Well, yes. But also no.
In case you didn’t know, videogame “ethusiasts and/or journalists” are complaining about the recent revelation that Ghost of Tsushima is going to be a hard game. Have a look.
Airing your grievances about games being hard is fine, it’s your right. The devs have already clarified that the game actually has multiple difficulty modes, so nobody has anything to worry about. But, complaining about difficulty in videogames, specifically Dark Souls, is all too common. While it can be cringeworthy to hear people describe all hard games as “soulslike”, they have a bit of a point.
You see, Soulsborne is actually kindof sortof ruining games. But no, not like you think it is. The resurgence of hard games isn’t the problem. There’s just too many games aping the souls formula, directly. In terms of my exposure to the OG series, I hated Bloodborne. Because I didn’t even know what I’m supposed to do at the start, wasn’t even the combat. I’ll try it again some day but probably not because so many games just use the formula, and I’ve played those games.
The most recent ones I played were Jedi Fallen Order and Remnant From the Ashes.
Let’s start with Jedi Fallen Order because I can be brief about my experience. The game is essentially “what if Dark Souls but Star Wars?”. At the end of the day I enjoyed it but the difficulty settings annoyed me. The difference between the designated Easy and Normal modes are night and day. Normal like was throwing brick walls at my face frustrating. Easy was like “hahaha lightsaber goes brrrrrrr”. Okay? It was fine.
Next is Remnant from the Ashes, which is “what if Dark Souls but third person shooter?”. It does not play well as a single player game. The developers made it that way. And you can matchmake, buuuut even on GamePass, very few people were playing. It took forever for me to get someone to help me with a boss. Plus the first boss was doing cheap shit like spawning endless minions on top of bullet sponge health bar. You absolutely needed two people, one to fight the hordes of minions, one to focus on the boss. I actually don’t even remember if I beat it or not.
Later on I got matchmade into someone else’s game and helped them do a quest that I wasn’t even at yet. It was just endless tunnels and tunnels and tunnels of enemies that it eventually went from “tense” to “obnoxious”. Despite getting some good XP from the experience, it also advanced the plot… for his game. I got back to my game and I’m still several missions behind and, as I said, rarely can get anyone to join. I heard it gets more visually interesting later on but… yeah it was just a total slog.
Now before you tell me to “git gud scrub”….
I’d like to present to you my resume of tough melee combat games I’ve tackled. Most of them have a faster pace than Soulsborne games.
I love my lightning-fast brawling games. I’m an avid fan of Platinum Games. I’ve beaten Nier Automata, Transformers Devastation, and Bayonetta 2 in their hard modes. Same for DMC5. Spastic jumpy punchy action dodgy slashy hackey fun. I get to choose when I want the game to be challenging. But I don’t see the entire industry trying to design their games to be more like Platinum.
Platinum allows me to enjoy my game before I tell it to start kicking my ass. I get good by mastering the game and then dramatically increasing the challenge and playing it again the moment I’ve finished. And once again, the fast motion is fun. I’d love to see a game that plays like Platinum Games with a Souls-tier difficult “Normal Mode”. Oh wait, there is. Astral Chain. The game gives starts you off with a baby mode, and easy mode, and then jumps straight to “Platinum Standard”, which skips normal and goes straight to hard. It also reminds you how much you suck at the end of every encounter. Not only is the game hard but they decide very early on in the game to tell you what the controls are, only AFTER you fight 5 minibosses simultaneously. I’m not making that part up.
So yeah, uh, not every game has to specifically do Dark Souls.
And those that do frequently miss the point and just make them super hard or insurmountable. if I had more patience I’d probably finish Jedi Fallen Order on “normal” but it came off the heels of me having finished a Platinum Game on hard and the muscle memory kept me from enjoying the challenge. With Monster Hunter World, Salt and Sanctuary, Hyper Light Drifter, Nioh, Sekuro Shadows Die Twice, The Surge 1 & 2, Blasphemous, Code Vein, the list goes on. We have plenty of game that are either like Dark Souls are compared as such. Not every game needs to be so very similar.