I'm only just past the tutorial area and I have some thoughts. All of them remarkably positive, the game has given me an outstanding first impression.
1 - It both IS and IS NOT a soulsborne game. It has the same design philosophy in terms of healing items, returning to base, checkpoints, unlocking shortcuts, world design, and the requirement to actually learn from your mistakes and play it smart. On the opposite end, it doesn't have much in terms of character customization but does have an emphasis on an actual story, there are no level-up RPG elements or different builds, just improvements on the one play style. I like the balance here, especially since it takes another step away from the Souls formula in much the same way Bloodborne did so.
2 - The combat is visceral and weighty and satisfying. So far I'm only just past the tutorial area but sneaking, dodging, deflecting, and parrying while taking down your opponent's defenses just feels so good. It's too early to say but this might be my favorite combat system in a Souls game so far.
3 - I actually really like that the story isn't so cryptic like it is in Dark Souls/Bloodborne. I love the cryptic storytelling of those titles, to be sure, but sometimes I want something a bit more straightforward and this goes in a satisfying direction, as far as I can tell. I also like that, rather than just tossing you in with a few optional messages on the ground there's an actual tutorial that teaches you how to move, attack, and sneak. Also, you can jump.
4 - The Tutorial is actually brilliant, on par with some of the best 'show and tell' style tutorials. IT shows you how to move, how to move the camera, how to jump, how to wall jump, how to hug walls, to sneak, and to shimmy all within the first minutes and it's all intuitive. then, after you get your weapon it goes through a series of fights en route to the first miniboss and the first boss in a steadily escalating difficulty curve that forces you to learn while being kind to you. There are four types of enemies.
A - A simple, basic enemy. Has a sword but no real armour.
B - An advanced enemy. Has a sword and some armour.
C - A miniboss with a huge sword and huge health pool.
D - A boss with a bunch of attacks meant to wreck you.
The fights go like this:
- First fight has you sneaking up against a single Type A enemy facing away from you. Teaches you stealth and visceral attacks.
- Second fight has you fighting a single Type A enemy that fights you head to head. Teaches you positioning and timing.
- Third fight has you squaring off against a single Type B enemy. teaches you the timing and importance of deflection.
- Fourth fight has you going head to head agaisnt two Type A enemies. Teaches you kiting and crowd control.
- Fifth fight has you against one Type A enemy and one Type B enemy. Teaches you how to balance and prioritize.
- Sixth fight pits you against a mini-boss with a tonne of health, tests you on all of the above while teaching you health management as well as defense/poise weakening.
- Seventh fight - after a long stretch of a few various situations along the way that require stealth and all the skills so far - is a major test of all of the above.
It's been a long time since I had a tutorial area teach you everything you need to know about this game so efficiently. We learn about the combat system and many of its base-level nuances, the importance of stealth and parrying/deflection/stance breaking. we learn about the existence and significance of minibosses, about world traversal, etc.
So yeah, it both is and isn't a souls game. It is its own thing but it takes so much from souls and is from the same developer that it's hard not to compare. I went into this subconsciously hoping for it to be very souls-like (Bloodborne, dark Souls, and Dark Souls III are among my all-time favorite games) despite the developer and marketing all making it clear this was NOT a souls game. So far I've gotten exactly what I hoped for: Souls-like design philosophy but with a more linear story lacking RPG elements. Phenomenal first impression, I must say.
My Console Library:
PS4, PS3, PS2, PS1, WiiU, Wii, GCN, N64 SNES, XBO, 360
3DS, DS, GBA, Vita, PSP, Android
Top 6 this generation:
Bloodborne, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, God of War, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Dark Souls III, Red Dead Redemption II, Rock Band 4