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Lords of the Fallen Review

Lords of the Fallen Review

Lords of the Fallen is the latest soulslike released by CI Games, the company behind the infamous title of the same name released a few years back. Now, they return to the genre with their newest take on soulslike — did they learn their lesson from its predecessor?

Starting off with the story, you play as a character chosen to wield a forbidden tool — the lamp. With this, you can travel between the realms of the living (Axiom) and the realms of the dead (Umbral), and you'll use your special powers to stop the resurrection of the tyrannical God, Adyr. This quest will take you through five different major beacons that you need to purify — such is the lampbearer's curse.

Though I genuinely enjoy the story, the storytelling is... well, for a lack of a better word, soulslike. By that, I mean that a lot of the dialogue is told in riddles, and some of the contexts you're going to need to understand the overarching narrative will be hidden in memory fragments you can find in the Umbral to listen to echoes of the past. The storytelling is a complaint I've always had with soulslikes, as the ambiguous narrative makes it difficult to care for the goal I am working towards — when I truly understood the meaning of the DARK SOULS story, it meant all the more. However, I had long since finished my first (and even seventh) playthrough by that point.


The same can be said for Lords of the Fallen, even if the story is pretty engrossing and feels less riddle-filled than FromSoftware's Shakespearean-esque writing. I didn't really understand what my goal was at the start, and it managed to elude me for hours, which isn't really that much of a negative, if you don't mind that sort of thing. I still stand that despite the quintessential nature of a narrative told in riddles for the soulslike genre, it isn't really a "good" thing.

Though the narrative won't stop you from getting to the entire point of Lords of the Fallen, and that's its gameplay. Everything you need for it to be called a soulslike is there: rolling, creating your character, panic rolling, flasks, character building, dying because you panic rolled... and though it closely resembles everything you'd need from the genre, I can't really say the team behind the game did a good job.

My biggest issue with the game encompasses my entire feelings towards the experience as a whole: it tries to be soulslike... too much. While by the book it's a perfect title to fit in due to its themes, it feels like a perfect DARK SOULS clone and enough to stand out from it, but therein lies its problems. It feels like throughout the development, HEXWORKS was scared to fall short of the genre and made a game solely based on textbook definitions of soulslike.


This isn't to say that the game didn't innovate at all — I genuinely enjoy some of the most unique things about the game the most. Umbral exploration is genuinely thrilling because it creates a sense of doom and urgency, where the longer you spend in there, the more dangerous foes you'll encounter. Mixed in with some mandatory Umbral areas, this is the tensest I've felt in a soulslike experience ever, with genuine fear and feeling like my time was really ticking by with every second I spent too long in the realm of the dead. With its exploration and unique mechanics, I really, really wanted to love Lords of the Fallen and have the perfect redemption arc after their 2014 release. But HEXWORKS didn't give themselves the opportunity to lean in on the brand that they wanted to give their game.

The easiest way to say this is that Lords of the Fallen is frankly too hard, but that's simplifying the flaws of the game too much. I don't want to reduce this review to "unfair and thus unfun" because there are moments that are genuinely thrilling and exciting; the difficulty is adequately tuned in terms of damage taken and damage dealt (at least, for the most part). Instead, what makes it so bad is actually minor issues and mistakes that slowly make it unplayable.

Let's start with the simplest of the bunch: the lack of Vestige locations (in terms of DARK SOULS fans: bonfires). There are a wide variety of areas that you'll encounter with plenty of foes that stand between you and your next safe place, but getting there really feels more like a punishment than the gameplay itself. This is partly due to the implementation of Vestige Seeds, which lets you create one of these safe havens at a flower bed — while at first I was smitten by the implementation of choosing whether I wanted to plant it or not, it lost its charm about halfway through.

Vestige Seedlings Lords of the Fallen

HEXWORKS stops giving abundant flower beds and pretty much nullifies the existence of the Vestiges that don't require you to plant them aside from some at the beginning of each new area. The spacing out between flower beds to plant on started becoming ridiculous, and considering you have to pay 2,500 Vigor (which is your currency and experience) to buy each one, it very quickly syphons from your pockets and prevents you from levelling up. To put it into perspective, an early level costs right around the same amount, whilst later ones start costing upwards of 6,000 Vigor. The spacing out of the flower beds was problematic enough without it becoming essentially a necessity to use it every time because of the lack of Vestiges that you didn't need to plant, and I would have loved the system far more if it had been up to me to choose where these go instead, giving me the opportunity to find a safe haven amidst the hordes of foes that stand in my way.

