With combat that requires you to be tactical, strategic, and careful, the upcoming third-person fantasy action game Lords Of The Fallen — which Namco Bandai will release October 28th on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC — might seem like yet another Dark Souls wannabe. But in talking to executive producer Tomasz Gop from CI Games while trying my best to play it, it became clear that Lords Of The Fallen is trying to do something different…but not a lot different.
Let’s start with the basics: What is Lords Of The Fallen?
It’s basically an action-RPG. We tried to combine games about combat and skill, and games that are story-driven. Out of these two, the first part, the action part, the combat part, is the most important. We wrapped the game around this part.
What other games do you think Lords Of The Fall is similar to?
That’s easy: It’s Dark Souls meets Borderlands meets Tekken-slash-Street Fighter. And here’s why. When you play the game, you’ll immediately think of Dark Souls because it’s a third-person melee combat game, so it looks and feels like Dark Souls. But there are elements that we wanted to take from other games, which is why there’s a skill tree that you unlock and upgrade. This is where Borderlands steps in. And it also has an arcade-ish approach to some elements. It has a lot of perfect-clicking-combo kind of stuff, advanced tactics, which is where the fighting games come in.
So is it a third-person action game, but the fighting all involves combos, and there’s RPG-like leveling?
Sort of. The combat is rather tactical. If you chose a heavy weapon, for instance, you have to be aware that it will take time to swing it, while lighter weapons can be swung much faster, but they don’t do as much damage.
Now, when you say “Dark Souls,” my first thought is, “this game is going to be really fuckin’ hard.” Is Lords Of The Fallen really fuckin’ hard?
The way that we approached this touchy topic is that we wanted Lords Of The Fallen to be challenging, and not necessarily less challenging than Dark Souls, but we still wanted to make it approachable. We spent a lot of time extracting elements that are more frustrating and punishing than challenging and rewarding. So, for example, there are very few environmental deaths, very few places where you’ll die because you’ve fallen off a cliff. Also, when you start a longer attack, if you see that the enemy is going to hit you first, you can stop your attack and block. When you save the game, enemies don’t respawn. So there are a lot of small details that make Lords Of The Fallen easier to get into.
That said, this isn’t easy. Some can kill you in like three strikes, and you have to hit them at the right time. It’s the difference between throwing your controller out the window and dying but wanting to try again.
So maybe it’s fuckin’ hard, but I don’t think people will perceive it that way.
Does that mean this will have multiple difficulty settings?
No, it doesn’t.
What about checkpoints, will you be somewhat forgiving with those?
Yes. A lot of things have been designed to make you feel that when you’re repeating something, it’s not a punishment but a learning process. So with checkpoints, there’s always one right in front of a boss fight.
Playing the game, it seems like this isn’t a button masher. It seems like, fighting this first boss, that I’m supposed to wait and block and hit him at the right time, as opposed to just whacking him real fast until I beat him down.
Yes, it’s much more strategic and tactical. Blocking is very important, as is rolling. Though for the guy you have, who is heavily armored but kind of slow, blocking is actually going to work better. He can actually block most of the boss’ strikes.
You should also remember to take a health potion. And lock the camera on the guy. You keep forgetting to do that.
Sorry. Am I limited in how many health potions I can carry at a time?
Yes, you can only carry a certain amount. You can carry one more when you find an empty flask, but all of your potions are restored when you get to a save point. And the number you start off with depends on your class. So you started with two, but you found one earlier, so now you have three. And maybe you can get it all the way up to, I don’t know, twenty?
The thing about this game is that there are so many games where you don’t have to learn even the basic mechanics. But in this game, you have to do your homework.
And that yellowish meter, that’s my stamina right?
Which is another reason you can’t just button mash.
Right. Though you should also know that when you hold your shield up, the speed at which your energy recharges is slower. It’s because you’re defending yourself.
Wow, that must be a heavy shield. So do these rules of combat only apply to the bosses? What about the other guys you fight aside from the bosses? Because all of the guys I faced before the boss I just smacked down by mashing down on the attack buttons.
No, that’s just the ones in the very beginning, when we’re showing you the controls.
Ah, died again. Now, when I died the first time, there was this cloud left in the spot where I died. What is that?
It’s all of the experience points that you had on you when you died. Throughout the game, you can bank your experience points. You do that at save points. But when you get killed, whatever experience points you haven’t banked become that cloud.
Now here’s the interesting thing. If you just go pick it up, you get all of your experience back. But if you don’t pick it up right away, it slowly drains off. Though if you stand near it while it’s draining off, it will regenerate your health and energy.
Though it depletes whether you pick it up or use it to regenerate or not.
So are you trying to make a game that’s like Dark Souls, but maybe for people who thought Dark Souls was too hard?
Well, yes. We hope Dark Souls fans will like it. But there are a lot of people who bought Dark Souls but never finished it, even though they thought it was a game for them, because they bounced off it. We want to grab these people, too.
Then let’s take the flipside: Are you worried this will be too easy for Dark Souls fans?
No, though that has been a core of what we’ve been doing the last couple years, to not make this too easy for Dark Souls fans.
You forgot to lock the camera again.
It’s not just you. It’s actually the most forgotten tactics, we’ve noticed.
Well, given that, why not just make it so it automatically locks on a boss when a boss fight begins?
Because there will be times when you won’t want to lock on. There’s one boss who’s like a giant spider, and if you lock on him, you lock on his body. But to defeat him, you actually have to take out his legs first. So in that case, you don’t want to lock on him, you want to be unlocked so you can hack at his legs.
Makes sense. Finally, every fantasy game is required by law to be influenced by The Lord Of The Rings. So besides that, what other works of fiction were an inspiration for Lords Of The Fallen?
Technically, yes, Rings is an influence, but in terms of the design of the world and characters, we really wanted to go a little more stylistic. So I think of Warhammer. Not the video games, though, the pen and paper RPG. I would also say The Black Company books by Glen Cook, in the way they draw a world on the verge of extermination. Also, Rembrandt paintings had an influence on the way we design characters.