Dark Souls has become one of the iconic games in recent years, due to its insane difficulty curve and very unforgiving mechanics. Challenge runs and memes ran aplenty, completely riding the boom that Dark Souls had brought to the gaming table. However, this influence has also caused a negative perception for future games. Dark Souls has inadvertently created a false standard that a lot of gamers seem to follow. A lot of games that show even a modicum of frustration that also shares any slight similarity to Dark Souls’ mechanics or POV is immediately called a clone or “a Dark Souls with X”.
In the first place, Dark Souls wasn’t even the first game to be frustratingly difficult. Games that we considered retro were actually the first “Dark Souls”. Those games were intentionally made hard back in the day for various reasons like to make them unclearable within a few days, or to make people spend money to keep playing (for arcade games). Back in those times, trial and error and perfect grasp of the mechanics were needed, just as Dark Souls needs it today.
Frustration is the biggest factor that makes Dark Souls very memorable to people, but it is also inaccurate to call everything Dark Souls when every video game in existence also gives its fair share of frustration. That’s how games are supposed to work, they’re designed to give us an appropriate challenge so that we feel rewarded for it. The only thing Dark Souls did was take that carrot and stick feeling and amplify it to the extreme with a default unchangeable extreme difficulty.
People should start realizing that Dark Souls is its own thing, while other games are their own thing. Dark Souls was meant to be that way so that it could cater to those players who crave that kind of extreme gameplay. Other games, like God of War, while presenting a somewhat similar experience, has allowances provided because it was not meant to give an extreme experience, and you have the option to make it harder or easier for you depending on your preference. But that doesn’t mean it is a Dark Souls game.
A Dark Souls comparison is a disrespect to any game that was made with the intent to give a whole different experience that is not similar to it, unless it was deliberately made to be a clone, like Bloodborne or Nioh. We should be able to see a game for what the experience it gives us and what innovations they made to all the pre-existing mechanics we have, not just offhandedly calling it as a clone of a game that delivered a different experience altogether. Let’s give the games (and their developers) the respect they deserve.