We've been playing the macabre take on the tale of Pinocchio to see how it stands out in the saturated action-RPG genre.
Fans have been hungering for a sequel to Bloodborne for more than eight years now, but with FromSoftware setting the gaming world on fire with its recent open world epic Elden Ring, it's unlikely we'll be seeing one any time soon. Looking to patch this meteor-sized hole in the hearts of gamers is Lies of P, a Souls-like that strives to recreate the same dreary atmosphere and risk for reward nature that made us fall in love with the PS4 classic. With Bloodborne being revered as one of the finest titles of the last console generation, does this deliver as a worthwhile supplement for a full-blown sequel?
Not only does Lies of P draw from Bloodborne for inspiration, but it's also loosely based on the popular 1883 novel The Adventures of Pinocchio. Here you play as a humanised version of everybody's favourite wooden puppet and find yourself in a world where puppets have been driven into a murderous frenzy. As I said previously, it's loosely based on the book, so you'll meet familiar faces such as Geppetto and Jiminy Cricket on your journey, just don't expect to relive iconic scenes like transforming into a donkey at Pleasure Island.
Right off the bat, the game earns my praise for its level design. I did fear given what I saw from the demo that I would be making my way through gloomy streets inspired by Victorian-era England for the full duration, but that's fortunately not the case. Throughout my time with the game, I found myself fighting through a diverse set of locales including abandoned factories, desolate churches, and woods rigged with bear traps. These sprawling levels, like the best of the genre, also contain plenty of shortcuts to return to lanterns (its equivalent of bonfires) and there are many collectibles to be found from exploring.
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Combat is essentially the bread and butter of Souls-like titles and I feel that Lies of P delivers some mixed results in this department. Starting with the positives, the game gives players a wealth of options that enable them to mould their character and abilities to best suit their playstyle. It also introduces a few interesting wrinkles of its own, helping it stand out in what has become a pretty saturated genre over the last decade.
The first of these original ideas is the ability to combine handles and blades from two different weapons, so you can get the best out of their individual attributes. Early in the game, I combined a sword that dealt poison damage with a hard hitting wrench to create a deadly new super weapon. Toying with different combinations was always fun and you can simply return your custom weapons back to their default versions at your last lantern.
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Another new mechanic, which feels slightly reminiscent of Sekiro is the ability to equip different prosthetic arms that have their own strengths in combat. One of these, for example, pulls enemies towards you like a grappling hook, and another is pretty much a flamethrower. Whilst many of these are admittedly pretty ineffective until upgraded, they are still a great way to deal some additional damage in a pinch without having to rely on items.
As well as levelling up your character's different attributes with the game's equivalent of Souls, there's also a secondary skill tree that you unlock after the game's prologue. Using rare materials known as Quartz, you can attain new buffs here such as increasing your item capacity and prolonging the stagger time of enemies. You can unlock further abilities too depending on where you place these Quartz on the skill tree and these can be reworked at any time, giving you the freedom to experiment.
Moving onto the negatives, the biggest gripe I had with the combat and the game as a whole is how punishingly unfair it can feel at times. You might be rolling your eyes and thinking that's an expected part of these types of games, but hear me out! Whilst this is true to an extent, I do find that the majority of my frustration in Souls games comes from my own incompetence and not the game's systems themselves.
Within combat, blocking not only drains stamina but also your HP, unless you're to land an extremely risky and well-timed perfect block. Due to this, you'll be relying on dodging to conserve your HP and this can quickly eat through your stamina bar and leave you completely vulnerable. Your weapon's sharpness also deteriorates the more you use it, forcing you to retreat and sharpen it before returning to a fight. Your blade takes an unbearable amount of time to return back to full sharpness, and as you likely know from these types of games, a few seconds can be the difference between life and death.
As I touched on before, this punishing difficulty extends to all areas of the game and there were some sections that felt purposely cruel. In one area, for example, I had to walk across a narrow beam above a lake of poison whilst an enemy out of my reach hurled projectiles at me. Each time my footing was slightly misaligned I was knocked directly into the toxic pool below and forced to restart. I even managed to get my perfect blocks consistent during this section, but it still didn't stop me from losing my balance and falling into the toxic death trap.
With all that said, I still think that Lies of P brings some exciting new ideas to the table and is well worth checking out for Souls-like fans looking to scratch that Bloodborne itch. Having the freedom to experiment with different weapon combinations and prosthetic arms always kept the combat feeling engaging, even if it felt too frustrating to endure at times. Let's keep our fingers crossed that the level of quality established in the base game can spill over into its upcoming collaborative DLC with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.
7 / 10
Brilliant level design. Plenty of customisation options. Broad RPG elements.
Too challenging at times, especially in combat. Could benefit from taking a few more risks to make it stand out in the action-RPG scene.