The infamously insidious influence of Dark Souls has spread, bringing with it the return of tactical action games to the forefront of critical acclaim and the attention of the hardcore audience. Lords of the Fallen looks to ride this wave with assurance, while softening the intimidation factor by introducing more approachable combat, skill trees, and dialogue trees. It attempts to create a balance between the cautious, deliberate combat of Dark Souls with the attainable and classic combat of Darksiders.
Not much of the story was revealed, though the concept surrounds an ancient battle where humans fought against the gods and their Rhogar commanders about 8,000 years ago. Now in this era of peace, they have for some reason risen once more to threaten mankind. The main character and his wizard mentor scour the monestary, which has mysteriously lost communication with the outside world. Of course, the Rhogar now populate the stone ruins, and it's your job to clear and purify it, along with three other yet-unannounced environments. How you choose to answer important questions in dialogue and complete side quests throughout the story will determine which ending you will receive.
At first glance, Lords of the Fallen might seem like a straightforward fantasy single-player title with a bald, bearded main character that looks straight out of a Nordic myth. He wields the power of a mighty hammer, explores mysterious dungeons, and defeats demonic monsters with both physical and magical prowess. Defeating enemies earns perks in skill trees which depend upon the class you choose—cleric, rogue, and warrior—for the character at the beginning of the game. It seems like an action game where you can mash the attack button, thrashing your two-handed bladed through swarms of enemies with lengthy combos.
But as soon as you enter combat, it becomes clear that pounding on the face buttons will end in death, or at least more death than the game already demands. While German developer Deck 13 along with Polish studio CI Games emphasize that Lords of the Fallen doesn't aim to be as punishing as Dark Souls, death will form the backbone of learning from your mistakes. One-on-one combat centers around weaving in and out of the enemy's range, paying careful attention to what attacks your enemies perform and how best to dodge and exploit openings.
Gigantic bosses, like the opening First Warden, can send you to your grave in fewer than four strikes, even fewer if you decide to wear light armor. The same goes for regular Rhogar Marauders and Vanguards, who can easily chip at your health if you're not careful. It's important to find alternate routes and move through the environment strategically to get the best angle, sneak around corners, and earn backstab criticals. For bosses, it's about paying attention to the segmented health bar and how bosses change their patterns as their armor breaks off.
Eventually, clerics can learn a few supernatural blasts and spells, like decoys and regeneration, that can knock grunts down and interrupt their combo chain. In other words, you'll have a much deeper disposal to eradicate your foes. So long as you're patient, conserve stamina, and use your wits, you can conquer every obstacle the game throws your way and discover why the demons have returned.
Lords of the Fallen will release for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, and PC in 2014.