It didn't help that I needed to buy them, but at the same time needed to use that to level up. It's not too much of a problem because, thankfully, as an RPG experience, you can grind out the Vigor you'd need to buy new ones and get as many levels as you want, but then farming becomes a necessity.

As I progressed through the environments, I found that Vigor was scarce to come across. Now, that's not to say that there weren't enemies — there's always a foe, or two, or five to fight against — but the amount of souls they drop feels negligible at best. The enemies don't drop enough of this currency/XP to compensate for the cost of new seeds, the loss of them when you die twice, the capability for you to level up, and upgrading your tools. Instead, I found that by returning to one of the earliest areas of the game (after just the second "main" boss), I got levels significantly faster than otherwise. Enemies drop right around the same amount of Vigor and I found more success returning to earlier places and clearing those than clearing the ones I was working on because — quite frankly — it wasn't enough to amount for the Vigor drain.

Levelling up Lords of the Fallen

One of my biggest problems with Lords of the Fallen is the sheer amount of boss foes that later become common enemies you have to fight, sometimes at the same time. While there are arguments between those who love this mechanic and those who hate it, I stand somewhere in between both, where a moderate amount of this can be good, but in this case, it exceeds past levels I'm comfortable with. I know some enjoy it due to the feeling of reconquering a fight and seeing how far you've come, but the foes become significantly weaker and work more as a complex miniboss you have to fight... again, and again, and again.

This exacerbated one of the biggest problems the game has as well, which is a lack of enemy variety entirely. It may not go down to God of War (2018) level of bad, but it got to the point where no new enemies were introduced unless it was in the form of a boss that you would later refight a couple dozen times in the future. Exploring and getting to a new area lost its charm because I didn't look forward to seeing what new enemies I would encounter — I knew there would be very few new foes in favour of reskinned fights or miniboss refights.

Lords of the Fallen is also guilty of falling reliant on cheap trends that are only fun to fight against in moderation. Starting from your second area on to the end of the game, you'll find dozens of enemies hidden behind crates, walls, out of vision, baits, ranged foes, heavy-damage grabs a lá Mimics... anything you can think of, Lords of the Fallen likely did it too much. While I had a good laugh at getting ambushed or shoved off cliffs (and I found way too much enjoyment in the game by returning their kindness and shoving them off for a change), it became so common that it was repetitive. And that's what leads me to the final point: Lords of the Fallen failed to make me feel gratified... ever.

Congregator of Flesh Lords of the Fallen

The game falls into repetitive loops, like a checkbox that needs to be completed before a certain area is considered done. Hidden foe behind a one-hit kill fall? Check. Going to the Umbral to open a shortcut to get to Axiom? Check. No Vestige points ever? Check. Refighting one of the various bosses you've fought as a common mob? Check. It stopped feeling like I was exploring any new areas and instead was stuck in a repetitive loop or replaying the same things with a slight reskin every time and an exaggerated amount of each gimmick repeatedly appearing throughout.

And this repetitiveness started to drain the fun from every area of the game. Every time I fought a boss that I knew wasn't a main one (of the big ones that you know are not going to repeat), I didn't feel that rush of gratification I should because their combos were predictable — they are supposed to be reliably killed later, after all. It removed that "soulslike" thrill of getting past a hurdle because I knew it wasn't the last time I'd have to face it. Even unique bosses would sometimes be repetitive, dull, or samey aside from a select few that had fun and exciting mechanics.

It feels like Lords of the Fallen questioned itself at every turn of the corner and forgot how to make itself genuinely fun. It felt almost like the mechanics were consistently put under question, and the team stepped back to ask, "How do we make this more 'soulslike'?" making them forget what makes an entry into the genre fun in the first place. The game punishes you for trying different playing styles that are high-risk and high-reward by diminishing the reward until it feels negligible; it forced me into old DARK SOULS habits of rolling through everything and discouraged blocking or parrying entirely. At the end of the day, I never felt like I was struggling with the fights or difficulty but instead the world-building — I consistently got lost, I couldn't find a good place to plant a Vestige Seed, and I was always fighting environmental hazards more commonly than foes.

Lords of the Fallen Title Screen

It's a shame because, at its heart, Lords of the Fallen is such a great experience. Unlike Lies of P, it feels like a proper entry to a DARK-SOULS-esque soulslike, almost like a spiritual successor (though we already have ELDEN RING for that). But in practice, it fails through small development mistakes that make it feel almost like a passionless project — just consistently returning to the drawing board and reusing the same old tricks to make it a passable "soulslike".

