STAFF REVIEW of Lies of P (Xbox One)

Friday, December 29, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Lies of P Box art I’ll admit, I was initially a bit apprehensive to review Lies of P, not because of a disinterest for the game, but because I generally don’t gravitate towards Souls-like games due to their difficulty. I know, I know, the whole “git gud” mentality that comes with these games, and even though I’m generally not very skilled at them, I do enjoy their worlds and uniqueness. Even though I’d never play a Souls-like on my own if it wasn’t for a review, there have been a few that stood out amongst the sea of clones that did capture my attention, such as Steelrising or Remnant.

While some might automatically assume that Lies of P is a Soul-like, it actually more resembles Bloodborne and Sekiro mix rather than an actual Dark Souls. What makes Lies of P unique is its backdrop, as it’s a dark reimagining of the classic Pinocchio tale, hinted at in the title. As Geppetto’s creation, you’ll need to survive this harsh world as you try to find meaning. While I heard many enjoyed Lies of P, I didn’t expect that I would much given its genre, but it certainly surprised me.

You are Pinocchio, awakening in an abandoned train in the city of Krat. This is no normal city though, as the majority of its human population has been slaughtered by puppets from the same creator as you, Geppetto. Being half human, half puppet, you’re the only one that has a chance at defeating a city full of murderous robot puppets. You're awoken by a mysterious voice telling him to head to Hotel Krat, which Pinnochio does, but it won’t be easy. After a number of deadly enemies and your first major boss, you find yourself in Hotel Krat, the last safe refuge in this now deadly city roaming with murderous puppets. Here you meet a mysterious woman named Sophia who is there to help you in any way she can. She gives you a lead on finding your creator, Geppetto, as he needs rescuing and the only person that would know how to stop this puppet uprising.

Now using Hotel Krat as your home base, this is where you’ll come to level up from Sophia, upgrade your weapons and simply take a breather when needed. Here you’re also given a cricket in a lantern, acting as your light, aptly named Gemini. Small details like this makes Lies of P’s connection with Pinocchio's dark retelling so special. Developers have done a great job at creating a world with plenty of lore and telling a narrative that’s interesting yet mysterious at the same time.

The city of Krat is styled after the Belle Epoque era in France (1870-1914), very elegant in nature, but now has streets filled with blood from these puppets killing anything alive they see. While the city isn’t as completely open as past Souls games, being much more linear in design, that’s not saying there’s no side areas, shortcuts and paths to find, but it’s much more linear at its core design.

Having heavy inspiration from Dark Souls and Bloodborne, you’re going to see numerous parallels in its game design. Stargazer’s are your bonfires, which will be used as teleport points, refills your health and healing items to full, but as we all know, also resets the world and all non-boss enemies. Bosses are generally housed behind massive doors which will have you strain to even open before attempting them. Your currency is Ergo instead of souls, used to level up essentially the same way as the games before it. Die before spending it and you’ll leave it at your last corpse, able to be retrieved as long as you don’t die again.

Combat is also very similar, needing to balance light and heavy attacks as well as managing your stamina, blocking and dodging. Just like in similar titles, you’ll die, a lot, learn from your mistakes and progress ahead. This is why fans of the genre enjoy it as much as they do, overcoming that difficult enemy or boss, finally progressing. What is unique is its take on the ‘humanity’ system, but here it’s about telling the truth or a lie at certain points, effecting your path forward and ending as well.

This is where the combat comes in, something FromSoftware has basically perfected, and what I generally struggle with in the genre. Souls games generally have you play more defensively, usually opting to dodge attacks and waiting for your opening for attack. Bloodborne on the other hand was much more aggressive in its design, and this is where you can clearly see Lies of P drew its inspiration from. You still need quick reactions, but Lies of P wants you to play much more aggressively, relying on counters and parries rather than dodging and rolling.

Performing a perfect guard is absolutely required to master, as that’s really your only chance the further you make your way into the city. Doing so is more than to just be flashy though. It’ll will give the enemy some stagger damage, where if you do this enough, will open them up to a heavy or execution attack, as they’ll be vulnerable for a few seconds. These perfect parries also will cause the enemies weapon to become damaged, maybe even breaking, which in turn reduces the damage output they can do. The best part? These also applies to bosses as well, so if you can perfectly parry a number of attacks in a row, you can get a huge advantage against them.

Even for someone like that that finds Souls combat difficult, once I learned the enemy patterns and was able to perfectly guard against them, I was able to play much more aggressive, barely dodging at all. There’s something so satisfying about negating a rapid attack from a boss, only to counter and take off a huge chunk of their health. Boss fights were easily the highlight, each being designed uniquely, having their own movesets, and later on, a good amount will have two phases that you’ll have to contend with.

