There are many ways that you can represent medieval fantasy within gaming. You can go down the traditional, historical route seen in games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance or to an extent, Assassin’s Creed. You can go down the route of magic and witchcraft, seen in games like Pillars of Eternity, Dragon’s Dogma and Divinity: The Original Sin.

Or, you can go down a more gritty and gruesome route and fill the world with killer beasts, uncompromising factions and horrible lands, much like Bloodborne, A Plague’s Tale: Innocence or Shadow of Mordor to name a few.

Skyrim falls into the second camp, whereas the brutal Dark Soul series falls into the latter. Yet, despite these very different approaches to medieval fantasy, it seems that there are a lot of similarities between these two award winning titles.

It may leave you holding two boxes aloft in a game store and asking yourself, which one should I take home. Well, if given the choice, we would urge you to take both, but that’s a cop out. This article’s purpose is to help you make an informed decision as to which came is a better fit for you.

So join us as we dive into these two fantasy worlds and find out which one comes out top trumps. This is our Skyrim vs Dark Souls guide.

Main Differences between Dark Souls vs Skyrim

The main differences between Dark Souls vs Skyrim are:

  • Dark Souls is a combat focused experience where you aptitude for battling will determine your rate of progression. Skyrim is much more open allowing players to engage in multiple quests and activities. 
  • Dark Souls is an uncompromising game with a very harsh difficulty that cannot be altered. Whereas Skyrim is a game that can be played simply for the story, or for a challenge with varied difficulty settings. 
  • Skyrim is a much more story driven game with tonnes of dialogue, a variety of quests and factions to join. Dark Souls does have an overarching story but this is mainly told through the environment you explore. 
  • Dark Souls is a largely linear experinece, whereas Skyrim allows you to essentially do whatever you like within the vast world it offers. 

Skyrim Overview


After the success that was The Elder Scrolls Oblivion in 2006, followed by the runaway success of the modern Fallout series, Bethesda had quite a task on their hands creating Skyrim. This game had to be a visual step up from the previous outing, offer a fantasy world that was at least on par with that of Cyrodill and also improve upon various mechanics like character building and combat. It was a mountain to climb but Bethesda managed it with aplomb.

Skyrim would released on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC upon release and offered players a new world, with varied biomes, new creatures, a wealth of new quests, a main storyline that would focus on the return of dragons to Tamriel. Plus, the game was vastly improved in other areas, offering new and improved skill trees, a combat system that mimicked the likes of Dishonored and Bioshock and the world just felt more alive than it’s predecessors. 

In this title, you play as the Dragonborn and begin proceedings on your way to your execution. However, you needn’t worry as you still have a very rich life ahead of you. You manage to escape from Helgen after a dragon attack by none other than Alduin, the world eater. From here, the story unfolds and you need to harness your Dragonborn abilities to quell the dragon infestation and restore order to Skyrim. 

The game received global acclaim and since then, Bethesda has been milking their cash cow dry ever since. Re-releasing the game on the PS4 and Xbox One, then again in the form of a VR title, then the Skyrim Legendary Edition with enhanced graphics. You think that would be all but Bethesda is inexplicably gearing up to release the Skyrim Anniversary Edition. 

Re-releases aside, the game is one of the most rich and detailed open-world RPG’s ever made and one that you should certainly add to your collection.

Dark Souls Overview

Then on to Dark Souls, the game that would single-handedly act as the catalyst for the masocore gaming genre. This game is the spiritual successor to Demon Souls, another product created by From Software. This game would see players begin as a hollow, which is a degenerative state not unlike an undead creature. You are locked in a cage and rotting away but a key drops through a grate above and this allows you to explore the harsh world laid out before you. 

From here, your goal is simple, you must travel to Anor Londo, The Home of the Gods, succeed Lord Gwyn and fulfil the prophecy. Sounds simple but the walk to Anor Londo is as simple as a nice stroll through a meadow. You will encounter a wide variety of hostile creatures, booby traps, unforgiving environments with killer biomes and of course, a series of hulking behemoths that serve as the boss fights for their respective areas.

This game received critical acclaim for it’s harsh but fair combat mechanics, it’s rich world with branching paths and beautifully realised locations, its ability to tell a story purely through exploration and environmental cues, lore and minimal dialogue. Plus, the boss fights and the difficulty of this game granted the series a huge cult following.

