Lies of P frustrates me. The first Soulslike from developers Neowiz Games and Round8 Studio, this gothic action-RPG keeps kicking my ass no matter how many times I level up. It’s aggravating. And yet, I keep pulling myself from the comfort of my Starfield spaceship to descend into the chaos of “Pinocchio Souls” for one reason: The South Korean duo has done much more here than just rip off the alluring FromSoftware vibes. They truly understand what makes the Japanese studio’s game design so compelling, and Lies of P’s excellent gameplay proves it. It may not reinvent the wheel, but it does enough to stand out among the crowd while still scratching that persistent Bloodborne itch.
Loosely based on the story of Pinocchio, Lies of P is about a world gone mad. A puppet frenzy has killed most humans in the city of Krat, a once-prosperous town teeming with life and opulence, and a plague known as the petrification disease is turning the remaining folks into blue bulbous monsters. Buildings are burning. Homes are ransacked. Streets are soaked. And to top it all off, the creator of all the puppets, Geppetto, is missing. As P, your job is to find your dad and stop the rampaging puppets while unraveling the mystery behind the viral infection coursing through the city.
That’s the story setup and, unlike FromSoft with its penchant for vagaries, Lies of P’s narrative is surprisingly easy to follow. There are cutscenes at the start and end of most chapters. When you return to Hotel Krat, the hub area where you can upgrade your character and tinker with your equipment, NPCs will give exposition dumps about changes to the world and your next mission objective. Characters react to your decisions—both in terms of dialogue responses and outfit choices—and certain bosses are aware of what you’ve gotten into in Krat. You can absolutely read item descriptions to pick up on some of the nuances—what happened to a couple on Elysian Boulevard, why a carpentry shop was vacated, and so on—but Lies of P presents a clear and concise narrative for you to follow.
FromSoftware’s storytelling is fascinating because it leaves much to the imagination. Lies of P does something similar, but instead of merely stringing you along with breadcrumbs in the hopes that you’ll piece together the story yourself, it gives you a story, then asks that you spend some time unraveling its many knots. It’s refreshing, as the game establishes its characters’ motivations off the rip without requiring you to scroll through copious menus reading small text just to understand the intricacies of the setting you’re fighting your way through.
To be sure, fighting is what you’ll spend much of your time in Lies of P doing, and every encounter is brutal. This is a Soulslike, after all, so you can expect to respawn at the nearest Stargazer (this game’s version of bonfires) over and over again. You have your standard moveset here: a block, light and heavy attacks, a dodge, and some special moves called Fable Arts that have their own rechargeable gauges. You’ve also got stamina and weight to worry about, both of which affect how you attack.
In that way, Lies of P is a regular old Soulslike. However, while it draws a lot of comparisons to Bloodborne, particularly for its visuals, you should treat it more like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice which, like this game, puts considerable emphasis on precisely timed guards. You’ll want to master its perfect guard in order to negate all damage and, after enough perfect guards, break your opponent’s weapon. The window on this maneuver is tight, though. Miss it and you’re in for a beating, especially since the animations for most movements—attacking, dodging, using consumables, and the like—are long. But get it down and the perfect guard will become your bestie as you battle against the game’s many no-bullshit boss encounters.
And there are an array of formidable bosses just waiting to stomp your pretty doll face in. From a hulking parade master that beats you to death with its head to a Lovecraftian-looking slug beast that only wants to give you poison kisses to a gang of four highly trained masked warriors to a roided-up human monstrosity, Lies of P has no shortage of tough foes, each more impressive than the last. In true Soulslike fashion, these enemies are the hardest of skill checks, coming at the end of each of the game’s 11 chapters. Some are cheaper than others. A few have an even cheaper second phase that left me wondering if the game sucked or I just needed to “git gud,” and honestly, it feels like an amalgam of both.
A big problem here is animation recovery, which sees P taking forever to get back to a neutral position before performing another action. That said, I also went in with a Bloodborne mindset instead of a Sekiro one. So, I got bodied. A lot. One boss in particular, the King of Puppets, which comes around the halfway mark, damn near made me quit the game entirely. After 20 or so tries and expending literally every consumable in my inventory, however, I finally killed the bastard. This is why I keep coming back to the game. Despite the frustration I sometimes feel with its sluggish mechanics, the exhilaration the game elicits after these difficult fights is gratifying, especially after spending some time taking in the beautifully varied locales.
Lies of P takes place in Belle Époque-era France, so naturally the game features tons of cobblestone streets and grand cathedrals to explore. There are also dilapidated villages and underground chasms ripe for spelunking. Mixed in are steampunky aesthetics and gory visuals, which create something that nestles in between the bloody horror of Bloodborne and the mechanical beauty of Steelrising. Blood and oil soak the alleys. Human corpses and dismembered puppets line the buildings. Everything everywhere is trashed. Among the rubble are wilting flowers. It’s all depressingly gorgeous, and this juxtaposition between the gruesome and the opulent is enrapturing. The game does love to send you to cathedrals a few times, though, and their similarity can make it feel as if Krat isn’t that big.
Still, the attention to detail and strict level layout—this is a more linear affair akin to Demon’s Souls’ interlocking pathways than an open-world epic like Elden Ring—give Lies of P an unparalleled sense of place. The world Neowiz Games and Round8 Studio have constructed here feels both alive and lived in, with characters reminiscing about what was while deriding what is. It’s an evocative setting that’s as straightforward as it is mysterious, one that will leave you dead long enough to bask in the glow of the street lamps and the chandelier lighting.
Interestingly, Lies of P is also one of the few non-FromSoft games that doesn’t just superficially mimic the studio’s games, but really understands its design philosophy. The genre is known for interconnected levels and punishing fights, but more than that, Soulslikes elicit a sense of pride and accomplishment just for making it to the next stage. FromSoft’s games heighten these emotions with their fine-tuned combat and intricate world-building, leaving you breathless after a tense boss encounter or when coming into a stunning new area.
Lies of P isn’t as fine-tuned or as intricate as a Dark Souls, but Neowiz Games and Round8 Studio have gotten pretty damn close here. If you told me this was a FromSoft game, I’d totally believe you. It wears its inspirations on its robot arms with dignity, and although it isn’t wholly original, the game is still a work of impressive atmosphere and design. At the very least, it can fill that Bloodborne-shaped hole that grows with each passing day.
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