Ever since Demon’s Souls released in 2009, the industry has seen an influx of “challenging, tactical combat” RPGs making its way into gamers’ hands. This has quickly become one of my favorite genres and I am thrilled that more developers are taking notice and are beginning to attempt to make their mark on the genre that the Souls series made. Terms such as “Souls clone” or ‘Souls-like” are bestowed upon any game that is made in the same vain which is acceptable based on the mark that the series has left. While the I have no problem with games borrowing gameplay elements from the series, there are some ways that I believe upcoming games in the genre can begin to innovate on the formula and bring fans something familiar but different enough to warrant attention.
When you think about the Souls series, you immediately picture the setting and atmosphere of the games. The gothic, dark fantasy setting has been a hallmark of the series and, in turn, of the genre. Shades of gray usually define the color palette and huge cathedrals litter the game worlds.
After almost a decade mirroring the same themes, it is time for future games to break that mold and develop new settings. The genre is beginning to see new worlds with the release of Nioh and the upcoming release of The Surge. Nioh’s samurai inspired aesthetic with the use of ancient Japanese mythology was a welcomed change of pace. The Surge’s sci-fi setting is definitely going to be a different environment. This is a good direction that the genre is taking and with the success of Nioh, hopefully, developers will begin to take more risk. I would personally love to see someone take the genre to a high sci-fi setting, if that’s a thing. I want to see new, imaginative, alien worlds. I want huge boss fights fighting otherworldly beings. That would be awesome. Another setting I would like to see is another historical setting. Anytime a game is set in the past, gamers usually always get some interpretation of ancient European society. Nothing against it, but every game shouldn’t be that. Nioh was really intriguing initially for the simple fact that it was steeped in Japanese mythology. Gamers don’t consistently experience these types of settings. A game set in ancient Africa? A game set in the ancient Americas? We need more of those.
In this genre, the combat is of chief importance. Defeating your enemy takes knowing your opponent, practice, and most importantly, patience. One swing is the difference between landing the killing blow or leaving yourself wide open for trouble. Choosing the right weapon is essential to the experience. Most weapons though are usually variations of swords, axes, shields, and spears. All great weapons but I would love to see innovations on the types of weapons available. Bloodborne introduced a gun which was a great start. Nioh has traditional Japanese weapons like the kusarigama.
A new setting will breed more inventive weapons. Set the game in an alien world and have the player use the alien weapons. Who doesn’t want to use an energy gun? Plasma sword? Or something completely unheard of? Get on it developers!
When I defeat enemies, and bosses, in Souls games, my main motivation is to defeat the enemy solely because it’s insanely rewarding to, not because of some importance in the narrative. I would love to see this change. I’m a big story guy and a good story always enhances my experience with a game. Now Souls games do have very rich lore behind them but to get the whole story, you usually have to watch a YouTube video with someone explaining it. I don’t want to continue to have to do that. Through all the exploring, there is a way to incorporate story elements into the game to bring players along and put more emotion behind going up against an incredible enemy.
Are you excited about the direction that the genre is going? What innovations would you like to see? Let me know in the comments.