One of the very first movies I ever recall watching as a child was Disney’s Pinocchio, an animated movie made in 1940 adapting Carlo Collodi’s “The Adventures of Pinocchio” novel for the big screen. It was a charming (and surprisingly scary at times) tale that followed a young puppet’s journey to becoming a real boy while meeting a host of quirky, often sinister characters along the way.
Little did I know that many decades later I would revisit this classic tale but in the form of a twisted and dark videogame with steampunk aesthetics called Lies of P. Lies of P is an upcoming Soulslike action-RPG brought to you by NEOWIZ which is slated to be released later this year on Sept. 19, 2023, for Xbox, PlayStation, and PC platforms. When I first saw Lies of P, I was intrigued by its visceral combat and art style as it reminded me of FromSoftware’s Bloodborne, which is considered by many Soulslike fans (myself included) to be one of the best games in the genre.
I wondered if Lies of P could provide a next-gen alternative experience to Bloodborne as FromSoftware’s beloved gothic-horror title has been locked away as a PlayStation 4-exclusive for many years with no signs of a PC or Xbox port happening anytime soon. Luckily for me, I was given the opportunity to check out the PC (Steam) demo of Lies of P (provided by NEOWIZ) prior to its public release announced at Summer Games Fest 2023 to see if this game has what it takes to capture a glimmer of Bloodborne’s dark magic. Or at least stand alongside some of the best Souslike games in recent memory like Elden Ring or Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.
Disclaimer: This preview was made possible thanks to a Steam preview code provided by NEOWIZ. The company did not see the contents of this preview before publishing.
Waking up in a ruined city
The game begins with me waking up inside a train with no clue how I got there. I suddenly hear a voice in my head from a mysterious woman named Sophia who tells me to prepare for battle by grabbing a nearby weapon and a lantern with a jovial, robotic cricket inside named Gemini. Once I exited the train, I found myself in a train station littered with shriveled-up corpses and shambling automatons that attack anything in sight. After some exposition from Sophia and discovering items detailing in-game lore, I learn what’s going on.
I am in the city of Krat, a city where the genius inventor, Geppetto helped pioneer an industrial revolution by creating fully functional robot puppets capable of speech and thought. These puppets were meant to help the citizens in their day-to-day lives and entertain the children. However, something had gone wrong with their programming and now they are running amok killing any human whom they encounter.
On top of this disaster, there is a plague spreading through the city called the Petrification Disease which causes humans to slowly die and become petrified corpses. Needless to say, these incidents have brought the once-prosperous city of Krat to ruin. However, there is hope for the city’s survival in the form of our player character – Pinocchio.
Compared to the original Pinocchio from Carlo Collodi’s novel and the Disney version who was a mischievous, naive but kind-hearted wooden boy, Lies of P’s version of Pinocchio (known as 'P' in this game) is a quiet but ruthless, killing machine made of steel. Although, unlike the rest of the berserk puppets in Krat, P is capable of sentient thought enabling him to lie to people or perform acts of kindness (something we will touch upon later).
Once I learned of the tragic circumstances which had befallen the city, Sophia told me to meet her at Hotel Krat so we could figure out a way to locate Geppetto and save what little is left of Krat.
Learning to dismantle the puppets of Krat
I then proceed to make my way through the streets of Krat and this is where I start to learn how the gameplay structure of Lies of P is going to work. Lies of P follow the standard Soulslike formula of exploring a giant world with interconnecting levels filled with deadly enemies.
On your journey, you will encounter Stargazers, which act as safe spots where you can recover your health, refill your stash of healing potions (known as Pulse Cells) and create checkpoints to respawn at when you die in battle. There are also merchants scattered throughout Krat from where you can buy healing items, weapons, and more by spending a currency called Ergo which you gain from killing puppets. If you die in the field, all your Ergo will drop at the last place you perished, waiting for you to retrieve it. However, if you die again before recovering your lost Ergo, it will vanish forever.
To protect your life and your Ergo, you will need to defend yourself against the mechanical monstrosities littered throughout Krat. Combat at first seems like your standard fare of dodging and blocking attacks while managing your stamina meter, then using your weapon’s normal or heavy attacks to damage them while they’re vulnerable. However, as I encountered more enemies and acquired more weapons, I started to discover unique mechanics that spice up Lies of P’s combat system.
