Plenty of developers have gone on to take the formula from any of the FromSoftware games that’ve made gaming history, mostly Dark Souls, though there others have also pulled from Bloodborne and Sekiro, and surely more will pull from Elden Ring as the years go on.
What makes this strategy much less of a risk, is creating something about your game that really sets it apart, beyond visuals, setting, storytelling. Round 8 Studio, a Korean developer and subsidiary of publisher Neowiz have thankfully done just that with Lies Of P.
In so many ways, Lies Of P is effectively a Bloodborne-clone with a gothic-Pinocchio skin. I already spoke about this a lot in my impressions of the demo. But it does enough, specifically in its combat, to separate itself from that image, and offer its own unique flavour of action game.
That doesn’t however mean it’s able to surpass its influences, as it ultimately doesn’t feel as polished in the end.
Lies Of P Review (PS5) – Lies Of Pinocchiorne
P, Puppets, And Lying
Round 8 Studio has definitely copied FromSoftware’s homework for a lot of what Lies Of P is, but one major area where Lies Of P differs greatly is in its story and storytelling.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of item descriptions and notes, letters, pictures, books and more for you to read about in the menus that all include a huge chunk of the storytelling. But the cutscenes and the conversations that followed them are all far less vague than anything FromSoftware writes.
Lies Of P also harbours a host of main characters that are each well voice acted, even if the voices for some are almost comically made to be exaggerated. Specifically the Prince of Krat himself, Vengini, though there are other colourful characters you’ll get to know.
I think it’s own dark retelling of Pinocchio is what it does best to separate itself from its influences, and really adds a level of uniqueness to the experience. It also works as part of the game’s pull, with story beats that demand you make a choice between lying to a character, or telling the truth.
The cutscenes are well animated, and the writing that goes along with the strong voice acting feels much more direct in that it wants you to understand the story, rather than trying to remain a mystery where you can infer your own version of events, with huge aspects of the story left purposefully vague. It’s both refreshing in one sense and feels less intriguing in another.
That being said, the similarities are easily spotted, specifically in Bloodborne’s case with the visual style and setting. The city of Krat and Yharnham in many ways look to be like two cities in different countries from the same world.
What makes Lies Of P narrative a better experience in some ways are quality of life improvements. If you’ve found an item pertaining to a side quest activated when you spoke to an NPC, you’ll be notified with an image of that item, and the checkpoint nearest to that NPC to continue or finish the quest.
It’s the kind of handy thing that while it doesn’t fully break immersion, it makes the side quests feel more like traditional RPG quests needed to be checked off a list. You get a less seamless result than if you had to just remember where to go, and the quest wasn’t “game-ifed” in that sense.
But for the convenience of not needing to remember, and earning more rewards and upgrade materials from the side quests, it’s definitely worth the trade off. Lies Of P also uses this system as a reminder of which enemies to speak to when you return to your home base, Hotel Krat.
It’s no Hunters Dream, and for certain upgrades you’re walking a little farther than I would’ve liked to get there, but it’s functional nonetheless.
Combat, in its own way is another aspect where Lies Of P looks very similar to its influences, but it offers a smart twist to the weapon system. You can constantly create your own weapons by combining different weapon tops and bottoms (or handles and blades, though blades also includes hammers, bats, etc.)
Putting a different weapon top and bottom half together can open up new playstyles for your character while taking advantage of how you’re building up your characters stats. It also helps that weapon upgrade consumables are quite plentiful, even when you get to higher leveled items that in previous games only a select few exist.
Lies Of P offers multiple vendors which will sell these upgrades to you, though they can also be easily farmed from almost any enemy if you know which areas to look in. It helped to never make me feel pigeon-holed into one particular playstyle and needing to pick one main weapon to level up.
One of my favourite weapons ended up being a mid-late game blade attached to an opening game handle. The way you could mix and match to take advantage of particular stats helped keep the combat fresh, especially since you could find a synergy not just between how the new weapon handles, but the two fable arts attacks.
Fable Arts are your special attacks or effects that come with each blade and handle, that can work well with each other, like a fable art that increases your stagger effect and a fast moving fable art that delivers multiple blows in quick succession.
