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Lies of P is an elegant Soulslike that's too on the nose

Strings attached.

Lies of P close up of the hero in a moody setting.
Image credit: Neowiz

It's usually the dogs. Ask any Souls fan and they'll tell you how infuriating the dogs are. Hiding around corners. Interrupting combat. Hunting in packs. They're secretly one of the trickiest enemies.

But in Lies of P? They're practically harmless, docile even. Not once while playing the recently released demo have I had trouble destroying these mechanical mutts. This can't really be a Soulslike, can it?

Dogs aside, Lies of P wants to be a real Souls game - just as the puppet Pinocchio longs to be a real boy. It's certainly comparable - and enjoyable - yet while imitation is flattering, from what I've played of Lies of P it doesn't quite find its own identity, its own...soul.

Lies of P - Official Release Date TrailerWatch on YouTube

It's there in the setting, though. Its city of Krat is an elegant fictional Belle Époque metropolis void of humanity. Players take the role of twinky Timothée Chalamet-alike P, the lifelike puppet who explores the aftermath of a puppet invasion. They've seemingly gone mad and taken over the city, the rain-soaked streets now empty beyond buzzing technology and suitcases and carts strewn haphazardly - presumably as people scrambled to escape.

And while enemy puppets generally take the form of smartly dressed gentlemen (sometimes without heads), round-helmeted policemen, and those aforementioned pups, the bosses have a wonderfully clunky, clockwork feel. The Parade Master sports a terrifying clown face, while the Scrapped Watchman's cute curly moustache belies its lurching and awkward gorilla-like movement and powerful electrical discharge.

Scrapped Watchman enemy and P in Lies of P
The Scrapped Watchman boss is a highlight.

P himself, while distinctly human by comparison, is a machine to tinker with. His internals can be upgraded with new parts, there's a skill tree unlocked later on amusingly called P-Organs, and his left arm houses different additional weapons like a grappling hook or electric shocker. The build options aren't as vast or varied as a Souls game, but P is a plaything to be customised to your liking.

Another fun, mechanical twist is weapon durability. I know, this is hardly a groundbreaking feature. But P holds a grinder in his inner arm (of course) that, at any time, can be used to resharpen his blade, resulting in a very cool samurai-esque animation. What's more, that grinder can be used to imbue weapons with elemental properties for extra effectiveness.

Combat, however, does feel a little too robotic. In part it's because P runs and dodges like he's got treacle stuck in his gears. But where Souls games are often about positioning around an enemy, Lies of P is more about timing. These metallic enemies have a seemingly magnetic ability (pun not intended) to strike P from any angle, requiring exact timing to either dodge or perfectly block. While that's still a fun challenge, it turns boss fights into a lesson in rhythmic pattern learning that lacks freedom. In comparison to the Souls games, it's a little too stiff and rigid.

That comparison, sadly, is inescapable. Developer Neowiz clearly has a keen nose for Soulslike elements, meaning Lies of P boasts all the hallmarks of the genre. Currency loss on death. Looping level design with bonfire-esque checkpoints. Familiar controls. A stat-based levelling system that impacts weapon buffs. Even the font looks similar.

Hotel Krat exterior in Lies of P
Hotel Krat forms a central hub in Lies of P. | Image credit: Neowiz

For Souls fans, Lies of P is an intuitive experience at least. I immediately found myself carefully considering each level up, slowly unravelling shortcuts in each environment, and sneaking up on enemies for a critical stab from behind. Bosses are best-defeated with liberal use of perfect blocks that, in turn, cause a stunned grogginess before unleashing a visceral attack. The familiar rhythms of Sekiro and Bloodborne return, which I mean as a compliment.

The comparison with Bloodborne is perhaps the most acute, the evocative and miserably gothic streets of Yharnam swapped for the detailed, yet clean, Krat with an indistinguishable colour palette. Bloodborne is arguably From Software's finest example of pristine, exquisitely tuned combat; Lies of P just can't compete.

A dedication to setting - even the loading screen says 'Now Lying' - and a fascinating take on the Pinocchio story are enough to have me keen to play more. And in the wake of Elden Ring's sometimes overwhelming open world, the tightly-focused and linear design of Lies of P is almost comforting. Yet these strings are tied a little too tightly to the Souls games, confirming From Software remains the puppet master.

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