Lords of the Fallen Review

A Bearer of good news

By Paul Hunter

Back in August 2023, I called the Lords of the Fallen reboot my "most anticipated game this fall". I've been excited to revisit this dark and destructive world ever since the reveal last year and subsequent trailers only heightened my anticipation.

Now that I've had a chance to plunk more than 50 hours into the retail version of the game, I can safely say it's one of the best Soulslike games in existence that doesn't have Souls in the title. Developer Hexworks has followed FromSoftware's blueprint to a tee, and while this means a lot of Lords of the Fallen will feel familiar, it also means fans of the early Dark Souls games are sure to enjoy what's on offer here. Let's get reborn in the vast lands of Mornstead to see what this game is all about, here are three things I like about it...and two I didn't.

Liked: Deep, Immersive Storytelling

Set 1,000 years after the events of the original game, Lords of the Fallen begins with the inconceivable rebirth of the Fallen God Adyr, who's seeking to regain his grasp on the world of humankind. The intro lays on the mystery thick with your character succumbing to the cold grasp of death only to be reawakened with an all-powerful lamp that has the ability to bridge the gap between the worlds of the living and the dead. As the Lamp Bearer, a new member of the Dark Crusaders, your role is to restore radiance to the five Holy Beacons of Sentinels to once again seal Adyr away.

All this intriguing storytelling is told through high-quality cutscenes, as well as plenty of talkative NPC companions who all have surprisingly good voice acting. Over this massive adventure, you'll also come face-to-face with over 30 bosses, comprised of around a dozen main colossal entities along with 20-plus secondary bosses. Most of these encounters have chilling cutscenes reminiscent of the Souls series ranging from long-dorment monstrous beings suddenly reanimating in chilling fashion to horribly corrupt semi-human creatures flashing their thick armour and oversized weapons before battle ensues. These sequences do a great job of instilling fear before the action starts and help to make these battles memorable long after they are over.

Much like Elden Ring and Dark Souls, the game features a couple dozen NPC characters that each have their own questline to follow for rewards and hidden endings. Some of the questlines are quite lengthy and feature more than ten steps to complete across multiple areas within the game's massive interconnected world. I found most of the characters to be interesting and the rewards can be massive, including unlocking a blacksmith to upgrade your gear and spellcasters that sell the game's most powerful magic.

The beautifully detailed environments in Lords of the Fallen do a stellar job at furthering the storytelling. Whether it's the mysteriously hidden Fief of the Chill Curse with its massive castle now overrun with monsters and layers of ice to the burning city of Calrath and its adjacent creepy sunless and cavernous mine—environments hold secrets begging to be discovered. No more is this apparent in the secret Revelation Depths area I stumbled upon where you descend down into a treacherous underground realm that gets darker and more deadly with every step. Adding to the game's lore are the hundreds of weapons, armour sets and quest items you'll find along the way, each with their own descriptions that hint at their origins and purpose.

When you combine the excellent cutscenes, deep NPC questlines, epic boss intros and intriguing environmental details, the overall storytelling is among the best of any Soulslike I've ever played.

Liked: Varied, Satisfying Combat

Taking a page from the Dark Souls series, Lords of the Fallen has eight starting classes with different specializations, along with a ninth Condemned class with the lowest starting level and stats, along with hilariously wielding a broken bucket melee weapon. The other classes are nicely varied whether that's the standard sword and shield Hallowed Knight, the long-range bow-equipped Ranger or the two magic-focused classes focused on Radiance (light/healing) or Rhogar (fire) spells.

Like most Soulslikes, your starting class can be taken in any direction you choose by levelling up your character using Vigor, this game's EXP currency. Stats are what you'd expect for the genre, including Strength and Agility stats depending on if you want to focus on heavy or dexterous weapons. Endurance and Vitality affect your max stamina and health respectively, while both also increase your equipment weight limit. Finally, there are the Radiance and Inferno stats used to boost Radiance or Rhogar spells, and both stats are used for Umbral magic users. Each stat can be levelled up to 99 and there's no level cap, aside from maxing out all six stats.

For my playthrough, I focused on a Strength and Radiance build and thus having a powerful healing and light-based magic user who could equip gigantic clubs and broadswords. Speaking of weapons, this game has hundreds and each one has a distinct look and unique stat scalings, and some have special imbued elements like fire, poison or bleed. Each weapon type has different attacks like spears that thrust forward with tremendous reach, grand swords that do deadly sweeping strikes that can hit multiple enemies or daggers that have limited range but fast attacks. I had a lot of fun experimenting with different weapons and eventually found a few favourites with high Radiance scaling with special effects like inflicting additional grey-health wither damage or dealing an explosive holy damage burst.

