There are so many games that are near enough universally adored, but are they all as perfect as we like to believe, or are we just peering through overly rose tinted glasses? The goal of Brilliantly Flawed is to expose games we all know and love for what they really are: very well made and enjoyable, but by no means perfect. Watch as childhood memories are shattered and objections are shouted. This week we take a look at FromSoftware’s notoriously difficult action RPG sequel, Dark Souls.
Dark Souls is so much more than a “hard” game. Unfortunately, that is the only thing many see due to the gaming public holding it up as some example how hard a game can be. Dark Souls is so much more than that, sure the game doesn’t hold your hand and will slap you down if you run into it like an idiot, but slowly pick your way through new environments and you’ll die a bit less.
Dark Souls has one of the greatest gaming worlds of all time. A bold claim but I honestly cannot think of many more gaming locales that exude such atmosphere, which leaves the player in a perpetual state of worry. Such a thick sense of despair hangs over proceedings that it is hard to shake, save for those glorious moments where you defeat a boss that has caused a whole afternoons worth of irritancy. The lore is there though not immediately in view, the closest comparison being Metroid Prime but even then the lore is not immediately available to be scanned. No, to get any sense of what is transpiring in Lordran you must gleam information from tiny snippets of dialogue, descriptions of new items and simply exploring the various areas. Piecing the world together is nearly as engrossing as the core game is and, if you let yourself get involved, you’ll be curious as to how every part of the world is interconnected. The ability to simply peer into the horizon and catch a glimpse of an area you’ve explored or are yet to explore is a novelty that never bored, leaving me completely awestruck by the craftsmanship of this title.
This is why Dark Souls is one of my favourite games of all time. The mere act of being in its world gave me hours of joy and still causes me to think back to my time there. With the upcoming DLC, I’ll have yet another reason to delve back in and experience even more amazing moments.
Dark Souls is one of my favourite titles this gaming generation due to its capability to improve on Demon Souls in almost every sense, an achievement most of the series fans never thought possible. However, it unfortunately does not manage to keep some of the largest flaws present in the series as well as bringing a few of its own to light. One of the key flaws that I feel impacted my enjoyment of the game was its online capabilities, more specifically the PVP system. The Souls titles are renowned for their unique online sections; leaving messages to aid and inform other players on top of the capabilities to invade other worlds as either an ally or an adversary. The ideas are great but in practice I’ve never seen it really work as it should. Player v Player isn’t well balanced at all and often results in spamming overpowered weapons and spells or hiding for long periods of time. I feel this is partially attributed to the the fact that the covenant system was never properly finished. Some covenants are completely empty and others reward you with nothing more than average items for hours of work. I feel that if the covenant system were truly fleshed out and given proper integration with the online components it would improve the system massively and keep the majority of the fanbase coming back.
Dark Souls as a whole is a well crafted gem of an action RPG, but if there’s one section that leaves an incredibly hard to ignore stain on the overall experience, it’s Blight Town. For a game so notoriously difficult, it’s understandable that you’re going to die a lot. Now, that’s fine when it’s due to the player’s own actions, but when it’s technology getting in the way it really isn’t fine. Blight Town is just absolutely full of technological issues. Frame rate issues and input lag in a game like Dark Souls is just completely detrimental of the experience. When a game is based on twitch reaction and offers up both a low frame rate and input lag, it’s not fun at all. Unnecessary deaths will happen left, right and centre, which will leaves players frustrated and possibly alienated by the experience. When a player can tell why they’ve died and have a chance learn from their mistakes to avoid things happening again, Dark Souls is great. But when it’s something the player can’t control, it just defeats the enjoyment factor.
Dark Souls might have harboured a fantastic map, but with almost no fast travelling it was a bit overwhelming at points and I think a lot of players found themselves easily lost. Compared to Demon’s Souls, which had a level based system, many players wound up incessantly killed by wondering into part of the map that wasn’t supposed to be acceptable at that point, which makes one wonder, why pioneer into an open world in the first place, when Demon’s Souls managed the system so well?
I accept that the PVP system and various online systems took a real hit when moving from Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls. It was made much more difficult to play with friends, though this did feel like it was engineered to be that way, which angered many players. The covenants were hit and miss, with the Darkwraiths being fantastic fun but others, such as the Gravelords, were broken or simply completely barren leaving players feeling rather irritated by a system that had so much potential. The online still isn’t perfect but patches have helped to really balance the game but overpowered weapons/spells will always exist in a game such as this. Fixes for covenants have been rolling out since release but I agree that they should’ve been fleshed out much more as they are a truly intriguing part of the game that gave me hours of enjoyment even in their half-baked state.
Not much to really argue against here, really. Frame-rate issues did border on unacceptable in Blight Town and other hectic areas but I managed to bludgeon my way through the technical hiccups as many others did. I don’t think they should be excused at all but they don’t tarnish the experience to such a degree as to render Dark Souls unplayable but to those looking to play the game it should definitely be a consideration.
This final point is an interesting one. On one hand the level based system allows for clear navigation and ease of use, but the open-world setting did wonders for the atmosphere, with interlinking areas and fantastic settings. I really enjoyed the fact I could wander off into uncharted territory and get utterly destroyed; it felt like the experience Dark Souls wanted you to have. Feeling your way through unknown territory and picking the best route through this perilous world really sucked me in. Never has dying so much felt so enriching.
Yeah, I agree, the covenant system is an interesting concept and one that I feel could have been more widely accepted and enjoyed if it were fully fleshed out. Were it so, I can imagine the current online community for Dark Souls being much larger than it currently is. I’m yet to play since the majority of the patches have been introduced but I’ll be certain to give it a try in the hope of a more balanced PVP system.
I think the problem with that section in general is that the technological issues aren’t really an issue that’s going to make hardened veterans who braved through Demon’s Souls give up – it’s more a problem for newcomers to the series. Sure, most people would have gone through it anyway, but it still doesn’t make all that much sense that these issues made it into the vanilla product when they make themselves oh so obvious.
I agree that their is a certain charm to boundless adventures through the open worlds of Dark Souls, but I feel there was very little indication of a “safe route”. It’s true that the exploration was enjoyable a lot of the time, but I still feel that the map was often confusing for players and, at times, particularly frustrating.
While Dark Souls may have suffered from a few inconsistencies and technical hiccups, the adventure that it gave players was more than enough to make up for its shortcomings. Feeling like more of an experience than a standard game, the beautiful environments, terrifying enemies and formidable difficulty makes Dark Souls one of the most compelling and intimate titles of the past decade.
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