well armored beast. My Dark Souls instinct kicked into gear, kiting the weaker enemies with a blast of magic and fancy sword work. The heavier monster was far more difficult to kill. Staying on the move, I was able to cheese the monster into falling down the stairway. Once again, the my Souls skills caused me to instinctively try a falling attack move that actually worked as expected. I can't rightfully say if the team at Deck13 and CI Games lifted Dark Souls' control scheme wholesale but the familiarity was more than welcome.
After killing the armored monster, I pushed on only to be greeted by an even larger creature and was roundly killed. I must have tried getting past him four or five times before calling it quits in order to get to my next appointment. I wanted to play more, if only to see what existed beyond the path underneath the stairs. My only complaint with the demo is that the area felt too small camera which kept zooming in behind me and blocking the view. This is something that needs to be fixed because identifying attack tells is extremely crucial in this style of game and nothing should get in the way of that.
When I got home from E3, I jumped onto the website for Lords of the Fallen in order to suss out additional details about the game. The game's story involves Harkyn, a convicted criminal who gets a chance at redemption when a great evil resurfaces and declares war against humanity. I really wish someone was on hand to explain the game's philosophy, design and structure. Is it an open world game? Is it stage based? Will there be people to interact with? Will the game's mechanics be as obtuse as Dark Souls? Until the game is released this fall, it'll be difficult to not drawn on the game's comparisons with the Souls series. That's not a bad thing, however. I'm always down for more games exactly like it.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.