It’s now been a month since Elden Ring came out, and the new addition to the Soulsborne franchise garnered a 96/100 Metacritic score for consoles and 95/100 for PC. This resulted to a multitude of players giving a shot to the Soulslike genre sparkling a debacle this past month. Should FromSoftware’s beloved franchise feature an easy mode? To which, in my honest opinion, it shouldn’t and here’s why.
The Soulslike Genre
The gaming industry has evolved a lot, sparkling a multitude of genres as time passes by. Just like with art and music, there are different styles to go with and such is the case with gaming. FromSoftware has created the “Soulslike” genre stemming from it’s first game, “Demon’s Souls” and was more popularly known for its second game, “Dark Souls”. These games defined the Soulslike genre being a genre that involves elements of high difficulty, risky combat against hard-hitting enemies, meager and obscure checkpoints, and the risk of losing your hard-earned “souls” if you fail to reach its location via dying again.
With the description alone, the Soulsborne franchise shouldn’t have an easy mode, but the genre description isn’t the main point. The idea is that just like music, each genre doesn’t cater to all audiences. However, it adds variety to the style of music that can be created, and such is the case with the Soulslike genre. The Soulslike genre adds variety to gaming which is healthy for the industry. More variety adds content, and more content gives promotion for the industry. Besides, the Soulslike genre has already established itself so making a game with “easy mode” and titling it a “Souls Game” will not make it a Soulslike genre.
Art of the Game
Following the previous topic, one of the key elements that the Soulsborne franchise have is the art direction and the environmental storytelling of its games. And one of the greatest arts featured in the Soulsborne franchise, in my opinion, is the combat mechanics. It simulates a fluid motion of attacks for both you and your opponents which are both simple to understand. The art direction of the franchise’s combat simply makes it impossible to remove the ensuing difficulty.
But the main reason for bringing up the art of the franchise is because the difficulty itself is part of the art of the Soulslike genre. Hidetaka Miyazaki, the creator of the game, stated that “hardship is what gives meaning to the experience.” The difficulty is part of his style of making the game and what he envisioned it to be. While some might see this as unreasonable, for others, it is his piece, a work of his art. Which in my opinion, is the right way to look at it because, as mentioned earlier, gaming is an art. And it is wrong to change one’s artistic values for the sake of catering to every person’s taste because that is impossible to achieve.
Overall, the Soulsborne franchise, in which Elden Ring is a part of, has established the identity of the Soulslike genre, and to create a game with easy mode deviates away from it. Simply put, it will no longer be a Soulslike genre should FromSoftware create such a game. The difficulty is also part of the creator’s artistic vision of the game, so if it is not exactly your cup of tea, there is no shame to it. Everyone has different taste and preferences. But if you haven’t tried playing any Soulslike game and you want to try Elden Ring as the first one, don’t be afraid to give it a shot and experience the game before personally judging if it suits your tastes. Who knows, it might help you better understand yourself.