Ever since Dark Souls gained widespread appeal, it seems like every company wants to make a Soulslike game. Some are better than others, but very few can hit the same highs as FromSoftware’s own creations. It’s a situation reminiscent of Monster Hunter, back when that was the hot genre. Despite this Neowiz hopes to win players over with Lies of P. Following a successful demo we have high hopes, but will it reach these highs or is it all a big lie?
Lies of P starts with a rather generic gaming narrative. Sometime in the past the world was in a better place. Overtime a disease took hold of the world, along with puppets going rogue, turning the world into a depressing dystopia that you need to transverse to accomplish your goals.
Familiar Names in an Unfamiliar Setting
While this is the initial premise, most of the narrative is centered on the idea of what it means to be human. As players progress the concept becomes harder to define as some humans come off as less so and certain puppets more so. It’s a concept that works very well, especially for a story that is known for exploring these themes.
Where Lies of P really stands out is the lying concept. Initially it seemed like a straightforward morality system. Players were often presented situations where you can bend the truth to make someone feel better, affirm their point of view, or simply avoid being a jerk. Eventually a tracker of sorts is added that holds true to the iconic concept, but the charm starts to appear when you decide to tell the truth.
Without revealing too much there was one scene where this concept really stands out. You’re given a quest to present an item to a specific person. Upon completing the request, the person shows disgust at the thoughtful gesture. At this point you can return to the quest giver to report the outcome. Options were basically telling them the gift was trash, or sparing their feelings by saying the gift was appreciated. I wanted to see how things would change by being a jerk, but surprisingly it introduced new narrative elements. By being truthful a new mystery was revealed to uncover.
Unfortunately, this charm isn’t present in everything option. It might not make sense for every game to take this approach, but this is one where the story is so commonly associated with lies it works extremely well. Speaking of which, having some association with the narrative adds a bit more to the adventure.
As much as I would love to say I read the original Carlo Collodi story, most of my familiarity stems from the Disney movie. I’d imagine this holds true for the vast majority of players as well. Despite this, and admittedly poor memories of said movie, enough references are present to appreciate what Lies of P was going for.
Despite having a strong narrative, Lies of P goes from a great Soulslike to outright frustrating. Unfortunately, I strongly believe Neowiz, like a lot of developers, approached the concept with the idea that hard is good. Many section lack the nuanced approach to difficulty, making them feel cheap, frustrating, and outright unenjoyable.
An easy example of what I mean happens towards the middle of the church stage. Players need to walk across a single plank of wood without falling off or dying. Around halfway there is an enemy that throws things at you, which even if you block, will knock you over the edge. To successfully complete this section you need to rush to the middle part where there is more flooring, and then time out your movement between the gear and enemy attack. It honestly isn’t difficult per se, though approaching it the wrong way will force you to redo the whole section.
This is far from a lone example as later stages rely on similar mechanics increasingly often. Ironically, one of the biggest challenges is likely unintended. For whatever reason Lies of P has some interesting collision issues. Attacking the wrong way can hit an object, oftentimes deflecting your attack. It’s one of the easiest ways to die and rarely feels like it’s my fault. This isn’t even due to pride, like you’ll cross a bridge, the middle part will break and an enemy will immediately block your path off. If you swing in a way that hits the ropes you’ll likely fail to attack and either take substantial damage, fall off, or both.
Negatives aside, Lies of P‘s approaches to bosses is great on a fundamental level. A lot of these games I can use a random weapon I like without it feeling detrimental. With Lies of P I was often pushes to revaluate build, approach, and even experiment with the fascinating weapon system.
I call it fascinating since players can effectively make different weapons to approach a wide variety of situations. Each handle dictates how a weapon attacks, with the blade determining how that damage is dealt. In practice it allows you to add range, use completely different move sets to avoid the aforementioned bridge situation, or make it so certain perks are accessible. It honesty isn’t the most practical, nor does it explain things in a way that makes it user friendly, though still really cool to see.
Another welcome concept is pushing different mechanics. It isn’t enough to know how to parry or dodge, certain enemies/bosses will require creative uses of your abilities to overcome. This keeps things extremely interesting, as that alone can dictate how you approach various things or build weapons. That said, the learning curve can feel a bit random.
For all its positives, gameplay also suffers from trying to add its own spin that isn’t needed. Early game is set up where weapon durability isn’t particularly important. Not important for boss fights, little impact for normal enemies, to just having no real use outside of specific situations. Late game pushes it a bit more, which often feels needless.
It works for Monster Hunter since it builds on the core concept. You’re hunting, collecting materials, so sharpening a weapon isn’t unreasonable. Here you open yourself up to a sizable amount of damage because the system isn’t particularly intuitive.
Pushing up or down on the d-pad will allow you to cycle between items in your bag. Making practically any mistake with this system will result in death. All it takes is swapping to durability, forgetting to swapping back to healing and you grind your blade for just long enough for the enemy to best you. It would be nice to see it change it, but unfortunately Use Belt Item has a single binding. Perhaps an update will add some quality of life things like that.
Certain Scenes are Extremely Well Crafted
Level design also suffers from being overly predictable. Most stages are a linear path presented in an obtuse way. Any deviation from the main path is either a shortcut, important item, or often both. It makes exploration feel underwhelming as there isn’t much to find. It’s just a question of whether you go left instead of right and remember to do that. Some things are locked behind events, though that is the type of thing where you either get it, read a guide to get it, or never know you missed it.
Finally, I wanted to touch briefly on graphics and performance. For the most part I had no issues with performance. Levels are largely designed to be one large map, a concept that works surprisingly well. Anytime there was a loading screen it moved relatively fast. That being said, graphics are on the weaker side. I lost count how often I’d see my sword float in the ground/wall, the very same object that will deflect my attack if I were to strike. On a high note, levels tend to be diverse and interesting enough to make new sections quite interesting to explore.
Lies of P Review Verdict
Lies of P: Lies of P is an interesting game with some elements reminiscent of Soulslike titles. While it doesn't fully embrace the challenging yet rewarding approach that defines the source experiences, it also distinguishes itself by not attempting to be a mere clone. Notable differences can be found in its durability and weapon-swapping mechanics, as well as its more traditional narrative style. Consequently, players will likely have strong opinions about this unique approach. Although it isn't inherently flawed, there's room for improvement through thoughtful design changes. – Grant
Editor’s Note: Lies of P were reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided for review purposes.