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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Lies of P's Demo Is Successfully Scratching That Bloodborne Itch

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It’s been about eight years since From Software introduced us all to Bloodborne and its horrifying blood-soaked streets, and I don’t mind telling you I’ve spent every waking minute since then thinking about its world, and waiting for news of a sequel. While there have been many offerings by other developers of games that seek to capture the “Soulsborne” vibe in various ways, few manage to capture the entire package. After spending a few hours with the Lies of P demo, I came away with the realization that I may have finally found something to scratch that itch I’ve had for so long.

I’ll admit, having Pinocchio as the protagonist wouldn’t have been my first pick, but it’s also obvious that developer NeoWiz isn’t exactly taking many cues from the Disney animated adaptation. Geppetto seems to be responsible for inventing far more puppets than just Pinocchio, as the city of Krat is filled with automaton servants, police, dogs, and more. However, all the puppets seem to have gone crazy, turning the city into a nightmare where deranged puppets that once served the people now stalk the streets, and continue to pulverize the bloody corpses of its former residents.

Lies of P Summer Game Fest 2023 Trailer

So far, Krat has done a pretty good impression of Bloodborne's Yharnam — and even hints of Bioshock’s Rapture — as an unnerving (yet graphically impressive) depiction of a once-prosperous and decadent utopia fallen into ruin and slathered in gore. Bodies are piled everywhere, seemingly due to both the savagery of the puppet uprising as well as some mysterious plague that’s hinted at a few times. I enjoyed taking my time exploring the city’s various alleys, courtyards, and broken interiors that juxtaposed nicely with the still shining and spotless Hotel Krat, which serves as your main base of sorts to return to and level up. More than once I found myself stopping to stare at the carnage and ask, “What the hell happened here?”, which I remember doing quite often while exploring in Bloodborne.

Beyond its creepy setting, Lies of P also functions as a well-realized action-RPG that almost seems to encapsulate a “greatest hits” of mechanics found in From Software’s staples. There’s a prosthetic arm you can swap out with different modifications reminiscent of Sekiro, giving me the choice between utility and power in limited doses. Each of the main-hand weapons I found had their own special “arts” which reminded me of the weapon arts from Dark Souls 3 and Elden Ring. Lies of P also seems to favor slightly faster-paced combat that draws close to Bloodborne (although stopping to parry feels essential), and even borrows the ability to recover health lost by pressing the attack. So far, it feels like Lies of P is mixing these features in a way that hasn’t made things too convoluted, though I’m not sure adding equipment load to the mix was the right move when dodging already feels very tricky to get the hang of.

More than once I found myself stopping to stare at the carnage and ask, “What the hell happened here?”

Where combat is concerned, I was actually very excited to find that Lies of P has not only captured the feeling of mobility, but also a real weight to its weapons, which often gets overlooked by those looking to iterate on From Software’s formula. I started Pinochio’s journey with a rapier, dancing in and out of range with lunges and thrusts, but soon found a heavy policeman’s baton perfect for smashing puppets. With it, I was able to sacrifice range for power, and overpower foes with heavy bashes that would have left me vulnerable had they not connected. Lies of P has also thrown its own twists into the mix, letting you combine and match the end of one weapon to the handle of another. This let me tweak even more aspects like managing weight, weapon range, and the arts of both parts of my weapon, and left me thinking of other weapon combo possibilities.

Though the demo only included two main bosses, each of them were tough and satisfying in their own right, and left me hungry for more. Equally unnerving and unpredictable, they put my abilities to the test in understanding their attack patterns, and I ended up with an appreciation of how Lies of P handles weapon degradation. Your weapon durability will degrade faster than you might expect between resting at checkpoints, but Pinocchio has the ability to turn his left arm into a whetstone to restore lost durability — making you incredibly vulnerable in the process. This added another layer to the delicate dance of boss fights, as finding a moment to repair was just as important as backing off to heal in the short windows between lethal attacks.

The malfunctioning and bloodthirsty puppets have been great adversaries so far, and while I’m not so sure Lies of P will go the cosmic horror route of Bloodborne, I do get the sneaking suspicion there’s more going on than a few haywire clockwork enemies. I only caught a few glimpses during my time with the demo, but there were some grisly scenes that pointed to something more unnatural at play, and it reminded me of the subtle cues sprinkled in Bloodborne’s early hours that set the stage for a terrifying realization later on.

the ominous notification that my “strings were tightening” gave me the feeling that abusing this mechanic might have darker implications than my nose growing a couple of inches.

These clues also have me wondering just how much the actual lies in Lies of P may affect what happens in the story. The few times I was given the option for Pinocchio to lie didn’t feel so much like the choices with branching consequences that other RPGs often advertise and then struggle to make meaningful, but instead felt more like a character-focused moment in choosing between a hard truth and an easy lie. I didn’t exactly feel bad about lying, but the ominous notification that my “strings were tightening” gave me the feeling that abusing this mechanic might have darker implications than my nose growing a couple of inches. Even if Pinocchio's story in Lies of P isn’t being manipulated by cosmic old gods that turn people into slugs, the attention to detail in recapturing Bloodborne’s magic has got my full attention, and I’m eager to know where this nightmare leads.

Brendan Graeber is IGN's Senior Guides Editor.

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