Lies of P breaks all of the expectations that comes with being an indie Souls-like. With an engaging story based around Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio and a familiar gameplay loop that many players will recognize from FromSoftware’s Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, it is worth wondering if it really does anything different. Ironically, the best way to describe Lies of P is thinking of it as the product of Bloodborne and Sekiro having a very wild night in Vegas. It follows the blueprint for a successful “Souls” title while branching out in creative ways that set it apart from the well-known genre, giving it its own identity in an almost never-ending list of Souls-like titles.
In this new Pinocchio influenced tale, you take on the role of “P.” A blue butterfly reminiscent of the fairy godmother in the original tale wakes you up in the Central Station of Krat, the Grimdark world riddled with evil puppets, monsters, and threats that P will need to dodge, perfect-guard, and destroy. As this story opens up, you realize immediately the similarities to games like Bloodborne with it feeling a bit clunky at first, yet familiar nonetheless. As you adapt to each enemy thrown at you, it is much more apparent that Lies of P is different and crafts its own mechanical body which slowly, methodically, develops into the body of a worthy Souls game while brandishing its individuality.
Just like any other Souls game, your right-side triggers and buttons are melee, but your left includes the guard button along with a button for your “legion arm.” Since P is fitted with a unique-fitting left arm, much like a certain “other” Souls’ protagonist (and, if you are a big fan of anime, one of the biggest influences on Miyazaki’s works), it is easy to see where Neowiz Games’ inspirations lie. This arm gives P creative functions that can further help the player adapt and overcome the challenges present in Krat.
To give some examples, there is a zip-line arm, a taser-like arm, a cannon arm, and a few more choices for players to commit to when they build their version of Pinocchio. Each arm offers an extension to your stats and is a viable option to use in what feels like clunky combat at first.
Personally, for my first play through I did what I always do, going with a balanced or quality build. I chose this because it offers significant advantages for someone who wants to use every weapon at least once and truly get creative when it comes to building. The same was true for Lies of P.
My personal favorite unique element present in my adventures in Krat was the inclusion of weapon crafting. You can take certain weapons and break them down into blade and handle while mixing and matching as you please, creating Frankenstein-like weapons of mass-melee destruction. Like using the fast poke of a rapier? Throw on the handle and pick a blade, any blade! Beware of your stats, though. As the game went on, I learned that there was a method to the madness when creating weapons.
Each handle has an influence over what fable art you can use, along with the move set. This factor is the equivalent to Elden Ring’s Ashes of War and Dark Souls 3’s Weapon Arts. If you have a blade that is best used for slashing and you put it on a handle that is best for stabbing, you are taking a massive hit on how much damage you can do. This also translates to the scaling on each weapon.
Weapons scale to three stats: Motivity (strength), Technique (dexterity), and Advance (Arcane). In Lies of P there is no magic, and there are no intelligence builds, but Advance doubles as a stat that influences status effects like electricity, acid, and fire. This leads me into the next most important thing when making your own puppet of destruction: the P-Organ.
Every puppet has a mechanical heart in Lies of P, and yours just so happens to be upgradeable with a rare resource called quartz. As you collect these rare resources, you apply different effects like “Increase your Fable Arts damage,” or “Increase your Guard Regain.” As you level your little mechanical heart, it gets all powerful and is a center point for how you play the game. For myself, I boosted my stagger damage, Pulse Charges (healing), and Fable damage.
By the end of my adventure, with my unique build spread I could use any weapon that I wanted, but I had to utilize every tool at my disposal to ensure my survival in boss battles. This was both a blessing and a curse; because I could apply electricity to my giant bone saw on a fire powered handle, I hit like a Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball,” but when my status effect went away, my battle became significantly more difficult while relying on the game’s combat mechanics.
With any Souls experience you can block, parry, and dodge. Pinocchio’s venture into mechanical horror is no different but bears subtle differences that make its combat difficult and refreshing in the best way possible. Much like Sekiro, the perfect guard or parry is paramount to some builds’ survival. You can rely solely on the dodge, but I do not recommend this until you become an experienced player. The reason for this is that the perfect guard mechanic is one of the central focuses of building up any enemy’s or boss’s “groggy” or stagger effect. In order to get a Fatal Attack (riposte), you need to inflict this status by doing enough damage to an enemy’s guard, health, or by parrying.
What makes this mechanic so unique is that you can’t just spam your LB or L1 to get that perfect frame parry. It is instead imperative that you learn a boss’s move-set and, with one instinctive button press, hit a perfect parry. This factor alone makes “gitting gud” much more paramount in Lies of P than it is in other Souls-likes, and it makes each victory over a specific boss one that is truly celebrated. Don’t worry if you find this to be difficult; the game offers another mechanic that can completely bypass having to perfect guard entire encounters!
