Epilogue – The Game

I don’t know much about game reviews, except that they’re generally useless. Or at least that’s how they were when I stopped reading them, which was years ago. On top of that, after all the words I’ve already written, I should hope it’s clear enough whether or not I enjoyed the game.

At the same time, I can’t help myself from critiquing the things that I experience. So I like to think about what I would do if I had been a game’s director. And it’s a good thing I’m not, because I’m also well aware that I would make games that nobody else would want to play.

The World

Dark Souls has an interesting, fairly well-realized world with plenty of atmosphere and personality. While graphically it is hampered by the constraints of last-gen consoles, it has a distinct and cohesive art style. That, combined with imaginative area designs, help it stand out despite how generic it seems at first. Dark Souls also has weighty combat mechanics that make encounters feel meaningful (at first), and a wonderfully minimalist plot that is nearly optional, which is something that I particularly enjoyed.

For me, though, it was hampered as much as it was helped by the non-linear parts, something that I’ll get into later.

Mostly I would have fleshed some of the areas out, but I imagine that the developers would have as well, if they’d had the resources. Specifically, Demon Ruins, Lost Izalith, and parts of Undead Burg (it seems like there are a lot of paths that go nowhere down there), Tomb of the Giants (I wanted more!), and Ash Lake.

It would also have been nice if a couple of the environments were more interactive, but that would damaged the sense of decay in Lordran. Still, it might have been interesting to find a small enclave or band of non-Hollowed Undead to work against, or maybe even one that had decided to make themselves a little kingdom. There are many references to a cavalcade of adventurers passing through Lordran near and around the protagonist, but we never get to see them. Sure, some of that is Gwyn’s time warping, but even that should amount to the same thing. It shouldn’t have been a constant thing, but it would have been a good contrast to the rest of the game.

For example, having another frequent invader like Kirk, but with a more interactive persona, like Marvellous Chester. Being invaded by him a few times, and then meeting him at the end of an area as a talking NPC would have been neat. It would have been nice to use more of the online components in the singleplayer game like that. They could even leave Orange Guidance Soapstone messages as taunts before invading–or, even better, their invasions would be slightly randomized, to add a bit of flavour.

That would have taken a lot of extra work, and maybe I was just feeling that way because I played offline and didn’t have regular human invasions to deal with.

AI

Though bosses are particularly sad, every enemy in the game is as dumb as a brick, which is a problem when they’re what I spent most of my time fighting. As with the bosses, normal enemies only have a couple of attacks, and most of those are pretty bad. Enemies are dangerous primarily because they do a lot of damage or are an unknown quantity, not because they are smart. Generally, that’s just how action-RPGs work, so it wasn’t much of a surprise, but it was disappointing.

To make matters worse, almost every enemy is fought one on one, and those that aren’t are usually pathetic to begin with. In both starting areas, the Graveyard and Undead Burg, as well as the Catacombs and Undead Parish, it was common to fight small groups of skeletons and Hollowed, even in the Depths and the upper parts of Blighttown there were times where enemies came in pairs or trios, but soon after, that stopped. Of course, the flip side of is that, as a non-linear game, a lot of backtracking is required, so it would quickly become tedious to have to keep thinking every time the player was just passing through.

I suspect the developers realized that was a problem, because it was changed for the better in the DLC. Those monsters had much more aggressive move sets, and would also pull in groups, so that trying to fight one meant fighting his buddies as well. That was fun and exciting, because individually they were pretty worthless. It also made all of those weapons with broad, sweeping attacks seem feel more useful, compared to fighting a single enemy that isn’t moving around enough to require extra effort to hit.

At the very least, sub-bosses, like the Black Knights, should have had more dangerous, intelligent, and aggressive personas.

Bosses

There is no getting around this: the bosses in Dark Souls are its weakest link. It was almost always a let down to arrive at the end of a dungeon only to be faced with weak-willed and flaccid opposition. It didn’t help that the first real boss I faced was Pinwheel, who is a true sad sack even by Dark Souls standards, but after that it didn’t get much better.