Another customizable part of P is his Legion Arm, something that can’t help but feel akin to Sekiro. There are 10 different arms you can choose from in total, which you’ll gain along the way either through story beats or crafting them yourself.
Each offer a different ability and can be key aspects to your playstyle when used correctly. Three of them do different types of environmental damage; fire, decay and electric, while the other three add a more interesting layer to combat.
My particular favourite, the Puppet String can be levelled up to grant you this heavy attack where you pull yourself towards your enemy, launch in the air and come down with a crushing blow. You can also pull yourself across gaps with it if there’s an enemy on the other side, or pull the enemy towards you, and off a cliff.
And then on top of that, you can upgrade your P-Organ, the mechanical beating heart that keeps you alive, to grant you special bonuses that can further specialize your playstyle through its own specific upgrade material.
This is all before even getting to how you can build up your character’s stats to fit your playstyle, though that’s actually less important in Lies Of P than in its influences. Sure, if you want to do a strength or dexterity build, which in Lies Of P would be a “Motivity” or “Technique” build, you’ll need to delegate skill points correctly.
But everything else about your build, namely your weapons, are far more important for how you actually play, and it’s also unfortunate that strength or dexterity are practically your only two options. There is an “Advance” stat which levels up up different effects weapons can have, though your returns for the well-earned points spent isn’t always worth it I found.
Parrying is an essential part of Lies Of P’s gameplay, dodging only serves to extend fights as you won’t be doing stagger damage to enemies unless you’re attacking. Parrying perfectly will build your enemies stagger faster, and with a successful heavy attack, a devastating fatal attack can follow.
If not for the weapon variety, and every other way you can customize P before getting to his stats, Lies Of P would feel a lot more restricting. With it, its combat limitations feel more like a box within which you’re forced to be more creative, and it helps make things more interesting throughout your whole playthrough.
Close, But Not Quite There
The city of Krat, and Lies Of P’s general setting and atmosphere are all effective, and I think part of what makes Lies Of P work so well is how Round 8 Studio was able to create an excellent atmosphere throughout the game.
However the different areas you’ll visit across your journey don’t do much to really make one stand out among the others, right up until the end of the game, where the final area is in many ways, unlike anything you’ve previously explored.
It’s all definitely a far cry from how unique and varied each of the areas in Bloodborne, Sekiro or even a Souls title can feel, but the atmosphere held throughout all these same-y looking areas is thick enough that you stay immersed in its world.
All together it’s a bit of an odd feeling, because graphically Lies Of P looks incredible, though it still fails to look as good as its influences, which I keep bringing up because of how clearly Lies Of P is built upon their skeletons.
For everything the combat does differently, it still doesn’t feel quite as refined, even if that is also a part of what its fun. The enemy variety is good, their designs even better, with Lies Of P hosting some of the ugliest and unique creatures I’ve had to put down yet.
Some boss fights are excellently done and memorable, while others hit the mark visually and miss it in terms of gameplay. Unfortunately very few of the arenas you’ll be fighting a boss in ever feel like they’re anything more important than any old room you could’ve walked into.
It’s in all these ways that Lies Of P is consistently close to hitting the highs of the games it is trying to emulate and build upon, but still falling short. This is what makes a game like Lies Of P a big risk for any studio.
Trying to emulate a well-renowned game to this extent only invites these comparisons, and for anyone who’s played Elden Ring, Bloodborne or Sekiro before, it’ll be difficult to get those games out of your mind in those moments when Lies Of P is falling short.
However Lies Of P does do a few things differently that sometimes have these comparisons land in its favour.
Lies Of P may not hit in the same way Bloodborne does, but Lies Of P has more than a few improvements to the experience of playing it that would be more than appreciated in Bloodborne, or any FromSoftware game for that matter.
Like how when you die fighting a boss, any Ergo (XP) that would in any other FromSoftware or Soulslike game would have been trapped in the boss room can actually be picked up right at the boss room door. It’s a little change that when I noticed it in the demo made me scream out a huge thank you to the developers.
