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2016 : The year of the ‘Soulslike’

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Dark Souls is a masterpiece. There. I said it, and said it early.

Dark Souls changed me as a person. Before it, I procrastinated so much in my gaming that I never really saw many games through to completion. I’d buy the latest games, start them, and then before completing them, move onto the next big game as soon as it released. There were exceptions, of course, but I often had to push myself to get through the main storyline, let alone the various side quests and hidden items around the world. I think the reason for it is that a lot of games were just too similar, and for the most part, too easy. Difficulty sliders defaulting to one below ‘normal’, maps full of markers telling me where to go next, and pop-ups and rewards that patted me on my digital head to tell me I’d been a good boy for killing 15 wolves. I’d had enough.

It was a good 6-7 months after its release that I first read about Dark Souls. What I did read was that it was obscenely hard. My instant reaction was ‘I don’t get the appeal’, and ‘I can just slide the difficulty up on most games to make them obscenely hard’. Eventually, I caved and bought it. Aside from the fact that the PC port was beyond shitty, I bought myself a 360 controller and got on with it. It was indeed obscenely hard.

A whole month and some 70 hours later, I’d completed the game, but not before failing so much that I regularly questioned why I was persisting with this torturous game. What it did, and did so well, was hook me in a way that nothing else had prior. I’d play for an hour or two, get stuck, die multiple times, then rage quit. But it wasn’t the usual kind of rage quit. Instead, it was this feeling that I knew I could do it, and was making careless mistakes. So, I’d go to bed, think about it non-stop until I fell asleep, then wake up in the morning and progress past the part I was stuck on the previous day. Sleeping on it became part of the experience.

What Dark Souls does so well is rewards perfection. You can just-about get through the game being less than perfect, but certain parts will requires it (Ornstein & Smough, the infamous Anor Londo archers to name a couple). Failure to dodge/block a single big hit from one of the game’s many beautifully rendered, immensely intimidating bosses (and even some of the ‘standard’ mobs scattered around its numerous areas) almost always results in immediate death. You’re forced to take it on the chin, ‘git gud’, and give it another go. Each ‘Victory Achieved’ makes you feel like you’ve learned, improved and actually achieved something incredible. It’s such a hugely rewarding experience from start to finish, that I recommend it to absolutely everyone I know. Some stick with it, some never get past the first 4-5 hours, while some simply never ‘get it’. While that’s a shame, I don’t blame them. It takes an enormous shift in your gaming expectations to complete it. Death and frustration are inevitable.

Dark Souls 3 is coming to PC in April, and I already feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. With its announcement, From Software, the game’s Japanese Developer, broke the news that this will almost certainly be the last Souls game in the series. This sparked a hunt for other, upcoming Souls-Like games. I was pleasantly surprised with my findings.

So without further ado, here’s my complete list of games inspired by Dark Souls, coming to a PC (or in some instances, Playstation) near you, this year.

Memory of Eldurim

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Already available as an Early Access game on Steam, Memory of Eldurim combines the large, open world nature of a true RPG with the skill-based action combat of Dark Souls. It rewards well timed blocks and attacks, and no encounters are considered easy if you go into them mindlessly. While the gameplay is currently pretty clunky at times, and frame drops occur on my GTX 980Ti powered gaming PC, I’d still recommend it. The game boasts stunning visuals, thanks to it being based on the CryEngine.

This is most certainly one to watch.

Eitr

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Set within a mythological Norse world, Eitr is entirely built on its self-proclaimed ‘exceptional combat’ systems, and features a number of unforgiving mechanics. One of which is its experience system. Players will have the choice of permanent level upgrades, or perks which will be lost upon death. Much like Dark Souls, death promises to be both regular, and part of the learning experience in Eitr.

Eitr’s main protagonist, a nameless shield maiden who is the victim of torment from Loki, the God of Mischief, has to travel through nine different worlds to solve the mystery of her torment.

Check out Eitr’s official site here.

Salt and Sanctuary

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Perhaps the most obviously and heavily inspired-by-Dark-Souls game on this list, Salt and Sanctuary is a side-scrolling, hand-drawn, 2D action RPG developed by Ska Studios. Much like Dark Souls, weapons will have unique move sets, boss fights are epic and plentiful, and players can leave messages for one another on the ground. Even the font and health bars seem to be directly from Dark Souls.

Salt and Sanctuary was initially set to launch around December 2015, but it was put back to ‘early 2016’, at which time it will release on PC, Playstation 4 and the Vita. This is most certainly one to keep an eye on. You can do so on the game’s official site, here.

