Soulslike action RPG Lies of P doesn’t quite step out from Bloodborne's shadow, but it’s still a slick and stylish experience. Our review:
Of all the potential riffs on FromSoftware’s now legendary approach to third-person action RPGs, I doubt many people had ‘gritty Pinocchio adaptation’ on their bingo cards. It’s a testament to developer Neowiz, then, that Lies of P not only translates select aspects of Carlo Collodi’s novel to great effect, but also works well as a foundation for a handful of creative ideas and twists of the studio’s own. And while Lies of P never quite steps out of the long shadow cast by Bloodborne, this journey through a grim-dark fairy tale is still a trip worth taking for both budding and veteran Souls fans.
Playing as a rather slender and boyish version of the titular puppet, proceedings begin as expected, with you thrust into a tortured world inhabited by figures out to kill you at seemingly every turn. In this case it’s Krat, a fictional city highly inspired by 19th century Europe’s Belle Epoque era that was almost certainly a beautiful place to live before it was overrun by killer animatronic dolls. As a location it succeeds in creating an uneasy vibe, whether you’re out clambering on the city street’s rooftops, exploring the factory responsible for birthing all the horrors outside and everything in between.
It looks even more beautiful in motion, too, particularly since (unlike its chief inspiration) Lies of P benefits from running at 60fps on current-gen consoles. This one technical factor quickly becomes a necessity as puppet-type enemies are prone to jerking and moving erratically when compared to more typical human foes. As such, they demand quick response times, at least if you don’t want to deplete your health and power cells at a rapid pace.
Speaking of combat, it feels just as fluid as you’d expect. Lies of P grants you a trio of different stances at the start – Path of the Cricket, Bastard and Sweeper – that you’re locked into. I went for the Cricket combat style as it was said to be the most balanced of the three, and I felt this during most encounters, never having trouble dodge rolling out of tricky scenarios just as much as I was able to dive right into a rival puppet’s personal space to perform quick stabs and heavy slashes.
Lies of P probably has one of the most flexible combat systems of any Soulslike I’ve seen as of late. This is mainly due to how weapons work. You see, every sword, baton, dagger and mace you come across isn’t set in stone, being made up of two components (the handle and the blade) each with their own traits and elemental affects that work better towards particular enemy types. Shortly after beating the tutorial section, your maker Geppetto grants you the ability to swap these components to let you create the perfect combination.
A dagger handle, for instance, might decrease the range of your attacks but let you unleash them within a slightly quicker time window. When combined with the blunt force of a mace imbued with electrical elemental effects, it can soon make for a deadly combination. You can swap between any two predefined or custom weapon sets with just a tap of the D-pad at any time, so there’s plenty of opportunity to prepare for myriad occasions. Just bear in mind that taking a piece from one weapon negates your ability to use it as a complete set.
Outside of this Lies of P, employs the usual arrangement of having you attack, dodge and parry while learning the patterns and windup animations of bosses and enemies in order to be successful. However, even blocking a successful attack forces Pinocchio to take damage unless it’s timed absolutely perfectly, further emphasising the importance of being nimble and outright avoiding attacks rather than brute-forcing your way through. That said, your mechanical left arm proves useful in catching enemies off guard, depending on which limb you have attached. My favourite by far ended up being the aptly named Puppet String for its ability to let you pull foes towards you, Scorpion style, and then follow up with an attack – even if it ended up being pretty useless against bosses.
I won’t delve too deeply into the bosses themselves, except to say that I got my arse kicked plenty of times trying to figure out when to best block and dodge the attacks of whatever screen-sized terror I stumbled on next. They succeed at feeling like real set-piece events in true Soulslike fashion, and rarely did I struggle to beat them due to elements outside my control. Using a star fragment to summon a Specter to assist you in boss encounters helps, but generally only long enough for you to catch a breath and think about how to take them down by yourself next time.
Lies of P isn’t short of avoidable encounters, either, which you can skirt past if you feel like your butting your head too much. One of the most interesting I came across was a human survivor found in the bowels of the inventor Venigni’s factory. He’s fueled by a desire to destroy all puppets, and his motivation only becomes clear after his defeat. Because yes, the city and the people of Krat have plenty of small stories to tell outside your main quest – providing you’re willing to look for them. Many of these are tied to the game’s lying system, where your decision to withhold the truth during certain moments can either provide or cut you off from handy combat resources, and even change the outcome of the narrative.
For a relatively unknown developer, Newoiz has managed to set itself apart from a lot of other FromSoftware wannabes by creating a Soulslike that is equal parts faithful to the systems and concepts that have come before while just about doing enough differently in terms of combat, upgrades and world to set itself apart. Lies of P is a confident genre entry stacked with plenty of horrors and challenge of its own, one that’s sure to remind you of the Pinocchio story’s darker elements.
Lies of P throws a lot of systems at you in its opening hours, whether it’s how your legion arm works, weapon crafting, unblockable enemy attacks and P-organ upgrades. It all comes together, though, to let you tweak your approach to combat and become the most formidable Pinocchio possible.
Lies of P is sure to scratch that Bloodborne itch, presenting an intriguingly dark world that surprisingly benefits from being projected through the Pinocchio lens.