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Dark Souls critique

I suppose that you’ve already read my review of Dark Souls, so it goes without saying that I like the game. But contrary to what one might think, I like the game despite its difficulty, not because of it. Mmmhh, no, that’s not quite it, let me rephrase that: I like this game despite its efforts to infuriate me because I’ve side-stepped most of the infuriating stuff in one fell sweep by doing what many consider to be cheating: I used a walk-through.

Why would I do such a thing? Why would I want developers to stop holding my hand and telling me what I need to do at every step of the way and then go and play a game using a walk-through? Isn’t that a bit hypocritical of me? To put it simply, no, and here’s why: Dark Souls is a game that is full of “gotcha” moments that most of the time translate to instant death. It’s not quite DIAS, but it certainly comes close.

Let me give you some context before I delve deeper.

Dark Souls is a game where information is everything. If you know how a all the enemies in a zone behave, how the level is laid out and where the good items are placed, then you can breeze through entire sections of the game almost without taking any damage and making significant progress. A zone that might take a new player 40 minutes to traverse will translate into less than 5 for an experienced player.

I think this is a very good design choice and it is precisely why I like this game so much, because it lets you (the player) run free and explore whatever you like but punishes being careless. You can see the traps coming from a mile away if you take your time to look at the environment first. Those moments, those traps that were telegraphed are not gotcha moments, they are environmental hazards designed to make you more alert. What ARE gotcha moments are the traps/hazards that you can never see coming and can only decipher what they do once you’ve fallen into the trap. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the punishment for dying wasn’t so severe: you drop all your currencies on the floor and have only one chance to retrieve them. Most of the time this isn’t so bad because as I already said, information is everything, you’ve already been there so you know what’s going to come at you … but it is still infuriating to get killed instantly and have to replay the last 5 to 20 minutes or more.

So, to counter those gotcha moments I used a walk-through and consequently enjoyed my stay in the Dark Souls universe by knowing in advance what I must do to avoid getting killed unfairly.

By the way, the curse status may be the worst gotcha moment in the whole game, so let me spoil that for you: See that stat called “curse resistance”? That’s important for when you go to the level called Depths because there are quite a few frog-like enemies that throw a grey mist at you that will curse you if you have no curse resistance. What happens when you’re cursed? Well, you are killed f*cking instantly and when respawning at the bonfire you’ll have your health permanently halved. The only way to remove the curse immediately and get your full health bar back is by using an item called “purging stone”. If you don’t already have at least one of these, well … you’re f*cked. You’ll either have to farm the frogs until they drop a purging stone or you’ll have to get out of the depths and get to the female undead merchant were you can buy one of the stones for 6000 souls (or go all the way to the gargoyles tower without dying and purchase the same stones for 3000).

The second worst gotcha moment is probably the enemy called mimic. Yeah, if you’ve played any old-school japanese jRPG (mostly final fantasy) you know where this is going: Some of the chests in the game are not actually chests but monsters that look almost exactly like them, and when you try to open them, they attack you. Oh, sorry, did I say “attack”? I meant to say “devour you whole”. Silly me.

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