Death’s Gambit

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Death’s Gambit is a challenging, upcoming, 2D side-scrolling action RPG set in an alien medieval planet. It promises to reward strategic, thought-out play over twitch reflex and muscle memory. Dark Souls, I feel, is a combination of those three, so we’ll have to wait and see what they mean by this.

Initially for the PC only, it will have controller support right out of the gate, and features interesting looking pixel art. We don’t have much information about this game yet, but check out the official site here.

Necropolis

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Necropolis’ art-style is exceptionally unique. So much so, that I can’t think of a single game that’s ever looked anything like this. It’s stylish and colourful, but also extremely dark and interesting.

Set to release on PC on 17th March, Necropolis features procedurally generated dungeons somewhat inspired by Dark Souls. The game will launch with co-operative multiplayer supporting up to 4 players, which sets it apart from most of the games on this list.

In Necropolis, players take the role of an adventurer working his or her way through completely unique dungeons. With permadeath being a key feature in the game’s mechanics, you won’t be getting too attached to your adventurer.

The official website can be found here.

Perish

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The developer’s indiegogo campaign’s tagline was: “Perish is a procedural ARPG/Roguelike-like. Dark Souls meets Spelunky”.

Much like Necropolis, Perish features permadeath and procedurally generated levels and its tough combat system is heavily inspired by Dark Souls. Players are rewarded for mastering its block, dodge and movement mechanics, and punished for leaving themselves open to an attack.

What we know so far is that a full play-through should take around an hour, but due to it’s extreme level of difficulty, it *should* take multiple attempts before you’ll get this far. The game boasts multiple unlockable classes and secrets to uncover.

Below

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Below is a top-down action-adventure game featuring a ‘tiny warrior exploring the depths of a remote island’, with the primary aim of survival. Like many of the other games on this list, environments are randomly generated, combat is brutal but fair, and permanent death is a core mechanic.

At launch (date currently unknown), the game will launch on PC and XBox One, and will include multiplayer gameplay in addition to single player.

Check out the official site, here.

Exanima

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Currently available as an Early Access game through Steam, Exanima is a brutal, hardcore, isometric action RPG with an incredible combat system.

This one’s a little different to most of the others, but having played it extensively, I can vouch for its extraordinarily difficult and rewarding combat system. Mastering it feels a long way away, and each successful hit on an opponent results in that satisfied feeling only experienced from games like Dark Souls. That’s really where the similarities end though. Exanima is not a Dark Souls clone; nor is it strictly Soulslike. It does reward exceptional timing and punishes mistakes mercilessly, so it deserves a place on this list in my book.

Check it out on Steam, here.

Nioh

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Let’s first deal with the elephant in the room. Nioh is NOT PCMasterrace friendly. It’s a Playstation Exclusive for now, and that’s shit. Luckily, I still have my PS4 sat around gathering dust, which was purchased solely as a means to play through Bloodborne.

Nioh takes heavy inspiration from Dark Souls, utilising stamina focused attacks and a slew of other mechanics familiar to Souls’ players. The game, set in feudal Japan, features a ‘squishy’ player character and fast-paced action combat which promises to be fast pace. Seemingly trivial encounters will punish imperfections.

All in all, this is at the bottom of my list for a reason, and that reason is, I’m simply not sure if this will be the Soulslike game it claims to be. I’m having disturbing flashbacks of Lords of the Fallen looking at the gameplay trailer on Youtube.

DarkMaus

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Releasing on Steam today, DarkMaus is heavily inspired by Dark Souls. Designed to be played with a controller, DarkMaus pits you against tough enemies in a dark and gloomy corrupt world.

Combat is heavily skill-based and there are a number of builds to play around with and perfect. Most certainly one to try!

Summary/Wrap-up

So that’s all of them. I scoured the web for hours looking for all of these games, so I hope there’s at least one game here that you weren’t aware of prior to reading. This year looks set to be a great one for Souls fans.

If there’s a game you feel I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments and I’ll check it out and add it to the list.

Feel free to check back here every now and again, as I’ll update the article with release dates as and when they surface!

2 Comments

  • Reply
    nprussell
    26 Jan, 2016

    I noticed a fair amount of traffic on this article yesterday! For anyone checking back, I just added DarkMaus, releasing today on Steam!

  • Reply
    RickyB
    26 Jan, 2016

    Great list! Thanks!

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