I played the original Lords of the Fallen when it launched in 2014, but I wasn’t a big fan. It’s not that it did anything bad, but rather than it felt a little uninspired and dull when compared to the likes of Dark Souls. My save file got corrupted too, which just added more of a stink onto the overall experience for me.

With the NEW Lords of the Fallen though, I’ve been left very impressed. Not only does it offer an enthralling gameplay experience that nails all of the varied aspects expected of the Souls-like genre, but it also has plenty of its own cool ideas to help it stand out amongst the crowd.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Lords of the Fallen takes place in a grim fantasy land known as Mournstead that blends together beautiful gothic architecture with a destructive and evil presence, with players taking on the role of a warrior known as a Dark Crusader as they look to vanquish the returning threat of a demon god named Adyr. This means traversing the perilous land and defeating the deadly enemies in your path, all whilst exploring two parallel worlds: one of the living known as Axiom and one of the dead known as Umbral.

That whole parallel world mechanic stands out as one of the game’s coolest features. Players carry with them a special device known as the Umbral Lamp that grants them the ability to venture into Umbral, which is essentially a mirrored re-creation of Axiom but with a dark and macabre twist. It’s not just there for scary looks alone though, with its inclusion also adding a puzzling element to the game. Find your path blocked off in Axiom? Venture into Umbral and you may find it clear, albeit with grisly sights to see along the way and more vicious enemies that are out for your blood. You can peer into Umbral by simply lifting your lamp up to see what might be ahead of you (and sometimes this is all that is needed to get past an obstacle in your path), but don’t be surprised to find yourself spending a lot of time trekking across its more deadly setting.

You’ll also find yourself in Umbral if you die in Axiom, giving you a chance to make an escape instead of suffering a PROPER death that’ll see you back to the last ‘bonfire’ (which are known as Vestiges here). It’s a clever idea, but with additional enemies to face in Umbral (you’ll have to deal with both Axiom’s monstrosities AND Umbral’s at the same time), it can be very perilous. Lords of the Fallen can be tough, with those moments where the game gives you an opportunity to survive a death and keep your Vigor intact (your experience points) somehow proving even more harrowing. Still, there’s no doubting that the parallel world mechanic is really, really cool, with it not only standing out as one of the best features of the game but also giving it a unique hook to differentiate it from a lot of the other Souls-like releases out there.

“Everything in the game looks spectacular and there’s plenty of variety to be found within each locale, but it’s captivating parallel world mechanic that makes the environment feel so special to explore.”

Another unique idea that the game implements comes with those aforementioned Vestiges, which, like the bonfires of the Souls series, act as a safe space where players are able to restore their health, level up their capabilities, and fast-travel between other Vestiges. Whilst that’s pretty typical of the genre, Lords of the Fallen also allows you to create temporary Vestiges of your own using Vestige Seeds at special locations throughout the game world. It might seem like a minor addition, but in a game where you’re constantly at risk of losing all you’ve earned between checkpoints, it’s something I found myself particularly fond of. You can’t permanently rely on them, but in those moments where you need the solace of a safe space to heal or level up, they can be a game-changer.

I’m happy to report that it gets all of the basics right too, with combat offering plenty of flexibility thanks to the varied classes you can use – the blend of melee, ranged, and magic attacks felt great, with players having plenty of tricks up their sleeves depending on where they’ve focused their stats and skillset. Your Umbral Lantern comes into play too, with players able to use it to unleash the Soul Flay ability that slows and staggers enemies by absorbing the soul from their body, whilst Soul Siphoning will absorb the charges required to perform a Soul Flay (all whilst making the targeted enemy extra aggressive). Whilst neither of these mechanics are essential to progress through Lords of the Fallen, they add a little something extra to combat that can be really useful when facing off against a particularly tough foe. Of course, if you want to keep things simple, you can just rely on good old blocking, parrying, and striking, whilst your ranged attacks can keep you safe from afar and magic proves especially effective against different enemy types.

Of course, it couldn’t be a Souls-like without ferocious, hulking, and grotesque bosses to face off against, and believe me, Lords of the Fallen has PLENTY of those. There are some really impressive showdowns on offer that don’t only test your skills but also showcase just how monstrous the enemy design can be, with some creative scenarios to find yourself in that’ll demand some swift combat skills and quick-thinking when dealing with each boss’ varied move set. There’s almost always SOMETHING you can do to try and get an advantage too, so it’s always worth scouring the area or changing up your equipment to see what works best for you. And don’t forget: you can technically get two attempts at a boss given that you can still take them on when sent to Umbral when felled, which can be a bit more forgiving than similar releases in the genre. Whilst there were one or two duds in the bunch, there’s a really impressive set of bosses to face off against.

Check out some screenshots down below:

This is probably a good time to mention that Lords of the Fallen can be really, REALLY tough. Whilst Souls-like titles are known for challenging players and often demand perseverance to survive through, there were a few moments here that felt a little unfair – especially when dealing with enemies from both worlds when traversing through Umbral. Whilst it does add an extra sense of danger to the game that matches the desolate tone of the world, from a gameplay perspective, it could feel a little bit harsh. There are some enemies that can seemingly wipe you out with one attack combo too, which could be brutal when half-way through a challenging boss battle. It could be argued that it’s simple a case of, uh-hum, ‘getting good’, but as a long-time fan of the Souls-like genre, there were a few too many moments where it felt like the game’s difficulty was a flaw as opposed to a challenge to overcome.

Despite this, I found myself completely engrossed in Lords of the Fallen, especially since Mournstead is so fascinating to explore. Everything in the game looks spectacular and there’s plenty of variety to be found within each locale, but it’s captivating parallel world mechanic that makes the environment feel so special to explore. It adds more puzzling elements to the world design and encourages players to pay attention to what’s in front of them in both worlds, all whilst adding a sense of unpredictable danger to keep you on your toes. It’s very immersive and helps make Lords of the Fallen’s world a real treat to explore, even IF some of the challenges it pits against you can feel a little harsh.

There are other littler things that the game does well too, such as upgrading your gear, fine-tuning your stats to suit your playstyle, or the flexibility found within combat across your varied fighting styles. There’s even online co-op, which is a lot more intuitive and accessible than that found in FromSoftware titles, so those looking to play through with a friend will be very impressed. Admittedly, there are a few little niggles in the world design and combat that see it falling short of the incredibly high standard seen in the likes of Elden Ring, but Lords of the Fallen certainly holds its own when compared to the big hitters of the Souls-like genre.

Lords of the Fallen Review

Lords of the Fallen is an impressive release that trumps the original in every way, all whilst introducing some splendid mechanics that help it stand out in the crowded Souls-like genre. The parallel worlds idea is really, REALLY cool, whilst simply exploring the land of Mournstead is always satisfying thanks to its wonderful environmental design and sense of unpredictability across both Axiom and Umbral. It gets all of the basics right too, with combat slick and varied throughout and each epic boss encounter putting your skills to the test.

Whilst I’ll admit there were some areas which lacked the polish for it to fully match up to the likes of Elden Ring, Lords of the Fallen is still a very good game. The difficulty spikes can be a little bit unfair in places, especially when the game overwhelms you with a high enemy count, but it doesn’t stop Lords of the Fallen from being another Souls-like release that REALLY deserves your attention.

Developer: Hexworks
Publisher: CI Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), Xbox Series X|S, PC
Website: https://lordsofthefallen.com/