The Taurus Demon was not a great threat, even though I didn’t use plunging attacks on him. Sure, I had the benefit of my time in the Catacombs, but I still didn’t know what I was doing (if I did, I might have used said plunging attacks), so I didn’t exactly make good use of my advantages. After that was the fight with the Gargoyles, and I’ll admit that I died a fair few times to them, but then I was still finding my feet and wasn’t doing much with my upgrades. The problem was that almost every subsequent boss was easier than the last, with only Sif putting up a fight (and killing him when I was so weak was where I decided my approach for the rest of the game) before Anor Londo, and nothing at all being much of a challenge afterwards.

Even without their ease, the real problem was that they’re dull and stupid, which is unfortunate because there were some neat designs with evident personality. They’re marred by only having 2 or 3 attacks and very simple patterns, so that there ends up being little to the fights except finding the easiest to exploit attack and then running it into the ground. Most other games will mix those weaknesses in amongst escalating patterns of more difficult attacks, but Dark Souls has bosses that are just big damage sponges with better stats.

What I think is missing is any sort of creativity about the fights themselves. Other games will try to make a boss a set-piece for a unique or interesting mechanic. There were weak attempts at this, but they’re few and far between. I’m thinking of Seath, who had that crystal keeping him alive–in any other game I would have broken it, been able to do some damage, and then it would have reformed, probably on the other side of the room, and each time it reformed it would be more difficult to break, and he would protect it with more ferocity. In Dark Souls I break (or he breaks it) once, and then it’s a straight fight for the rest of it. There was the Ornstein and Smough fight, which had multiple opponents and a second stage, but those guys were also on the simple side, and didn’t do enough to work together. The fight with Gwyndolin was unique, but optional, and still could have used a little something extra. Same with Crossbreed Priscilla. As I said, other bosses are simply larger than normal monsters that have extra HP, and that only worked a few times (Gwyn, Artorias, Manus).

For most practical purposes, there is little difference between many of the bigger bosses: the Stray Demon, Demon Firesage (which I’ll admit are just palette swaps anyway), Taurus Demon, Quelaag, Gaping Dragon, Iron Golem, and to an extent Sif, are all too similar in their tactics, their only differences being how they look and their stats. Once I’d fought one, there was no need to develop a different strategy for the others, aside from paying attention to their own unique attack. It’s not that they don’t have differences, but compared to the difference between Gwyn, Gwyndolin, and Priscilla, they don’t amount to much. I was not forced to develop new skills and tactics as the game went on.

It would also have been nice to have a couple of bosses who had more presence in their areas. I thought the bridge Drake in Undead Burg would be that way, but it only shows up once, and then ends up being an optional (and awful) fight. I went all the way to Anor Londo convinced that the Drake would show up again for a real fight, but it never did, and it turned something memorable into a forgettable bit of scenery–do most players even bother killing it, or do they just shoot its tail off and leave it alone for the rest of the game? Nothing comparable happens for the rest of the game, either.

I’ll allow that the way the game is designed around death may have prevented the developers from going all-out. The surprise of a multi-staged, multi-area boss is lost when the first couple of stages have to be repeated many times, and how does that work if the monster is wrecking the environment? The closest the game came to that was Bed of Chaos, which many seem to think is the worst boss in the game. It’s certainly the strangest, with how each stage carries over if the player dies. (It probably would have worked better if instead of dropping the player to their deaths, the boss flung them away to a different area, so that they would have to fight their way back to the boss, maybe going through a Daughter of Chaos each time.)

This will seem strange after all of that, but there were also fewer bosses than I wanted. I could have done with more unique sub-bosses, and more area bosses as well, optional or not. Just sticking a big knight in the corner isn’t quite enough. It’s a scatter-shot solution, but more of them would also mean a higher chance of another Nito, even if that also meant another Ceaseless Discharge.

As the DLC was much denser and had more varied and interesting boss encounters, I assume the developers are in partial agreement with me. I know nothing about Dark Souls 2, but I would expect plenty more bosses in general, and for them to have more variety.

