Fallen Order and The Dark Souls Formula: Superior in Just One Way
It is no surprise to anyone that I am not a fan of Dark Souls. Not because I think they are bad games, because they clearly aren’t, but because they just aren’t for me and that is totally fine. Not every game has to be for everybody, the wonders of a diverse world right? But there are times when I have wished for a window into the Souls phenomenon, an approachable entry point for those that find the series a little too much for their abilities or patience but still want to experience a similar style of game. That’s where Fallen Order comes in.
Now for the record, the latest Star Wars game has its share of problems, but overall I found it an enjoyable romp through familiar lore. It borrows a lot of gameplay elements, bits from Metroid, bits from Tomb Raider and most notably, it borrows quite heavily from the Soulsborne genre. This can be seen in the type of lightsaber combat on display as well as the level structures and the bonfire system that Demon Souls pioneered way back on the PS3. Borrowing these “Souls” elements wasn’t a complete success, the way it fits into Star Wars lore is questionable at best and the combat is a little loose, a little imprecise when compared to the titles it imitates. That being said, Fallen Order does one thing much better than any of From Software’s titles, it offers an accessible path into the genre.
A lot has been said in the past about accessibility in Dark Souls, by many smarter minds than me and I feel like I can see both sides of the arguments. There are tonnes of different games out there and like I said not every game has to be for every person, but at the same time adding difficulty levels means opening the game up to more players without lessening it for those that already enjoy the style of play. Either way, I don’t think From Software should change their current titles. I don’t think Dark Souls or Bloodborne should have an easy mode. What I would like to see developers that dabble in this genre to maybe give it a try, just like Fallen Order did. Fallen Order has four difficulty levels, the “normal” mode was what I played through and I found it challenging and satisfying for my ability. Bumping it up was beyond what I could do without getting frustrated, much like how I feel in the Souls games, but I can imagine those of you that enjoy the challenge would have been right at home.
This made Fallen Order a much more welcoming title, especially when combined with the power of the Star Wars licence. It, despite its problems (and there are quite a few) opened its arms to players like me, players that love the idea of a Soulsborne but lack the ability, dexterity or patience to get through them. It was like an open day for a gated community, showing those that couldn’t see past the walls what lay inside. Another title that has had a similar effect on me is Remnant: From the Ashes. It is also a “Soulsborne” style of game, but it is more welcoming in a different way. Instead of having difficulty levels it has a couple of systems that allows players a chance to ease themselves into the title. This is primarily because of the game’s focus on ranged combat instead of melee. I found this much more approachable, the extra time available because most combat is done at range was a godsend. Remnant is also a procedurally generated title so while that comes at the cost of the finely crafted levels that feature in From Software’s titles, it does allow for players to “reset” the game if they hit a brick wall of frustration, giving them a chance to start again in a level that may be a little bit more conducive to their progress.
So what would I like to see in the future? Well, that is a tough question. I am not some sort of expert on game design or feel it is my place to tell developers what to do. If, however, I had one wish, it would be that From Software designed a game that is to their “Souls” blueprint but has accessibility in mind. I don’t want them to change their existing titles at all, they are how the developers envisaged them and it would be wrong to want them to go back and edit. That being said I would love to see From bring their immense talent for level design, precise combat and amazingly rich lore to the world in a more welcoming way, even if it was only for one game. Fallen Order proved that it can be done, but I am sure with their talent and experience that From would do it much better, and that is something I feel could be really successful. Sure it might be a pipe dream and I am more than happy to continue down the path of “Souls isn’t for me” but I will always have this little nagging in my mind, this little itch in the back of my head that I am missing out on something special, something I am sure I am not alone in feeling. From Software is such a talented developer that it almost seems a shame that many will never get to experience their titles, so maybe, just maybe they could open the gate, even if it was only for one game.