Xbox Game Pass Just Added the Best Souls-Like Game of 2023
'Lies Of P' is no cap.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It helps, too, that we love a good imitation, whether we call it a spiritual successor or a [insert title here]-like. There is a fine line between cheap imitation and divine inspiration, however; for every Stardew Valley, there’s a Flappy Plane. Paradoxically, we want something new and familiar at the same time. It sounds easy in theory, draw inspiration and ideas from a popular thing and your thing should be popular. In practice, it's much harder. Which is why the hottest new title on Game Pass should be celebrated for getting it exactly right.
Lies of P concerns itself with a more traditional form of imitation: puppetry. A bold retelling of Pinocchio, the game centers on the Victorian-style city of Krat, which has been overrun by automatons built by genius inventor Mr. Geppetto. No marionette strings here, though, these brutish clockwork robots slaughtered the humans, and now it's up to P to make things right. As a Souls-like game, Lies of P wears its Bloodborne influence on its sleeve. But up that sleeve are plenty of new tricks to challenge and delight FromSoft fans and newcomers alike.
At first glance, the vibes of Lies of P are obvious. A haunted, ruined city teeming with stilted, shambling foes. It’s spooky, but fear not. P is a formidable fighter … assuming you are, too. Devotees of Souls-likes will have an easier time settling into the groove, but Lies of P isn’t quite as punishing as most titles in the genre. Still, new players may find themselves battling frustration as they learn the importance of timing, parries, etc.
As with any Souls-like, the real test lies in the first few boss battles. But Lies of P is worth the struggle. The deeper into the game you get, the more your personal playstyle and strategy can emerge. It’s not quite right to say things get easier, but as you start to understand how the world works (and how you like to play), things become more clear. There are some very deep customization mechanics at play that keep Lies of P engaging until the very end.
P collects Ergo (think souls) from fallen foes to use on upgrades, etc. Drain your health to nothing, and you lose what you’re carrying, but you can return to the scene and get it back. As you improve your character and settle into a playstyle, you’ll need to think carefully about your arsenal. One of Lies of P’s biggest strengths is how well-balanced the weapon customization system is, even beyond mere stats. All weapons are composed of two parts, a top part like a blade or hammer, and a bottom hilt. As you mix and match, you’ll notice that the timing of attacks is influenced by the heft and physics of your creations. In a game where that really matters, it's a great detail and one that encourages experimentation.
P also has a mechanical arm, which you can give a variety of upgrades that also influence how you handle combat. Maybe you want more defense with a shield arm. Maybe you want an arm that shoots bombs. Maybe your new shield arm doesn't work as well with the weapon you’ve been using. Now what? On and on it goes.
Like any good Souls-like, the combat should be the focus, but Lies of P manages to do a lot of other things right, too. The story and writing are compelling, with three possible endings that depend on some key choices you’ve made throughout the game. Lying is a big part of the narrative, and whether you choose to tell the truth or not can have a range of consequences depending on the situation. A love story injects some much-needed heart and soul into the adventure, and you can expect plenty of twisted takes on some familiar Pinocchio characters, too.
Lies of P deserves the praise it's getting and is even more deserving of your time. It’s a fresh, interesting game that is being overlooked in what is shaping up to be one of the greatest years for video games in a long time. Still, with its precise combat, pitch-perfect atmosphere, and familiar mechanics and tropes, Lies of P is no mere imitation. It is real, boy. Play it ASAP.