A couple weeks ago we looked at Dark Souls 2 and talked about how FromSoftware is really good at making mystery adventure games but that their standard mystery formula doesn’t work so good when trying to make a sequel instead of standalone game.
Now that Dark Souls 3 is out it’s time to continue that discussion by asking ourselves: How did DS3 approach the mystery sequel problem? Did they do a better job than DS2?
Surprisingly enough the answer turns out to be: Dark Souls 3 avoided the mystery sequel problem entirely by not being a mystery game. It focused entirely on just being the best sequel it could.
That’s right, DS3 is a straight up adventure game with no big core mystery to solve. Sure, there are still a ton of mysterious environments to explore with their own hidden lore and history but the major points of the plot along with your overall endgame goal are all spelled out within the first thirty minutes of the game. This is obviously a big departure from the pacing of the original, where it was very possible to be two dozen hours into the game and still have only the vaguest idea of what was going on or why you were doing what you were doing.
On the one hand this is disappointing because my favorite thing about FromSoftware is how good they are at designing satisfying mysteries.
But on the other hand I have to admit that going for a more straightforward adventure story was probably a smart move. As I’ve said before, the first game really didn’t need a sequel. The plot was self-contained and all the big questions were answered. Forcing major new plot elements into the setting would just make a mess of both games.
So the developers gave up on mystery and instead tried (and succeeded) at showing a natural evolution of the world of Dark Souls. Almost every faction, enemy and location you discover has some sort of historical connection to an event from the original game. It leaves you with a satisfying feeling of “I can see why Thing A happening in Dark Souls has lead to Thing B existing in Dark Souls 3”.
In summary: Dark Souls 3 gave up on large scale mysteries in exchange for honoring and preserving the legacy of the original game. This was probably a smart move and the game was pretty fun but I personally hope that in the future FromSoftware goes back to making standalone mystery adventures and more or less gives up on direct sequels.