At first glance, Lies of P appears to be somewhat of a strange combination. The blend of Soulslike mechanics and gameplay with the infamous story of Pinocchio creates an almost surreal concept. Probably for this exact reason, developer Neowiz immediately managed to capture the excitement of many fans upon the game’s launch trailer. Since then, as more footage was steadily released, followed by a playable demo, the expectation for Lies of P to be a success reached a crescendo. Now, following the game’s release, many will be wondering if it has managed to meet these lofty expectations.
Like one of your Grandma’s old secret recipes, trying to make the perfect Soulslike requires a delicate balance of several key ingredients. Since FromSoftware’s literal game-changing action RPG Dark Souls was released in 2011, the sub-genre has built up a following that has grown exponentially with each new release. This culminated with 2022’s Game of the Year winner, Elden Ring, which many consider to be among the greatest video games of all time. Elden Ring‘s success prompted many other developers to sit up and take notice, and as a result, we’ve seen a slew of Soulslike titles released over the past few years. Lies of P is the latest to emerge from the crowd, and it wastes little time in making its presence known.
A Brand-New Take on a Familiar Tale
Lies of P introduces Krat, a fictional city based in the Belle-Epoque era, that finds itself in chaos when the many subservient puppets who inhabit it somehow turn on their human masters and slaughter the majority of the city’s population. Awakening amidst this carnage, you play as Pinocchio, a silent protagonist who appears to be different from the other puppets and is able to fight back. While Carlo Collodi’s story of Pinocchio is known the world over, it’s never quite been brought to life like this.
Those familiar with SteelRising, a Soulslike that was released in 2022, will notice several similarities with the game’s setting and tone. 18th-Century Paris has a lot in common with Krat in terms of the city’s architecture and overall aesthetic. Where SteelRising‘s environments and characters were ultimately forgettable, though, Lies of P‘s are anything but.
The game’s environments are oozing with atmosphere, each brought to life beautifully. The art direction is top-notch. Standouts such as a giant opera house really underscore the game’s look and style brilliantly. Many recognizable characters feature, from Pinocchio’s helpful cricket, Gemini, to his ‘father’, Gepetto, and even the wily, devious fox. Each takes on a brand new persona, and fans looking for similarities in any of the characters’ depictions with those in the Disney adaptations will be found wanting.
As Pinocchio makes his way through the city of Krat and begins to unravel its mysteries, the story takes a few twists and turns and does a good job of keeping the player engaged. Soulslikes are not known for their rich storytelling. Many of them requiring players to read through dozens of notes in order to fully understand the narrative lore. But Lies of P turns this on its head by maintaining a surface-level consistency throughout. The lore can still be enhanced by searching for notes scattered throughout the city. But should the player wish to ignore this, they will still have a decent understanding of what’s going on- which makes a refreshing change in this genre.
Pulling the Strings
Lies of P is a fairly linear adventure. While players can travel between Stargazers, which are the game’s equivalent of bonfires, there isn’t really much reason to do so. Aside from minor side quests that involve finding object A and giving it to person B. The hub-world on the other hand, Hotel Krat, is a place that players will visit whenever they want to upgrade Pinocchio’s weapons and abilities or talk to any of the game’s NPCs who inhabit the grand old hotel.
The world is intricately woven together, as huge, open areas interlock by way of smaller maze-like corridor sections. Shortcuts are cleverly placed, and verticality plays a much bigger part than expected, with the player asked to go upwards almost as often as forwards.
The game’s pacing is just right, and it never experiences a significant lull throughout the approximately 30-hour runtime. Factories, warehouses, exhibition theatres, and even poisonous swamps – in a move pulled straight from the FromSoftware playbook – provide plenty of variety on your journey. This is coupled with an impressively broad enemy design. A game of this size would be forgiven for rehashing enemies as the game goes on. While this does happen at times, it’s genuinely surprising how many new enemies are thrown at the player, right up to the game’s climax.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Pinocchio is fully customizable, with several new costumes made available to you as the game progresses. These costumes have no bearing on your stats, however, and are purely cosmetic. Stats are influenced by standard leveling up using the game’s answer to souls – known as Ergo – as well as equipping better parts and upgrading weapons in the usual way of collecting the appropriate resources and using them as currency.
You also have a legion arm available – very similar to the prosthetic arm tool in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. This arm can be upgraded, and you can also craft new arms, each of which has different abilities. These range from a flame thrower to a grappling hook, and even a device that plants mines. They each serve their purpose, but it’s a mechanic that only has limited importance when it comes to the game’s more intense fights.
In a cool innovative feature, some of Lies of P‘s weapons can effectively be dismantled and re-assembled using different components. For example, this allows you to wield a heavy weapon with the handle of a dagger, which has some pretty surprising effects. It certainly adds a welcome degree of variety to combat.
