A screenshot from Lies of P

Review: Lies Of P (Sony PlayStation 5)

Be honest with me now.

9 mins read

I’m not going to lie. My nose will grow. Lies Of P infuriates me to play. Of all the ways to approach the Soulslike “hard game”, this is the least suited to my preferences. I understand that there will be an audience for it, but that’s not me, it won’t ever be me, and the game is so single-minded and inflexible in its approach that it ultimately lets itself down.

To put it in very basic terms, Lies Of P doesn’t want you to use the “dodge” button. It’s there, in theory, but pressing it results in a clumsy and clunky movement, and one that generally takes you out of counter-attack range of the enemy. My typically preferred approach to this genre is to avoid enemy attacks by nimbly dancing out of the way before darting in to get a hit or two in while the enemy recovers from its attack motion. Thanks to the poor implementation of the dodge, this approach is inefficient and largely ineffective in Lies Of P.

Instead, avoiding damage and dealing with enemies is almost totally reliant on timing the parry button, at just the right moment before the enemy attack lands, which will deflect the attack and give you a small window to counter. This is part of the arsenal in my favourite soulslikes, be that Elden Ring, Nioh, Wo Long or Steelrising, but it’s never the only tactic, as it feels like in Lies Of P. Combine that with something of a lack of visual and tactile feedback with those parries and the game feels slightly clumsy in execution. Not terrible, and people who do favour the “parry and riposte” approach to combat will find Lies Of P to be highly playable. It’s a game made for the Bloodborne crowd, basically. It’s not as well made as that, but it’s decidedly a homage to it. And it’s just not my favourite way to go about these things.

Screenshot from Lies of P

It’s a pity that I wasn’t able to get on with the base combat system, because there is a lot about Lies Of P that is admirable. Its narrative and theme, for example. It would be easy to dismiss Lies Of P as a “grimdark Pinocchio,” or a “Pinocchio does Bloodborne,” but that’s a superficial reading of such things. This “reimaging” of the classic novel is actually pretty close to the source material in that it aims to be a probing dissection of the qualities that distinguish humans from artificial constructs. You play as a puppet created by master craftsman, Geppetto. You awaken on a stationary train to find that the city around you has descended into chaos.

The puppets have risen, see, and have slaughtered most of humanity in a bloody revolution. They shouldn’t have been able to do that, because they were meant to be bound by a set of laws very similar to the laws of robots from Asimov’s stories. But they have. Those few humans left are having a bad day, too, because there’s a disease that is turning them all to stone. Geppetto, meanwhile, has disappeared. It all falls on our Pinocchio to deal with the rebel puppets, figure out how they managed to break their laws, help the humans through their predicament (perhaps), find Geppetto, and figure out what is going on in general.

Along the way, you’ll frequently run into some simple moral decisions where you’ll be given the choice of either behaving like a human, and behaving like a puppet. This is laboured in execution, but the crux of what Lies Of P is trying to say. Those decisions raise questions about what distinguishes humanity and its implications for moral character. The author of The Adventures of Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi, wrote his book about 100 years after Immanuel Kant and the other Enlightenment thinkers really started to drive at such questions, and the book stands as a critique and consideration of such ideas. Lies Of P struggles to properly engage with the topic, as the developers also seem committed to aping the obtuse storytelling approach of FromSoftware’s Souls games, and they never quite grapple successfully with drawing the theme and challenging approach to storytelling together. The thought bubbles are there, though, and it’s always an interesting topic to contemplate in the arts.

Screenshot from Lies of P

The world of Lies Of P is an engaging and interesting one, too, in the way that it brings the horror veneer to the Victorian-style setting. The developers do come across as trying a little too hard at times, though. For example, how many more games need a creepy circus setting before the creatives finally move on from that? I laughed when that became the first major scene and boss battle in the game, because it’s just so on-the-nose and overeager by the developers, however decently done it is. Structurally the aesthetics are well done, however, and the violence of Lies Of P is surprisingly visceral at times.

I just wish that it wasn’t so dense and there was some room for the setting to breathe. Perhaps we’ve all been spoiled by the languid distances and epic pacing of Elden Ring, but Lies Of P has you crashing into enemies just metres from the game’s equivalent of rest-area bonfires. The city has the same winding design as Soulslike adventures, and you’ll unlock “shortcuts” back to the safe areas after pushing through a way, by opening gates, dropping ladders and the like, but these loops are usually tiny and typically make exploration seem limited and unrewarding. Whether it was a deliberate attempt to keep the combat intensity running high by limiting the space between things, or simply a lack of budget to build anything grander, Lies Of P is gorgeous, but also limited, and it could have been more.

Lies Of P is a decent Soulslike, but it does squander the main opportunity that it had to differentiate itself. The “dark Pinocchio” theme is intriguing and the developers went about it with the right spirit, but struggled to convert it into something as thought-provoking and deep as it should have been. Take that out of the equation and you’ve got a Soulslike that’s a little heavy-handed in how it makes players engage with it, in a world that looks more inspired in screenshots than it is to actually journey through. Ultimately, as enjoyable as it is, Lies Of P stands testament to just how difficult FromSoftware’s formula really is.

Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

  • I’m with you on the preference for “dodge”. Happily this game will be on Game Pass so that I can try it out… but if dodge is broken as you suggest, I won’t be playing for long.

    I like the “Victorian-style setting”, but some of the screenshots I’ve seen — like the one here with the LIAR coffin — appear to be designed for the “edge-lord” crowd. (Do such people even still exist?)

  • Previous Story

    Highlights: PlayStation State of Play (September 15, 2023)

    Next Story

    The catch-up coffee: Monday, September 18, 2023

    Latest Articles