This game has been the catalyst for a number of other games like it. Games like Dark Souls 2 and Dark Souls 3, Bloodborne, Nioh, Ghosts of Tsushima, Sekiro, Mortal Shell, The Surge, The Demons Souls Remake, Elden Ring and many more. This is a game that wants to challenge the player and will not hesitate to punish the player for underestimating the difficulty of the task laid out before them. So, if you like a challenge, this is a great one to take on. 

Open-world vs Linear

dark souls

So firstly, let’s take a look at something that the two games do completely differently. These two RPG adventures both have huge worlds that can both be considered open worlds. However, these two games decide to approach this in very different ways. Let’s take Skyrim first of all. The game sees you end the opening quest in a little town called Riverwood. Here you will be able to take on some simple quests, learn about some new mechanics that the game offers which Oblivion didn’t like smithing for example and you can continue from here to Whiterun as instructed. However, you don’t necessarily need to.

From here, you can head off in just about any direction that you like and do whatever you want. If you want to head out and find the College of Winterhold, you can. If you want to find every Daedric shrine, you can as there is no level caps or offerings anymore. Or if you simply want to explore, that is also fine. The level of freedom you have in Skyrim is incredible and allows you to play the game however you choose and set your own agenda, which is exactly what RPG games are all about. 

Dark Souls also offers an open world but they handle things a little differently. You see, in Dark Souls, as exhibited by speedrunners across the globe. It is possible to travel to the most deadly areas of the game, fight the biggest, baddest bosses out there and collect all the best loot in the game, right from when you arrive at the first bonfire after the Undead Asylum.

However, unlike Skyrim, Dark Souls teaches players that these decisions should not be taken lightly and you could die very quickly if you do choose go off the beaten path. The best example probably being The Catacombs, a high level area with tonnes of skeletons which is a stone’s throw away from your starting location.

Everytime I play Dark Souls 3 and I get to the Catacombs, I put up this  message to make sure everyone sings along at home. - Imgur

You could go there, and technically, you could survive and explore the entire area. Though that would take near mastery of the skills and mechanics on offer, not to mention a whole lot of luck. 

So instead, most players will take the recommended path, through Undead Berg, then up to the gargoyles to ring the bells, then comes Blighttown and so on. It’s a much more linear format with the option to treat the game as an open adventure if you feel skilled enough to do so. 

It’s hard to truly compare the two approaches as they are so different but of the two, we prefer Dark Souls’ as it seems more methodical, meaning that there are consequences for each player choice. 

Character Building


Now we move onto a section that sees more similarities between the two games, but equally, quite a lot of differing ideas, it’s the character building and character creation process. Looking first at Skyrim, we have to say that aside from a few aspects, the creation is detailed from an aesthetic perspective, allowing players to create avatars they can relate to. However, the actual race and build choices are somewhat superficial.

When a character picks a race, you are essentially choosing a character that looks a certain type of way, has one unique skill and one unique spell they can cast, with the exception of Altmer who have 50 extra points of magicka as standard. This leads to a character creation that doesn’t really alter your journey at all. Meaning that it puts a lot of pressure on the in-game progression system to succeed.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Screenshots for PlayStation 3 - MobyGames

Thankfully, Skyrim received quite a large overhaul when compared to the DnD dice roll and tabletop RPG progression system found in Oblivion and Morrowind. Players instead have a skill tree which they can use to claim new perks with each level, they will need to grow their respective attribute stat to a level where they can take the perk, but this is no longer linked to level progression. Plus, players can invest 10 points into Health, Stamina or Magicka with each level.

This essentially means that any player, no matter what race or class they choose to be, can be an overpowered superhuman in just about every aspect of the game. Meaning you can be a whizz at melee combat, spellcasting, smithing, speech craft and bartering without ever really specialising. This is great for a casual player, but for someone that wants a realistic progression and challenging gameplay, they probably won’t be satisfied with what Skyrim has to offer. In short, it’s a dumbed down RPG format which is aimed at the modern gamer, making it more accessible but equally, more shallow.

Then moving on to the Dark Souls character creation system, there are a surprising amount of similarities to be had. In terms of aesthetic choices, Skyrim is miles ahead but that’s not what Dark Souls focuses on. It’s a game that prides itself on the gameplay and as such, the character you build can alter your experience quite a lot.