Stats

First, there was the Resistance trap, which I was fine with; I expected it. Not every stat is going to be useful for every build, and not every stat is going to be useful at all. It’s like that in every game.

For the most part, stats had a decent give and take. Investing in something felt like an investment, and the decisions felt somewhat meaningful. I made a build without being able to plan ahead, and it was far from optimal, but I don’t hold that against the game.

There is one stat (well, it’s a sub-stat) that I didn’t like very much, and that was weight.

The problem wasn’t that weight existed and was a thing, nor was it that being encumbered slows the player down and alters their roll animation. It was that, more than any other stat, weight was too negative. Being encumbered is always bad, and the game tries to relate that with poise (heavier armour has more poise), but even that was something that could be corrected, in time. Want to walk around with Havel’s set? Sure, you can do that, and if you wear the right rings and pump some iron to raise your Endurance, you can do it will still rolling around like a ninja.

What I would have liked is for weight to actually make me heavier. This is related to poise, deflection, and stability, so maybe adding another sub-stat in there would be too complicated, but it was something that bothered me in a few situations.

When I was going through Demon Ruins for the first time and fighting all of those Taurus Demons, what got to me was how they smacked me around even while I was blocking. My initial assumption was that heavier shields with more stability would do more than just reduce my stamina loss. The problem was that even with a solid shield, if I block an attack I still get knocked half way across the room. There were slightly different animations, but the effect was the same: I would be too far away to retaliate. Stability doesn’t help, poise doesn’t help–I’m not being hit, after all–but what if weight did? What if how heavy I was changed how far I could be knocked back? In that case, it would be beneficial, in some situations, to be heavy. I know I’m supposed to just roll instead, but it would be nice to have an alternative.

It could even have been a factor of poise itself, which seems to be somewhat neglected at times. If a player is planning to block and roll instead of trading hits, poise is less relevant, so instead of making weight itself the factor for knockback resistance, poise could be something that helps a player stand strong while taking hits, but also while holding their shield.

That’s a pipe dream, though, so it’s not something I expect to change in Dark Souls 2 or Bloodborne.

Scaling

I don’t mean damage scaling on weapons, or the soft caps every stat has, I mean scaling the enemies and areas.

Perhaps I’ll come off as a masochist, and perhaps this is entirely my own fault for playing the game how I did, but I enjoyed the Catacombs, from a pure gameplay perspective, more than any other area aside from some bits of the DLC and Tomb of the Giants. Going through that place at the beginning was hard, and that’s what I like. I wouldn’t have been turned off if the rest of the game had ended up being just as difficult.

This is something I always struggle with in games like this, ones that give me the chance to take forks to different areas. Inevitably, one of those areas is meant to be first, and is designed to be the easiest. For me, that’s not interesting. If every area had a little colour-coded sign outside telling me what its terror alert status was, I would surely head for the most dangerous every time, as long as I could actually beat it (no passages that can’t be accessed till later in the game, like the golden doorways which require the Lordvessel to pass). The problem with that is going from hard, to medium, to easy only makes the contrast greater. Should I assume that every area is designed to be as difficult as possible for a character of a certain level, and tackle them like that? Even if I do, how am I supposed to know which is which before doing them? I could sample the enemies, but as I think I’ve demonstrated, it takes more than getting gang molested by a bunch of invincible skeletons that can kill me in 2 hits to turn me around.

I know that I missed out on things that were supposed to be really tough, like the Capra Demon in Lower Undead Burg. By the time I got to him, I killed him and his dogs in 1 hit. Would I have enjoyed that more if I’d gone straight to him while still relatively weak? Certainly. Just as I’d have had more fun with Blighttown if I wasn’t already packing all the tools I needed to breeze through it.

At a certain point, I should expect the game to catch up with me, but that never quite happened. Nothing I did compared to the Catacombs, or going through Tomb of the Giants with crappy gear and no light. Expecting it to would have been setting the bar much too high, but that’s only because of the way the game is designed, with non-linear branching paths and no scaling.

I felt let down when, after a while, each new monster was smashed to a pulp before it could even do anything to me.

