Lords Of The Fallen (2023) Review - Dark Soul Reaver

It's been a long time, but Lords of the Fallen is finally back. Can this reboot put the memory of the original to rest? Read our review to find out.

Published: October 12, 2023 9:00 AM /

Reviewed By:

Key art for the Lords of the Fallen review, depicting a sinister figure with glowing eyes and a massive sword

Any Lords of the Fallen review should, by rights, begin with its somewhat troubled development cycle.

This game has been through a lot; it began life as Lords of the Fallen 2 in what feels like a bygone age, then went quiet for a while before re-emerging as The Lords of the Fallen under the stewardship of Hexworks.

Eventually, The Lords of the Fallen ditched its definite article, becoming simply Lords of the Fallen, thereby declaring its intent to essentially wipe the slate clean and purge the memory of the 2014 original.

If, like any reasonable person, you hated the 2014 version of Lords of the Fallen, you'll be pleased to know you don't need to know anything about it to play this new one. Some names and concepts are shared between the two, but otherwise, this is very much a new world and a new direction for the "franchise".

Happily, it's also much, much better than Harkyn's adventure, although that is admittedly a very low bar to clear. The important question, therefore, is whether it manages to stand out in the incredibly overcrowded field of the Soulslike genre.

Lords of the Fallen Can't Find That All-Important Spark

The player looks out at a castle environment in Lords of the Fallen
Looks nice, but I'm sure I've seen it somewhere before...

Lords of the Fallen takes place in Mournstead, a land overshadowed by the dark god Adyr, who's threatening to return after being defeated many eons ago.

Although Hexworks tries to conjure a story rich in moral ambiguity (who is Adyr? Why are the crusaders attempting to put him down so overzealous? Will his return really herald the world's doom?), Lords of the Fallen is another Soulslike that sadly fails to find its mark in terms of storytelling and world-building.

The land of Mournstead feels undercooked, with key locations struggling to tell a story worth listening to. Brief moments of environmental storytelling, like ash figures piled up outside a locked door, feel overdone and tired, leading to a sense that we've danced this dance before.

The predictability of Lords of the Fallen's locations doesn't help with that sense of familiarity.

When there's no meaningful sense of escalation (see Bloodborne's cosmic horrors, or Sekiro's increasing focus on myth and spirituality), familiarity quickly sets in.

Each one can essentially be mapped almost directly onto a corresponding area in one of the Souls games, but Hexworks can't muster the same innovative spirit and creativity that make Stonefang Tunnel, Leyndell, or even Blighttown so compelling.

Lords of the Fallen is a Soulslike that feels very much like Hexworks has copied FromSoftware's homework answers, but hasn't read the questions. 

It feels depressingly like Lords of the Fallen was simply made to fit a template rather than existing because its story needed to be told. I didn't come away from my 30-hour playthrough feeling like I cared about what happened to Mournstead, Adyr, or anyone else in this melange.

Level Design In Lords of the Fallen Is Strong

The player approaching a grand castle in Lords of the Fallen
Although Mournstead isn't up to much in terms of originality, it is fun to explore.

It's a shame because the actual moment-to-moment act of mechanically exploring Mournstead is often joyful.

The level design in Lords of the Fallen is rich, vertiginous, and exciting. Corridors split and entice you with promises of treasure. Rickety platforms and ladders feel just as threatening as they do irresistible. Cave complexes open out into giant chambers, treasure glittering in every corner.

Indeed, more than once, exploring a seemingly innocuous side path led to the discovery of an entirely new optional area, which is a pleasure all too rare in modern Soulslikes. Those optional areas often contain bespoke boss encounters that aren't just souped-up enemies or minibosses, too.

At their most complex and satisfying, levels in Lords of the Fallen recall FromSoftware's best-built stages, like the perennially underrated Blighttown or the High Wall of Lothric. 

If Lords of the Fallen's visual design and narrative could only match the joy of exploring these levels, the package would be complete, but the aforementioned lack of inspiration simply means that the level designers' efforts feel like they've gone to waste somewhat.

Lords of the Fallen's Main Innovation Isn't Worth Much

The player watching a story sequence unfold in the Umbral realm in Lords of the Fallen
Umbral initially impresses but quickly becomes dull.

Part of the problem is Lords of the Fallen's key innovation, which involves the ability to switch between two worlds on the fly.

Technically speaking, the simultaneous existence of Axiom and Umbral is impressive. It put me in mind of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver's Material and Spectral Realms; the two even work similarly, as it's always possible to move from Axiom to Umbral, but moving from Umbral to Axiom can only be done in certain places.

Sadly, it's not long before you've seen everything Umbral has to offer, and it becomes much more of an annoyance than a neat additional world to explore.

Lords of the Fallen is a Soulslike that feels very much like Hexworks has copied FromSoftware's homework answers, but hasn't read the questions. 

In practice, you'll mainly be finding bridges or platforms that don't exist in Axiom while you're in Umbral, and the visual design of the world is flat, lifeless, and gray.

That might not be as much of an issue if Umbral meaningfully evolved or changed over the course of Lords of the Fallen, but the same sights that were impressive early on - massive colossi, huge skeletal remains - become rote and boring quickly.

