StarsStarsStarsStarsStars

Lies of P Review – The Perfect Game Isn’t Just a Fairy Tale

Lies of P is a sublime Souls-like experience, and an earnest, existential take on a classic fairy tale.
Lies of P Review

The fairy tale is a fascinating genre to dissect, because it’s one that carries its heart on its sleeve. More than any other genre, fairy tales are teaching devices – a vessel to impart a variety of lessons to their audience with simplified, often whimsical narratives. Fairy tales are something of an idealised life experience – a challenge is presented (inevitable in daily life), but overcome and learned from. 

Through these stories, we are taught that the adversity and struggles we experience in our lives are not unique to us – the characters we see are challenged too, but find ways to overcome those challenges that allow them to emerge not just triumphant, but greater than they were to begin with. They reframe the inevitable struggles we face as manageable growth opportunities, wrapped in a simplified narrative to be enjoyable and digestible for everyone. 

Older fairy tales though, are another story entirely. Whimsy? No no, you’ll see the protagonist transformed into a donkey and enslaved, because he wasn’t being a good boy. Simplified narrative? Try wrestling with the moralised damnation of not knowing any better, and having your life ruined as a result. The kid gloves are off in older fairy tales. They go for the throat. The Adventures of Pinocchio is one such fairy tale – less of a teaching device, and more of a narrative threat. Be good, never tell a lie, or you’ll never be a real human boy.

Lies of P considers the moralising of that old fairy tale, then boldly asks the question: “Aren’t you tired of being nice? Don’t you just want to go ape shit?”

>

It’s a truly rare occurrence for me to play a game, and feel like I’m being uniquely and deliberately targeted – like someone filled out a Bingo card with my specific interests, then proceeded to smash out every single square. Lies of P is one such game – a Souls-like RPG set in the once-lavish city of Krat; inspired by the ‘golden age’ of French architecture, spliced with fantastical advancements in technology that drove its unique, mechanical puppet-reliant industrial revolution to staggering heights before culminating in a cataclysmic fall to desolation.

Lies of P has stunning costumes, horrifying mechanical monstrosities, a glorious plethora of weaponry, and a pervasive air of existential dread surrounding the concept of ‘self’ that it combats with a relentless stance of actualisation. With discoverable references to René Descartes, as well as the central resource being known as ‘Ergo’ – a substance that both narratively and mechanically serves as the equivalent to the ‘soul’ of a Souls-like, it is clear that the assertion of “I think, therefore I am”, is the philosophical foundation of Lies of P

Where The Adventures of Pinocchio is an odyssey of misadventures for Pinocchio to become ‘worthy’ of being human (as though flaws and mistakes are reasons to deny the humanity of an individual), Lies of P takes, ironically, a far more honest and intriguing approach. Pinocchio isn’t questing to achieve humanity as much as he is struggling to have his humanity acknowledged and respected. And the ‘flaws’ he exhibits – his ability to lie, his apparent exemption from the ‘Grand Covenant’ that binds all puppets – is simply proof of the unacknowledged humanity within him all along. 

“Cogito, ergo sum.” I think, therefore I am.  

>Lies of P
Image: Neowiz

If Pinocchio thinks that he’s human, acts like he’s human, then he either is, or becomes so through the act of doing. Pinocchio and his struggle with humanity isn’t the only thing drawn from the original fairy tale, of course. The blind Cat and lame Fox, the tree of gold, the fairy with turquoise hair and many other touches from the source material are all seamlessly incorporated into the setting and narrative in a way that feels earnestly fond of its inspiration, and with clear understanding of how to leverage these narrative traits to serve the gameplay without compromising on either front.

And that gameplay is fantastic. Combat follows the same basic principles of the Souls-like genre, relying on the observation and mastery of enemy attack patterns and telegraphs to avoid their attacks and exploit their openings. Further skill expression comes in the mastery of the guard and parrying mechanic, allowing damage to be mitigated or prevented entirely, pushing your opponent closer to becoming staggered, at which point they’re open to a devastating counterattack. 

Your own nature as a mechanical ‘puppet’ manifests in combat through the use of Legion Arms – prosthetic limbs of differing functions that can allow you to rappel to enemies, launch gouts of fire, acid or electricity, lay down proximity mines, and more. But your arm isn’t the only thing you can mix and match for violent utility. Most of the weaponry in the game can be disassembled into ‘blade’ and ‘handle’ components, where the handles control the stat-scaling and moveset, while the blades determine the damage type and any special contact effects. For the majority of the game, I used one particular rocket-propelling handle to launch myself brutally at enemies, with different blade attachments to suit the foes I was annihilating. 

And as varied as the weaponry is, the enemies you face are even wilder in form and function. All manner of mechanical puppets drawn from the mind of a mad genius fill the streets, hills, upper reaches and depths of Krat, and while I might question the purpose of making horrifying baby-shaped puppets or explosive-packed harlequins (are we really surprised these things are murdering people?), I sure am glad they’re here to be destroyed. Puppets aren’t the sole targets of your violent odyssey, though I hesitate to speak further lest I spoil some fun surprises. Let’s just say some inspiration was drawn from the writing of everyone’s very problematic favourite, H.P. Lovecraft, and leave it at that.

>

I’ve barely managed to describe everything I love about this game. The music is hauntingly beautiful, the world-building is intricately detailed, with its written collectables and environmental story-telling, the progression systems are cleverly designed, the characters are archetypical but compelling in equal measure, and do I detect a metaphor for the transgender experience in the core narrative? I think I do.

Lies of P is a sublime Souls-like experience that has studied every lesson taught by the genre, and then iterated on them all. It’s an earnest, existential, but optimistic take on an old classic fairy tale, in a nightmarish world that’s a dream to play in.

Five Stars: ★★★★★

Lies of P
Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One
Developers: Neowiz Games, Round 8 Studio
Publisher: Neowiz Games
Release Date: 19 September 2023

The PC version of Lies of P was provided and played for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are scored on a 5-point rating scale. GamesHub has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content. GamesHub may earn a small percentage of commission for products purchased via affiliate links.

Percy Ranson is a non-binary writer based in Melbourne. They have no choice but to critically analyse their favourite media, due to years of gaming, theatre, and Creative Art studies. They can be found on Twitter at @Manarethan