Driving by Ash Lake

When Patrick finished Dark Souls yesterday, he missed out on one part of the game: the secret, optional zone of Ash Lake. People in chat recommended it, but he just shook his head:

"Nope, not bothering with it, want to finish up this game quickly."

In doing so, he missed out on a beautiful area that epitomized the Dark Souls themes of exploration and dark beauty. Ash Lake is a well-hidden secret zone with a haunting look, almost no enemies, and a surprising NPC. Most players never see it, but that's the point: how many games would hide one of their most beautiful zones behind 2 illusory walls? That says a lot about what Dark Souls tried to accomplish.

And Patrick just passed by it.

Previously, Patrick talked about the difference between reviewers' quick playthroughs and fans' devoted understanding of their favorite games, and how reviewers can skim over aspects of the game that are vital to its popularity. Patrick skipping the secret zones of Dark Souls so he could "clear it from the queue" and begin The Banner Saga is a good example of this. Sure, he still enjoyed Dark Souls, and he'll probably write a glowing article about the game now that he's finished it, but he missed a vital part of the game that reveals just how much its developers reward exploration.

I hope he takes the time to visit Ash Lake in the future, and he goes through Dark Souls 2 at a slower pace to explore more nooks & crannies.

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Edited by TowerSixteen

Man, you know what else people don't have? A chat full of people pushing to go to the stupidly hidden secrets. You wanna talk about non-reviewers playthoughs? How many people who didn't use a FAQ do you think actually found that? I bet many more people missed Ash Lake than saw it.

Posted by ITS_A_SECRET_TO_EVERYBODY

Ahh... subtle disappointment is my favorite form of passive-aggressive criticism.

Conveniently left out here is that many more in the chat were saying don't bother. Having been to ash lake myself, I can't help but feel you're overselling it a little. But more importantly, which is it? Patrick should have savored every moment of this game like a fine wine, or he should have been crying like a baby due to HARDCORE DIFFICULTY. Oh right, it's not possible to have the REAL Dark Souls experience post-patch...

I, for one, hope he doesn't go back to it, and he misrepresents this game at every turn like the filthy casual he is. Anything that raises the hackles of the totally loopy fan base that feels they own this game, and how to play it right, just for the fact of having played it obsessively.

Posted by Random45

Man, you know what else people don't have? A chat full of people pushing to go to the stupidly hidden secrets. You wanna talk about non-reviewers playthoughs? How many people who didn't use a FAQ do you think actually found that? I bet many more people missed Ash Lake than saw it.

I completely agree with this. I missed this place on my playthrough since I wasn't using a guide at all, and apparently there are TWO Illusory walls hiding it? Seriously? How in the world is ANYONE supposed to find that without any help?

The one thing I really disliked about this game is the stupid illusory walls - it's so stupid to hide content like that without any tips to its whereabouts at all. The only time I EVER found shit like this was when there was a note left by other players. How else was I supposed to know that I could attack a tree, or roll into a wall to pass through it?

Edited by Demoskinos

Yeah, its pretty but also pointless. In a stream where he was playing for 8 hours straight and had been in front of his PC literally the entire day I wouldn't blame him for wanting to just get the game over with.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

I totally missed Ash Lake on my first playthrough, and after actually going there my second time around I think you're overselling it a bit. There's a Hydra and that stone dragon. You can enter a sort of lame covenant, and much like the Darkwraith covenant, most people found Ash Lake because they knew about it from the internet. It's behind two hidden doors in a corner of Blighttown you don't ever need to visit and you have to go through one of the more annoying areas in the game to get there. That wouldn't have made for great viewing.

Posted by Oldirtybearon

@random45 said:

@towersixteen said:

Man, you know what else people don't have? A chat full of people pushing to go to the stupidly hidden secrets. You wanna talk about non-reviewers playthoughs? How many people who didn't use a FAQ do you think actually found that? I bet many more people missed Ash Lake than saw it.

I completely agree with this. I missed this place on my playthrough since I wasn't using a guide at all, and apparently there are TWO Illusory walls hiding it? Seriously? How in the world is ANYONE supposed to find that without any help?

The one thing I really disliked about this game is the stupid illusory walls - it's so stupid to hide content like that without any tips to its whereabouts at all. The only time I EVER found shit like this was when there was a note left by other players. How else was I supposed to know that I could attack a tree, or roll into a wall to pass through it?

Dark Souls isn't a theme park. It's not a narrow, linear roller coaster with pretty lights and underpaid carnies dancing a jig at the sidelines for your amusement. They "hide content" because they're secrets. Because if you say to yourself "I wonder if they'd be sneaky enough to hide another fake wall behind the fake wall" and try it, you just might be rewarded with something (like two secret areas that are completely optional but pretty cool). Your comment makes me wonder if there'd be someone like you complaining about secret warp levels in OG Mario, or about secret passages in DOOM if those games were released today.

As for finding it on your own; it's entirely possible; how do you think people found those areas in the first place?

Regarding the topic and OP: Now I'm not in here to criticize Patrick for missing out on Ash Lake. While it's definitely a cool area there's not much to it unless you want to become a dragon. The only real reason to go there is for the pleasure of it, and most of that pleasure is derived from being a lore hound. For me, Ash Lake crystallizes just how alien and weird the land of Dark Souls is (I mean really; the entire landmass of Lordran is supported by goddamn stone archtrees? And there's an endless ocean on the floor of the world? What?), and while that's definitely cool for me, it's not going to be worth exploring or engaging if your main reason for playing these games is combat (which seemed to be Patrick's main reason for playing).

