Death’s Gambit is, another souls-like metroidvania to hit the steam store.  With the release of so many games bearing the tag souls-like, it’s time to take a look at what that means for indie gaming.

You might see the taglines “metroidvania” and “souls-like” thrown around a lot, but despite how often they go together, they do not mean the same thing.  Metroidvania refers to a 2d sidescrolling game with a focus on combat and exploration.  Souls-like is a more recent tag, used to define games with world-based checkpoints, limited healing and a focus on exploration. Metroid, Castlevania and Dark Souls aren’t indie titles, so why is their influence so felt in indie games?

Trickle Down Game Mechanics

Because they go great together.  It’s like cooking with two flavors.  Both taglines share an emphasis on exploration.  Games like Death’s Gambit borrow the broader mechanics of Dark Souls, and more nuanced gameplay of Castlevania.  It’s not the only game to do this either.  Dead Cells, Salt and Sanctuary, and Hollow Knight all pull from both styles.

Indie games are amazing because they are not limited by the restrictions of publishers.  Indie developers can afford to take risks and introduce new trends into the market. However the most popular combination of game mechanics are taken from AAA titles. Larger studios and publishers are still capable of pushing trends beyond shooters and platformers.  When they succeed, they hit it big. Influence is a two way street.  Whatever works in the gaming industry, be it from a small or large studio, is going to stay.

Souls-Like is Here to Stay

I’ve personally seen a lot of debate over this term, over whether it’s a real genre or not. Well, it’s as much as a genre as metroidvania is.  Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot of games, indie and not, borrow mechanics (Absolver) and gameplay (The Surge) from Dark Souls.  It’s not so much a genre of it’s own, but just a tagline to describe a game.

I could call UnEpic a metroidvania.  Does that give you an idea of what it is like? Yes.  Does it tell you exactly how it will play? No.  The term souls-like is certainly better then calling everything “the dark souls of x”  Seeing so many smaller titles get labeled with this term both shows us the sheer scale of the influence it has on gaming, and how it will continue to stay around. Basically, as long as developers keep making souls-like, the longer its gonna stay around.

Looking Forward

Neither the term nor the style of souls-like is going away, but that’s not a bad thing.  Some of the best releases in recent memory have been mechanically inspired by Dark Souls. Better yet, developers are doing more to make a tougher set of mechanics appeal to a larger audience. However, I will acknowledge that it can be overwhelming to see so many souls-likes flood the Steam store.  The inspiration is good, but too much of it isn’t.  The only way to tell for sure is to wait, play, and see for ourselves.

About the Author

Matt Bolinder

I've been a long time fan and supporter of indie gaming. I love action, sci fi and strategy games the most.

View All Articles