Lords of the Fallen sounds like the best and worst parts of the Soulsborne genre all rolled into one. Hexworks’ grim action-RPG arrives in a year full of homages to FromSoftware’s Dark Souls, and so far critical assessments run the gamut from high praise to exhausted disappointment.
A soft reboot of the 2014 game of the same name from Deck13, the new Lords of the Fallen arrives on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on October 13 with reworked combat and a different story. With full co-op available, players move back and forth between two overlapping worlds—one for the living and one for the dead—fighting tough enemies and navigating differences in the environment between the two separate realms. There was a lot of hype ahead of its release, but now that it’s finally here the reviews are decidedly mixed, with some lauding its innovation in the genre while others accuse it of being derivative and lament serious performance issues on PS5.
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“Lords of the Fallen is a great soulslike, and its killer new idea of swapping between two versions of the world to solve puzzles and slay enemies is an excellent twist to set it apart from the pack,” wrote IGN’s Travis Northup, who played on PC. “It’s an authentic facsimile of the Dark Souls experience that’s unrefined and lacks identity; a mass of clichés that made me keenly aware I was playing a copy,” wrote Eurogamer’s Ed Nightingale, who played on PS5. Both encountered plenty of technical hiccups.
The game currently has a 71 on Metacritic for the PS5 version and a 76 for the PC version, which puts it above the 2014 game but well behind other 2023 Soulsbornes like Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty and Lies of P. Post-launch updates in the coming days and weeks may help improve the experience of Lords of the Fallen overall, but at the moment it sounds like parts of it can be a real slog. Here’s what else the reviews are saying:
Lords of the Fallen is a great soulslike, and its killer new idea of swapping between two versions of the world to solve puzzles and slay enemies is an excellent twist to set it apart from the pack. That concept is unfortunately hamstrung by numerous, highly annoying technical issues and weak boss fights, but awesome explorable areas and fantastic buildcrafting more than make up for those shortcomings. If, like me, you’re a sucker for a quality action-RPG even amid a clear overabundance of them, then this reboot is well worth your time.
When I rolled credits on Lords of the Fallen, I felt no joy aside from being happy I was done, which is a shame because its first half left me excited for what was yet to come. A beautiful world, distinctive two-realm mechanics, excellent voice acting, and combat that feels good when not over-encumbered by enemies and artificial challenge, create a solid bedrock. But Lords of the Fallen fails to impress beyond that, instead growing more and more frustrating the further into Mournstead adventurers travel.
How many spirits do you think are surrounding you at this very moment? Lords of the Fallen presents you with this grim newfound curiosity, then hands over the tool to satiate it. A lamp lets you take a peek at the realm of the dead — called the Umbral realm — in real time during your crusade. In an instant, the lamplight reveals that a seemingly inaccessible lake hides a traversable hollow pit, while innocuous corridors become swarmed with floating corpses. Yet, as compelling as this use of dual realities is, Lords of the Fallen can’t escape the cold touch of an array of design and pace frustrations that plague the entire experience.
It’s clear Hexworks understands the essence of why Souls games are popular. It’s not just about high difficulty or winged female bosses; it’s about precise combat, looping world design, and a twisted nightmare of monsters to conquer. Yet Lords of the Fallen also leans into the worst elements of the genre, with an oppressively dark atmosphere, poor platforming, and cheap decisions to heighten difficulty.
The sheer density of enemies is a real problem, too. By the halfway point, every combat encounter comes flavored with an entourage of dogs, archers, footsoldiers, zombies, zombies that can fling fireballs—sometimes they’ll just double up on the bigger, badder late-game foes, most of which have the ability to create mines, sling magic, or close the distance in a handful of frames.
When all is said and done, I think part of the problem is that Lords of the Fallen never quite manages to carve out its own identity. It’s a bit Lies of P and a bit Nioh and a bit Blasphemous and a whole lot of FromSoftware, and even though it manages to build on some of these, I suspect all those other titles will last in my memory a lot longer than Lords of the Fallen will. It’s not that it’s a bad experience – I honestly don’t think it is! – but there’s little about it that one could consider great.
Lords of the Fallen is brutal. I mean like, really brutal. I fully intended to have beaten the game and written a full review in time for release. But according to a recent tweet by the developers, there are 30 bosses in total. Which means I have…uhh…a few more to go. And for the record, I’m no Soulslike newbie. I’ve Platinumed most games in the series, and at least beaten those I haven’t. But like I said, Lords of the Fallen is hard.
I really want to like Lords Of The Fallen more than I do. Sure, its bosses might not be spectacular or its maps brimming with character, but thrills abound when you defeat a tough enemy or finally poke your head into a crumbled house and see the cozy light of a Vestige. Moreso when you shine your magic lantern on a wall and it fizzles away to reveal a secret passage or a levitating platform that looks like the Adams Family’s kitchen island. The lantern almost elevates it into special territory! And at times, there are flashes of a grand adventure to cleanse a kingdom of rot. But there are just too many little annoyances that prevent the journey and its umbral counterpart from ascending into Soulslike royalty.