Which of the Souls games do you think had the most successful (PvE) healing system overall, and why?
I think Dark Souls 3, all things considered.
Demon’s Souls is out because grass had to be farmed, could be stocked up really high and had a fast healing animation.
Dark Souls 1 is a strong contender because it invented the Estus system which is a really good healing system overall. Let you improve how much was healed with rare items, only 6 of which were in a given playthrough, and increase the number of heals in a way that was tied to each bonfire by expending resources, which carried over across playthroughs. However it allowed infinite, albeit slow, healing through Humanities, and limited per playthrough healing that was fast via elizabeth’s mushroom and divine blessings.
Dark Souls 2 is right out. Starts off with a gimped estus flask that eventually gets better, and pours lifestones in your face, which can be grinded for and bought, and regenerate health slowly. Lifestones weren’t strictly bad as far as healing systems go in general, better than Demon’s Souls’ grass, but still a low point for the series.
Bloodborne imposed a hard cap on the number of heals you got, they scale based on your max health, and can be increased with runes. Downside is you need to grind for them from time to time. The healing animation is fast, but if you’re shot during it then you’re put in a parry state. The system isn’t as unchecked as Demon’s Souls, but the grinding to restore blood vials is still a pain in the ass, even if Joseph Anderson made a decent case for it.
Dark Souls 3 starts you off with a weakened estus flask, but not completely gimped, lets you upgrade how much it heals and how many times. Far as I’m aware, there’s no other way to heal, except using embers, which can only be done once if you’re not already a host of embers. For an added dynamic, you can trade how many heals you have for FP regeneration.
I think Dark Souls 3 is the best simply because it’s the Dark Souls 1 system without any compromises. It’s good to minimize grinding, limit how much health can potentially be restored to a maximum, have that maximum grow as levels get longer, enemies do more damage and the player’s health bar gets bigger, and have the actual healing animation last a reasonably long amount of time to make it a risky option during a fight.