Lies of P is easily the most absurd pitch for a game I’ve ever heard. Imagine if you took Bloodborne, in all its gothic glory, but used its Soulslike structure to retell the story of Pinocchio in a steampunk setting … oh, and imagine if Pinocchio looked like Timothée Chalamet. I promise that I’m not making this up or suffering from a Gamescom-induced hallucination; it’s an entirely real game that I played with my own two hands.
It’s easy to write Lies of P off as either a joke or, even worse, a cheap knockoff. After all, it’s made by a small team that doesn’t have the same resources as a studio like FromSoftware. While I could feel those limitations during my hands-on demo with the game, Lies of P certainly isn’t a game to be taken lightly. It absolutely wiped the floor with me.
Right from the opening moments of the demo, it was clear that developer Neowiz isn’t trying to hide its Bloodborne inspiration. I was loaded into some dreary European streets and immediately activated what was ostensibly a bonfire checkpoint (a text splash that accompanied it looked identical to what you’d see in a FromSoftware game). The similarities only stacked up from there. A health-restoring flask? Check. A map filled with shortcuts that would make it faster to move forward each time I died? Check. Runes earned from enemies that could be used to upgrade my stats, but that I’d drop and have to recover if I was killed? Check.
I wouldn’t blame someone for thinking it’s a little shameless, but Lies of P does set itself apart in some key ways. For one, combat feels much faster and to the point compared to the slow, deliberate pace of FromSoftware’s games. I chose an agility-based class for my demo, which turned Pinocchio into a graceful fencer. I could quickly poke at standard enemies, slicing them up in just a few hits. By holding down the right trigger, I could charge up a quick flurry of jabs that would shred a foe even quicker. After spending so much time watching characters slowly trudge around in Souls games, that speed is a breath of fresh air.
Combat isn’t just a matter of dodging, blocking, and performing light or heavy attacks. By pressing the left trigger, Pinocchio can use different weapons tied to his mechanical arm (this game is as fun to play as it is to write about). My favorite tool was a grappling hook arm that would pull enemies toward me like Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion. Considering that Souls games tend to be about maintaining a safe distance from enemies, I appreciate that Lies of P encourages players to get more aggressive and rewards those who want to fight up close.
Since the gameplay is no joke, I’m more than willing to play more when it launches.
At first, that pace made the game feel like it might be easier than your typical Soulslike. Boy, was I wrong about that. Once I started encountering denser packs of enemies, the game thoroughly kicked my butt, constantly sending me back to the nearest checkpoint. But what I noticed is that I always felt like deaths were my own fault. I didn’t have moments where I was dying due to unexpected interactions or a mindless third-person camera. I expected a lot of rough edges here due to the studio size, but honestly, it feels more polished than your typical Dark Souls game in some respects.
Though it has that advantage over FromSoftware, there are some places where the limitations can be felt. I really enjoy the idea of its steampunk European setting, but the slice I played wasn’t quite as rich with gothic detail as Bloodborne. The same goes for its enemies, which didn’t particularly stand out. However, I only saw a small piece of what the game has to offer. Considering the scale of the project, it’s an incredibly impressive feat – one born out of true reverence for the games that inspired it.
The only thing I didn’t get a sense of by the end of my demo is how the story of Pinocchio ties into it all. My time was spent doing some basic exploration with no real story setup. I desperately want to see how Neowiz pulls that off in a way that’s not completely ridiculous (I can only hope that your nose grows slightly bigger every time you die and that you’ll eventually fight a mechanical whale). And since the gameplay is no joke, I’m more than willing to play more when it launches and feed that curiosity.
Lies of P will be released for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S in 2023. It will be on Xbox Game Pass at launch as well.