Dark Souls 3, From Software's latest installment in the Souls franchise is looming just over the horizon. The excitement keeps building as multiple video gaming personalities scramble to stream what little gameplay they're allowed to due to NDA's. However, I'm just not convinced I should buy the game on day one and lock myself in a dark room, illuminated only by the flickering of my ailing television screen.
Much like the knight, my love for this game series feels like its fading away
The Souls series was an absolute sleeper of a franchise, beginning with Demon's Souls for the Playstation 3. In fact, it was the reason why I bought my PS3 in the first place. Being in possession of a XBox360 simply meant I had no real reason to drop coin on a PS3 until a music forum user, of all people, posted their little review of Demon's Souls. They described how it was "so ridiculously hard but challenging and fun" and so on, you've likely heard that summary a thousand times by now. I finally decided to pull the trigger and get the intriguing game for myself. At first I hated it. Within the first hour I was "over" it, I gave up and got myself a copy of God of War 3 to play. It wasn't until after finishing that game, and having nothing else to do, that I decided to take another crack at Demon's Souls. The controls frustrated me, the enemies tore me to bits and then I realized that I lost maximum health every time I died. I thought I would snap the disc in half and be done with it.
But then I beat the first level...and instead of just pissing away all those hours for nought I kept playing. There seriously was a point in my life where I was spending all of my free time grinding through Demon's Souls. I simply had to "git gud" as they say on the 'net nowadays. Once I passed that hurdle, the game started to make sense and I found myself loving every minute of it. Instead of crying about each death, I would try different ways to get through the level without bankrupting myself. By the time I finished it, and was just ready to put it away, Namco Bandai announced Dark Souls, it's spiritual successor. I then committed a grave sin the day it was listed in my nearest EB Games; I pre-ordered the game.
Part of the hype machine that was Dark Souls
Normally I would say "don't pre-order video games, you don't know what you're getting" but, blinded by my love for Demon's Souls, I signed away my $90 and waited patiently for it to hit the market. The day it was released I received a phone call from the games store, informing me my copy of Dark Souls was ready for pick up. The next twelve hours I can't quite remember doing anything besides playing the game. My god, It was brilliant, the world was a sight to behold. I felt the gameplay had been much improved over its predecessor, feeling like it had added more weight to each movement. The world felt tangible and alive, even with its notoriously grim setting. I spent hours farming rats for humanity and dark wraiths for titanite slabs. Hell, I've never even killed Priscilla because she's absolutely adorable and I refuse to cut her tail off. Another shining example of Japan's superior understanding of RPGs, I stupidly thought to myself in utter ignorance of other less than stellar Japanese titles.
Dark Souls would go on to smash Demon's Souls sales, besting it in sheer popularity and spawning a slew of memes, one which is used in marketing today and simply refuses to fucking die; "It's the Dark Souls of [insert video game/genre here]." Typically used by the less enlightened among us who think that the only aspect of Dark Souls that was notable was its difficulty. It was only inevitable that a sequel to Dark Souls would come and like clockwork I committed the sin of pre-ordering it. However, this time I was left with an odd taste in my mouth, like lukewarm pizza.
Image courtesy of NamcoBandai.
Don't get me wrong, Dark Souls 2 was a good game, just not a great one. While some of the newer features were very much needed, like proper dual wielding, greater variety of weapons and a new game plus mode, the game itself didn't quite hit the high mark of its predecessors. The Video Game cupid missed, but only slightly. To me, the game felt disconnected from the Dark Souls world, something I was hoping more than anything else to be elaborated on. I love listening to people discuss the environmentally presented lore throughout the Dark Souls world and playing detective, but Dark Souls 2 barely had anything that connected it to that lovely, immersive world. The controls felt off, far jankier than I remembered. Enemies had far more aggressive AI and attacks would home in on the player like a missle dropped from a fighter jet at close range. My biggest complaint however was its over reliance on ambush tactics from scrap mobs. It began to feel cheap, like in place of giving enemies clever little tactics, they'd just camp a corner like some dickhead in Counterstrike with an AWP.
These complaints are my own, and I know everyone's experience differed. Some hated the PVP, some hated the game world itself, a lot hated its NPCs. Thing is, I've heard more complaints about DS2 than DS1. So when Bloodborne was announced for the PS4, I was in a bind; because it looked fucking cool in gameplay trailers but I felt I had been burned by the flame that was blind fan loyalty to a game series. I remember Bloodborne being demonstrated at a game show as having an even higher level of technical difficulty than the Dark Souls games. Enemies were supposed to chase you if you stayed in an area to long, the player was also no longer able to use a shield; instead using a firearm for hot dual wielding action. That sounded exciting, being chased through a level because of the implied frenzy the world had succumbed to. You've probably guessed it by now, but I failed a third time and bought it. I even bought a PS4 specifically so I could play it.
You can't accuse Bloodborne of not having style
If you think I'm going to praise it to the absolute high heavens, then I have bad news. Not terminal illness bad, but you may have an infection that requires expensive antibiotics bad. It was both really good and really shit. First off, the game looked absolutely stunning. The Van Helsingesque/Lovecraftian aesthetic and presentation were enthralling. The new critical strike animation, where you reach into your enemy and crush something vital for their continued existence into a glorious spray of crimson, had me always aiming for one. The longer I played the game however, the sooner it dawned on me that this game was also lacking in a lot of critical departments. First off, the lack of weapon variety: Some of the weapons were fun, some of them were just mundane and probably should've never left the drawing board. The chalice dungeons after the first 10 times got boring fast, like a Jimmy Fallon Tonight marathon, after the first ten minutes you want to change the channel. The worst part of it all was that it was honestly just another Souls game with Cthulhu window dressing. Turtle to win, grind low tier mobs for currency and cheese boss fights you lack the technical skill to beat.
So when I saw all this mindless praise for a game that I felt was half hearted I really had to ask myself why I continued to buy these games. With Dark Souls 3 coming out I'm really not so sure I want to risk it anymore. I'm beginning to feel that the Souls series has become From Software's own Call of Duty, with basically the same corporate strategy: Rush out the same old game with a new coat of paint and attach a couple of shiny trinkets to it to catch the attention of eager children as they vacantly stare at another Youtuber's "exclusive look" video. Then watching as pre-order money floods the office floors. From what I have seen so far of DS3, I'm not exactly thrilled. I've watched a couple of streams and a few videos discussing the game (or what they're allowed to discuss thanks to NDA's) it just doesn't feel like I'm buying the next exciting installment in the Souls lineup,instead i'm getting the older one with a different disc cover.
Maybe not this time
I get that people are excited about it, I'm not going to shame you, as an individual, for being so. It's your prerogative to get hyped for whatever you want. It's just that, I don't think I'm the only one out there who feels "tired" of what the Souls games have become. I don't feel the excitement from it anymore. This is really more just me rattling off my thoughts. I'd seriously love for Dark Souls 3 to put me in my place, it's a series that influenced me to pay full price for new consoles, games that gave me precious memories. But when the one you love doesn't seem to want to put the effort into it anymore, maybe it's time to move on.