Ever since FromSoftware redirected their King’s Field energy to the creation of Demon’s Souls, my gaming world was turned upside down. In creating the “Accessible Hardcore Game“, they reverted a market trend of making games too easy – a trend that ten years later is creeping back into the mainstream. The internet is abuzz with criticism of traditional gaming journalists and their apparent inability to explore difficult games, and developers seem to introduce “cruise mode” and helpful difficulty bypasses all the more often.
Demon’s Souls had little to no explanations, a take it or leave it attitude that punished your deaths and rewarded your success, a complex and one direction upgrade system, and possibly the most grindy trophy a game has ever had (ok, I know it’s not but damn, bladestone!). Then came Dark Souls, which introduced the “mid-level checkpoint” bonfire. Then Dark Souls 2, allowing teleportation across the whole world, skipping to NG+ with an item, and resets of your character stats. By went Bloodborne, doing away with NG+ new items and making upgrades and oaths on-the-fly. And last there’s Dark Souls 3, that features the easiest and simplest covenant mechanics in the series, and allows you to opt out of the most difficult bosses.
Of course, the series evolution is not once towards filthy casulness, but to keep the userbase on its toes FromSoftware, Bandai Namco and Sony will likely have to think outside the box and come up with some new tactics. In this article, I explore where I want the series to go based on what I have enjoyed of the game and of other RPGs.
The Next Souls: Dark Souls 4, Bloodborne 2
or a New IP?
TGS 2018 will mark the 10 year anniversary of the announcement of Demon’s Souls. Will there be a remaster? Is Fromsoftware working on Bloodborne 2? Is Dark Souls really “finished”? Or are they doing something completely different with those sneaky “Console, Dark Fantasy, Realistic” artist recruitment? Whatever the case, the formula is beginning to get stale and the fanservice of Dark Souls 3 and recycling of items, spells and equipment has given it all a sense of looping around that needs to be discarded for the next installment.
These are purposefully “out of the box” ideas – that many will think don’t quite belong within a Souls game. But it’s by thinking against the grain that the series has become the success it is now, so let’s encourage exploration of these concepts!
🔟 Little to no “carry over” Items and References
Bloodborne was fantastic on this regard to highlight the absolute elation that discovery of items, gameplay mechanics and secrets brings out in the community. Sony kept its cards close to its chest, divulging tiny amounts of strategic data and preventing leaks quite successfully. This meant that on launch day, thousands of players went on “the hunt” for everything they didn’t know: which was everything!
The game has so many little secrets that lore enthusiast continue to find discussion room on the smallest of details, whilst those observant of gameplay find an obscure enemy not seen since the game’s previews. In contrast, the new life that Dark Souls had, with its “weird crab things” and “OMG my head is an egg, help!” are all but gone for Dark Souls 3, as we all know exactly what items are going to do, and how to praise the sun correctly. Yes, there’s lore and fun and new interesting mechanics, but the basic concepts of the game are by now so drilled into me that I don’t feel I have to stop and read what an item actually does, or do math on how upgrades work, or fool myself thinking Patches isn’t gonna kick me down somewhere.
I want new things, new mechanics and to do away with the familiarity and the extended previews that reveal most things about the game before it’s out. I want to see random anons within the community sharing on forums, social media and personal blogs that they have just found that an item obtained by completing an obscure sequence unlocks a special cutscene or interaction. I want to accidentally put the Darkmoon Seance Ring on and shock myself as a secret door opens nearby.
9️⃣ Less Teleporting, more Shortcutting
Whilst I understand the convenience of fast travel, it feels like it negates the beauty of shortcuts to an extent. In Dark Souls 3, there were some cases with bonfires in such close proximity to each other that it made little sense to even light one. It is true that people rush past mobs to get to bosses, making the shortcuts obsolete, but I’d like to see From introduce not a penalty for teleporting but a reward for NOT teleporting.
Imagine if not touching that bonfire increased your souls gained, or your luck, or your primary stat with a zone bonus for each zone you pass through. This could be balanced by having a minimum enemy defeat count for the buff to go into effect. It would reward explorers and role-players, without harming those who just want to get on with it, and perhaps create farming routes that maximize your chances to get those rare drops.
8️⃣ Permanent or Hurtful Consequences
So, you accidentally smashed Blacksmith Andre on the face when putting your controller down? Hope you’re ready to beat the game without the smith! This actually painful mechanic has been toned down to NPCs politely asking you to stop it. Alongside this, you may swap covenants on the fly for easy jack of all trades covenanting! These convenience mechanics are not always bad, but I would like to see some real consequences and some more dedicated choices aligned with covenants.
Let’s have actual reputation rather than ranks, add our NPC replies and interactions to a reputation pool, and make each covenant give specific bonuses and detriments on a long and impactful scale of 100 tiers. Let’s divide covenants into groups of good, evil or neutral and bind the player to one choice per playthrough. Make angry NPCs send dark spirits against you if you have hurt them, or haunt your bonfires without letting you light them. Bring back the fear of what to reply to that incomprehensible “yes – no” question that was phrased in a triple negative.
