It has been a long time since the Souls-like genre made its breakthrough, and with so many options available to players, trying to stand out can be a hard ask. Well, combining puppets like in Pinocchio and the atmosphere of Bloodborne, and you have a good start. That’s essentially what Neowiz Games is trying to achieve with Lies of P, and our preview at Gamescom 2023 shows that the studio is certainly on the right track.
Forgoing any emphasis on the story for the session, we got stuck in right away on the Rosa Isabelle level as seen in the latest trailer for the game. The gothic nature of the environments and the moody aesthetic instantly come to life with a city dripped in blood, and mayhem at almost every turn. The ornate architecture contrasts well with the potential of death, ushering players into a different experience immediately.
Bodies littered the streets, some human, most puppet, and danger is not always apparent. Lies of P‘s prowess in surprising players remains one of the genre’s quirks, and when it comes in the form of unsettling puppets in various states of disrepair, the effect is certainly enhanced.
From your general grunts to more hulking foes, there is a nice variety on show, even in this one level, all offering different threats that require the right approach to overcome them. The tension that arises when enemies appear is always palpable, and to make things worse, there are those that look like young toddlers that are nightmare fuel, curse those crawling puppets that have no concern for personal space.
Thankfully, Lies of P gives players options in which to deal with these problems. Weapons of all shapes and sizes can be equipped, allowing for all kinds of playstyles. You could go quick and prioritise dexterity with spears and swords, or go big with large scythes and hammers. But most importantly, aggression comes first. There is no room for being safe in this game, as the enemies are aggressive and capable of hurting you in all kinds of ways.
Only by keeping the pressure up can you hope to survive. Dodging only works in certain situations, while damage still gets through blocks. By attacking, some of that health can be replenished, and even if you burn through all your healing flasks, cause enough hurt and Lies of P rewards you with one more to survive for the time being.
As such, players have to adapt to be successful, such as ignoring immediate threats and beelining for the pesky ranged enemies that lurk in the back. While other genre contemporaries may favour a more measured approach, Neowiz wants players to play with more risk.
Perhaps no encounter epitomises this concept more than the final boss fight against the Kings of Puppets, a massive foe capable of damaging combos, large area-of-effect attacks, and quick movement. Staying put and turtling makes no sense in this fight, so going aggressive is the way to go.
Going up close might make it more dangerous, but it’s the only reliable way to deal damage to this opponent. Reading its attack patterns, executing perfect blocks to negate damage, and dishing out pain of your own becomes the loop, and any health lost can hopefully be gained back by pushing hard.
Just when we thought we had earned a hard-fought victory, Lies of P does that thing where it introduces a second stage to the boss fight, this time with this individual known as Romeo coming to the fore. Instead of being bulky and slow, this is one quick enemy that is able to tear off a chunk of Pinocchio’s health in no time.
The whole fight suddenly turns on its head, requiring players to pick their windows of aggressiveness, so that there’s always stamina left to do the defensive work of blocking. Needless to say, it took a fair few tries before we even came close to winning the fight, which is exactly what makes us feel really positive about Lies of P.
The combat is smooth and responsive, the worldbuilding seems to be on another level, and there are going to be so many options for players to pursue as they try to unlock all three endings of the game. If the team manages to nail the narrative as well, then we could very well have the successor to the crown of Bloodborne as the most atmospherically striking Souls-like out there, and that will be a blessing for every fan of the genre. 19 September can’t come soon enough.
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