Lies Of P

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Neowiz Games
Developer: Round 8 Studio
Release Date: Sept. 19, 2023


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PC Review - 'Lies of P'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 18, 2023 @ 11:00 p.m. PDT

Set in a cruel, dark Belle Époque world, Lies Of P is a Souls-like Action/RPG inspired by Carlo Collodi's classic Italian novel Pinocchio.

For a while, the idea of darkening classic fairy tales was en vogue. From movies to books to TV shows and games, we saw the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves reverting from the more popular child-friendly versions to the darker iterations of the tales. Although this hasn't been done in a while, it's making a comeback with the likes of Lies of P.

You play the role of Pinocchio, a puppet created by the artisan Gepetto that has been awakened in an abandoned train car by a mysterious blue butterfly. You exit from the car and into the city of Krat, where puppets were used for labor but have since revolted and killed any humans they could find. Guided by the butterfly's voice and Gemini, a cricket puppet in a lamp, you go to a hotel to find the whereabouts of your creator, discover what's causing this, and hopefully put a stop to it.

Like the games it is basing itself on, the story exists but is told in such a piecemeal manner that it's easy to get lost. The introduction provides a slight recap of the events that occurred before you woke up, but it's only shown after you beat the first big boss, which is an hour into the game. Names that are supposed to be important are thrown around casually, long before you meet them or know of how important they are to the world. The same goes for some events, like the fact that a petrifying disease is floating around. Despite this, there are moments when you'll appreciate what the development team has done to familiar characters, such as the Fox and Cat becoming mercenaries. For the most part, you're not going to pay much attention to the tale unless you like deciphering lore.

If you're familiar with the Souls-like subgenre, you know exactly what to expect. Combat punishes you for blindly flailing away, as every enemy hits you hard or gets in a ton of hits if you leave yourself open. Fighting is more methodical, since you're trying to bait the enemy into giving you an opening or learning to immediately block or parry if your blow is met with a block. The weight of your weapons and gear plays a big part in determining your dodge ability, which is important since you'll often rely on that move. You carry some healing items, and while using a Stargazer — the game's equivalent of the Demon's Souls bonfire — refills every meter, it also resurrects every slain monster. You have unlimited lives, and dying means getting resurrected at a Stargazer, but you can use that chance to recover any money you lost upon death. The game is kind enough to leave all of that outside of the door before a boss fight, should you die there.

The basic mechanics are as precise as the games the genre was inspired by, but one aspect that was tweaked is the stamina meter. Stamina still gets drained when performing anything but a light walk. Every attack, dodge, and run drains some stamina, and you can't do any of those things without it. When compared to other games, the stamina meter fills up at a fast enough pace that you never feel the need to use items to regain it, and you don't need to back off from a skirmish because of stamina, so it's a more action-oriented title like Bloodborne but isn't action-heavy.

When Lies of P was revealed, many players felt that it was using Bloodborne as its main Souls-like inspiration, and it only takes a few minutes to see some of those influences in action. Aside from the aforementioned stamina meter tweak, the game rewards immediate aggression rather than defense. Unless you execute a perfect parry, every attack you block still incurs damage that takes away far less health than a full hit. However, you are given a chance to recover some of that health by immediately attacking and landing hits on enemies. Being more aggressive also lets you build energy to give yourself one health flask should they be depleted.

The arsenal of weapons is quite varied. Depending on your initial play style choice, you'll start with a longsword, foil, or saber. At various merchants and chests, you'll run across things like axes, daggers, glaives and scythes, to name a few. Aside from their inherent abilities, you can combine them with items to infuse them with temporary abilities, like a stunning electrical shock or chemicals that poison enemies over time.

The number of weapons you find is dwarfed by the fact that you can disassemble any weapon and create new ones. All weapons are comprised of blades and handles, and some interesting combinations can be made since there are no restrictions. For example, you can break down a cleaver and a polearm with a circular saw blade attached to make a long-handled cleaver and a handheld circular saw. Elemental abilities from the original weapons can be carried over to their new creations, and the same can be said for their Fable-powered abilities.

Like From's PS4 classic, Lies of P has you relying on more than your own full weapons to fight enemies. Aside from being able to use a limited number of throwable objects like saw blades, sharp pipes, and elemental throwables, the title lets you use your metal arm as another weapon in the fight. You start with a basic arm that can deliver a hard punch, but it doesn't take too long before you can replace it with more versatile ones. Some arms perform elemental attacks like shooting fire or stunning enemies with electrical blasts. One can shoot tiny rockets that embed themselves on enemies and explode, while another can pull enemies toward you. Given enough time and upgrades, those arms can be modified to have slight function changes.

Except for the ability to craft new weapons from old ones, this is essentially a Bloodborne clone. That isn't a knock on the game at all, but it is notable since there are barely any titles that go for this approach. It relies less on pure defense and encourages smarter fighting, while heavily relying on the ability to properly read your opponents and not get caught in a place of no escape because you weren't paying attention. The heavy reliance on Stargazers for warping around the world ensures that the grind to reach places is completely optional, while the arsenal variety means that you're constantly discovering new ways to deal with enemies. It is still a Souls-like title at heart, so those who hate this kind of meticulous combat system won't be swayed by this title, but fans will appreciate that this offers something different from medieval horror fantasy.