And that's the thing about Dark Souls; people come to it and play it for many different reasons. Some seek the challenge, others enjoy the "archaeology" inherent to the game (digging for lore being a wonderful pastime), and even more still play it just for exploration and experimentation. All of these are valid ways to experience the game, and it's really bumming me out that there are more and more people around here suggesting that there is only one true build to play the game "properly" and that there is one true way to "explore" the world properly. Fuck that noise.

If we're not careful (we being Dark Souls fans), we're going to turn into those elitist assholes who gush about their favourite thing, want to share that favourite thing, and then get pissy when the people we share with have different experiences from our own. I understand that it comes from well intentions (for most people anyhow; there are some people who get hard at the idea of being better at a game than someone else), but come on fellas, rein it in. Wanna act as an ambassador to Dark Souls? Preach, brother, but be careful you don't turn people off by claiming they're not doing it right or, God forbid, play the game differently than you do.

Posted by TheHT

I don't think it epitomizes anything about Dark Souls. It feels completely out of place.

It's the most gorgeous locale in the game, and a standout among all games for me. Part of the reason I like it so much is because it feels so starkly different from the sickly world of Lordran. As if I've crossed some dimensional threshold and stumbled into an isolated fragment of another world, its strange majesty providing a brief reprieve. The territorial hydra glides across the black water, preceding the endless turquoise expanse where giant ancient trees pierce the fogged ceiling, while a few eldritch crustaceans populate the white sand.

*swoons*

But not really necessary if you want to b-line it.

Posted by Random45

@oldirtybearon: Look, I'm not really in the mood for an argument, so I'll ask you a question. Do you genuinely believe that many people found this place without a guide? I'll grant you that some people have, but as someone else pointed out, this zone is so far out of the way, and so well hidden that it's probably a pretty safe assumption that very few people found it.

Did you find it without a guide?

I'm all for secrets in a game, but there has to be some hint towards its existence. If you just put in a place so well hidden that a huge majority of people are going to miss it, what's the point? It's just going to be a tourist attraction for the person's second play through.

Posted by TowerSixteen
@random45 said:

@oldirtybearon: Look, I'm not really in the mood for an argument, so I'll ask you a question. Do you genuinely believe that many people found this place without a guide? I'll grant you that some people have, but as someone else pointed out, this zone is so far out of the way, and so well hidden that it's probably a pretty safe assumption that very few people found it.

Did you find it without a guide?

I'm all for secrets in a game, but there has to be some hint towards its existence. If you just put in a place so well hidden that a huge majority of people are going to miss it, what's the point? It's just going to be a tourist attraction for the person's second play through.

Yeah, secrets are fine, but I tend to think when you cross the line to complete FAQ-bait you go too far. One item description anywhere in the game hinting at a hidden location there would have been enough. It was a double-dick move to put the end of a characters story there. Actually, even more than an item description, a hint from Sieglinde about where Siegmeyer went would have been an entirely appropriate hinting location.

Posted by Humanity

@random45 said:

@oldirtybearon: Look, I'm not really in the mood for an argument, so I'll ask you a question. Do you genuinely believe that many people found this place without a guide? I'll grant you that some people have, but as someone else pointed out, this zone is so far out of the way, and so well hidden that it's probably a pretty safe assumption that very few people found it.

Did you find it without a guide?

I'm all for secrets in a game, but there has to be some hint towards its existence. If you just put in a place so well hidden that a huge majority of people are going to miss it, what's the point? It's just going to be a tourist attraction for the person's second play through.

Oh it's really easy to find. You just run around and hit every square inch of every wall with your sword, or better yet just keep rolling into walls everywhere. Nothing speaks "majestic and immersive gameplay" like constantly rolling into walls in order to find secrets. At least for those who went there it was entirely rewarding because you can get an axe, and an item that would dupe souls before they patched it out.

It's basically as easy to find as the DLC area, you just gotta keep your eyes open and pay attention to the game, man.

Posted by crithon

OH MAN, I WAS HEADING THERE LAST NIGHT!!!! Yeah, checking out a walkthough but found it tempting to fight some mushrooms.

Posted by TheHT

@random45: I feel like people are forgetting that there's a system in the game for people to leave hints for other players. You don't need a FAQ when people are leaving messages on the ground in-game.

Posted by hippocrit

@humanity: then Jeff Green should have found ALL the secrets by now!

Posted by TowerSixteen
@theht said:

@random45: I feel like people are forgetting that there's a system in the game for people to leave hints for other players. You don't need a FAQ when people are leaving messages on the ground in-game.

A system which should be supplementary as it is unreliable. That's an excuse to give subtler hints then usual, perhaps, but not no hints at all.

Edited by Capum15

The initial entrance is easy as hell to find - giant tree root coming out of the swamp leading to a wall? Dark Souls has me hitting loads of walls just to be sure, though most of the time there are player messages near one.

But that one just leads to a chest, so unless you're smacking every chest (before I decided to stop, look and see how mimics were different from regular chests, there are pretty obvious tells if you do that, I was just smacking them) and your weapon has relatively good reach, you probably won't hit the second wall unless there's a message there for you. Luckily my weapon, can't remember what it was, hit the wall too.

The Great Hollow was...interesting. Didn't have the Lordvessel then and didn't look forward to the return trip, but Ash Lake was damn well worth it.

It's a very beautiful place, and easily my favorite area, but I can see how loads of people would miss it.

Edit: Also, thread title made me think of like, an Impala or something slowly drive by the Ash Lake Hydra with someone dumping out the window at it. That's a pretty good image.

Posted by TheHT

@theht said:

@random45: I feel like people are forgetting that there's a system in the game for people to leave hints for other players. You don't need a FAQ when people are leaving messages on the ground in-game.

