Lies of P has been kicking my ass all weekend long. That’s to be expected of a Soulslike action-RPG, sure, but even after over 20 hours of game time, this steam-goth retelling of Pinocchio has really been doing me in due to one particular problem: the clunky dodge mechanic.
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Buy Lies of P: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop
Lies of P officially launches on September 19 for PC, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox systems, though you could’ve gotten into the desolate streets of Krat 72 hours early if you preordered the $70 Digital Deluxe Edition. The game is a bloody and dark reimagining of Pinocchio in which the titular puppet, who here bears a striking resemblance to actor Timothée Chalamet, must defeat a raft of rampaging dolls to save mastermaker Geppetto and uncover the truth behind what’s causing the puppets to go ballistic. You’ll block, dodge, slash, and parry your way through a Belle Époque-era France that’s been overrun by demented humans, deranged marionettes, and demonic abominations in a package that’s a lot like Bloodborne. Unfortunately, for all the inspiration it takes from FromSoftware’s horrific Victorian-era-inspired Yharnam city, Lies of P doesn’t rip off that game’s elegant, superior dodge roll when it totally should.
After the criticism it received following the summer demo, co-developer Neowiz Games told Eurogamer that the dodge was tweaked to be smoother and more flexible. Having played both the demo and the full release, I can say that, yeah, Lies of P’s dodge feels better than before. It is slightly more responsive and a bit easier to time. However, it still feels terrible when compared to other Soulslikes. Take Bloodborne, the game it draws the most comparisons to. The dodge mechanic in that game propels your hunter far further than P’s dodge does here. Not only do you cover more ground when you dodge, but Bloodborne’s iframes, moments in which you’re impervious to damage when performing certain moves, feel more generous when compared to Lies of P’s. Or how about Sekiro, which lets you cancel your attack animations by blocking, dodging, or jumping? Canceling movement in Lies of P is not a thing. In true Dark Souls fashion, once you swing your weapon, P is locked in that animation until it’s finished. I’ve no fear of commitment, but Lies of P does you no favors when that commitment comes with an ass beating. Commitment also wouldn’t be much of a problem if the dodge felt better at the start, instead of about halfway through the game.
Dodging in Lies of P is atrocious when you first start out. It’s not until you beat the second main boss, the Scrapped Watchman, that you’ll unlock P’s skill tree, the P-Organ. Here you’ll find upgrades to the dodge roll—such as Link Dodge which lets you chain dodges together, and Rising Dodge which allows you to dodge when on the ground—that make the evasive maneuver feel more viable as a combat tactic. However, to actually unlock these skills, you need the incredibly rare upgrade material Quartz, which you get off of certain bosses and in specific chests. You need two Quartz to unlock one attribute from the P-Organ skill tree, and the material can’t be farmed around Krat. So, if you don’t prioritize upgrading the dodge skills first, your evading will likely stay bad until you hit New Game Plus.
That’s my dilemma here: rather than simply being available off the rip, you have to unlock the ability to pull off a decent dodge in Lies of P. And because of the atrocious dodge that you start with, I’ve died more times than I care to count. Without the ability to chain dodges and roll off the ground, I’ve found myself caught in combo hell. There are some enemies here, such as a steam guard that wallops you with a flaming shovel, that can stunlock you to death. That steam guard in particular has a very powerful—and very telegraphed—overhead slam that flattens you like puppet roadkill while burning you to a crisp. Get hit by that first attack and the enemy will follow up with several more ground slams that’ll quickly deplete your health. Since I didn’t have Rising Dodge unlocked at the time, and the initial overhead slam is one of those unblockable strikes, I’d mistime the dodge and get smashed ad nauseam. The animations in this game take forever, so as P’s just kinda chilling on the ground—despite me button-mashing my controller like I’m begging him to get up on the sidelines of a boxing ring—the steam guard wound up for the follow-up punishment and then proceeded to bust my doll skull wide open. And this happened all the time, whether I was up against a trash mob,a terrifying boss, or even an environmental hazard.
Read More: That Gothic Pinocchio Soulslike Has A Pretty Neat Weapon Durability Mechanic
Buy Lies of P: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop
I’m still having a great time with Lies of P, though. The setting and storytelling, coupled with the fantastic attention to detail that really creates an evocative sense of place, have me hooked. I’m dying all the time, which is quite annoying but nothing too uncommon for this genre of game. And while I’m sure I could just “git gud” and learn the dodge—and trust me, I’ve gotten better about it—the fact that some critical dodge upgrades are locked behind a rather grindy skill tree just feels bad, y’all.