How does the mix of Pinocchio and soulslike play and feel? Our Lies of P review has all the details for you.
The tale of Pinocchio, the artificial boy, has seen numerous reinterpretations throughout the years, with most adaptations preserving the character’s whimsical essence. However, Lies of P takes a stark departure from the original narrative, placing the beloved childhood figure into a dark and ominous cityscape teetering on the edge of complete collapse, shrouded in a profound mystery waiting to be unraveled.
In the world of Lies of P, character customization is conspicuously absent from the narrative. Instead, players immerse themselves in P’s journey as he navigates the treacherous city of Krat, guided by a handful of assisting figures. Many of these characters pay homage to the source material but have been artfully adapted to seamlessly blend with the altered setting.
You’ll encounter a diverse cast of characters, including your travel companion and occasional mood-lifter, Gemini (inspired by Jiminy Cricket), the enigmatic blue-haired Sophia, assuming the role of the blue fairy, and Geppetto, the ingenious inventor and P’s creator. This beautifully wretched cityscape is also home to a plethora of eccentric, cunning, and endearing characters who will leave a lasting impression on your journey.
The gothic ambiance of Krat is truly captivating. As you step beyond the city’s gates for the first time, you’re greeted by the remnants of a once-thriving metropolis, now reduced to ruins. The weight of the atmosphere and the pervasive sense of impending doom gradually seep in. Burning carriages and rubble, blood-stained trails, and piles of mechanical and organic remains litter the alleyways and streets—a testament to the brutal strife that engulfs the city. It’s worth noting that, due to the loading screen mechanics and certain set pieces, along with the game’s designs and character depth, I couldn’t help but sense a distinct Bioshock influence in Lies of P, and it’s a welcome nod.
The game excels in environmental storytelling. While intricate posters, item descriptions, and various artifacts provide elaborate insights into Krat’s history, you’ll also uncover details through character interactions and conversations, gradually piecing together the puzzle of this enigmatic world. This blend of narrative elements leaves ample room for speculation and adds depth as you venture through the game’s captivating universe.
While the initial story concept of creations rebelling against their creators is certainly not a groundbreaking one, Lies of P manages to artfully explore and expand upon this idea, introducing intriguing facets to the narrative. As you progress (or keenly observe from the outset), you begin to realize that the heart of this mystery extends far beyond mere mechanical malfunctions. Hints of what lies ahead are thoughtfully woven into even the earliest stages of the game for attentive players, hinting at much darker forces at the core of this crisis. However, the narrative surprises do not conclude there, and it is genuinely worthwhile to experience the story in its entirety firsthand.
Moreover, in alignment with the original story’s themes, the game places a significant emphasis on ‘Lying’ during pivotal dialogue choices presented throughout your journey. These choices hold considerable sway over NPC interactions and ultimately influence the outcome of your personal story.
An omen for things to come…
From a gameplay perspective, returning players will immediately recognize familiar mechanics borrowed from titles like Bloodborne and Sekiro in Lies of P. While the game pays homage to its inspirations, it skillfully incorporates the best elements from each while maintaining its unique aesthetic. For instance, the once-clunky dodge roll becomes a precise dash when locked onto enemies, backstabs make a return, the perfect guard mechanic from Sekiro is integrated, and a special grindstone embedded in your ‘Legion Arm’ mimics the effects of bolt and fire paper.
Weapon durability is a more prominent feature in this installment. While durability played a role in the original Dark Souls with certain weapons depleting their durability quickly, it faded into insignificance in later entries. Lies of P revitalizes weapon durability in a clever way.
The Legion Arm prosthetic in Lies of P comes equipped with a special grindstone, which rapidly restores a weapon’s sharpness, even during combat. You have the flexibility to move at reduced speed and cancel the animation at will. Maintaining optimal sharpness is crucial as it directly affects your weapon’s damage output. Some special skill slots even provide additional benefits if you keep your weapon’s sharpness pristine.
It’s worth noting that Lies of P introduces several quality-of-life improvements to ease players into challenging mechanics and remove unnecessary frustrations. The hub area, Hotel Krat, includes a courtyard with a training dummy for practicing perfect guard timings and testing different weapons. Additionally, a small counter keeps track of the amount of Ergo, equivalent to Souls/Blood Echoes, dropped upon death, eliminating the need for manual counting.
