One of the biggest challenges any Soulslike has is the direct comparison to From and how intrinsically linked the formulas tend to be.
Standard tutorial section full of messaging. Pick up a weapon, learn to block, roll, fight some enemies, open door to wide open space while shielding eyes from blinding light. Fight overpowered boss that is designed to kick your ass the first five times before you prevail. Then the game really begins.
I’m going to be honest, Lies of P doesn’t break that trend. And that’s absolutely fine because it worked for Elden Ring all these years after Dark Souls and that went on to win Game of the Year in 2022. Why break a winning formula?
The difficulty is that most Soulslikes end up copying the homework so much, they don’t actually offer anything new. In fact, outside of the brilliant Remnant 2 earlier this year, you could certainly argue the point that most have fallen into this trap.
Lies of P at least attempts to mix things up with its mechanics and while it comes across more admirably than always successfully, it still manages to be a very effective, enjoyable challenge, that has a good sense of balance and an articulate story weaving everything into place.
Let’s dial back a bit first, though. Lies of P is, as you might have guessed, a mature take on the classic story Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi and not the animated Disney feature with a fiendish fox and kids turning into donkeys. Still unsettling to this day….
P is, of course, Pinocchio, but rather than a wooden boy with strings over his head, you play a rather dashing-looking, raven-haired rogue who wields a powerful left arm of steel for punching through walls. He also, of course, wields a cutlass to do some striking and guard attacks.
You find yourself journeying through the city of Krat, full of dark, twisted horrorscapes and devilish animatronic soldiers and guards, left to hack, slash, roll and backpedal your way into and out of trouble.
The aforementioned steel arm plays a part in that, of course, as you use it to push back enemies and give them a good old wallop if they slip or get in too close. However, you need to watch the health and durability of the item as it deteriorates after every strike, even if you don’t hit anything. It can fortunately be recuperated after visiting a Stargazer (Bonfire) or a workshop.
That’s one thing Lies of P does quite differently. Another is the use of Fable Arts. Essentially, each weapon in the game has two distinct abilities, both serving you quite differently with one usually more powerful than the other. Once you’ve maxed out your energy through striking and blocking – obviously depending on the weapon you have – these both vary in style and potency, but they ensure each weapon has its own characteristic and your gameplay experience will feel different as you progress and upgrade.
You’re also going to have to regularly sharpen your weapon on the fly with its quality diminishing upon every strike you make. I suppose it makes sense since you’re clanging metal against metal on and on again, but it’s something to be very aware of as you progress and it becomes more and more obvious your strikes deal less and less damage.
Blocking feels quite unique in Lies of P as well, mostly doing away with a shield which is more than a common sight in these games and instead using the blade itself, guarding and deflecting at the right time. This also contributes to a stagger mechanic which sometimes puts you in position to deal a heavy blow when there’s a white box around an enemy and set them up for a deadly finishing move.
It’s funny, then, that people have compared this more to Bloodborne because I’d argue the stagger and deflection abilities put this closer to Sekiro.
And this really sums up the quality of combat in the game which, honestly, often feels as good as both aforementioned games. The initial aesthetics certainly lend themselves to the nightmirac goth fantasy world of Bloodborne, but it’s the nature of some of the enemies you come up against, the terrifying forms they take and the mob placement which still manages to catch you off guard, that really reminded me of the beloved classic. And the need for timing and patience that also gave me those strong Sekiro vibes, even if you’re being cautious and careful.
These mobs, in particular, can offer some really brutal challenges. But it’s the bosses you really want to watch out for. I mean, it wouldn’t be a Soulslike without a challenging boss fight or two, and you will definitely find those in Lies of P, a game that often times relishes in your misfortune.
Some patterns end up really throwing you off and things change up mid-fight to keep you on your toes, but it all leads to a real sense of satisfaction when you down the fiend and can take the next step in the story. Which, to be honest, is also quite a nice surprise.
I particularly liked the game’s depiction of the Blue Fairy and the way Jiminy Cricket is used, but also the intrigue offered up by P and dear old dad, Geppetto. Stories aren’t always the first thing you think of when it comes to a Soulslike but here it really works.
Sticking within the narrative and again, keeping on brand, there are various occasions where you can tell Lies, which is quite a thing for a puppet to do apparently. This is cool little narrative device which often sees P convince people he’s a real boy. But can also be quite effective in certain situations, which I won’t get into here.
Finally, a note on the visuals, which are genuinely stunning. This beautifully realised world is gorgeous in its brutality, the performance holds up and is stable, and action flows wonderfully, with satisfying aesthetical elements, like P getting soaked in oil after defeating his enemies. Character depiction is genuinely stunning and attention to detail of the buildings really catches the eye.
It’s all coupled with a musical score that has this suitably magic twist to it, giving off that Disney flavor ever so slightly, but never quite veering down the route of ‘An Actor’s life for me’, instead providing suitably sinister undertones and a sense of wonder to suit the setting.
Lies of P doesn’t have magnificently overhauled mechanics that make it stand apart from others in the genre, but what we do have is a well-tuned, great depiction of classic games in the genre with a well-engineered story driving it forward and some memorable encounters you won’t soon forget.
Lies of P is a fantastic Soulslike in its own right. It ventures to do things a bit differently with some of its choice mechanics and presents a surprisingly compelling story which really helps bring everything together. But it’s the combat, flow and performance that really seal this one as a solid entry in a popular, but often overcrowded genre. While not perfect and certainly a challenge that will not be for everyone, Lies of P is one of the best non-From Soulslikes you can pick up and play right now. And probably the closest you’ll get to playing Bloodborne on a format that’s not PlayStation.
+ Satisfying, moment to moment combat with some nice unique touches
+ Memorable boss encounters
+ Stunning aesthetics and performance, complimented beautifully with a magically sinister score
+ Surprisingly engaging story, built on P’s Lie system
– This one is really tough and is not going to be for everyone
– Doesn’t really deviate itself far enough from others in the genre that do things better
Lies of P is out now on PC, PlayStation and Xbox Game Pass
Code Kindly Provided by NeoWiz for review purposes
Tested on Xbox Series X