Lies of P review: a solid Pinocchio Soulslike with some strings attached
“Lies of P makes it clear that developer Neowiz has a deep appreciation and understanding for FromSoftware;s games that goes beyond a surface-level copy.”
- Strong atmosphere
- Memorable enemy design
- Offense is rewarded
- Great customization options
- Frustrating bosses
- Underwhelming help systems
- Co-op is missed
Ever since its release in 2015, I’ve been yearning for a sequel to FromSoftware’s excellent Bloodborne. Eight years later, Lies of P is the closest I’ve gotten to that dream – and that’s not what I expected from a game based on Pinocchio.
Lies of P is a classic Soulslike action RPG by developers Round8 and Neowiz that’s clearly inspired by the gothic aesthetic of Bloodborne. It’s as difficult, moody, and atmospheric as you’d expect considering that influence, but those aren’t the only ingredients that make FromSoftware games work as well as they do.
Though it may have the aesthetic down, Lies of P doesn’t always nail its combat flow, particularly in boss fights. Even with some missing pieces, the game’s strong monster designs, varied weapons, and some tight combat systems give it enough to stand out in a crowded field of Soulslikes, while also providing a sense of familiarity.
As bizarre as it sounds, Lies of P’s story is inspired by The Adventures of Pinocchio and follows a humanoid puppet who travels through Krat to find his master, Geppetto. All of that happens as the city crumbles around him. Like most Soulslike games, the narrative is told in a rather cryptic manner, and it mostly feels more like a backdrop to the genre’s most important aspects: fierce combat and unsettling atmosphere.
The Bloodborne comparisons are apparent right away; the central hub area, Hotel Krat, features a musical theme that even sounds like a fancier version of Hunter’s Dream from Bloodborne. But it’s that oddball Pinnochio setup that helps it stand on its own two feet. The inhabitants of its haunting world are largely inspired by that story, with Neowiz twisting characters and puppets into memorable, creepy NPCs. Hotel Krat’s reception agent, Polendina, is a puppet based on Geppetto who wears a yellow wig. There’s even an old lady sitting in a wheelchair that’s reminiscent of Gehrman, the First Hunter from Bloodborne. It’s all very weird, but undoubtedly unique.
Lies of P pairs that idea with a steampunk aesthetic that suits its strange world. The streets are filled with dashes of gothic buildings, lending the adventure a mysterious atmosphere that even standout Soulslikes like Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty haven’t been able to capture as well as FromSoftware’s titles. It’s clear that developer Neowiz has a deep appreciation and understanding for the studio’s games that goes beyond a surface level copy.
That’s most apparent in some standout boss designs. The monsters here range from gross, organic creatures to menacing machines. Early on, I fought a disgusting fallen priest who merged with a spider that looked like something out of Elden Ring. In another fight, I faced off against an ironclad machine wielding fire – a battle that reminded me of one I’d fought in Nier: Automata. The breadth of different designs gives each battle its own distinct personality, making for an unpredictable rogues’ gallery that’s worthy of being slain.
Lies of P’s action RPG combat feels like a perfect balance between Bloodborne’s fast-paced clashes and the defensive posturing of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. When blocking attacks, players still take damage at a reduced rate, but there’s an opportunity for them to regain lost health by striking immediately afterward. This mechanic rewards those who take some initiative in battle as opposed to hiding behind blocks. Like any Souls game, battles require skill and precision, but Neowiz builds in some helpful conveniences between those fights. The level design is rife with cleverly designed shortcuts that make it easy to navigate back to a tough boss after a death.
Those fights are unfortunately where Lies of P’s greatest flaw begins to reveal itself. Bosses attack entirely too fast, as it feels difficult to keep pace with a flurry of offensive attacks without being incredibly adept at perfect blocking. Deflecting at the last moment negates all damage and doesn’t eat up any stamina meter, so it’s a key strategy that needs to be mastered to get through some punishing fights. Those unforgiving boss fights make the skill ceiling feel that much higher when trying to nail down such an important maneuver.
When I’m on the offensive, I have to commit to my attacks. They can’t be canceled if a boss is about to strike and I don’t end up staggering it. I’d often run into situations where I’d lose that game of chicken, getting hit and staggered myself, which allowed my foe to follow up with another attack. For almost every single boss, I felt like I was fighting a fast-paced Bloodborne enemy with a Dark Souls slowpoke. That makes large weapons like greatswords feel unviable for the late-game bosses as they attack entirely too fast. I had to stick to lighter weapons for their shorter wind-down times, cutting down on my realistic options.
Several bosses also employ an annoying “two phases” strategy (like the infamous Guardian Ape from Sekiro). When you think you’ve overcome a boss after depleting all its health, you’re in for a surprise as it morphs into a new form for a second round. A few bosses having two phases can be a fun – and devilish – surprise, but Lies of P goes overboard.
Players can get a little help in battles, but those systems left me wanting more. Star Fragments, which are scattered around the world or dropped by enemies, allow me to summon an NPC to help during boss fights. It’s a nice idea for a helper system, but I often found I would burn through the consumables as I’d die so often to particularly punishing bosses. And that’s the only help I can get. There’s no multiplayer co-op like in Dark Souls or Elden Ring; Star Fragments are your only hope. That is, until you run out of them – and trust me, you will.
Though the combat isn’t as finely tuned as it could be, Lies of P has some useful customization options that add some variety to battles. For most weapons, I’m able to take apart both the blade and the hilt and mix and match each of them for different stats. Different parts can also give access to unique Fable Arts, which are powerful special attacks that can be unleashed when a Fable meter is full. It’s an extra touch that brings a little magic to the heavy hacking and blocking flow.
Additionally, the character’s left arm adds some surprising utility to combat. The Puppet String arm lets me grab enemies like a hookshot and pull them straight toward me, which is useful for separating enemies from a group and picking them off one by one. Another is Flamberge, which is essentially a flamethrower you can release on monsters. These arms bring an added layer of strategy that goes above and beyond what I’ve come to expect from the Soulslike genre at this point.
My favorite customization option, however, are the P-Organs. These act sort of like skill trees in an RPG. A consumable item, Quartz, allows me to equip certain attributes, such as sustaining lower damage while dodging and increasing the amount of Ergo (this game’s version of currency) earned from killing enemies. By linking these attributes together, I can unlock new abilities such as enabling another dodge while in the middle of my current dodge. All of these different customization options make me feel more engaged in Lies of P than I do in other games in the genre. Progression goes beyond just leveling up when I have enough Ergo to add a point to a stat; I feel like I’m more involved in my character’s growth. He’s a real boy, after all.
With its fascinating setting and atmosphere, as well as unique gameplay systems that twist the Soulslike formula, Lies of P is one of the most impressive takes on the genre to date. With some solid imitators in the genre like Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, Code Vein, and Nioh, Lies of P at the very least matches its contemporaries. It does have some glaring issues, though, especially how the game’s frustrating boss fights play out. Developer Neowiz still has some growing to do if it’s going to reach the same heights as the games it’s inspired by, but Lies of P is anything but wooden.
Lies of P was reviewed on Xbox Series X|S.