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The RPG Files: It's Time for the Souls Games to Take a Break

By Christopher Coke on February 17, 2017 | Columns | Comments

It's Time for the Souls Games to Take a Break

Pop quiz: Dark Souls 3. Bloodborne. Lords of the Fallen. Nioh. The Surge. What do these games have in common? If you said “virtually everything,” congratulations, you get a prize.

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Now, that is of course a gross oversimplification. There are many differences between these games, but they’re also remarkably similar. With the exception of Dark Souls 3, they’re what I call “Souls-alikes.” They’re RPGs who punish your over-eagerness. They demand restraint and reaction; they lop off half or your health bar with single hits. You earn XP and have a single chance to retrieve it when you die. You juggle a stamina bar, by one name or another, and god help you if it depletes. These are games that laugh at your incompetency and reward your patience.

From here on out, as I refer to the “Souls” games, I’ll be using it as a colloquialism, meaning games of that type.

In the past, I’ve been skeptical about Dark Souls in particular for their harsh difficulty curves. I changed my tune when, looking at Steam’s achievement data, the Souls games actually had some of the highest endgame achievement rates of any of the core RPGs I looked at. Dark Souls 3 actually had the highest completion rate, topping out even Mass Effect 2. It’s clear that players who loved Dark Souls, really loved Dark Souls.

Except, as the rest of the industry has picked up on this cue, we’re seeing more and more games try to glom onto Dark Souls’ success. Lords of the Fallen was an early example while Nioh is the latest, and The Surge is yet to come later this year. There have been many others in between, from full on 3D action adventures to side-scrollers. Even if they don’t take the systems part and parcel, the Dark Souls influence is clear in games like Darkest Dungeon and Eitr. In the last few years that these games have really come to prominence, we’ve also gotten two mainline Souls’ games, Bloodborne, a re-release, and expansion packs. It’s a lot of Souls.


I’ll see you next year!

Can you have too much of a good thing? When it comes to video games, yes. It kills them. Assassin’s Creed is taking its infamous year off. Call of Duty is finally dropping off with disappointing reception from fans. After a while, the ideas that were once novel and interesting become tired and played out. This is why the biggest and best games always take time off after each release; they make each new entry an event. Ennui will strike Dark Souls style games if developers aren’t careful.

Now, with the success of Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Nioh, it should be clear that we’re not there yet. But if you read between the lines in nearly every major review, the theme is identical: “this is more of the same with some tweaks.” This is the sign that it’s time for a break. After The Surge, the Souls train will come crashing into the station sooner rather than later. It will start with players dropping off more quickly, then skepticism and harsher critiques, and finally apathy.

From Software’s games will probably be fine, the same way Grand Theft Auto still headlines a sea of open world games. But the others? If the game industry beats the mechanics of Dark Souls to death, they’ll wind up the latest fad publishers used to make a quick buck and the AAA big boys will rule the roost.

So please, game industry. Don’t wreck this for us. Keep giving us Souls-alikes. Just don’t beat it to death.


Quick Hits

Action RPG, Victor Vran, will be hitting both PC and consoles with its Overkill Edition. The release will come pre-packed with all the improvements to the PC version of the game as well as the Fractured Worlds expansion and the Motörhead: Through the Ages adventure. You read that right. Which is great, because I’m holding out for that Guns N Roses RPG. Call Axl, game devs. This is something that needs to happen.

Tactical, turn-based RPG, Legrand Legacy, has funded on Kickstarter. The game, well regarded in press demos, will use a combination of hand drawn backgrounds and detailed character models on a science-fantasy party-based adventure.

Horizon: Zero Dawn released their Earth Is Ours No More trailer, which again just looks excellent. It doesn’t reveal much but continues to push the mystery of what happened to Earth where humans are now huddled tribes in a world overrun by robot dinosaurs. It also highlights just how gorgeous and cinematic the game is shaping up to be!

The game’s map also seems to have leaked ahead of release revealing three huge varied regions to adventure through. There may be spoilers, so use caution clicking through to see for yourself.

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard has a launch date and along with it a new trailer! The trailer focuses on the game’s big features including character and skill progress, combat, two-player co-op, and some of the monsters you’ll fight along the way.

And, of course we had to talk about it, Nintendo has announced a $20 “Expansion Pass” for Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You already know my opinion on season passes. I don’t like them and, frankly, Zelda shouldn’t have one. The idea of paid expansions, however, I love. More Zelda more often? YES.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.