Burly warriors carrying swords and war hammers are not scarce. Neither are the fallen gods they usually do battle with, or the big ass demon knights jealously hiding all the treasures those warriors can put to good use. Snow-covered, dilapidated castles and epic mountain ranges are a dime a dozen. Part of what made fantasy precious back in the day was scarcity, but now we’re spoiled for choices. The Elder Scrolls Online, Dark Souls II, and thousands of others have it covered, and newcomers usually live a short life. Just look at poor, poor Kingdoms of Amalur.
That isn’t stopping City Interactive of Warsaw, Poland and Deck 13 of Frankfurt, Germany from trying their hand with the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 action role-playing game Lords of the Fallen. It’s got all those token fantasy trimmings in bulk, but an E3 demo of a super early version of the game shows that the game isn’t an imitator, but rather a testament to the team’s particular loves.
Blasphemy? City Interactive’s Tomasz Gop, executive producer on the game, loves the lore in Lords of the Fallen, and described the following with some glee: The population in the game’s Nordic fantasyland don’t have a loving relationship with their deities. 8,000 years ago, the people went to war with their god, ultimately toppling the omnipotent blighter and remaking the world in their own image. Imposing mountains can be seen in the distance, the form of what’s said to be god’s hand jutting up from the earth where he fell. Today things aren’t much better, with demons called Rhogar popping up to rough folks up. The player creates their own character to battle them back.
Lessons learned. Lords of the Fallen learns the lessons of its contemporaries well. Environments like the abbey featured in the E3 demo are open to exploration, but the game isn’t open world. (The team actually hasn’t finalized how many explorable areas there actually will be.) The player is meant to return to them again and again, to discover hidden secrets and access areas that were previously blocked off because they lacked certain skills.
Old school and new. Combat is typically slow and methodical, with the big Rhogar (boss baddie Lords) capable of downing the hero in one swipe. Gop openly compared his game to Dark Souls, which engages in the same environmental and combat play, but also cites old one-on-one fighting game Tekken as an inspiration. Every death, he says, and every conflict should feel fun and like something the player earned by learning how to play steadily.
Choices+. The characters you create are broken into three classes: the hammer-wielding cleric, the speedy rogue, and the tank warrior. You’re not locked into these roles once you start playing, since you can change up provided you find a full set of each class’ armor and weaponry. There are also three skill trees for leveling up your character as they fight and earn experience: intelligence, vitality, and endurance. It’s basic stuff, but it also accommodates different styles of play. If you like to be agile or a bruiser, it’s easy to change that up on the fly.
And again. At first blush, Lords of the Fallen just looks like a nice modern PC game. The abbey’s architecture, symphonic score, and fiery red demons are all pretty generic, as is the broad-chested, shiny-armored character in your control. It’s all competently done and nice, but not particularly memorable or demonstrative of next-generation technology.
That makes sense, though. This is a pre-alpha build, meaning that even though the game’s been in production for two years, it’s still a world away from being finished. All of this can change as the game is further developed, and as Gop said, the visual style was entirely different when they started.
Promises. There were some flourishes. After whittling down the health of the big boss of the demo, the muscley Lord started doing a berserker dance with his huge sword, a spinning ballet of fire and metal. The sparks wooshing off the monster looked like nothing you’d ever see on Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
Lords of the Fallen is planned for 2014, but it’s anyone’s guess if the game will actually make it out by then. Games like this, though, are what make a new console cycle exciting. It’s familiar, built out of old tropes, but it’s made by people who love what they’re doing. “If you love what you do, that shines through,” said Gop. And it did in this demo. One to look forward to.