A column about Dark Souls and Bloodborne

… and why Dark Souls 3 could very well become From Software’s best RPG so far.


I like Dark Souls in many aspects. Both games so far had a great atmosphere and a very unusual way of telling their story: there are (almost) no fancy cutscenes or big, epic battles, but instead the player has to talk with the few NPCs and – especially – read item descriptions to learn more about the world they’re journeying in. And that’s what gives From Software’s RPGs a really unique feeling. To be actually happy to find a single friendly person in a hostile world is something I never really experienced in a game before I played the first Dark Souls. It’s probably similar to playing one of the many survival games we had the past few years, like DayZ or The Forest, but I’m absolutely not into those, so I can’t say for sure.
Oh, and there’s the gameplay of course, but .. let’s wait with that for a bit longer. First I want to have a word about From’s latest game, Bloodborne.


And … I don’t really like Bloodborne in most aspects. Sure, it had that pretty unique feeling just like the Souls games, but it just wasn’t the same for me. Although I completed it, I couldn’t have cared less about what happened in Yharnam, the city where the game takes place, because everything just felt as if the developers’ thoughts were like ‘People expect a copy of Dark Souls because we are From Software, so we have to make Bloodborne exactly that way’. But it didn’t work for me. For example, they decided to put several NPCs into their houses, which you can’t enter so you have to talk to them through their windows. And can’t even see a silhouette. Yes, I know that it makes sense in the game’s context, but these are some of the first characters you ‘meet’ in the game, and seriously: They basically took the unique personalities from Dark Souls away and replaced them with talking windows. Great.


Bloodborne NPC

Oh, it’s one of my favorite Bloodborne NPCs … nevermind, just a window.


That’s just an example for what I think to be Bloodborne’s flawed world design, which I could keep ranting about, and while you would probably agree or disagree with me at some point, that isn’t what I am going for. Because there is this one ‘tiny’ thing that made Bloodborne a MUCH more enjoyable experience overall than both Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 for me:
The actual gameplay, which outclasses the aforementioned games in the first twenty minutes already.


But why is that? Well, just one word: animations. Combat animations in Souls can be the player’s biggest enemy sometimes. Let me give you an example once more: You get two hits on an enemy, and while you’re about to chain a third, you notice that he is about to counter-attack you. No problem, just do a dodge roll before he can strike, right? Heh. Nope.
You can press the roll button ten times if you want (and if your fingers are extremely fast..), but your character won’t move an inch before he hasn’t finished the animation of his third attack. And at that moment, you’ve been hit already most of the times.


Dark Souls Capra Demon

One of the first and actually most annoying bosses in the first Dark Souls: The Capra Demon. Smoother combat animations would’ve been really helpful in a boss arena this small.


Now, I’ve had quite the discussion about this problem (and if it actually IS one in the first place) with a friend of mine, who’s a Dark Souls pro and speedrunner. His opinion is that different weapon types of course also have a difference in their speed, like, swinging a greatsword takes longer than poking someone with a dagger. He’s absolutely right on that one, but it simply doesn’t work that way. I tested it especially with the rapier weapons, the (by calculation) fastest weapon class in both games. And surely the hits were much faster, but I still couldn’t dodge in between my attacks. I actually wonder how my friend cannot notice this, but I guess he just got used to it after more than two-thousand hours of Souls. In his opinion it makes combat more tactical.


That might be true or not, but for me it is nothing more than a fundamental flaw if you can’t react quickly on an enemy’s movements, especially so in a game that REQUIRES quick reactions all the time. This can become really frustrating, and not in the good way.
On the other hand, there is Bloodborne. And Bloodborne showed how it should’ve been from the first Dark Souls. In a direct comparison, combat in this game feels incredibly smooth and is a lot faster overall, simply because there is almost no waiting for slow animations. And this is the single one reason that makes Bloodborne a far better game in my opinion, it’s a real shame that I found the rest of it to be such a mediocre experience.


Dark Souls 2 Tark

He looks like an enemy, but is actually one of my favorite NPCs from Dark Souls 2, the ‘Manscorpion’ Tark. I hope for him to have a comeback in DS 3.


I’ve seen a little bit of Dark Souls 3 already, and I think it won’t be another Bloodborne, but it still looked much smoother than its predecessors. And if From Software is able to finally deliver the great atmosphere of Souls combined with (really) good gameplay, then this one might easily be able to become their best game so far. Unless they decided to replace NPCs with talking lanterns and windows, that is.

Well, it’s just about one week until we’ll find out, when Dark Souls 3 will finally be released on April 12th.




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