If someone told me that a classic fairytale about a living puppet would eventually serve as inspiration to a new soulslike in 2023, I would laugh the loudest I could right at their face. Turns out that Lies of P is actually a thing, and I couldn’t be more excited about it, despite this being definitely not the type of game I usually go for.
As soon as the free demo was announced at the Summer Game Fest, I boot it up hoping to find out what was drawing me in. And I didn’t expect to have so much fun in it.
The First Steps Into a Plagued World
You can choose between three different combat styles: Strength (heavy), Dexterity (light) or Balance (self-explanatory). I settled for Dex for my playthrough. And after facing the first big enemy puppet, it definitely felt like the right choice for me.
I’m a complete sucker for the noir-steampunk art style presented in this game, so I may be a little biased when I say the art style is simply gorgeous. Rampaging puppets can be genuinely creepy, no matter if they’re cops, guards, dogs or just aggressive civilians. There’s a good variety of enemies in the demo, so I’m hoping the full game can keep the ball running.
Related: How to Play the Lies of P Demo
You can disable the gory elements if they feel like too much, but some of these edgy trademarks like blood in your clothes just add to the experience. You feel cornered in this dangerous place as if something could attack you at any moment. And yes, you’re eventually ambushed by some hiding puppets.
As a disclaimer, I should mention that I was never truly into Soulslike games. From Demon Souls to Elden Ring, I can definitely see their appeal to the public and why they’re so important to the industry. It just happens that they never really clicked with me, despite enjoying watching others playing.
So as you can imagine, those first couple of minutes were a huge struggle. I eventually got my way through the whole campaign, but not without lots of hiccups here and there. I found myself laughing more than raging at my ridiculous deaths, and that feels like a good sign for me. I did get angry at some points, not gonna lie, but less than I expected.
And after reaching (and conquering) the very first boss, I just couldn’t back away from it. I had to explore this mysterious city ruined by puppets. And so I fought my way through the three bosses the Demo has to offer, learning a little bit more about available tactics for different encounters.
A Somber Tone for Somber Mechanics
As for dealing with enemies, commands are very simple to grasp. You can deal regular or charged attacks depending on your button. Some enemies can get Groggy, which allows you to execute them with a single hit. This is indicated by a white-glowing health bar, when you have to hit a charged attack before going for the kill.
You can combine your blade combos with your Legion Arm hits or with throwable items. These extra tools make sure the game doesn’t feel as repetitive as it could be. You can change your arm at the Stargazers (campfires) after you get new ones.
There are also these special Fable Arts, special attacks that consume mana (or Fable slots). Great for dealing with bigger enemies and bosses, but at the cost of not being as fancy as the name would imply. Apparently, you can evolve them later in the game, so this might not be a problem.
When playing defensively, you can either dodge, block or parry. Dodge is self-explanatory. Blocking turns incoming damage into grey health, which you can heal by hitting enemies in a short window. Parrying completely negates incoming damage, consuming only some stamina.
It feels better to parry a few of them, while others are better fought with dodging. Regardless of your preferred method, the game somewhat incentives you to learn both well. And yeah, you can definitely die a lot from that. But it’s usually easy to see what went wrong, so you can easily go back to the fray after retrieving your lost Ergo.
Some attacks cannot be blocked (indicated by the enemy glowing red), but you can still parry them. Nothing feels more rewarding than punishing those big guys right after they threw a tantrum at you. But sometimes that opening window is just not there, and you’re the one kicked in the face instead.
But my biggest peeve was that while locked on an enemy, you’ll do side hops instead of rolls when dodging. This led to more “accidents” than it should, and makes combat feel obnoxious at times. You can get used to it, but it makes you feel even more vulnerable.
Mysteries to Solve and Things to Work Upon
It’s very curious how characters are cautious when not referring to the main character by his name. He’s either Geppeto’s son, the cleaver boy, or even the Devil’s Puppet if you so prefer. Despite that, everything (except his nose) points at him being the iconic fairytale wooden puppet.
We visit some iconic locations from the various adaptations like the circus, and we know that Geppetto is our father. We’re also carrying a cricket-sounding robot known as Gemini in our pockets, and apparently, we’re one of the few puppets who can lie at will. He’s Pinocchio in all but name.
This is either a big plot point that will be worked upon later (he’s either a completely different being or just wasn’t named yet) or just another gimmicky way of self-inserting the player into the game.
I’m rooting for the first option as it greatly adds to the many secrets hidden in the city and the mysterious disease which is taking its victims. We also don’t know why the puppets turned against society in the way they did. Is Gepetto truly the one at fault? I’m definitely sold on this universe for now.
We should also expect more about the Lie system. We get a glimpse of it when first entering the Hotel, and later during an optional side quest, but no changes could be observed in gameplay or appearance. Being able to lie may lead to the protagonist eventually becoming more “human”, as it’s almost impossible to distinguish him from any other citizen.
And lastly, combat feels stylish, but could definitely use some polishing. While I don’t feel like enemies are unfair, it’s like definitely-not-Pinnochio somehow lacks the tools to properly fight them. Again, I’m far from a Souls expert, but that was my experience with it. Maybe some upgrades can do the trick like the double-dodge one.
Sometimes a change of pace is needed to enjoy new things, and it looks like it was all I needed to actually enjoy a Soulslike for once. The game definitely feels promising, and I’m really glad to have something to look upon in September.