Aside from the aggressive combat system, Lies of P adds a few extras to encourage players to fully explore the city of Krat, such as finding all of the places where the hotel cat shows up, getting better at the piano, collecting and playing records, or even messing around with the gesture system. Initially, it seems pointless, but the message about you reacting to these things and possibly becoming a real person provides some incentive to see if the game ending changes based on your interactions. Various riddles and puzzles are also scattered throughout the world that often provide good loot, which you'll pay attention to given the weapon creation system. The extras are good excuses to stick around in the world before the end credits roll.

You'll notice that there's no mention of online portions, and that's because there are none. On the one hand, that means that you can concentrate on the campaign and not worry about invading players who can make your life harder. That also means that participating in duels with others is out of the question. On the other hand, it means that there's no way to get any community assistance directly in-game. You can't leave or read hints from others that warn about potential dangers and call in help from another player for a particularly difficult fight. The game lets you summon an AI-controlled companion to help in some boss fights, and they help greatly if you have the resources to conjure them multiple times, but it isn't quite the same, since they seem incapable of blocking or performing dodge rolls that a real player might do.

Aside from the lack of some online parts that genre fans may expect, another thing that affects genre newcomers is the title's tendency to explain things later than expected. A good example of this happens early on before the first boss fight, when you find a Stargazer that gives the option of spending your Ego to level up stats. You don't initially know what any of the categories relate to, but it doesn't take long to figure things out and level up accordingly before tackling the boss. After defeating it, you'll get to the part of the game where you learn about leveling up and how to do it; it's nice but feels useless since the information arrived much later than expected. This goes on for a few other mechanics to the point where your best way of figuring out anything is simply to stumble upon it before the game informs you about it.

The sound does a very good job in elevating the overall vibe. The sound effects carry you through the game, since the soundtrack is absent. The effects are well done, with each one coming through with absolute clarity, especially if you're running the game through a surround system or a good set of headphones. When the soundtrack kicks in during boss fights, it does so with a medley of haunting tracks that make each boss fight more menacing and stressful. The voice work is good overall, but the delivery is also calm. Almost everyone you speak to doesn't sound too worried about the events transpiring around them, which makes the game feel more disturbing.

Graphically, Lies of P is impressive. The ruined city aesthetic is common enough nowadays that it doesn't initially catch your eye, but the Belle Epoque style of architecture makes up for it, since this subgenre rarely goes outside the medieval style aesthetic. The human character movements are good, especially when some of them unleash intricate sword combos, but the lip sync is barely present when anyone speaks. The bosses are impressive due to their size and mix of grotesque and classic toy looks. Most of the regular foes might be robotic mannequins, but they're equally disturbing due to their erratic and stilted movements. The game supports ultrawide resolutions, and it has plenty of opportunities to hit the lauded 60fps and above, thanks to the inclusion of both DLSS and FSR 2.0. For those worried about the level of detail texture pop-in being an issue since this uses Unreal Engine, you'll be pleased to know that this was barely noticeable at any resolution.

There is one bug we did encounter that has to do with a texture flicker. It doesn't happen frequently, but there are moments when textures on part of the screen — sometimes whole polygons — completely disappear before reappearing. It never happens on the ground you're standing on, so it's more of a background thing, but it is noticeable. We saw this happen on both a machine using a Ryzen 7 7700 with the RTX 4090 and a machine with a Ryzen 5 5600X and a Radeon RX 6700XT, but the Radeon machine displayed this a bit more often. We 're not sure if those differences play a factor, but it is worth mentioning.

The game is already marked as Playable on the Steam Deck, and our checks validate that claim. The game defaults to 1280x800 with the graphical preset on Low and AMD FSR2 on Quality mode, and that gets the game running at 60fps in combat against a typical boss fight outdoors. Even when taking into account the listed minimum specs for running at Low on 1080p, it's still amazing to see a game of this genre run so well on the device. That performance comes at the cost of battery life, which sees the game running for less than two hours on the device from a full charge. The other penalty is in the flickering, which is much more prevalent on the Deck compared to the PCs we tested. We didn't get an opportunity to see if that was down to the game being run on Linux via Proton or a quirk that's more prevalent on an APU versus a dedicated GPU.

Lies of P is a solid Souls-like title that benefits from being one of the first to emulate parts of the Bloodborne vibe and style that people have been clamoring for since that title was released. The time period and Belle Epoque style give the game a fresh identity of its own, and the title tones down some of the elements from the From Software hit, while still retaining the high level of difficulty that fans enjoy. The combat can be deep due to the weapon variety, and the secrets to be uncovered are numerous, which partially makes up for the lack of online functionality. As long as you don't try to look too much into the story, you'll find Lies of P to be an enjoyable experience all around.

Score: 8.5/10

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