Lies of P, a creation by Neowiz Games, bills itself as an action-adventure RPG with strong influences from the Souls franchise while weaving a narrative inspired by the classic fairytale Pinocchio. If you've checked out any reviews, including ours, of the recent demo provided to players, you've likely heard this description a million times. However, delving deeper into the full game experience (currently at around 30 hours), it's apparent that Lies of P transcends the simple label of a "Souls-like" game.
Lies of P is more than just Souls-like, and our time with the game has proven to us that its connection to the Soulsborne genre is just one side of the dice that is this game. So, we've crafted this early review to help you decide whether Lies of P is worth cracking your wallet open for when it releases on September 19, 2023.
Not Just Another Souls-Like
First off, let's address the elephant in the room: Is Lies of P just another Souls-like game? A fair question, considering the moniker "Souls-like" has been used to hype up many games in the past due to the popularity of FromSoftware titles. Often, these games disappoint, feeling either half-baked or poorly thought out.
Now, while Lies of P does indeed take on the Souls-like moniker, and adopts the fundamental mechanics found in FromSoftware's titles, like the dodge roll with invincibility frames, bonfire-like checkpoints, formidable bosses, and a challenging difficulty curve that can make you break a sweat before reaching the first boss. The developers have gone beyond mere incorporation.
The game not only seamlessly integrates these iconic Souls-like mechanics into its DNA, but also introduces a plethora of new features. This results in a unique experience that stands out from any other Souls-like game. In essence, Lies of P blends Souls-like mechanics with fresh innovations unique to its universe, spanning gameplay and narrative elements.
All of this is wrapped in an aesthetic that is visually appealing and, at times, slightly unsettling- reminiscent of Bloodborne but with a more vibrant color palette and frequent scenery changes.
A Weapons System to Lie for
Let's delve into the primary activity most players engage in during their time with the game: the combat system, specifically the weaponry. In Lies of P, your character, Pinocchio, or P, wields various weapons, from daggers to greatswords, all upgradable and imbued with special abilities called Fable Arts.
This might sound familiar to the weapon system in Souls Games, right? Well, Lies of P takes it further by allowing you to divide each weapon into two components: the handle and the blade. You can interchange these parts, creating a modular weapon system adaptable to your needs. This feature isn't present in Souls games, except for a limited version in Bloodborne, which pales in comparison to Lies of P's complexity.
Speaking of modularity, Pinocchio also has the "Legion Arm," a prosthetic limb providing combat abilities, similar to Sekiro's Shinobi Prosthetic. However, Lies of P's Legion Arm is a more aggressive prosthetic tailored for direct combat, with its various and unique abilities. For example, the Fulminis offers electrical abilities, while the Falcon Eyes launches a powerful drill projectile that can knock most enemies down easily. As the game progresses, you can upgrade each Legion Arm for more options as well.
While it takes time to master Pinocchio's abilities, once you do, it's a beautiful experience. Combining weapon abilities with the Legion Arm creates spectacular combat experiences. Lies of P Director Jiwon Choi encourages players to replay the game during his recent interview with FGS, experimenting with and perfecting the use of all weapons available. And I can't wait for a second or third playthrough to do just that.
The Combat Mechanics are Fast and Aggressive
Lies of P's combat system and mechanics are geared towards a more aggressive playstyle. The game has no shields, aside from a Legion Arm that acts as one, but even that shield explodes on contact, so it's not entirely about defense. While there are some defensive tactics you can employ during the game, they all still supplement an aggressive playstyle.
For example, your weapon can serve as a guard, but it's not just for blocking damage. Timing your guard with the enemy's attack results in a Perfect Guard, potentially breaking their weapon or allowing for a counter. This can also stagger enemies, setting up for a powerful Fatal attack.
The game incorporates Guard Regain, similar to Bloodborne's "regain" system. When you take damage, you can regain lost health by counterattacking within a certain timeframe. Guarding an attack up close and countering is often more advantageous. Backstabbing, a Souls game feature, is also present, but enemy tracking is heavy, and they move quickly, making circling enemies challenging.
Even the consumable and applicative items like resistance and health boosters or weapon-affecting items, such as fire and corruption damage items are better used in the heat of battle to give you an edge while being aggressive and are wasted if you try to knuckle up. Even the novel P-Organ system, which is an upgrade skill tree all on its own has you unlocking perks that serve to fine-tune the aggressive combat experience. And where all these aspects harmonize is in combat.
In essence, the combat in Lies of P rewards an aggressive approach and emphasizes tanking, guarding, or parrying attacks while remaining engaged in the heat of battle and responding with a barrage of weapon strikes, Legion Arm abilities, and item uses. So if you enter the game with the notion of relying on a shield for protection, you're in for quite a sobering experience.
The Bosses Are Fantastic but Not Perfect
While I've logged roughly 30 hours and conquered four mainline bosses in the game, Lies of P's boss battles, a focal point in any Souls-like title, has proven to be a mixed bag. Encounters with bosses like the Scrapped Watchman and Kings Flame Fuoco were heart-pounding experiences as I meticulously studied their move sets and devised strategies to conquer them.
