Lies of P Is a Bloodborne-Infused Gothic Fever Dream
Already one of 2023’s biggest surprises.
There have been countless retellings of Pinocchio over the years, but there’s never been anything quite like Lies of P. This “grittier” retelling of the classic fairy tale blends together gothic horror elements and themes of technology surpassing its creator for one wild experience. After playing the opening hours of Lies of P, it’s clear the game is drawing directly from the works of FromSoftware, but this could end up being one of the very best Soulslikes we’ve seen yet.
Lies of P takes place in the city of Krat, which is essentially a fantastical version of Paris during the Belle Epoque period (1871-1880). A plague has swept through the land, and now the only things inhabiting the city are crazed automatons and mechanical “puppets” freed from the whims of their masters. The player controls a puppet named P created by the brilliant Geppetto, and who, unlike other puppets, possesses the ability to lie and pass for a human.
Right out of the gate, there’s a deep sense of mystery and desolation, as befitting of the Soulslike genre. The city of Krat is downright eerie, and the massive, toy-like automatons stalking the streets creates a distinct aesthetic that sets the game apart from other Soulslikes. BioShock is a fitting comparison here — Lies of P’s fallen city feels remarkably similar to Rapture, a place imbued with mystery but plenty of little details and world-building to help flesh it out.
If P’s story sounds a lot like Pinnochio, know that you are not wrong. Lies of P is the fairytale retold, albeit in a warped and twisted tone. There’s a Fairy Godmother character that acts as your guide, a mini-boss that’s a manic donkey-headed boy, and a talking lantern named Gemini that accompanies you through the game. Taken together, Lies of P’s cryptic setting and aesthetic are easily its biggest strengths, but it’s no slouch on the gameplay front either.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Lies of P play almost exactly like a Dark Souls game, with a few interesting twists thrown in for good measure. To get the obvious out of the way, there are a ton of systems that function just like they do in Dark Souls; Stargazers work as Bonfires, Ergo is your currency for leveling up and it is lost on death, you can use back attacks, and even summon a Specter to help during certain boss battles.
The game uses the same chunky-feeling combat and movement. Every blow and dodge feels deliberate, although blocking is arguably more important. Lies of P uses a Bloodborne-esque health restoration system. Blocking reduces the damage you take, but any damage done can be repaired if you immediately land blows on the enemy.
One of the more standout mechanics lies in your core weapons. When you acquire a new weapon, you can leave it be if you want, or you can use Weapon Assemble to mix and match both saber and hilt pieces with others. Certain sabers might affect your range, while hilts can alter your attack animations and special moves called “Fable Arts.” It’s a neat system that lets you fine-tune your combat experience, and I’m interested to see how much freedom the full game might give you as you acquire new weapons.
The other distinctive element is your Legion Arm, a mechanical left arm where the components can be swapped out to allow for various capabilities. Your arm has its own durability — separate from your weapons — and has two uses: a core function and a grinder that can restore weapon durability. Your starter arm only has a basic attack, but my demo had two other arms with wildly different capabilities. “Puppet String” gives you a grappling wire that can be used to pull in lighter enemies, while “Fulminis” can imbue your attacks with elemental damage that leads to status effects on enemies.
While the 3weapon system and Legion Arms add some unique flair, it’s clear there’s still some fine-tuning that needs to be done in terms of difficulty. You have plenty of options, but Lies of P’s demo often felt overwhelmingly difficult. I was ultimately able to overcome everything, but it’s easy to see how the high difficulty could turn off players not well-versed in Soulslikes.
At the same time, I hope the full release increases the enemy variety. What’s in the game right now is great, but the same few enemies are spread across the entire demo (outside of boss encounters, at least). I really dig the police automatons, robotic dogs, and chimney-sweep puppets, but again, the full release needs more variety to keep things fresh.
Lies of P sounded like a fascinating concept when it was announced, and playing through the demo only piqued my interest further. This retelling of Pinocchio is a gothic horror fever dream, but it works, and works well. I can’t wait to see more. There are mechanics I haven’t fully figured out either, like moral choices in the game where you can “lie” and seemingly become more human.
Between the aesthetic and twists on combat and character builds, Lies of P has the makings of an all-time great Soulslike. We just have to wait and see if the parts come together to make the dream work.