I recently picked up Dark Souls 1, and after a frustrating first few hours, I found one of my favorite games I’ve ever played, since then, I’ve bought the rest of the series (as well as Sekiro), have beaten Dark Souls 2, and have made it to halfway through Dark Souls 3. However, I’ve found combat to become more and more unsatisfying since then, and I’m worried that they’re slowly becoming more reactive and less strategic, due to their increased speed.
Dark Souls 1 had the perfect speed for its combat. It emphasized spacing, pattern recognition, and learning when it’s safe to make an attack. It’s punishing, but outside of rare circumstances it’s fair. Some aspects of the game are reactive, such as learning to dodge Ornstein’s charge attack, but learning to weave through O&S and utilize the spacing of the pillars make it the best fight in the game imo. Artorias and Manus are the fastest bosses in the game, but their speed doesn’t override the strategic aspect of the game that makes it so rewarding.
Dark Souls 2 (SOTFS) has a lot of problems with overall clunkiness and gank fights, and often felt too slow in standard pve. However, the dlc bosses were as good if not better than 1. 2’s best feature is making stamina management essential to combat, and fights like Elanna and Velstadt, Darklurker, Fume Knight and Sinh all require strategic thinking to overcome their interesting movesets and design.
3 has been both the easiest and the hardest game in the series for me. I’ve never played Bloodborne (PC user), but from what I’ve heard it borrows more from it than 2 or 1. Common enemies have by far the best movesets, but many bosses go so fast, and have long combos, which require r1 and roll spamming to best combat. The Abyss Watchers best showcase this: it’s better to stunlock them than try to punish them like you would in 1 or 2. Overall, reacting is emphasized more than learning. I’m less inclined to continue with the game.
I only have ten or so hours in Sekiro, but so far I hate the combat. I know it’s not a Souls game, and I haven’t ‘gotten gud’, but I’m not sure if I even want to. It’s too fast for my reaction speed, and every time I die I know it’s because I didn’t click L1 fast enough, not because of a lack of thinking. Still, because Sekiro, Bloodborne and 3 got rave reviews, and 2 is the most controversial, I see no reason for FromSoftware to change this approach. By trading depth for speed, a game can be easily be made harder with less cost and development time. I’m worried that ER and beyond will become like these games: button mashing mixed with the occasional roll or jump.
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