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Combat is NOT the Point of the Souls Games.

Content of the article: "Combat is NOT the Point of the Souls Games."

I am a fan of the series, having put hundreds of hours into it. I took about a 3 and a half year hiatus where I did not play any Souls games; I played several action games during this time, many of them several times on their highest difficulty modes – games I hadn't played (extensively) before Souls. These included (not in order): Bayonetta, The Wonderful 101 Remastered, Devil May Cry 1, 3, 4, 5, Metal Gear Rising, Ninja Gaiden Black, Ninja Gaiden 2, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, and some action RPGs with a combat focus, like Dragon's Dogma, NieR: Automata, Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix, Nioh and Nioh 2.

This past week, for one reason or another, I felt like replaying the Souls games. I don't own a copy of Souls 1 or 2 anymore, but I do own a copy of Bloodborne and Souls 3 – the games that are generally heralded for their pristine combat. I can say, with full authority as a now seasoned action game player, that the combat in Souls games is nothing special.

If there is one thing I can say about BB and Souls 3 when it comes to combat, it's that the animations, hit drag and hit stop, and general player feedback are many times greater than that of the previous Souls games. However, while this goes a long way at facilitating player investment in the combat, it is ultimately just flash. Flash is good when accompanied by substance, but when isolated, it serves no purpose. BB and Souls 3 are attempting to carry a lack of combat substance with flash, and it fails at doing so, not because the games are bad, but because the player's mind will gravitate away towards games with similar flash and more substance when exposed to them (the games I listed in the first paragraph).

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The great things about these games are the grand architectural, stimulating environmental, and complex level designs. The unmatched atmosphere, the unorthodox RPG mechanics, and the cryptic NPC interactions, are also facets to note. Basically, the artistic, intangibles of these games are better, much better, than the scientific tangibles. There are some good mechanics, like Souls 1 Estus, and Souls 2 Powerstancing, but these still seem more a result creative minds working in unison to facilitate the greater goal, which is the experience of a Souls game, and the journey of playing one. These games seem to have leaned more and more towards the action side of things (Sekiro included), and if they are going to do that, I find little reason to play Souls over other, better action games.

I say all this because I still see people raving about the games' combat systems, as if it was some kind of unparalleled enigma, but it's not. These people should expose themselves to other action games, like the ones mentioned in the first paragraph, if they're looking for third person combat, because I guarantee, just 20 hours in one of those games will completely open the player up to a realm that they probably didn't think existed. Much like before taking LSD for the first time, I can't blame the player for their narrow awareness. What I can blame is fanbase's narrow mindset becoming the catalyst for FromSoft's design by committee homogenization. I'm not saying FromSoft shouldn't include combat in their games. After all, its a way to interact with the games' enemies, and it's perfectly serviceable all things considered, but it's just that – serviceable, and thus, should not be a focus when there are other things that more strongly make these games unique and worth playing.

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