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Posted on May 22nd 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (NeoMagicWarrior)
Posted under Dark Souls


Dark Souls is a game series that many people have very strong opinions about. Tons of people (including myself) love the game, and praise it's innovation in an otherwise stagnant triple-A gaming world. Others despise it, claiming it is "too hard" or not intuitive enough for the normal gamer to jump into. Whatever your stance on it may be, here is a list of mechanics that, for me, are entirely unenjoyable in an otherwise amazing game series.




PvP

The Player VS. Player mechanics of Dark Souls are the elephant in the room when it comes to bringing up unenjoyable mechanics. It works by one player using an in-game item, and then "invading" the world of another player, who may or may not be in a position or mood to fight. The invader then attacks the unsuspecting player, along with all of the enemies currently alive in the player's world. The only way to banish the invader is by winning or losing to them, and losing comes with it's own host of problems. Moreover, people are INCENTIVISED to come wreck your game by getting exclusive items from coming in and doing so. This is the in-game equivalent of your little brother ripping your Game Boy out of your hands and hitting the power switch right before you beat the Elite Four... it is not fun no matter how you slice it.

The worst part is that the only "opt-out" of the system is to play the entire game offline, which prevents you from using other mechanics within the game entirely, as well as on console, removing chat functionality entirely.

Typically this is the situation: You are low on health items, but have fought your way to an area's boss. You are almost to where you need to go, when an enemy invades your game and blocks your path. It's been a while since the last checkpoint, and so you struggle to fight someone who is better equipped, has all of their healing items full, AND has a poor connection, so they consistently hit you when it looks like they are swinging in thin air. The game also blacks out all "quit game" options during the invasion, so to leave the game, you need to power down the console or force quit and hope the auto save does not corrupt your character data.


The Co-op System

The Co-Op system for Dark Souls works extremely well when you just want someone random to play with, but in any other game except the latest one, it is near impossible to get your friends in on the game with you...so much so that the original Dark Souls on Xbox 360 BLOCKED party chat, so you could not coordinate with anyone! Even in Dark Souls 3, the process is tedious.

First, the player who wants help has to use an consumable item, which they may or may not have. Next, the other player needs to place a marker down in their game, and hopefully, it shows up in the host's game in a timely manner. The party then gets to play until either one of them or the boss for the area dies. The Co-Op player is then sent back to their own game, where they have to try and meet up with their friend again. Dark Souls 3 added a "password matching" system, which helped the servers pair people who want to play together, but in the first and second games in the series, you are at the mercy of the servers whether or not someone else's sign will even show up.

In addition to all of this frustration, the area boss (you know, the thing you need help with) gets more health! If you can't do it on your own, why would they make it harder?! This difficulty increase, seemed arbitrary, as compared to the rest of the game, and it feels out of place.


Clipping / Glitches

I cannot count how many times I have been hit through walls in Dark Souls, but the problem does not stop there. Dark Souls does an amazing job of maintain hit detection of all of the walls, ceiling, etc with regards to your character...but a horrible one with enemies! This creates sections of the game where an enemy gets to benefit from some sort of cover, while you stay there exposed to their attacks. This tends to bleed it's way into PvP as well, as the invader may not have a stable connection to you, making it all the more frustrating.


Spells

I really enjoy the spell system in the Dark Souls series. That is why it pains me so much when they keep rebalancing it, destroying what once was a viable gameplay option and reducing it to small pokes and prods. Each Dark Souls game has an impressive set of intricate and useful spells in it at the time it launched. Over time, balance patches (again, caused by PvP concerns) have the developer grabbing a large baseball bat and beating the spell system over the head with it until it is completely useless.

For example, I played Dark Souls 3 the first week it came out, and built a sorcerer. I finished the game and had some pretty neat spells. I came back to that character once the DLC for the game came out to find all of his spells did significantly less damage and took more time to cast. My highest level damage spells did less than a wooden arrow from a shortbow! All of my progress was essentially stripped and my character rendered useless, which ultimately left me frustrated. Changing the game's systems so drastically really took me out of the swing of things.


Storyline Breakpoints

Dark Souls is a game that does not have a lot of explicit story, which is not a bad thing. What is bad, however, is that you can miss or mess up whole parts of it just by talking to NPCs in the wrong order! Many NPCs will not continue their storyline unless a task is met by the player (that they do not tell you about) and if you miss the task, whole characters can vanish from your game forever.

Some storyline hooks are simple, like talking to someone out in the world. Others are more complex, like jumping off a moving elevator, searching an abandoned well, or even doing game areas in a completely different order than traditional.

Dark Souls may be hard, but all of these issues confound an otherwise brilliant game. It is a real shame that such a magnificent experience is marred by such imperfections. Hopefully (but not likely), the developers will take some of this into consideration next time around...assuming we get another Souls game at all! Until then, enjoy the ones we have now, despite all of the shortcomings. The fun and enjoyment I get from the series far overshadows all of the negativity, and hopefully it will for you as well.

Until next time, Praise The Sun!
~Neo




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Comments
 
As someone who has yet to play the Souls games, I'm glad to have some of these warnings! Hopefully i'll feel better prepared once i do go to play. The only thing i think i would disagree with you about it being a problem is the co-op difficulty increase. it's pretty standard for co-op to increase difficulty in games, the idea is to balance it so that the game feels more or less the same with 2 - 4 people as it does with 1. if enemies had the same health with 2 players as they did with 1, every enemy would go down in half the time and it would feel like a totally different experience. co-op isn't usually meant as a way to get help, it's just meant as a way to play with friends (at least in my opinion). so of course on that note, they failed pretty hard if co-op with friends is difficult or impossible.
 
