Dark Souls is fucking shit! Here's why (part 3).
I suspected it would take this long... here we are with the conclusion to by Dark Souls article. While I feel point 4 was the real gut-punch and pretty much proves my case I want to show how these flaws permeate throughout the game, and just how bad the later parts get.
PART 5 - UNFINISHED, UNFAIR, & UNFUN
This is the last section of my deconstruction of 'Dark Souls', and despite the fact that we're only really at the half way point of the game after getting the Lordvessal following beating Ornstein & Smough (assuming we include the DLC), the rest of the game has very little worth talking about in it. The criticism are largely the same as there's still the issue with hitboxes and clipping, level designs are still needlessly obtuse at times (though not as bad as Anor Londo), and the game still doesn't really bother with any coherant story. Though it does attempt to throw some scraps of story at you they don't make sense and they carry no narrative weight at all. Despite there being at least 1/3rd of the game still to go, the quality drops off dramatically at this point, almost as if the designers just assumed you'd never get this far so why bother. It's actually in this part of the game that you fight the NPCs mentioned in the opening cutscene. Why you're fighting them exactly is never explained, but you at least go into these fights with a vague idea that these people where important to this world, it's a shame the didn't do more with it honestly.
The remaining four levels are all gimmick run and designed to be frustrating, often to the point of not making sense. It's clear these where intended to increase the difficulty but they don't actually increase the difficulty, it's not more difficult to handle these gimmicks it's just annoying. You can do these in any order so I'm going to go over them in order of annoyance. New Londo Ruins gimmick is perhaps the laziest of them all, requiring you to use specific items in order to even be able to attack and damage enemies, and you need to be wearing a specific ring to be able to fight the boss. This isn't difficulty, it's padding. Not only do you need to be wearing the Covenant Of Artorias ring, you also need to have a Great Magic Shield or the Great Magic Barrier spell otherwise you'll be destroyed by the boss way too easily. The level itself isn't anything special and while the gimmick is lazy, it's actually one of the better levels in the game and while the same criticisms exist about enemies moving through each other and clipping through walls, the fact that you're fighting ghosts here at least makes it justifiable this time. It doesn't however make it less frustrating.
Tomb Of Giants is another example of a lacking of balance as it's so dark you can't see anything, unless you're a spellcaster in which case you cast the light spell and the gimmick is basically gone. It's still dark, about as dark as Blighttown once you've got a light and the level is packed with enemies that do rushdown attacks. The final area here is filled with so many enemies that melee builds are simply boned. There's no way I can see for them to reasonably beat the enemies and recover the Large Divine Ember as you simply get overwhelmed. Gravelord Nito is the boss here and this would actually be a fairly enjoyable boss fight except it's got another bullshit moment because there's a scythe blade that comes out of the floor. You're supposed to be able to run away when you hear the scream and avoid it, but it regularly just hits you anyway, making this effectively an unavoidable attack that will kill you if you're just unlucky. Boss fights shouldn't be about luck and they seem to regularly precisely that in 'Dark Souls', a game where we're regularly told if you die it's YOUR FAULT! My god I hate the arrogant smarmy pricks that make up the Souls community.
Lost Izalith is covered in lava and has bosses from earlier in the game appear as regular enemies. It's not terrible but it's boring, as will all of the levels from this point the game loses most of it's interconnected design elements now and becomes just linear levels with very little off the main path, with you relying on the Lordvessal to teleport between them. This area is probably the one I found most aggrevating when it comes to cheap deaths. The pyromancer witch enemy has a massive area of effect attack that insta-kills you on the first frame it hits, even before you've seen the graphics for the attack. This is a prelude to the biggest piece of shit boss this game has of offer. Bed Of Chaos. The floor collapses beneath you without warning, the enemy has a large sweeping attack that from what I can see is entirely unavoidable. You have to hit a couple of weak points then fall onto a branch through one of the holes in the floor which can easily be missed even if you know exactly where the fuck it is as you're being swiped at while this happens. It's at this point the boss uses the same fire ability that the witch used earlier. This is entirely chance based, it will happen randomly, and if it does, you just fucking die. There's no avoiding it, there's no way around it, there's no way to predict it, there's no way to prevent it. If it happens you're just fucking dead, do the boss again dipshit! Have I mentioned, fuck this cheap piece of shit game? Clearly I've not said it enough.
