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Slashy Souls: Bad Marketing 101
"This *isn't* Dark Souls"
Is there a way that Dark Souls could ever translate well to mobile platforms? Yes, probably. Anything is possible, and if anyone could figure it out, it's From Software. Unfortunately Slashy Souls bears no From Software fingerprints and outside of a Namco-Bandai logo upfront, almost no involvement from any of Dark Souls actual creators.
Slashy Souls is free, mercifully so. A free-to-play endless runner somewhat set in the Dark Souls universe is not a sentence I thought I would ever write, but here we are. This game is Namco-Bandai and Gamestop's attempt at generating buzz about the game and getting pre-order numbers up, as evidenced by the large "pre-order Dark Souls 3 at Gamestop" banner over every part of the game. The message is not the affront here, by no means. Trying to get pre-orders up is just how you do business these days, whether or not pre-orders are harmful themselves is another conversation.
Why then, the outrage? Or rather, the offense taken by both fans of the series and those who aren't and only have this game as a reference point for the series. Simply put, the game sucks. Slashy Souls is a hastily-assembled, clunky, glitchy mess that'll turn prospective fans off and long time fans will roll their eyes at.
It's just bad.
Slashy Souls looks bad, sounds bad, and plays like an incomplete, amateur first-attempt mobile game. The sprites and backgrounds are all "16-bit inspired" and just feel, off. Even the basic enemies feel like rip-offs of actual Dark Souls enemies. Yes, there are bosses, and they're mostly bosses from the first Dark Souls game, and they feel like second versions of the real bosses as well.
The game controls badly as well. You tap the screen to swing your sword, swipe left or right to roll in that direction, and swipe up to jump. Simple, but poorly executed. That's not the fault of a game like Dark Souls translating poorly to 2D, it's just a lazily put together game.
Without dragging this game through the mud more than it admittedly deserves, suffice to say that it's bad. There's not Dark Souls here, for anyone. Yes, it's free, yes it's only marketing material for the new game, but it's bad marketing.
A bad, free game is bad but forgivable, it's harmless. An obtuse pre-ordering campaign is fine, it's up to the consumer at that point and once again, is mostly harmless. Slashy Souls is both of things, if you're a fan of the Souls games you've already made up your mind about a pre-order. If you're a newcomer to the series, there's plenty of info out there that's much more convincing than a bad mobile game that tells you literally nothing about Dark Souls 3, other than you can pre-order it at Gamestop. In that sense, mission accomplished.
No, it's not the end of the world.
All in all Slashy Souls is just a small blemish, if that, on the series' reputation. It's not going to turn fans away from the series or get any pre-orders cancelled (not on its own anyway, Gamestop's involvement might be to blame for that). Again, this is just an example of bad marketing and lazy implementation. Dark Souls as a series is also a known quantity at this point. It's a triple A title that still manages to be fairly obscure despite being financially successful. Word of mouth is how this series became what it is today, and it's what will make Dark Souls 3 a success, in the end.
If Gamestop and Namco-Bandai wanted to keep up interest for the game, they could have just released an item encyclopedia in app form. This sounds boring and even lazier at first glance but any 'Souls' series fan will tell you that item descriptions are where the story lies in these games. This would generate more positive buzz about the game's lore and new, confused players would find an easy way into the community that Dark Souls thrives on.
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