Hidetaka Miyazaki terminated the Souls series a few years ago. In earlier interviews, he’s said as much: Dark Souls should not develop into a franchise. And the creative sparks igniting Demon’s Souls and DS1 spirits dwindled in the followups Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III. Reused game art and models paint tired denizens in an exhausted world. The storys’ spines ask us–once again–to rekindle the Flame. But despite a dwindling fire luring me to another Shrine, I can’t help but slowly lose interest with each followup title.
Dark Heart and Soul
I consider Miyakaki’s best works to be Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne. And for one reason: Each game presents a new journey.
While Demon’s Souls lacks some polish that DS2 and DS3 delivers, Demon’s has a raw creative energy pulsing throughout play. The game intertwines story telling elements of World and Character tendencies, altering your experience over time. A king’s past sins haunt each Archstone, reminders of tragic events. We incite our own story onward into Boletaria when talking to a Monumental. And like many journey plots, the Maiden in Black offers us a final choice and a final battle to prove ourselves worthy (or not) of completing the quest.
Again, Dark Souls tells a new story. And so does Bloodborne. And while each game shares similarities in play mechanics, I felt invigorated while questing for something new: A new story spine motivated by fresh desires. Invigorated by worlds hosting denizins and characters that are not trapped in a repeating cycle of,”Let’s obsess over the Kiln of the First Flame, ad infinitum.”
The Path Grows Darker at each Step
But DS2 and DS3 do repeat the aging tale of the dying Flame. The initial story’s creative light loses shine. And each iteration of gameplay slowly fades into something appearing more like a shadow of a better game. Besides redundant story, the maps are not as well designed, the worlds are not as well connected. The ongoing tension and loneliness that build excitement and suspense for the gamer/explorer throughout DeS and DS is lost because DS3 and DS2 increases summonings and health replenishing bonfire pit stops.
Don’t get me wrong, there are good things to be said for DS2 and DS3. I enjoyed playing the latter two games. But I didn’t enjoy them as much. In fact, I quit halfway through a DS3 NG+ with a yawn. Perhaps I’ll pick the controller back up at a later date.
A Brighter Future
Miyazaki now hints that he does not plan to produce more Dark Souls games. I’m encouraged by this. I hope to play out a new story. Maybe even something very, very different. It’s exciting, a fresh start for the From Software director and President.The team may have a new creative drive and creative energy. A new spark. Don’t let this fire die.
Author’s Note: Reprinted from July 12, 2016