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Lords of the Fallen has gone “the extra mile” with its 30+ bosses

After getting a first look at the game at GDC, we learned that Lords of the Fallen's bosses involve contortionists, curveballs, and some messed up childcare.

Lords of the Fallen bosses: A knight in full body and face armor reaches to grab his sword from his back

You don’t need me to tell you that a core tenet of any soulslike is its bosses. They need to be memorable, they need to be challenging, and should probably be plentiful too. One 2023’s most intriguing soulslikes is Lords of the Fallen, which aside from a few twists, is unapologetically like Dark Souls or Bloodborne. With that comparison, you can of course expect bosses – freaky ones, at that.

Recently, while out at GDC 2023, we got an hour to spend with creative director Cezar Virtosu to take us through a hands-off preview, and we got to both see and learn more about some of Lords of the Fallen’s bosses.

First, let’s talk more generally about developer HexWorks’ offerings when it comes to bosses. Virtosu says that Lords of the Fallen will have “more than 30 bosses, [and] around half have multiple phases”. This includes both main story bosses and secret bosses.

The majority of bosses are “foreshadowed clearly” to let you prepare or place an anchor beforehand (that’s an element of the game’s world mechanics, which we explore in our Lords of the Fallen preview). However, there will be some “curveballs”.

“These are our ‘what the fuck’ moments, where we put you in a situation you may not have wished for,” Virtosu says with a smirk.

Lords of the Fallen preview: A knight in a black tunic and full-face helmet holding a shield in one hand and a metal flail in the other

Now let’s dive into some of the specific bosses. While we didn’t see it during the preview, Virtosu was extremely excited about the tutorial boss players will face first in Lords of the Fallen. While I may have misheard, Virtosu seems to call her Pieta, and she is a “merciful angel”. He also says that HexWorks has “gone the extra mile to make it compelling and memorable”.

“The tutorial boss is beautiful. And it’s not a typical tutorial boss. It is actually by all accounts a raid boss with multiple phases, transformations, emotions… it doesn’t feel like a tutorial boss, but she still teaches you how to play the game.”

While we didn’t see Pieta, we did get a look at three other Lords of the Fallen bosses.

Let’s start with one we saw a flash off near the end of Lords of the Fallen’s first gameplay trailer, which is posted below. This two-phase “mid-game” boss starts as a menacing looking warrior that has an orange halo around his head and wields a large staff-like weapon. Apparently, he’s pretty tough, and will put players “through the wringer”, according to Virtosu. He adds that this boss can also use “Radiant magic”, one of the three elemental magic types in the game.

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While I didn’t catch this chap’s name, I did get the name of his conjoined twin, who takes over in a rather gruesome manner for the second phase of the battle: Reinhold. Reinhold will pop some joints and crack some bones and turn this elegant-looking warrior into a freakish, bloodied quadruped.

“We wanted a pathetic creature – pathetic in the emotive sense,” says Virtosu. He also says that this boss was mocapped by a professional contortionist called Troy James, and you can see his particular talents in the clip below from when he appeared on America’s Got Talent.

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We also had a look at a boss known as The Congregator of Flesh. It is, in simple terms, a massive screamy meatball that’s made up of human corpses. That sounds rather ridiculous, but it’s a fairly gruesome creature.

While it begins as a fairly sluggish and cumbersome boss with readable heavy attacks, phase two sees things ramp up. “He will summon waves of corpses, he will lose his shit, and he will flail all around the arena,” Virtosu explains.

The third and final boss we got to see is one of the secret bosses, and is (I believe) called Willa – although that wasn’t totally clear due to Virtosu’s chaotic but infectious enthusiasm he showed while telling me about her. I did get a bit lost with what Willa’s backstory actually was, but it had something to do with “casting judgement” over some “heretics”, but she ended up finding a child in Umbral that she is now protecting… or something? Either way, she sounds like she has some baggage.

Lords of the Fallen preview: A knight in a feathered cloak stands in a chamber bathed in blue light with skeletons and jagged branches on the walls

She wields both a crossbow and a sword, but the latter is definitely more intriguing than the former. She fights in an old Germanic sword fighting stance known as ochs, and HexWorks mocapped “historical martial arts” experts for her movements.

In phase two of the fight, she merges with the child “to become one creature”. Despite being merged, the two essentially act independently – Willa continues to be aggressive and attack, while the child acts as a support. As you inflict more damage, the child will begin to cast magic upon you that impedes your movement, making it harder to avoid attacks.

This boss was also apparently a “tribute” to Berserk, a dark fantasy manga series created by Kentaro Miura, who died in 2021.

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Aside from Lord of the Fallen’s amazing Umbral world and the mechanics associated with it, I think HexWorks’ efforts in making some distinctive, surprising, and exciting bosses was my other big takeaway from this preview. Sure, I only got to learn about four of them, and as I mentioned, this was a hands-off preview, so who knows how they’ll feel to actually fight. But from what I’ve seen so far, they will definitely challenge the majority of players (and will freak out a good number of them too).

The Lords of the Fallen release date is set to arrive at some point before the end of 2023, and could become one of the best RPG games of recent times if it manages to strike the right balance between Dark Souls inspiration and innovation.