Lords of the Fallen review: A nail-bitingly hard adventure through dark fantasy

£34.99; PC, Xbox One, PS4; Square Enix

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The Independent Tech

Lords of the Fallen is an action-adventure hack ‘n’ slash game about death; lots of it. Mostly it’s your own as you play, and die, as Harkyn, a convicted criminal seeking redemption: the only man who can stop the Fallen God who has awakened deep beneath the Earth - and whose arm, clawing from the ground, is still visible after having been sealed away. His minions, the Rhogar, have begun to invade the world once more, and you must stop them.

You can play as one of three classes: Warrior, Rogue or Cleric. The Warrior is your heavy-hitter, the Rogue has higher agility and can quickly dodge attacks and the Cleric is really the closest you’ll get to a magic user. In my first run-through I’m a Warrior. A Warrior who isn’t very good, however, at killing things. Harkyn swerves, dodging the huge axe that one of the Wardens is wielding, swinging it down towards me in a triumphant grunt of a roar. I dash, hold down circle to enact ‘Prayer’, a spell that creates a duplicate version of myself that the enemy then attacks. I hold down R2, charging my humongous sword and just at the last gasp stab the enemy in the back. It takes off a chunk of his health and we start again, this little game, this hugely addictive game.

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Lords of the Fallen, in this sense, is nail-biting enough that I keep on going back to play, despite how many times I keep dying. It’s about rhythm. It’s about poise. It’s about that ‘One Last Go’ before grabbing a cup of tea. You have to pay close attention to the enemy’s tactics in order to kill them, and its inspirations are clear. The game owes much of its lineage to Dark Souls and Demon Souls before it - but there is more of a mainstream feel to it than those games, this isn’t a one-hit death type of game, although it’s definitely a trying, difficult beast.

Battles against one opponent, especially if you’re looking to keep all the health you’ve got, are a long process that can take up to 10 minutes, with bosses taking far longer. Killing enemies generates experience points which can be used to level up magic skills as well as notch up attribute points, such as vitality, strength and so on. There is an interesting barter system at play here - you lose all your experience when you die but you can pick it all back up if you locate your ‘ghost’ on the next run through. Similarly if you skip a checkpoint you receive more experience, and better loot, but risk losing progress should you die.

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Whether you’ll like Lords of the Fallen comes down to whether you’re a masochist or not. It has one foot in the realm of Dark Souls and Demon Souls - a medieval take on a brutal fantasy where strikes from swords, hammers and axes lead to certain death. But there’s an element of the adventure here too, part-Darksiders in its aesthetic as you explore the warren-like worlds on offer. It’s a game about careful planning and certain dying, and that might not be for everyone.

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