Lords of the Fallen, A Work in Progress
Hexworks’ Lords of the Fallen released a little less than a month ago. A remake of a 2014 game, the new Lords of the Fallen harnesses the Unreal Engine 5’s graphical power. Its dark gothic world and detailed art are impressive. Lords of the Fallen was also released in the shadow of Lies of P, an unexpected near-masterpiece. Both games are Soulslikes, both immersed in the mechanics made famous by FromSoftware. Visually and thematically, Lies of P is a marriage of FromSoft’s Bloodborne and Sekiro. Lords of the Fallen is more in line with Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls 3.
A Tale of Two Soulslikes
Lies of P came out of the gate remarkably polished and assured. Lords of the Fallen — in some ways, a much more ambitious game — stumbled at launch. The long list of issues included a large number of bugs and crashes, poor optimization and framerate issues on consoles, and a near inability to even run on PC with middling specs.
Aside from the technical problems, players complained about balancing, enemy density and placement, easy bosses and frustrating levels, just to name a few gripes. Other nitpicks included weird running animations and the exaggerated way weapon swings propelled characters forward. Setting aside the game community’s tendency towards negative hyperbole, Lords of the Fallen isn’t broken, but it is pretty messy.
At the same time, the news wasn’t all bad. Many fans of Dark Souls responded enthusiastically to the game’s world design and visual aesthetic. The variety of weapons and magic spells is impressively large, and combat is often challenging and fun. The internet is full of players complaining about Lords of the Fallen, while still being compelled to keep playing.
Plenty of games release in a sorry state, and the developer shrugs and says “we did our best.” To its credit, Hexworks has been amazingly responsive to the gamer community. Many patches, sometimes several per week, have fixed most of the game’s technical issues. Framerate stutters are less common, and the game is becoming more accessible on PC to players without high-end rigs. The developers have also fixed a number of gameplay exploits that players were using to AFK farm massive amounts of XP. Just look up “Red Reaper farm” on YouTube.
It goes without saying that a bit more time in development, early access, or an extended beta period would have identified some of these problems. And the frustration with trying to play a semi-busted game is legit and real. That said, give the devs credit for trying hard to make it better.
Things Get More Complicated
Until this week, news on the gameplay mechanics side of things was mostly good. The devs adjusted enemy density in some areas, or the ability of snipers to target players from unfair distances. The awkward running animations, the battle sounds, and even boss difficulty were all tweaked. As in every game, weapons, spells, and enemies got buffed or nerfed. Not everyone agreed with every change, of course. But the changes made sense.
This past week, though, the developers made a change that could politely be called boneheaded. They decided to double the materials cost of upgrading boss weapons, claiming that they were too OP in PvP, and too easy to obtain. The final upgrade item — something akin to a titanite slab in Dark Souls — was limited to only three in the entire game. A large number of players had already used theirs to upgrade their favorite boss weapon, which was now, suddenly, only half as powerful. Players were outraged.
Course Correction. Again.
Within literally a day, the developers offered a solution. They gifted every character — with a previously upgraded boss or other maxed out weapon — enough materials to fully upgrade three boss weapons. They didn’t roll back the change in requirements, though promised that some upgrade materials would be more plentiful.
Once again, the developers responded to a problem. That they, obviously and unfortunately, created. This example is exactly why Lords of the Fallen continues to be both frustrating and, for many of us, co-dependently compelling and fun to play. There are issues. The developers fix them, but create new problems in the process. And so it goes.
Lords of the Fallen is messy and frustrating at times. It’s also ambitious, sprawling and creative. Like Lords of P, it iterates on FromSoftware’s ideas and adds new — and sometimes better — ways of doing things. The bottom line is that Lords of the Fallen is a much better game than it was at launch. Mistakes and hiccups along the way aside, that’s a good thing and demonstrates again that responsive developers, listening to their audience, can turn things around.
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