Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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Fallen Lords is a dungeon-delving, monster-fighting adventure game for up to 4 players, who guide a party of 4 adventurers through an enemy-filled dungeon. Initially designed only for ‘table’ play, a recent update made pass-and-play (and thus single player) easier to implement. Gameplay is very straightforward – every turn sees characters exploring the labyrinth and then either encountering and fighting a monster or searching for resources to aid in destroying said monsters, with the ultimate goal being to find and defeat the titular Fallen Lords before time expires or all the heroes are dead.
Graphically and mechanically, Fallen Lords looks and behaves like a board game. Combat is dice driven, which adds good tension – watching a die barely settle on the face you need is as exciting as watching that same die roll right past what you want is frustrating. Unfortunately, the randomness of the dice mean that, without luck, even the easiest-to-dispatch monster can be unbeatable. Power tokens can be used to add to die rolls, but they too are acquired randomly, which is no less frustrating.
The game is very reliant on icons to convey information, as is commonly the case in board games. Unfortunately, what works very well with physical cards and tokens doesn’t work as smoothly here – if you have forgotten what an icon means, it is slightly cumbersome to go through several steps to ‘flip the card over’ and read the expanded rules. And there are a lot of icons – my first few play-throughs were predominantly spent just trying to figure out what the heck was happening. The game has a rulebook and a tutorial video but they are on the game’s website and not in the actual app – which proved to be a true annoyance when I tried to play the game offline. Also worth noting – Fallen Lords can be difficult, but artificially so. Even on the easiest setting, the random nature of the game’s combat and resource-gathering mean you will spend lots of turns accomplishing nothing, as you try to randomly harvest enough power tokens to mitigate the randomness of the combat dice. Again, frustrating.
That said, Fallen Lords isn’t a bad game. However, it can and should be compared, almost unavoidably, to Ghost Stories. The number of shared themes, aesthetics, and mechanics are extraordinary. Truly, if Fallen Lords existed in a vacuum, I would think more highly of it. However, with no accusation of impropriety on the part of the designers, it really does feel like a cribbed version of Ghost Stories, and Ghost Stories is the superior game. Fallen Lords excitingly introduces more monster mechanics, but despite this, it feels like a watered-down version of a game I already own (and love). Simply put, Ghost Stories does it better.
Still, if you’re going to emulate, it's better to emulate something worthwhile. Some mechanical considerations aside, Fallen Lords is still a fun little game, and worth playing – just not if you already have Ghost Stories (and you should).