4.50/10 4½

Lords of the Fallen (2023) (Reviewed on Windows)

Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.

Lords of the Fallen feels like a passionless soulslike, relying on the same old tricks to make its experience “difficult” all the while failing to lean on its most innovative ideas.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Artura Dawn

Artura Dawn

Staff Writer

Writes in her sleep, can you tell?

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Zikq - 05:38pm, 12th October 2023

One of the worst reviews I have ever seen. I swear to god people do anything to hate something that is somewhat popular.

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 03:24pm, 13th October 2023 Author

Hey there!

I'm sorry to hear you feel that way! That said, I wouldn't say that Lords of the Fallen was a "popular" thing to hate on by the time the review was released — this was out by its embargo. I'd urge you to reread the review so you can see the reasons I disliked the game! 

Thanks for the comment!

Pee Wee
Pee Wee - 08:32pm, 12th October 2023

Terrible review of a good game, you should've put somebody else to do this review that actually plays Souls like games, or games in general...

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 03:26pm, 13th October 2023 Author

Hello, Pee Wee!

I've played a numerous of soulslikes! From 120 hours in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, 200 hours on DARK SOULS, and even 50 on Lies of P! And if you want to talk about knowing games, I've played over 7,000 hours on Steam games and far more than that on anything outside of the launcher! Just because I don't agree with your personal opinion, it doesn't mean that I don't like games!

Have a good one, and thanks for the read and comment!

-b- - 09:39pm, 14th October 2023

Sorry you're having to deal with some rampant sexism and hate over your opinion - that said, I personally think online/block game reviewers these days are irresponsible in terms of separating objectivity versus subjectivity that you just didn't like the game. I never these kinds of reviews back when all we had were gaming magazines.

 Even if you didn't like it, the game doesn't remotely deserve a review score this low on any planet. In terms of production values, gameplay, world building, graphics etc.. there's no way it deserves anything less than a 7/10 unless you're going to knock it down a notch for performance issues. I'm a huge soulsborne fan and I've also played a ton of hours in these titles and I understand your misgivings, but the review score just doesn't make sense.

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 01:34am, 15th October 2023 Author

Hey there! Thank you for your sympathies.

It's worth noting that this isn't an isolated incident, and I'm not the only person who didn't feel that Lords of the Fallen lives up to be a good game. There are several other reviews that iterate my same issues with the game; I felt it was uninspired and unenjoyable, and from my opinion and viewpoint, I didn't think it was worth anything higher. Bear in mind, I'm not the lowest score nor the second lowest — others have given it something similar as well.

If we rated games purely based on production value and things you mention — gameplay, world-building, graphics, etc — then reviews as a whole would grow eternally complex between AAA and indie. How then would we ever rate a AAA experience bad if we have to account for these sorts of things? Likewise, indies would live in a hostile environment in reviews where they would need to fight against the production value and sheer amounts of effort, budget, and overall quality that puts them above from these categories.

I find Lords of the Fallen to be a passionless soulslike that tries to fit the genre too hard and falls into annoying tropes, and a title I wouldn't recommend to people, and I did just that. I don't think it's an enjoyable experience, and I could have rated it much lower — 3.0–4.0 — but went for a nearly middling score; a lot of people have forgotten that 5/10 isn't bad but middling, and I'd say Lords of the Fallen is barely so.

The thing a lot of readers forget is that this is not the final score and verdict of the game overall — there are literally dozens of others that give their opinions and viewpoints as well and aggregate to a total score that the game receives. Contrariwise, there are many who said it is a perfect 10/10; yet, their reviews are also not set in stone and single-handedly decide the ultimate score that the game gets. Our full efforts contribute to a median score, but no single reviewer can encompass the viewpoints and ideologies of every other gamer in the world — as much as I disliked the overuse of genre clichés (and others — including reviewers — do as well), some will find that to be a pleasure.

Thanks for reading and your comment!

-b- - 03:26am, 15th October 2023

As someone that actually works in the game industry professionally and s involved in making games I can respect your opinion and your right to it, but I can't respect a score this low for this game under the presumption that is a fair and balanced review. If you're giving it the score simply because you didn't enjoy it that much, then that's fair. Also the genre cliches bit was pretty passive aggressive since I like to think I have pretty discerning tastes in games and I'm very much enjoying this one and it's totally ok that you don't. I'm also really skeptical on a few points you're making because so far this game feels much lower in difficult than Dark Souls 1-3 and Bloodborne to me. Nothing about the difficulty feels forced or contrived and the vestige mechanic is fine...if anything Dark Souls 3 had an overabundance of bonfires...

