The soulslike genre is a hard nut to crack, due in part to the genre's very name. The standards set by FromSoftware’s games can only be emulated to an extent without turning into a half-baked knock-off, yet time has shown that straying too far from the ideas that fuel such titles do not bode well for developers—this is the tightrope Lies of P finds itself walking.
Developed by Round8 Studio and published by Neowiz, Lies of P weaves a simple yet effective spin on the classic tale of Pinocchio we all grew up on, with equal reverence for its subject material and gameplay influences. In doing so, Lies of P creates an experience most soulslikes can only hope to achieve.
So, is Lies of P truthful in forging a unique tale of its own in a desiccated genre? Here’s my honest review.
The gameplay of Lies of P is what you would expect from any soulslike that takes the genre seriously. You have the usual dodge, roll, and parry mechanics to avoid attacks, and a combination of light and heavy attacks to return damage of your own. Alongside this, you will level up your stats using the currency Ergo, which you collect from defeated enemies. Further down the line, you will unlock more skillsets through the P-Organ skill-tree, allowing you to dodge more effectively or carry more items. The only minor downside in this regard is the levelling system, which allows no means to re-spec your points until you are nearly halfway through the game. This can make poor leveling decisions really sting at times.
In terms of weapons, Lies of P differentiates itself from other soulslikes through its genius Weapon Assembling system. Every weapon—apart from the Boss Weapons you can craft mid-way through the game—can be separated by handle and blade. Every blade has certain characteristics in terms of damage, while every handle alters the way in which the weapon is swung. This means you can assemble weapons of various sorts, depending on their preference. Furthermore, every blade and handle have their own Fable Art special attack, akin to the Ashes of War from Elden Ring. This is an absolute game-changer, and I cannot emphasize how much variety this system brings to the overall combat.
Other than weapons, Lies of P has its own version of the Shinobi Prosthetic from Sekiro in the form of the Legion Arm, which can be transformed into various armaments—from a flamethrower to a shield that explodes with a fiery blast when parried correctly.
The game is hard, without a shadow of doubt. However, with all the aforementioned elements combined, Lies of P allows you to craft various builds that can be utilized to devastating effect when utilized in perfect harmony. Your second playthrough is guaranteed to be a night and day difference from your first, if you so desire.
Incredibly difficult boss fights against powerful and at times towering enemies are part and parcel of the soulslike genre, and Lies of P does not disappoint in this segment. The main bosses are designed intricately, along with the stage upon which they perform. The attack patterns vary wildly with each fight, to the point where simply using a singular tactic of rolling, dodging, or parrying may lead you into hot water. The trick is to combine every part of your arsenal.
Some boss fights transition into a second phase through beautifully rendered cutscenes, allowing players a moment of respite before plunging them into an even harder struggle. Apart from the main bosses, many areas contain nameless mini-bosses that can often times pose as big a challenge as the main boss fights. My only gripe with the boss fights in Lies of P is the uneven difficulty scaling, where some bosses can be so unfair that you become stuck in an endless loop of farming Ergo to level up to stand a chance at defeating them. This is being addressed in patches, however.
The world design of the city of Krat in Lies of P is brilliant, to say the least. Often times, I would find myself clearing out the enemies in a level just to toggle into walking mode to appreciate the details. Taking heavy inspiration from the technologically advanced and prosperous Belle Époque era of Europe, the world is filled with stunning architecture and grandeur at every glance. The city streets are littered with the cargo and remains of desperate citizens trying to escape the puppet frenzy, but not all is lost. At times, one can find the few survivors who still remain huddled inside their houses—some play the piano, while others want to converse with you.
As you progress, the world opens up to new areas away from the city center, taking you through rough swamps, culverts, and huge vertical areas that plunge downward in a very clear nod to the Dark Souls formula. The level design in Lies of P is extremely linear, but that is not much of a criticism when the levels have so much depth and variety, both in terms of enemies and platforming sections. Also, minor player conveniences like broken railings to get to an area faster, or the training area located right beside the Weapon Upgrade section really drives home the understanding the developer has of its playerbase. All in all, the city of Krat is a world meticulously designed for immersion, and is executed to near-perfection.
The story of Lies of P is, as stated in the intro, directly inspired from the work of Carlo Collodi’s Adventures of Pinocchio. The respect the devleopers have for the Italian author’s work shines through the various characters who are inspired directly from the novel, as well as some original characters who are interesting enough to be in the book itself. The game takes liberty in re-spinning the tale to create a unique story that is both intriguing and easy to digest. Like in the original tale, Pinocchio is a puppet with the rare ability to lie. However, unlike the source material, Lies of P presents lying as a humane decision, one that gets P one step closer to becoming a real boy.
For further lore-building, every level is filled with notes and posters in the form of collectibles that give a deeper insight into the workings of Krat, at times hinting at the next boss fight in your way. The many NPC characters (who are voiced tremendously well) can be interacted to gain further knowledge of the lore. While not as complex as lore in FromSoftware titles, the story of Lies of P is easy to follow, engaging, and thoroughly effective at completely immersing you in it.
Verdict: A true soulslike experience with all the key tenets that define the genre
Through all its similarities to Bloodborne and the Dark Souls series, calling Lies of P just another soulslike would do it a fair bit of injustice. It is a love-letter to FromSoftware’s design approach, written in a language that every fan of the genre will adore. With Lies of P, Round8 Studio have nailed the soulslike formula down to a T, and it brings with it all the charms and rush of excitement only the souslike genre can deliver. I highly recommend playing Lies of P.
A free copy of Lies of P was provided to PGG by the publisher for review purposes.