The Problem with Soulslike Games.

General and high profile video game topics.
DaHeckIzDat
Posts: 1134
Joined: April 9th, 2015, 1:41 pm

The Problem with Soulslike Games.

Postby DaHeckIzDat » December 8th, 2019, 1:30 pm

I don't think it'd come as any surprise if I said that I'm crazy about the Dark Souls games. Now that the trilogy is finished and they don't plan on making more, I'm forced to try and get my Soulsian fix elsewhere--which isn't all that hard, seeing as how Dark Souls has literally created an all new genre of video game. Tons of developers are trying to cash in on that trend but, to me at least, none of them have really managed it. Nioh is decent, but couldn't keep my attention. Code Vein frustrated me in a way Souls never did. The Surge was just flat out boring. And yet, looking at reviews for those games, it seems most people really like them.

I think my problem is that these games play too much like Dark Souls, but at the same time not enough like it. They all have combat that revolves around stamina management, you lose XP when you die but have one chance to reclaim it, and resting at checkpoints resets the level and all the enemies you've killed. But the developers all put their own subtle spin on it to keep them from being straight up copies of Dark Souls. I can respect that. But it's those differences that throw me off.

As anyone who's played Dark Souls can tell you, you have to learn Dark Souls. It's incredibly open in terms of how you can choose to play it, but first you have to un-learn how other games have taught you to play. By the time you've beaten all three games like I have, the lessons they teach you are so ingrained in your skull that they're practically second nature. That presents a problem when you're playing a game that's Dark-Souls-But-Not-Quite. Both Nioh and Code Vein have fewer options when it comes to approaching combat. Code Vein is built around cooperative play, and Nioh makes you pay closer attention to your stamina bar since you have to manually recharge it. Neither of them have a huge list of options when it comes to choosing how you fight, instead focusing more on head-on confrontation.

None of these makes them bad games. But it does mean that if you approach them the same way you did Dark Souls, you're not going to get far. That means that you have to un-learn the lessons that Dark Souls taught you, which forced you to un-learn everything else before being able to play in the first place. I thought I'd be open to that, but to my own surprise...I'm not.

Everyone says that the key to enjoying these games is to stop thinking of them as Dark Souls clones, and just see them as Code Vein and Nioh. That's easier said than done, though. Like I said, these games feel like Dark Souls. That makes me want to play them like Dark Souls. When the tactics and strategies that I worked so hard to master in Dark Souls turn out to not work in these games, I find that I don't have the patience to go through the entire learning process a second time.

But here's the weird thing: I don't know if this is my fault or theirs. That's because there's one Soulslike game that I absolutely loved: Bloodborne. Yes, it was made by the same developers, but everything I said about Nioh and Code Vein applies to it too. It follows the Dark Souls formula, but adds its own changes like no shields, firearms, and more aggressive enemies. But I jumped into it and loved every second of it because it has the one thing that the others don't: it feels like Dark Souls. The changes make it its own thing, but not enough to where a guy who's played all three Dark Souls games can't feel right at home in it. Nioh and Code Vein aren't bad games. They're well made. But they feel so different to the games that inspired them that I couldn't get into them.

Wow, that went on a lot longer than I thought it would. Anyone else have their own opinions on this?

BanjoPickles
Posts: 271
Joined: June 18th, 2015, 3:05 pm

Re: The Problem with Soulslike Games.

Postby BanjoPickles » December 8th, 2019, 2:28 pm

I am a diehard fan of the trilogy, as well as Demon Souls and Bloodborne. As much as I do love the gameplay/learning curve, much of my love for the series has to do with the atmosphere. There are levels in those games that are the ultimate in survival horror, and my heart would race as I turned a new corner. Games like Nioh, pretty as they are, lacked the atmosphere of the Souls games, so they felt more like pretenders than anything else.

DaHeckIzDat
Posts: 1134
Joined: April 9th, 2015, 1:41 pm

Re: The Problem with Soulslike Games.

Postby DaHeckIzDat » December 8th, 2019, 2:46 pm

BanjoPickles wrote:Games like Nioh, pretty as they are, lacked the atmosphere of the Souls games, so they felt more like pretenders than anything else.

True. To quote Zero Punctuation's review, "Oh boy, I wonder where the next level will be set! Will it be a Japanese village, a forest, a cave, or a Japanese village in a forest with a cave? THESE ARE SARCASTIC THOUGHTS!"

User avatar
Stalvern
Posts: 1147
Joined: June 18th, 2016, 7:15 pm

Re: The Problem with Soulslike Games.

Postby Stalvern » December 8th, 2019, 3:03 pm

DaHeckIzDat wrote:But here's the weird thing: I don't know if this is my fault or theirs.

You're looking for something too narrowly specific and too vague in its specificities for them to make in the first place. It's not even a matter of liking "Souls-likes made by From Software" because you gave up on Sekiro too.

DaHeckIzDat
Posts: 1134
Joined: April 9th, 2015, 1:41 pm

Re: The Problem with Soulslike Games.