Conversely, encounters with foes like the Parade Master and Fallen Archbishop Andreus left me feeling frustrated and underwhelmed. These bosses failed to introduce fresh challenges, forcing me to evade the same 3 or 4 attacks repeatedly, despite transitioning through two phases.
Though we have yet to encounter all the game's bosses, I still relished the challenge presented by these encounters, and I believe you will too. A standout aspect of Lies of P's bosses is their remarkable diversity, each accompanied by an epic score, distinctive move set, and unique visual design.
So, while some boss battles left me wanting more, they still hold a prominent place among the bosses I've encountered in Souls-like games. Notably, all four of these bosses surpass several bosses from the SoulsBorne series, a testament to their quality, especially considering they aren't even the mid to end-game challenges.
The World is Beautiful even when it isn't
Honestly, I could rant and rave about the beautiful aesthetic of the world in Lies of P for hours. Inspired by the Belle Époque Era in Europe (late 19th Century to the early 20th Century), the developers went all out when it came to the design of the environments, but also the smaller details such as the clothing, weapons, items, facial features, and pretty much everything else in the game.
Everything I've seen so far has been meticulously detailed to the point where zooming in on an item will reveal so much of the artists' and developers' work. Take the character design of any NPC in the game, or even Pinocchio himself, for example, and zoom in to see the details of their clothing, the scratches on metallic items, the folding and creases of apparel, and so on.
This isn't to say that all areas share this "beautiful" aesthetic, though, with some areas in the game, such as Moonlight Town or St. Frangelico Cathedral, sporting their unique designs of a decrepit town and an old cathedral. But even with their differing aesthetics, the attention to detail is there for every one of them, and we give the developers a ton of props for the hard work in making even decrepit or rotting areas look so good.
The Plot and Characters in Lies of P leaves nothing to be desired
But what is a gorgeous world without characters and a great plot to drive it all forward and breathe life into the game? Well, Lies of P does not disappoint, as the game's story and supporting cast are highly engaging, immersing you in its world.
You wake up in the blood-stained City of Krat, and as you venture forward, you're drawn to the central hub, Hotel Krat. It functions similarly to hub areas in other Souls-like games, where you interact with key NPCs, vendors, and craftsmen like Vegnini, Eugenie, and Sophia. Here, you upgrade your weapons, level up, and purchase new items.
From here, you're sent into the world to uncover the cause of the puppet frenzy and the city's devastating plague, with the hope of putting an end to it. What makes the story unique and engaging, aside from top-tier voice acting (I particularly enjoyed Vegnini), is Lies of P's defining mechanic—lying.
As you explore the world, meet new characters, and engage in side quests like the Weeping Woman, you have the option to lie, a capability most puppets lack due to their laws. In line with the game's theme and fairytale, Pinocchio can lie, leading to intriguing effects on the game's progression.
According to Jiwon Choi, depending on whom you lie to and your specific answers, you'll receive a different ending. As Choi states, "We wanted to keep asking players the question about how they should behave as they play the game. And we designed the story's ending to flow naturally depending on the consequences of those choices."
While the full story remains a mystery, we're excited to see how lying influences the game, your character's development, and, naturally, the game's ending. Overall, Lies of P offers a wholly unique story, and the lying mechanic promises a personalized and engaging experience for players.
It's Fantastic but not Perfect
Now, while I've praised this game, no masterpiece is without its flaws, and Lies of P has its fair share. The combat can be hindered by occasional janky hitboxes and my character getting stuck on small objects while attempting to evade attacks.
This issue is common in most Souls-like games, and I expected it in Lies of P, though it doesn't occur too frequently. The game also exhibits a few graphical glitches, like unshaded polygons or pixelated character details, which resolve when I "reset" the area using a Stargazer.
My main concern with Lies of P lies in the sometimes problematic placement of mobs in certain areas, resulting in unwelcome gank squads or spamming attacks that can stun-lock me or force me to maneuver around and deal with multiple enemies pursuing me as I eliminate them.
While these issues may not surface if you approach the game slowly and are somewhat subjective, I believe the game should accommodate players like me who occasionally rush through areas to find the Stargazer, backtrack, or explore without being ambushed by swift-attacking puppets hidden behind walls.
While we can't assign a numerical score just yet, as we haven't completed the entire game, we can provide an initial final verdict on Lies of P and whether it's worth playing. And with no hesitation, the answer from this gamer is a resounding yes!
Lies of P offers a unique take on what a Souls-like game can be when developers infuse their ideas into the Souls-like genre. While it's not flawless, the game delivers engaging story content, a fun and challenging combat system, and numerous experimentation opportunities, all packaged in a beautiful and detail-oriented art style and visual design.
In conclusion, even if you're not a die-hard Souls-like fan, Lies of P has something to offer. It boasts content that's distinct from the game and, in my opinion, ranks among the best Souls-like titles to date. It can even hold its own against the mainline FromSoftware titles. So, if you're prepared to navigate the city of Krat with a web of lies and refine your abilities to confront the twisted, plague-infested remnants of the world, we highly recommend picking up Lies of P when it releases on September 19, 2023.
Reviewed on PC.