In Bloodborne, if you took damage and you struck the enemy with your weapon before you took more damage, you could regain some health. A variation of this mechanic is present in Lies of P: if you hold the guard button when an enemy attacks, you take reduced damage. This loss of health can be regained by striking after they finish their combo or move as long as you have stamina. What the game doesn’t tell you is that the P-Organ hosts a multitude of abilities that can increase how effective this technique is, making the game significantly easier if you are using a motivity build. Since motivity involves using big and heavy weapons, they often inflict more stagger. I think you can get the gist!
With all of the theory-crafting and mechanics out of the way, the next most important part of a Soul’s experience is none other than the bosses.
I Will Study, I Will Work
Lies of P certainly hits all of the necessary checks for making difficult, rewarding, and intimidating boss fights that will often have you ripping your hair out like a wild, angry animal. In my personal experience, I found four of the game’s main bosses to be some of the most difficult experiences I had faced since my playthrough of Sekiro. Most of these encounters are fundamentally difficult depending on your build.
There are encounters that require you to perfect guard attacks, and there are battles that are so quick, you might be wondering if the Flash just assaulted you with a giant sword. Some of these encounters had me stumped for hours, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is where “gitting gud” came into play, and mastering the game’s mechanics became second nature. By the time I started the New Game+ mode after completing my first playthrough, I found perfect guarding attacks instinctive and even completed the first boss in seconds without using my maxed out legion arm.
My point is, Lies of P will discourage you and will spit in your face, but if you gather the strength and fortitude to persevere through these difficult battles, you will find a beautifully written story and rewarding confidence that even if you weighed a buck-twenty, you could probably get away with punching Mike Tyson.
What truly sets this Souls-like apart from the multitude of titles on the market right now is its beautifully written story. It takes large inspirations from the original Pinocchio, as mentioned, but it does it with a dark twist that will leave you speechless at its twists and turns. Unlike Miyazaki’s works, you get cut-scenes, you get dialogue, and the story is expressed with a linear path that makes sense.
You can tell that developer Neowiz Games is filled with talent that appreciates the formula that goes into Miyazaki’s Souls games because if you are insatiated, yearning for more, you can search the world for letters and lore. The environment is laden with stories in their own right, and these layers just add to an already magnificent story.
Whittled into the wood of the story, Pinocchio will have to make pivotal choices. These choices introduce a refreshing take on how the destructive little puppet can cultivate relationships. Do you lie? Or do you tell the truth? These dilemmas will affect the outcome of your playthrough and will determine just how your adventure will end. Will you be Pinocchio, the mechanical, obedient puppet? Or will you cultivate a soul of your own with flesh to go with it?
An Ungrateful Boy
Lies of P isn’t without its faults, though. My biggest gripes about this new-age superstar Souls-like is that it often makes its boss reward weapons much more appealing than the creative weapon you are really proud of making. This is done with quite a few of the blades bearing the same Fable attack as many others, and the boss weapons are just absolutely dazzling with style and damage. I often found myself trying to utilize my hulking bone-saw engine handle weapon on boss fights and just found that the boss weapon I claimed a chapter ago was a much more viable option for the problem in my face. Even up to the final boss, I was constantly switching weapons to find the best weapon suited for a specific boss.
This leads to my next bout of criticism in that there are gaggle of features that are not discussed in the game’s tutorials. For example, in most Souls games a stat in your build will have a soft cap where the reward for putting your ergo (souls) into it has diminishing returns. What I found surprising is that the capacity stat had no soft cap like the others. This led me to question how I was building my Pinocchio until I realized the context of the armor items in my inventory. Each piece was targeted for a specific status effect. These items also varied in weight, and weight solely affects your stamina recharge rate in the game. You don’t have to worry about fat-rolling, but how many times can you swing?
Thinking about this information began to shape how I approached each chapter in Lies of P at about three-quarters of the way through the game. I began to find trends among the enemies in the opening areas, and then I stacked every defensive piece of gear that corresponded with negating the enemies in that field. I took this a step further with my consumables and with the way status effects are applied to weapons. If the majority of my enemies were puppets, I would throw on electricity. If the area was filled with monsters, fire. This revelation reminded me of The Witcher 3, and I still can’t determine if it is a good thing or bad. You can certainly ignore this information, but will it make your playthrough even more difficult? Exponentially so.
Pinocchio’s tale has found another way into the hearts of gamers everywhere in this fantastically difficult adventure. Even when I was most frustrated, I found the game to be a magnificent beast with compelling environments, intriguing plots, and addicting combat that would leave me drooling for more. Lies of P boasted a near flawless performance on my PC and Steam Deck with an overture that will linger in my memory among the genre of games I have come to adore. If you love Souls games, this is the closest anyone has come to mimicking the magic that FromSoftware consistently produces in the market. Just like a real boy, you don’t have to worry about my nose growing when I say that missing out on this game is nearly criminal.
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