I want more approachable Soulslikes. These new games show that it’s possible

Eve kneeling with her sword.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

One of my favorite copypastas on the internet comes from someone complaining about a player using mods to make a FromSoftware game easier. “You cheated not only the game, but yourself,” it reads. “You didn’t grow. You didn’t improve. You took a shortcut and gained nothing. You experienced a hollow victory. Nothing was risked and nothing was gained. It’s sad that you don’t know the difference.”

The infamous post was made in response to a PC Gamer article about mods that made Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice more approachable for the writer. It’s funny to see someone get that angry over another’s personal experience with a game they own, but it also addresses a question that’s loomed over the gaming community ever since Dark Souls took the world by storm: Should FromSoftware’s games and the Soulslikes inspired by them have options to make them more accessible?

Because Soulslikes are all about mastering challenging enemies, there’s an argument to be made that adding any accessibility options or gameplay toggles that make the game less difficult could collapse a delicately designed house of cards. FromSoftware has stuck to its guns on keeping its games tough, but two new Souls-inspired games prove that the Soulslike genre can accommodate all types of players without killing the fun.

Why I struggle with Soulslikes

There’s no denying that the difficulty of games like Dark Souls and Elden Ring is part of what make them so engaging to players. FromSoftware’s games demand players’ full attention and reward it by giving them a genuine feeling of satisfaction when they vanquish a tough boss. For players like me, though, that can sometimes be too much.

A warrior fights in Elden Ring.
Bandai Namco Entertainment

I play a lot of games for work, so I rarely get to sit down and play a game for purely personal enjoyment for long. When I do, I want to have fun, so I’m drawn to games with interesting stories, such as Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, or titles that can offer bite-sized experiences, like Marvel Snap. I get the enjoyment of mastering intricate systems in a Soulslike, but I tend to get frustrated before I feel like I hit that point. That’s one of the main reasons I bounced off Elden Ring and many other Soulslikes I’ve tried playing.

Of course, I could just put in the time to “get good” and fix this “skill issue” with Soulslikes, but there are so many other games for me to play out there that I typically just end up going with something completely different. I don’t want Soulslikes to fundamentally change their default design to be easier; I’d just like more of them to offer options that make the experience more approachable for players like me. I’m optimistic that the tides are changing in the Soulslike genre, thanks to helpful gameplay options included in two recent games, Another Crab’s Treasure and Stellar Blade.

What Stellar Blade and Another Crab’s Treasure get right

PlayStation 5 exclusive Stellar Blade has a lot in common with character action games like Devil May Cry 5 and Nier: Automata, but it sports a Soulslike influence in the form of its more deliberate combat and aggressively designed boss fights. It can offer up quite the challenge to those seeking it out even if it isn’t a true Soulslike, but those who just want to see the adventure through can turn to its Story Mode and toggle on the “Action Assist” option. Action Assist slows the game down before the enemy attacks and shows the player the right button to hit.

Using Action Assist in Stellar Blade.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

The more I used Action Assist, the more I felt comfortable, as I knew when the best times to dodge or parry an enemy attack were. It was one of my points of praise for Stellar Blade in my review. Action Assist didn’t make Stellar Blade that much easier, but it was an option that helped me learn the intricacies of combat more clearly as I played.

Meanwhile, Another Crab’s Treasure is a more traditional Soulslike that stars a hermit crab that can equip shells to block, parry, and use magical abilities. In true Soulslike fashion, even regular enemies can be challenging to take down sometimes. For players struggling with that, Another Crab’s Treasure takes things a step further with a full-on Assist Mode menu.

There, players can modify individual aspects of the difficulty like shell durability, damage taken from enemies, enemy health, dodge and parry windows, microplastic (the Souls stand-in) loss on death, pitfall damage, and game speed. There’s even an option to “Give Kril A Gun” that does what it says and gives players a gun shell option that takes out enemies in one hit. Because of options like this, it’s possible to play Another Crab’s Treasure as either a difficult Soulslike or a cute story-driven action-platforming adventure. It’s a good time either way.

Needing help isn’t a weakness

Upon opening up Another Crab’s Treasure’s Assist Mode menu for the first time, players are greeted with the following message: “Another Crab’s Treasure is meant to be a challenging game. But everyone plays their own way! If the game’s difficulty is harming your fun, feel free to turn some of these options on to make things a bit easier.” Developer Aggro Crab encourages players to make the adventurer breezier if they want, and that’s not hurting the game’s perception.

Kril with a gun shell in Another Crab's Treasure.
Aggro Crab

Players are enjoying Another Crab’s Treasure as it sits at a “Very Positive” rating on Steam with over 2,000 reviews. By offering so many gameplay assist options, Another Crab’s Treasure made itself a Soulslike anyone can enjoy. In turn, more people can potentially get into the genre and discover what makes it resonate with players outside of pure difficulty.

That’s the kind of attitude I think more Soulslike game developers should have, but it’s their choice. No one’s forcing FromSoftware to change its games if it doesn’t want to. I just think these helpful gameplay-assisting options in Another Crab’s Treasure and Stellar Blade prove that the core tenets of the Soulslike genre won’t completely break down if the developers give players such options if they so choose.

A Soulslike having gameplay accessibility options isn’t inherently a shortcut for players who don’t want to learn or improve their skills at the game. They are tools that allow players to learn and experience these rewardingly tough games at a rate that best suits them and is the most enjoyable.

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