I should have heard alarm bells when I first heard Slash Souls described: a free endless-runner released to promote Dark Souls III. But - even allowing for how horribly suited the Dark Souls ethos is to this kind of game, the tacky promotional angle, and pretty shoddy screen shots - I held out hope.
Turns out I shouldn’t have.
Abandon all hope
Slashy Souls starts you off at a bonfire – the staple checkpoint of Dark Souls. You take control of a knight who immediately starts dashing through the grim gothic world. No tutorial, just go.
Normally, for both endless-runners and Dark Souls, this lack of explanation is a benefit – albeit for different reasons. Runners are usually simple enough not to require an explicit tutorial, and in Souls games figuring out what to do is half the fun. In Slashy Souls, however, it feels like a horrible mistake because everything feels so loose that you can never be sure you are doing it right.
To rescue you from this horror if you do decide to download this free game, let me explain. Your goal is to dash forward, avoid traps, kills enemies, and stay ahead of a dark mist that is chasing you down.
Unresponsive and unreliable
In theory the controls are simple: your brave knight swings its sword when you tap the screen, blocks when you hold it, jumps if you swipe up, and rolls with left and right swipes – but none of this is reliable.
Scooting through the world everything looks muddy hiding many of the traps, but the pace is never fast enough to make it impossible to track the action. The issue comes when you see a trap and want to jump it – swipe up and… maybe you jump. Maybe. Or maybe you don’t and just swing your sword instead. Or maybe the game crashes.
The same thing happens with every ineffectual slash, laughable roll from danger, or lame block you try to perform - making every moment infuriating. In fact the only thing that feels responsive are the magic spells you collect, but you never have enough of these to make them a reliable tactic.
Punishingly hard, but for all the wrong reasons, I really do not know how to define Slashy Souls. If you had to pay for it I could declare it a horrible cash-in on dedicated Dark Souls fans… but as a free game it just feels like a disappointing promotional tool that sullies the name of one of gaming’s best franchises.