I remember when Demon’s Souls was released back in 2009, there were many people who called it a market-unfriendly game. There were pushes to get people to buy it just to experience this supposedly brutal and novel take on action RPGs. Flash forward 14 years, and it’s one of the biggest sub-genres in the industry.
On one hand, I love Demon’s Souls and most of the games that FromSoftware followed it up with. On the other hand, my favorite games to play are the ones I haven’t played before, and a lot of the Soulslikes that followed stick a little too close to the formula for my case. It’s something that nags at me. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but at what point does it cross into plagiarism?
Lies of P is one of the slickest Soulslike games that I’ve seen follow in FromSoftware’s wake. On the other hand, it’s also one of the most derivative, and I’m having trouble reconciling those two competing perspectives.
Lies of P is based on The Adventures of Pinnochio by Carlo Lorenzini. It’s not a story that I’ve internalized, so most of the references are lost on me. I get the basics. It takes place in the ostentatious city of Krat, where its prized automatons have gone berzerk and, with the aid of a mysterious disease, have killed most of the inhabitants.
You play as one of Gepetto’s puppets, who is unique in being able to break the rules that most other puppets are supposed to be bound by. In a unique storytelling angle, there’s a lot of weight put onto breaking these rules. The game visibly hesitates when the protagonist is presented with an unavoidable lie or conflict with a human. These are difficult concepts to give any impact to in video games, so this is a rather unique way of bringing them back around and making them meaningful.
However, much of the storytelling is incredibly similar to the Souls series, and Bloodborne in particular. It’s hard not to feel deja vu when you speak to a person through a lit window that you only became aware of due to their coughing. Likewise, I absolutely cannot believe how similar the NPCs act compared to the ones in the Souls series. Their mouths are poorly animated, as the Lies of P does not change perspective to zoom in on them during dialogue. They’re largely locked in place. And they speak in this hushed tone; a perpetual indoor voice. It feels stolen.
It’s not the aesthetical choices never bleed into other games, but Lies of P feels like it has lifted things wholesale.
It’s telling how quickly I settled into gameplay, relying only on my familiarity with FromSoftware’s formula. The campfires and torches are replaced by “Star Gazers.” The estus flask mechanic is practically carried over wholesale. I think the list of things that Lies of P does differently is much shorter than the things it copied.
I also find it interesting that, with Elden Ring, FromSoftware has iterated on its world design to a point where I find it unlikely that they’ll go back to the classic Dark Souls method of interconnected pathways. Lies of P is, therefore, carrying that torch. There are ladders to extend and doors to unlock to allow one to more easily bypass the riffraff they already waded through. Probing the nooks and crannies of the world results in additional loot. It doesn’t help that the Victorian aesthetic evokes Bloodborne’s gloomy world.
There’s no multi-player, however, which is fine by me. The note system was helpful once upon a time, but every time I pick up one of those games now, it feels like most of the player notes are just tiresome jokes and nonsense. Weirdly, though, you can still summon spirits to assist you during boss battles. However, these are AI controller dummies, and I found they were mostly just useful in distracting the bosses while I repeatedly jammed my saber up their butts. It’s a weird half-measure.
Honest to a fault
I wouldn’t say I’m not enjoying Lies of P so far, but what I’m trying to get across is that I’m conflicted. The video game industry is extremely susceptible to falling into trends, so something that follows an existing formula is hardly rare. Most recently, I’ve been sorting through a glut of Banished-inspired city builders. It usually doesn’t phase me.
However, usually, when a game follows after a popular title, the intention is to build on that foundation. The developer often brings their own spin to a property. It often feels that they felt something was missing from a beloved title and seek to add their own personal spin on it. That’s not something I feel with Lies of P. Someone saw Bloodborne and felt like the market could use another Bloodborne.
On the other hand, Lies of P is at least well-executed and enjoyable. It quite often falls short of its influence, but it’s still enjoyable in its own right. If you’re a fan of the Souls title and are hungry for another competent take on the formula, this fits the bill. For me, I’m still hoping to find a spark of novelty buried in there. I want that one moment where I finally understand why I should be playing this alongside or instead of Bloodborne. Right now, I feel like I would be better off replaying Bloodborne. Once I finish solving the puppet problem, I’ll let you know if that has changed.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]