I’d even go as far to say how Lies Of P puts more emphasis on its consistently customizable parts of your build rather than how you level up your skill points to be another improvement. It costs no ergo to disassemble and re-assemble different weapons. You can do so right at any bonfire, called Stargazers here.
There’s also a training area at the Hotel where you can practice any of your build changes before heading out into the main game where you’d risk losing XP.
You can have a Specter fight with you at all major boss battles through a consumable item you can farm or purchase. Not only that, but the currency needed to purchase the Star Fragments needed to get some help in a boss fight, is constantly being produced at the Hotel, on a 10 minute timer per fruit.
Which can create this loop of playing long enough so you have this Gold Coin Fruit to spend on Star Fragments and the other specialized items needed to fuel your Wishstone, another layer of the combat where certain items will add an effect to the specter fighting with you.
It’s one of my favourite bits of the game because of how well it works within the world of Pinocchio, wishing upon a star and all, and is another thing that Lies Of P gets right in how it approaches the genre.
Chief among these though is Lies Of P’s approach to healing flasks or Pulse Cells as they’re called here. You have a limited number that can be increased through levelling your character up, but you can only run out for a short period of time.
No, they don’t automatically regenerate, but instead you regenerate one pulse cell by inflicting damage on your enemies. It’s a welcome thing to know I’ll never technically run out, and it pushes towards a more aggressive, and very rewarding gameplay experience.
The sharp sound heard every time you’ve successfully regenerated a pulse cell that keeps you going in a tough fight is as good a feeling as when you hear that perfect parry “ting” sound.
Falling Apart Without Its Strings
Make no mistake, Lies Of P is one of the best games to enter the Soulslike genre, offering both a familiar and fresh experience that sometimes feels a bit too familiar, but gets things right enough times and in enough ways that its quality bar extends a great deal higher than its competitors.
That being said, it absolutely does not stick the landing in the last quarter of the game. For the final three or so areas, there’s an incredible difficulty spike that completely disrupts the game’s flow. After nearly 30 hours by that point playing an excellent Soulslike with what felt like well-crafted enemy encounters, that all goes out the window.
Its replaced with Round 8 Studio constantly throwing high-level enemies and some previously used as mini-bosses back to back, and combat that previously felt curated instead felt completely careless.
Getting through to the credits becomes an awful slog, to the point where I found myself no longer enjoying my time with the game, despite having an absolute blast most of the way to those final areas.
To make what feels like an apt analogy, Lies Of P is like a giant puppet gone out of control, its strings cut from the puppeteer, and it can only flail about and ultimately fall apart to the ground.
That this difficulty spike sours an otherwise an otherwise great game is incredibly disappointing, though I can at least hope by the time I get there in my NG+ playthrough it’ll feel more balanced.
Lies Of P may not be as good as any of its influences, but it damn well gets close, and that often comes from the things it’s doing differently than the games that inspired it.
It’s one of my favourite games I’ve played all year, and even though it botched the ending hours of my first playthrough, I still can’t help myself but return to it. I’ve already decided I’m going to go after the Platinum, and spend however many more countless hours playing around with different weapon combinations, and levelling everything I can to the max.
I can see this ultimate version of my character in the distance, only possible through multiple playthroughs and hours spent grinding, and I can already feel how amazing it’ll be to have that fully spec’d out character, with insanely powerful and sometimes even silly feeling weapons.
To me, that says a lot about just how well Lies Of P is executed at its core, even with the balancing issues at the end absolutely tanking your initial playthrough.
If you’re a fan of FromSoftware and other Soulslike titles, then Lies Of P is a must-play title, and if not for the issues at the end, and it’s reliance on perfect parrying, I’d say Lies Of P offers enough customization in your build that even newcomers to the genre can find an entry point here.
For everything great about Lies Of P, where it falters feels all the more disappointing because of how close it gets during its best moments. That being said I’d still look to it as one of the best releases in 2023, and definitely a game for any Souls fans.
Lies Of P is now available on PS5 and PS4.
Review code generously provided by the publisher.