God help me, Pinocchio might become the coolest protagonist of 2023

Lies of P
(Image credit: Neowiz)

While PCs might be suffering without a Bloodborne of their own, I was skeptical about Lies of P. One glance will tell you how thoroughly it's biting Bloodborne's flavor. Recent encounters with shameless FromSoft knockoffs forced me to wonder: Was Lies of P just puppeteering the genre for a quick Souls-like cash-in, or did it, in fact, want to be a real boy?

I mean, it's Pinocchio Souls, for God's sake. What are we doing here?

Well, after a few hours with a preview demo, I have exciting—if troubling—news. Lies of P might be rad? I don't know how else to say it. I'm Pinocchio-pilled.

Stop me when the setup sounds familiar: You awaken in a city-turned-slaughterhouse. Its few survivors are penned indoors, the miracle substance that enabled their prosperity now driving the bloodshed in their streets. There are some slight differences—haywire automata "puppets" and their mystery fuel in place of beasts and Old Blood, and compared to Yharnam, Krat's a city that's a couple centuries deeper into the Industrial Revolution. But otherwise, in short, it's extremely Bloodborne, right down to reclaiming health by hitting. Except, you know, Pinocchio's the one wielding the weapon. Still, it turns out Bloodborne is still really fun to play, even under a different name. While Lies of P is shamelessly aping the same beats, it's carrying the tune well enough to get away with it.

But somehow the blatant cloning of Bloodborne DNA isn't what has me most excited for Lies of P's September 19 release. It's the Pinocchio content.

In my three hours and change with Lies of P, it was Pinocchio himself that won me over. Frankly, I expected the Pinocchio theming to be pretty perfunctory, like the public domain version of video game stunt casting. I'm as baffled as I am delighted to be wrong. An advanced version of the crazed robots stalking Krat's streets, Pinocchio might have the Chalametish look of a fancy little French lad, but he also happens to be a few hundred pounds of weaponized steel. Within moments of piloting Pinocchio, it's clear that Lies of P understands what kind of palette a robot protagonist lets you paint with, and the resulting visuals are sick.

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He’s a dandyish instrument of destruction, a hilarious blend of Little Lord Fauntleroy and steam-powered sledgehammer. He tears and punches open steel gates with his bare hands. His backstab executions shear enemy puppets in half. He only ever has an impassive expression, somehow amplifying the unhesitating android violence. His gears audibly shriek with strain, electricity arcing from his joints when he exerts himself. Even managing weapon durability is cool to watch: when your weapons dull from combat, Pinocchio sharpens them in a shower of sparks using a grinder built into his iron left arm.

I never thought I’d say this: Pinocchio fuckin' rules. He's my blank, baby-faced, steelclad son and I love him.

Somehow, Lies of P even got me with the "Lies" part. While Pinocchio seems to have a rare sentience compared to most of the other puppets hacking their way through Krat, what truly sets him apart is his unique ability to lie. This lets you do some pretty basic "decisions matter" type stuff by choosing when Pinocchio lies or not, but what caught my interest were some glimmers in the demo that lying might itself be the key to Pinocchio's eventual humanity—that dishonesty is a fundamental part of being human. Am I reading too much into all that? Probably. But if they've already got me thinking Pinocchio is cool, why not high concept nonsense about the nature of man? Lord, I'm fool enough to hope.

Lies of P makes some tweaks to the Souls-like progression formula, and I'm interested in their potential. While it doesn't have Bloodborne's transforming trick weapons, it does have modular weapon assembly. Every weapon is composed of two pieces: the blade determines the weapon's damage type and offensive active ability, while the handle determines its attack pattern and stat scaling.

For example, halfway through the demo, I'd popped the blade off a greatsword and slapped it on the handle of the saber I'd been using. The heavier blade gave me some extra reach and a hefty special attack. Meanwhile, sticking with my saber handle meant I kept the scaling benefit of the points I'd placed while leveling. Later, I found a shock cudgel, opening up access to electric damage.

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Pinocchio's got a skill tree, too, offering some additional build-defining choices thanks to his unfortunately-named mechanical "P-Organ." This leads me to one of my sticking points with the demo: While the localization manages to pull off the eerie, aloof Bloodborne tone, the wording itself is frequently clumsy. Thankfully the voice acting talent picks up a lot of that slack by really leaning into their performances. I'm excited to see more from Gepetto in particular, here imagined as a kind of Oppenheimer of automata, with a soft-spoken fatherliness I couldn't pin down as endearing or unsettling. As far as I'm concerned, that's the best response I could have to a Souls-like NPC.

Let's be real, here: it's entirely possible that my newfound affection for Pinocchio is the symptom of some bizarre and short-lived fever that would break long before  the end of this game. If the Bloodborne/Pinocchio gene splicing experiment doesn't pan out, I won't exactly be surprised. Until I play the whole thing, though? I get to live in a world where I'm hopeful for Pinocchio's chances as a gothic action hero. That's already an achievement.

A demo for Lies of P should be landing on Steam soon, if it isn't available already.

Lincoln Carpenter

Lincoln spent his formative years in World of Warcraft, and hopes to someday recover from the experience. Having earned a Creative Writing degree by convincing professors to accept his papers about Dwarf Fortress, he leverages that expertise in his most important work: judging a video game’s lore purely on the quality of its proper nouns. With writing at Waypoint and Fanbyte, Lincoln started freelancing for PC Gamer in Fall of 2021, and will take any excuse to insist that games are storytelling toolkits—whether we’re shaping those stories for ourselves, or sharing them with others. Or to gush about Monster Hunter.