Furthermore, dropped Ergo isn’t completely lost upon a second death before reclaiming; a small percentage is deducted from the total Ergo, and the reduced amount can be claimed at your most recent point of death. If you’re defeated by a boss, the Ergo will spawn before the boss’s chamber for you to recover. These changes help alleviate accumulating frustrations.
As for healing, your primary source is the Pulse Cell, functioning similarly to an Estus Flask, while ‘Stargazers’ serve as your Bonfire. The Stargazer not only restores your health but also allows inventory management, weapon assembly, and Legion Arm customization. While Bloodborne’s ‘Rally’ mechanic encouraged aggressive play, Lies of P incorporates it to a lesser extent, granting temporary reclaimable health when taking damage through blocking or mistiming a perfect guard. Another mechanic introduces a unique twist to combat healing.
If you run out of Pulse Cell charges, a pink bar gradually fills the Pulse Cell icon for each successful hit you land while on the brink of defeat. If you land enough hits in this critical state, you’ll earn a Pulse Cell charge for your careful offense. This feature saved me from potential game overs in challenging encounters, providing a well-deserved reward for precise play during high-stakes situations.
The combat in Lies of P feels satisfying, with impactful weapon strikes. While not a direct copy, it captures the essence of Bloodborne’s Trick Weapons in a distinct way. Each weapon consists of a handle and the weapon itself, both granting access to different Fable Arts—special abilities fueled by the Blue Fable Gauge under your health bar. This gauge fills as you land hits on your opponents, enabling you to unleash devastating offensive moves, buffs, and utilities.
However, the real depth lies in the weapon assembly mechanic, a commendable addition that sets the game apart in the saturated Souls-like market. Weapons in Lies of P consist of two components: the Blade and the Handle. With weapon assembly, you can disassemble both parts and mix and match them as you see fit. For example, I combined the Booster Glaive Handle with the Electric Coil Stick Head, creating an Electric Booster Coil Stick. It might be impractical, but the freedom to experiment is truly liberating.
Mix and match to your heart’s content!
You also gain access to the Legion Arm, a novel tool that introduces an additional layer of complexity to encounters. Its abilities significantly alter the dynamics of combat in various ways. For instance, you can deploy a wire that draws enemies towards you, a feature I frequently employed to deal with pesky foes on rooftops attempting to snipe you while you’re focused on avoiding the bane of Souls players: Gravity. Another enjoyable option is the Deus Ex Machina arm, enabling you to place proximity mines and leading to entertaining skirmishes. Furthermore, these arms can be upgraded, unlocking a range of additional abilities that greatly enhance their versatility and offer creative solutions to various challenges.
It’s worth noting that, akin to Bloodborne, the range of build possibilities may not be as extensive as in other Souls series entries. While you can still exercise some creativity, the core gameplay loop remains relatively consistent. Nonetheless, the weapons and Legion Arms provide immense enjoyment, ensuring you’ll stay engaged for countless hours as you carve your path through the diverse array of enemies scattered across Krat.
I’ll let gravity handle the rest.
Speaking of adversaries, Lies of P surprises players with a remarkably imaginative array of foes that transcends the typical generic humanoids one might expect in the early game. While you encounter the standard clunky mob puppets with conspicuous tells and a rudimentary combat style, the game introduces a diverse mix of adversaries. These include gracefully agile flesh-and-blood humans, mechanized opponents with a beastly aspect, and formidable elite puppet mobs that are both stronger and occasionally more unsettling. Additionally, there are the eldritch horrors that have taken residence in Krat, each offering a distinct flavor of dread. As someone who initially had concerns about the diversity of the enemy roster, I was delighted to find those apprehensions laid to rest, as the game continually escalates the spectacle as I progress further.
This is a game about puppets… right?
While I typically adopt a holistic approach when assessing a game’s value, for many, the quality and quantity of bosses hold pivotal importance in determining the worth of a Souls-like title and whether it’s worth investing in. Drawing from cherished memories of exceptional boss encounters in previous Souls games, spanning majestic and precise duels like Sword Saint Isshin in Sekiro to grotesque and intense battles like the Orphan of Kos, I entered Lies of P with curiosity about how its boss quality would measure up. Suffice it to say, it not only measures up but excels remarkably.
Both quality and quantity are abundantly present, with boss designs and move sets meticulously crafted to offer a solid sense of difficulty progression as you journey deeper into the narrative. Initial mechanical bosses retain their characteristic robotic clunkiness, complete with sparks emanating from their joints as they wind up for powerful slam attacks or execute unnaturally contorted movements before swiftly transitioning into rapid actions. As you progress further, the puppets become increasingly adept at concealing their mechanical tells, exhibiting an almost human-like fluidity in their motions.
