FromSoftware’s Souls Games Ranked, Including ‘Elden Ring’

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FromSoftware games are having a moment thanks to “Elden Ring” being the biggest hit of the year. There’s never been a better time to look back on the studio’s illustrious output of adventure games – starting with 2009’s PlayStation 3 exclusive “Demon’s Souls” – especially since “Elden Ring” looks like so much the culmination of everything the developers have learned. years.

Ranking Souls games by FromSoftware is a tricky proposition. Each game is a deeply personal experience. a player’s enjoyment depends entirely on their ability to navigate and understand the rules of each game to overcome its challenges. For many players, the first time a Souls experience “clicks” will likely be the most memorable. There’s nothing more satisfying than finally understanding how a Souls game should be played.

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The following ranking of FromSoftware games is based on a few factors. Much of it is subjective, stemming from my own experience with each title. But I’ll also consider more objective factors, including each title’s legacy and how well each list entry delivers on the promise of the notoriously difficult “Souls-like” genre, which allows players to continuously improve their attributes and their stats, giving them more power. to face the increasingly difficult fights to come.

This last part is especially important to keep in mind when looking at the lowest ranked title on this list.

7. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (2019)

“Sekiro” is an exemplary showcase of action design. Its parry and deflection system makes it probably the tightest and best looking sword fighting system in the middle of video games. But its rigidity also makes it FromSoftware’s toughest title. This is probably too difficult for many players. If a player can’t get the pace and timing to deflect lightning-fast katana attacks, they likely won’t be able to advance in the game.

That’s why “Sekiro” is the worst like souls Gameplay. Contrary to popular belief, Souls-like games aren’t just defined by their punishing difficulty (usually in the form of a mechanism by which players lose experience after each death). They are also role-playing games at heart. In “Sekiro”, there isn’t really a way to customize the player character. They can earn skills and a few weapons, but the basic attack and counter gameplay just can’t be ignored. There are bosses meant to block a player’s progress: if you can’t counter and deflect Genichiro Ashina, the boss that appears halfway through “Sekiro”, forget to play the rest of the game.

As far as pure action games go, “Sekiro” is a tremendous achievement and one of the finest ever made. Its roots as a reboot of the classic ninja series Tenchu ​​also introduced grappling hook and jump abilities that added a new verticality to FromSoftware’s level design, an idea that would reappear in “Elden Ring”. But because it steers players towards one style of play, that of a ninja master and nothing else, it’s a stretch to call it a role-playing game. Of all the games created by the studio since “Demon’s Souls”, this is the one that most appeals to action game purists. However, it barely fits – if at all – the definition of the genre created by FromSoftware.

“Dark Souls 3” has the fewest new ideas to contribute to the Souls-like formula. Instead, the third and final installment in the Dark Souls series is incredibly self-aware: it’s a “greatest hits” compilation of FromSoftware’s design concepts. The story itself even acknowledges how the Dark Souls experience can blend together. You can tell FromSoftware wanted the third game to be a swansong for the series, refining many elements of the original “Demon’s Souls” formula to grant players greater customization, accessibility, and power. Its world design is a blend of the curvy, collapsible nature of the first “Dark Souls”, and the linearity and scale of the second game.

“Dark Souls 3” is such a comprehensive Souls experience, it’s easy to see why it might top many fans’ bucket lists. But given the new ideas, every other game on this list – including “Sekiro” – contributes to the formula, to say the least. essential Game of souls.

The first sequel has a bad reputation, and it is perhaps FromSoftware’s most poorly managed project. It started off way too ambitious technically (it had to avoid a complicated lighting system because that was too much for the seventh generation of video game consoles), and it’s the only game on this list that doesn’t. is not directly directed by series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki. It lost one of its directors midway through development, leaving longtime FromSoftware co-director and developer Yui Tanimura to not only direct the game himself, but to salvage an incomplete project from all the assets built for it. the graphic-intensive initial vision. You can feel the tension in “Dark Souls 2” as it literally spans many regions; it makes little sense geographically. The game is choked with enemy encounters, pushing the limits of acceptable difficulty.

But “Dark Souls 2” can very reasonably be called “Elden Ring version 0.5”. All of the biggest ideas from the latest game are rooted in “Dark Souls 2,” including the scale and expanse of its world, mythology, and the expansive usefulness of weapons and player builds. It’s also perhaps the saddest game in the Dark Souls trilogy, if not the entire genre. It tells the story of the lost King Vendrick of Drangleic; When you finally meet the monarch, players are greeted with the loneliest image the series has yet to conjure up.

