I’m inbetween on that. The big benefit the stat systems bring is that characters have this differentiation from one another, you can’t just switch the items, you have stats invested that make you proficient with the items you have. And different characters can approach the game in very different ways with varying levels of efficiency at different parts. That’s pretty cool.
These are the benefits of a stat based system contrasted directly with what you gain from doing away with it. I don’t think the Souls games would really benefit from not being RPGs as they are. Also cleverly, the Souls games have that online multiplayer aspect giving players a motivation to not overlevel, because then they will be left behind relative to everyone else (though admittedly this is more of a social contract than anything inherent in the game design).
Do you think level grinding is a poor game design choice?
In general, yes, though recently I have found some good reasons for it. When the player’s needs experience from fighting monsters to progress it can be a motivation to fight otherwise easily avoided monsters in games where the monsters aren’t very good roadblocks, such as the recent Ys games. Another reason is trivializing early roadblocking enemies in nonlinear exploration games. It can be irritating to pass through an earlier area only to be held up by stuff you’ve dealt with before. With big enough number buffs a lot of challenges become trivial.
Despite these good reasons it can still be a pain in the ass to level grind, worrying about being overpowered or underpowered. Some solutions I’ve thought of include limiting the amount of experience you can get in each area by having it be totally static item drops. Like imagine that when you kill an enemy they drop 1 XP token each time up to a maximum of 3. To level up you need roughly 1.5 tokens from every enemy in the area and on collecting that amount you level up. This gives the player a reason to actually fight the enemies and keeps grind time short, also limit in how many times they can grind the same enemy set to level up.
Another solution that can be combined with the above is dispensing the level up on beating the area/boss so it comes at completely static times. If they didn’t get these level up from the enemies of that area then beating the area grants it, erasing the XP tokens of the monsters in the area too.