Every once in a while, we get a game that tries to capture the magic of FromSoftware’s Dark Souls formula on its own terms. Lies of P is perhaps one of the most interesting to try. It mixes elements of the classic story of Pinocchio with a deadly outbreak of murder and chaos, as well as a truly interesting weapon crafting system. Lies of P might be about as good as I’ve ever seen a game do at chasing after the soulsborne style, and while it does have scratches in its finish, it’s still polished enough to stand on its own as the real deal.
A city of dreams, turned nightmares
Lies of P takes us to the illustrious city of Krat, where a tragedy has occurred just before our story begins. The city is one in which “puppets” (more like jaunty-looking robotic automatons) tend to its citizens every need. That is, until they suddenly all go berserk at once and begin killing every living thing around them. By the time the dust has settled and the blood has dried, Pinocchio is finally awakened and heads out into the city to unravel the mysteries of the rampage.
What follows is a dive into the tragedy of Krat, its history, its successes, its failures, and its secrets, and they are all incredibly intriguing to explore. The classic stories of characters like Pinocchio and Geppetto are woven into a unique and grim world of steampunk and magic, in which the nature of the puppets’ creation and the prosperity they brought to Krat takes an ever darker turn as you slay the puppets and save what humans you can. It even plays into the nature of honesty in the original Pinocchio story with options to lie at various important parts of the story and change the course of your narrative.
There is so much to soak in from Lies of P’s environments. The game is absolutely beautiful with picturesque glimpses of the broken city around every turn. From the city rooftops, to the puppet factory, down to a forgotten village and cathedral, there is so much grimy beauty throughout the game. It’s further aided by an interesting menagerie of characters and factions. Geppetto and Pinocchio are just the tip of the iceberg. There are the Stalkers, who were humans tasked with fighting the puppets should they ever fail, as well as the Church, the Alchemists, and so many more groups and figures that make sure Pinocchio’s journeys through Krat are almost never dull.
I can’t always say the same about the enemies in the game. Throughout much of Lies of P, the small fry enemies are a low point of the game. It feels like you don’t get to see much variety and creativity in Lies of P’s smaller foes. They’re all puppets of some kind, dressed up or armed in one way or another. There’s a brief stint where you get to take a break from them to fight something new, but even those newer enemies end up being a mostly zombie-like menace of which a few limited varieties are used far too generously.
Lies of P makes up for this somewhat by having bosses and sub boss encounters that are fun and engaging to tackle. Your very first main boss in the game is a circus ringmaster-like giant of a puppet that eventually pulls off his own head to swing it at your like a club. It only gets better from there with creatures and special puppets that feature interesting designs and require unique tactics if you’re going to overcome them. Lies of P oozes grotesque beauty and these encounters are some of the most solid examples of that.
Even so, it seems one of the few things that Lies of P has to shed from the soulsborne to keep its narrative was character creation. You’re Pinocchio, so there’s really no choice to be anyone besides Pinocchio. And unfortunately, that doesn't amount to actual character. Pinocchio doesn’t even really talk, so it’s not as if we’re missing out on having a strong narrative-driving main character. There's some level of cosmetic customization where you can find outfits and masks, sometimes as rare rewards, and that's satisfying. Even so, if we couldn't gussy up our puppet all the way, it's also kind of a shame that Pinocchio doesn't have much to his personality outside of silent delivery of some choices you make.
Ergo, much like souls
Lies of P is pretty unabashed in being a soulsborne-styled game. It doesn’t try to hide it in even the slightest. You slay enemies, unlock checkpoints, spend currency you get from killing enemies to level up, unlock shortcuts by fighting your way to them, and eventually fight bosses that mark the ends of regions you’re exploring. In that way, the progress through Lies of P is pretty by the book soulsborne material with little deviation. In combat, you have the usual suite of light attacks and combos, strong attacks, parries, perfect parries if you can time up with an enemy attack, and item usage based on what gadgets you have equipped in your hot bar. There’s even a healing item that can be refilled at any checkpoint and upgraded as you progress through the game.
It's the way in which you go about dealing with combat and equipment in Lies of P that makes it truly interesting. At the core of it all is the weapon crafting system. Most of the weapons in Lies of P are two-piece items consisting of a handle and a blade. Where this really takes off is that these handles and blades can be mixed and matched as you see fit to create a weapon that suits you best. Each handle and blade also has a special ability associated with them and by swapping them out, you get that handle or blade’s ability on whatever you attach it to.
For instance, I started with a rapier, which was fast and scaled with my Technique for a skill and speed-based build, but I eventually found a cleaver with a rocket booster for a handle. The cleaver blade was too heavy for my build, but I strapped the rapier blade to that boost handle and suddenly I have a rocket-powered rapier I can use to get in on enemies for fast damage and then duck out quickly. The handle also allowed me to do a ridiculous combo attack when I wanted to go all-out. You can make a massive number of combinations in the game and there are even some super-powered boss weapons that can’t be disassembled. Throughout the game, every time I discovered a new armament, I instantly took it apart, checked its stats, and looked at what I could do with my other handles and blades to make it better.
Lies of P also differentiates itself through use of Legion Arms. Remember that Pinocchio is a puppet. As such, he has a mechanical arm that can be fitted with various armaments. They require either some serious story progress or special materials to unlock, but each one offers a very unique and fun style of combat to your arsenal. You start simply with one that can deliver a massive punch to any foe, but it isn’t long before you get another that shoots a spear and rope out to either yank small fry to you or yank yourself to larger foes. My favorite of these Legion Arms was a cannon that allowed me to fire an explosive into foes that would blow up shortly after impact, allowing me to pin them with big damage while I moved in for the kill. It’s another great way to make use of the thematics and make combat interesting.
Lie as if your life depended on it
Lies of P was an interesting adventure. I really liked the blend of the classic tales of Pinocchio twisted into this strange and interesting world of puppets, rebellion, classism, and secrets. Being able to mix and match weapons and Legion Arms were delightful twists on my expectations of soulsborne combat mechanics. It's a shame the smaller enemies don't have more personality, and I also wish Pinocchio had more character to make playing him more enjoyable. That said, Lies of P is more than just a wooden facsimile of a soulsborne game. It gets the foundational stuff right and tweaks it just enough in combat and exploration to make things more interesting. For that much, it’s a tale worth exploring all the way to the end, wherever your lies may take you.
This review is based on a PC digital copy provided by the publisher. Lies of P comes out on September 19, 2023, for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
Lies of P
- Good blend of classic Pinocchio & grimdark fantasy
- The city of Krat is a beautiful and varied environment
- Mix-and-match weapons are brilliant
- Legion Arms also add fun to the combat
- Boss and sub-boss encounters are exciting & challenging
- Good, lengthy adventure with multiple endings
- Small fry enemy variety is dull & lacking
- Pinocchio as a silent protagonist is boring
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Lies of P review: Got no strings to hold me down
enjoyed the demo and very much looking forward to this
The environments look kind of Bioshock-y. But I guess the gameplay is quite different?
Very. It's pretty top-to-bottom Dark Souls or Bloodborne like in its combat and exploration. But the environments are very steampunk with some delightful variety.
I don't like souls combat but I really like the aesthetic in this so I'm definitely gonna give it a game pass try!