The RPS Advent Calendar 2023, December 22nd

By admin Dec 26, 2023

Welcome to door 22 of the RPS Advent Calendar. To enter, you must prove your identity by answering a simple question. Who are you? A human… or a puppet?

It’s been a great year for Soulslikes, but Lies Of P tops them all!

Pinocchio turns towards violence in a Lies of P screenshot.
Image credit: Neowiz

Ollie: Lies Of P is easily the most accomplished non-FromSoftware soulslike I’ve played. It comes closer than any of them to equalling FromSoft’s creativity in its enemy designs, locations, and story. But more than that, it feels like the team has taken a hard look at the “souls formula” and fixed several of the main pain points that players have had with the genre over the past decade.

If you’ve played Dark Souls, Bloodborne, or really any Soulslike ever, nothing in Lies Of P will throw you. It’s broadly the same experience, except this time round you’re playing as Pinocchio, elegantly carving your way through a ruined city overrun by not one but two separate disasters at once. There’s the Puppet Frenzy, where all the puppets have seemingly gone mad and overthrown their human owners; and the Petrification Disease, which is slowly killing off the survivors and turning them into monsters. People might scoff at the idea of a “Pinocchio Soulslike”, but they’ve done a lot of good things with the premise. It’s a well-told story with a couple of good surprises hidden up its tailored sleeves.

Let’s start with combat, which feels like a carefully curated mix of Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro. You’ve got the rally system from Bloodborne, where you can gain back some of the health that you just lost by quickly counterattacking. You’ve got the near-instant parry timings of Sekiro, but you can also optionally use equipment which allows you to perform more powerful (albeit difficult to time) parries a la Elden Ring or Souls games. There’s a mechanical tightness to Lies Of P’s combat which brings to mind Sekiro, while also giving players a lot more scope for tackling enemies how they like. You can choose to parry or to dodge; to focus on whittling away health or staggering enemies for a critical blow; to stick to one of the many pre-made weapons or to mix and match handles and blades to create something entirely new. That last part is a revelation, and more games in the genre need to copy it. Give me more gigantic hammers attached to little cutlass handles, please and thank you.

Pinocchio battles a towering policeman puppet in Lies Of P.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Neowiz

What really elevates Lies Of P, though, are the little things. One of the most impactful is that once all your Pulse Cells (your healing items) are used up, you can replenish up to one more by dealing enough damage, so there’s always a ray of hope while fighting a seemingly insurmountable boss at low health. They’ve also taken the weapon durability system from the Monster Hunter series, meaning you have to keep on top of weapon sharpness or your attacks will start to deal less damage or even bounce right off enemies. Breaking off to sharpen your weapon at the right moment breaks up the monotony of big boss fights and organically segments fights into phases, with momentary breaks in between. Or wonderful cosmetic touches, like the fact that as Pinocchio becomes more “human”, he starts to gasp and groan while rolling or taking damage. And the lovely little kitty cat that prowls around Hotel Krat (your base of operations) slowly goes from hissing its distrust at you to letting you pet or even hold it. The world, story, and combat all feel like they’ve been lovingly crafted by a team with an eye for the little details.

Mechanically, Lies Of P is one of the best Soulslikes I’ve played, even including FromSoft’s many masterpieces. And while it does feel at times a little monotonous in its machinations compared to the endless surprises of, say, Elden Ring, the fact that a team that isn’t FromSoftware can put out a soulslike this good is something that should be celebrated by all fans of the genre, even diehard Souls fans. I’m getting ahead of myself, but… I’ve a suspicion that Lies Of P 2 could end up being their magnum opus, and a strong contender for the best soulslike out there.

Alice0: I still think it’s very funny to reboot Pinocchio as Bloodborne.

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