Git gud games.
When Dark Souls launched back in 2011, it ushered in a new era of lore-filled and inscrutable combat-focused games that gave players the freedom to follow their own path and play style, but steadfastly refused to ‘go easy’ on them. Every encounter in FromSoftware’s series, no matter how minor, has the potential to end in tears; if you blunder in mindlessly mashing buttons, you will be punished.
What defines a ‘Soulslike’, though? It’s not just difficulty, although that’s a part of it. Games that exhibit Dark Souls-style elements demand concentration and intent if you want to overcome the challenges they present. They can be 3D or 2D (side-on or top-down), but they typically include exacting combat against unforgiving enemies, large boss fights, the loss of reclaimable ‘essence’ or similar currency on death, and the freedom to explore different areas of the map — with your skill often being the only gate to progress down a specific path. Bonfires — or equivalent ‘safe’ zones that offer respite and restoration — are another key part of the Souls experience; that tension of risk vs. reward while inching through an enemy-filled environment on just a sliver of health, desperately hoping to find a bonfire around the next corner.
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