Not all Soulslike on the market can offer the same compelling experience as Dark Souls. Only a few RPGs capture From Soft’s rewarding gameplay loop.
By Rhenn Taguiam
Updated Feb 04, 2021
Fans of FromSoftware’s?Dark Souls?know the franchise has made an unforgettable mark in the gaming industry. Dark Souls?jump-started the popularity of brutally-unforgiving yet extremely rewarding game mechanics. Thanks to?Dark Souls, more games have begun upping the ante in terms of dynamic gameplay options to their action RPG offerings.
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Players nowadays have a wealth of options when it comes to games that say they’re “like?Dark Souls,” but not all Soulslikes on the market can offer the same compelling experience as?Dark Souls. In fact, only a few RPGs manage to capture?Dark Souls’?signature brutally-rewarding gameplay and mechanics.
Updated on February 4th, 2021, by Reyadh Rahaman: What makes a game a “Soulslike” extends beyond just the difficulty. There needs to be a balance that allows the challenge to be real, and at times frustrating, though not enough that will make players ragequit. FromSoftware achieves this balance perfectly throughout most of their more recent games by giving enemies difficult to predict attacks, making the bosses dangerous yet interesting, as well as many other factors. Over the past few years, other developers have caught on and have implemented similar gameplay into their own titles to the joy of all gamers seeking a worthy challenge.
RPG fans?would likely remember?2018’s?God of War?as a massive success, both in terms of gameplay and its narrative. In the game, players depart Greece and instead venture into Midgard. Gameplay-wise, this means Kratos can fight a multitude of opponents while issuing commands to his son Atreus, who provides ranged archery support. However, this doesn’t mean fights can’t get as brutal.
Gone are the days of Kratos recklessly attacking waves of enemies. Instead, players have to get a more nuanced approach towards Kratos’ tactics.?Players need to deftly dodge attacks while systematically attacking foes with his Leviathan axe or signature Blades of Chaos. While it’s not as unforgiving as?Dark Souls,?God of War?can become brutal for reckless players.
Also like the?Dark Souls games, there is?a variety of mechanics that one can explore in order to defeat foes in novel ways. For example, the stun mechanic, while a bit tough to utilize before acquiring some upgrades, can make playthroughs more fun and interesting. It is also very satisfying to repeatedly bash foes in the face with Kratos’ shield and then deliver a finishing blow on them once their stun meter fills up completely.
CD Projekt Red’s acclaimed?The Witcher 3?remains one of the most immersive and challenging games of its generation. Unlike other action games, players get in the mindset of Geralt. They have to prepare not just the weapons and armor, but also the items – traps, potions, and magical Signs – needed to take down his foes.
The Witcher 3?has a more technical and strategic approach to combat, unlike other games. In fact, some opening fights in?The Witcher?can become easily overwhelming for reckless players. However, the game does reward players who do their homework by providing technically-challenging but invigorating battles.
In addition, the variety of enemies makes the difficulty feel more genuine than in many other RPG titles. Players will need to learn the weaknesses of powerful monsters in order to stand a chance against them. Which magical signs, items, and swordplay style they use are all important decisions that can lead to a resounding victory or tragic defeat.
In?Ghost of Tsushima, players take on the role of Jin Sakai as he tries to take back the land of Tsushima from invading Mongols. Jin begins to tap into the shadows to accomplish this mission, instead of relying solely on his training as a samurai. The game blends stealth and theatrical action as Jin alternates between stealthier playstyles as the Ghost or perform intricate swordsmanship with his samurai training.
Ghost of Tsushima?enables players to tackle missions in whatever way they deem necessary. As such, players can slowly assassinate enemies as the Ghost, or face them head-on as a samurai. More impressively, the game offers challenging experiences regardless of the approach used, forcing players to constantly adapt their combat styles.
Each style of swordplay is strong against specific types of enemies. Therefore, when Jin is surrounded by a variety of foes, it is crucial to swap between them and integrate Ghost weapons and other auxiliary tactics to succeed against the hordes of Mongols, ronin, and samurai that aim to take Lord Sakai’s head. Balancing all of this while in open combat can be quite tricky, though immensely rewarding. With some practice, players can decimate entire armies of foes by themselves through individually stabbing, slashing, and executing adversaries.
Fans of?Dark Souls?would get quite a modern take on its theme with?Remnant: From the Ashes. In this game, players fight the tree-like Root, who has begun invading the Earth. As such, players need to rely on a variety of modern weapons and special abilities to take the fight back to the Root. Unfortunately, players quickly find themselves outnumbered as the Root come in various shapes and sizes. Moreover, the technical nature of the game makes enemies extremely unforgiving for careless players.
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Similar to?Dark Souls,?Remnant?places a heavy focus on strategic battles. As such, players are expected to master not just aiming, but also proper dodging. Enemies can easily eliminate players with a few strikes, which demands players to be more careful with their approach to any battle.
Having lots of guns to choose from allows gamers to customize their loadout to suit their preferences. Since the damage the player can do is much greater, due to a gun’s range over melee weapons, the developers of?Remnant: From the Ashes have made it so that one is constantly being assailed by a multitude of enemies. Thankfully, they have balanced these waves of adversaries so that it feels like just enough to be hectic and dangerous, yet not enough to feel ridiculous and unplayable.