A system which should be supplementary as it is unreliable. That's an excuse to give subtler hints then usual, perhaps, but not no hints at all.

It's as integral to the Souls franchise as summoning and invading, and has worked consistently for me on the PS3. Maybe it's all fucked up on the PC or 360, but when going through both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls I never felt like I needed a FAQ, as the bloodstains and messages all around me provided much more than mere subtle hints.

Seeing a message in front of a wall that says "Attack!" is hardly even a hint at all, it's just straight up telling you what to do. Traps, hidden treasure, shortcuts, geckos, hidden areas (including Ash Lake and the Painted World), all sorts of stuff have I found using messages and bloodstains throughout both games. It works wonderfully and shouldn't be sold short.

Posted by erhard

Good lord, who cares.

Posted by Rafaelfc

I never saw it myself. still loved the game.

Posted by ModernAlkemie

My biggest complaint is that the methodology for finding Ash Lake seems extremely luck based (either systematically hitting the walls or finding a note left by another user, which I have yet to see for The Great Hallow in either of my two playthroughs). I think finding secret areas like this would be a lot more rewarding and interesting if accessing them was its own puzzle. I feel like From should be pretty good at implementing this kind of puzzle given their use of environmental cues and item descriptions for storytelling purposes.

I really enjoy hidden areas and secret lore in games, but I feel like the implementation in Dark Souls could have been improved by making it into more of a puzzle for the user as opposed to simply hitting the correct wall.

/armchair game design

I also don't think Ash Lake would have been any kind of revelatory moment for Patrick in terms of enjoying the world/lore if the other areas of the game hadn't done that already.

Edited by TowerSixteen

@theht said:

@towersixteen said:
@theht said:

@random45: I feel like people are forgetting that there's a system in the game for people to leave hints for other players. You don't need a FAQ when people are leaving messages on the ground in-game.

A system which should be supplementary as it is unreliable. That's an excuse to give subtler hints then usual, perhaps, but not no hints at all.

It's as integral to the Souls franchise as summoning and invading, and has worked consistently for me on the PS3. Maybe it's all fucked up on the PC or 360, but when going through both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls I never felt like I needed a FAQ, as the bloodstains and messages all around me provided much more than mere subtle hints.

Seeing a message in front of a wall that says "Attack!" is hardly even a hint at all, it's just straight up telling you what to do. Traps, hidden treasure, shortcuts, geckos, hidden areas (including Ash Lake and the Painted World), all sorts of stuff have I found using messages and bloodstains throughout both games. It works wonderfully and shouldn't be sold short.

That's fine if you did, but my experience- and many others - was not that. That means it was by definition unreliable. The very definition of reliable would be that it consistently happened for the large majority of people, and I don't think that's accurate. When you played also affects that, and ideally a game should account for the fact that plenty of people wont be playing it with the zeitgeist. Also, I'd hardly call summoning and invading integral. Iconic, perhaps, and they should be there, but not integral. The game stands perfectly fine on its own without it, even if it does benefit from its presence.

Edited by Bicycle_Repairman

Entering Ash lake was by far the most powerful moment i had in dark souls. I think its fair to say that finding it on my own with no prior knowledge was a big part of the impact it had on me. But man... That music, that view, the singing. The combination was extremely powerful. But also combined with the unknown.

What would i find in this massive hidden sanctuary? My fantasy conjured up more fantastical scenes than there could ever be in the game. And yes, what there actually was to do in that place was kind of an disappointment. But like with the rest of darksouls it is not whats actually there that i enjoyed but the thought of what might be around every corner, or in this case every massive godlike tree.

Edited by SirPsychoSexy

I forgot that place was even optional, really cool area

Edited by ViciousAnchovy
@random45 said:

@oldirtybearon: Look, I'm not really in the mood for an argument, so I'll ask you a question. Do you genuinely believe that many people found this place without a guide? I'll grant you that some people have, but as someone else pointed out, this zone is so far out of the way, and so well hidden that it's probably a pretty safe assumption that very few people found it.

Did you find it without a guide?

I'm all for secrets in a game, but there has to be some hint towards its existence. If you just put in a place so well hidden that a huge majority of people are going to miss it, what's the point? It's just going to be a tourist attraction for the person's second play through.

Yeah, secrets are fine, but I tend to think when you cross the line to complete FAQ-bait you go too far. One item description anywhere in the game hinting at a hidden location there would have been enough. It was a double-dick move to put the end of a characters story there. Actually, even more than an item description, a hint from Sieglinde about where Siegmeyer went would have been an entirely appropriate hinting location.

I agree with this, though my opinion of where it went to far differs a little bit from yours and some others. I think what capum15 said about how the entrance was pretty spot-on. I would say the second wall was telegraphed too just because the treasure chest behind the first wall only contains twin humanities, which didn't seem to me like a suitable treasure considering its location. That said, I can't remember if there were also illusory walls in Demon's Souls, and I just happened to be familiar with them from there; or if I had just happened to get lucky by seeing a message about the illusory wall before the Fair (Spider) Lady, and I figured I should be on the lookout from then on. As for the illusory walls in the game, I felt that others had much less telegraphing their existence, such as the aforementioned one before the Fair Lady, the one before the bonfire near the bridge switch in the Catacombs, and the one leading to the Wolf Ring.

As for your point about ending the Siegmeyer/Sieglinde quest in Ash Lake without any kind of hint from an item or dialog, I agree. I didn't have the Lordvessel the first time I went there, and I had already had my fill of making the long run from bonfire to bonfire, when I was able to warp back there to get Great Magic Barrier, which I had missed the first time, I had no reason to run the rest of the distance to the first bonfire where the sidestory actually takes place. But even triggering the ending of their story requires you to fight the octopot creatures with Siegmeyer and have him survive with more than 30 percent health, something a number of people probably wouldn't do because they talked to Siegmeyer without realizing he'd jump into the pit, or they kill all of the monsters then talk to him.

