Lords of the Fallen, the upcoming RPG by Deck 13 and CI Games Studio, has gotten lots of people quite excited. Promising to deliver a hardcore gameplay experience in an RPG package, Lords of the Fallen has often been described as a European Dark Souls. We recently spoke to Lords of the Fallen’s Executive Producer Tomasz Gop about story, gameplay, tech, and how his experience with The Witcher has shaped Lords of the Fallen’s development. And, of course, we get his opinion on single player games.
Lords of the Fallen is set in a rich world of mystery and divinity, revolving around the struggle between humanity and their god. While specific details about how you’ll move through that world and what the exact narrative experience will be is yet to be revealed, Gop let us in on a few more details regarding the world of Lords of the Fallen.
“The legend has it, that many thousand years ago humanity has fought and defeated their god and his army by imprisoning him underground for what seemed to be forever. As a last desperate act, the god tried to break free and struck his hand through the ground shaping a monstrous mountain range that is no more than a symbol of ancient times these days.
Also, humanity has all this time believed that evil is not a part of our nature and that it can be cast away, exorcised from ourselves. Even recently, few experiments on that matter have proved to be successful. Is that the reason why now demons from the fallen god’s army started to reappear? Well, that’s for players to find out.”
We know there is a main questline to play through, but where it will take us is unknown at this point. We do know that the story is not completely linear. The choices you make will impact the way the story plays out. Gop confirmed that there will be multiple endings, and that they depend on choices that the player makes throughout the game.
While we already revealed that the main story is only about 15 hours long if you rush it, the game as a whole should last a very long time. The main plot is “independent of how much side exploration there actually is in the game.” allowing for “quite a lot” of extra things to do, Gop assured us – like side quests, “optional world sections”, and secrets. Additional side quests and exploration, along with a New Game + mode, should complete your gameplay experience, potentially offering an infinite amount of replayability. “But if we’re talking about strictly walking through the main quest,” said Gop, “and skipping everything else – what a loss! – then something along the lines of 15 hours might give you an idea [of the game’s length].”
Lords of the Fallen is not a story driven game, however, and Gop makes that fact unashamedly known. “[Lords of the Fallen] is not a story-centric game.” He told us. “We don’t want to say that this game is featuring the storyline that is as complex vast as other “orthodox” RPGs out there. Or that, for example, the storyline of LORDS is as complex as its combat system. We are open about where we put the emphasis: gameplay.”
Gop sees this honest focus as a plus. “One of the key reasons The Witcher franchise was able to build its hype was consistency and focusing on the key features.” Gop told us. “From day one, CDP was clear about what type of game it was and what kind of players should keep their tabs on it.” That experience with The Witcher series has informed Gop’s approach to talking about Lords of the Fallen. It’s about honesty, and about appealing to your audience. “Even though [Lords of the Fallen is] not the same type of game [as The Witcher], the rules for being open, clear and for communicating things in a comprehensible way don’t change.”
Lords of the Fallen will be primarily a gameplay experience, and the team seems to be putting quite a bit of effort in creating a game that hits all the right notes in that department.
Instead of making a sandbox world, popular with modern RPGs, Lords of the Fallen instead takes a semi-open level approach. “[This was a] decision [we] made at the very start – we’re not a sandbox game, we’re not an orthodox RPG – we’re an Action RPG.” It was also a practical issue for the team, Gop admitting that “[t]ime, money, quality” also played a part in that decision.
We already revealed that character classes and progression would build upon the three class, three pillar development process. The initial class choice – Cleric, Rogue, or Fighter – determines the magic pool that a player will have access to. Gear and stats are the other two focuses for development, with players finding or crafting new gear as they progress, and purchasing stat points with XP. Certain gear and stats helps certain character classes more than others, but there are no restrictions on how you develop your character – apart from the class magic restrictions. It sounds like a traditional system, and it may well be, but it’s widely used in games for a very good reason – it works.
Gop was completely frank about their goals with combat – “Cutting the long story short, it’s not “unlike anything before”.” Gop stated. “It’s more like “all the best games you’ve played before”.” Why reinvent the wheel, if you can mix and match already great gameplay elements into an improved whole? “We’re aiming at getting the different proportions of ingredients from RPGs, fighter games and even strategies into one big bowl to make a soup that is… spicy, filling and addictive.” Instead of distinguishing itself by creating new, untested combat systems, instead Lords of the Fallen is relying on a “challenge without punishment” approach. What that means is that players will learn by dying, “immediately [able to] point your finger at the mistake you’ve made… A pure forge of skills.”
