2023 has been packed with many incredible RPGs. It is honestly hard to believe how spoiled we have been this year. It will only continue as we head into October. Perhaps one of the last big RPGs of this year is the upcoming release of Lords of The Fallen. A reimagining of the 2014 souls-like title, that gained quite a cult following in the early days of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Ahead of its October release date, our very own Lord Addict from Iron Lords Podcast was able to sit down with HexWorks Creative Director Cezar Virtosu. They discussed a variety of different aspects of the upcoming RPG. From its gothic influences, to how the studio tackled handling boss battles in the ever-growing souls-like genre.
Iron Lords Podcast: Is the game more like the Elden Ring or Dark Souls? Like if I get stuck on a boss, can I go do something else or do I have to beat the boss to move forward?
Cezar Virtosu: As the world in Lords of the Fallen is interconnected and there are multiple paths available to the player at any point, they can choose to disengage from the current challenge and seek another path forward. That is the general rule of thumb, however, there are instances where the path is more linear. For example, in the tutorial, the player must defeat Pieta to advance.
ILP: Will there be conditions under which we beat certain bosses to get special weapons?
CV: We have reworked the system of awarding gear and spells upon defeating bosses to make the selection more straightforward and transparent. Upon defeating a boss and witnessing an Umbral narrative event, the player will receive a memento, which they’ll take to an Umbral priest so gear can be purchased.
ILP: Are they strict on difficulty settings or are there options for less skilled players?
CV: True to the genre there are no difficulty options for players to adjust. That being said, the game has a smoother difficulty curve, a longer onboarding, and a number of gameplay features that allow players to mitigate challenges if they choose to do so. Lastly, the game has coop gameplay, so calling for help from friends or random players is just one button away at any of the in-game checkpoints.
ILP: How does the gameplay and boss design compare to the original and other games in this genre?
The gameplay is considerably more fluid than in the original, and the player has more options to engage enemies regardless of RPG progression. For example, seamless stance switching, charging attacks, and multiple ways to incapacitate opponents, through to taking advantage of systemic environmental hazards to dispatch or cripple indomitable foes. Some of these mechanics are fairly exotic, so the player will need to get accustomed to “think Lords of the Fallen” before attempting to brute-force encounters.
Boss-wise, ours are tragic characters moulded from the misery of this in-game world on the brink. While all of them are unknowingly architects of destruction they are also victims of their dogma and context. Every aspect of their design speaks loudly of their characterisation, from the more obvious such as their dialogue, to the more obscure like their stance and behaviour quirks.
ILP: Are the sound effects fixed to sound more impactful? That was a big concern for the community.
CV: We’ve given the SFX in the game another round of polish as part of the final push towards launch; during that pass, we prioritised enhancing the impact sounds for all weapon types.
ILP: Also, I’m curious where the inspiration for the Umbral Lantern came from?
CV: The idea of the player being an Umbral revenant, that is, someone able to slip between realms using a lamp, existed since the game’s concept phase. The fantasy of an eerie lamp guiding the souls of the dead is present throughout European folklore, so having a lantern as the perfect conduit to bridge realms of existence made sense. As for the lamp becoming the linchpin of the whole paradigm, that came from our design and programming team. They’d had a breakthrough about the lamp while trying to solve an early challenge: how to give players the means to observe the Umbral world from Axiom in a dynamic fashion.
ILP: What sources are the inspiration for the art design of the game?
CV: Firstly, we dove into the dark fantasy gothic genre, where worlds and characters are woven from negative emotions, where the divine warp and twist the minds and bodies of the faithful, uncaring frayed worlds are on the brink of unravelling, and there are little in the way of happy endings. We are a multinational and culturally diverse crew, and each of us also drew inspiration from our own nightmares and cultural legacy. Since most of us are Europeans, this decadent dark and bloody gothic fantasy is our home turf so to speak.
We also took inspiration from seminal works in the genre such as Berserk, Claymore, Pacte de Loup, and even Batman and the Joker from the Dark Crusader Isaac and his nemesis, the Lightreaper. H. R. Giger, French performance artist Oliver de Sagazan, and the Polish painter Zdzisław Beksiński are just a few whose works had a huge impact on the Umbral world. Our tremendously talented art director, Alexandre Chaudret, art manager, Javier Garcia-Lajara, and director of photography, Erwan Fagard, and their respective teams, tied these threads together to weave a grim tapestry that we are all incredibly proud of.
ILP: What were the major lessons learned from the original Lords of The Fallen?
CV: HEXWORKS was not involved with the creation of the original game, however, for the remake we approached the 2014 title with great reverence, inheriting everything, from systems to lore. The first game was very much a product of its time: The market was quite different back then, so in our effort to modernise the franchise we compiled and categorised all the feedback from the community. So, for this new Lords of the Fallen, we’ve increased the speed of the melee combat, allowed players to create their own avatar, added multiplayer, and greatly expanded on the RPG aspect. Of course, these came on top of our own ambitions and desires on how to expand upon the ideas the 2014 title marshalled.
ILP: Why did the studio decide to reboot Lords of The Fallen instead of making a sequel?
C: Our initial target was to create a sequel, as it was originally announced in 2019. However, even from the early pre-production phase – when the game had its bones in place, so to speak – it became quite clear we were creating a very different game: It was a different type of narrative; we’d switched from having a fixed protagonist in the original title to having a custom avatar; the events were happening a millennia after the first game; new paradigms were introduced at the core of the game; gameplay was changed in a profound manner, and so on.
ILP: What style of gameplay on Lords of The Fallen did you have the most fun playing?
CV: That wholly rests on the individual person really. Since this title is a deep RPG, everyone finds their own build and play style that gives them the most satisfaction. I would say the most “Lords of the Fallen-esque” build is a melee and magic hybrid, to take advantage of the seamless spell-casting in melee and the considerable arsenal of spells at your disposal. A significant number of our enemies disengage combat when pressed, as such using magic to close the physical gap between the player’s character and enemies, or punish their disengagement, always feels very strategic and resourceful.
Will you be jumping into the world of Lords of The Fallen? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to check back for the latest gaming news and information.