The organic bosses introduce their unique tells and surprises, with numerous creative liberties taken, including bosses with multiple phases and unexpected transformations that significantly alter the battle’s tempo. Lies of P places immense emphasis on the visual fidelity and aesthetics of its enemies, particularly in the latter half of the game, where certain bosses offer challenges that can rival those found in mainline Souls titles.
Boss encounters are varied and well-crafted.
Leveling up follows a straightforward process in Lies of P. You accumulate Ergo, a mysterious energy source that fuels all puppets, and allocate it to enhance your character across six distinct attributes: Vitality, Vigor, Capacity, Motivity, Technique, and Advance. Vitality augments your health, Vigor primarily bolsters stamina, and Capacity influences your weight limits. Motivity and Technique serve dual purposes, resembling the Strength and Dexterity attributes, while Advance focuses on elemental and Legion Arm damage.
However, there exists a separate leveling mechanism that notably impacts your character. The P-organ upgrade tree allows you to utilize special materials acquired from defeated bosses to fortify P’s capabilities. This ranges from gaining additional offensive maneuvers to acquiring extra Pulse Cells and other enhancements.
The level design exhibits a high degree of polish and intricacy, with a seamless interconnection between various areas. The meticulous attention to detail in constructing the city’s diverse maps lends a practical and believably lived-in atmosphere. Multiple locked doors and gates are strategically placed throughout the city, permitting you to open shortcuts to later parts of the map, facilitating easier access to boss encounters and other points of interest. Furthermore, the game maintains variety in the locales you traverse, transitioning from a drab and gloomy cityscape to a sweltering industrial factory and a lush, green village, among others. This variety prevents the game from falling into repetition, though the relatively linear progression between areas might become noticeable, as there are limited expansive hidden areas to uncover, as far as I could ascertain.
The musical score adds to the game’s charm. Following the Souls tradition, general areas are accompanied by the sounds of the surrounding environment and the shuffling of enemies. However, certain locations like Hotel Krat and St. Frangelico Cathedral Chapel are complemented by somber melodies that evoke specific moods. In contrast, the boss themes receive special attention, featuring grand and adrenaline-pumping tunes that align perfectly with the intensity of the encounters.
Furthermore, Lies of P introduces a gramophone in the hub area, allowing you to collect records throughout your journey. These records can be played in the halls of Hotel Krat, serving as background music that continues even as you move around. While I’ve been somewhat remiss in finding more of these melodies, a single listen to ‘Feel’ has ignited my determination to seek out the rest, as the song unquestionably lives up to its name.
A fleeting solace in a growing nightmare…
Having delved extensively into the Souls games, the emergence of the Soulslike sub-genre ushered in numerous developers striving to replicate FromSoftware’s triumphant formula. Amidst a sea of titles that either missed the mark or excelled in one aspect while neglecting others, Lies of P unquestionably stands as a resounding success in the realm of Soulslikes. It serves as a heartfelt homage to the core elements that render Souls games exceptional: skillful worldbuilding intertwined with captivating combat and enemy design, all wrapped in an engaging narrative that helps it carve out its unique identity.
Throughout my playthrough, I personally encountered no bugs or frame rate drops, and the game ran smoothly on my Laptop (ROG Zephyrus M15 GU502). The control scheme, be it for keyboard or controller, proved equally effective and seamlessly interchangeable. Any criticisms I might have are ultimately minor quibbles that do not overshadow the game’s numerous strengths.
While the absence of multiplayer and invasions, along with a relatively linear progression and fewer expansive hidden areas, is worth noting, I’m willing to overlook these factors given the game’s substantial length and consistently engaging experience from start to finish. It’s worth acknowledging that pure Motivity-focused builds appear to have an easier time compared to Technique-heavy builds due to the effectiveness of blocking with the former. There were also sporadic instances in the early game where enemy bodies inexplicably disintegrated and vanished while others remained, but such minor issues are rare and far between. In the grand scheme, Lies of P offers an enjoyable experience regardless of your preferred playstyle.
In my assessment, this game easily earns a 9/10 rating, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of the Souls series in search of their fix within the current gaming landscape. With a beautifully crafted story that is sure to resonate deeply, Lies of P is a compelling addition to the Soulslike genre.