Lies of P
Image via Neowiz

Review: Lies of P Revives an Age Old Fable

Rain falls against cobblestone, dull yellow lights penetrating through the gloom that has settled over a once opulent city. Puppets made of steel wander the streets in vague patterns, circling rooms filled with the bodies of the humans that occupied these buildings. Their eyes glow red, a color of recognition and warning as they stumble towards you. This is far from the Pinocchio fairytale Lies of P draws inspiration from, but it makes for a compelling setting as it pulls various themes and narrative threads from the popular fable. While the game attempts to spin its own yarn, drawing from FromSoftware’s catalogue of games in some bid to replicate their tried and true style of action RPG, Lies of P tries and sometimes succeeds at what it sets out to do. While it may not hit every mark, it’s a show in what can happen with an ambitious developer takes enough creative liberties with an established IP to make it interesting.

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Lies of P is a great demonstration of how game developers can use a public domain IP to create something unique, unlike previous attempts to capitalize on other stories like Robin Hood or King Arthur to little effect. Because it is fairly loose with the source material, it feels more or less like a narrative that draws inspiration from Pinocchio, but creates something that is still fundamentally itself. You have the hallmarks of Gepetto the Puppet Maker, but his role is recontextualized in a world where the significance of his craft bears an entirely different light. Instead of a man who so desperately wanted to create a son of his very own, he is complicit in the tumultuous puppet uprising in Krat due to the very nature of his craft.

That said, the narrative of Lies of P falls somewhat flat. Due to a lackluster localization, with a lot of the game’s flavor text suffering from numerous grammatical errors. It feels Neowiz wants to offer the trappings of an evocative, gothic horror title, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing. Outside of the sometimes spotty localization, voice acting for its rather small cast of characters varies. Some performances feel strong for what the game is trying to evoke, while others feel like the direction for the actor was simply to speak into the microphone with the intention to appear mysterious. So while Lies of P has a lot of promise, the narrative often falls short.

However, the game is gorgeous. The visuals are extremely polished. The environments are absolutely stunning regardless of where you are, be it blood filled sewers, the melancholy city of Krat that seems to be stuck in perpetual rainfall, and beautifully detailed buildings that are inspired by 18th century European architecture. Light reflects from puddles in the streets, and you can see individual water droplets splash against the cobblestone. Fire is vibrant, and the light fixtures have a warm, incandescent glow. It’s clear that a lot of work was put into the various environments, and it pays off. The atmosphere in the game is great, and outside of it feeling derivative of FromSoftware’s Bloodborne, the art direction is inspiring. But this is probably one of the best parts of Lies of P, outside of its character animations.

Lies of P

Image via Neowiz

Outside of some that feely wholly ripped from the aforementioned Bloodborne, the flourishes our little Pinocchio makes with his weapons are impressive. Each animation has its own kind of weight to distinguish between weapon types, which branches out not just in how heavy a weapon is, but also what kind of damage it does. For example, Pinocchio’s strikes are far faster and have a baked-in backstep when you are using the Wintry Rapier’s Blade and Handle. But the Greatsword of Fate has a much larger blade and its swings are wider, having a much larger hitbox and dealing more damage at the cost of quicker stabs. You also have to sharpen your weapon intermittently through the use of your prosthetic arm, which has a nice animation, but sometimes breaks up the flow of combat. There are also at least a dozen different weapon combinations to facilitate different styles of gameplay, with customization options for mixing and matching these weapons appearing fairly early on — though Lies of P will generally facilitate one of two.

These being focused on the guard, and perfect guard, mechanic or dodging. I found dodging attacks to be extremely ineffective by comparison to guarding. Dodges feel heavy, and ineffective by comparison to guarding, and sometimes the window of invulnerability feels a bit too short to really facilitate riskier playstyles. Yes, you can absolutely play the game without guarding, but it isn’t advised. Guarding not only allows you to take reduced damage, but if you strike immediately after guarding, you can recover any health that might have been chipped away with an attack if you strike fast enough. However, perfect guards are what the game is focused around since a majority of enemies in the game will perform successive follow-up attacks that feel built around guarding, and not dodging.