I think it would have been interesting if the game accounted for the fact that players can go through it via different routes. Even if it was a flat scaling like Diablo 3’s former Inferno difficulty, where every area is as tough as every other other, in terms of monster levels. That could have been a new game+ option.

Ideally, going one route would cause the others to compensate. It seemed especially necessary because there is less and less indication of which area is next as the game goes on. Sure, Undead Burg before the Catacombs, but Tomb of the Giants or Lost Izalith? Duke’s Archives or New Londo Ruins? What ends up happening is that I get to the boss fight that I liked the most (Nito), but I’m so far ahead of it that I smash through on my first try. What if for every Lord Soul I acquired, the other bosses deployed extra defences and toughened themselves up?

That sort of thing would take careful balancing, and many would hate it. It removes the benefit of casual grinding, which is a problem. If a player can’t tackle an area with their current gear and their own skills, how will they feel if leaving it for later only made it that much more impossible? From what I’ve heard, games with scaling monsters, outside of loot-based ARPGs like Diablo, are not very popular with players, and making it an optional “hard mode” would only rub it in the faces of those who felt like completionists.

Finally, there’s new game+. I’ve only played a bit of it, but I looked up the differences and apparently it’s nothing more than extra HP and more damage for enemies. I find that strange, because Dark Souls seems like a game that encourages repeat plays with the same character. I would have loved to see them do what the Tales games or the Ninja Gaiden games do, where new game+ means bosses have new attacks, enemies are in different formations and locations, and new dungeons and bosses become available. What if new game+ Pinwheel had a couple of giant skeletons in there with him? Would make him a bit less of a joke at least.

But again, that’s a lot of work, so it’s not something I expect many games to do–especially when they’ve been somewhat rushed. (I know there are the Gravelord Covenant’s black phantoms, but even those are just monsters with even higher HP and damage, and getting infected with a curse is not a sure thing.)

Combat

Suffice it to say, I’m not that big a fan. It feels like Monster Hunters, but with fewer options, which I didn’t like. I get that it works for most people, but too much of how the weapons and actions worked seemed to be based on things that I wasn’t doing, like PvP. There was a lot of wasted space on my controller, buttons I never pressed and never felt the need to press. I’m not expecting even simple Ninja Gaiden movelists, but it would have been nice to have a couple more moves.

It also goes back to the AI being dumb as a bag of rocks. The vast majority of enemies are simply zoned, baited into whiffing something with lots of recovery frames, and then stabbed or clobbered. If there had been more variance in how they fought, there might have been more variance in how I fought back, but I doubt that just because of the type of player I am. I tend to bulldoze AI with whatever is most effective for me, and only mix things up when I’m forced to by circumstances. Thing is, I was almost never forced to mix things up in Dark Souls–though I did go out of my way to try some new things, for the sake of experimenting.

There were 3 basic weapons and tactics that I used throughout the game. My spears, my club, and my great hammers and ultra greatswords. The spear was all about baiting attacks and then using my range to punish them. The club was all about baiting attacks and then using the jumping overhead heavy attack to punish them. The big hammers and swords were all about baiting attacks and then using the heavy smashes to punish them. (Or, as I got further into the game, just killing my enemies before they could do anything at all.) The only difference between each weapon was which attacks I was able to punish and how many hits it took to kill things. (There were also occasions where the opening provided was big enough that I would just go 2-handed and whack away, but those were few and far between.) If the game doesn’t stop me from doing that type of thing, I will just keep doing it. That’s how it’s done in fighting games, and I have trouble shaking that off, even against AIs.

Would I have liked it more if I’d done some PvP? Probably not. I’ve watched some videos of PvP and it doesn’t look very interesting to me, but does look like there’s plenty of lag involved. That’s not my bag. Nothing wrong with people who enjoy it, though.

Thing is, I don’t just want more moves for the sake of it. Like I said, I will happily use whatever works forever, because it works. Giving me extra options won’t change that. It’s a 2-way street, so my enemies would need more as well. Which goes back to improving the AI, or at least giving them more they can do.

