Lords of the Fallen wants to step out of Dark Souls’ shadow (Wired UK)


Lords of the Fallen
Lords of the FallenCI Games


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Lords of the Fallen is an upcoming action-RPG from CI
Games and Deck 13 Interactive. Set in a grim fantasy world, its
focus on challenging melee combat against monstrous foes has
already earned it comparisons to Dark Souls. Jan Klose,
the game’s Creative Director speaks with Wired.co.uk on why the
association isn’t entirely accurate, making a game that’s both
challenging and fairer, and global tastes in fantasy.

Wired.co.uk: Contrasts against Dark Souls aside, in your
own words, what is Lords of the Fallen?

Jan Klose: Lords of the Fallen is
a tactical strategy RPG. It’s a medieval fantasy game with combat
in a slasher kind of way, both one-on-one and one-on-two combat, as
well as some spectacular boss fights. The idea is that you can
learn from it, get better and learn your own fighting style.

Do you think the Dark Souls comparisons are
fair?


Well, this is a genre with so many games in it right now. Action
RPGs aren’t new, but Dark Souls really excelled at
delivering a perfect action RPG experience — but also a very tough
one! Many players threw their controller out of the window. We’ve
done action RPGs in the past and our publisher had the same idea
[about difficulty]. We looked at the market right now, where
there’s not only Dark Souls but games like
Darksiders, which is interesting in a different way. You
might see some elements of Zelda but also Tekken
or Street Fighter in our duel combats. It’s not bad to be
compared to one of the best games in the genre. But it’s not a copy
and we want to stand out.

Capcom tried a similar approach to action RPGs with
Dragon’s Dogma but even that’s not had the staying power
of Dark Souls. What can you do to stand
out?


We try to make our game as good as possible and not look at other
games during development. We don’t take features from other games,
we put in the features we want and try to make them better or see
what needs taking out to make it work well. When we did reviews, it
was to review our game and our concept, not to see what other games
are doing. For example, if you were to look at the length of
Lords of the Fallen then maybe it would seem a bit shorter
but we try to make it really intense. We also wanted to put things
in for people who like exploration so that they can spend as long
as they like in the game. Maybe some people won’t like it, but I
really hope they do.


Lords of the Fallen
Lords of the FallenCI Games


How big is the world, then? What sorts of environments
will players experience?


It’s not a complete open world, but maybe Zelda would be
a good comparison in the way it opens up as you play. You can go
back level by level and find new quests and secrets waiting for
you. We have a castle and monastery crossover at the centre of the
game but you’ll also travel into another world, to see strange
places and meet strange characters. We’ve been showing a key
underground location, but there are also places up in the fresh air
like battlements, a winter location and wide open spaces like a
graveyard.

What would you say is the biggest difference between
Lords of the Fallen and its peers?


We have a story that you can experience. In a nutshell, there was
a huge battle 8,000 years ago. Humankind fought and defeated their
own god and, in an attempt to break free, this god smashed his hand
through the earth. The stories go that you can see the fingers of
the god on the horizon, as this great mountain range. That’s a
legend for the people in this world. After thousands of years,
creatures of old reappear, attack people and take over the cities.
People have no idea how to fight these monsters. As a measure of
last resort they take prisoners from their cells and the hero from
our story, Harkyn, is one of these prisoners, the worst of them
all.

People get their sins tattooed on their faces and this guy’s
face is covered! So he did a lot of bad stuff and it’s up to
players what to do with the freedom he was given. He can follow the
dark side and do bad things, or he can try to redeem himself. He’ll
never be a jolly fellow and he’ll stay a dark character but you can
shape this as you play. The story’s not thrown at you with
cutscenes though — you have to come to the story, it doesn’t come
to you. You can understand and connect the dots through audio notes
and people you can talk to. There’s even storytelling in the
environment. When you go into a room, you can piece together what
happened before you got there by seeing what’s lying around, what’s
on fire, if someone died there. So there is a story there, one with
a spectacular ending, but it’s up to the player to shape that
ending in one way or another. There’s one story, one hero, but you
can customise him.