@capum15 said:

The initial entrance is easy as hell to find - giant tree root coming out of the swamp leading to a wall? Dark Souls has me hitting loads of walls just to be sure, though most of the time there are player messages near one.

But that one just leads to a chest, so unless you're smacking every chest (before I decided to stop, look and see how mimics were different from regular chests, there are pretty obvious tells if you do that, I was just smacking them) and your weapon has relatively good reach, you probably won't hit the second wall unless there's a message there for you. Luckily my weapon, can't remember what it was, hit the wall too.

The Great Hollow was...interesting. Didn't have the Lordvessel then and didn't look forward to the return trip, but Ash Lake was damn well worth it.

It's a very beautiful place, and easily my favorite area, but I can see how loads of people would miss it.

Posted by fisk0

@random45 said:

@towersixteen said:

Man, you know what else people don't have? A chat full of people pushing to go to the stupidly hidden secrets. You wanna talk about non-reviewers playthoughs? How many people who didn't use a FAQ do you think actually found that? I bet many more people missed Ash Lake than saw it.

I completely agree with this. I missed this place on my playthrough since I wasn't using a guide at all, and apparently there are TWO Illusory walls hiding it? Seriously? How in the world is ANYONE supposed to find that without any help?

The one thing I really disliked about this game is the stupid illusory walls - it's so stupid to hide content like that without any tips to its whereabouts at all. The only time I EVER found shit like this was when there was a note left by other players. How else was I supposed to know that I could attack a tree, or roll into a wall to pass through it?

Dark Souls isn't a theme park. It's not a narrow, linear roller coaster with pretty lights and underpaid carnies dancing a jig at the sidelines for your amusement. They "hide content" because they're secrets. Because if you say to yourself "I wonder if they'd be sneaky enough to hide another fake wall behind the fake wall" and try it, you just might be rewarded with something (like two secret areas that are completely optional but pretty cool). Your comment makes me wonder if there'd be someone like you complaining about secret warp levels in OG Mario, or about secret passages in DOOM if those games were released today.

Doom, or perhaps even more Wolfenstein 3D came to mind for me too - both of which hid secret areas or even levels behind illusory walls - in the case of Wolfenstein 3D, there is a prime example on the very first level of a secret exit hidden behind a wall in another secret room. Quake went as far as hiding the hardest difficulty in a secret room.

I haven't seen all the secrets in Dark Souls, maybe some are more well hidden than others, but just like the aforementioned Id Software games, there seems to be clues around (disregarding messages from other players) of what may be secret walls. While most of us probably started out playing Wolfenstein 3D by hugging all the walls thinking the secrets were hidden entirely randomly, there always was something differentiating the secret walls from the others - a different texture, items placed around it that made it look suspicious, and similar things seemed to be employed in Dark Souls too.

Edited by Fredchuckdave

If Patrick wants to try bumrushing Dark Souls 2 (at launch) without tips on how to make a cheesy build then more power to him.

Posted by ViciousAnchovy
Posted by CornBREDX

It's not really necessary unless your playing the game obsessively like you or me. He is only missing out on an optional boss that you already fight somewhere else, an annoying tree with a ton of chunks from special lizards you dont actually need that much, some oysters (which you see by Seath anyway) and a Dragon for one of the covenants.

While I always go to ashlake when I play, it isnt a place you have to go by any means and he isn't missing out on anything if he is mainly along for the ride (which I already know is where Patrick is at with games like this). Just be happy Patrick is one of those dudes that likes to check out games he wouldn't normally and he gets what the appeal is.

He didn't get to see any of the NPC side stories either. Most people wont. It doesn't make a difference and you can find that stuff online (if you're really invested though you should check that stuff out on your own, though- Segmeyer of Catarina is one of the saddest stories in video games if you actually follow along with it, among several others in the game).

It's what makes the game so special. It's great if you are into finding that stuff. It's great even if you don't ever see that stuff.

Posted by TheHT

@theht said:

@towersixteen said:
@theht said:

@random45: I feel like people are forgetting that there's a system in the game for people to leave hints for other players. You don't need a FAQ when people are leaving messages on the ground in-game.

A system which should be supplementary as it is unreliable. That's an excuse to give subtler hints then usual, perhaps, but not no hints at all.

It's as integral to the Souls franchise as summoning and invading, and has worked consistently for me on the PS3. Maybe it's all fucked up on the PC or 360, but when going through both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls I never felt like I needed a FAQ, as the bloodstains and messages all around me provided much more than mere subtle hints.

Seeing a message in front of a wall that says "Attack!" is hardly even a hint at all, it's just straight up telling you what to do. Traps, hidden treasure, shortcuts, geckos, hidden areas (including Ash Lake and the Painted World), all sorts of stuff have I found using messages and bloodstains throughout both games. It works wonderfully and shouldn't be sold short.

That's fine if you did, but my experience- and many others - was not that. That means it was by definition unreliable. The very definition of reliable would be that it consistently happened for the large majority of people, and I don't think that's accurate. When you played also affects that, and ideally a game should account for the fact that plenty of people wont be playing it with the zeitgeist. Also, I'd hardly call summoning and invading integral. Iconic, perhaps, and they should be there, but not integral. The game stands perfectly fine on its own without it, even if it does benefit from its presence.

