Lies of P is a soulslike that struggles to totally detach itself from the pitfalls of a very well-trodden genre. In some ways, it’s a game that feels a bit outdated. These days, even FromSoftware’s own games are starting to diverge from years-long trends and ideas that have been recycled since 2011. Both Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Elden Ring mark giant leaps in evolving the soulslike genre. And as we see more and more games trying to live up to the success of Dark Souls, It’s hard not to feel like the genre is beginning to get stale. Unfortunately, Lies of P isn’t bringing much else to the table either.
Lies of P is so decidedly close to a generic soulslike that it struggles to form an identity for itself. It’s to the point that my muscle memory from playing other games in this genre constantly kicks in and carries me through challenging moments. This is a problem because I barely felt the desire to use Lies of P‘s unique mechanics that much. But where it counts, Lies of P does its best to make the game feel fun. And it’s one of the better soulslikes to come out recently. That alone is enough of a reason to give it a go even if it’s not particularly unique.
Lies of P is a dark retelling of the classic story of Pinocchio. Now you don’t need to be a Pinocchio expert to understand what’s going on in the storyline. But having a basic understanding of its plot will make Lies of P‘s story more enjoyable. And the way in which Lies of P retells this story is actually rather refreshing. Pinocchio has always had a darker vibe in its subtext, so it fits right at home in the soulslike genre.
The game takes place in the city of Krat, with the vibe of a dark Belle Époque setting. It’s a world that’s as beautiful as it is melancholic. And while most of the game is rather dark and dour, there are moments where the visuals shine. I’ve got a particular fondness for the Moonlight Town which you find partway through the game. As you ascend through the village to reach the cathedral at the top of the hill, you can see the city of Krat below just as the sun rises, and it’s a glorious visual.
There’s no doubt that images from Lies of P will likely remind you of Bloodborne. And while the game doesn’t quite compare to the visual variety of FromSoftware’s eldritch fantasy, Lies of P does have a rich tone and atmosphere. On purely a visual level, Lies of P looks very good, and its performance on PC never faltered once. I got a smooth 60 FPS at 1440p throughout my playtime. Lies of P‘s visuals elevate the game from being a bland retelling of Pinocchio to something that feels a little more special.
No lies to be had here
The game feel in Lies of P is good. And that is something that a lot of soulslikes tend to struggle with. That slow methodical movement is hard to nail and Lies of P handles itself better than most. By that same notion, Lies of P doesn’t do enough to make itself stand out from the crowd. It’s a game that tries to follow in the footsteps of Bloodborne and Dark Souls but never manages to step out from their shadow.
Luckily, Lies of P does have a few things that set it apart slightly. The most compelling of these is the Weapon Assemble system that lets you detach the blades and handles of weapons and combine them to make new ones. You can create a lot of fun combos with this that keep the gameplay interesting. Then there’s the Legon Arms which come in eight different flavors. These arms give you nifty moves like grappling an enemy and pulling it towards you or launching an electric burst of energy.
Lies of P‘s leveling system is made up of a few systems. The first is the more familiar one where you can spend Ergo, AKA Souls, on level-up points. These can be spent to upgrade stats like Vitality which increases your max health. This game also features the same weapon scaling system as Dark Souls. Weapons have a Motivity and Technique rating, and you’ll get a bonus to damage if you’re using a weapon that coincides with one of these stats.
Then we have the other aspect of character tuning which is the P-Organ system. With Quartz, you can unlock perks that give your character new moves or increase various aspects of your overall toolset. One of the most useful upgrades is an additional dodge you can perform immediately after the first. But then there are simpler upgrades like one that increases the total amount of healing items you can carry.
The game’s loop is like that of most other soulslikes. So if you’ve played any of them before you’ll likely know exactly what to expect. You’ll venture out into the city of Krat and explore linear areas that are joined together by large boss encounters. The areas themselves are populated with enemies to fight, loot to gather, and notes to find that give greater context to the game’s events. And then you’ll return to Hotel Krat which acts like your hub to upgrade weapons and talk to various characters. But it’s hard to find any of this stuff compelling on its own terms.
One of this game’s biggest problems is its variety. Lies of P doesn’t have a massive pool of enemies for you to fight. For the most part, you’ll be fighting the same two to three Puppet variants throughout the game. Then later on you’ll be facing off against zombies afflicted with a strange disease, who don’t feel much different to fight. Enemy types simply aren’t as varied as I had hoped they’d be. And while there are tougher mini-bosses spread throughout the levels, they don’t do enough to make these areas feel distinct enough.
But there are a few problems
What makes Lies of P even more misshapen is the way it tries to mix mechanics from various games. It has the stamina management from Dark Souls, a similar version of the rally system from Bloodborne, and a strange rendition of the posture system from Sekiro. But none of these systems really complement the other. The stagger system in particular is very strange. When you time your blocks exactly right, you’ll get a perfect block, similar to Sekiro’s perfect parry. And as you do this, the boss’ stagger will slowly increase. Other things contribute to building this up like simply attacking the boss or enemy. And when it’s maxed out, a white border will surround the enemy’s lifebar. You then need to do a Fable attack or execute a charged heavy attack on the foe to then perform a fatal attack.
This system would be fine if Lies of P actually showed you the stagger bar. But you cannot see the stagger gauge of enemies anywhere in the game. Which makes it hard to tell where the ebb and flow of a fight is going. Then there’s the fact that the window for perfect blocking is so small, that it hardly feels like it’s worth the risk. And when you just normally block attacks you’ll take a fair bit of damage. You can regain a small portion of your health if you attack immediately after blocking. However, the game isn’t paced like Bloodborne, it operates a little slower like Dark Souls. So this fast-paced mechanic doesn’t mesh well with other aspects that feel geared towards a slower game.
It might just seem like I’m nitpicking a lot of small mechanics, but later encounters expect you to make full use of these to prevail. And when none of them feel particularly good to execute, the fun factor of the game drops immensely. Soulslikes are generally extremely hard to balance properly, and it seems that Lies of P wrestles with this too. Lies of P still isn’t a very tough game to beat. However, in moments where these systems become necessary to prevail, it certainly becomes awkward.
The truth is complicated
Lies of P is a soulslike that does something I find rare in this subgenre. It strives to tell its story and present its world in a striking way. And it understands some of the basics of how to make a soulslike feel good to play. These are two aspects that are extremely difficult to pull off in a way that doesn’t have you longing to jump back into a FromSoftware title instead.
However, Lies of P also struggles to find an identity for itself. While its world is captivating and the additions it makes to this genre are neat, it still feels like an imitation of the heights of this genre. And that’s a problem that a lot of soulslikes have currently. If you’re simply looking for a soulslike to sink your teeth into then Lies of P should sate you. But don’t expect anything that’s necessarily new or exciting for this genre. It may be unfair to want that from Lies of P, but as this genre ages these games need to start doing something different to elevate themselves further.
Lies of P releases on September 19 for PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One.