That’s about all I can think of to say about Dark Souls. Again, it’s a good game. I have heard that Dark Souls 2 is an easier game, which is too bad, but I still look forward to playing it after the DLC is out.

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6 thoughts on “Epilogue – The Game

  1. Nice Let’s Play! I found it interesting that you discovered a lot of hidden secrets like killing Gwynevere and the entrance to Gwyndolin and even finished the Siegmeyer storyline (although you missed Sieglinde). It seems you pay a lot of attention to the clues given by the developers and the “meta-game”. I really enjoy that attention to detail in a Let’s Play, even if I myself blindly ran past all of it on my first play-through! 😀

    I have one recommendation for Dark Souls 2:
    There’s a covenant that you can access early in the game that will tell you that it “sets you on an arduous pah”. Since you want a difficult game, you should probably join that! 🙂

    1. There was plenty of stumbling around blindly–all that time wasted in Demon Ruins and Tomb of the Giants, for instance. Given enough time, though, I can usually figure things out.

      Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. I haven’t read through your whole series yet but I looked over your final overview here just to get your opinion of the game, which I found surprising, mostly because I’ve never actually read such constructive and well thought out criticism against some of the games biggest selling points for people, while most of the vocal criticism I’ve seen on say reddit of all places is shallow at best.

    What games with similar gameplay do you feel you prefer, in terms of the combat elements. I seen you mentioned Monster Hunter which I’ve never played. I noticed the mention of a want for set piece boss battles or parts of the battles centered around a well thought out mechanic. This makes me think of something like Kingdoms of Amalur, which I’ve only seen video gameplay of and haven’t gotten to play through just yet. I think of the boss fights where their is a set and determined mechanic for the boss, they follow a pattern in most cases, then after you deal a certain amount of damage things change, they go to a new fighting style or begin a new pattern of attack, and maybe the environment changes along with it. I’ve always found fights centered around a mechanic like this or a set piece battle to be far less interesting in my opinion.

    For me the boss fights in Dark Souls were this open ended experience where the end goal is obviously to kill them but depending on how you are playing the game, you will have to come at them a certain way. Yes, unfortunately this usually means dodging their handful of attacks, getting in one or two hits yourself, then going back on the defensive. I can see where some people don’t see the appeal in this but I’d love an example of what you prefer in terms of boss combat.

    Its a shame that the combat doesn’t do it for you though. That’s easily one of my biggest selling points. After I beat Dark Souls with a fairly generic shield and sword (cleaver) build with medium armor and a medium roll speed I started new characters with much different focuses just to experience the different play styles involved. Sure its still dodge, dodge, attack but the way to go about it adds enough flavor for me. For example I went from that generic build in DS 1 and expanded upon it in DS 2 by adding in casting with pyromancy. I still stuck to the sword/shield combo but I also tried 2 handing my weapon quite a bit more which for me expanded my play by not giving me a shield to hide behind. In my opinion removing the shield element far away changes the way you play.

    Interesting views none the less, I really appreciate seeing someone be honest about their feelings of the game rather than just saying it was stupid hard/broken or drooling over how perfect/great it is.

    1. The game is always going to come down to blocking, dodging, and waiting for openings to attack. That is not a real issue I have with it.

      The problem I had with the game’s combat breaks down in a few ways.

      First, there is the issue of its RPG mechanics and metroidvania design. Power levels are uncertain, which can make balancing the challenges a problem. It wasn’t that long before I was deliberately holding back (not upgrading, not using certain weapons, etc) because I was feeling overpowered be sheer weight of stats and numbers.

      Second, and related to the first, is the randomness of some elements. For example, I lucked into a Black Knight Greataxe early on, and a Black Knight Sword soon after. The amount of damage these weapons did was so much greater than anything else I would have had normally (especially since I crippled myself by not getting the Large Ember until relatively late in the game). Using items like that can turn the most frantic battle into a 1 or 2 swing affair that is over in moments. Again, I had to put them away after a while because it felt like I was robbing myself of a more interesting experience.