“[I]t’s going to be a system that’s not very easy to learn, but we’re making sure players have all the tools needed to grasp it.” Gop expanded. “What’s even more important, it’s not a punishing experience because you can distribute the learning process along the way at your own pace.”
This die-and-improve system focus does sound a lot like Dark Souls’ approach. Gop acknowledges the comparison, stating that Lords of the Fallen will present Dark Souls’ challenge by “basing the foundations of fun and entertainment on the process of learning the combat tactics and strategies.”
“The more players know about the nature of the challenge that’s ahead of them, the more they can read, study and practice before getting to the crucial boss battles, the less frustrating or punishing the experience. Even though it’s still pretty much the same challenge.”
And there will be challenge aplenty, with several dozens of enemy types found in the game. “A vast majority of our enemy types are unique,” Gop explained, “but here and there where you will meet enemies similar to what you’ve seen before, varied just that tiny bit.” These varied enemies may use similar attack patterns, but with an extra “something nasty” to surprise players with.
As for development platforms, Lords of the Fallen is a next-gen title first and foremost. Lead development platform is both of the next-gen consoles – PS4 and Xbox One. “But it’s not really fair,” Gop explained. The developers are also giving the PC version “a lot of love”, including working on native PC controls. “I don’t want to make the impression that any of the platforms is being left behind. PC is a next-gen platform too by any standard.”
Lords of the Fallen is making some interesting technological choices. Eschewing a licenced option, Lords of the Fallen is instead running on Deck 13’s proprietary Fledge Engine, which has been used for previous projects like Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within. Gop told us that large parts of the engine have been updated or rewritten for Lords of the Fallen. What this upgraded version of Fledge is capable of is unknown at the moment. Gop assured us that the game looks quite good. “You have to see it.” Gop told us. “I’m fairly positive that it will speak for itself. It truly is breathtaking.”
As for specific next-gen features, Gop stated that they would play their part. While not introducing anything truly revolutionary, Deck 13 are instead using technology to “emboss” their art direction, and how the art links to gameplay. “For example,” Gop told us, “particle effects are bound to the idea of LORDS traversing from their own dimension with a lot of energy cumulating and then blasting in for the very moment of the skip.” Cloth simulation is being linked to character status – “the richer the character, the more complex [their] clothes.” How Lords of the Fallen will utilise specific console hardware features, like the PS4’s touchscreen or the Xbox One’s Kinect, is yet to be announced.
“I’m actually hyped beyond reason for the “new-gen” consoles’ sharing features.” stated Gop. “I’ve always been very fond of games that find ways to bind communities around themselves. With things like video recording and easy sharing it’s become so much more approachable now.”
With the new age of streaming and social connectivity, does that spell disaster for the single player game? “I don’t personally think that [single player] games will ever die – it’s just this particular kind of experience that people will always keep looking for. I’ll never forget my time spent with games like Deus Ex or S.T.A.L.K.E.R.” Gop told us. “I’m on your side guys, single player is my personal favorite kind of user experience in games.”
There are some details on which Gop is still remaining strictly mum. Gop wouldn’t give us a specific date for a gameplay video reveal, sagely stating “life taught me not to give specific dates before they’re set in stone”. He assured us that the team has been working on the first gameplay trailer for weeks, however, and that it would be coming “soon”. Gop also wouldn’t give details about who is composing the soundtrack, telling us that they’re still working on “something strong” for that particular reveal. We also asked Gop about resolution and framerate – “4k and 200Hz rock-solid.” he replied. “For trailers on a kick-ass TV of course. Oh, sorry, you mean the game? Sorry, we don’t want to discuss this so early.”
Thanks to Tomasz Gop for taking the time to talk to us, and we look forward to hearing more about Lords of the Fallen in the coming year. Lords of the Fallen is due to hit PS4, Xbox One, and PC sometime in Fall 2014 (that’s Autumn English users and Spring for those below the centreline). We will of course bring you all the latest news and details for Lords of the Fallen as they emerge.