There’s a contingent of Xbox owners out there who have spent the last seven years searching for a Bloodborne they can call their own. There is no shortage of Soulslikes on the platform – from Dark Souls to Elden Ring, to more recent efforts like Thymesia – but few contenders have come close to replicating the tone, tenor, and abject horror that unfurls throughout Yharnam. The next to try and fill the void will be Lies of P, a punishing action RPG inspired by author Carlo Collodi’s 1883 classic Le avventure di Pinocchio – translated: The Adventures of Pinocchio.
Conceptually, Lies of P is absurd. You play as Pinocchio, a puppet mechanoid who embarks on a horrifying journey to become human, and to locate his creator Mr. Geppetto in the fallen city of Krat. There are echoes of American McGee’s influence here, the divisive designer who quite infamously brought twisted subversions of the Lewis Carroll novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to life with EA’s backing in the aughts. Lies of P caught my attention not because of its attempt to make me empathize with the struggles of a mischievous marionette who just wants to be a real boy, but because of its staggering presentation.
Your Pulse Perished
Lies of P handles the cycle of life and rebirth in a similar way to FromSoft’s Souls series, with ‘Ergo’ collected as you defeat enemies and left behind to be recollected when you die. The precious resource can be spent at any located Stargazer, and used to create bespoke weapon combinations (there are over 30 in the game), upgrade your stats, equip Legion Arm, and enhance your abilities.
I don’t know if it’s the dark Belle Époque aesthetics or the way that the camera lingers loosely behind Pinocchio as he pirouettes around, and pierces through, all manner of mechanized monstrosities, but I was hooked immediately. Like the vast majority of games that attempt to replicate the settings and styles perpetuated by FromSoftware, it’s a little rough around the edges – lacking that finesse and flourish that sets the Soulslikes that come from the source apart from the rest. But there’s definitely something in Lies of P that’s worth pursuing on the road to Xbox Game Pass release in 2023.
There’s a familiarity to Lies of P’s design that’s comfortable. The city of Krat is foreboding and labyrinthian, with paths forward blocked by locked gates, ladders out of reach, and shadowy corners packed with enemies just waiting to spring into action. Light and heavy attacks are assigned to the right bumper and trigger, Pinocchio can execute a short dash to avoid incoming attacks, and a well-timed tap of the guard input forces foes to stagger back from you – vital seconds which can be used to replenish your stamina gauge or draw from a dwindling pool of health vials. Like Bloodborne, combat is aggressive and encourages forward momentum – expressive movement is often the difference between life and respawning at an unlocked Stargazer without your collected Ergo.
No word of a lie
There’s one aspect of Lies of P that’s difficult to demo, although it could ultimately be one that sets this Soulslike apart. As you may recall, Pinocchio has been portrayed in the past as having a rather unique tell – when he lies, his nose grows. There’s no such feature here, although truth and lies are a central part of the premise. The more Pinocchio chooses to lie in conversation with the NPCs that occupy Krat and as you complete quests, the more human he will become, something which will ultimately impact the missions you embark on, the enemies you’ll encounter, and the ending you are served when it’s all said and done.
It’s also worth touching on Pinocchio’s mechanical Legion Arm, which can support eight different tools that impact your utility in combat. Of the four I tried, it was Puppet String that left the biggest impression; with this cannon, you’re able to hook a wire onto a foe within range and then reel yourself towards them, with a well-timed light attack pushing Pinocchio to execute a mechanically graceful aerial attack – a sequence that never failed to make me smile. I can already see that Lies of P will be divisive – PlayStation owners decrying it as a Budget Bloodborne, and Xbox players hailing it as the Xbox Series X‘s answer to Bloodborne. I’m not sure either is right on the money, but I’m eager to see how it all plays out.
Lies of P is one of the most anticipated upcoming Xbox Series X games following word that it would be a day one Game Pass release in 2023, but this new Soulslike is also releasing on PS5, PS4, PC, and Xbox One.