One obvious example of a success built on crafting a certain, off the top of my head, would be the Souls series. I remember just how much of a push the franchise was being given simply by labelling it a difficult game; the marketing centered around that to a significant degree early on, to the exclusion of all else. And that became its defining point to the gaming world forever after.
It's understandable; a singular, simplistic, and loud statement is much better at grabbing attention with the general public than an elaboration on its finer details; its nuances.
It still worked out in Souls' favour, however, and the token of 'difficult game' drew a massive amount of attention to it, leading to a hardcore fanbase of not only challenge runners, but also more average gaming fans, getting drawn into its world at large, and learning to appreciate its subtleties, in a holistic way, eventually.
However, singing a one-note tune can also work against a game, from what I've observed and inferred. And the key example for this within my purview has been the Nioh franchise.
The Soulslike genre is now quite oversaturated and stagnant, with few games that truly understand what they're trying to imitate, and little originality in knowing where to branch out and do their own thing.
But Nioh doesn't simply stand out head and shoulders from the rest of the pack; it leapfrogs right out, and sits firmly within its niche. The Soulslike elements are only a flavour added to give context and cohesiveness to the genre-bending package of elements it successfully manages to merge; on the whole, it is very distinct, and entirely its own thing, despite the influences it takes from all over the gaming world, from not only Soulslike elements, but also looter mechanics, and especially the ones that are at the very heart of its design, the action elements in its combat.
But sadly, most of those elements fall by the roadside when most conversations about the game occur, and at most, earn a passing remark. They're barely acknowledged, let alone promoted as its strongest features, and instead discussion most often revolves around how similar it is or isn't to Souls.
And the problem with that is, people go into it expecting a 1:1 replacement, try to play it in the exact same way, expecting just more of the same, and inevitably end up disappointed, despite not even affording it the decency of considering it its own game.
And the divide between those perceptions of the game, and what it can be when its depths are actually explored, is staggering when you watch skilled players like Kagerasimaru, PooferLlama, Xelod, Sacredforce (Last to Load on YouTube), etc., take it on in their own way. The approach and philosophy in their playstyles could hardly be more different from the conventional wisdom of Soulslike caution, although Nioh is arguably even more unforgiving; the speed, the flashiness, the variety…It's all downright astonishing.
But this is far from a popular way to perceive the game, and few players even consider attempting it, most preferring the cookie-cutter approach they're familiar with from Souls; choosing comfort over exploring the best parts of the game.
Forced comparisons to Souls, and judging everything through the lens of Souls, is one of the plagues on gaming journalism as a whole, for sure. And absurd reductionism runs rampant.
But do you guys think the way in which games are presented today is a problem at large? And do you think there are ways around that?
Souls had a huge degree of organic growth on its own. But for a complex and multifaceted game like Nioh, which suffers from being pigeonholed, what would the solution be?
Let me know your thoughts, and if you think there are other games which suffer (or benefit) from one-dimensional PR.
- Sorry if this already gets posted way too often, but can we please talk about how “soulslike” is way too confusing and vague for it to be considered a genre?
- Nioh 2 is a fantastic, unfolding game that goes far beyond “Dark Souls in Japan”
- Ashen : a good coop introduction to the souls-like videogames. [minor spoilers]
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