There are also special weapons up for grabs by trading in specific Ergo gained from defeating bosses. These are incredibly powerful, but cannot be dismantled. On the whole, the impressive array of weapons makes for plenty of build variety. This is a huge plus in a Soulslike.
Visuals, Audio, and Performance
Lies of P certainly look the part. Silky smooth visuals perfectly complement the game’s aesthetic design, and everything from dilapidated buildings on the streets of Krat to the venomous creatures lurking in the shadows are appropriately brought to life.
Often in Soulslikes, less is more in terms of the audio, with fleeting musical scores to accompany bombastic boss fights often preferred over a constant and unnecessary soundtrack. Lies of P follows this blueprint to a tee, and, like most other aspects, nails it. Rousing musical numbers are appropriately placed throughout. The hub world of Hotel Krat also features a record player where players can listen to some of the game’s best tracks at will.
Unlike several games released this year, Lies of P doesn’t have any real performance issues of note. The game runs smoothly at 60fps in performance mode. While a 30fps quality mode is also available for those who favor it.
Varied and Rewarding Combat
Combat in Lies of P feels robust and extremely rewarding. Many Soulslikes have fallen by the wayside due to lackluster, underwhelming combat. Lies of P manages to dance around this as gracefully as its puppet protagonist. It feels almost as smooth as a FromSoftware game itself. Particularly when it comes to defensive options, offers some interesting variety. The combat is stamina-based – a staple of the genre – and players must balance attacking and defending while analyzing the enemy’s moves.
Each weapon feels suitably weighty and enemies really feel the impact of each blow. Defending comes down to either dodging or blocking. Blocking deals chip damage to the player’s health, which can be regained through swift counterattacks. But a new mechanic, perfect blocking (which is signaled by a small flash of red light), deals stagger damage to the opponent. This fills up the invisible stagger meter, which when full, grants players the opportunity for a critical attack.
Staggering opponents and landing critical hits is a vital strategy in Lies of P, especially for boss fights. Interestingly though, this mechanic can be completely ignored. For players who prefer to solely base their defense around dodging, you’ll be pleased to hear that this is just as viable. However, this means it’s much harder to stagger enemies. As a result, some of the bosses will take far longer to bring down without using the perfect block.
Any fan of the Soulslike genre knows that the quality of the boss fights is a key component to the game’s success. In fact, you could argue that these fights are the defining feature of the experience. Thankfully, Lies of P delivers in abundance in this regard. The bosses are varied, plentiful, and at times extremely challenging. Granted, the difficulty of these encounters spikes all over the place. Some bosses are much tougher than others, and this can create a fairly unbalanced experience at times. Powering through each one of these encounters, though, gives you a real sense of achievement, in a way that very few other games can.
It’s tough to maintain a high consistency level that spans over 20 bosses. But with the exception of 1 or 2, Lies of P ensures the bar is set high, and remains there. The standout is a late-game boss, Laxasia the Complete, who is probably the most enjoyable encounter in the game. A flurry of lightning and immense speed, Laxasia provides a level of challenge difficult to find outside of a FromSoftware game. Developer Neowiz has done an excellent job in replicating what makes some of Dark Souls‘ boss fights so special. Striking the right balance of challenge and atmosphere.
The game’s punishing difficulty is unlikely to deter fans of the genre, who by now will know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. But newcomers could find this a little daunting. Lies of P attempts to tackle this issue not by offering difficulty options, of which there are none. But by allowing players to summon an NPC for the game’s boss fights. Unfortunately, these NPCs prove to be almost useless, doing little other than drawing the boss’ attention for the short period of time it takes for them to be mercilessly killed.
Lies of P – Conclusion
For a game that so blatantly copies its source material, Lies of P does a surprisingly good job differentiating itself. What, at first glance, appears to be a modern Bloodborne clone, quickly becomes something much more nuanced. It takes the art style of Bloodborne, the combat of Sekiro, and the fascinating source material, mixing them all together to provide a unique offering. An undercurrent of stylistic flair is present throughout the entire game and is extremely evident right from the off. This genre is no stranger to failure, in more ways than one. But Lies of P does more than enough to find itself among the upper echelons of Soulslikes that have been crafted from the now-infamous FromSoftware mould.
While the game does begin to run out of steam during its final hours, this takes nothing away from the overall experience. For a developer with no previous experience making this sort of game, Neowiz deserves a huge amount of credit for pulling off such a well-rounded and polished game. Make no mistake, Lies of P delivers on almost every level and is well worth checking out. Just don’t expect an easy ride.
Note – An Xbox Series X|S key was provided for the purpose of this review.