Death is just the beginning
Much like how “The End” means it is time to select a different movie to watch on netflix, death is the end of the road-and the story of you just stops. In video games, death is synonymous with missing a jump or losing your last heart, then having to start over. During the advent of the multiplayer online game, this type of permanent death just did not work anymore. In recent adventures like Demon’s Souls, Rogue Legacy, Grow Home, and even Super Time Force Ultra, there has been a shift towards a persistent world that extends long before and beyond your character’s lifespan. Instead of having to start over, you get to continue in the same world the way you have affected it, but not exactly where you left off. You’ll have to face all of your opponents again. Rather than make it where you can nudge forward through the game and save your place in the game often, you will have to face all your challenges fully and in real time or fall victim to the circumstances of your defeat. “Hardcore” in gaming has changed from once meaning a single permanent death to now being represented by a string of embarrassing defeats in the same persistent world. If only the in-game characters would start badgering you about seeing your mishaps to kill your confidence.
The knowledge of your loss, growing indisposition with the Grim Reaper, and the will to improve provides more value to each following run of your mortal avatar. These games will kill you in cold blood quite often so you can learn from your mistakes. You will work to conquer the game with the skill you acquired through trial and error so you can obtain your lost experience points from your previous deaths, and a feeling of enhanced mastery of the game. Lords of the Fallen: Complete Edition places emphasis on skill building, and celebrating the well-earned defeat of your foes. It does not want to put you in a tame grinding experience where putting in certain numbers of hours guarantees your advancement in the game.
Lords of the Fallen: Complete Edition is a gorgeous third-person action role playing game that has deliberately slow skill-based melee combat where you have to plan out your attacks and adjust to your opponents. The game pulls you in with the familiarity you may have with other action-adventures like The Witcher and Souls series, but then shows you it stands up as its own unique game. You will have non-stop tool tips and how-to’s showing off the wide variety of mechanics. If you are using this game as filler until the next big thing comes out, you will be surprised at how much actual game is here. The art is good, the characters are creepy, and the danger is non-stop.
The character development is simplified to one magic school your first playthrough of the game, and a starting class that just determines your traits and equipment out the gate. In any case, you assume the role of Harkyn, a convict released to deal with the otherworldly Rhogar army. You can control your attribute and spell progression, find and equip full sets gear, do some crafting, and infuse certain items with runes for enhanced powers. You will have to experiment with the weapons to find which suit your play-style and probably adjust your leveling accordingly. Weapon effectiveness and damage output is impacted by an associated stat rating.
For you Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls, and Bloodborne aficionados, let’s talk about what you will find in your transition to Lords of the Fallen: Complete Edition. Movesets for weapons being vastly different will be the first thing you notice. While Souls games have weapon attacks that are precisely engineered for balance in online combat, this game does not. Online multiplayer isn’t even a thing. Keep in mind that some weapons can be dual-wielded, used one or two-handed, and you always have the option to carry a shield. There may be a weapon style that you dig. Most weapons are deliberately slow and powerful. Also, for your ranged combat you will be able to wield a mystical gauntlet that turns your mana meter into a magical ammo clip. The gauntlet can be harnessed to fire like a rifle, grenade launcher, or shotgun blast.
Souls fans will also be interested to know how death is handled. In Lords, if you die, your ghost persists exactly where you met your maker and all monsters in the world respawn. A countdown starts by means of an onscreen percentage meter. This tells you how much of your experience you can regain if you make it to your ghost. The meter counts down surprisingly fast. This might be how CI Games offsets the lack of a penalty to attributes from dying.
To make death even more interesting, the new twist that Lords of the Fallen adds to the Souls formula is the risk-reward system. Much like bonfires, there are a lot of check points you can stop at to refresh your stats and store your unused experience points for advancement. There is a way to stop by the checkpoints without using them for their restorative or leveling up abilities. By checking in through this alternative method, two things happen: 1) your experience modifier doesn’t reset, and 2) you still mark the checkpoint as the new spot where you will return to life. Thinking back to my own shenanigans with fate, I would have taken advantage of this check-in method to make runs to my ghost easier. Take note that you increase a multiplier for how much experience you are awarded each time you score a kill. As long as you don’t die or use the check points to level up/restore life, your multiplier continues to build. Eventually you will want to cash in all the experience you have gained to level. There are some tricks you can pull to gain a lot of experience, like dying on purpose next to the shrine where you will respawn after mowing down a lot of things, then repeating. This is the risk-reward system in a nutshell.
One more significant difference between this and the various From Software masterpieces is how your characters grow in the game. In the Souls games, your character gets a few experience points each kill but you gain vast working knowledge on how to approach enemies in the future. Harkyn’s journey is supposed to mold him to become as strong as a god as he gets closer to facing the final boss. The developers refer to this as bridging the gap between your starting character and what Harkyn ends up being at the end of the game. Basically the game scales down as Harkyn scales up. When you defeat a 60 foot long dragon in Dark Souls 2, you are like “Whoa, my weak toon just beat that big @$$ dragon!”
Switching games can be like starting new relationships. Maybe it ended badly, and you want to move on to something fun to help you keep your mind busy and moving forward. Perhaps the interest disappeared and you want to find something different from everything else that is out there. Maybe you are looking for something similar to what you already had, but without the lying to yourself that something isn’t inherently wrong. Perhaps you are keeping your options open until the right one comes along. There is no secret about it, Lords of the Fallen has been around the block this past year. But if you can keep an open mind and accept it for what it really is, you just might be able to enjoy your time with it. While it isn’t the shiniest game out there, you might actually be moved to see the love this game has for the genre.