Dukes Archive is the worst of the four and my god, how anyone can defend this is beyond me. You'll enter this area and find the fog door way faster than you expect. Remember in the first part, where I mentioned Seath The Scaleless, well that's this boss. You enter this boss room and you are killed outright without any chance to fight back. This is a "supposed to die" moment and it actively breaks the games internal consistency in two. Once you die to Seath, you respawn at a completely new bonfire you've never been to, if you attempt to use an item to teleport out, it won't let you leave. It looks as if you've been captured and put in a prison cell yet none of your equipment is gone. How do you get out? By attacking the guard, guarding your cell THROUGH THE BARS, despite no weapon attack you've done up until this point passing through anything. This guard has only 1 hit point and dies instantly, dropping your cell key, making this entire moment so forced and contrived that I wonder why they fucking bothered. Naturally, this is extremely late in the game so, while this respawning change was convoluted and contrived, you will probably presume that the games core mechanics haven't changed. So you're going to make your way back to the boss room, get the souls and humanity you lost from your bloodstain, and try the fight again, right? No, those souls are fucking gone, you're never getting them back. If you head back towards this boss room, you will be insta-killed again. Despite this boss room acting like any other boss room, and the boss showing a health bar, you can't actually injure the boss at all. Any bloodstain in this room is LOST! Instead you're supposed to make it through the tower in Dukes Archive and make your way through Crystal Caverns which has this area's gimmick, invisible floors. This which makes the entire level a nightmare to navigate until you realise there's almost no enemies here and the floors are almost entirely straight fucking lines. It's not a challenge, it's just an exercise in frustration and anyone with even a basic amount of self-respect will just look it up online and follow a guide because fumbling around this area is nothing more than a waste of everyone's time. Some of the platforms here are at an angle as well, which makes you slip as if you're walking on a piece of terrain you're not supposed to. It makes it feel to the player as if they're going out of bounds, and the shitty textures and invisible floors don't help. This entire level is an unfinished joke and rivals Anor Londo for which is more convoluted.
The last area of the game is fine, and the fight with Gwyn, Lord Of Cinder is equally fine, though his sword does clip through the rocks in this arena like they're not there while yours will bounce off; like every other enemy in the game. So it's not without it's flaws. The ending asks you if you want to light a fire or snuff it out. It doesn't really matter, any attempt to turn this mess of lore into a story now just falls flat. I'm told the DLC is far better and redeems the game, but I was also told this was a near perfect game where the combat is always fair and any time you die it's YOUR FAULT! so the people who claim the DLC is good are probably speaking out of their arse. I can't be bothered to find out, this games already had enough of my damn time, it's not having any more of it. Needless to say, the latter half of 'Dark Souls' is even more bullshit than the first, it's boring, tedious, unfair, unfinished, and not even remotely fun. The only reason I even played it is so I can shut up all the fanboys, so I could write this article, and to be able to say "Yes, I've beaten the fucking game and it's still shit".
So. That's 'Dark Souls' done and I'm honestly glad for the experience because it's made me appreciate good games so much more. This game isn't just a game I dislike, it's not just "not to my tastes", it's an objectively terrible piece of shit and I hope that I've finally convinced people of that fact now. People will surely dispute what I'm saying and those people are idiots and fanboys, what more can be said honestly? This is an third person real time action RPG with hack 'n slash combat, it's exactly the kind of game I should love. I enjoy loads of similar games. I like fantasy RPGs, I enjoy games with loot systems and variable builds, I like spectacle fighters, musou games, and the more punishing combat in games like 'Ninja Gaiden' or 'Nioh'. There's nothing about this games genre or intended audience that would exclude me.
