Being a ‘Souls-borne’ Bystander

Each year, countless games are released to the gaming masses. Most go unnoticed; some sell well. A handful even manage to achieve widespread popularity and near universal acclaim. Then there are the legends, the games that get so big that they leave a permanent mark on the industry. Super Mario Bros. made platformers a thing; Call of Duty prompted two decades of military shooters; Halo showed everyone the power of online multiplayer, and Dark Souls showed everyone how much fun a tough-as-nails experience could be. In many ways, Dark Souls is absolutely one of the touchstone games of the past two hardware generations, something every “gamer” should play at least once…and I’ve never gotten around to trying it.

I’ve been interested in the Souls-borne games since almost the very beginning. I listened to friends go on and on about it. I watched videos on YouTube going over the fights and watched many more poking fun at practically every aspect of it. I watched friends troll (and get trolled by) other players in Dark Souls III, and I read discussion threads ranting about the bosses in Bloodborne. Despite all that though, I never actually played any of the games besides just a couple hours of Bloodborne. The interest was there, but the impetus just wasn’t.

It’s made writing and/or talking about comparable games somewhat difficult, because there is a big difference between watching a game and actually playing it. You simply can’t understand the gameplay experience without doing it yourself. The same goes for engaging with the story and lore of a game like Dark Souls. You can read about it, study it and even eventually “know” quite a lot about it. However, knowing the story is not the same as experiencing its unfolding for yourself. There is absolutely a divide there, and it absolutely does separate players and those who’ve only experienced it vicariously through other media.

Recently, I’ve found myself regretting not playing these games for myself. I feel like I missed out on something, and that the time to get in and understand has passed. I could’ve played the remasters and such, but even then it felt like it was too late. The games are now old, and there’s no nostalgia factor to support them for me in the current gaming era. Maybe this is just an excuse meant to avoid a notoriously difficult series, but it is a barrier nonetheless. This is especially true now that gaming in and of itself is not as satisfying as it once was.

I thought I’d made peace with this situation, but the impending release of Elden Ring has gotten me thinking about it yet again. It’s sure to be an impactful game, and it’s also looking like it’ll carry on its predecessors’ punishingly difficult tradition. A big part of me would rather not bother and continue leaving the series be despite all of these feelings; it would certainly be the easier thing to do.

Yet, perhaps it’s time to finally get off the sidelines when it comes to FromSoftware titles. Perhaps it’s time to just dive-in headfirst and learn just what it is to play one of these games and overcome the challenge. This time, I think I’d very much like to know Elden Ring rather than just knowing about it, you know? I think…I think I’d like to finally understand why this series has had, and continues to have, such a massive impact. I guess we’ll see.

Where do you stand with the Souls-borne games? Are you fully invested? Have you passively played them? Were you a bystander like me? Are you going to try Elden Ring?

Image from the Elden Ring website


  1. currentkick says:

    You should try Elden Ring, for sure. It’s a very different experience from the other From Software games, mostly due to the open world setting.

    I’ve played every game since Demon’s Souls on PS3; only beating Dark Souls 3 & Bloodborne, but loving them all except Sekiro (hated) and Dark Souls 2 (indifferent). Elden Ring is a mix of Dark Souls 3 and…The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

    I’m 14 hours in and already, the open world is the best I have ever experienced, and the sheer amount of combat options is incredible. It’s unlike other Soulsborne games in that, you no longer get stuck; Can’t get past a boss or are having trouble making your way through one of the huge Castles? Immediately fast travel out of there, pick a spot on the map and start exploring. You WILL find new gear, NPCs, hidden tombs, new bosses, etc; all the while gaining tons of experience to level up. You can also summon other players for Co-Op and have the option to summon spirits to help you out

    If you absolutely HATE the Soulsbornes games, that’s one thing, but you mentioned you have only played a few hours of Bloodborne. Bloodborne is very different from Dark Souls and Elden Ring, as you don’t have any way to block and have to prioritize attacking in order to regain health. Elden Ring, is probably the least stressful game in the series, especially with magic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      You know what? Okay. I’ll go ahead and check it out! I’m not totally against challenging fights, and the open world you’re describing actually sounds interesting. Like there’s actually stuff to find, right?