As a fan, the only one of these points I am in agreement with is the magic issue. The concept of the Souls games is the intertwining of different dimensions, allowing the tenuous communication between worlds via the messages, co-op, and PvP. It's consistent with the world, and how the NPCs describe it. Even time itself falls into this category in 3, as things culminate towards the end and the Ringed City.

Magic was something that I always enjoyed using in the first and second games, but the changes to it in 3 just made me avoid it all together. The charge system for spells was easy to quantify, and I really don't like the meter approach. Add on top of that balance changes, it really makes it not worth the hassle to play as a sorcerer. I've found it much better to go with some Miracles mixed with melee.

As to the storyline issues, it makes you part of a larger world that is absolutely not interested in you as the player. You aren't the typical hero. Everything doesn't revolve around your quest (even though many NPCs would like you to think it does). You are one of many, in a cycle of many. The whole moniker of "chosen undead" and "Champion of Ash" are generic titles that apply as much to any other within the world. Are you the one to link the flame? Possibly, but many have come before you, and if you can't get the job done, someone else will after you.
 
I have mixed feelings about Dark Souls.  I really like the strangeness about it, especially the semi-openness of the world and the depiction of a world on the decline.  I enjoy how the way the game seems to be broken, but in a way that benefits players that are willing to be creative or exploit to win.  I felt that the bosses were similar in design to most of the missions in GTA3; there are multiple ways of finishing each, some of them (probably) certainly cheats.  All of my problems with this game mirror my feelings with MMORPGs; I just don't have the time to commit to it, and I don't like online games in general, regardless of how it is implemented.  I feel the same way about online games as Crabby feels about digital gaming; I can live without it, and if it is the only way I can play it I will pass every time.

While I don't think Dark Souls is brilliant, I do find it compelling.  I had a theory years ago that Dark Souls was nothing more than a 3D evolution of early Famicom-era action-adventure games, such as Challenger and Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido (to name a few).  They aren't fair, and demand a lot of either foreknowledge or persistence.  They are fundamentally different than the "punishing" platforming games that came about, in that they revolve around a much larger world, and often include a story that is overarching, but never asks the player to really understand, rather just experience and enjoy (if you can).

Nice article, and I like that you stepped up with your opinion, instead of dancing around it and playing nice (kind of self-criticism, that).
 
Several people whose opinions I respect have repeatedly tried to get me into Dark Souls.  Even though I am STILL not good at this game, I am always amazed when I think of how bad I initially was versus how good I am now, which is still bad, but much better than I was.  It is a game that is rewarding to the people who stick with it.  Not unlike another game that I have tried to get other people into, sometimes repeatedly; Destiny (cue the eye rolls). 

I know that If I fired up Dark Souls every day for 30-60 minutes, I would continue to get better at it and it would continue to be rewarding.  I find that when I am in the world of Dark Souls, though, I am not happy.  Not a big surprise there, its a bleak world filled with death.  It's not supposed to make you feel happy, its supposed to make you feel desperate.  I think that's why I have a hard time deciding to fire it up.  More power to the people who love it.
 
@techwizard: Some spots are significantly more difficult with a co-op partner...almost infuriatingly so.

@Duke.Togo: I understand the purpose of PvP and stuff, but it gets annoying sometimes...especially when people try and cheese the system, block boss gates, etc. My storyline issues mainly stem from missing things and being disappointed that because I went too far, I missed something important. Also, you can't tell me you have not been struck through a wall before.

@bombatomba: Dark Souls is still very enjoyable in offline mode (dare I say more so sometimes?) Don't let the online component sway you away. The time investment thing though...


 
Dark Souls kills me too much. That's my complaint.
 
@NeoMagicWarrior: I won't argue about the wall thing, although it doesn't happen enough to be a real problem for me. There are some great ways to turn the tables on invaders, from seeds to summons, so it's all fun. I've even had invaders help me by dropping items for me. Have you tried doing invasions? It can be a lot of fun. 3 even makes it more interesting with the Mad Spirit bits so you can go after other invaders instead of the host if you want.
 
I am a fan of the series as well so its hard to be objective. I do think the clipping is annoying at times, but at the same time I have used the environment and graphical issues of the game against enemies. Not sure if the designers were intentional in that or not.

Can't comment on the magic since I have never been into magic users. Although I have dabbled some. It might be a balance issue, being able to fire from long range and do tons of damage is a bit of advantage, I guess.

Anyways, glad the negatives didn't ruin the whole game for you. I hate to see that happen. Thanks for sharing your opinion with us.
 
I really like that even though you love a game you can see the flaws in it. I know I can get blinded by my enjoyment sometimes. Really cool to hear your thoughts.

My experience with Demon Souls/Dark Souls/Bloodborne has all been offline and I'm usually told (75% by Duke) that I'm missing a big part of the game. This is the first time I've heard the opposite defended.
 
@Crabmaster2000: Embrace the dark side and invade some people. Wink
 
I want to love Dark Souls/Demon's Souls.  I want to.  I just can't.  The difficulty always felt like more work then it was worth to me.  Play for a couple hours, maybe be able to beat a boss, and get to the next area only to find the new enemies are almost as strong as the boss from the previous area.  It just felt like it was punishing the player for the sake of punishing without any real reward.  I don't mind a challenge but it wouldn't hurt to give players a sense of reward from time to time.  I never got that impression.  Good write up though, definitely enjoyed the read.

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