In Dark Souls, you chooses classes rather than races and each of these have differing starting stats and different weapon classes. You will have those that are hard hitters with big swords, those who are more dexterous and have lighter swords and daggers, magic users and much more. So choosing your character will largely determine how your playstyle will develop. You might be a melee combat expert, a pyro wizard, a sharpshooter with a bow, but rarely all of these. Plus, you will also be given a unique item such as fire bombs, a master key, a bunch of humanity and a variety of rings with bonus effects.

Dark Souls 3: Intro and Character Creation - YouTube

While these may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, in a game like Dark Souls, having an item that can offer any sort of boost can be the difference between life and death.

Now, we hear you hollering, what about the progression system? Can’t you just become an all-rounder like in Skyrim? Well, yes, but it would take you a very long time and a lot of grinding, by which time you’ll have probably finished the game anyway. You see, by the time you defeat the Gargoyles and ring the bell, having the souls to raise your stats becomes a rarer and rarer occurrence. So, this reinforces the fact that what you invest in early will determine your long term playstyle.

Basically what we are saying is, in Dark Souls, the way you build your character matters a whole lot more. So once again. if you are a casual gamer, Skyrim is your ally. Whereas if you like your in-game choices to have consequence and meaning, Dark Souls in the way to go.

Story-driven vs Gameplay-driven

skyrim 2

One of the biggest differences between the two franchises is the core focus of the game. One game focuses on storytelling and narrative, whereas the other mainly pours all of its efforts into offering refined and excellent core gameplay. Let’s focus on the former first of all. Skyrim, as with all Elder Scrolls games, focuses on offering players a world full of wonder to explore. With a wealth of interesting characters, bustling cities, a cavalcade of quests to get involved in and equally, an abundance of side quests to get distracted by.

The game succeeds in delivering this narrative experience through offering countless lines of dialogue, hiring a team of skilled writers to come up with interesting and memorable plot lines for quests. Plus, the main questline, while falling flat at the end in our opinion, does have some gripping quests and moments.

That isn’t to say that the core gameplay within Skyrim isn’t addictive or fun. It absolutely is and there are plenty of features and mechanics that make this game the success it is today, However, what we are saying is that it isn’t the reason why the game is considered a seminal RPG.

The gameplay is largely based on mechanics from existing titles, tweaking and adding things here and there to elevate the overall quality and make the experience more accessible for new players. So if you want a compelling, multi-faceted story driven game with tonnes of content, Skyrim is the way to go.

Dark Souls would go the complete opposite way from day one of development. Using Demon’s Souls as the foundation, From Software would aim to create a game that had a strong plot and premise, a beautifully dark and grim overworld with plenty of lore, but ultimately, doesn’t actively tell a story.

If Dark Souls III had A Gargoyle's Boss Fight: darksouls3

Dark Souls would instead focus on offer combat mechanics unlike anything available at the time. The game would be a methodical and punishing hack and slash game where blocking, dodging, attacking and riposting were more important than anything else. In Dark Souls, gameplay is king and that is why, even though aesthetically the initial game hasn’t aged particularly well, the game is still very playable and enjoyable.

The way bosses have intricate attack patterns and require certain approaches and strategies to defeat, the way every enemy has the ability to end your run in a moment, the way every weapon and playstyle feels unique from another and the way the game naturally teaches you to doubt and fear every corner, every obstacle and every seemingly empty room all culminate to make Dark Souls a gameplay masterclass.

In my personal opinion, I would choose Skyrim over Dark Souls in this category, mainly as I enjoy a narrative driven adventure to a gameplay focused one. However, each game is excellent.

Manual Saves vs Checkpoints

Dark Souls 3

To put it simply, Skyrim keeps thinks conventional when it comes to saving your game. You want to save your game? Well, pause the game and do it, or better yet, enable autosaving and the game will periodically do it for you. Nothing new to speak of there. However, when Dark Souls burst onto the scene, it brought with it a new saving format which would only serve to make the game even harder than it already was. 

