CI Games' Lords of the Fallen is something of a wildcard - a game that you may not see anywhere near the top of the most anticipated games coming out of E3 2013, but it certainly has the potential to surprise us.
You may know of CI Games (or City Interactive as they used to be called) from their commercially successful Sniper: Ghost Warrior titles. They have sold well even if reviews haven't been overly positive, but somehow they piqued player interest by narrowing the focus and providing a budget alternative to the many broader and bigger first-person shooters on the market.
In a sense Lords of the Fallen is both what we should have expected from CI Games and something entirely surprising. An action-RPG that looks and plays a lot like an action-adventure, that in a way narrows the focus of a genre (RPG) where games have grown broader and bigger. Executive producer Tomasz Gop was also a bit surprised when CI Games approached him about an opportunity to produce an RPG following his departure from CD Projekt Red (assistant producer on The Witcher, producer on The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings).
Some onlookers compared Lords of the Fallen to Dark Souls following the E3 presentation. But even if there's an emphasis on skill in combat, it doesn't appear anywhere near as punishing or shrouded in mystery. This is more of a straightforward linear experience that would lend comparisons to games like God of War.
Combat is tactical and it focuses on duels. Due to some technical issues we're treated to almost two entire playthroughs of the demo, one slow-paced demo of the Cleric class, and one swift playthrough with the Rogue. There is also a Warrior class, and each class is pretty much defined by their choice of weapon. Each class has a skill tree to climb and special abilities to charge up and use when opportunity arises. As you'd expect the rogue class has some stealth abilities and deals a ton of damage when catching his enemies unaware. The special ability of the Cleric is to clone himself, while the Rogue can simply turn invisible.
Bosses are an important part of the game, in fact the lords of the title are the bosses you'll encounter in game. The setting and the world is an original fantasy setting where humans once defeated and imprisoned a deity (artwork showing a hand reaching out from the ground actually depicts the deity trying to reach up as he was buried in rock). This happened a long, long time ago and as you'd expect history started to turn into myth, people relaxed, and well, strange stuff began to happen. Now you're forced to take on these lords, daemonic generals, as well as some larger creatures.
The boss or mini-boss duel we witnessed was a standard fare large knight with some deadly charging attacks and three states. As he was damaged he lost armour and shield, but he also changed up his attack patterns. Knowledge of these patterns and timing is key to success in Lords of the Fallen.
Given CI Games inexperience in the genre it may be a good idea to bring in German outfit Deck 13 (Venetica, Jack Keane, Ankh) to help develop the game. The game makes use of a new engine (Fledge), and it is being developed for high-end PC and next-gen consoles (PS4 and Xbox One).
There is a tendency to overload this kind of game, but CI Games and Deck 13 seem focused to deliver an action-RPG with heavy focus on tactical combat and hidden secrets in what is at its core a linear level-by-level experience. It's going to be interesting if they excel enough in the areas they have chosen to focus on for it to find a niche audience once it arrives next year. And as far as visuals goes the narrow focus may very well be paying off.
In the coming weeks we will publish an interview with executive producer Tomasz Gop on GRTV.