Despite its 2D appearance,?Salt and Sanctuary?offers extremely challenging gameplay perfect for?Dark Souls?fans.?Save for basic mechanics, the game leaves players to their own devices pretty early on. As such, players soon learn they can expand their skills beyond the game’s starting classes and make the best build depending on their gameplay preference.
Salt and Sanctuary?rewards players who take their time tinkering with the game’s features and expanding their combat options. The game offers an intuitive skill system that heavily encourages deep customization and trial and error. These features, on top of challenging bosses, will definitely be rewarding to players.
The weapons, spells, and items that can be used also make it feel very much like a Dark?Souls game. The boss weapons are especially satisfying as they pack quite a punch, yet do not make the game too easy. Spacing is also a vital component in this game’s combat as melee is usually the most useful for closed-ranged encounters, despite mage builds being totally viable and pretty fun.
Albeit open-world and co-op,?Ashen?provides a gritty and brutal take on action RPGs. As such, players venture into the open and should work their way to survive the game’s roster of challenging bosses. Thankfully, the game does offer a multitude of weapons and the item equivalents of Estus Flasks and Souls – making?Ashen?both recognizably inspired by?Dark Souls?but still unique in its own right.
Ashen?also demands the same technical prowess as?other Soulslike games. However,?Ashen?does so with a gorgeous backdrop and an environment that just waits to be explored.
Exploration is a huge part of this game, with the most adventurous players usually finding the best loot and weapons. There are multiple kinds of armaments as well, including those for long and short-range combat which allows players to do battle as they see fit. One thing that separates it from?Dark Souls games is that the character progression is based more on equipment than stats, making it possible to swap builds a lot easier with little punishment for doing so.
In?Mortal Shell, players get an experience that is both recognizably inspired by?Dark Souls?but offers a darker take on aesthetics. In the game, players need to find Shells that will help them in their journey throughout the game’s vast open world. These Shells, which act like classes, provide players with different abilities and skillsets.
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Mortal Shell’s?slower take on combat makes it incredibly unique compared to other titles. In fact, this rather “slowed” pace serves as the main highlight of the?Mortal Shell?experience. This caveat can be incredibly frustrating for players, but also welcoming to those looking for new challenges.
The slower gameplay makes it feel much more like the first?Dark Souls game as opposed to later FromSoftware titles like the much speedier?Dark Souls 3 and?Bloodborne. There is a definite rhythm to the gameplay that feels right for the setting, though this slower pace does not make things easy, as enemies can be unpredictable and deal massive damage.
Fans of?Dark Souls?will appreciate the flashier look of?the?Nioh?series. Nioh 2?in particular serves as a great love letter to the?Souls?franchise thanks to its wealth of gameplay features and nuances. Players can finally create their own characters to explore the series’ wonderful take on Feudal Japan with a supernatural motif.
In?Nioh 2, players can now access Yokai Skills that enable them to “steal” abilities from various enemies. This element, when paired alongside?Nioh 2’s various weapons and intricate movement, can make for an extremely compelling experience.
The unrelenting bosses, as well as certain types of common foes, will give players plenty of reason to experiment with the different weapons and abilities — all of which are novel and have a definite purpose, which makes many different builds viable. The armor set bonuses are also a nice feature that adds a reason to farm certain enemies or explore the world more thoroughly in a way that extends the amount of time that one can enjoy?Nioh 2.
Fans of the?Souls?games will likely try out?Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice?for a stealthier approach to?Dark Souls’ signature gameplay. In the game, players take on the role of?Sekiro?as he protects his master from a wide variety of enemies. However, what makes Sekiro special is his Prosthetic Arm, which he can equip with various tools that can further diversify his combat strategy against bosses.
Sekiro?rewards players who approach gameplay with both stealth and uncanny bravery. In fact,?Sekiro can perform various stealth-based attacks and also rely on shattering enemy defenses mid-battle. Players can get a more action-oriented experience, which serves as a great alternative to?Dark Souls.
Those who enjoy playing Dexterity builds in the?Dark Souls?franchise will find the combat particularly enjoyable as there is a great focus on parrying, dodging, and utilizing Sekiro’s various combat techniques to annihilate foes. Also, wielding a katana will feel pretty appropriate for many?Dark Souls Dexterity build fans.
Fans of?Dark Souls?who want a Soulslike game with a similar theme but more dynamic combat would appreciate?Bloodborne. As with FromSoftware’s?Dark Souls,?Bloodborne?players play from a third-person perspective while using various gameplay mechanics. Players can wield a firearm alongside an extra item, as well as unique melee weapons (Trick Weapons) that have multiple states.
Perhaps the most notable approach of?Bloodborne?would be its fast-paced combat. The game’s Rally system encourages players to play a game of risk-versus-reward as they can retrieve lost health by attacking opponents within a small window.
In addition to all the awesome mechanics that players have come to love from games by FromSoftware, there is even deeper lore than in the?Dark Souls franchise that draws from Lovecraftian stories as well as other horror, dark fantasy, and even some science fiction media that can chill one to the bone and make their blood run cold.
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About The Author
(578 Articles Published)
Rhenn is a Manila-based content writer with a love for all things geek and pop culture, and science and technology. He has a BA Journalism degree, and has since then pursued making content about geek culture. Rhenn used to write for a couple of geek and gaming publications, and also served as editor-in-chief for Philippines-based What’s A Geek!. He constantly plays video games but also takes the time to try out older titles. If he’s not playing video games, he’s probably playing TTRPGs.
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