Personally, I love FromSoftware games. I love the developer’s philosophy to game making—a focus on mechanics and gameplay first, tight level design, environmental storytelling that leverages the strength of the medium, incredibly crafted challenge that rewards the player with a sense of accomplishment.
I love their art style, I love their minimalism, I just love, overall, how uniquely plugged into video games as a medium their titles are. Bloodborne is one of my favorite games of all time, owing to its fantastic art, amazing mechanics, best-in-class level-design, incredible boss battles, and what is one of the best instances of in-game storytelling that I remember.
But I also think that FromSoftware is stuck in a kind of rut now. They’ve been making variations on the same kind of game over and over again for ten full years now—to be fair, they do it very well—but it is time for them to do something new, and flex their creative muscle tackling something entirely fresh for them.
I hear the objections coming already: “Sekiro isn’t a Soulsborne game, it’s very different!” In terms of sheer pedantry, yes, you are correct. Sekiro isn’t a Soulsborne game, and yes, it lacks several major components of that “genre”, such as most RPG mechanics, corpse running, and co-op. That said, it is decidedly made out of the same mould that the Souls games are, and anyone who claims they are not is not looking at things beyond a surface level. Sekiro, like the Soulsborne games, emphasizes player challenge and mastery of mechanics over everything else for a similar kind of sense of accomplishment when you overcome a barrier you had been facing for a while; the games all even share a similar approach to level design, in spite of the more vertical approach Sekiro takes
In a sense, you can look at Sekiro as being an implementation of the Souls series’ moment to moment gameplay in an action game. Yes, the structure and framework may have changed, but the actual sense of playing the game remains much the same. And like I said, that’s great! Sekiro is incredible, as are the Dark Souls games, plus Bloodborne and Demon’s Souls—but it’s also the sixth game made in this vein in ten years.
FromSoftware are clearly talented, especially under the leadership of Hidetaki Miyazaki, the visionary director who led Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro. But it feels almost limiting of their vision and talent to constrain them to just one specific style of game (not to mention they limit their own audience by keeping the barrier to entry to their games so high). I feel like it is time for FromSoftware to return to making other kinds of games.
The developer has a whole slate of beloved IPs—Armored Core is the obvious one that fans have been waiting for (a new one is coming!), but there is also King’s Field, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Lost Kingdom, and Tenchu. All of these would make for a sufficient change from the immediate flow of a Souls game.
No less than Miyazaki himself, in fact, seems to harbour the desire to do something different eventually. Speaking at a recent event, he stated a desire to do a story and narrative-focused game, specifically naming Rockstar’s spectacular achievement in video game storytelling Red Dead Redemption 2 as one of the games he would like to be able to follow in the wake of. And you know what? That’s an incredibly exciting notion for me. I don’t even like story-focused games much, but the idea of a man as talented as Hidetaki Miyazaki, who has previously demonstrated expertise in in-game storytelling without ever interrupting the flow of gameplay, and while smartly leveraging the strengths of what video games are capable of as a medium, deciding to offer his take on a story focused game excites me.
Consider how incredible and accomplished his take on a gameplay and mechanics focused game has been—all six times that FromSoftware have done it. Imagine, just imagine, him doing for video game storytelling what he did for gameplay. I would love to see his genius applied in that manner.
It doesn’t have to be a story focused game—I just want to see him try something that feels and plays different from what he has been working on for the last few years—Deracine isn’t good enough. Imagine a shooter made with his sensibilities—I have to imagine it would be a lot like DOOM 2016, maybe, with a similar disregard for storytelling, and emphasis on mechanics, and sprawling level design. I would love to see how From tackles that, and again, I don’t even like shooters much. Imagine FromSoftware attempting an open world game—I have to imagine what they achieve will be in the same class of mastery as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and that is something I want to see.
Imagine FromSoftware doing an action adventure game—I don’t even know what that would be like. Maybe it plays like God of War? I assume it wouldn’t have the same storytelling aspirations as Cory Barlog’s masterpiece does, though. Or, imagine a full-fledged horror game by From. Their games, especially Bloodborne, have always had very strong horror leanings to begin with—but a full-fledged horror game by them could be the greatest entry that genre has seen.
This is me spitballing—I don’t know what genres From would tackle, or what their takes on them would be like. But I just want them to try to do something, anything, that plays differently from the mould they have used for all their games since 2009. They’re far too good to be stuck in a rut.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.