Today I'm writing a preview of the Dark Souls board game that’s currently in the last few days of it’s Kickstarter campaign.
The board game has been developed by Steamforged Games - creators of the excellent fantasy mob football game, Guild Ball. With the third computer game having been released recently and being stated to be the last in the series, it’s an interesting time to be seeing the universe converted into a board game as it’s a vast and rich world to play with.
The Dark Souls board game pulls from the three games in the series, but not their close family of Bloodborn and Demons Souls. Some bosses that have been revealed even come from DLC packs, with one of the stretch goals bringing everyone’s favourite great-sword wielding giant wolf with the infamous the abyss walker Artorias.
The Kickstarter campaign has gone very well, gaining it’s desired funding in only 3 minutes and rapidly tearing through stretch goals which have added lots of content to the core game and various small expansions included in the pledge.
Steamforged Games seem to have kept things moving along smoothly while also remembering not to promise the moon on a stick. They've improved variety of boss behaviour in a lot of the early goals rather than promising more and more add ons, which hopefully should keep each boss feeling true to their flavour and expected behaviours.
While there are some bosses in the Dark Souls series that serve similar purposes, such as there being a lot of giant guys with swords, the options that have been presented seem to offer quite a lot of variety. For example the three possible dragon bosses you could pick up they range from the rather traditional Guardian Dragon through to the cyclopean Kalameet and the horrific Gapping Dragon.
The game is able to be played solo or with jolly cooperation. Players pick a character from the available classes - which have been greatly expanded with stretch goals - and then set off from their bonfire in search of bosses.
The structure of the game involves striking out from the bonfire and exploring adjoining rooms, each one of which could contain enemies, treasure, or a boss.
Bosses have AI decks which dictate their movement, attack patterns and any openings they leave. As their decks don’t get shuffled you can learn the pattern to its movements and get an idea how to anticipate its attacks, at least until it gets to half health and, in typical Dark Souls style, gains a powerful new move and shuffles it routine.
After defeating the mid boss you place a new bonfire room and it becomes a checkpoint in your further adventures. The encounter deck is then swapped with a more difficult version and players can soldier bravely on towards the final boss.
One of the things that really stood out from the game-play videos that can be seen as part of the campaign is the risk reward mechanic that ties stamina to health, players can continue to act and burn through stamina but it fills in the same bar as taking damage so a player that tries to really push the advantage can leave themselves open. It feels very apt for the setting and feels like a great way to emphasise the danger of combat in the Dark Souls series.
While I’ve already backed the game I’m looking forward to getting some hands on time at the Steamforged Games stand at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham in June. (www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk), it feels like it might scratch a similar itch to Kingdom Death while not requiring a multi week commitment to complete a campaign.