When I first saw a trailer for Lies of P, I was immediately sold on its Steampunk visuals. Being a dark twist of a very well-known fairy tale was just the icing on the cake. I always had a weak spot for these two elements, so I wanted to try it out as soon as possible. Soulslike games were never really my thing, but it didn’t matter – I had to experience this story. Around 40 hours later, I can safely say that it was the right call. Let me share with you what I found beneath the dark skies of Krat.
Blood Flows Like a River in The City
Lies of P takes place in the city of Krat, where technology has brought puppets to life. Gepetto is the mastermind behind this achievement, bringing a prosperous era to the citizens. Humans no longer have worries and are free to enjoy their lives while puppets are charged with strenuous daily work. Definitely not slavery, trust me. But we know this wouldn’t last for too long.
Once the Puppet Frenzy begins, machines turn against their masters, causing havoc throughout the city, and leaving nothing but human carcasses and trails of mass destruction behind. It’s up to P to clean up this mess and, once he awakens, he heeds Sophia’s call and starts his journey to find out the truth behind this incident and save the city.
The visuals are nothing less than stunning. Despite the permanently gloomy ambiance, it’s the perfect fit for the game, which has its beautiful moments. Be it watching Hotel Krat from a distance or standing at the top of a tower on an isolated island, I had to take some time and appreciate the scenery numerous times. Graphics are up to par with most current-gen games and often make up for the lack of extra motions during some dialogues. Hair physics can sometimes be problematic, something you will probably notice soon.
The level design was interesting and thoughtful, with interconnected paths throughout to make your life easier if you end up dying somewhere. There’s even some platforming at some points, which I definitely did not expect. Once you reach the game’s second half, however, seeing the same similarly-looking city areas quickly gets old. Fortunately, they’re still a good treat to your eyes and are not placed back-to-back.
Having played a bit of Bloodborne as one of my few Soulslike experiences, the inspirations were clear as water. Blocking and parrying attacks play a bigger part here than dodging or jumping directly to the offensive. If you played the demo, you might remember the dodge mechanic being a little more than wacky, but thankfully, this is fixed for the full release. You even get to evolve this defensive maneuver as you progress through the game. Many enemies incentivize learning how to perfectly block their attacks as dodging leaves you with fewer counter-attack windows, so you have to make the best of both worlds.
This makes for very fluid combat, awarding an astonishing sense of satisfaction after you nail a Parry > Attack > Charged Attack combo that makes you feel like a pro. Personally, I can’t wait to see people styling on bosses with ridiculous weapons such as the huge hammer made of puppets or the chief’s cleaver.
Yeah, some weapons here are more than eccentric. Many of them play basically the same (usually reskins of regular and/or big swords), but some are unique and open huge windows for mastery display. Weapons are also customizable by combining different blades and handles, but if finding a useful mix becomes a hassle, you’re good with using a basic weapon as it is. The same goes for equipment, and the game is great at providing defensive gear and items fit for basically any situation you could find yourself in.
Halfway through the game, I was still unlocking new offensive tools, like upgrades to the mechanical arm, more throwable items (these were there for me when no one else was), or even entirely new items that could literally grant your wishes. As long as they don’t involve automatically killing your enemies, of course.
Man-made Puppets (And Monsters) Beyond My Comprehension
Bosses are the real deal here. Neowiz managed to emulate that feeling that many Souls clones fail to recreate – where bosses feel extremely fair, regardless of their absurd difficulty. It’s even more impressive once you realize this is their first AAA game. The battles are a true display of skill and adaptation where you can make the most out of what you have, no matter how insignificant it is. I could name a few exceptions, but they’re far from being the norm. After a couple of tries, I could usually tell why I died and knew what I should have done. This never made me stop cursing the whole boss’ genealogic tree, but deep down, I knew I was having a fair showdown against the horrific creatures before me.
More often than not, you’re roadblocked by elite enemies rather than bosses. Well, they’re almost mini-bosses, sometimes. I remember playing the demo with some old pals from college and getting our asses kicked by a damn cop-puppet. It took almost an hour before one of us had a lucky run against that slightly bigger enemy, while the subsequent boss met their anticlimactic end in less than five minutes.
That gameplay loop repeats itself many times throughout the full game. If I could guess, I would guess they invested so much time in making the actual bosses a fair challenge that they forgot to balance the minor baddies properly. Especially the clowns. Seriously. Someone had the brilliant idea to make them the most obnoxious enemies ever imagined, and they became the bane of my existence during the whole playthrough. I may or may not have developed an irrational fear of clowns by now.