For starters, every weapon comes with two special moves called Fable Arts which can deal a ton of damage or protect Pinocchio with useful defensive functions. In addition, P has access to Legion Arms; weaponized mechanical arms that provide you with an edge in combat. For example, I started off with a regular robot arm with a normal punch attack, then later on I acquired the Puppet String Legion Arm which lets me pull in regular enemies to separate them from groups and pick them off one by one.
The biggest and most satisfying gameplay mechanic I found so far was the Perfect Guard mechanic. In Lies of P, you can block enemy attacks by guarding yourself, but you will lose stamina and your health will slowly chip away from the blocked attacks. Although, you can restore your chipped-away health if you attack immediately after blocking. However, if you time your blocks just as an enemy is about to strike, you perform a Perfect Guard maneuver which negates all damage and prevents you from losing stamina.
The best part of a Perfect Guard maneuver is if you do it consistently, enough times without fail, an enemy’s weapon will break from your block. This will contribute towards stunning enemies and leaving them in a vulnerable state where you can perform a context-sensitive attack on them that takes off a huge chunk of their health. Not only that but breaking an enemy’s weapon will weaken their attacks for the remainder of the fight.
Seeing an enemy break their weapon against my block and then look on in horror as I smash them to pieces for their mistake was so gratifying and encouraged me to build Pinocchio’s playstyle towards offensive parrying and stunning enemies. Lies of P’s emphasis on rewarding offensive players even extends to recovering resource meters used for Fable Arts and Legion Arm attacks and recharging a single Pulse Cell vial if you run out of them by engaging enemies in combat.
Fair warning though, the weapons in Lies of P have a durability meter that goes down every time you hit an enemy or block an attack. As a weapon’s durability meter gets lower, it deals less damage and when it's fully depleted, the weapon breaks apart and you lose it forever.
To prevent this, you have a tool called a Grinder which lets you gradually repair your weapon by using the gears in P’s robotic Legion Arm like a grindstone to sharpen them. Seeing P slowly walk up to a gigantic, robot monster and grind his weapon on his arms with cold dead eyes, intent on murder, is an extremely cool visual (which is something I’d never thought I’d say about Pinocchio in a million years).
Putting an end to the Parade Master
As I came to grips with Lies of P’s deep combat system, I eventually found Hotel Krat where Sophia was waiting for me but the game’s first boss, the Parade Master, was barring my entrance. This boss is the game’s way of testing the player’s skills and seeing if they have learned to effectively use all of the combat mechanics I have just explained, to achieve victory.
This is easier said than done, as the Parade Master is no joke. This thing hits like a truck and sometimes delays its attacks to catch players off guard. I upgraded Pinocchio’s stats by using Ergo at Stargazers to increase his health and attack power before this fight, so I was able to brute-force my way through it…until the Parade Master ripped off its own head and started using it like a baseball bat to send me flying across the arena!
This fight set the tone for what Lies of P’s bosses will be like. Never underestimate your opponent because once a boss’ health is low enough, it will completely change its tactics and become more aggressive and harder to deal with. Once I recovered from the initial shock of seeing the Parade Master use its head like a weapon and timed my blocks more proficiently, I was able to defeat it and proceed to Hotel Krat.
Setting up shop at Hotel Krat and learning to lie
When I reached the hotel’s doors, I was given a warning from Sophia that in order to bypass the building’s anti-puppet security system, I had to lie to the door’s intercom. Here, I was given a tutorial on Lies of P’s dialogue system where I had to tell the truth or tell a lie within a short time limit. When I had P lie to the security system, a message popped on my screen saying that something tugged at the inner workings of Pinocchio’s gears and the normally dispassionate Pinocchio felt something akin to human emotion.
This is an interesting story dynamic as it’s a fascinating homage to Pinocchio’s defining character trait of telling lies in the original fable this game is based upon while implying that it could influence the outcome of the game’s story. Though whether Pinocchio’s nose will grow extra-long from telling lies in the full game remains to be seen.
After all those trials and tribulations, I finally entered Hotel Krat and met up with Sophia. From here on, the hotel acts as the game’s central hub area. You can rest here to recover your Pulse Cells and converse with several resident NPCs to learn more about the world, upgrade P's stats and swap Legion Arms. You can even dismantle weapons you have collected throughout the game here and combine different parts of them to create custom-made weapons with Fable Arts and attributes that fit your preferred playstyle.
