Our full review of Dark Souls III will arrive later this week, but in the meantime, the inevitable controversy that erupts around these games has already arrived. Namely, some gamers feel that From Software is leaving them out by not including an “easy” mode. But it’s not really a question of difficulty so much as a question of pacing.
The Souls games have an overstated reputation for difficulty. It’s not so much that the games are hard, although they can be pretty tough in places, it’s just that they’re built on the very retro idea of playing a game over and over and over again until you’ve memorized a section and can play through flawlessly, the way video games used to be played. Generally, that doesn’t take too many playthroughs; once you have a rough idea, you can reach a bonfire and start the process over again. And, unlike old retro games, any items you stumble over or shortcuts you unlock carry over when you die.
The issue is the pacing of the game. If Dark Souls III were a meal, it’d be a giant bowl of New England clam chowder followed by a 16 oz sirloin and creamed spinach with a giant slice of cheesecake for dessert. And you not only have to eat it all, that’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every single day. It can get just a wee bit monotonous, even with From’s careful use of level design to keep you exploring until you find that checkpoint.
What the Souls games need most are sections where you can limber up your thumbs or try something else. Bloodborne had a marvelous idea where you could explore randomly generated dungeons for loot that shook things up, for example, stepping away from the story and offering straight dungeon crawling. From has their style of game down to a science, at this point, and they need to start pushing the boundaries of that type of game, to see what else there is for them there, to experiment with new mechanics and genres. From doesn’t need to lighten up on gamers in the difficulty department, they just need to shake things up.