Lies of P on PS5
The gaming world can seemingly not get enough of the souls-like genre, and while not every effort can come close to the likes of Elden Ring or Bloodborne put out by FromSoftware, Lies of P competently marries the core pillars of the experience with plenty of innovative ideas to help it stand out from the rest. Neowiz Games and Round 8 Studio have indeed created an impressive adventure born out of a classic children’s story, and one that will undoubtedly carve out its own audience in due time.
For veteran players who are familiar with souls-likes, it should come as no surprise that Lies of P maintains many of the signature features that fans have come to both love and hate. The challenging enemies, precarious level designs, and the need to collect Ergo as a currency for leveling up and making purchases should make everyone feel at ease. It helps form a solid foundation in which the game continues to grow and shows off its chop, like a master puppeteer preparing for the next big scene.
Perhaps what is most impressive about this newcomer is its story which draws inspiration from Carlo Collodi’s short story about Pinnochio, the wooden puppet that yearns to become a real boy. This conceit lies at the heart of the adventure awaiting players, even if it is not that apparent right from the off.
Decisions have to be made at various junctures to either tell the truth or lie, either pushing the main character towards its base nature or embracing the uncertainties of life. These choices will play a key role in charting the course to one of the game’s three endings, with various systems in the game responding differently as various thresholds are reached. Without spoiling anything, it is vital that players weigh up their options before forging ahead.
And as the story unfolds, players will meet an expanding cast of characters, each with their own secrets and motivations. There is plenty to unpack from conversations and environmental storytelling, and compared to the genre’s luminaries, the lore is much more accessible.
The buildup to the ultimate payoff at the end certainly ups the intrigue in a way that makes it worthwhile for multiple replays, which Lies of P fosters with New Game+ and its own set of additions and tweaks. Getting the full picture will require that commitment, and thankfully, it is a bloody fantastic romp through a darkly elegant world.
Combat and exploration both feature heavily in the formula of the experience, with one being starkly more splendid than the other. In a world where puppet frenzy has turned reliable servants into killer machines and irresponsible experimentation with the magical substance known as Ergo has resulted in the Petrification Disease, nowhere is safe in the city of Krat.
From police officers to hulking circus clowns, the enemies in the game are pure nightmare fuel, calling into question just how the people managed to coexist with these creations in the first place. The enemy design is varied and often inspiring, conveying the duality of utility and fear in a neat package. This goes not just for the many striking bosses, but also for the more common foes that line the streets, all of which make the combat even more entertaining.
Speaking of combat, if you were expecting demanding action anytime there’s a threat around, then you are absolutely right. Adversaries in Krat are never shy about being aggressive, always ready to charge at the player with their makeshift weapons or even their own body, and they hit hard. It is never wise to pick a fight with a large group of enemies, but Lies of P facilitates aggressive play in another interesting way.
Unless you are well versed in the way of perfect blocking or dodging, chances are, some harm will definitely come your way during fights. Normal blocks will reduce a percentage of the damage, but more importantly, transform that chip damage into restorable health as part of its Guard Regain system. Successful attacks will then help players regain that health, creating a vicious cycle that rewards smart defensive and offensive play at the same time.
While this may be discouraging to players who prefer to prioritize defense, what it does is keep Lies of P going at a decent pace at all times. It’s also crucial for players to lean more into making builds that suit them, both in terms of the underlying stats as well as the equipment on hand. Blunt and larger weapons benefit from upping your Motivity, while those who prefer quick, technical combat will veer towards the Technique stat. Balance all that out with other parameters that determine your health, stamina, and various resistances, and you just might settle on a puppet killing machine that just dominates.
As for gear, Lies of P provides players with a multitude of options, starting with Legion Arms. With weapons on the right hand, the left is reserved for these tools that offer all kinds of utility. The Puppet String, for example, can grab enemies at range and pull them closer, while Pandemonium throws pools of acid to inflict status effects. All of these Arms can be further upgraded with additional effects, adding another layer to the already fun combat system.
Then there are the weapons themselves, which is where the game differentiates itself more favorably from its contemporaries. Rather than saddle players with pre-determined items, all the normal weapons in the game can be broken down into the blade and the handle. Players are then free to combine them in ways that would usually not be possible, like having a giant glaive blade attached to a tiny rapier handle, changing how the weapon handles and the Technique Arts at your disposal. This way, you are never truly prevented from losing a trusty weapon as new items come into consideration, just more ways to experiment for the best solution to puppet destruction.
Furthermore, there is also the P-Organ skill tree system that utilizes precious Quartz for players to mull over. Immensely useful upgrades like added and enhanced healing are always great to have, but so are additional amulet slots or the ability to dodge from a fallen position. Considering how precious Quartz is, it is another way to further optimize a build that is suitable for your playstyle.
With all of that in mind, the time to take to the streets and buildings of Krat to settle some scores has arrived, and what a glorious time it is. There are always instances to get into scraps with the enemy, with puppets and monstrous creatures always ready to deliver an early demise. By learning the patterns and timings of your enemies, defending well, and then striking them down, every encounter stands as a learning opportunity and a yardstick for how far players have come.
Most of the encounters will be manageable for Souls veterans, but Lies of P does suffer from certain imbalances that can cause an issue. The cannon fodder, so to speak, can be easily dispatched most of the time, but on occasion, the game can throw a more elite enemy at you out of the blue that will break the illusion of mastery in an instant. That’s not a knock on the game’s difficulty, but rather at the pacing that can catch players off guard.
The same goes for the bosses that usually precede the end of a particular level. Some are more easily readable, making the battles more methodical and measured. Others, however, come with a sudden spike in difficulty that will only lead to frustration, especially if you don’t have the right build or approach. Add to that multi-phase bosses that have an easy first phase and a drastically more formidable second phase, and the constant cycle of repeated death becomes more of a chore than it should be, especially if you have to travel from a checkpoint to the arena while fending off other dangers.
There are also systemic problems that contribute to the occasional frustration in combat. While it is usually advisable to use the lock-on camera to keep tabs on the immediate threat, clipping into a nearby wall renders that advantage moot. Foes are also capable of trapping players in a corner or underneath them with their bodies and incessantly attacking, making death a welcome relief from the helplessness.
Outside of that, the more linear levels in Lies of P have their pros and cons. Players can focus on eliminating the murderous puppets and creatures, picking up a collectible or two and finishing some side quests and mysteries. However, there is no other incentive to go far beyond the main path, not that there is a choice most of the time. This feels like a missed opportunity that developer Round 8 Studio could have used as a means to surprise players more frequently throughout their adventure.
Although Lies of P takes heavy inspiration from the more successful leaders in the genre, this is one souls-like adventure that also dances to its own tune in many ways. The freedom afforded by its crafting system, the excellent and dark storytelling, and the intensity of its combat are great ingredients for a classic tale and makes it easier to overlook some of the niggling issues that affect the puppet show. While there may not be a Bloodborne sequel to quell the thirst, Lies of P is the closest one can get to a dark, fantastical adventure that is bloody brilliant.
Extremely satisfying combat loop.
Flexible weapon crafting system.
Excellent storytelling and worldbuilding.
Unique look and standout mechanics.
Levels can be too linear.
Difficulty balancing can be better.
Camera issues on occasions.
September 19, 2023
PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Copy provided by Publisher
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