Lords of the Fallen made a splash at Summer Game Fest a month ago, and recently at Gamelab Barcelona we were lucky enough to catch up with Hexworks’ executive producer Saúl Gascón to learn much more about the long-awaited dark fantasy action-RPG, including its deep lore, dual world and distinctive mechanics. Here is the full video interview and a few snippets on various topics:
The dual world and lamp core mechanic
“You have to look at this as a holistic package. So this is a gameplay mechanic, but it’s also part of the fantasy. So of course it affects the visuals, but it affects the gameplay, it affects everything. Like narrative, characters, everyone involved becomes affected by this.
“We have three gods in the game: The god of Radiance, which are, let’s say, the classic good guys, the angels. You have the god of the Rogar, the demon god of the rogar, the fallen lord, which is Adyr. And then you have a third faction, which is led by the Putrid Mother. And this is basically what happens when someone dies in this universe. What happens to these people. So basically you have this creature that eats the souls of the people who die.
“So what are you there? You as a player, you are long dead, and you are being resurrected by the lamp. What is the lamp? The lamp is, no spoilers, but the lamp is a part of this goddess. And basically gives you the ability to travel between the world of the living, Axiom, and the world of the dead, Umbral.
“So how does this affect gameplay? So pragmatically, basically you’re going to work around the game world, you’re going to explore. And sometimes you find a blocker, like, ‘oh shit, I don’t know where to go.’ So then you can lift your lamp, and with that you can just look on the other side, look around and say, ‘aha, there’s a path there,’ or a door, or an enemy, or whatever it is. So you’ll see what’s actually blocking your progress.
“And then at any time you can decide that the lamp consumes your body and becomes part of Umbral, or travels to the Umbral realm. But that has a risk, because then if you die in Umbral, that’s true death. So you should always be careful if you want to do this.
With this you reach two parallel universes. They are like the two sides of the same coin. So one cannot exist without the other, but at the same time one is trying to eat the other, so it’s kind of a crazy universe.
“And then you go around, grab your lamp, see what’s on the other side.
But you have to be careful, because when you use the lamp, the creatures on the other side see you too. So they can pull you in at any time”.
A handmade card with a procedural twist
“We wanted to offer a very, let’s say, handmade and polished experience. So we designed and built everything by hand. The two worlds, one on top of the other. So you can imagine how hard it is to make one game, imagine making two sides of a game with two, let’s say, layers.
“Now, though, there’s a part I can’t talk much about because we want to reveal it later. But there is indeed, while you are in Umbral, we have teased that there are enemies that haunt you while you are in Umbral. And in fact, the longer you stay there, the more dangerous these enemies will be. So that part is actually procedural. So what we want to give you with this is that in this kind of game, taking care of your learning curve, which is very important. So it’s like when you get to a level, you die.”
“Then you learn the patterns of the enemies, where they’re placed, etc. And so you can progress little by little. But when you go to Umbral, there’s a random chance of things appearing when they shouldn’t, when you wouldn’t expect them. So it actually kind of taps into the horror genre.
“In short, in Umbral, how we built it is that we thought: what would the nightmare world of these people in this world look like? For us, it’s like having Axiom, the real world, which is fucked up, right? Like everybody, you know, people are not like, let’s say, at their best mental state. And then what are these people’s nightmares, right? So that’s why it looks so horrible”.
Graphics and performance
“Currently, it performs at 60 fps on PS5 and Xbox Series X in Performance mode and 30 fps on Quality mode. But both experiences have a high quality bar in terms of visuals.
“We collaborated with the best technology out there. We linked up with Epic to work with Unreal Engine 5. So we tweaked their technology. In addition, we added our own layers of technology. For example, for the duality of the two worlds. So what we do with that is we can design in the editor the two levels, so artists or designers can just go in and create what they need for both sides. And with a button they can switch between the two worlds.”
Creatures and enemies
“As part of the Umbral Dread, this disease that appears the longer you stay in Umbral. That’s where you see larger creatures appear from Umbral. And that’s something that’s actually escalated.
“So when you start, it’s only the most basic thing. As you get further into the game, it gets more and more dangerous. But the rewards are also better. So sometimes you want to stand there in a corner with your shield and your sword trying to kill those big guys to get stuff.
“Besides, we have what we call the Natives everywhere. So every area, every zone is very important to us. We built each level with its own theme and its own inhabitants. So in that respect, you have a wide variety from smaller enemies to actually huge problematic encounters.
“And then of course we have the icing on the cake, which is the bosses, so we have quite a lot of bosses in our game. We’re talking about about 30 in total, with different shapes and sizes. And then the most spectacular, well, you saw in the trailer, the big spoiled offspring that’s actually, you know, as big as a building.
“In this world, nobody cares. This is something that’s very important. Because the thing is like, you’re not the hero, right? You can become the hero, yes, of course, but that’s usually your goal. So when you find these beings, they do their thing. They’re, you know, like you on a normal Sunday, you’re there, you know, doing a barbecue or whatever, and a guy shows up with a sword, ‘hello!’ So you think, ‘what the fuck?’ So this is what we’re trying to create with these bosses: they’re in their ecosystem, doing their thing, and you’re there to interrupt them.”
Reboot of the series and catering to soulslike fans
“It’s important to note that everyone at Hexworks, we’re huge fans of this genre, action-RPGs in general, but Souls-like in particular. So like everyone on the team is very passionate about this. When you work in a genre, there will always be similarities, right? And we don’t go back to it. Like, yeah, we have things that some people think are similar to any FromSoftware game, but also to any other action RPG, like Final Fantasy or any other RPG.
“Because ultimately we want to bring an experience that satisfies the players who want that kind of experience. But yes, we add our own touch. Sometimes with these big things like the Umbral, which is like a change of paradigm, like change of death cycle, and then adding an extra layer of exploration and what we call detective gameplay, you have to explore around. In fact, you find little bits of story in Umbral, you know, events that happened in the past, et cetera.
But on top of that, we also have accessibility. We worked a lot on the controls, like, “okay, how can we make it better? And then some little quality-of-life details here and there, things that we just did completely differently. We didn’t have as a goal, like, let’s do a game that’s close to this, but we’re all drinking from the same fountain.”
The new Lords of the Fallen will launch on PS5, Xbox Series and PC on Oct. 13.