The later bosses are quite difficult, some taking me at least a dozen tries, but is incredibly satisfying when you finally defeat them and make it to the next Stargazer. Certain spots will allow you to summon NPC’s to help you in these boss fights as well if you have the appropriate item, so it’s a good idea to search off the main path when you can, just in case you want some help at a certain challenging boss.

Instead of Estus Flasks you have health pots, which are used in the same way. In most Souls-like games, once you’re out of healing options, you essentially had to return to a Bonfire to refill them, but that also reset all the enemies of course. Here though, once you’re all out of your healing pots, you can actually refill at least one. Again, perfect parries will slowly refill these for you, again, forcing you to play a bit more aggressively, which is a great balance and reward for doing so. More than once I had no healing supplies left but was able to refill one simply from performing well in combat. A great touch that other Souls games need to copy.

One of the most unique mechanics to Lies of P though comes from its weapon crafting system. Throughout your journey you’ll find new weapons, as expected, but blades and handles can be separated, then combined to your own creations. These aren’t just for visual flare either, as the blade determines how much and what type of damage (blunt versus slashing), but the handle is for certain movesets. This allows you to create some truly unique weapon combinations based on your playstyle. Myself for example, I hate the large and slow weapons. I prefer the smaller and faster weapons, even if they do less damage, as I can get a few hits in before having to parry. Some prefer those large slow weapons that can take off big chunks of health at a time, but that requires knowing your weapon timing very well. Now I can take the blade from a dagger and the handle from a massive wrench, and combine them for something quite unique. Or maybe you do it the opposite way, keep the wrench end and attach the dagger handle for the special move that allows multiple ‘stabs’.

Once you get a handful of weapons it’s worth experimenting with, as every combination is really unique. Once you find a combination that suits you, it can make a massive difference in you being successful, especially versus bosses. The other unique mechanic is that you’ll need to sharpen your weapon when it becomes dull. Over time your weapon dulls, luckily Pinocchio has a portable sharpener on his mechanical arm. Holding the button for a few seconds is all it takes to get the blade back to optimum damage, as not sharpening it will mean you deal little to no damage. This usually isn’t much of a hassle, which is until you’re mid boss fight and trying to find the few extra moments to sharpen your blade. You’ll even get special sharpeners that allow you to coat your blade in fire as well.

Speaking of his mechanical arm, this can be swapped for different types. These each act as almost like a special move and is called your Legion Arm. Each prosthetic arm not only has their own unique ability, but can be upgraded later on to be even more powerful. Your starter Legion Arm starts out like a really strong punch, others will allow you to pull enemies in with a grapple cord, another act like a shield if you want to play a bit more defensively, and one gives you the ability to blast out a bolt of lightning, arguably the best of the bunch. There’s a few more to find throughout your journey, and I’m sure people will have varying opinions on which is best for them.

After a couple bosses and saving Geppetto you’ll also unlock the skill tree, called “P-Organs”. This is where you can unlock active and passive abilities for Pinocchio to suit your playstyle. These require Quartz, a special upgrade material you’ll need to be on the lookout for if you want to customize. This is how you’ll also create your own unique build on top of the weapon crafting. There are four nodes per section, needing to spend a certain amount before unlocking the next cluster. You can choose to heavily invest into one node and unlock special bonuses, or spread your quartz upgrades across the tree if you wish. Once you choose an upgrade, you can also then augment it with special abilities to increase your attack, abilities, survivability or item useage.

Lies of P is absolutely gorgeous to look at. Even though the city of Krat is in shambles, full of death and destruction, the design and aesthetics is wonderful to just take in if you get a few moments to do so. The robotic-like enemies at the beginning are interesting to look at, and later on as they become more monstrosities, they feel more unique. That said, you’ll see many enemies repeated over and over again, but for being puppets, that makes sense at least. The boss designs are fantastic, as the monstrosities are all uniquely designed. The backdrop of Krat is elevated with a soundtrack that fits the dark tone with melodies. By the music alone, you know when things are about to get serious or when you’re safe in the Hotel. The voice acting overall is done wonderfully, and I had no complaints there.

Even though I was initially apprehensive to play Lies of P simply due to its genre, they’ve managed to stand apart from the sea of poor Dark Souls and Bloodborne clones out there. Even though there’s very few in the genre I enjoy, Lies of P is up there on the list, as it was still quite challenging but was balanced just enough that I was able to enjoy it and make progress as well. Bloodborne fans are not going to want to skip this one, as Lies of P is clearly a huge love letter to the game in many ways, and if I was lying you'd see my nose growing.

**Lies of P was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.7 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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