We here at Respawning are combining our writing powers to bring you the first edition of our new ‘Let’s Talk’ series.
Every Friday we will pick a new discussion topic and bring together every one of our content writers to discuss, debate and rant about anything from the latest breaking news to classic games and movies and we are starting off BIG! Today we are all getting together to discuss the Soulsborne series!
FromSoftware’s incredibly successful run of games that includes Demon Souls, Dark Souls 1,2 & 3 and Bloodborne often splits audiences due to their unique gameplay mechanics and reputation for being the most difficult games out there. So let’s waste no more time and Let’s Talk: Soulsborne Games, do we love them?
I can’t believe I’m about to say this but I think I fall on the liking Soulsborne side of the fence here. If you had asked me last Friday, I would have likely said no thank you, these games are not for me. I’m not a big RPG player at all and as I get older and find myself having less and less time to play games, the last thing I need is a game that is super difficult and massively time consuming. Before this past weekend I had only played Bloodborne and only for about half hour as I felt completely out of my depth and swiftly decided I couldn’t be bothered. But after being talked into doing a Dark Souls live stream featuring lots of alcohol by Javier & Luke, I think I’ve changed my mind. It only took me until my first death at the hands of the first boss to understand the addiction that people have for these games. I instantly wanted to go back and try again, I wanted to face the same enemies again and do better the second time around. I found myself feeling like a beast every time I would pull of a successful parry or kill an enemy that had been getting the best of me. It may have been the booze talking but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dark Souls. Will it continue? Time will tell, watch this space!
Catch the the Drunk Souls stream in the video below!
Up until 5/6 months ago I had only briefly played Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne and honestly I hated both at the time. I tried so hard to get into Bloodborne but couldn’t grasp the difficulty and gave up and then traded the game in (What a fool I hear you cry!). Fast forward to the end 2018 and I am talked into giving it another go, having the advantage of having an experienced friend help me through the beginning of the game I got past the ‘this game is so tough’ and I am now at the ‘I won’t die happy until i’ve played all of the Souls games’. Now I’ve not been dedicated to this game as I’m still only about 35 hours in after 4 months but it’s essentially the main game I’m playing now and I love it. What also really pleased me was that in the stream above I achieved things that took me 4 times as long originally, so can really see how much I improved. For combat and learning it’s the most satisfying game i’ve played… I can completely and utterly see why a lot of people are addicted to these games. I went a bit more in depth here if you want to check it out.
Look, it’s no secret that I am an absolute fanboy when it comes to Dark Souls and Bloodborne having complete each game in the Soulsborne series a MINIMUM of 4 times each. Everything about the games encapsulates why I play video games in the first place. I am absolutely in love with the world that Hidetaka Miyazaki has created and the feeling of accomplishment after successfully overcoming each challenge is something that no other game has even come close to replicating the feeling I get when I play through them.
In fact I would argue that the Soulsborne games have left such an impression on me… that they have ruined all games I have played since.
I’ve got a confession to make. At best, I have played 30 minutes of Dark Souls 3, of which I got to the boss and died a few times. My friend, who I was also with is an experienced player of all Soulsborne games, promptly took the controller off of me and cleared the boss as if it was nothing. I did notice some of the techniques he was using to play the boss. I think that if, no, when I boot up DS3 again, I might just succeed in beating him and get good.
A bit like Ben, I’ve not really played many of the Souls titles – I tried some of Dark Souls 2, and played a bit of 1. Not sure why, but the gameplay never really grabbed me – Even though it was strategic and very one-on-one. But all the lore stuff definitely grabbed my interest. I’ve combed through the Wikis, reading and learning about the world of Lordran and its surrounding nations, and I find the way in which the titles tell the tale of the place are very… Hidden. It feels like a world lived in; there are hardly books that espouse the convenient recent history of everything everywhere, after all, so having things be squirrelled away in the descriptions of items, names of places and people, is pretty interesting to me. It promotes a desire to learn more about the place you’re in, and that’s always great for a game.
For me, my relationship with Soulsborne titles is a bit of an odd one – Having purchased Bloodborne on day 1 under the impression that it was a ‘Castlevania-like’ adventure, I was immensely hyped to dive into Miyazaki’s Lovecraftian hellscape… Only to be utterly brutalised, flung around like a dog toy and ended up raging so hard that I shelved the game for 4 years… It wasn’t until early last year that my friend Luke decided to badger me constantly to pick it up again to finally slay this dreaded beast… And I loved every single minute of it. The world, the designs, the enemies and bosses, and god, the combat, all melded together into this almost perfect blend that ended up leaving me with one of the most satisfying gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time… But after finishing Bloodborne, I didn’t really feel compelled to dive straight into Dark Souls or Sekiro… For some reason, I had this odd sense of mental fatigue that still plagues me to this day whenever I try to approach the series… Maybe soon, Dark Souls… Maybe soon.
I’ll make no homeward bones about it (like that pun you dark souls nerds?) I love games where I can just breeze through and annihilate everything in my path. It’s cathartic and makes up for my violence free real life. So the Souls games penchant for being harder than Dwayne Johnson in the morning scares me and I just can’t deal with it! I get that part of the game is just dying, it’s not that I’m bad, I’m playing the game as it’s intended, but years of trying to get through games easily has made me feel like any death is an overwhelming failure so it’s just not for me! That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the lore though. You’ll often find me trawling the Souls wiki pages like Gandalf consulting the tomes of Minis Tirith. If there was an option to breeze through on an easy mode I’d take it for sure but I get that it’s not something the series would or should do. It’s hard and I need to get over it!!!
It’s a real trope in Games Journalism to say “It’s the Dark Souls of ___”, or “It’s as hard as Dark Souls”, or “The dark atmosphere reminds me of Dark Souls.”
Ever stop to wonder why? I did.
I will champion the artistic merits of games until my grave is cold, but it’s no secret that the industry behind it is in a sorry state. Every game is the same. Every new iteration of a franchise adds more and more exploitative microtransactions and takes away the joy we once felt. Remember the late 2000s? When Bioshock and Crash and Mass Effect reminded us how amazing games could be before we were drowned in a generation of beige military shooters? We love Soulsbourne because, in a sea of lies and manipulation and exploitation and creative strangleholds, From Software are one of the few groups that remain at the peak of the medium. They make massive, creatively gifted, lovingly crafted pieces of high art that push the medium forward, not hold it back.
As strange as it is, the reason we all love Dark Souls is that it gives us hope. Big publishers can do all they want to destroy the medium we love; but it’ll always come back stronger.
I’ll say that again.
Games will always come back stronger.
I have never picked up a single Dark Souls game. Mostly cus I really didn’t know they existed or were even a big deal until like… Last year. I know I know I am Respawning’s resident under a rock dweller. However In my defence it probably never reached my raider because its just not the kind of game that I would play. Firstly everyone goes on about how ridiculousy hard it is. I’m just not interested in playing a game that’s gonna give me an aneurysm. Secondly I just don’t have the time to slog on with a game I’m not interested in purely because it’s some kind of right of passage or some bollocks… Life is short.