In Dark Souls, you can’t just save the game any time you like. Instead, the player saves the game by resting at a campfire, which act as checkpoints that are dotted around the sprawling map. This basically means that if you make progress, you can’t just rest halfway between campfires and come back later. You have to push forward to the next one and risk dying at the hands of the deadly enemies that wait along the path

Or you could slink away with your longsword between your legs and retreat back to the last campfire. However, an important caveat to take into account is that, if you do that, the enemies you defeated respawn and this basically puts you back to square one.

It is a genius tactic by the game developer to present a risk and reward system where fortune favours the bold and those that try to remain overly cautious and game the system will only have themselves to blame. 

Difficulty vs Simplicity


‘Difficult’ is not a term commonly associated with Elder Scroll V: Skyrim. In this game, you can choose from 6 various difficulty levels which are Novice (very easy), Apprentice (easy), Adept (normal), Expert (hard), Master (very hard), and Legendary (pro).

However, these difficulty levels are rather underwhelming in practice. In short, adding more difficulty adds more health to the enemies that you will encounter. No added mechanics, no survivalist aspects, no additional considerations to take into account. Just enemies that are sponges for your attacks. It’s another example of how, in terms of gameplay, Skyrim is rather shallow. 

Bethesda would amend this difficulty issue much later and with a different franchise, offering a survival mode in Fallout 4 which, in our opinion, takes it from an okay experience, to a very enjoyable one. However, that is another discussion for another time. 

Dark Souls on the other hand offers a one-size fits all difficulty setting. Cranking the difficulty up to eleven and then asking all those that jump into this title to adapt, work hard, and overcome the obstacles in their way. 

This approach has it’s hardcore supporters and its critics too. Many gamers appreciate that this game is uncompromising and forces players to get better and master the mechanics on offer before it will let them progress.

Whereas gamers in the opposing camp suggest that this game makes itself an inaccessible title for a large percentage of gamers, demoralizes them and gatekeeps the content on offer. 

Dark Souls 3

In principle, both of these arguments are valid, but for Dark Souls to be more accessible and offer a difficulty setting would go against every fiber of what makes the series what it is. It simply wouldn’t be a Dark Souls title. Which is why all games out there who have replicated the Soulsborne format have stayed true to this formula and, in our opinion, rightfully so.

FAQs About Dark Souls vs Skyrim

Is Dark Souls better than Skyrim?

At the end of the day, it’s a matter of preference. If you love story-driven RPG games, go with Skyrim. Whereas, if you like combat-oriented games, Dark Souls is the one for you.

Is Dark Souls an open-world game?

Technically, yes. You have access to large amounts of the world right from the beginning. However, there are a series of tasks and areas you must explore before others become available. So it’s more of a linear open-world game if there is such a thing.

What Other Games Should I Consider Playing?

If you were a fan of either of these games, here are a few similar games that you might enjoy:

– The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
– Demon Souls
– Bloodborne
– Nioh
– Dragon Age
– Fallout 4
– Dark Souls II
– Dark Souls III
– Genshin Impact

What is the Skyrim Special Edition?

The Skyrim SE or Skyrim Special Edition includes brand new and updated features such as remastered effects, volumetric god rays, dynamic depth of field, screen-space reflections, and more. The Skyrim SE also enables the use Skyrim mods on PC’s, PS4, and Xbox One. However, thanks to Nexus Mods, PC modding was already very much a thing.


Overall, comparing these game series is like comparing chalk and cheese. These games may share a similar setting and be categorised in the same genre, but for the most part, that is where the similarities end. Dark Souls offers a gameplay focused, linear, combat-heavy and difficult experience that is geared towards hardcore gamers. 

Whereas Skyrim is a game that offers RPG elements, is narrative driven, aims to be accessible for all gamers and has fun game mechanics that build on the successful ones seen in past iterations. This is a game that is for those who like to control their experience, like the freedom to do whatever they like and simply want to enjoy a variety of interesting quests and stories. 

If anyone was wondering, I believe that Dark Souls is the better made game, but I prefer Skyrim regardless. So, make your mind up for yourself and be sure to tell us what you think in the comments below. Thanks for reading Gamer Guyde!

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One Comment

  1. Dark Souls III didn’t meet my expectation, even though the Dark Souls Remastered was okay. I was expecting a Comparison to Dark Souls II or Maybe even Demon’s Souls. I definitely like Skyrim more..

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