So far I like Bloodborne infinitely more than Dark Souls 3, and it’s helping me realize what I found so appealing about the first Dark Souls, and what was missing in the sequels.
And that, my friends, is a visceral sense of unironic campiness.
In Bloodborne, it’s easy to see with the extendable transforming saw-toothed weapons, the text dripping with stylistic references to Poe and Lovecraftian Gothic horror melodrama, and the enemies wailing “This tale ends here!” when they die. It’s all very obviously and gleefully over-the-top. But I’m realizing that the same sense of camp was just a much present in the first Dark Souls. There, instead of a Japanese caricature of English horror, you had a caricature of European medieval fantasy. For all the talk of the interpersonal drama of Gods and Kings, most of the game consists of Kingseeker Frampt and his big goofy teeth, bumbling hollows and bush-men, people with snakes for heads, dragon-asses, and brutal mushroom pugilists.
Both have a sense of tangible excitement and delight in the weird monster and grotesqueries and all the overcooked melodrama of their worlds hanging in the balance. Which is exactly what makes the little personal moments truly heartbreaking and memorable when they do finally occur. Siegward of Catarina going hollow was sad because he was legitimately just a wacky onion-headed buffoon who wanted to go on an adventure. Lautrec’s heel-turn was so effective because the firelink shrine was just beginning to feel like a safe haven of weird misfits.
In comparison, the only trick Dark Souls 3 has is showing us the corpse of all the things we loved. Outside of the context of being made to love them it’s just empty and distasteful.