Lords of the Fallen Review - Wax Covered Exasperation

The first Lords of the Fallen came out when rarely anyone else made souls games other than From Software. Nine years later we get a sequel that has exactly the same name but is made by an entirely different developer, in Unreal Engine 5, without mechanical or lore similarities with the original. In the meantime, soulsborne genre has evolved considerably and managed to find its way into the gaming mainstream. Lords of the Fallen (2023) stays true to the roots of the genre all the while introducing several changes that might be a great improvement … if done right.

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Lords of the Fallen Review Wax Covered Exasperation

Same Old Story With an Umbral Twist

Followers of god Orius built beacons to keep away the corruption of god Adyr. Those beacons became corrupted, and your task is to cleanse them to free the world of Adyr’s corruption. You’re passed on the Umbral lamp by the previous protector of the realm, and your adventure can begin. Along the way you’ll learn of the faiths of knights and kings and meet various NPCs whose quests can be solved in typical, convoluted, souls fashion.

Umbral lamp allows you to peer into the Umbral world, which is the second reality behind the normal looking world other mortals see. It is the main driving force behind the most prominent feature of the game.

The Twilight Zone

By using the Umbral lamp you’ll be able to peer into this overlay on the reality that, beside looking completely different, also provides new shortcuts and even whole new subsections of the map not accessible otherwise. The first transition into the Umbral realm and seeing the change of scenery is quite a sight. New nightmarish structures filled with giant waxy and bony screaming figures will leave you without a doubt that you’ve crossed the veil and stepped into the unknown.

lords of the fallen 2023 difference between Axiom and Umbral World

Umbral plane has constantly spawning enemies whose frequency and toughness increase as time you spent there passes. Once a timer reaches its end you’re met with an unbeatable specter and an unpleasant fate. You want to exit Umbral before this happens by resting at a vestige (bonfire) or finding special exit points spread throughout the game.

Additional lamp mechanics let you soulflay enemies or interact with the hidden world. Interestingly enough the lamp also lets you siphon souls of enemies. You see, when you kill an enemy at a distance in Lords of the Fallen you do not automatically get its souls. You must run over and fetch them unless you use the lamp to siphon them from a distance. It takes a typical player about 20 hours to figure out this mechanic and is just annoying and unnecessary. Just give me my hard-earned vigor.

Ectoplasm vomit

The main problem with the Umbral lamp and plane is that it is a wonderful idea on paper, but its execution is problematic on many levels. After about halfway through the game you’ll notice that you’re spending most of your time in Umbral. All those meticulously built landscapes and levels in the real world, that look beautiful because of the Unreal Engine 5, are never seen by the player. Instead, you’ll be looking at washed out, wax covered surroundings that constantly throw your way moths, undefined tumorous and nightmarish shapes, and screaming figures. At that point the game starts to look like one giant splash of ectoplasm vomit expelled by a violently ill ghost.

Ectoplasm vomit

Another consequence of having two parallel worlds that need to be instantly available at the press of a button is that technical performance of the game is greatly suffering. Playstation 5 version of the game must be played in performance mode, which makes things even uglier, otherwise you’ll face frame rate drops at the worst possible time. Highest spec PCs also suffer from performance issues, while Xbox got it the worst out of all platforms and is reported to be barely playable.

Lords Fashion

The rest of the game is in line with genre expectations. The game lets you choose one of 13 starting classes, four of which need to be unlocked in the game to be accessible as starting options. There are hundreds of weapons and armor to find and choose from. Combat mechanics works very well with dodge roll and parry being on point. The weapon hits feel extraordinary well and there are options for all gameplay styles, from spell users to heavy shield and mace tanks. The biggest improvement is the introduction of various ranged options for non-magic and non-bow users. As a melee fighter you should, by all means, use the arsenal of ranged skills that consume ammunition. These can greatly improve your strategic options with powerful ranged attacks and even healing. Ammunition is aplenty and easy to come by, so they are a very viable addition for every build.

More importantly, all the gear in the game looks great. Every afficionado of souls fashion will have loads of options to choose from to make their character look just right.

lords fashion

Labyrinth slog

Lords of the Fallen lands are maze-like levels filled with shortcuts, interconnections and secrets. Empowered by the dual reality of the Umbral plane you’ll always be discovering new secrets and more hidden sections throughout the whole game. Initially I was thrilled to have so much to explore. As I started reaching the last third of the game holes started appearing in this game design decision. I’ve been getting more and more lost. I don’t remember being so lost in a game since the first Dark Souls. This was probably caused by the bleakness of the Umbral world where no clear landmarks stood out to guide your through the labyrinth and constant switching between the planes. Level design, ultimately, caused exhaustion and exasperation.

The second problem comes with enemy frequency in Umbral. You’ll have to be in this plane if you want to explore everything, but the more you stay here the more enemies spawn. You spend more time clearing them out than looking at the land around you. In the end, enemy frequency just hampered exploration and made me want to be done with it all rather than be satisfied for exploring every inch of the land.

Labyrinth slog

Fallen Lords

This level design of extreme number of shortcuts and interconnections is done on purpose. In a flash of sadistic inspiration developers decided to remove all fast travel points (bonfires) in New Game Plus. Your only option is to plant a Vestige Seed at one of the flowerbeds strewn throughout the game. Your only fast travel options in NG+ are between the currently planted seed and the central hub. To get anywhere else you’ll have to run. Some doors and shortcuts, therefore, remain unlocked in New Game Plus and hence the level design. By the way, you can have only five Vestige Seeds in your inventory. Otherwise you must buy them from a vendor or get them as a rare or boss drop. Inspired by hardcore no bonfire Dark Souls runs this alienates about 90% of the player base.

The hardest enemy in the game is not its bosses. They are great looking with interesting mechanics and easy to kill most of the time. The hardest enemy is the most basic enemy lock-on system. Forty percent of the time I would not be able to target the nearest enemy or the enemy I was looking at. If there was an open door between my enemy and I it would be impossible to target them until we’re in the same room. This janky implementation killed me more than all the bosses together.

Fallen Lords

Lords of the Fallen (2023) is a competent soulsborne game with everything it needs to have to be considered an instant classic. Unfortunately, some very bad game design choices and execution of most basic game mechanics hampers the experience considerably. Developers hoped to create Dark Souls 4.5, but instead they made something that mostly reminds me of Dark Souls 1 and Dark Souls 2 pre-patch. Fans of those games that consider Elden Ring to be too player friendly will feel right at home here. Everyone else will quite possibly feel more annoyed than challenged.



  • Well done combat system with lots of options for different playstyles.
  • Amount of content to explore and items to discover.


  • Enemy lock-on system fails a lot of the time.
  • Enemy frequency hampers exploration.
  • No fast travel in NG+.
  • Performance issues.
Review platform: PS5
Developed by: Hexworks
Published by: CI Games
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Author Serge profile picture
Having games be part of his life since Commodore 64 it was only natural that Serge co-founded GosuNoob.com. With every new game he travels from being the Noob to being Gosu. Whether he does coding or editorial work on the website he is still amazed by the fact that gaming is what he does for living.