Postby DaHeckIzDat » December 8th, 2019, 3:07 pm

Stalvern wrote:
DaHeckIzDat wrote:But here's the weird thing: I don't know if this is my fault or theirs.

You're looking for something too narrowly specific for them to make in the first place. It's not even a matter of liking "Souls-likes made by From Software" because you hated Sekiro too.

I disagree. The Souls series is anything but narrow. It might not seem like it to new players, but the extent of the options it gives you is staggeringly huge. Even if Nioh and Code Vein had just been Dark Souls with fewer options, I probably would have liked them just fine. Like I said, though, it's the feel of the games that makes me not like them as much.

And Sekiro is something else entirely. It has the same level>boss>level>boss layout, with enemy respawning checkpoints, as Dark Souls, but it is not a Dark Souls game, or even a Dark Souls clone. That's like comparing Armored Core to Dark Souls just because that was made by FromSoft too.

User avatar
Stalvern
Posts: 1147
Joined: June 18th, 2016, 7:15 pm

Re: The Problem with Soulslike Games.

Postby Stalvern » December 8th, 2019, 3:17 pm

DaHeckIzDat wrote:I disagree. The Souls series is anything but narrow. It might not seem like it to new players, but the extent of the options it gives you is staggeringly huge. Even if Nioh and Code Vein had just been Dark Souls with fewer options, I probably would have liked them just fine.

This is precisely what I was calling "narrow". You have set up a template and expect only the minimum of deviation from it.

DaHeckIzDat wrote:And Sekiro is something else entirely. It has the same level>boss>level>boss layout, with enemy respawning checkpoints, as Dark Souls, but it is not a Dark Souls game, or even a Dark Souls clone. That's like comparing Armored Core to Dark Souls just because that was made by FromSoft too.

I could have sworn that you called it a Souls-like in your Now Playing thread, but on a second read, I guess you were just saying that the difficulty is comparable. Googling "sekiro soulslike" gives me about 50-50 results of people saying that it is and isn't one, so it's not a clear-cut example, but it obviously isn't as far off as Armored Core either.

Edit: To be clear, I have not played any of these games and am not remotely invested in whether Sekiro is a Souls-like or not.

DaHeckIzDat
Posts: 1134
Joined: April 9th, 2015, 1:41 pm

Re: The Problem with Soulslike Games.

Postby DaHeckIzDat » December 8th, 2019, 3:37 pm

Stalvern wrote:
DaHeckIzDat wrote:I disagree. The Souls series is anything but narrow. It might not seem like it to new players, but the extent of the options it gives you is staggeringly huge. Even if Nioh and Code Vein had just been Dark Souls with fewer options, I probably would have liked them just fine.

This is precisely what I was calling "narrow". You have set up a template and expect only the minimum of deviation from it.

I can understand that, but I still think there's something there. If they're deliberately mimicking another game's style, then they have every right to make deviations to make their game more than just a clone. But that doesn't mean their changes are automatically for the better. Maybe I just don't "get" Code Vein, just like I didn't "get" Dark Souls at first, but I don't enjoy a game that puts a heavy emphasis on player skill when my AI companion will destroy every enemy before I can get one hit in. I don't like bosses that can damage you through your guard and have attacks that hit you even if you dodge them. Bloodborne got away with not having shields because your hunter is much faster than a standard Dark Souls undead, but Code Vein takes away your shield, and slows you down to the point where, if you were playing Dark Souls, you'd be fat rolling.

Other people love the game, so there are obviously ways around these things. I can respect that. But the way it presents itself as "like Dark Souls" but then punishes you for trying to play it like Dark Souls turned me off of it.

User avatar
Stalvern
Posts: 1147
Joined: June 18th, 2016, 7:15 pm

Re: The Problem with Soulslike Games.

Postby Stalvern » December 8th, 2019, 4:28 pm

DaHeckIzDat wrote:I can understand that, but I still think there's something there. If they're deliberately mimicking another game's style, then they have every right to make deviations to make their game more than just a clone.

The complete description I used was "too narrowly specific and too vague in its specificities" (you quoted the post before I added that clarification, but that was a window of about two minutes). What you want isn't a Dark Souls clone but a game that "feels like" Dark Souls, a game that you can go into from Dark Souls and "feel right at home in". You don't want a copy of the game, but you do want a copy of whatever exact parameters under the surface make Bloodborne "feel like" Dark Souls to you, which is not only something that you can't actually articulate but that, even if you could articulate it, would inevitably be "off" if a developer specifically tried to follow it because they aren't you.

User avatar
Gentlegamer
Posts: 481
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 1:01 am

Re: The Problem with Soulslike Games.

Postby Gentlegamer » December 9th, 2019, 9:45 am

Here's the thing: each of the proper souls games are different from each other. So even within the series you have to learn what each game is about, mechanically.

Voor
Posts: 901
Joined: April 14th, 2015, 8:08 pm

Re: The Problem with Soulslike Games.

Postby Voor » December 9th, 2019, 7:57 pm

I read that the new Star Wars game has some DS elements. Have you given it a try?


Return to “Video Games General”