      Third, the slightly non-linear nature of the game, especially in the second half, works against a specifically designed balance curve. Like my first point, power levels are all over the place. For example, I tackled Nito last out of all the Lordvessel bosses, and by then he was a complete chump. Which is a shame, because I felt he was the best designed of all those bosses, and probably top 3 in the game. I would have loved to have taken him on when he could have been an actual threat, but how could I have known when that was?

      Fourth, the game has to accommodate different play styles, but doesn’t seem to do it that well. Melee combat with multiple weapon types, ranged combat, magic attacks and buffs. From everything I’ve been told, magic can turn the entire experience into a cakewalk. A strong shield can trivialize enemies and bosses that rely on pressure.

      Fifth, and most damning, is simply that the bosses are too simple. They have less than a handful of attacks that they cycle through, and rarely offer surprises. The most challenging bosses in the game overwhelm players with numbers or force, not with complicated and variable patterns.

      I don’t fault the game for most of that stuff. Fixing it would require a huge amount of work, and probably wouldn’t be worth it.

      For example, you want to fix the power curves in a non-linear game? That means bumping up the difficulty after every choice (or not giving the player more power after they’ve tackled a route, which isn’t going to happen). That’s a nightmare for balancing, and also defeats one of the game’s selling points: that everything can be beaten eventually, through perseverance. As I said, if the player was presented with 3 paths, tried the first and found it way too hard, tried the second and found it still too hard, and then tried the third and found it just right, they probably wouldn’t respond well to the idea that taking on the just right path would then make the others even harder. The whole point of taking the path of least resistance is that eventually it will give them the tools needed to take on something harder. Of course, things are not presented like that in the game, which is still an issue. While there is, probably, a “correct” way to tackle the Lord Souls, they don’t really seem to have a natural progression. There is no sign that says, “this way for the first and easiest boss.” That all comes down to what the individual player finds challenging, and how they built their character (see my first 4 issues above).

      There would be a loss of freedom, which is something that most Dark Souls players seem to enjoy. And of course there’s never anything stopping a player from just grinding out more soul levels and upgrades any time they want to in order to shove their way through a problem.

      The randomness allows for surprises and nice things to happen, even when a player may not be progressing that well. It would remove something special from the game. But it’s hard to argue that a good roll on a weapon drop table can make or break a character and completely alter the nature of a run. The only real option I can think of the deal with that would be to make every item that can be dropped randomly also available by more certain means. Either from a chest or a vendor. A drop might mean getting it earlier, but not getting that drop would not be cutting the player off from something they may want or need. There are only a few cases where this would really matter, so it’s not that big of a deal.

      Most everything else comes down to AI, which is, again, one of the hardest things to get right. Some bosses are easy for magic users, because they don’t respond well to ranged attacks and buffs. What if bosses did, though? What if how they fought someone with a shield was different from how they fought someone firing Soul Arrows? It would make the game more interesting, but also increase the work of the developers tenfold, and ultimately is probably not worth it. The only other way to fix that problem is to give every character access to every tool and design the game around that. But, again, some of the freedom is lost.

      The main aspect of the game’s combat that I do fault it for is in how the enemies are much too simple and lack any dynamic elements or surprises. Much of that is solved in the DLC. I mean, they slap you in the face with it: the very first thing you encounter is the Sanctuary Guardian, a boss that has more attacks than the last 10 regular bosses combined. Then you go out into the forest, where you are faced with mixed forces of enemies that aggro together. Heck, even some of those regular enemies have more attacks than previous bosses had. The fights themselves are still not that dynamic, but they’re improved. Artorias at least attempts to do things like power himself up, and Manus has certain magic attacks that he seems to save until he’s low on HP.

      For other games with similar combat, there isn’t a whole lot, at least in my experience. I tend to prefer faster action games that are linear and deliberately difficult. Ninka Gaiden Black, for example. Those games are tuned very specifically, since the designers know exactly which tools the player has at any given moment. It’s a different experience.

