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Lords of the Fallen looked good at E3; it looks even better at PAX Prime. After another hands-off demo, the next-generation action role-playing game really seems to be coming along nicely. Admirably, it seeks to improve, or at least deviate, on the formula that a certain well-known and similar couple of titles nearly perfected.
There's no two ways about it -- Lords of the Fallen invites comparisons to Demon's/Dark Souls. The developers are painfully aware of the fact, almost immediately surrendering into an anticipated half-chuckle as the first syllables of the From Software's projects names were uttered. That's ultimately okay though, because Lords of the Fallen doesn't aim to mimic the Souls games.
Rather, Deck13 is structuring Lords of the Fallen to be a bit more of an accessible Dark Souls. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy -- spending any amount of time in front of the game makes that much wildly obvious. But, it's also not going to be punishing. Challenging and complex? Definitely. But not punishing.
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If Lords of the Fallen comes off as punishing, there's a fair chance that you're doing something wrong. Dying will happen, but the developers don't view deaths as a failure; they view it as part of the learning process. If you're repeatedly dying, try something new. Be more patient, learn the patterns of your opponent, and try to limit battles to one-on-one.
There are times when you'll encounter multiple enemies at once, but those will likely be few and far between. The developers think that the majority of the game will be spent engaged in single-enemy affairs. "I may be prone to exaggerating, but we want every single fight to feel sort of like a Tekken or Street Fighter battle," one developer told me.
It's obvious that combat is the primary concern in Lords of the Fallen. Actually, the developers went so far as to say that it really isn't story-focused. Sure, there will be a narrative, cut scenes -- everything needed to make it a coherent experience -- but, Deck13's putting more emphasis on ensuring that the fighting sequences are up to snuff.
However, exactly how those fighting sequences play out are entirely up to the player. Magic spells looks as if they'll play a big role, but the game can be beaten strictly with conventional melee attacks. Each class will have a few unique spells, which appears to be the only way that players are barred from complete customization. As shown at E3, changing gear can effectively switch the player's class on the fly, but these magic spells are a way to lend weight to the class decision made at the beginning of the game.
We're still a long ways away from Lords of the Fallen's release, as it's slated for late 2014, but any action RPG fan needs to keep tabs on this one. Every time we see it, it's looking better and better. Hopefully it can deliver on all this promise it shows.