Human bosses exist somewhere in a category of their own, and you either love or hate them. Some are unremarkable and can be easily cheesed while others can give you a fun challenge. One fight, in particular, was one of the most elegant duels I’ve ever had in a game, all happening within the span of three minutes. But as soon as my opponent revealed themselves and the music started playing, I knew I was in for a big treat. From execution to amusement, everything was top-notch, and I would cheerfully wipe my memory just so I could experience it again for the first time.
When it comes to regular enemies, we mostly see puppets; cop puppets, aristocrat puppets, dog puppets, or even some blank, regular puppets. That is, until we don’t see them anymore and monsters begin to take their place. Human-looking monsters, mutant-looking monsters, dog-scorpion-mix monsters – you get the gist by now. Many enemies are recycled or just given a minor redesign in later parts of the game, but it sort of makes sense within the setting. They still manage to make them feel like new enemies instead of boring upgrades to the same punchbags you smashed a few hours prior.
Enemies’ AI can catch you off guard in both figurative and literal senses. They often use certain moves (like extending a 4-hit combo with a fifth hit) if they detect you inputting any offensive action first. Punishing windows are tight, so stay on your toes or you’ll be the one getting punished.
In the same vein, you can abuse this to make battles much easier. Going a step further, one of the most exploitable aspects of the game is the enemies’ aggro system. Do what you want with this information.
A Steampunk Tragedy Is All I Need
The Steampunk setting was the perfect fit for reimagining Pinocchio’s tale. The storytelling is strong here, being built from small dialogues to some random details you can find on the lifeless bodies across the streets. It feels good to see the nods to the original Pinocchio story, such as Sophia acting as the ethereal Blue Fairy or the Fox and the Cat appearing as a mischievous Stalker duo.
Some other nods are way more subtle or straight-up spoilers, but they were all masterfully added to the piece. Being the lore gremlin I am, this game held me in a tight grip from start to finish, and I wanted to unveil everything hidden in the deepest corners of Krat. Solving these mysteries makes for another good reason to keep throwing yourself against those same nasty monsters (and dying repeatedly) just so you can reach the end for yourself.
The main story is as straightforward as it could be, and it works with its relatively simple structure. You won’t be missing out on much even if not paying attention to extra items, but those who venture into the mysterious land of lore are rewarded in the final moments. I had the biggest grin when I correctly called a few twists from the final chapter, and the victory lap still managed to surprise me at some points.
All figures in Krat have their own motives and backstories and they have some heart in them, despite the harsh conditions. From the tragic characters wanting a final taste of their favorite drink before they’re gone to the classical power-corrupted religious leaders, you’re a witness to the city’s final struggles to survive during a massive apocalypse. Adding to all this, we have P being a unique puppet who can lie, and these lies will affect the fate of those around him. Choices are meaningful, being critical to determine if you’re talking or fighting. They decide who lives and who dies, and possibly give well-deserved closure to various members of the cast.
P also goes through personal changes himself. Pinocchio managed to become a real boy in the original tale, but what about our protagonist here? Maybe he’s forever bound to be a puppet, but might be able to become human after all. But is there any difference? Reports of humans and puppets having affairs are somewhat common here, so where is the line drawn?
Many characters may give you a different answer. While some humans are just trying to survive, others are drunk with power or ambition. However, the game implies that perseverance is a key trait of humans, and P is noted to display it constantly throughout the game. With this in mind, this game being a Soulslike is an even better thematic choice than you would first imagine.
The Ugly Truths and the Beautiful Lies
To wrap things up, I would describe this game as a good starter in the Soulslike genre. While I struggled to get into titles like Dark Souls 3, this game felt much more welcoming in many ways. Enemy patterns were easier to grasp and there were many weapons in my arsenal that made disposing of them easier than expected. Lies of P is not easy by any means, but it respects your time and skillfully ramps up the challenge when needed, making sure that you never get bored.
Even if you’re walled by a two-phase boss (and believe me when I say this happens a lot), you can certainly overcome it. You have already come this far, haven’t you? The story is definitely worth the suffering, and killing giant creatures is always pleasing. There’s enough content to keep you thrilled for weeks, especially with New Game + and different endings being a thing.
This is far from a perfect game, but it hits the mark when it comes to its strong points, and it just happens to have a lot of them. I wouldn’t go as far as naming it the next Elden Ring, but it’s definitely more than just Bloodborne at Home™. Whether you’re a longtime Souls fan or just curious about the crazy idea of a somber take on Pinocchio’s tale, there’s certainly something for you here. You can poke my growing nose if I’m lying.
Lies of P
Promises were delivered in this new Soulslike with one of the most unusual premises ever made.
- A compelling story with fantastical worldbuilding
- Bosses are fun while still being challenging
- Easy to get into, hard to get out of
- Recycled enemies around the game's second half
- AI is easily exploitable
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PC.