      Most comparable to Dark Souls is still going to be Monster Hunter. Seeing the way it does some things differently from Dark Souls is interesting, but since they’re very different games, it’s not like everything is applicable. Monster Hunter breaks itself down into tiers, so the progress is still fairly linear (or at least capped). There is no real way to grind through challenges in terms of power, because you can only access gear from the same tier as the monsters you’re fighting. Plus, all character progress is tied to gear itself–there are no level ups or stats to gain, only better gear to craft. That’s how it solves the problem of power curves. It also gives the bosses more personality and versatility. But since you’re usually fighting one big monster for at least 20 minutes, they kind of have to. The monsters become enraged, which makes them faster and stronger, gives them new attacks. They get tired, which makes them slower and weaker. They run away to try and heal up when they’re low. There is a lot of emphasis on the “Hunter” part of the game’s title. The combat itself is still dodging, blocking,rolling, waiting for opportunities to attack, but the enemies being fought are generally more interesting and rewarding to take down.

      In the end, Dark Souls does Dark Souls. People like Dark Souls. There is no particular need to change that, and certainly not for me. I am one person, who has specific likes and dislikes. No game is perfect, and that’s about it.

      1. Thanks for the well thought out reply, I can definitely see where you’re coming from all your points here. I do wonder if the up and coming title BloodBorne has taken into account some of these things. I’ve gotten the impression from in game trailers and other gameplay that things have become much more dynamic. Partially because of the fact that it looks like enemies are locked into paths or routes rather than all just standing in place waiting for the player. One of the things that makes Dark Souls many degrees easier after completing it is going back through and knowing where all of the enemies are and knowing how to deal with them. Even Demons Souls has a degree of their enemies that follow paths and make them far more interesting to go through versus the guys just hanging around one spot.

        After completing both Dark Souls 1 and 2 and now most recently Demons Souls, I can certainly say I’d love to see some added variety or change to the games formula. While I really do enjoy the experience, and would probably play Bloodborne if it was just another one of those games, I feel that Dark Souls 2 was really just that, a sequel, where as the gap between Demons Souls and Dark Souls 1 felt more meaningful.

        Again, appreciate the well though out response! I’m now bummed that I don’t own a system to try out Monster Hunter on, so I’ll sit in hope like plenty of others it seems that they will release on PS3 or PC haha.

      2. It’s not as if there aren’t benefits to the way Dark Souls does things. It makes them more approachable, less intimidating. It allows players to set their own difficulty (since there is no difficulty option). Want an easier experience? Use a very strong weapon, or powerful magic. Want more challenge? Take on harder areas earlier, use weaker weapons, avoid magic.

        The only issue with that is when the player doesn’t feel like making that distinction, or is unable to. Some players will always use the strongest options available. Some will luck their ways into them. Some will find one boss challenging and not another, while others will have an opposite experience. In a fairly non-linear game, you have to expect that. There is a lot in Dark Souls that actually makes it much easier than it would be otherwise.

        It comes down to whether or not you believe it is solely the developer’s job to set the challenges in the game. Look at the abundance of theme and challenge runs Dark Souls has. People enjoy that stuff. It would be different with a purer difficulty. Still, it would be interesting if they tried to include some sort of hard mode.

        As for Monster Hunter, well, there’s probably a reason you haven’t played it before. It’s far less accessible than even the Souls games are. Part of that is the strictly mechanical design of the games. There is no story, and not in the Dark Souls sense of all the worldbuilding being hidden away in item descriptions. There is no story in the sense that pretty much all you do is go into instances to fight monsters, and you fight those monsters so you can unlock more monsters to fight, or so that you can make the gear you need to fight more monsters. It has a steep learning curve, requires a lot of patience to play, and has very little on the periphery to keep players interested (atmosphere, lore, NPCs, etc) Its design is closer to an ARPG mixed with a bit of MMO crafting than an action-adventure game like Dark Souls. The games are also long. At least 200 hours to complete the majority of content for the majority of players. It’s not for everyone.

        That said, the newest one, being released in a couple of months or so for the 3DS, is going to be the most accessible so far, with a greatly expanded singleplayer element to help ease players in. Maybe it will finally catch on outside of Japan.

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