Messages can stick around for quite a long time, especially if they're rated up. Even if they disappear, as long as there are people playing online they can easily leave new messages, while simply dying leaves a bloodstain for others to view. I expect many would have similarly gotten actual use out of messages and bloodstains given that most people who have a console or PC have access to the internet. Of course there are those who might choose to not engage with the system, or others whose circumstances require that they play offline. But for most, I expect if someone playing online entered a new area and saw some messages, they'd read them; if they approached a new corner and noticed a bloodstain, they'd look at it.

The Souls games are oddly communal, and that isn't purely outside of the game. Everyone going through it is in a sense going through it together, and may choose to help or even hinder each other. It's a substantial aspect of the Souls formula.

When I think of a Souls game, I think of the fantastic combat, dangerous environments, and an interesting take on multiplayer that includes messages, bloodstains, invasions and summoning. Though the game can be played offline it doesn't make the multiplayer aspects any less integral to the Souls franchise. You can play the game without using melee weapons and it may stand perfectly fine for you without it, but that wouldn't make the melee combat somehow not integral to the franchise either. It's fine if you didn't use messages or bloodstains, but that doesn't diminish their value.

Posted by Turambar

@theht said:

@random45: I feel like people are forgetting that there's a system in the game for people to leave hints for other players. You don't need a FAQ when people are leaving messages on the ground in-game.

A system which should be supplementary as it is unreliable. That's an excuse to give subtler hints then usual, perhaps, but not no hints at all.

The subtle hint is the presence of a chest with a shitty wooden shield in it, causing any player to wonder why something so useless was hidden in a corner of blight town. They begin exploring for any secrets in the room and there ya go.

Posted by kyrieee

I think that area exists for you to discover on your own. Going there like a tourist following a map just so you can check it off the list probably isn't all that satisfying. It's pretty and I like it, but I don't go back there much. I wish it had a proper bossfight to justify the trip.

Edited by TowerSixteen

@turambar said:

@towersixteen said:
@theht said:

@random45: I feel like people are forgetting that there's a system in the game for people to leave hints for other players. You don't need a FAQ when people are leaving messages on the ground in-game.

A system which should be supplementary as it is unreliable. That's an excuse to give subtler hints then usual, perhaps, but not no hints at all.

The subtle hint is the presence of a chest with a shitty wooden shield in it, causing any player to wonder why something so useless was hidden in a corner of blight town. They begin exploring for any secrets in the room and there ya go.

A quick check of the wiki tells me that the plank shield was before the first wall. The twin humanities, while still a bit less than the other hidden walls, isn't nearly as obvious a hint that something is still up. Particularly since it's very possible, perhaps even likely without outside help, to have only found a couple of the walls at that point thanks to hints - not enough to really expect people to have an intuitive sense that "somethings up" with that loot. Especially since things like souls are often the only reward for exploration, a twin humanities isn't a reasonable hint for our theoretical first-time no-guide player.

Edit: @theht: I think it's an extreme misrepresentation of scale to compare melee combat to invading and summoning. Obviously eschewing melee combat is a huge handicap and when attempting it it is readily apparent your gimping yourself in a way the game isn't balanced for. In contrast, the game feels perfectly balanced without either invading or summoning outside of literally a single boss fight geared for co-op.

Posted by Yummylee

I remember finding Ash Lake to be absolutely terrifying. The haunting music, the huge span of open water, the giant hydra monster... it was the first time the game made me feel like the most insignificant thing. Stumbling upon it by accident only made it all the more eerier, like I wasn't supposed to be there.

It's a shame Patrick missed out on it, and I generally dislike a lot of the staff and their 'assembly line' playstyles of just trying to get through as many games as possible. It usually disallows them to truly savour games, to actually take their time with them and better understand what makes them good or bad. It's the reason why a lot of their discussions pertaining to specific video games is usually doled out in broad generalisations. Even though I don't actually watch any of the DOTA2 stuff (nor have I watched any of the recent Souls videos, I should add...), I really like that Brad is actually dedicated to a game, enough that he can speak confidently about and go into a lot of detail.

It's weird because the whole idea behind Giant Bomb was ''we play what we want'', which is true to some extent, but then they always say how they can never stick to any one game because they have to play 'all the games' or whatever. I'm admittedly taking the topic in a slightly different direction here, though, so... in short, discovering Ash Lake on my own was one of the most memorable moments for me in a video game across the past few years!

Online
Posted by jclane

We're talking about the guy who was going apeshit when he saw the forest gardeners trimming the trees. His reaction would've been interesting to see, I'll admit.

Posted by Canteu

@random45: I found it without a guide. I found everything within a month without a guide.

Posted by TowerSixteen

@canteu said:

@random45: I found it without a guide. I found everything within a month without a guide.

That's fine, but if you spent a month plumbing the game for secrets then that's a very different situation than mosts. Even if you didn't, anecdotal evidence doesn't change the fact that I doubt that's the most common guideless experience. Also, while I think the game would be better off with some kind of sane hint somewhere, I take more issue with the OP's attitude that missing it represents missing something vital and a fundamental difference between how the average person and a reviewer plays a game.

Posted by TheHT

@towersixteen: Not at all. You can totally play the game as a pure magic user. That doing so might end up working perfectly fine for some people in the world I don't believe is beyond the realm of plausibility. Otherwise I wouldn't have made the comparison, since my point was that although the game can be fine for someone without melee, that wouldn't somehow relegate the melee combat to being not integral to the franchise. It's a comparison designed to address what makes something fundamental or not to the series, and at least in this case, the game simply being perfectly fine without one aspect isn't alone enough to warrant negation.

Edited by Canteu

@towersixteen: Oh yeah it's not vital at all, unless you want to S rank. I was just pointing out that it is in fact possible, even if improbable. I intend to do the same in a couple months, although it will take me longer since I have a job this time.

