This Xbox Game Pass title is the most rewarding soulslike I've ever played
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Featured Image Credit: Neowiz Games
The Xbox Game Pass title taking soulslike fans by storm, Lies Of P, has to be one of the most rewarding games I’ve ever played.
It’s not easy to make a strong soulslike. It requires a deep understanding of game design, or more specifically video game difficulty. You can’t just program a bunch of strong opponents, add in checkpoints and call it a day. You need to ensure things are balanced in a way where the player feels challenged and tested by an opponent, without making them feel unbeatable.
Take a look at Lies Of P below:
It’s very much a carrot and stick approach, you can have the carrot eventually, but you’re gonna have to be smacked by the stick more times than you’d probably like.
Now, as a huge FromSoftware fan, I adore a good soulslike. The only ones I haven’t gotten around to playing are Demon Souls and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but I’ve conquered all three Dark Souls games, Elden Ring and Bloodborne and loved every minute. So when I saw Lies Of P making the rounds as a true spiritual successor, I was sceptical, to say the least.
It had big shoes to fill in my opinion, but when it launched on Xbox Game Pass I thought I might as well give it a try, and it’s quickly become one of my favourite games of the year.
I won’t go too deep into the story, but it’s essentially an adaptation of Pinnochio, featuring reimagined versions of its most popular characters and boasting a steampunk aesthetic.
Its gameplay is heavily inspired by Bloodborne, but tweaked with its own unique bells and whistles. The best example is the weapons, with almost everyone having a blade/end and a handle, which can be swapped and customised as you see fit. This allows you to tailor your weapon to your given stats, like using a handle that favours a strength build, but with a blade that does poison damage.
Like the FromSoftware titles that inspired it, the player must navigate a variety of unique locations, resting at respawn points along the way, all before taking on a tough-as-nails boss to unlock the next area. There are also plenty of optional bosses along the way.
The bosses are what sold the game for me, as none of them felt like a cakewalk despite my experience with prior soulslike games. Almost every single one of them tested my resolve and made me rethink my strategies, largely due to how deceptively fast they were and the game’s insistence on learning how to parry.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a parry player. Some might call it a skill issue, but I’ve never felt the need to learn parry windows, and trying has often led to frustration. The only FromSoftware title I learned parrying for was Bloodborne, and only because it’s practically essential for bosses and enemy encounters.
Learning to parry in Lies Of P is also essential, as most enemies and bosses are incredibly accurate when it comes to their attacks. You can dodge, and you can be mobile, but it’s not the reliable strategy it usually is in these types of games, especially during the late game. Now don’t get me wrong, parrying in Lies Of P isn’t an instant-win skill. Enemies don’t tend to get stunned when you parry, but it will deplete their stagger bar and even has a chance to destroy the weapon they're holding if they have one. This means if you’re skilled enough, you’ll be doing parry after parry after parry, until eventually getting a counter window, and that’s not including the standard damage you’ll be doing when you’re just wailing on them.
This is exactly why I found Lies Of P to be so rewarding to play, because there was never a time when I felt like I was in complete control of the situation. Even when I pulled off a well-timed parry, followed up by a quick counter, I knew it wouldn’t slow my opponent down by a noticeable degree.
Humanoid enemies were the best for this, as they’d often have a flurry of attacks before leaving themselves open. This turned the encounters into an elaborate dance of sidestepping, parrying, rolling, advancing and other combative strategies, with every decision felt like it was happening in slow motion despite the fights being lightning fast.
I very rarely steamrolled a boss on my first try, which meant a lot of the encounters involved carefully studying their moves, and learning the new parry timings, before everything inevitably came together for a satisfying victory.
For a FromSoftware fan who’s always relied on pumping all stat points into strength, finding the biggest weapon in the game, and going on the offensive for the majority of battles, Lies Of P told me to take a step back and be more like a scalpel than a hammer.
It was honestly a refreshing experience, and while it kicked my ass more times than I can count, I was also satisfied to have shaved off a bit more of the boss’ health bar than I did the last time I fought them.
Lies Of P is genuinely one of the most rewarding soulslike games I’ve ever played, and probably one of the best games I’ve downloaded via Xbox Game Pass so far. The game is also available on PC and PlayStation 5.