Games, like all media, are an amalgamation of ideas. Even the most unique stories are wrapped in personal experiences and mixed with books read, movies watched, and music heard. Deck13 and CI Games' Lords of the Fallen is no different. The German-based developer's next-gen action RPG (coming to PS4 and Xbox One) is a combination of many concepts, and makes for an extremely intriguing experience.
At a glance, it looks a lot like a next-gen version of Dark Souls, but there's more to Lords of the Fallen than that. To really understand what makes it tick we asked for a peek under the hood, and talked with Executive Producer Tomasz Gop to find out what inspired each element of the game.
The main character's "commercial ugliness" is inspired by Rembrandt paintings
Whereas many action RPGs allow the player to create their own digital avatar, Lords of the Fallen's developers opted to go with a predefined character for the hero. You'll step into the armored boots of Harkyn, a character with his own backstory, his own personality, and his own face. And that face isn't too pretty.
"It might also be worth mentioning that were not afraid of character design which we call 'commercial ugliness,'" Gop explained, saying that the tinge of unattractiveness will leave a mark in the players' memory. "Like most Rembrandt paintings for example--faces on those were intriguing, make everyone look at them for hours and wonder why can it be so interesting while its so far from beautiful?"
Character design is inspired by Warhammer Fantasy
There's more to the characters than their less-than-attractive faces, though. LotF's medieval setting drops characters into big, bulky sets of armors, and the weapons are massive and powerful. It looks like typical Lord of the Rings-style gear at first, but the developers had something more specific in mind when creating the design: Warhammer Roleplay Fantasy.
"It might actually go without saying since Ive seen a lot of people already spotted this one in some of our promo arts. We really look up to character designs featured in illustrations that you could find in first rulebooks of WHRP [Warhammer Roleplay] pen and paper, published in the '80s. Some incredibly skillful and respected painters put their talents to use for those arts!"
The world's atmosphere is inspired by Glen Cooks Black Company
World design is an extremely important element of games that is too often overlooked. Atmosphere, be it creepy or joyous, can make or break a game. In Lords of the Fallen, the developers are attempting to create a moody, dramatic world--one that feels real and lived in.
"When it comes to the world, its feeling and the thickness of air in it, we wanted to achieve something dark, similar to the way you feel when reading through Glen Cooks Black Company, Gop explained. "Its dirty, dramatic, with its own unique kind of burden and danger that lurks everywhere."
The tactical gameplay is inspired by Dark Souls, Tekken, and Starcraft
When we first saw Lords of the Fallen at E3, we immediately drew correlations between it and Dark Souls. Characters are heavy, and fight with the same tactical heft found in the Souls series--it's about striking, blocking, and parrying instead of just spamming attacks. But Dark Souls isn't the only inspiration the developer references when discussing the tactical depth of the game--there are others that are much less obvious
"Tekken or Starcraft are great examples of games that are extremely tactical and yet very fast-paced," we were told. Gop said that the studio looked at plenty of sources outside of action RPGs when trying to nail the type of tactical combat it wanted--even if RPGs were definitely the backbone of the game.
The RPG grinding elements are inspired by Infinity Blade
The devs looked at other RPGs when developing Lords of the Fallen, too, in hopes of trying to make sure the grinding wouldnt be too well, grinding. Moonstone (1991), Vagrant Story (2000), and Severance: Blade of Darkness (2001) were all cited, but it also sourced a game that many might not immediately think of when discussing the genre.
"Did you ever wonder why lots of people considered Infinity Blade a breakthrough gameplay experience on mobile devices?" Gop asked. "My guess is, it was the best to date grinding-focused fantasy mobile game."
The power moves are inspired by Final Fantasy VII and Deus Ex
Besides being able to dodge, parry, and attack your foes, Lords of the Fallen will also include powerful abilities you can build up over time. Gop referenced several examples of games that have done this in the past, giving some insight into what the strongest abilities in the game will be like. "Then think of games that focus on duel experience, like fighting games. Then add to that what we call the 'smart-bomb' kind of skills that you have to manage, like limit breaks from Final Fantasy VII, action skills from Borderlands, and some powerful abilities from Deus Ex series. Thats the kind of mixture were brewing here"
The question remains: Once all of these different inspirations are mixed together, will the result be something unique and wonderful? We have no idea. The demo we saw at E3 looked great--visually and conceptually--and we're definitely intrigued to see what the developer can do with the power of next-gen consoles. In the meantime we'll just play all of the games that Gop referenced and pretend they're one game.