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In Defense Of Derivative Games

Tomorrow sees the release of Lords of the Fallen, a game that I personally have been looking forward to for some time. As the release date has closed in though, and preview builds have been seen, the words on many lips seem to be those of disinterest rather than excitement. Over the past couple of weeks I've seen it called many things, and there's a theme amongst them all. "Souls Clone, Wannabe Dark Souls, Dark Souls for Noobs, Clunky Souls." For a game that we've only seen the first hour or so of there sure has been a lot of talk about it's obvious influences and not a lot about the hope for it standing out.

This isn't meant to be some big "Lords of the Fallen defense post", just a "Stop deciding a game will be terrible because it seems like another game you like" post. Every new game deserves to be criticized on its own merits, unless it directly relates to another game by proxy of being a sequel or some such.


Not everyone comparing LotF to the Souls series means it in a bad way, but even many of those who mean it in a good way seem to have their priorities a bit off in my opinion. Now, I personally love the Souls games. Dark Souls 1 and 2 are two of my favorite games ever. That being said, I am all for a game seeking to take the base Souls formula and try something new with it. I love it when ANY popular game formula is molded in the hands of someone new. However, it needs to be just that, something new. It needs it's own identity.

I have seen two main types of people in the Lords of the Fallen conversations going on. 1) The "This is stupid, it's just ripping off of Dark Souls but it's bad." people. 2) The "I love Souls so I'm okay with a Souls clone, but the story telling needs to be like Souls and it needs Souls multiplayer or it'll flop." people. Let's address both, shall we?

If your entire source of contention for a game is how much it looks like another game, especially before you've played it or even SEEN the majority of the game, you are already not running a very strong argument. Now, what I know of the game is based off of two main things: information put out by the devs and publisher of Lords of the Fallen, and a four hour long stream done by a cool guy on twitch who goes by the handle "LobosJr." From what I have seen there are indeed many similarities to the Souls games. LotF uses a similar control scheme and seems to have similar ideas in terms of gameplay and a few mechanics.


These similarities COULD be viewed as negatives, but let's look at past examples of derivative games. The biggest one that comes to mind is the Darksiders series. Darksiders 1 was very much a Zelda style game set in a unique angels vs demons story with Devil May Cry 1 / God of War style combat. Darksiders 2 took this even further with a bigger world that still kept Zelda influences and similar combat to before, but now with Prince of Persia style platforming and Diablo-esque loot.


Many people hounded both of these games, the second in particular, for just "stealing" from other games, but it is the combination of ideas that makes Darksiders it's own thing. Darksiders 2 is one of my favorite games, not because it's revolutionary or has an award winning story, just because it is one of the most genuinely fun games I have ever played. More recently we saw similar criticisms lobbed at Shadow of Mordor when it was first getting shown off. "It's just Assassin's Creed in Lord of the Rings" many claimed, and yet what we got was a very enjoyable game.


Back to Lords of the Fallen now; from what we've been shown LotF seeks to take the base formula that the Souls series offers and wrap around it a beautiful gothic fantasy setting, uniquely weighted combat, a new take on magic and classes, and more direct story telling. Art of any medium, be it books, movies, games, etc. all requires derivative works if we want to see something we enjoy become all it can be. You may not have Bayonetta had Devil May Cry not become so popular. You may not have Dishonored had Thief not existed. The fact that a creator chooses to use something familiar isn't necessarily a display of laziness or lacking creativity, it can genuinely be a display of affection for that original inspiration and a desire to build upon it in a new way.

The second type of people I mentioned, those that are okay with a "Souls Clone" but want more things to be like Souls are only holding this new game back from being it's own beast. I have seen MANY people claim that Lords of the Fallen will flop solely because it lacks multiplayer, which, in their eyes, was a highlight of the Souls series. I have played a LOT of Souls, and I very rarely ever take part in any type of multiplayer with it. I leveled my way through the dragon covenant in DSII by dueling, and I can count on my fingers the number of times I've summoned or been summoned in either game combined for a boss. Other than that, multiplayer is little more than a footnote for me, and I have met many who feel similarly.


Your love for one of a game's many features does not make any other game worse without that feature. Similarly many have complained about LotF's storytelling approach, calling it "in your face." Before these past few weeks I don't think I've ever seen so many people call skippable cutscenes and optional audio logs that play in the back ground while you fight "in your face." I love the stories in both Dark Souls and Dark Souls II, I think that far too many people overlook the great stories in each, but relegating most of the story to item descriptions is not what I'd consider masterful storytelling.


It's true that in some cases the environments themselves and the npc's tell you the story of the world, but probably 75% of story details are from you reading items (how does so much text fit on these weapons anyway? :P). Even then, you're assuming that because this game has cutscenes and audio logs (the latter of which surely isn't that much different than having an NPC tell you the same thing) that this game's environments will obviously lack the same stories, based off the one environment we've seen.


I've even seen people claiming that they won't buy the game because it uses a set character rather than allowing you to make your own. This game has a story to tell and this character is apparently a part of that story. Do you refuse to buy any game that doesn't let you craft your own character, or is it only because you want this game to BE Dark Souls that it's such a big deal to you?

At the end of the day I have no idea whether or not Lords of the Fallen will be any good. It could be great, it could be terrible. All I know is that I plan on going into it with as little bias as I can so that I can hope to enjoy it for what it offers, not for how it compares to its inspiration. And you can be damn sure that if it sucks I'll be right back here next week telling you ALL about what it does wrong. So until then, thanks for reading!

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