Lies of P is my personal pick for 2023’s game of the year. The soulslike presents an experience that’s right up my alley: a tough-but-fair level of difficulty, excellent level design and - for the most part - finely tuned combat that blends fast-flowing attacks and precise parrying for a challenging yet satisfying experience. However, it’s Lies of P’s setting and adaption of its source material that undoubtedly wowed me the most.
Developed by Korean studios Neowiz Games and Round8 Studio and inspired by Carlo Collodi’s 1883 novel - The Adventures of Pinocchio - Lies of P presents a Belle Époque-esque setting in the city of Krat. The residents of this fictional city have enjoyed the fruits of an Industrial Revolution and the technological advances it brought with it, for the better - and very much for the worse.
In the game’s fantastical case, this would be the creation of autonomous puppets originally made to aid humans in their daily lives. Of course, we quickly learn that this bold vision of the future has gone catastrophically wrong. Oh, and there’s maybe just a sprinkling of mankind being collectively punished for the avaricious wants of the few as well. It wouldn’t quite be a soulslike without that, right?
This town's finished
To say Lies of P wears its inspirations on its sleeve would be a significant understatement. And I’m not just talking about its source material. Your first steps into the decaying, puppet-overridden streets of Krat smacks of Bloodborne’s Yharnam. Rotting corpses pile the streets, as do destroyed horse-drawn carriages. Peoples’ belongings lie scattered and abandoned across the cobbled stone. It’s all very much gone south.
Few human survivors remain, and the ones that are still alive and kicking aren’t exactly living their best lives. As the game progresses, you’ll find that it’s not just the puppets laying waste to Krat. There’s also an affliction going around that’s transforming the populace into horrific, bile-spewing eldritch creatures. Y’know, just in case an automaton apocalypse wasn’t the least of the city’s woes.
That FromSoftware inspiration only continues to intensify as our protagonist moves from the streets of Krat to suitably morbid locales like a cathedral, an opera house, the neglected villages on the city’s outskirts, and a hauntingly derelict train station.
Comfort in the familiar
Lies of P’s setting is appropriately soulslike, then, and those familiar with FromSoftware’s games should feel suitably at home in Krat. But I’d wager that fans of Collodi’s work - or indeed the 1940 Disney motion picture - will appreciate the lengths the developers have gone to make Lies of P’s setting feel faithful and familiar.
There’s the surface-level references, of course. Our main character, P, is based on the source material’s protagonist, and he’s able to lie to achieve humanity and cover up the painful truths Krat’s residents may not wish to hear. Geppetto’s here, too; the creator of the puppets is incredibly doting to our protagonist and fulfills his role as a father figure, though he’s ultimately a man of rather obscured intentions.
Lies of P then fleshes out its lore with characters analogous to ones found in the book. In the game, two hunters named Black Cat and Red Fox are frequently encountered. These siblings often aid and/or trick P for their own ends, similar to their role in the novel. Sophia and Gemini, two of P’s few allies in the game, serve the roles of the fairy and the talking cricket from the novel (or the Blue Fairy and Jiminy Cricket, if you’re more familiar with Disney’s film).
Much like the game as a whole, Lies of P’s characters are comparable to their original roles, while also offering traits and personal circumstances that help them slot into this bleaker world effectively.
Through the keyhole
Spoiler warning for Lie's of P's post-credits scene below.
Round8’s remarkably creative yet faithful adaptation of The Adventures of Pinocchio has me incredibly excited for what the developers are going to be working on next, as well as the soulslike subgenre as a whole. We already know that they are working on DLC for Lies of P and my jaw dropped at the post-credits tease of a sequel set in the world of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Having finished Lies of P, I came away thinking that fairytales and folklore make perfect material for soulslike games. I’m now dying to see what developers can do with Alice in Wonderland, especially given that the PC-exclusive American McGee’s Alice from 2000 showed that a macabre twist on its setting and themes absolutely works. I’d also be extremely partial to a soulslike based on Hansel and Gretel, perhaps with the titular siblings trapped in a world conjured by the tale’s villainous witch, following a trail to escape while preventing her from carrying out further harm.
Ultimately, Lies of P is a game that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about ever since I rolled credits. The remarkably bleak setting eloquently weaves the themes of Collodi’s work that’s equal parts creative and respectful.
Lies of P’s strong critical reception and its surprising commercial success (the game sold over one million copies in its first month) might just have triggered a domino effect that sees Neowiz and Round8 Studio, and other developers besides, try their hand at creating more games based on beloved tales from centuries past. And I’m very much here for it.
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Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.