Also, you can easily not use melee in Dark Souls.

Posted by JackSukeru

As someone who found the great hollow/ash lake on my own, it's totally possible to do. The initial illusiory wall cuts the room off in a really weird way that instantly looked suspicious to me, something about how the textures look around its area, it's hard to put into words.

The second wall, behind the chest, I'm actually not sure what it was that drove me to strike that one. But considering that instead of it being just a hidden room, which would have been more than enough for a chest, it was a small tunnel that twists to one side. I think it must have given me the sense that the tunnel would keep going.

I of course laughed at it. A actual "wall behind a wall" trick? Pretty sneaky, game developers.

Edited by TowerSixteen

@canteu: @theht: I would argue that not using melee at all is a feat not reasonably accomplished in any balanced way by a person coming in with no foreknowledge, using no guide, and attempting to progress at a standard, reasonable pace. Both the mechanics and particularly the means of obtaining the high-end spell/miracles/pyromancies are simply too obtuse. I'm well aware that magic only is viable in an absolute sense, I've done that run.

EDIT: Also, I think i was clear that I think summoning/invading added to the game. I wouldn't want it negated either. I just wouldn't call it integral, either. Valuable and iconic is not the same as integral.

Edited by TheManWithNoPlan

I'll just leave these here. It reasonably explains why he went through the game as quickly as he did. I just bum rushed my own second playthrough for more or less the same reason.

I understand why he chose to pass by the Ash Lake section of the game and to be fair he did the entire Dlc, which is an optional piece of content already. Also, Ash Lake is in no way vital to get a full Dark Souls experience. About the only vital thread there is if you want to finish one of the Npc's storylines. Other than that it's just a really neat hidden area with an optional boss you've already fought and a covenant. Sorry Op, but stuff like this is what give us souls fans a bad name. There's no reason to contemptuously dismiss someone's play through of the game because they didn't do everything you think they should've.

Edited by TheHT

@towersixteen said:

@canteu: @theht: I would argue that not using melee at all is a feat not reasonably accomplished in any balanced way by a person coming in with no foreknowledge, using no guide, and attempting to progress at a standard, reasonable pace. Both the mechanics and particularly the means of obtaining the high-end spell/miracles/pyromancies are simply too obtuse. I'm well aware that magic only is viable in an absolute sense, I've done that run.

EDIT: Also, I think i was clear that I think summoning/invading added to the game. I wouldn't want it negated either. I just wouldn't call it integral, either. Valuable and iconic is not the same as integral.

I don't understand why you've decided to present this argument with artibrarily attached caveats that weren't brought up prior. I also don't understand how you could ever believe you might judge the capabilities of everyone that might ever play the game, although I suppose this entire conversation is preceeded by you having already done that with regards to people being able to discover Ash Lake without a FAQ. In any case, this particular argument is irrelevant considering the context by which I made my comparison, outlined twice above.

Negation with regards to it being fundamental or not, not actual negation from the game. You've made it clear that you think it isn't fundamental, justifying that claim with the notion of the game being perfectly fine to play without engaging in that system. I challenged that justification, saying that being perfectly fine to play without using it isn't just enough, in this case, to deny that it is an integral aspect of the series. The Souls games are fundamentally the style of combat, the bleak world, and the multiplayer components.

The point of the analogy is that your experience alone isn't what determines the fundamentals of a game. Could be that this disagreement is a matter of scope. You seem to be taking your personal experience and extrapolating it to the majority, using that as a basis for what constitutes the constitution of the game. I'm looking at the product itself and its key features. I did not engage in invasions (and actively dislike it), but I still hold is as an integral part of the Souls franchise.

Posted by TruthTellah

He also didn't play New Game+ despite many hardcore fans saying that's when the "real Dark Souls" begins.

He didn't just "drive by" Ash Lake. He wanted to play the game and eventually beat it. He didn't set out to see every nook and cranny, and it's ridiculous how many fans act like you can't understand a game unless you obsessively see every part of it. Patrick didn't even know about this side area, and he only learned of it from some complaining in a chat room while he was trying to finish the game.

He played, enjoyed, and beat Dark Souls. Would it have been cool if he checked this out? Sure. But he didn't need to. This isn't a vital part of the game, and to even compare it to the issues with some reviewers skimming through a game is absurd. Besides streaming it, he had a rather normal, full Dark Souls experience, and he doesn't deserve any crap for enjoying the game like most players have enjoyed it.

Posted by AMyggen

@truthtellah: But...but he cheesed the game, maaaaaaaaan!

No but seriously, I really don't know what it is about DS that brings this out in people. Love the game to death, but some of the most vocal fanbase...

Posted by golguin

@theht said:

@towersixteen said:

@canteu: @theht: I would argue that not using melee at all is a feat not reasonably accomplished in any balanced way by a person coming in with no foreknowledge, using no guide, and attempting to progress at a standard, reasonable pace. Both the mechanics and particularly the means of obtaining the high-end spell/miracles/pyromancies are simply too obtuse. I'm well aware that magic only is viable in an absolute sense, I've done that run.

EDIT: Also, I think i was clear that I think summoning/invading added to the game. I wouldn't want it negated either. I just wouldn't call it integral, either. Valuable and iconic is not the same as integral.

I don't understand why you've decided to present this argument with artibrarily attached caveats that weren't brought up prior. I also don't understand how you could ever believe you might judge the capabilities of everyone that might ever play the game, although I suppose this entire conversation is preceeded by you having already done that with regards to people being able to discover Ash Lake without a FAQ. In any case, this particular argument is irrelevant considering the context by which I made my comparison, outlined twice above.