7️⃣ Set Bonuses
Builds in the Souls series have become cookie-cuttered into a simple meta of Stats + Weapon Tier, with a decreasing importance of Armor. I would absolutely love to see Armor Sets becoming a thing, with bonuses that provide unique boosts. Nioh has experimented with this concept, but I think Souls needs to go all the way – right to the 300+ Sets that give Elder Scrolls Online its amazing flexibility.
Let us pick to mix and match 2 piece and 5 piece bonuses, give us level or stat requirements for the most unique ones, and handle twink builds out of the equation by simple application of itemization progression. Let Rings become Sets, and match the bonuses to covenants. In short, apply Special Effects as set bonuses rather than random pieces, and give us all more reason to go hunt down all the armors in the game.
6️⃣ Complex Crafting and Transmogrify
I was very sad to see Armor upgrades go, even though the simplified method of Bloodborne allowed for easy defense optimization. I would like to see a return to armor focus, with actual armor upgrade paths that lead to armor sets. Much like Monster Hunter World, let boss gear grant Set Bonuses that we can then tailor to our builds via upgrades, and allow us to go full mystique fashion by implementing the ability to change the appearance of in-game items and fool our PvP opponents.
Give us reasons to go to NG+++++++ or defeat 100 dungeons to obtain the fabled ember that will unlock the final tier of our sets, or provide a new upgrade path, add a gem slot, or grant a passive bonus. Make me ponder if I want to upgrade my Iron Set to Iron Set of Flame or Iron Set of Poison, because I’m not sure if I want the Flamelurker Bonus (+/- 25% Fire Damage) or the Sewer Centipide Bonus (+/- 25% Poison Rate)
5️⃣ Nemesis System & Elites
Diablo 3 has a really fun mechanic, where when someone on your friend list dies, they have a chance to generate an Elite monster in your world called “Killer of [Your Friend]“. This enemy appears out of nowhere, even when you’re fighting something else, and can be very challenging depending on your level and what you’re doing. If you defeat the monster, you get a present to send to your friend.
Souls games could benefit from such asynchronous implementations on bloodstains and echoes. Imagine if watching other players die had a chance to spawn an elite, powerful version of whatever killed them, and if you prevail you gave that person a short-term buff such as a health bonus, or granted them a set amount of souls or an upgrade material. Elites could also be randomly applied around the game, where regular enemies gain irregular capabilities but have a +50% chance to drop their rarest loot pool.
4️⃣ Environmental Effects & Magic
A deepening of the environmental mechanics to give extra strategic thinking to using magic and elemental weapons. Much like Divinity: Original Sin 2, let’s introduce deeper RPG mechanics such as a rain spell so that we can electrocute and stun an entire boss arena. Let us craft or buy our own traps, creating a “trickster” specialization of environmental magic.
This could deepen Magic usage by creating chain reactions of spells. Such a change could lead to the introduction of deeper status effects, making things like Frostbite lead to “Frozen” where enemy cannot move for a full 5 seconds, but incoming damage is reduced. Or add effects like “Warm“, where enemy will catch on fire and burn for +10% more damage.
3️⃣ Boss Rush Arena
Bloodborne tried to get here, but the Chalice Dungeons fell short due to a lack of variances and limited loot. If the next Souls game added Set Bonuses, creating the possibility for versatile and on the fly bonus-based builds, we could all enjoy endgame as we adventure through a Boss Rush to get some ultimate loot. This could be done solo and multiplayer, with cosmetic rewards, crafting rewards, and other progression items such as unlocking merchant discounts.
Perhaps such an arena could be represented as something like the Everfall in Dragon’s Dogma – an endgame adventure featuring tougher versions of familiar monsters.
2️⃣ Asynchronous World Events & Bosses
Demon’s Souls experimented with World Tendency and World Tendency Events from the server, but there was some conflict as players would become unable to manipulate their own tendency if online. I propose we could instead benefit from community progression towards a “meta boss” defeat.
Much like the Ur-Dragon in Dragon’s Dogma, let’s have a worldwide weekly counter for Soul of Cinder – each time it’s defeated it discounts a % from the “Meta” boss, and if the community shaves that healthbar clean we all get bonus items of a thematic nature.
1️⃣ Dungeon Master Mode
And finally, my real dream for Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and any Souls game of the future: The ability for players to create their own levels. Imagine if you could have created your own chalice dungeon, plotting what mobs with what skills would wander within, and giving rewards equal to the difficulty of the situation.
Imagine the community questline creations within such, and the lore explorations and expositions we could all enjoy!
Think of the wonderful events we could organize and enjoy, for months and years after game release, indulging in the great creativity the Souls Community has always enjoyed! It would certainly be an immense hook, and this change alone could keep me playing well beyond where I would have moved onto other games.
So that concludes my portion of brainstorming for From / Sony / Namco. It’s likely they’ll go ahead and do everything completely different than what I outline, but maybe there will be some inspiration to community ideas as above. What do you guys think? Share in the comments!
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