The Dark Souls bloodstain system SUCKS
Experience points suck:
Stop doing experience
But now we're talking about a system often used on top of experience and why it's extra bad: the mechanic in Dark Souls and everything inspired by it where, when you die, you drop all of your money or experience, and if you get back to where you died you can retrieve it, but if you die again before retrieving it, it's gone forever. I call it the bloodstain system because in Dark Souls you "touch your bloodstain" to get your experience back.
Let's start with the universal problems with this mechanic:
- It's very upsetting when the player loses the bloodstain because this is not a normal experience in the game, and because it can be a huge amount of experience points, far more than would ever be at risk in a game with traditional RPG leveling and save points. Every time the player retrieves the bloodstain but dies afterward, the pressure increases.
- It exacerbates the balancing problems caused by level griding in the first place, since every time the player loses a bloodstain, they get farther away from upgrading their character, making it more difficult to avoid more dying. On the other hand, every death where they *do* collect their bloodstain first is effectively a life spent level grinding. If the player dies several times at a section, but always collects their bloodstain first, they're piling up a huge amount of experience that, when they finally get to spend it, can unbalance the game.
These problems can vary in degree based on the implementation. In Jedi: Fallen Order, levels are unlocked instantly when you fill the experience meter so your bloodstain can never be more than 1 level's worth, but in Dark Souls, it can because you can't actually level up until you bring that experience to a save point.
Now let's talk about reasons the bloodstain system sucks extra hard in the context of highly nonliear, unguided games like Dark Souls.
In these games, the hand-crafted balancing of a linear campaign is considered an acceptable loss. Since the player can proceed in any of several areas at any given time, and the game doesn't indicate an intended order, they might walk into a challenge they're severely under-upgraded for. That's supposed to be okay because the player can realize and go somewhere else. But the bloodstain system spoils that, by forcing the player to go back to where they died every time.
It's even worse in Dark Souls because when you die in a boss, your bloodstain spawns *inside* the locked arena, so you can't just get in there, retrieve it and get out; you're stuck trying that overpowered boss until you win.