In an unbelievable year for games, Soulslikes were so good that they could almost pass for FromSoftware originals

Lies of P
(Image credit: Neowiz)

I don't make a habit of replaying games. If anything, I make a habit of not replaying games. It's hard for me to sit down and do something all over again while fighting the thought that I could be experiencing something all-new instead and whittle away at my backlog. So when I say I've got a serious hankering to play through Lies of P again, I assure you it is no small praise. I'm pretty sure the only other games I replayed this year were Armored Core 6 and Elden Ring – FromSoftware's latest masterclasses. 

Lies of P is the best Soulslike ever made. It's the closest anyone has gotten to mastering FromSoftware's now-iconic style of action RPG, and in small but still significant ways, it occasionally surpasses the games it's based on. It's the new peak of this weird little sub-genre and one of the best games of 2023. And to my immense delight, it's not even close to the only great Soulslike we got this year. 

The P stands for peak

Lies of P best build

(Image credit: Neowiz)

I find myself thinking of the ways game developers defined Soulslikes when I naively attempted to pin down the genre's definition last year. They pointed to things like uncompromising action, meaningful exploration, the freedom to make bad decisions, oppressive loneliness, watertight combat mechanics with unforgiving animations, and pervasive risk. 

Lies of P has all of these things, and also something that I struggle to articulate. It's a vibe. It's an unmistakable feeling you get seeing your character on-screen, the weapon in their hand, and the enemy approaching you. It's your position within a world, physically (some rando) and narratively (also some rando). It's how you engage with that world (with a cool sword) and what you expect from it (a cooler sword, dare we dream).    

Whatever it is, Lies of P has it. It oozes it, and if I had to pick a flavor, it tastes like Bloodborne. It's in the eccentric NPCs prone to emotional outbursts, the chop-and-change weapons, the grisly enemies, the agile bosses, the orchestra musicians losing their minds in the background, and the fatalistic, supernatural wash of it all. Lies of P could scarcely be more like Bloodborne without being Bloodborne 2. It's maybe the loveliest love letter ever written. But the exterior, this warped fairytale utopia, this motif of tragic monsters and more tragic puppets, is so different and so striking that it dyes familiar ideas in new colors, shaping clever twists that set it apart. 

As I've said before, and as Jasmine said in our Lies of P review, it is not perfect. To this day, nobody does it like FromSoftware, now and forever the only maker of Souls games and not Soulslikes. But amazingly, Lies of P is closer to perfect than ever thanks to some incredible post-launch updates. 

A brutal buffet

Lords of the Fallen Pieta

(Image credit: CI Games)

Lies of P lounges comfortably at the Soulslike summit, but below it this year has seen a fascinating gradient of games that I continue to find irresistible. I'm uniquely fond of Lords of the Fallen, which should go down in history as the most 3.5 out of 5 game to ever get a 3.5 out of 5. It's a fitting return for one of the first and worst Dark Souls imitators. It is so good, and so bad, and so good, and then so bad again. The quality curve, like the difficulty curve, wobbles like a shopping cart missing two opposite wheels. But I do love it, jank and all. 

There are games I like because they are so good that it doesn't matter whether they're specifically to my taste, and then there are games that I like despite obvious faults simply because they feel like they were made for me. Lords of the Fallen is in the second camp, and it can thank its lucky stars because I would not have put up with its bullshit otherwise. 

To damn with fine praise, Lords of the Fallen looks incredible and plays fine. The Gothic exterior, steeped in quasi-religious dogma and bloody blasphemies, feels like someone tried to draw Dark Souls 2 from memory immediately after meticulously studying every metal album ever printed. The rule of cool does a lot of heavy lifting here. Even when bosses disappoint, when weapons feel too same-y, when levels prove shallow, when all sense of game balance is jettisoned in the final third of the game, it is all just so sick. Don't get me wrong, Lords of the Fallen can mostly walk the walk. It has a great parry, some imaginative spells, an intuitive stagger system, and a two-worlds gimmick that visually wows and in a way that modern games rarely do. Ultimately, I tolerate its mistakes because I adore its successes.

Remnant 2 Iron Maiden enemy

(Image credit: Gunfire Games)

I'm quite a bit sweeter on Remnant 2, a rare Soulslike shooter. The original Remnant was defined by the exact sort of jank afflicting Lords of the Fallen, making Remnant 2 a great Soulslike and a frankly astonishing sequel. It is dramatically better than its predecessor in every conceivable way, and it's one of my favorite RPGs of the year, in no small part because it absolutely sings in co-op – still a painful weak point for Soulslikes. The subtle procedural level generation delivers surprising depth over multiple playthroughs, and the final boss kicks ass every single time – almost as much as the sawed-off shotgun which has not left my hands since I got it on my first run.  

I've still got Soulslikes to look forward to, too. My blind spots for the year are thankfully covered by our Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty review and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor review. As someone who's generally neutral on Star Wars but has enjoyed several of the games – and the Jedi games do seem up my alley, even if they are more conventional action RPGs – I'm more likely to give Wo Long a go first. If you let me parry imposing bosses in your video game, I will play your video game, and Wo Long is a colorful, parry-powered mix of Sekiro and Team Ninja's Nioh games. 

Better still, next year is already looking strong. The Elden Ring DLC is sure to blow everyone out of the water, but I also want more Remnant 2 DLC and the Lies of P DLC. Give me Black Myth: Wukong. Show me Kristala, Enotria: The Last Song, and Deathbound. I want all of these and more. Soulslikes are my comfort games, and 2023 has been mighty comfy. Here's to an even better 2024. 

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature.