We look back at their core games, and how these were precursors to their modern titles. With its string of successful games for a little over a decade, we could almost forget that the FromSoftware studio was founded in 1986, 35 years ago. And if it has made an impression on the general public with its recent productions, the studio has developed dozens of other games that are rarely talked about, if at all, outside of a few very specific communities. Many of these games were never officially released in Japan, which, combined with the fact that they aged very badly, partly explains this. And of course, there are also really bad games, which are fun to discover these days. It took a lot of trial, trial and error to get to this point. We invite you to discover all this while waiting for the release of Elden Ring, in order to appreciate their journey and the evolution of their games. Sometimes an idea present in an old title, even if it was misused at the time, makes a successful comeback in another form later. We can say that it is a studio that learns from its mistakes in general.
First Steps: King’s Field
The studio’s earliest games were King’s Field on Playstation, originally titled back in 1994. These games are first-person RPGs, and they heavily inspired their later titles, particularly Souls. There are plenty of mechanics that should resonate with you, such as vicious and deadly traps that are almost guaranteed to kill you from the start of the adventure, vast interconnected underground labyrinths, and a punishing difficulty. The gameplay was nevertheless quite simplistic and frustrating, since attacking with your weapon (or casting a spell) used the famous green stamina bar already present at the time. Optimal technique was often limited to moving forward, attacking, then backing up to avoid enemy attacks while the bar recharged. We often played a silent protagonist, dropped directly into this hostile medieval fantasy universe, with relatively few explanations or indications of the direction to take and what to do. There is also the gloomy and oppressive atmosphere present in the Dark Souls. You’ll be happy to know that your favorite place, the poisonous swamp, was already there.
The recipe evolved from title to title, but there were already elements always present in modern titles, like the secrets hidden in the walls, an intimidating amount of equipment, strange NPCs, absolutely fundamental objects easy to pass by, and the famous Moonlight Swordfish. These games are rarely released in Japan, and they have generally not been officially translated, so you have to rely on an emulator and a translation patch made by the fans to play them in good conditions. There have been a lot of developments, with a gradual refinement of the recipe, such as adding slightly less arbitrary positions for secrets in walls, for example. In total, the series was entitled to 4 games, and the last dates back to 2001. They were generally received rather coldly in the press because of their difficulty and the many cumbersome gameplay, but they still managed to find a fan base adept at this kind of challenge. And even today, a few hardcore fans like to experience these ancestors in person after applying a few mods to make the gaming experience a bit more tolerable. Playing Dark Souls with a fat roll feels like playing a ballerina after these titles.
Tons of mechs and a bit of Gundam: Armored Core
The giant combat robots do not stick too much to the modern image that we have of FromSoftware, except during a confrontation with the Knight of the tower of Demon’s Souls. And yet, it’s probably the genre in which the studio has been most prolific, and which has helped it to become known to a slightly wider audience. The first Armored Core dates back to 1997, also on Playstation (after three King’s Field games all the same). The game adopts a radically different model of King’s Field, moving from first to third person to go with wide open spaces, and from an arsenal mostly made up of melee weapons to a battery of missiles and firearms. distance. And of course, instead of playing a cursed prince in a cramped dungeon having to carry out a solitary quest, we play a mecha pilot carrying out various well-framed missions in a post-apocalyptic science fiction universe. As a bonus, there is even a local multiplayer mode to happily shoot each other with friends.
One of the main charms of Armored Core is the modularity of the mecha, which allows you to customize its performance and its equipment in order to adapt its gameplay to its preferences. The graphics were good for the time, and even if the story wasn’t particularly developed or interesting, it had the merit of accompanying the player throughout the dozens of missions that made it up. The game got a lukewarm reception too, something was already missing from the recipe at the time. Other than the story we mentioned, the sound aspect, and even the gameplay weren’t particularly outstanding or memorable either. These problems have increasingly tired the press and the public over the games, and have worsened in some cases, with increasingly cumbersome and unintuitive controls, and gameplay that was not renewed enough to compete with a title like Zone of the Enders 2, for example.