Negation with regards to it being fundamental or not, not actual negation from the game. You've made it clear that you think it isn't fundamental, justifying that claim with the notion of the game being perfectly fine to play without engaging in that system. I challenged that justification, saying that being perfectly fine to play without using it isn't just enough, in this case, to deny that it is an integral aspect of the series. The Souls games are fundamentally the style of combat, the bleak world, and the multiplayer components.

The point of the analogy is that your experience alone isn't what determines the fundamentals of a game. Could be that this disagreement is a matter of scope. You seem to be taking your personal experience and extrapolating it to the majority, using that as a basis for what constitutes the constitution of the game. I'm looking at the product itself and its key features. I did not engage in invasions (and actively dislike it), but I still hold is as an integral part of the Souls franchise.

I'm not sure how I personally feel about Ash Lake because I didn't discover it on my own (I learned about it when I asked if there were things I had missed or stuff I should do before I kill Gwyn), but I can add a bit to this side conversation about summons and invasions.

The developer interviews revealed that they failed in properly implementing summoning and invading. It had been their intention to make it a more integral part of the game, but most people stayed Hollow to avoid invasions and/or they wanted to save their few bits of humanity for boss fights. They tried to fix this with patches by increasing the Humanity drop rate in the hope that it would encourage more people to go human, but it didn't work out.

Dark Souls 2 will fix this system by allowing invasions even when you're Hollow. Covenants are going to play a much larger role in the PVE and PVP parts of the game because the player base in Dark Souls 1 didn't allow them to function at their full potential. Dark Souls 2 is going to make the summoning and invading system what it should have been in Dark Souls 1.

Edited by noizy

Just like Brad, Patrick sucks at games. aka. he doesn't play like I would.

Technically it can't be "vital" to the game as it's not on the critical path.

Edited by TruthTellah

@amyggen said:

@truthtellah: But...but he cheesed the game, maaaaaaaaan!

No but seriously, I really don't know what it is about DS that brings this out in people. Love the game to death, but some of the most vocal fanbase...

I would guess that it's because the game is such a challenge and a certain level of mastery is necessary in the experience; so, unlike games that are just "fun", it's kind of an experience of achievement.

And in conquering something, people often get proud of that fact and believe their mastery is important. For many, it just gives them an opportunity to help others and share in a community interest, but for others, it can be difficult to maintain that sense of pride in their accomplishment if others don't appear to recognize or listen to every word of wisdom they share.

It's like people who climb a mountain or run a marathon, and any time anyone else mentions doing something like it, they feel they understand the "right" way to do it based on their experience and can't stop chiming in about it. This can vary between being genuinely helpful to just indulging someone's pride.

Posted by Clonedzero

My first playthrough of the game without using any guides, asking advice or anything. I never found Ash Lake, I never found the painted world and i didnt know you could go back to the undead asylum.

It also took me god damn forever to find Sif. Plus when i got the lord vessel and those "gates" opened up i gota phonecall so i missed the cutscene of the gates opening. So that point of the game ended up in LOTS of aimless wandering "is this where im supposed to go?" lol.

Posted by TowerSixteen

@theht said:

@towersixteen said:

@canteu: @theht: I would argue that not using melee at all is a feat not reasonably accomplished in any balanced way by a person coming in with no foreknowledge, using no guide, and attempting to progress at a standard, reasonable pace. Both the mechanics and particularly the means of obtaining the high-end spell/miracles/pyromancies are simply too obtuse. I'm well aware that magic only is viable in an absolute sense, I've done that run.

EDIT: Also, I think i was clear that I think summoning/invading added to the game. I wouldn't want it negated either. I just wouldn't call it integral, either. Valuable and iconic is not the same as integral.

I don't understand why you've decided to present this argument with artibrarily attached caveats that weren't brought up prior. I also don't understand how you could ever believe you might judge the capabilities of everyone that might ever play the game, although I suppose this entire conversation is preceeded by you having already done that with regards to people being able to discover Ash Lake without a FAQ. In any case, this particular argument is irrelevant considering the context by which I made my comparison, outlined twice above.

Negation with regards to it being fundamental or not, not actual negation from the game. You've made it clear that you think it isn't fundamental, justifying that claim with the notion of the game being perfectly fine to play without engaging in that system. I challenged that justification, saying that being perfectly fine to play without using it isn't just enough, in this case, to deny that it is an integral aspect of the series. The Souls games are fundamentally the style of combat, the bleak world, and the multiplayer components.

The point of the analogy is that your experience alone isn't what determines the fundamentals of a game. Could be that this disagreement is a matter of scope. You seem to be taking your personal experience and extrapolating it to the majority, using that as a basis for what constitutes the constitution of the game. I'm looking at the product itself and its key features. I did not engage in invasions (and actively dislike it), but I still hold is as an integral part of the Souls franchise.

Yup, obviously you can tell I'm just taking my own experiences, which you have no knowledge of, and extrapolating unreasonably to the group. Whereas you are just looking at the "product itself", implying your taking yourself out of the equation and are making only objective observations based on the cold hard facts.

Don't talk bullshit. I don't agree with your position, but I don't assume it's because your obviously self-biased and engaging in egocentric thinking and I'd request you extend me the same courtesy.

Now. With that out of the way, it seems your main problem with the whole integral/not integral thing appears to stem from a simple differing of definitions. Niether of us did ever explicitly lay down by what criteria we believe something is "integral", but those so-called "arbitrary" caveats of mine were an attempt to make that explicit. I believe something is not integral if it can be removed and the game still functions in a manner of relatively equivalent competency to a person coming in with no foreknowledge and no guide. Hence why I say melee is integral and summoning/invading is not. The inverse is also true. I haven't nailed down exactly what definition your using, but it appears to be something along the lines of " a feature is integral if, when removed, it impacts the identity of the franchise is some notable way". Correct me if I'm wrong.