It's the same issue the storytelling has. When there's no meaningful sense of escalation (see Bloodborne's cosmic horrors, or Sekiro's increasing focus on myth and spirituality), familiarity quickly sets in.

There also aren't any combat encounters that use Umbral in interesting ways. The best you're getting is a shield you need to shift into Umbral or use your lantern to remove, a trick that's apparently so enjoyable Hexworks uses it exhaustively (and exhaustingly) over the course of the adventure.

Lords of the Fallen Loves Tedious Combat Grinds

The player circling an ice wolf enemy in Lords of the Fallen
You'll be seeing these wolves a lot.

"Exhausting" really is the watchword when it comes to Lords of the Fallen's combat.

Once again, the issue of repetition and a lack of escalation rears its ugly head. You'll be fighting exactly the same enemies at the start of the game as you are at the end, with one or two exceptions not worth dwelling on.

It's becoming hard to watch every single Soulslike queue up at FromSoftware's imposing castle gates, only to trip and fall on the rising moat bridge and plummet into the muck below.

Enemy variety is critical for a Soulslike's success; without new and fresh enemies to fight, the core combat (which, by the way, is pretty much lifted wholesale from the Souls series here) quickly becomes a chore.

Absent new enemies as each new area is discovered, Lords of the Fallen's best idea is simply to throw the same enemies at you in increasingly tedious and bewilderingly difficult combat grinds.

As the mid-game rears its head, enemies - the same ones you've been fighting since the beginning, remember - will assault you with overwhelming numbers.

Projectile-wielding enemies will pelt you with crossbows. Fire witches will end your life in a single shot. Giant axe-wielding demons will split your skull in half and cackle as you bleed out.

There's also a strange tendency to pretty much immediately re-use a miniboss enemy as a regular enemy in the next stage, or, in some cases, the same stage, barely a single room later.

In short, Lords of the Fallen's paucity of enemies becomes fatally apparent very early on, and since the combat is pretty much bog-standard Soulslike sword-swinging, that proves massively detrimental to the game's fun factor.

Bosses In Lords of the Fallen Don't Fare Much Better

The player facing off against the Gentle Gaverus, Mistress of Hounds boss in Lords of the Fallen
Lords of the Fallen's bosses often feel a touch uninspired.

There's a little more creativity on display in Lords of the Fallen's boss fights, although again, they often feel like slightly inept copy-pastes of FromSoftware's best work.

One mid-game boss is a giant valkyrie warrior who fuses horrifically with a weak child figure halfway through, calling to mind Dark Souls 3's Lothric and Lorian fight combined with Elden Ring's Malenia.

Unfortunately, Lords of the Fallen's attempt to reach those heights fails, because it lacks the tragic majesty of Lothric and Lorian or the terrible grace of Malenia's Goddess of Rot phase.

Most of the boss fights fall into this trap; initially, intriguing designs give way quickly to a realization that there isn't much originality to be had.

Towards the end of Lords of the Fallen, one boss enthralled me with its heroic stature and battle hymn-like soundtrack, only to give way to a boring, generic, cackling-evil second phase that wasted the goodwill the first phase had built up.

Again, Lords of the Fallen understands that FromSoftware bosses are large, imposing, and often graceful, but it can't find the tragedy or emotional core of these fights.

There's nothing as heart-wrenching as Knight Artorias' ruined form, for instance, or as stoically emotional as Radahn's final stand, accompanied by his fallen soldiers singing one last battle hymn before he's laid to rest.

Maybe it's unfair to compare Lords of the Fallen to Dark Souls so much, but Hexworks' game feels like such a naked attempt to copy the formula that comparisons are as inevitable as they are unfavorable to Lords of the Fallen.

Lords of the Fallen Review | Final Thoughts

The player fighting the Lightreaper boss in Lords of the Fallen
This guy's a real pain.

Lords of the Fallen often feels like the barely-concealed spiritual successor to Dark Souls that it really doesn't need.

Imagine Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, but Konami was still making Castlevania games that were still consistently meeting the Symphony of the Night quality bar, and that's the feeling I got from Lords of the Fallen.

Hexworks' debut is not awful, and again, it's eons better than the 2014 game of the same name. The level design alone makes it worth a look if you really, genuinely can't get enough Soulslikes.

Unfortunately, though, it's also a little hollow, a little rote, and a heck of a lot derivative, so if you're looking for even the slightest mote of innovation, it's safe to adventure on to another entropy-beset realm.

Lords of the Fallen was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the developer over the course of 30.5 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.

Review Summary

Lords of the Fallen's shameless copy-paste approach to Dark Souls undermines its great level design and the potential evident in some of its boss encounters. (Review Policy)


  • Excellent level design
  • Some interesting boss designs
  • Dual-world idea is impressive


  • Shamelessly derivative
  • Uninteresting world and story
  • Very low enemy variety

Have a tip, or want to point out something we missed? Leave a Comment or e-mail us at tips@techraptor.net

Joe Allen's profile picture
| Senior Writer

Joe has been writing for TechRaptor for five years, and in those five years has learned a lot about the gaming industry and its foibles. He’s originally an… More about Joseph

More Info About This Game
Learn more about Lords of the Fallen
Ci Games
Release Date
October 13, 2023 (Calendar)
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)