It’s happened. I’ve found myself swept up in Souls Fever, and I have naught the antibodies to fight it. Thanks to last year’s incredible Bloodborne, I contracted the consuming disease, resulting in a desire to experience everything Souls-related. I eagerly dove into Dark Souls III upon its release a few months ago, and I absolutely adored it.
As I mentioned in the review, I hadn’t played a From Software game before Bloodborne, but the hype, the world, and the rewarding gameplay all combined into an ensnaring experience that left me yearning for more. After completing Dark Souls III, I find that that yearning is STILL not sated, and so I have chosen to set off on a journey to the origins of the Souls series. I will play through the three games I have not played: Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Dark Souls II. I plan on playing them blind, and will chronicle my experience here.
There are a few reasons I want to play these games. First, Bloodborne and Dark Souls III are two of my favorite games from the last several years. Second, the lore of Dark Souls III has me curious just how big of a connection it has with the previous entries. From what I understand, each game stands on its own story-wise, but I’m interested in more than story; the legacy of the Souls games is fascinating to me as well. How has the gameplay evolved? Has the difficulty been toned down in recent entries? Has the basic “level-boss-bonfire” formula been around since the series’ inception? I want to find out. It’s a sort of retroactive review with the foresight of where the series will eventually wind up.
For my first entry on Demon’s Souls, I made my way through the tutorial area, into the Boletarian Palace, and bested the Phalanx and the Tower Knight. My observations so far:
The Story is Told Sparsely
This wasn’t much of a surprise to me seeing as how Bloodborne and Dark Souls III told their stories through vague means, such as the environments, item descriptions, and dialogue. It’s interesting to see that this practice has been the case since the beginning. That being the case, I see a surprising amount of Bloodborne in Demon’s Souls. The references to an “Old One” call to mind the Lovecraftian horror with which Bloodborne was filled to the brim, and The Nexus is a disconnected hub in the vein on the Hunter’s Dream where players can safely level up, buy new gear, or interact with NPCs. That said, I would 100% watch a movie all about the last Monumental; that backstory has some tragic potential (not that I revel in tragedy, but sometimes it’s nice to watch other people suffer for a change…).
Praise be to Shortcuts
In both Bloodborne and Dark Souls III, shortcuts play a large role in how players navigate the world. The push-your-luck journeys between bonfires and lanterns is a core component of why we play these games in the first place. There have been complaints though, that Dark Souls III removed a bit of the challenge by including too many bonfires, and thus many of the shortcuts feel less important than the developer may have intended. I disagree with this mentality (suck it, Cathedral of the Deep), but after playing the the Boletarian Palace, I now understand where it came from.
There is but one Archstone (the Demon’s Souls equivalent of bonfires) in the Palace, but the area is dense and filled to the brim with knights and cannonball traps and literally two dragons (one wasn’t enough?!?!?!?). A side-effect of this is a huge feeling of relief when you unlock your first shortcut back to the Archstone. This feeling was present in Bloodborne and Dark Souls III, but not to this degree. It’s made me appreciate the comparative simplicity of BB and DSIII, and has made me reevaluate my rather reckless playstyle.
The First Bosses are Fairly Easy
This may be attributed to the fact that I’m coming hot off the heals of DSIII, but I didn’t find the first three bosses to pose much of a challenge, at least when compared to late-game bosses in DSIII like the Twin Princes or the Nameless King. The Vanguard in the tutorial area possesses a simple moveset that’s easy to dodge; the Phalanx literally won’t attack and, it turns out, is weak to fire (turpentine FTW); the Tower Knight is a simple matter of taking out the surrounding archers and hacking at the knight’s heels. The bosses, at least in the early game, don’t really match the challenge of the areas leading up to them.
I also see shades of Dark Souls III bosses in these first few Demon’s Soul’s bosses. Phalanx reminded me of the Deacons of the Deep, and the Tower Knight is reminiscent of Yhorm the Giant. To a lesser extent, elements of the Tower Knight fight also found their way into the Bloodborne boss The One Reborn in the form of ranged attackers meant to harass the player from a distance.
I look forward continuing my journey through the origins of this series I have come to love. So far, I’m surprised at just how many gameplay similarities there are between Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne, and Dark Souls III, and yet it still manages to feel like it’s own game.
Keep it tuned here for future entries in the Soul Searching series, and follow my Twitter to see regular updates on my progress.