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This game plays a bit like Bloodborne and a bit like Sekiro. It is very parry heavy, though I found the parrying to be not quite as forgiving (though also not quite as necessary) as in Sekiro. There is some Bloodborne in there as well though -- blocking temporarily costs life that you can regain by attacking, similar to the rally system.
Lies of P executes all of this extremely well. This is the first game in this genre that I have played that I would truly say plays as well as a From game does. The weapons feel heavy but responsive, attacks feel fair, and though the bosses are mostly pretty easy (especially if you summon help) many of them feel like they could fit into a souls game, in terms of abilities and strategy.
The similarities do end there, however, for better and worse.
Some of the systems are really cool. Weapons you find along your journey are split into blades and handles, which can be mixed and matched. The handle provides the moveset and stat scaling for the weapon. The blade provides the form factor and damage types. The system breaks down a little bit in that certain handles are usually going to be better for certain weapon types, so your choices are more limited than they seem. Additionally, the advance weapons (special damage type) only really scale with advance handles, so if you are going that route (as I was) you are even more limited. I liked playing with this system, but broader upgrades for the handles and more ability to feasibly form combinations would have gone a long way.
Similarly, equipment is streamlined to the point that it basically doesn't need to exist. You can make a few choices about status effect resistance or type damage resistance, but it feels perfunctory at best.
The damage types themselves felt good though. Acid, Fire, and Electricity each have some weapons and equipment that apply them and have special effects. Additionally they work better or worse on different enemy types, which I enjoyed. Swapping to a new weapon type when entering a new area based on the enemies I found there gave me a bit of a Monster Hunter flavor, with preparation having a larger part here than in other Soulslikes I have played.
The world design is a pretty big disappointment, unfortunately. There are a lot of cool environments with circuitous routes through them that make sense given the chaotic state of the city. Each area, however occurs in a strictly linear fashion. They unlock like chapters and you tackle them in order, only really returning for plot events that essentially turn previous areas into new levels. Lies of P has basically none of the exploration and self-determined area order that the best entries in the genre provide.
It does work ok with the very linear nature of the story and the journey that P is on here, but it just isn't as satisfying as it could be even though the levels themselves are fun to fight through. It is telling that this is a major negative to me, but most everything else about the game is strong enough to make up for it.
Lies of P has a premise that didn't initially appeal to me, but Neowiz leans so hard into the Pinocchio story that you have to respect it and things actually end up being pretty compelling. I really like all of the crossovers with the book and it was fun to see what was going to come up given that my knowledge of the story is vague at best. The world they explore here of alchemists and puppets with hidden agendas and opaque history ended up feeling very cool to me for most of my playthrough.
I liked this game a lot and will probably return to it for another playthrough at some point. Despite the lack of autonomy and choice for how to tackle things, the gameplay itself is so solid that things just feel really great. I am looking forward to DLC for the title and will be paying attention to whatever Neowiz comes out with next!
The level design here is more straightforward, with almost every mission just being a collect the keys in order as you fight through rooms of enemies sort of affair. There are a couple with some interesting teleportation or exploration challenges, but for the most part these feel like straightforward, fantasy caves and temples. I do like that the levels feel much different than Doom though.
I like the art in Heretic quite a bit though. It presents a bright, Saturday morning cartoon version of fantasy with saturated colors and lighting that gives it quite a contrast to the dark hellscapes of Doom. Things like the final boss, D'Sparil being the guy that you have seen over and over in the stained glass windows throughout your ordeal are cute and fun.
The weapons start out promising but the team seems to run out of ideas fairly quickly and most of them fail to really make a case for their inclusion here. Individual weapons don't feel suited to defeating particular enemies or particular challenges and where Doom makes your ammo resource an in interesting source of power increase (from the pistol to the chain gun) or decision-making (between the energy rifle and the BFG), ammo here just ammo. Each weapon has a different type and you sort of cycle through your armaments as you run low on a particular type. It isn't really very satisfying or fun.
The Spectral Crossbow is by far the standout to me, with its somewhat interesting shot pattern it functions like a hybrid of a shotgun and a sniper rifle.
Enemy design doesn't do the weapon designs any favors. New enemies are introduced throughout most of this three episode campaign and they have different attacks, but your approach to them never really changes. Fighting a Maulotaur is basically no different than fighting a golem, it just goes on for longer.
Heretic plays well enough, but definitely feels like a by the book proof of concept done by a team that didn't really have a clear idea of what makes Doom's systems or level design work. I do love the swing at making this weird, fantasy fast-follow to Doom even if it ends up being a fairly mundane experience to play through.
The world-building here is amazing, especially considering it is very procedural, stringing together a Gamma World sort of environment with generated factions and communities for you to explore and discover. The consistent themes of self modification (through mutation or technology), discovery (from ancient technology to the local recipe for soup), and collaboration makes the world of Qud an amazing and evocative one to explore. This also leads to Praetorian death squads warping into the map and killing you instantly on occasion, which can feel bad. The unpredictable, dangerous, and weird bend of everything around you does serve to keep you on your toes despite some structural monotony you can run into.
Structurally it is similar in a lot of ways to Tales of Maj'eyal. There is an overworld that is static from seed to seed but a higher level of fidelity than ToME makes every piece of this world generated and explorable. This ends up giving you a specific goal that is always the same while the individual places you explore, creatures you meet, and items you find are different.
I found this static structure to be the biggest weakness of the game. Creating unique builds and characters is fun but the actual experience run to run ends up feeling very linear and samey. You will always progress to Grit Gate, Golgotha, and Bethesda Susa and the experience of each will be largely the same. Like ToME, the level-based danger of these areas means you will probably go through the same steps to surmount them as well making the beginning of the game feel like rote preparation for these challenges.
Creating your character in Qud is in-depth but made simpler by a bunch of premades that give varied experiences and work well. Broadly you are choosing between a mutant or a 'true-kin' (full human able to install cybernetics), and then specializing in a number of abilities, weapons, or attack types. It feels as cool to put together a 4-armed freak with a turtle shell who zaps people with super-charged static electricity as it does to roll around the world cobbling yourself into a cyborg death machine from discarded ancient technology. There are a few things that feel like traps or vestigial remnants of old development explorations, but the constant rate of updates to this game sees many things get phased out and replaced with interesting new toys.
Qud is a beautiful game, going a step beyond ascii to a character set that is evocative, expressive, and interesting. The color palette works especially well here. I love the muted colors that are still varied and used expertly to delineate different areas, creatures, and dangers.
Some size wonkiness and wildly swinging threat levels can make things play a bit badly on occasion. It is weird to see a crystalline structure the size of a mountain that takes up the same amount of space as a snapping turtle. It can be a bad experience when a guy that looks basically like most other wasteland guys you see kills you from across the map with a high-powered laser rifle.
The sometimes weird balance aside, playing Qud is an experience that isn't replicated in any other game. This is the Dwarf Fortress of classic roguelikes and has as much depth, interest, and fun as you would expect from that description. Freehold Games has created a classic here and I expect it to only get better as they continue to expand and refine it.