E3 2013 Preview: Lords of the Fallen Takes Cues From Dark Souls
E3 wasn’t short on RPGs this year, with huge titles such as Dark Souls 2 and The Witcher 3 rounding out the event’s role-playing offerings. However, there was another promising RPG, once known as Project RPG, that sat behind closed doors. That game is Lords of the Fallen and it is being developed by City Interactive and Deck 13, with former Witcher 2 developer Tomasz Gop leading the group. It’s a game worth watching and one that has clearly taken cues from Dark Souls; even Tomasz Gop seems to have brought a little of his Witcher flair along with him.
The dark, medieval fantasy RPG stars Harkyn as his journey brings him into direct combat with the “Lords” which are trying to free the imprisoned god, or “Fallen”. His journey molds to that of the player’s preference as he can take on the cleric, warrior or rogue role, and do so as he pleases. Lords of the Fallen allows you to switch between these three classes at will — this is assuming that you have the proper weaponry in your inventory — so that you can change your tactics based on the enemy you’re currently facing. So, for example, the rogue can use his invisibility action skill to get behind his opponent to deliver a cinematic, high-damage attack, whereas the cleric can create a clone of himself to distract enemies while he moves in for a devastating blow with a battle hammer. Regardless of the class chosen, Harkyn must play smart and approach enemies carefully. This isn’t a hack-n-slash title that lets you swing away. Timing attacks and evading/blocking are crucial to survival. The rogue obviously utilizes his speed to his advantage by running in, striking during openings and withdrawing quickly through evasive rolls. The fully-armored warrior does not evade as swiftly. If you’ve ever tried rolling in Demon Souls or Dark Souls with a full suit of armor, you have a pretty good idea of how it works here. Classes impact more than just combat. Special dialogue appeared in our demo when an accompanying NPC commented on how the shadowy environment should be welcoming to our rogue. Small details like this helped the NPC feel a bit more alive and aware of their surroundings instead of spouting off the usual, generic comment.
Our demo saw Harkyn fighting off some enemies called Rhogar. Although there were many battles, each encounter was limited to one or two opponents. The developers are looking to keep the fights focused and feel like rewarding duels. As they put it, they want the type of one-on-one intensity that games like Tekken provide. Although you may find yourself typically facing a single opponent, that isn’t always the case. Harkyn threw down with a slow, heavily-armored Rhogar and a faster, rogue-like Rhogar at the same time. Priorities needed to be set. Drawing the speedy enemy away was the best bet so that he could be dispatched away from the heavy-hitter. Once he went down, it was time to take on the big fellow. The best part was that these encounters looked challenging and epic, but they weren’t even mini-bosses. They were normal encounters. When we saw Harkyn battle with one of the “Lords” we got a taste of the multi-level boss encounters entailed. Armor was chipped away through precise timing and strategic attack patterns until the towering beast was vulnerable. However, as the armor fell off, the “Lord” changed up his attacks, even going as far as to completely drop his shield and viciously swing his oversized sword around with both hands.
At the end, I walked away impressed by what Lord of the Fallen was offering. Especially since certain design elements from The Witcher have been implemented, such as player action affecting the world as a whole over the course of the game. Was it the most innovative, ground-breaking gameplay? Not exactly. But it looked enjoyable and satisfying, especially for fans of darker RPGs. That’s really what it’s all about. And to see an RPG of this scale come from a smaller dev was something to take note of. I look forward to seeing more of Lords of Fallen, and you should too, when it releases on PC and next gen consoles in 2014.