Enemies in Lies of P will glow red when they are performing a Fury Attack, which means that their attack can be stopped with a perfect guard. These attacks also deal more damage than normal attacks, and in some cases in the late game will kill you with a single hit if you haven’t increased your Vitality stat — which I avoided doing at all costs, because that’s just how I play these games. What makes perfect guarding so strong, outside of not taking any damage when one is performed, is that successive perfect guards will open up an enemy to being staggered. The health bar of an enemy, or boss, will have a thick white outline when they can be staggered with a charged attack, which can then be chased with a stronger follow-up attack. Ideally, encounters are based around guarding and boss fights are significantly easier if you watch their attack pattern, guard, stagger, and perform your follow-up attack. This is basically the core gameplay loop. It isn’t a terrible one, but Lies of P lacks the tightness of the games it’s so obviously trying to emulate, which can make it feel frustrating or sometimes unfair.

Lies of P

Image via Neowiz

Similar to other FromSoftware games, Lies of P features the exact same check-point system through finding Stargazers, which are the game’s bonfires or lamps. It also functions on the same kind of healing system, but this game actually allows you to replenish one of your Pulse Cells by successively attacking enemies. This makes boss fights a little more lenient by comparison, because if you play it safe, you can replenish a Pulse Cell for an extra emergency heal. It also has the exact same level up system as FromSoftware titles, with you needing to kill enemies and bosses to obtain Ergo to use at Stargazers to increase your stats. These include Vitality, Vigor, Capacity, Motivity, Technique, and Advance. The game doesn’t do a great job explaining these to you, and you more or less need to figure out what these stats do on your own by fiddling around. A lot of Neowiz’s title feels built around experimentation, even if it more or less wants you to take the same path based on its reliance on the guard system.

In terms of accessibility, Lies of P does allow you remap both controller and keyboard controls, and does have a subtitle option. However, that is effectively the extent of it. That said, in terms of performance, it is great. I had no issues whatsoever, running on the “best” settings, with the game never stuttering or crashing.

Lies of P is a game that draws inspiration from a handful of things that have remained within the popular consciousness for good reason, and at the very least attempts to set out and build upon the foundations set by those inspirations. And while it will more than likely please those looking to scratch the itch Bloodborne left behind, its lackluster localization and generally narrow playstyle may leave some wanting. Especially after the release of Armored Core VI, which is hard to hold a candle to by comparison. That said it’s a game that has a lot of ideas, some that manage to hit and others that sort of slide off. Ultimately, Lies of P is an interesting spin on an age-old fairy tale and attempts to fill the hole Bloodborne left behind, and it really tries its best to do so.

Lies of P will release on September 19, 2023 for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

Lies of P

Lies of P is a thrilling soulslike that takes the story of Pinocchio, turns it on its head, and sets it against the darkly elegant backdrop of the Belle Epoque era. Reviewed on PC.

Lies of P is an incredible demonstration of what can be done with a public domain IP and is a exercise in creativity.

Food for Thought
  • While it's gameplay isn't anything too riveting, what Lies of P does with a public domain IP like Pinocchio is interesting enough on its own.
  • Offering more than a handful of weapon combinations, Lies of P lets you mix and match blades and handles to allow a bit of experimentation.
  • You can unlock various accessories and outfits for Pinocchio!

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Image of Kazuma Hashimoto
Kazuma Hashimoto
Senior staff writer, translator and streamer, Kazuma spends his time playing a variety of games ranging from farming simulators to classic CRPGs. Having spent upwards of 6 years in the industry, he has written reviews, features, guides, with work extending within the industry itself. In his spare time he speedruns games from the Resident Evil series, and raids in Final Fantasy XIV. His work, which has included in-depth features focusing on cultural analysis, has been seen on other websites such as Polygon and IGN.