- Elden Ring’s 2022 GOTY award has seemingly caused a surge in Soulslike titles in 2023.
- Titles go beyond the usual fantasy settings, covering genres such as Sci-Fi and Roguelikes.
- The genre’s popularity doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon either.
In the world of gaming, 2023 will easily be remembered as the year of the Soulslikes. This surge in Soulslike titles comes hot on the heels of Elden Ring’s monumental achievement of claiming the prestigious Game of the Year award in 2022 over titles such as God of War Ragnorok and Horizon Forbidden West, and if you’re familiar with both of these titles, you know that’s no small feat.
Elden Ring’s resounding success has undoubtedly acted as a catalyst sparking an avalanche of Soulslike titles this year, each with its unique twist on the genre. It further enriches the already diverse gaming landscape, with players worldwide being treated to a buffet of titles as developers embrace the challenging, atmospheric, and lore-rich elements that define the Soulslike genre.
Souslike Titles Went To Infinity and Beyond
Mentioning Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon right off the bat might feel like cheating since it’s a game made by FromSoftware, the granddaddy of the Souls genre itself, but that doesn’t change the fact that the game is a Soulsike in every way that matters, and more.
This installment sees players thrust into fast-paced, omnidirectional battles with immense stages that challenge their agility on land and in the air. Customization is key, and players must adapt their mechs to suit various playstyles. With thrilling boss battles and a taste of the unknown, Armored Core VI proves that the Soulslike experience transcends time and space, literally.
And don’t even get me started on the PvP, because it’s honestly the most fun I’ve had playing an online duel against other players with their custom-made abominations beyond my wildest comprehension. Whether you want to tank your mech out with all sorts of cannons and missiles, or strap two chainsaws to your hands and call it a day, Armored Core VI has something for everyone.
But that’s far from the only Sci-Fi Soulslike we got this year because I’d argue that Star Wars Jedi: Survivor gave us fans control over the power of the Force with all the added Soulslike flair. Not only did Respawn Entertainment step it up with the combat in this game, giving players the choice to pick from any number of different playstyles (saber and gun gang ftw), but the game actually felt like a challenge this time around.
While I admit that you wouldn’t call Jedi Survivor a traditional Soulslike, the game and its wider franchise have all the gameplay and dark narratives to make it a worthy addition to the genre. And besides, if FromSoft themselves can create a game all about Mechanised warfare, I doubt Star Wars should be such a controversial pick to be included in the library of Souls. Plus, with a third game potentially on the way, there’s a lot more where that came from.
Including Some Of The Rogue Ones
The roguelike genre has been around for as long as I remember, with games like Diablo defining much of my early gaming years. Even nowadays I find myself coming back to play a round or two of The Binding of Isaac and giving my PC a stroke by running Risk of Rain 2.
With that in mind, what do you get when you combine the hair-pulling gameplay of a soulsike with the procedurally generated hellscape of the roguelike crowd? A good time, that’s what. This year blessed us with two such titles, Mortal Rite and Remnant 2.
Mortal Rite, though still in early access, introduced a unique blend of Soulslike and roguelike elements, providing an ever-evolving experience where players must adapt to changing circumstances. It encouraged you to overcome challenges through character progression and coming up with new strategies, adding depth to the Soulslike formula.
On the other hand, Remnant 2 continued the trend of blending genres by incorporating elements from both Soulslikes and looter shooters, on top of being a multiplayer game as well, allowing both you and your friends to get brutally curb-stomped by Eldritch beasts and sending you running back to your respective customization menus.
The Genre Wasn’t Just Limited To Three Dimensions Either
Who said Soulsikes can only be 3D? Some of the most fun I’ve had with the genre comes from the 2D Souls crowd, with some of my personal favorites being Katana Zero and the 2018 Game of The Year award winner, Hades. One of the most recent additions to this genre is none other than Blasphemous 2.
Blasphemous 2 resurrects the dark and brooding atmosphere of the original game, serving as a 2D Soulslike that expands the franchise’s lore. In true Soulslike fashion, the combat is brutal and demands precision and timing. Massive twisted bosses lurk in the darkness, patiently biding their time to return the player to the grave from whence they came.
Savage combat is the hallmark of the Blasphemous series, as The Penitent One shows no mercy to its grotesque foes. With new weapons, unique moves, brutal executions, and expanded combos, you can unleash destruction on anyone unfortunate enough to stand in your way with righteous zeal and unending fury.
A Beast from the East: Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
That’s right folks, Sekiro is no longer the only big-name Souls title with Eastern influences in the market, as Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty made its name known to the world back in March. Developed by Team NINJA, known for the Nioh series, yet another popular Soulslike title, the game immerses players in a dark fantasy version of the Later Han Dynasty in China.
The game forces you to face Demons plaguing the Three Kingdoms using combat based on Chinese martial arts. It also features a companion system, allowing you to have up to 2 NPC companions who can help you face your enemies. Unlike the Souls titles though, once your companion goes down you can simply choose to revive them, bringing them back into the fight.
While the game obviously borrows mechanics from the Souls series, its fast-paced action with a focus on countering and deflecting blows is pretty similar to Sekiro, without the option of having a second life once you die though. So if you enjoyed Sekiro, you should have no problem getting into Wo Long either. Now all I’m waiting for is someone to mod Melania into Wo Long as well.
Keeping Up The Fantasy Elements
While expanding the Souslike genre to add these new types of games is all well and good, you just can’t beat the classics. The genre has always had a penchant for dark fantasy settings, and This year was no different. Lords of the Fallen returns with a massive sequel, featuring an interconnected world five times larger than the original.
It allows you to navigate the realms of both the living and the dead, engage in colossal boss battles, and fast, challenging combat. There’s also no concept of perma-death either, as dying simply sends you to the undead realm, from where you can make your way back to the surface world.
On the other hand, Bleak Faith: Forespoken introduces players to the last remnants of civilization in a vast, interconnected world, combining open-world exploration with hardcore combat and epic boss fights. You can also choose from several character classes and progress in their unique playstyle, much like your typical Souls title. This is ironic since the game’s devs were caught using copied animations from Elden Ring and Dark Souls 3. But hey, imitation is the highest form of flattery after all.
Saw this footage floating around. Bleak Faith: Forspoken is 100% using animations ripped directly 1:1 from Elden Ring.
I do NOT condone people using my DS Anim Studio software to aid in exporting animations to include in commercial products or sell them on Epic Games Store. pic.twitter.com/9JHGMeu9as
— Meowmaritus (@meowmaritus) March 12, 2023
Finally, Lies of P lets players navigate a puppet-infested city steeped in the style of the French Belle Époque period. With all the Pinocchio influences, the game also introduces a unique mechanic where you must choose between lying and telling the truth to progress the story. Many fans, including myself, view the game as the Bloodborne PC port we never got, making it a beloved title for Soulslike enthusiasts.
The Year of Soulslikes
By now, it should be abundantly clear that 2023 is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, firmly established as the Year of the Soulslikes. This genre, which originally found its roots in the punishing yet immersive world of the Souls titles, has now transcended its initial boundaries, venturing into uncharted territories, and embracing an array of diverse themes and influences.
From futuristic, high-tech sci-fi settings to the incorporation of roguelike mechanics, 2D dimensions, and a rich infusion of Eastern cultural elements, Soulslikes in 2023 has transformed into a kaleidoscope of gaming experiences. As we venture into the next generation of gaming, it’s all but certain that we’ll witness even more groundbreaking developments within the genre.
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