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Lords of the Fallen: what is it, and why do we care?

Lords of the Fallen might already be on your holiday 2014 shopping list, but if not, we've got a bucket full of reasons explaining why you should be on board.


Lords of the Fallen is one of the outliers in this year's holiday release scrum. It hasn't been widely publicised, and while it has some veteran talent on board, developer Deck 13 Interactive isn't particularly well known.

This lack of awareness is likely to impact Lords of the Fallen's sales, as the hype machine is a super important factor in the battle of the brands (perhaps unfortunately). But if you fail to check it out, you may be missing one of the most interesting games of 2014. Here's why.

It's Tomasz Gop's passion project

Tomasz Gop was producer on The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, which was a great game, and elevated CD Projekt RED from "ambitious" to "accomplished". Under his guidance, The Witcher 2 made significant changes to the first game's formula, as part of a process of evolution set to continue in The Witcher 3.

But Gop wasn't happy - he wanted to work on his own IP, freed from the constraints of the Witcher canon. You may not know this, but in Poland and a few other European territories The Witcher is a well-known fantasy property; people can debate the politics of the various kingdoms and the merits of various battle approaches much in the same way you passionately defend the version of Star Wars where Han shot first. The Witcher games have deviated from this canon, but are still framed by it.

Gop wanted freedom from that - not just for creative satisfaction, but because The Witcher is about a certain kind of approach to questing and combat. Having made a game as great as The Witcher 2, imagine what Gop can do without restraints?

Our exclusive gameplay session with Lords of the Fallen.

It's "next-gen" only

CD Projekt RED made no bones about the fact that it waited for the PS4 and Xbox One to hit the horizon before starting on The Witcher 3, because it had terrific ambitions for the third entry.

Gop has similar ambitions for Lords of the Fallen. Like The Witcher 3, it takes the latest console hardware as its base line, with the PC version building on that beginning. It couldn't be done on PS3 and Xbox 360.

You know what that means, don't you? Bigger, better, fewer loading times. If you ever find yourself thinking "gee, this RPG could stand to have a bit more content" it's likely Lords of the Fallen will meet your desires. Plus, it's going to look absolutely gorgeous.

It has infinite content

So I've just said a little bit about how exciting it is that Lords of the Fallen will be so large, but I'm pausing to emphasise that Gop believes it has infinite content.

It is okay to laugh hollowly here because - infinite? Really? Really? But he's quite serious, apparently. Lords of the Fallen has a main campaign you can rush through in about 15 hours, then the usual slew of side quests and so on, and then much much more.

"Technically, with New Game +, exploration, lots of secrets and optional loot, [it] might be infinite," Gop said once. Golly.


It's "RPG soup"

Gop's been quite cheerfully open about his influences, and so he's not doing that boring perjury where developers pretend their game sprung, fully formed, from their brows. No, Lords of the Fallen is the kind of project you probably nurture in your own secret heart: all the best bits of your favourite games, untied at last.

“Cutting the long story short, it’s not ‘unlike anything before’. It’s more like ‘all the best games you’ve played before’. We’re aiming at getting the different proportions of ingredients from RPGs, fighter games and even strategies into one big bowl to make a soup that is spicy, filling and addictive," Gop said.

RPG soup. Yes. Place it before me, for I would feast.

Next: The Dark Souls influence...

It's quite a lot like Dark Souls, in particular

After denying the comparison for a while - he said he struggled with it at first - Gop gave in and admitted that yeah, if you like Dark Souls, you're probably gonna like Lords of the Fallen.

"One day I said, ‘Hey man, you have to let go. Whatever people think, just make sure it’s not going to be a rip-off, it’s not going to be a bad inspiration,’ and I sleep way better since then," he said.

“I’ve never heard people saying that you have ripped off that game completely, which is good enough for me. There are a lot of inspirations in this game – and everybody can see that – and I’m not going to be hiding that.

“There are fighting games like Tekken and Street Fighter, there are elements of Souls games and so on, and we definitely try to nail the elements that bumped the feeling of the game being punishing for a lot of players, especially for people who don’t treat games like 600-page books, where they have to bite nails into it.”

Here's the latest Lords of the Fallen trailer.

The enemies keep changing

One way in which Lords of the Fallen is a lot like Dark Souls is that it has lots of different enemy types. In many action RPGs, the enemies in advanced areas are just tougher, different-coloured versions of stuff the player has already faced, so as long as you've improved your stats and gear, there's no new challenge.

Gop doesn't want that. He wants gameplay to be difficult, but rewarding for those who stick with it. One of the ways to ensure this is to make sure enemies keep surprising you by changing their tactics and abilities. As in Dark Souls, you'll study a boss on repeated attempts before finally conquering them.

“The more players know about the nature of the challenge that’s ahead of them, the more they can read, study and practice before getting to the crucial boss battles, the less frustrating or punishing the experience. Even though it’s still pretty much the same challenge,” Gop said.

We really can't stress the Dark Souls thing enough

When we sent our resident Souls expert and fanatic expert Dave Cook to interview Gop about the game, he came away thoroughly convinced: this is the same kind of experience as From Software supplies, and which other developers have yet to get a handle on.

"This is a game about you crossing the gap, and the difference and distance between being a random noob at the beginning, and skilled pro player at the end. This crafting of your skill is what this is about, and I thought Dark Souls was exactly about the same thing," Gop told us.

“For me personally – and it was one of the biggest take-aways from Dark Souls – I could honestly say, that I was on the other side of the experience that people beginning the game have. Like, at the end of the day I could honestly say, ‘I owned the game.’ This is exactly what you’re trying to get with the right mind-set with games like Dark Souls, and I believe Lords is going to do the same thing.”


It's not a franchise

Often when a new property turns up it's because someone wants to make three to eight games on the same engine with little change or variation, and roll around the money it produces while the development team slowly withers away in boredom.

Lords of the Fallen is being designed as a stand alone game, though. No sequels are planned.

I don't know if you know how rare it is for a triple-A game to be built without the expectation of a sequel, but that alone is a really special thing.

Lords of the Fallen releases on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in late October.

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