It's obvious what the developers wanted to achieve, they just didn't succeed at pulling it off. The thing is, there was genuinely no excuse for any of this because this developer knows how to make decent games. FromSoftware creates some pretty good games. I enjoyed 'Enchanted Arms' back in the day, it was a little on the easy side but JRPGs aren't know for their challenge, and the story was rather generic, but it was enough to frame the game. Hardly a stand out game, but decent enough. After that there's 'Ninja Blade' another Xbox 360 game that some people describe as a "poor mans Ninja Gaiden mixed with God Of War" and that's a fair description. Again, I quite enjoyed this game back in the day, it wasn't a standout game but it was pretty good for what it was. Then there was 'Armored Core'. I absolutely adore 'Armored Core 4', it's one of my favourite games on the Xbox 360 and one of the main reasons I still own the system. It's a deep and tactical combat game with loads of customisability behind it. It reminded me of the PS2 game, 'Navel Ops: Warship Gunner' which was an old favourite at the time. Frankly after playing this I was really looking forward to what FromSoftware would make next. There next big franchise, 'Demon's Souls' was a great take on the western RPG. It has punishing combat with systems similar to the targetting systems from the 3D Zelda games, and a generic but serviceable medieval fantasy world as a backdrop. I played it, I enjoyed it. It wasn't quite on par with the 'Armored Core' series in quality but it was a decent game... what went wrong?
Well 'Demon's Souls' is actually a pretty good game. It plays almost exactly like 'Dark Souls' and yet it's not frustrating. I can recall no major bullshit moments from 'Demon's Souls', while there is some clipping as weapons don't colide with walls, your weapons don't either so it's fair, and I don't remember a single time when I was killed through a wall. I don't recall any instant-death fire moves. Yes there is poison in Valley Of Defilement but it's nowhere near as crippling as Toxic in 'Dark Souls', (which still has poison), and it can be dealt with if you prepare for it. There's no point in 'Demon's Souls' where you need to climb on the world geometry in ways that make it feel like you're going out of bounds, nor do you ever fight on rafters too small to walk on, or have to navigate rooms with invisible fucking floors. Sure, magic is still overpowered in 'Demon's Souls' but every class can get access to magic, and enchanted weapons are also very powerful, so it feels far more like a play-style option rather than the developer fucking over the majority of the builds in the game. I think 'Demon's Souls' is a perfectly reasonable mid-range game. It's not on par with AAA games of the time, but it's a decent mid-range experience I was glad to have had. 'Dark Souls' feels like a ROM-Hack of 'Demon's Souls', and frankly I wonder why people claim to enjoy it as much as they do, I can only conclude that they're idiots.
Playing 'Dark Souls' made me wonder if I hated the "soulsborne" formulae. No, I don't. I thought 'Demon's Souls' was fine. I quite enjoyed 'The Surge' which does basically the same thing with a sci-fi theme. I really quite like 'Immortal: Unchained', which many people describe as "Dark Souls with guns" and that's not far off. The thing is, imagine playing Dark Souls as a sorcerer only they've now actually built the game around you having ranged attacks. It's legitimately better in every single way. I genuinely think 'Nioh' is one of the best action games on the PS4, with so much depth with the various stances and weapons, and find it's comparisons to 'Dark Souls' and it being labelled a "soulslike" frankly insulting. It turns out that it really is just 'Dark Souls' and 'Bloodborne' that I have a problem with. I've not currently played the sequels to 'Dark Souls' nor it's DLC, and I've not yet played 'Sekiro' either so I've no idea if they're any good and honestly I've no intention of finding out. It seems to me that FromSoftware just didn't build on what they learned from 'Demon's Souls', they instead cut corners and leaned into the "this game is hard" reputation, and then added more spectacle without considering how it would effect the game. The first game was hard sure, but it felt fair; every subsequent souls game has been unfairly cheap in the guise of hard and in the process they forgot how to make a decent game.
Cosidering how many game are out there, it genuinely pisses me off that 'Dark Souls' is the one that people peg as a "great game" and that it's the game that spurs so much discussion, so much inspiration, and is actually effecting change in the games industry. It's an objectively bad game, provably so. Worse than it's own predecessor and not deserving of any praise. And it's precisely because of all of this that it's a game every gamer should play. I consider this a prerequisite to discussing video games on a higher level. "What do you make of Dark Souls?". If all they do is sing it's praise, their opinion is irrelevant to me, they're clearly incapable of judging games and may as well be illiterate. But if they can articulate what's wrong with this game, that's when I know we're on the same page.