The good news: Dark Souls 3 now has a free promotional mobile game called Slashy Souls. The bad news: It’s dreadful.
Published by Bandai Namco Entertainment America in association with GameStop for iOS and Android platforms, this endless runner/slasher is touted on the App Store as “the hardest game ever,” which is serves as a positive spin on “this game is f***ing impossible”. And I don’t mean it’s challenging. That would be fine. Instead it’s a brutally unfair, poorly designed gauntlet of cheap, unearned deaths.
Slashy Souls puts you in the clanking armour of a knight constantly running right to avoid a smoky wall of death. Along the way you’ll encounter all manner of demons that you must slash to kill, yet every strike roots you in place for an extra split-second as the fog keeps gaining on you. Your only moves are tapping the screen to slash, swiping up to jump, down to roll, and holding the screen to stand still and block – which you will never do. Outside of that, there are spells you can pick up providing shields and bursts of flame that can be activated by tapping on their icons.
The problem is that movement is so staggered and the controls so unresponsive that it constantly misreads your input, resulting in far too many ill-timed strikes when trying to jump onto a seemingly easy to reach ledge. Worse, the procedurally-placed traps and enemy placements often conspire to create obstacles impossible to bypass unscathed.
None of what made Dark Souls such a hit is prevalent in this unofficial promotional spin-off. Reclaiming your lost souls – or even having a currency system at all – is abandoned, while the ever-encroaching fog wall prevents any sort of defensive strategy from being useful. About the only thing it does have in common with a Souls title is some of its monster designs and a lack of a tutorial, meaning it takes some experimenting just to figure out its core moveset.
It may seem cruel to complain too much about a game that costs zero pennies to acquire (and mercifully there are no micro-transactions involved), yet it’s hard to imagine this terrible mini-game turning anyone on to the Souls series. I know many folks who are somewhat intrigued by From’s franchise, yet have steered clear of a purchase due to their infamous difficulty. I fear many will try Slashy Souls, die several times in the first few minutes, then conclude that Souls games aren’t for them. That would be a shame, as the series proper is pretty good at balancing punishment and pleasure. Slashy Souls, however, is hollow to the core.