"If you have to go to the bathroom you just have to let your character sit there and get torn apart by monsters?" reads a post on GameFAQs, in a topic wondering why it's not possible to pause Dark Souls. Most Souls-like games keep this feature around, and that included this year's surprise hit, Nioh. But with the game's latest patch, it's now possible to pause the game.
"Pressing the options button in the status menu will now pause the game. (Unable to use during multiplayer mode and summoning visitors.)"
There are many ways that Dark Souls tries to ratchet up tension, and the inability to pause is just one of them. Of course, it's possible to exit the game at any time, but it's key that you can't pause during a fight—if you quit during a boss, you forfeit. As such, there's no time to think about what you should do next. Instead, the game forces you to stay focused on what's in front of you.
That's not often a good thing, either!
The best moments in a Souls-like are when palms are sweaty, nerves are shot, and despite dying to the same boss a billion times in a row, you're convinced this time will be different. Eventually, with patience and practice, one time is different.
Whenever I'm almost close to putting down a boss in a Souls-like game, I have to remind myself to "not be greedy." Greed is swiftly punished in these games. If you've managed to take down most of a boss by being exceptionally cautious, only striking once when the opportunity arises, you should keep doing that, instead of trying to hit twice and go for the kill. Doing that (and dying) is being greedy. But it's a hell of a lot easier to avoid being greedy when you have a chance to catch your breath—you know, the kind of thing afforded by pausing the game.
It's easy to suggest that anyone who prefers the tension generated from not pausing the game can continue forward, as though nothing's changed. Sure, fine. But it's different when a game institutes a rule change, rather than the player having to force it upon themselves. I could play every game with one hand tied behind my back, but chances are I'm not going to do that, unless I have to. By adding something, Nioh is, on some level, also taking something away.