      I didn’t realize how different Bloodborne is from the other games either. I just kind of figured that they’re a similar kind of “tough-as-nails” gaming experience. Anyway, thanks for telling me about it!


      1. currentkick says:

        There is so much to find! I was very hesitant going into the game, as I don’t really love Open World games; they always lose their appeal to me around the 10-15 hour mark. In Elden Ring, I find something new every few minutes: a new cave to explore, monsters fighting Knights at a tower, following a ghost at night to a treasure chest, etc. If you get bored of the open world, there are multiple, huge castles to explore (the main questline). Get stuck at a boss? Go back to the open world to explore and level before going back.

        Yeah, Bloodborne is a different beast. They share similar concepts – losing your souls upon death, resetting all enemies, etc., but Bloodborne you have to play very aggressively and parry a lot (I never “git gud” at it). Dark Souls/Elden Ring — throw on armor, a shield, block, choose the right moment to parry, and counterattack (Elden Ring has a very easy counter system — block with a shield, then immediately hit heavy attack for a special counter). You also have the option of keeping distance with magic and bows.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hatm0nster says:

          Since this post, I went ahead and bought Elden Ring, and…wow! I haven’t been this addicted to a game in a long time! I’m 44 hours in now, and still going strong! My favorite part of the experience has been playing with my buddy and discovering things/fighting bosses together. During solo too, I’m constantly making little mental notes to compare with my friends and such. I’m absolutely loving it! Thanks for the encouragement to buy earlier!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. currentkick says:

            That’s awesome to hear! You’ve blown past me in hours, I’m around 25. Being solo (I sometimes summon on bosses ) and (mostly) staying away from walkthroughs has made my experience so much better.

            What kind of character build are you going with?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Hatm0nster says:

            Sword and shield build. Using the Uchigatana with a great shield. Most of my points have gone into Vitality, Strength, Stamina and Dexterity. You?

            Liked by 1 person

          3. currentkick says:

            I always play these games the same (heavy armor, sword, shield and pyromancy), so I decided to mix it up. Meteorite Staff and Moonveil Katana (I used the Twin Blade until I found the katana). Points into – Intelligence, Dexterity and Mind. A nice mix of being a spellcaster with devastating melee power. I’m still a bit squishy, probably need to start spending points on Vitality. I recently dropped my shield for some heavier armor.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Matt says:

    Personally, for a long while I was reluctant on getting into the Souls fad because of all the talk about difficulty and frustrating deaths. Plus, being a Nintendo gamer, I am usually not very interested in games with dark and somewhat realistic graphics and environments.

    But then, after reading overwhelmingly positive reviews from other bloggers who have similar tastes to mine, I opted to give Dark Souls a go. At first, I struggled to get into the flow the game required and I thought to myself that maybe I had made a mistake with my purchase. Fast forward thirty hours or so and I was sure I was playing one of the greatest games ever.

    Ever since then I have played the two sequels on my PC, which is not great but was fortunately good enough to run them smoothly, and I am planning to give Sekiro a try. The only reason I don’t have Bloodborne or Elden Ring on my radar is that I don’t have the hardware to play them, but I sure wish I did! To summarize, I went from reluctance to being a From Software fan, someone who thinks they are easily among the best developers ever.

    So I suggest you give one of their games a try. Maybe they aren’t for you, and there are many people who fall on that camp, but I think they are worth a shot. And although the games are hard, perhaps you are going to think their difficulty is manageable, which is how I feel on that matter. If you don’t want to invest 60 dollars into Elden Ring, maybe look for the remastered version of Dark Souls, since that usually goes for a much lower price.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hatm0nster says:

      Hmm, it sounds like your attitude was very similar to mine. I did go ahead and pick up Elden Ring, and my journey with it has been pretty similar to what you described here. These games are fantastic! I kinda wished I hadn’t sat out on them for so long.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Matt says:

        Awesome! I am not sure how going into Dark Souls after Elden Ring feels, given the latter is pretty much the open world version of the former, but if you are liking Elden Ring so much, then you should consider tackling the Dark Souls trilogy later on.

        Liked by 2 people

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