So, rather than direct character creation you can craft
Harkyn into, say, a mage or a barbarian?


More or less, yeah. At the start of the game, you pick one of
three types of magic and you can expand and improve on them, but
it’s just that one branch you have for that playthrough. You also
pick one piece of gear for your weapon, or your armour and shield.
Maybe you’ll play as a warrior at the beginning or you’re more into
the roguish type of gameplay, or you choose the cleric who’s
armoured very weakly but his hammer does tremendous damage if you
can time it right. There’s room to mix and match, which is
something I love to see in a game. You start off with one kind of
gear but then you can find other stuff and if you like it more, you
can change up your style as you go through the game. There are more
than ten weapon classes and a hundred weapons that play totally
differently.

Why do you think the genre of difficult action RPG has
exploded recently?


We think there’s a lot of space regarding difficult but not
punishing action RPGs. There are a lot of gamers who like this kind
of thing but they feel that the difficulty is just too much and
they need to keep replaying things for a day or so, or they make
the wrong decision in the game and need to redo forty hours of
gameplay. Some people love it but there are lots of people who get
frustrated by that. Myself included!

We’d like to do something that’s not really punishing when you
fail. You will fail but you should learn why you failed
and have some different tactics to try. You will know how to do it
and you won’t need to replay hours of gameplay to have that
experience. It’s an immersive experience where you need total focus
to play it, but you’re not punished for slip ups.


Lords of the Fallen
Lords of the FallenCI Games


One of the most frustrating things in these tougher
action RPGs is an unforgiving save or checkpoint system. Are you
doing anything fairer on those lines?


I don’t know if ours is fairer. It’s different. It’s certainly
more forgiving. You can use a checkpoint, a glowing red crystal –
go by them, save your game, and move on. It’s not like the enemies
respawn to make it risky to use it. It’s more like “hey, I got
here! Check!” And I can bank my XP there that I don’t really know
what to do with. That way if I go ahead and die, I respawn there
and know there’s a strong boss up ahead and I should put my points
into strength, or agility. It should always feel like it’s a
failure, but you’re supposed to experiment. If you die, you go back
to the checkpoint and move on.

Your art direction seems a lot more colourful than a lot
of comparable adventures. Is that another way you differentiate
yourselves?


It’s on purpose [but] it’s not like we said “there are so many
dark games, so let’s make a bright game!” It’s just what we like in
terms of visuals. It appeals to us and we think it appeals to other
people as well. We really tried to get it consistent, so we try to
have some gritty realism to it but there’s still colour in the
weapons and the enemies, which are larger are life but based on
realism. The cloth should look and move like cloth, and it’s all
very realistic based on light sources and how the environment
behaves. We try to make it credible but not just dark and grey.

Moving away from action RPGs, what else has influenced
the game?


Well, there’s been an awful lot through all those different media.
Of course, we started with a glance at the Lord of the
Rings
series but we’re also a fan of Game of Thrones,
which you may notice when it comes to voice acting. We wanted more
down to earth, gritty, not very clear and obvious acting. Game wise
it’s all from classics. We like a lot of classic fantasy games. In
Germany, the Gothic and Risen series are pretty
large [and] they also tried some different styles. Really, we find
references all over the place that we put together.

Is Continental Europe more welcoming of fantasy titles?
Risen, as you just mentioned, is hugely popular in Germany
but flopped in the UK.


I think you can compare this with music. The Risen guys
have their way of “playing music” — maybe they’re a grunge band
and some people like that kind of thing. But we’re a bit more like
a pop song. We might appeal to a broader audience, but that doesn’t
mean it’s a better approach, just a different one. We have a quite
international development team, people from across Europe and the
US. I don’t know how strongly we’ll score in the Asian markets but
I think we’ll try to bring this out big-time in the West. Maybe
everywhere, but I think there will territories where this game has
more appeal than others. Medieval fantasy is huge in North American
and Europe. We’re trying to hit a broader audience but not because
we want to appease, but because we want people to like the things
that we like!

Lords of the Fallen launches Autumn 2014 on PS4, Xbox
One and PC.

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18 June 2014 | 5:01 pm – Source: wired.co.uk
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