Tanimura would go on to direct the best DLC for “Dark Souls 3” and co-direct “Elden Ring”, his vision finally realized. “Dark Souls 2” is the game that helped define the journey of “Elden Ring,” both in development and in the end product’s experience of traversing a vast expanse of dungeons and castles.

4. Demon’s Souls (2009, 2020)

“Demon’s Souls” is a milestone, defining the subgenre of Souls-like video games. Some of the series’ best and most enduring ideas can be traced back to this PlayStation 3 exclusive, originally commissioned by Sony to compete with Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series. Instead, series creator Miyazaki decided to focus on the more engaging aspects of an RPG adventure, including the feel of each combat scenario and the density and detail of environments. There’s a purity to its design, modeled after the “Super Mario Bros.” approach of having levels within levels, punctuated by epic, sometimes puzzle-like battles. Thanks to its innate focus on a community of gamers, who would exchange advice and experiences online among the franchise’s growing fanbase, the Souls genre was able to survive and grow enough to encourage its legendary spiritual successors.

“Demon’s Souls” was unlike any role-playing game before. Even Sony thought the market wasn’t going to embrace it. But once he found his audience, that audience never let go. It’s a game entirely fueled by the vision and trust in its players. It is still, today and forever, the purest Souls experience.

While “Sekiro” is a pure action game, this PlayStation 4 exclusive is the successful marriage of the role-playing elements of the Souls formula and fast-paced combat. It’s also home to probably the most interconnected world outside of early “Dark Souls.” It’s the only game to feature “rigged weapons”, dual-purpose tools accessible at the push of a button. A pointed cane can turn into a chained whip, while a saw can turn into a long, mean spear. This utility gives the gamer some leeway to tackle one of the toughest games on this list.

Beyond its game design, “Bloodborne” is perhaps unmatched in its ability to frame its battles. Throughout the base game, players will hear whispers of Ludwig the Holy Blade, a great lost warrior who fought the futile battle against the creatures of the night. In the downloadable chapter “The Old Hunters”, players finally confront Ludwig, the “cursed” Holy Blade, finding him fused with his horse and deprived of his mental faculties. It’s only when he realizes his trusty sword was inside his body all along that he regains a last semblance of humanity and defends himself against the player. Moments like these — some of the most memorable in the medium as a whole — propel “Bloodborne” to the top of this list.

“Elden Ring” is every idea of ​​FromSoftware Souls game series brought to its maximum potential. It’s more complete than “Dark Souls 3”. Its world is more sprawling than “Dark Souls 2” could have hoped to be. The emphasis on vertical spaces draws on the ingenuity of “Sekiro”. While lacking the current versatility of trick weapons, “Elden Ring” encourages a mixed approach to playstyles, allowing players to create characters with seemingly limitless options for attacking and defending.

It’s also true that the game was almost too big for FromSoftware. Since launch, the game has seen several updates that fixed missing quest lines and broken weapons and abilities. The game is so gargantuan that it’s clear FromSoftware struggled to make it a balanced and well-rounded experience. It’s a credit to this game that many of these issues were barely noticeable at first, given the variety of experiences on offer. Each new Craft Zone includes new creatures to fight and new types of challenges to complete. While other games feature different colored enemies with varying degrees of difficulty, “Elden Ring” spins up entirely new creatures and races every few seconds. “Elden Ring” set a new standard for adventure games.

Yes, some areas of the second half of the original “Dark Souls” haven’t aged well. But every game on this list has a few areas that, in hindsight, could have been tweaked. The missteps of “Dark Souls” pale in comparison to what he achieved. Its world design remains the most articulate and cohesive of any game in the series, even in light of the gargantuan “Elden Ring”. It’s still an under-rehearsed trick, despite the studio’s best efforts.

It’s this cohesive design, this interconnectedness, that gives the world of “Dark Souls” a lived-in feeling that even “Elden Ring” can’t match. As “Elden Ring” expands further, “Dark Souls” is the only game in the series to offer a tangible sense of travel. While many might criticize his decision not to allow players to fast travel until halfway through the game, it’s important to stress how critical this decision was to allowing players to understand the world they were forced into. to navigate. All of this, while giving players unparalleled freedom and choice all the way to “Elden Ring”. It’s the game that popularized the genre – and FromSoftware – and it remains the studio’s greatest creative triumph.

About Douglas Torres

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