I enjoy the game becuase it's a good game and because I enjoy Dark Souls games. I don't personally find that the fantasy elements are unoriginal or more contrived than anything else out there right now. Generally, I am wary of souls likes not made by Fromsoft and this one is one of the few I truly enjoy.

"it forced me into old DARK SOULS habits of rolling through everything and discouraged blocking or parrying entirely. "

this quote makes me wonder if you truly enjoy the genre

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 04:38pm, 15th October 2023 Author

Welcome back!

I didn't think the genre clichés is a passive-aggressive comment at all, and I'm not even sure what you're referencing with this. I think it's a straightforward mention of what I thought the game felt like, which falls behind consistently trying to fit the bill of the genre consistently. I'm glad you felt like you've enjoyed the game so far, but once again, it's worth noting that that is your opinion on the title and mechanics, which although some agree with, others (like myself and other outlets that gave the game a lower score) do not resonate with! There is no one right answer when it comes to videogame reviews and scores because everyone has opinions on every mechanic and that will affect how they see an individual title. You may think DARK SOULS III had an overabundance of bonfires whilst I might think that Lords of the Fallen has too few, and neither opinion is inherently wrong, but they would affect how we would both score the game individually when it comes to something as crucial as safe points.

The quote you're referencing is not indicative of whether I enjoy the genre or not — from what I meant with it, it just gives you fewer options in combat than others, like DARK SOULS III. I found the lack of options in terms of combat somewhat underwhelming in comparison to that thrill of perfect blocking my first-ever attack on DARK SOULS and feeling a rush, unlike this one's lacklustre stamina mechanic and Grievous Attacks that don't really deal as much damage as I'd hoped. Likewise, it's weirdly restrictive about the combos you can do at times, like heavy attacks and light attacks doing the same damage unless you charge the former, etc.

As I mentioned in one of the comments here, I actually really enjoy the genre and it's single-handedly the one that takes the most of my playtime of all in my Steam library (excluding online and MOBAs, which are infinite and a massive time sink that no genre could compare to) with nearly 100+ hours on every soulslike I've played thus far and completing them several times over (aside from Lies of P, which released relatively recently and due to arm health, I had to stop playing post-review).

Thanks once again for your comment!

Gitgud - 11:10pm, 12th October 2023

Lol. This reads as "I'm a woman and can't play hard games"-- the review. God, why a few women decided that their whole identity should be a hobby they're bad at, I will never understand.

lmao wot
lmao wot - 03:12pm, 13th October 2023

stfu nerd

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 03:29pm, 13th October 2023 Author

Hey there!

It's funny you'd say that — I've actually a lot of accolades in gaming I've shared openly in GameGrin! I've 100%ed Sekiro, I've gotten an S in every League of Legends champion in ARAM, and numerous other games I've 100%ed on Steam, like Hollow Knight! 

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, GitGud! 

Qu-lek - 12:07am, 13th October 2023

Gamegrin shame of u!

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 03:34pm, 13th October 2023 Author

I'M SORRY! I will atone for my sins!

SkillIssue - 06:45am, 13th October 2023

Sounds like the bitter yapping of a skillless person, who thinks she is playing the new DarkSouls. MF this ain't DS, I can smell the obvious bias.

When you review a game, review it for what it is.

Go play the Cupcake tutorial or something.

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 03:34pm, 13th October 2023 Author

Hey there!

I did indeed review the game for what it is, but that's genuinely good advice! As I stated throughout the review that you might have skipped, I felt the combat was quite lacklustre in various areas and it didn't lean on its innovative ideas enough. It followed a checklist for everything that felt passionless, like consistently forcing tropes of the genre at every corner to make itself stand out. 

I am pretty sure I'm the one smelling bias coming from you — people are allowed to have differing opinions of games. Not every soulslike has to be a DARK SOULS clone, and it doesn't have to be rated good!

Thanks for reading the review and the comment!

Acelister - 03:40pm, 13th October 2023


Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 03:43pm, 13th October 2023 Author


Acelister - 03:50pm, 13th October 2023


MickSaveMOYF - 04:24pm, 13th October 2023

10/10 review of the year. Opinions!!!

soulslikes are too hard i hate them

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 04:37pm, 13th October 2023 Author

10/10 comment of the century!

SandersonJ23 - 04:35pm, 13th October 2023

Something something wrong opinion something something bias?

I think that's how this angry disagreement is supposed to go?

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 04:38pm, 13th October 2023 Author

Something something no u

That tends to be the most successful argument method, I've found!

