It’s been well over a year since the release of Elden Ring, and although a DLC is on the horizon, the veterans of FromSoftware’s games may be itching for something new to take their minds off the wait. Lies of P is the answer, promising to fill the void of a difficult but rewarding gaming experience. However, can Neowiz Games and Round 8 Studio put on an encapsulating puppet performance, or does it simply fall flat?
The premise of Lies of P is a gothic/horror spin on the classic tale of Pinocchio. You play as the titular character, awoken to life by a mysterious voice to save the city of Krat, as it has fallen victim to the puppet frenzy, a tragedy which made the puppets of the town go mad and kill most of the human inhabitants. Now, they roam the streets with blood-soaked hands and dangerous weapons, and it’s up to you to attempt to save what remains of the city of Krat.
The premise is a simple, yet tantalizing one, taking a grotesque and gruesome approach to a fairytale often considered family friendly. You will recognize several nods to the Pinocchio universe and even to other literary works, but in no way do you need extended knowledge of the source material to enjoy the game. And the game is set in the gorgeous city of Krat, inspired by the Belle Epoque era (think France at the end of the 19th century), which lends itself to some absolutely breathtaking scenery.
Let’s get the inevitable comparisons out of the way. If you’ve seen any trailers or gameplay videos, you may have noticed that Lies of P is near indistinguishable from a normal FromSoftware title, from the UI, the graphics and most importantly, the gameplay. This is a double-edged sword, as on one side, it’s a huge compliment, considering FromSoftware has risen to critical acclaim over the last couple of years with incredible games, thus being able to imitate their greatness is an accomplishment in of itself. However, on the other side, it means that they’re merely copying a formula which is known to work. That said, certain elements are either tweaked or added, you’re not playing Elden Ring with a different coat of paint slapped on, instead, it’s more of a mix between their a few previous titles, that of Elden Ring, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
For those that are not familiar with the “Souls-like” formula, it’s the pure encapsulation of “DIFFICULT”. Souls-likes are designed to be incredibly though in every gameplay aspect, from understanding each of its intricate systems to reading enemies’ incoming attacks. You will encounter multiple enemies that need to be defeated to obtain experience points you can use to level up. Every new enemy type comes with different attack patterns, health bars and strategies. What makes the game difficult is how unabashedly hard it can be to read the attacks, and if you misstep, the game does not hold back punishing you, and is not forgiving in the slightest. Lies of P copies this formula to almost perfection, retaining most of the rage inducing elements of previous Souls-likes, while mitigating some frustrations with a few helpful improvements, like regaining extra charges on your healing item based on successful attacks or leaving accumulated experience points outside of boss arenas instead of inside. In Lies of P, whenever an enemy attacks you have the option to either block or dodge, depending on your playstyle, enemy or whatever strategy you employ. This gives you a plethora of options to deal with enemies and bosses in different scenarios, however, since it allows for both playstyles, it means the game is not as finely tuned around these mechanics like Bloodborne and Sekiro. Sometimes you are forced to block as enemies perform attacks which cannot be dodged (which is a blatant lie, they can be, they just do not give you invulnerability frames, like a usual dodge does). Thus, choosing a playstyle isn’t always as viable, as preferably, you should employ both. That said, I mainly dodged and was able to get through most of the game, except for one pesky clown boss, but after looking at other playthroughs realized that I did it in a less than ideal way. If you’re too late to block you will also take damage, you have to perfectly time it, however, this gives you a window to regain some of the lost HP if you attack back quickly enough, much like the system in Bloodborne.
Lies of P incorporates a unique element which helps to distinguish it from being a mere FromSoftware copycat. Each weapon can attach a unique handle, which both alters some stats, attack animation in general and Fable attacks. Fable attacks are special attacks which can only be used once a certain amount of successful attacks have been landed, akin to Elden Ring’s Ashes of War. By mixing different handles you can alter your playstyle and also decide which stats you’d want to focus on, as every handle works better with certain stats, and the damage can scale of that. Changing up your playstyle may be beneficial as some enemies and particular bosses may require a different approach than what you’re used to, although everything dies in the end to a good whack.
Speaking of bosses, the main attraction of any Souls-like are the grandiose boss battles and Lies of P does not disappoint. They are big, feral, and as dangerous as they come, and let’s not forget, incredibly infuriating. You will die, numerous times, and that’s why we masochists return time and time again to this game genre. Because the exhilaration and thrill of studying a boss’ moves and overcoming fierce adversity is a rush that cannot be compared. The bosses are well designed, with a few particular standouts that I fell in love with and felt slight disappointment that we didn’t see more with the same gothic-horror vibe. But they are a magnificent sight to behold, and luckily, just as fun and maddening to beat too.
Accompanying the exploration of Krat and combat is a delicious soundtrack, that in my opinion stands as one of its stronger, and original, points. It’s epic and monumental during bosses, heightening the already striking battle taking place, and somber or even creepy during exploration and fighting standard enemies. The voice acting too is quite decent, some characters feel a bit flat though, but overall, the cast does a good job of portraying the characters stuck in this horrifying scenario.
The game looks absolutely gorgeous and breathtaking. The city of Krat feels like a real place, fallen to the tides of tragedy, and other areas feature the same striking style and influence from the Belle Epoque era. The graphics are working overtime, and if you play on PC, I hope your computer won’t implode from rendering the beautiful scenery. Some areas are better than others, and occasionally a few areas feel a bit recycled where they could have changed it up. They do on occasion, however, the feeling of repetitive use of ideas occur, yet it doesn’t stifle the experience. I also want to note that the final area is most likely the most lackluster and visually boring, which is a sad climax to an otherwise fantastic journey.
What receives a lukewarm reception is the story. There’s nothing wrong with it, the worldbuilding is fine, the characters fun, but often the characters feel a bit one-dimensional, and their quests don’t feel too engrossing. The overarching story lacks the extra oomph and as I progressed, I hoped that my expectations would be subverted, akin to Bloodborne. It also feels a bit staggered, with one half focusing on a particular aspect of the story, and the later half focusing on another, there could have been tighter connection between the two or something which turned the narrative on its head. It’s a serviceable and fun story, yet it won’t receive any standing ovations.
Another unique element added to Lies of P, is the choices, where you can decide whether to tell the truth or not, which is loosely tied to the thematic of the game. Honestly, half the time I forgot it was a thing, and it feels underutilized, especially considering the game attempts to highlight it as meaningful. It leads to certain events and quests having multiple outcomes, enabling replays, however, I was never so engrossed that I desired to play it anew simply to experience another scenario.
Once you’ve beaten the game, you have the opportunity to start a New Game Plus meaning you start the game over, but you retain the weapons, upgrades and some items, while the enemies get beefier and tougher. Personally, I don’t often do new game plus, but it is a nice new challenge which enables multiple replays. This adds a nice layer of replayability, as it’s a game that deserves to be replayed considering the love and care which has gone into it.
Lies of P proves that you don’t need to be FromSoftware to put on a dazzling show. It feels like a finely tuned adventure, which pulls exactly all the right strings when it comes to combat. Although it may not be as optimized for every playstyle, it’s still manageable and most importantly, fun and engaging. It may not reinvent the wheel, instead it stands as a great example of how strong and excellent of a formula it is. The game is visually spectacular and despite not using its setting to the fullest, you’ll never grow bored of its performance, with an incredible score to supplement it. The story has room for improvement, same goes for characters and their questlines, however, it does not detract from an otherwise amazing experience. Lies of P is a recital you wouldn’t want to miss, especially if you’re a fan of the Souls-like genre, and I hope that this isn’t the studios final bow, but that an encore is on the horizon.