Not long ago I sat down and recorded a video regarding my experience as an outsider with the Soulsborne games. In the video which was unscripted and unplanned to be honest with you, Ryan and I discussed From Software games and how they affected my life as well as my opinions of the games as an observer to them and the culture that surrounds them. If you want the short version of just my opinion of the games, watch the video below!
For those unfamiliar with them, From Software games generally refers to the Dark Souls series, Demon Souls, Bloodborne and its newest addition, Sekiro Shadows Die Twice. These games paved the way to a new genre of games. This new genre is a collection of games that tried to create the same experience as the original Dark Souls game. I will point out that I am not an expert in this gaming industry and all opinions expressed are solely my own as an observer to the games and the culture around them.
Dark Souls is infamously difficult to play, and has become a commonly used point of reference for game difficulty. This is not a great way to inform players of new game difficulty though, as Dark Souls wasn’t a difficult game as much as it is a series of seemingly insurmountable hurdles the were carefully designed to give players immense satisfaction upon achieving. For example, saying that any racing game is “as hard as Dark Souls” would make little to no sense, as a racing game could have difficult objectives, but would not require inspection into lore, acquiring and matching up the correct items or modifying fighting styles for bosses.
Dark Souls 2 was a step down from the original as it tried to increase it’s difficulty without giving the player the same odds as the original one to prevail while traveling to the next boss. In the original, enemies would follow a common game mechanic which ensures you aren’t being swarmed by enemies, so even in largely occupied areas, only one or two would directly engage you at once. In the second game they seemed to have removed this piece of programming, which allowed enemies to swarm you, making it impossible to cut your way through them, back off to heal or escape from them. Yes it made the game more difficult, but it did not make the game better. It also lacked the story the original had, though it is speculated a lot of this came from issues during development as to where and when the story would take place. Though you can have a few laughs at the constant “praise the sun” notes left by other players, there isn’t the same feeling of excitement or need for exploration in the second game. I am including the DLC in this, as it was just a couple bosses with little story. Not to mention the final boss was possibly the easiest boss in the game, which leaves the player feeling underwhelmed by finishing the game.
Dark Souls Three is not a game I have a lot to say about. It rekindled a lot of the charming aspects of the first game and followed its formula for successful player engagement in the game. It introduced some new lore to the universe and the increased speed of the gameplay certainly better suited the capabilities of the consoles existing upon its release. It’s important to remember this game was in development alongside Bloodborne, as while you play you will see a lot of character design and weapon design similarities between the two while fighting low level enemies. I don’t think this is a bad thing for the game, but rather it’s just interesting to see how the Bloodborne style snuck its way into the final Dark Souls game.
Bloodborne. This game infuriated me. The audio from enemies, bosses and even the stepping noises were just unpleasant to hear. Yes the game is designed around being grotesque, gothic and at points disturbing, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. While the basic design of the game mirrors Dark Souls in its fighting, movement and menus, it had a lot more personality. Though names of certain items changed throughout all the From Software games, it is easy to see a pattern they follow when developing. For example, Flasks and Blood Vials do the same thing and increase the total amount that can be carried can be increased throughout the game. Resting will recover healing flasks, re-spawn enemies and give you access to menus for transportation. I won’t say that the game doesn’t dip into stranger territory, because it really does, nor will I say it’s a bad game, because it is really well done, but it just isn’t my cup of tea.
Sekiro is the most beautiful of all the games. I don’t just mean the beautiful scenery and attention to detail, but also the intricacy of the stories that overlap and change the ending of the game. From Software really did change styles with this game while still incorporating the basic setup of their previous releases. What I mean is that their menus, items and basic structure or elements on the screen are very familiar from the previous games. As for style change, this game requires quick gameplay, fearless charging into enemies and discretion. The previous games were much slower, required more back and forth with enemies and didn’t reward sneaking around the way this game does. It does incorporate a lot of interesting Japanese lore and history and then adds a fantasy element to them.
I haven’t been exposed to Demon Souls, but to my understanding it is a precursor to Dark Souls that had its charms.
Overall, I appreciate the effort put in by the From Software teams that have worked on these games and created such fantastic stories that can be replayed many times while achieving different endings. I think they would all make fantastic gifts to gamers who like this style of game, though I would not recommend them to new gamers who may not be able to adjust quickly.