Souls-Like Games Finally Have Their Own Identity In 2023

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Story Highlights
  • 2023 has been a great year for Souls-like games, as there were many notable releases.
  • Games like Lies of P, Remnant 2, Lords of the Fallen, and Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty were the highlights for me.
  • Lies of P was my favorite of the genre this year.

FromSoftware is one of AAA gaming’s finest studios today. Having defined a generation of nerve-racking and immensely satisfying experiences, the studio has birthed the Souls-like genre.

Few developers can be credited for an entire genre, but this is just one aspect that sets FromSoftware apart from the masses. While most Souls-like games have not measured up to their inspirations in the past, the tide is shifting in 2023.

This year has been better than ever for fans of FromSoftware’s work since studios appear to have understood the essence of a Souls-like. As an enthusiast, I explored the genre quite carefully this year and enjoyed more than a few games.

Why it matters: This is the first time numerous games have shown the potential of this genre. In the past, while a game here and there was well-received, this genre was mostly defined by disappointing releases.

Lies of P

Lies of P

In my opinion, Lies of P offers the perfect blend of challenge, fascinating lore, and combat mechanics for a Souls-like. It also has the added benefit of being reminiscent of Bloodborne, a world that millions are just dying to revisit.

Lies of P nails the tight balance between a fair and difficult fight, making each enemy and boss encounter better than its Souls-like competition. Pinocchio’s narrative is also packed full of mysteries and eerie themes.

These aspects come together for an experience that does not feel too far off from something you would find in a FromSoftware game, setting a new bar for this genre.

Therefore, I have nothing but praise for Lies of P, and I cannot wait to see where Round8 Studios heads with the recently announced DLC and sequel.

Remnant 2

Remnant 2

Remnant 2 was the most unique Souls-like I played this year. Unlike the competition, this game does not focus on melee combat, often earning it the title: ‘Dark Souls with guns.’

Thankfully, its third-person shooting is impactful and packs quite a punch. The levels, while procedurally generated, are among the best parts of the game, offering an almost insane amount of variety from world to world.

Combat is also diverse, thanks to different roles, weapons, and perks. Experimenting with different combinations for my build was fun in itself, making Remnant 2 a treat to play from start to finish.

As someone unfamiliar with this franchise until recently, I found Remnant 2 to be a breath of fresh air. You rarely expect to leave the tried-and-true melee weapons behind in a Souls-like, but this game’s strong looter shooter roots meant that this transition was never too jarring.

The Lords of The Fallen

Lords of the Fallen

Going into 2023, Lords of the Fallen was on my radar. This game looked like another promising Souls-like, especially because the developers had already tried their hand at this genre before.

Ultimately, Lords of the Fallen ended up being a mixed bag. While parts like the dual-world system between Umbral and Axiom were genuinely tantalizing for me, the game fell short in areas like combat and enemy encounters.

It also received negativity for performance issues, which hampered the experience for me, in addition to the constant crashes during the mid-game sections. Still, I felt Lords of the Fallen had a lot of potential.

As an Unreal Engine 5 game, it was able to bring its world to life through stunning environments and jaw-dropping lighting. Bosses like the Lightreaper were quite enjoyable, and the build variety encouraged experimentation.

Despite its downsides, I felt that Lords of the Fallen was one of the better games of 2023 and certainly a massive step up over the typical Souls-like we have received over the years.

Wo Long Fallen Dynasty

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty

This was another anticipated Souls-like for me in 2023. Team Ninja was among the few studios that successfully replicated FromSoftware’s formula with Nioh, so I was excited to see how it would evolve with Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.

In my opinion, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has the best combat in gaming, and Team Ninja clearly took a few cues from this excellent game. Therefore, the fast-paced combat system of its latest title immediately felt familiar.

With combat revolving around the Spirit Gauge, the game introduced a deep system that encouraged well-timed parries and rewarded massive risks instead of the traditional safe approach.

These mechanics worked well together, creating a dance-like rhythm that was also present in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. The core combat was so nuanced and gratifying that it made up for the weak story and cumbersome loot management.

2023 proves the Souls-like genre can offer far more than hollow clones of FromSoftware’s work. The numerous high-quality games this year have opened the floodgates for a better future, and I am hopeful that developers will continue to expand upon FromSoftware’s strengths.

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