Lords of the Fallen dev wants to improve the "scarcity of AAA Soulslikes" while building a "World of the Fallen" universe

Lords of the Fallen
(Image credit: Hexworks)

Lords of the Fallen is more like Elden Ring than its developer intended – this, despite the fact that work on the former began long before the announcement of the latter. Indeed, Hexworks' upcoming ARPG – the successor to the 2014 game of the same name – is a Soulslike that wears its influences firmly on its sleeve, but it's also a reflection of how the genre born from FromSoftware's slant on action-role-playing games has matured over time. Its latest trailer, aired at the Future Game Show in the midst of the E3 2023 schedule, underlined this and then some. 

Now, almost nine years on from the first Lords of the Fallen, the landscape of Soulslike games has evolved beyond recognition. Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 have since made speed just as important to the genre as its signature unforgiving combat and bastard-hard boss battles; Sekiro introduced verticality in offense like never before; and Elden Ring changed the game entirely as a fully-fledged open-world adventure. Which is to say: now certainly feels like the right time to revisit Lords of the Fallen's dark fantasy fare.  

"The action-RPG genre has become increasingly popular over recent years, now enjoyed by millions of players worldwide, and with it the appetite for games in this vein has also increased proportionately," says Hexworks studio head, Saul Gascon. "The genre has matured, the technology evolved, and player expectations are higher than ever. But much like other titles in this genre, Lords of the Fallen expands on the existing tropes and paradigms, putting its own spin on the core pillars such as exploration, combat and world building, to ultimately provide a unique and immersive experience."

"In comparison to other genres, such as sports, FPS, or fighting games, there is arguably still a scarcity of AAA soulslikes. So, this is where we come in to try to leave our own mark."

On the shoulders of giants

Lords of the Fallen

(Image credit: Hexworks)

In the spirit of leaving its own mark, the nightmarish enemies Hexworks has shown off so far all have a suitably twisted and stomach-turning nature about them. That's down to the corruption that's ravaged the game world, a force that's tied to conflicting deific powers, explains the game's art director, Alex Chaudret. In turn, those residing in the living and dead realms wind up in a "godly three-way tug of war" with the otherworldly demons. 

"Harnessing these powers, the flesh of our world's inhabitants contorts and distorts, reflecting the nature of their patron deity," explains Chaudret. "It is the embodiment of corrupted minds brought to life, just as the Umbral realm serves as a reflection of the ongoing horrors in the Axiom realm. Our ultimate goal was to craft "beautiful" nightmares that enhance immersion through this love-craftian form of visual storytelling. And we look forward to unveiling more grotesqueries in the coming months."

Given the meteoric rise and enduring success of last year's Elden Ring, the ARPG Souslike genre's stock is at an all-time high. With Lords of the Fallen now closing in on its October 13, 2023 release date, Hexworks is keen to capitalize on the surge of interest among a much larger, hungrier audience. 

"When we set out to make Lords of the Fallen, over three years ago, before Elden Ring had even been announced, one of our primary objectives was to expand and innovate on the layering of exploration alongside the traditional corpse-run loop," says creative director Cezar Virtosu. "Cut to today, and we can’t wait for players to embark upon our vast, vertical and seamlessly interconnected world, which is significantly larger than the original game, and that’s before we even mention our parallel world mechanic;  alongside the living world exists its undead counterpart – Umbral – an inhospitable environment with its own enemies, pathways, quests and characters."

"Not only does this tie everything together organically, as two sides of the same coin, but it is an experience wholly unique to the genre, and one that we hope will captivate players. Behind the curtain, there are many other new and exotic mechanics at play, ensuring we have a unique, monstrous fingerprint."

The Lords of The Fallen

(Image credit: CI Games)

"Our [longer-term] ambition is to forge the World of the Fallen, a captivating universe that transcends artistic mediums, enabling us to craft enthralling stories of varying scope and tone."

For studio head Saul Gascon, though, the incoming Lords of the Fallen same-titled spiritual successor is merely the first step towards bigger and more ambitious things. He says: "Our [longer-term] ambition is to forge the World of the Fallen, a captivating universe that transcends artistic mediums, enabling us to craft enthralling stories of varying scope and tone."

"With this spiritual successor to the original game released in 2014, we have exponentially expanded the mythos, alluding to grander and more menacing dangers on the horizon, such as the colossal deities that shape the narrative landscape of our universe. Mournstead is just an initial step in the exhilarating journey that lies ahead, albeit one filled with chilling horrors."

Lords of the Fallen is due on October 13, 2023 for PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X and S.

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Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.