TheSlamminGammon - 04:45pm, 13th October 2023

women shouldnt be allowed to play video games!!11!11!!!

i have no personality so i express my shiddy opinions on the intertubes!

Them_Bonez82 - 03:56am, 14th October 2023

It's the 4½ rating that has these little guys crying over your review. You could've said everything just the same and had 7 rating and you wouldn't be getting nearly as much crying in the comment section. Sorry.

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 03:29pm, 14th October 2023 Author

Hey there, Them_Bonez82!

No worries whatsoever about the comments. I'm more than happy to share my thoughts and try to warn those who will listen of my personal experience, but at the end of the day, it's just that — my personal experience. Others will disagree with it and none will experience it like I did!

Thanks a lot for reading and commenting! Have a great day.

DrDecayed - 01:10pm, 14th October 2023

What platform was this game reviewed on? It's really odd to read an entire LotF review without a mention of performance whatsoever.

 I'm barely getting over 60fps in the starting area using max settings. While the game looks good, it doesn't look "I need a 13700k and 7900xt for 1440p/60" good, which is the setup I'm running....basically, the same UE5 issues that plagued Remnant 2, which is why I didn't bother with that game (didn't like Remnant 1 either, tbh).

Also, no mention of the roll distance. IMO it's awkwardly long.

I hope I'll rate this game better once I'm done with it, the information presented explains your score well and I'm very iffy about the enemy variety mentioned....it's one thing From Software always did better than the competition...probably because creating enemies actually requires money, time and effort. Though I must say, Lies of P did fine in that regard.

While the review has a decent length, it somehow omits many of the most relevant tidbits about the game......there is not even a single mention of the online functionality, which matters a lot to me as a coop/PVP player in Elden Ring, the reason why I'm still playing this game long after I've finished it 3 times.

So, while I won't disparage you for your score alone, the review could have been written much better, there's simply too much basic information that's relevant to a potential buyer that wasn't mentioned at all in the review.

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 03:27pm, 14th October 2023 Author

Hey there, DrDecayed!

The reason I didn't mention performance at all is because the quibbles I had with it were resolved in a pre-release patch that was released to reviewers before the game was released. Before Patch v.1.1.180 was handed to reviewers, there was a degrading performance that, the longer you played, the more your game would lag. Post-fix, I did a playthrough to check it out and see if it had been fixed, which it had been! Imagine if I'd been the only reviewer mentioning a performance issue that was fixed, and then the comments would have (rightly) been fixated on that issue. After the original performance problems I had, I experienced no others and was able to play through smoothly, which is why you don't see a mention of it throughout the review (and it's not an isolated thing, either — whether you can or can't play the game seems to be a coinflip at the moment).

The enemy variety was a big reason why I disliked Lords of the Fallen, unfortunately. Don't get me wrong; I'm used to not having a lot of enemies, but when I can count the different types in Axiom in nearly a single hand, and the different types in Umbral in one, it becomes worrisome.

Unfortunately, online functionality was hard for me to touch on because I have always been the type of person to try to finish a game before reviewing it to give it a fair score and at least mention some endgame content and post-game experiences. I've also, ironically, been the opposite and played games for a single-player experience, which is why I tried to concentrate mostly on the meat and bones of the core gameplay.

I appreciate the feedback on the review and I'll definitely consider your points for future reviews! But unfortunately, I tried to focus my review on the things that I felt hindered my experience the most so that I could bring genuine concerns of the gameplay to mind that bothered me instead of bloating a 3,000-word review that would, still, miss something because I don't believe a game this big can be encompassed with one single review alone, which is why so many other outlets cover it as well and give their perspectives.

Thanks a lot for reading, for your comment, and for the feedback! I genuinely appreciate it.

Unders - 10:10am, 15th October 2023

Will wait until it's on sale at 80% off.

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 04:40pm, 15th October 2023 Author

I hope you enjoy it once you do get it! It's quite divisive from what I've seen!

End - 06:47pm, 18th October 2023

She was right. This game is getting a lot of criticism on Steam.

Artura Dawn
Artura Dawn - 06:56pm, 18th October 2023 Author

Hi End! 

I was glad to see that. Of course, not because I wished bad upon the game — I always want all games to be good and wishing otherwise is... weird. But because I didn't want to be giving low scores to something that was otherwise enjoyable! It's nerve-wracking to think you're going against the norm and it was very stressful to put this review up in the first place!

I found that a lot of the people who dislike the game have similar complaints that I do, and other reviewers who scored similarly (.5 over or under my own score) felt that way, too.

Thank you for reading and for your comment!