Dark Souls III! Dark Souls III! The third one, it’s coming out next year! Dark Souls was a phenomenal game, Dark Souls II wasn’t as good, but still of high quality, and Bloodborne, by all accounts, was excellent. Not that I’d know, dammit. And yet there’s something that makes me very nervous about this new game. Maybe it’s just that their trademark tone of dead-eyed misery is beginning to rub off on me, but in all honesty, I don’t want another one. At least not yet, not so soon. Why? Well, this is an annual system that’s beginning to look rather rushed.
When Dark Souls III comes out, it’ll have been three successive years of “That game that From Software makes.” It’s always a good game, but it’s only tweaks to a provably good formula and all has the same core mechanics and stylistic choices. 2014 shows us DSII, 2015 produces Bloodborne, 2016 will return to DSIII. But this worries me, and also seems like a dangerous tactic.
There’s something peculiar about the Dark Souls games, because although I love them, they’re something I have to work my way up to, in the same way that one works themselves up to a marathon, or a space walk, or a sexual act done adjacent to a sleeping Komodo dragon. This could be very rewarding, but there’s definitely going to have to be some work put in, and it’s not without the risk of catastrophic failure.
I felt pretty exhausted after completing the first game. That’s not a bad thing, it’s the right effect for what it was and is a testament to the celebrated challenge of the series. But I found I didn’t want to play Dark Souls II for a while, I needed a rest. I started playing Pokemon, Just Cause 2, Mario, games which allowed for easy, lazy gameplay. I know it’s not just me who feels like that, I’ve heard others mention it too. Dark Souls was a fight, which is pretty cool. But nobody wants a fight every five minutes, sometimes you need a cup of tea and a biscuit instead.
But From Software don’t seem to recognise this. Admittedly, they don’t have much competition for this style of gameplay. Their only challenge recently was Lords Of The Fallen and well, we saw how that went. It was like a small sparrow pecking at the heels of a lion, furiously shouting “Come at me, bro!” And of course it went about as well as you’d expect.
But the Souls games are perhaps one of the easiest kinds of game to oversaturate the market with. Look at Guitar Hero – one year Activision released ten of the buggers, and the next year it was axed. People had enough, and Guitar Hero is comparatively easygoing and accessible. For something as brutally and wonderfully obnoxious as Dark Souls, it won’t take long before people start to turn it down. You can have too much of a good thing.
I also worry about a drop in quality, and again we can look at Activision, this time with the Call Of Duty franchise. It might have had early gems like the first Modern Warfare game, but what do we get now? The moronic game that was COD: Ghosts and then Advanced Warfare, the only title to make jetpacks boring. This is what you get when you’re producing too fast to think about what it is that’s being released, unimaginative tripe of the most disinterested kind. “Yeah, I’m here,” Ghosts yawned as it wandering into the public eye, scratching its arse and swigging from a foul-smelling can. “What of it?”
The other reason I feel concerned is that Dark Souls should be more special, more unique. The first one was a startling revelation that took the public by storm and accrued a devoted fanbase that was already brewing from the earlier experiment Demon’s Souls. The second one was a slightly less polished, but nonetheless perfectly adequate creation. Bloodborne hammered home the idea that there’s a real theme going on here, that From Software have found their comfort zone. And now, suddenly, it’s routine. Even the eternal majesty of the Aurora Borealis gets old if you see it every time you open your windows, and at least the Northern Nights don’t shout “think fast!” and try to bash you over the head with a bit of wood when you’re not expecting it.
It seems to me that the developers have got a taste of success, and are really reluctant to let go. I hope they do. Sure, finish Dark Souls III. It’ll probably be genuinely good, something worth playing like the others. And then do what’s best, and stop making them. Not for ever, let’s say for… Five years? Ooh, how about some new IP? It shouldn’t be hard, you’ve proven that you’re a creative lot. Make something else, some new set of mechanics and a new story, because we can all see that there’s genuine genius hiding out there. And then, in 2021, make Dark Souls IV. It’ll be awesome and engaging and ruthless, like all the Souls games, but it’ll also be fresh, for the first time since the original. That’s worth the wait.