Published on October 14th, 2023 | by Ali Arkani
Lords of the Fallen Review (PC)
Summary: Lords of the Fallen is a game with great potential but in its current state, it can’t be recommended; at least not on PC. Moving seamlessly between the Umbral and Axiom worlds is a unique experience tainted by poor performance, bugs, and design choices.
A lost potential
When Lords of the Fallen was announced, I was intrigued. Not many people remember the original title released back in 2014 because it was just another Dark Souls clone. But this time, things have changed and CI Games’s HEXWORKS studio brought new ideas to the table.
Lords of the Fallen takes place in the fictional land of Mournstead. The land was ruled by an evil god called Adyr but mankind managed to defeat the evil and start a new age. A group of noble warriors called Hallowed Sentinels were responsible for making sure Adyre and his minions would never return and keep them imprisoned using five magical beacons scattered across the land. But the sentinels have fallen and the new hero who has risen from the dead is the only thing standing between humankind and the return of Adyre.
The story and lore of Lords of the Fallen is not unique, but it is rich enough to encourage players to go through the dark corners of Mournstead and seek the truth. The game also has some deeper narrative layers that are accessed by interacting with shadowy remnants from the past. These remnants tell the stories of the times long gone and also show that those who fight evil are not necessarily good. The themes and symbols in the game are delicately chosen and for those who love a dark fantasy about evil and corruption, Lords of the Fallen is a nice choice.
There are 10 classes in the game to choose from and unlike the norm in the Soulslike subgenre, they are perfectly balanced when it comes to their abilities. That means each class is focused on a specific play style. If you are good at managing mana and combining ranged magic attacks with well-placed melee ones, then the two magic classes are perfect for you. If you want to focus on fast melee attacks accompanied by easy blocks that open up enemies for critical hits, then you should choose Dark Crusader.
The base gameplay and combat are just like Darks Souls with a focus on Stamina management in combat. All classes have access to some sort of ranged attack such as spells, arrows, grenades, or throwing knives. The only difference is how often these ranged attacks can be used. For example, Dark Crusader’s grenades can only be used three times before the ammo runs dry but spells can be used much more often by magic-wielding factions. This well-thought-out class design encourages experimenting with the game.
Lords of the Fallen approach its quest design like Elden Ring. Mournstead can be explored freely from the very start of the game and the magical beacons can be reached in almost any order. That is both good and bad because I ended up on the path to the most difficult beacon and boss fight early on and missed rescuing the NPC that would eventually end up upgrading my weapons. Imagine fighting the endgame with the starting level 1 weapons! Item drop rate is also not balanced because, for 70% of my experience, all weapons I ended up finding were for all other character classes except me!
Perhaps the most famous thing about Lords of the Fallen was the intertwined two worlds of Umbral and Axiom; the world of dead and living respectively. Using a device called Umbral Lamp, players can have a glimpse of the world of the dead or travel there. This unique feature which may remind many old-school gamers of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is used in combat, platforming, and puzzles. Some pathways can only be accessed in the Umbral and some platforms can be moved by Umbral Lamp.
Umbral Lamp can also be used in combat to rip the soul out of the enemy’s body and deal wither damage -something like Bloodborne’s Regain System – to them or throw them around. Umbral is visually interesting as well and the existence of two visually unique environments right on top of each other that can be interacted with at the players’ will is truly a selling point for the game. But this is where the problems with the game start to manifest.
To make a long story short, Lords of the Fallen’s performance is awful. The performance issues are common and can be encountered in several places but they are most prominent in the game’s central hub (Skyrest Bridge) as heavy frame drops and stutters. It’s impossible to run the game with a solid 60FPS on a high-end PC even in 1080p resolution. Even DLSS can’t bring you a solid 60FPS experience on its own. There are parts of the game that are plagued by stutter and at the same time, crawling with enemies; making it impossible to fight.
The game crashes frequently as well when using Alt+Tab to switch between windows or use screen capture apps such as GeForce Experience or during crowded areas. The ultimate crash for me was the one that prevented me from reaching the final area of the game and it was a game-breaking bug. That is why at the time of writing this review, I was not able to finish the game after around 40 hours in.
There is also an issue I call Umbral Interference. Umbral Interference is when the texture from the Umbral realm interacts with the objects/enemies in the living realm. For example, enemies are stuck in the umbral texture and can’t be hit, or the more common issue is when the Umbral texture acts as an unseen obstacle while the character is in Axiom.
These are the bugs and glitches that may be fixed with updates but the greatest issue I encountered was the enemy placement throughout the game. Almost 80% of the time, enemies are placed in packs of a minimum of 2 persons/creatures. The world of the game is also filled with enemy ambushes that end up pushing the unaware player off ledges into their death. The enemies also have a very long line of sight and they chase after you to the end of the world. The camera lock and the camera angle also make it difficult to follow the action correctly in lots of situations.
This lack of balance in combat scenarios and the issues mentioned almost dissuaded me from continuing the game! As a person who has unlocked all the achievements in Sekiro; Shadows Die Twice, spent 130 hours in Elden Ring’s New game+3, and managed to complete Lies of P in less than 20 hours before the patch that nerfed some of the bosses, I guess that points out how difficult this title is. Unlike the norm in the soulslike sub-genre, the game’s combat is not focused on patiently dealing with enemies one by one. The hallways and tunnels in the game are so crowded with enemies that it’s like trying to play Devil May Cry with a stamina bar! All the above-mentioned design choices made me either try to flee from a group of enemies only to face another or end up with a horde of merciless creatures following me or being pushed off into my death in an ambush.
Lords of the Fallen is a game with great potential but in its current state, it can’t be recommended; at least not on PC. Moving seamlessly between the Umbral and Axiom worlds is a unique experience tainted by poor performance, bugs, and design choices. On the other hand, the game’s difficulty can turn it into a dream come true for hardcore soulslike fans. But I am certain that Lords of the Fallen will end up as a cult title; it is going to divide the soulslike fans like never seen before and some will end up hating it while others are attracted to it like an undying Umbral Moth to the flame of the Umbral Lamp.