Diablo fans who enjoy inserting gems into their equipment will enjoy the Rune system in Lords of the Fallen, which works nearly the same. Once you've unlocked the ability to embed runes (which involves an NPC sidequest!) you'll be able to upgrade your swords and shields to unlock more rune slots. There's a wide assortment of runes to be found and most have different rarities with greater effects, and for my character, I focused on defence and mana regeneration. By the end of the game, I had enough mana-regenerating items to keep powerful buffs applied for entire boss battles which was immensely helpful given how tough some of the colossal bosses are.

Beyond the vast amount of character customizations and equipment, the actual combat itself was extremely satisfying with weapon strikes having nice weight behind them and great slashing or striking sound effects. As a Radiance magic user, I also tapped into a number of game-changing spells such as a healing ward that continuously replenishes health, a Radiant orb that followed me around and repeatedly struck enemies with energy blasts an all-powerful multi-lightning blast. Magic in this game is incredibly fun to use and experiment with, and while I dabbled slightly with the fire and Umbral spell sets, I'm already planning on doing a New Game+ to focus on these schools of magic.

Liked: The Huge, Interconnected World

Lords of the Fallen has a gargantuan game world that took me over 50 hours to explore, and even then there were a few NPC sidequests I didn't yet finish and a secret realm I couldn't access because I chose the good (Radiance) ending. I was thoroughly impressed with how much thought and care went into building this world, particularly around how interconnected it is. In the early goings, I discovered several locked doors and gates around the central hub zone of Skyrest Bridge that eventually you'll slowly open and each leads to entirely new zones. The game also features dozens of classic shortcuts, whether that's pushing a ladder down or unlocking a door to help you navigate areas quicker while avoiding enemies.

What's even more impressive is this huge world has two distinct versions: Axiom the world of the living and Umbral the land of the dead. You begin in Axiom and should you die (or perform a special Umbral summoning with your lamp) you'll be transported into the much more dangerous Umbral world. Not only does Umbral have an entirely different visual look full of creepy arm walls and spine bridges, but you need to venture into Umbral often to progress through areas and dungeons. Walls in Axiom might disappear in Umbral, or large gaps in Axiom might have a handy spine bridge to cross in Umbral. Each world even has unique items as well, tempting you to explore both worlds in full so as to not miss any useful equipment or quest items. Not only is Umbral significantly harder with relentless spawning enemies, but the longer you stay in the undead world the more deadly the spawning foes become.

The world of Mornstead also features great environmental diversity whether that's descending deeper into treacherous Tower of Penance or navigating the eerie caverns of Fitzroy's Gorge. From once decadent castles that have descended into chaos to labyrinthine caves to a monster-infested abbey, there's a fantastic variety of places to visit and keep the visual fresh. The art style is also highly reminiscent of the original Dark Souls, which as a huge fan of that title filled me with nostalgia while playing through this large adventure.

Didn't Like: Performance Issues

Over my review period, there were a number of patches released that helped to improve the game's overall performance. Still, in its current build, there is still some stuttering when running around the map at top speed and less frequent but still noticeable stuttering in combat when facing a mob of enemies. And that's when using the game's Performance mode, with the fidelity mode being even worse and not something I'd recommend using.

It's honestly too bad because if the performance was smooth I wouldn't hesitate to say this is a Soulslike that could even rival FromSoftware's best. But as it stands the game is certainly playable and enjoyable but the struttering takes away from the immersion.

Didn't Like: Too Many Enemies

While I loved the combat overall, it was irksome how many enemies swarm you in some zones. While Soulslike games typically send a handful of tough enemies for you to face at once, this game has no hesitation to send five, six or more enemies your way and it's challenging to dodge, block and parry them all at once while also trying to focus on individual enemies to kill them. I'm glad I chose to be a magic user as that would let me pick off some enemies from afar before rushing in, so I can only imagine how impossible a melee build would be in these situations.

The Verdict

Lords of the Fallen far exceeded my expectations and has instantly jumped to be among my favourite Soulikes franchises alongside hits like Nioh and Remnant. The huge interconnected world was a joy to explore and the huge variety of weapons, armour and stats lets you really customize your character to your liking. If it wasn't for the performance issues this would be a near flawless experience. Hopefully, we get DLC or a sequel because I'm already craving more of this unique dual-world action RPG.

Final Score: 8.5/10 - Great

Lords of the Fallen details

Platform: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Developer: Hexworks
Publisher: CI Games
Genre: Action Role-playing, Soulslike
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.