Lies of P is almost upon us – releasing on September 19th to be exact. Since its reveal, it has become one of the most eagerly-awaited Souls-like outside of a From Software title, in the hope it might provide a Bloodborne-esque experience (especially for PC and Xbox gamers). With its first announcement trailer, the developers revealed a steampunk-cross-clockwork take on the Pinocchio fable and impressed with some truly stunning visuals (easily placing it in the “AAA” category) while also displaying some solid-looking combat.
I was caught up in other work when the Lies of P demo first dropped but, thankfully, it was still available to download and play, so I decided to give it a go and see how this unfinished form stacks up against the trailer, and get a sense of what to expect from the final product.
Lies of P is set in the city of Krat, where a plague is sweeping the land and clockwork puppets have gone homicidal. As the titular “P”, you have to fight your way across the city to find your creator Gepetto. Will you find the answers you seek? Will you become human? That we’ll only find out in the final release! But until that happens, this demo lets you get accustomed to the mechanics.
Lies of P really doesn’t try to reinvent the Souls-like wheel. Instead, the developers have, very clearly, been heavily inspired by Bloodborne and demonstrate a firmer grasp on the mechanics of the genre than many do.
After choosing your starting class – there’s no character creator here – you’ll be pushed into Krat’s European-inspired city. The visual language of Paris is beautifully recreated in building and street layouts, the ornate details of architecture, and the distant backdrop. Lies of P, you see, is absolutely stunning, a visual smorgasbord of grandiose architecture and fine details for you to wander through.
This level of visual polish extends to the character and enemy models, with superb design and intricate animation, coupled with some wonderful sound effects of metal-on-metal combat. Every moment in Lies of P is screenshot-worthy, from the puddles in the street to the towering hotel that is your final destination.
I played through the demo on both an Xbox Series X and an Xbox One X, and I have to say the visual details and responsiveness felt nearly identical as both target 60fps. There is one caveat, perhaps related to a lower average framerate, and that is that on P himself seemed to move a little slower on the Xbox One X.
The three starting classes determine your initial starting weapon and play style. Essentially, you’re looking at light, medium, and heavy classes with the unique starting weapon and fighting style making a significant difference. The heavy class favours a broadsword for instance, which makes you slower but also deals out heavier attacks; while the medium class favours a rapier and fencer fighting style with flourishes. It felt great and probably the best class to start with, offering a middle ground between defense and mobilty.
Like most Souls-like games, you have light attacks, heavy attacks, a dodge, a dodge roll, a sprint, healing flasks, and, of course, a stamina system that governs your actions. If you have played a Souls-like before, you know exactly what you’re in for.
That said, the developers have added their own wrinkles to the formula. The first is weapon degradation, governed by a slowly depleting bar. Sharpening your weapon with a handy tool is the only way to repair it and make sure you’re hitting at full strength. The second is a familiar weight system that slows you down for each piece of gear you equip will add. As such, you’re going to have to choose between being slower with more stat-boosting heavy pieces of equipment, or lightly armoured with faster strikes and dodges.
For temporary damage boosts, you have an assortment of elemental attacks that can be imbued onto your blade or chucked around as throwables. Mechanical puppets and electricity are not a match made in heaven.
Overall, the combat is mechanically solid and meaty, with impacts that feel great. The developers clearly show their understanding of the genre by making certain that it’s about more than just killing you repeatedly.
That said, there is one major caveat that needs to be resolved before launch – the dodge. And you’re going to have to dodge because blocking merely negates some of the damage, not all of it. Much like Bloodborne, you have a limited window to land a hit or two to recover some of that lost health and, as such, dodging to find a gap is key. Most of my frustration playing this demo came when fighting tank-like enemies or the bosses because the dodge doesn’t…. well, work well enough. It simply doesn’t seem to function as intended or give you enough distance from an attack. There’s nothing great about being hit while you’re dodging, or discovering you’re still well within the attack radius after you’ve double-stepped back.
Hopefully this issue gets tweaked before launch because – if this demo is representative of the whole – it’s the only blemish on what is otherwise a mechanically satisfying, atmospheric, and beautiful Souls-like.