The Stargazers also gain the ability to allow fast travel between all Stargazers you discover so you can instantly backtrack to areas you’ve already been to, complete sidequests, or pick up items you have missed the first time around.
Silencing the Scrapped Watchman
After getting my upgrades, I was told by Sophia to go back into the city to search for Geppetto. My second expedition played out like the first with exploration and culling puppets. During my trek, I undertook a sidequest from an NPC hiding out in the city of Krat. Without going into spoiler territory, this is where the lying mechanic comes into play to tug at the player’s heartstrings by presenting them with moral dilemmas that will influence the kind of real boy P will eventually become.
I eventually found Geppetto however he was being attacked by not a puppet, but by a human vigilante called Mad Donkey, who blames Geppetto for the puppets going crazy. The Mad Donkey then spots me and tries to chop me in half with his giant meat cleaver. This is the first non-puppet enemy in the game and implies that you won’t just be fighting robot puppets, you will be forced to fight humans as well.
Once I rescued Geppetto from the Mad Donkey, he told me that a giant puppet was causing havoc nearby and it needed to be put down before we could explore the city further. Geppetto then returned to Hotel Krat while I went hunting for this giant puppet. It didn’t take me long to find it as it was a large policeman-like machine called the Scrapped Watchman.
If the Parade Master was the game’s way of testing you to see if you had learned how to fight, then the Scrapped Watchman was the game’s way of saying “The time for learning is over, it’s now time for you to die”. This metallic beast was way tougher than the Parade Master, its attack patterns were more unpredictable and sometimes it liked to grab you and then throw you if you tried to block its attacks too much.
Once its health bar was halfway down, the Scrapped Watchman started conducting electricity which caused its attacks to deal electric damage, leaving small lightning explosions in its wake. If you take too much electric damage, Pinocchio will short-circuit and become vulnerable to a lethal blow from the boss. After dying many times and carefully studying its erratic movements to counter them, I eventually destroyed the Scrapped Watchman.
It was so cathartic when I finally put this rapid machine down after such an electrifying battle. Although if you are struggling, there is a stone vessel called a Crack’s Calling next to the boss area’s entrance that will allow you to summon a Specter which will aid you in battle.
After defeating the Scrapped Watchman, I returned to Hotel Krat to report its demise to Geppetto…and this is where the demo promptly ends.
Color me intrigued in the Lies of P
Overall, I was very impressed with what I experienced with Lies of P so far. The combat system was deep and engaging and the bosses were challenging but fair. The dark, steampunk art style was magnificent, and I was enthralled by how this game reinterpreted the Pinocchio characters from the original story to fit a Soulslike setting.
On top of that, the game’s performance ran flawlessly at 1080p and 60fps on PC. I ran this demo using a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 graphics card and Intel Core i5-9400 CPU, so I was able to set the game to its maximum graphical settings without issue. However, the minimum system requirements for running Lies of P on PC aren’t very demanding as they only require an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and an Intel Core i5-7500 to function. This means that you won’t have to go out of your way to buy the best PC graphics cards to play Lies of P.
Lies of P is scheduled to launch on Sept. 19, 2023, for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC via Windows and Steam. Lies of P is also coming to Xbox Game Pass on the day it launches. I’m not going to lie like Pinocchio: this game was a delight to play, and I cannot wait to play the full version as I feel this upcoming Xbox title could be an excellent addition to Xbox Game Pass' extensive library.
If what I have told you about Lies of P interests you, you can check out the demo available now on Xbox, PlayStation, and Steam to experience this grim reimaging for yourself.
Lies of P
Descend into a world of mechanical madness in Lies of P. As the young puppet Pinocchio, you must save the city of Krat from the brink of destruction and discover the path to becoming a real boy.
Pre-order at: Steam
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Alexander Cope is a gaming veteran of 30-plus years, primarily covering PC and Xbox games here on Windows Central. Gaming since the 8-bit era, Alexander's expertise revolves around gaming guides and news, with a particular focus on Japanese titles from the likes of Elden Ring to Final Fantasy. Alexander is always on deck to help our readers conquer the industry's most difficult games — when he can pry himself away from Monster Hunter that is!