Edited by TheHT

@towersixteen said:

Yup, obviously you can tell I'm just taking my own experiences, which you have no knowledge of, and extrapolating unreasonably to the group. Whereas you are just looking at the "product itself", implying your taking yourself out of the equation and are making only objective observations based on the cold hard facts.

Don't talk bullshit. I don't agree with your position, but I don't assume it's because your obviously self-biased and engaging in egocentric thinking and I'd request you extend me the same courtesy.

Now. With that out of the way, it seems your main problem with the whole integral/not integral thing appears to stem from a simple differing of definitions. Niether of us did ever explicitly lay down by what criteria we believe something is "integral", but those so-called "arbitrary" caveats of mine were an attempt to make that explicit. I believe something is not integral if it can be removed and the game still functions in a manner of relatively equivalent competency to a person coming in with no foreknowledge and no guide. Hence why I say melee is integral and summoning/invading is not. The inverse is also true. I haven't nailed down exactly what definition your using, but it appears to be something along the lines of " a feature is integral if, when removed, it impacts the identity of the franchise is some notable way". Correct me if I'm wrong.

I was trying to get a sense of where you're coming from. Saying "how many people who didn't use a FAQ do you think actually found that? I bet many more people missed Ash Lake than saw it" and "anecdotal evidence doesn't change the fact that I doubt that's the most common guideless experience" led me to presume that you were primarily using your own experience as a basis for determining what you believe to be the most common guideless experience. I should clarify that when I said "your experience alone isn't what determines the fundamentals" I was using your experience as in one's experience, and when I said "you seem to be taking your personal experience" I was specifically referring to you. In any case, sorry if that offended you.

I appreciate the straight forward explanation of what's grounds for determining what's integral or not, even though about as much was implied from your position. I'm glad to see that mine was as well.

Now then, take for instance Mass Effect 3, ignoring the rest of the franchise. They introduced a mode that allows players to not take part in dialogue choices. The way I see it, while it's a perfectly viable way to play the game, it doesn't make dialogue choices any less integral a part of it. Despite that individual not engaging in the system, it's still very much an integral aspect of the Mass Effect 3 DNA, if you will.

However by your line of thinking, am I wrong in understanding that would not be the case? Everything else would be relatively equivalent to someone with no foreknowledge or a guide but not dialogue choices? The only remaining equivalency across all Mass Effect 3 game experiences would then be the combat gameplay. Consequently, the only thing that would really be integral to Mass Effect 3 is the third person shooting. This strikes me as an obviously unreasonable conclusion to reach.

Just boiling down games to the barest similarities between personal experiences isn't enough to determine what's integral to a particular game. Doing so can result in situations where the great majority of players use a specific system, but if a few don't and have a similar enough experience, then that system is counter-intuitively no longer integral. It's possible to play Journey offline for example, but the online interactions seem like an integral part of what makes that game what it is. You need more than minimal relatively equivalent functionality to get to the core of many games and franchises.

You've got to look at the product itself and see what the biggest hooks are. What about the game is different, what's it trying to do. When you're looking at a franchise you look at what's been built upon, what's been carried over or dismissed. From all of this you can come to understand what characteristics or features are central to a game or franchise. For Mass Effect, that includes dialogue choices; for Journey, that includes random online interactions with limited communication; and for Dark Souls, that includes the full repertoire of multiplayer elements.

Edited by TowerSixteen

@theht: So okay. By my definition, I think punishing difficulty and a danger-from-all-sides atmosphere are integral to the quality of the atmosphere. I think the invasions are a tool they use to deliver on that, but it's one of many. You could remove it, and there'd still be plenty of that there. I would not be tempted to say that that game would not be a "real" dark souls game. But lets use your definition. I concede that a significant group of people would agree, then. A souls game without demanding melee combat? Same. Mass effect without choices? Probably. (by the way, I would not argue that by my definition, only combat matters. Storytelling is important to quality. Removing choice significantly impacts that in ME, in the context of interactive choice, it's a good way to explore the universe and increase investment but remove that, and the dialogue as written is incredibly clunky for a straightforward cutscene due to writing style concessions made to the choice system. Lower quality). Journey without the online? Not familiar enough, can't comment.

Now, my issue with that definition is that I think, you need to clarify whether or not creator intent is the key factor. If a side feature becomes huge hook for the playerbase, and the reason people play, is that side feature integral? Likewise, if the creators of the game intend for something to be a big hook but it's not actually what keeps the playerbase there and it feeling distinct, is that integral? Unless your going to go strictly by creator intent, both definitions are going to be subjective based on general experience. It's inevitable. And I think fewer people where drawn to the game by the multiplayer than you think. I also remember reading, as someone above mentioned, that according to the developers most people just stayed hollow and ignored the online. The major on-liners are a small minority, but a vocal one.

Eithar way, I would concede that summoning and invading may(may) be integral by your definition. But back to the OP, I would still argue that the messaging system is not. It is not really a "Biggest hook", it's a side attraction. Though people may still like it, and removing it might cause a bit of grumbling, on the whole the change could not be reasonable be considered an argument for "this is no longer a Souls game." Doesn't help it that the system really was unnecessarily clunky in DS.

Finally, really bringing it back around- by that original sticking point, that adding more indication, even a small one squirreled away in the lore on item descriptions for the lake-I still hold fast that that would be a superior designed thing, and perfectly reasonable. And I addend that it doesn't even matter whether the messaging system is integral. Even when working as intended, it is still unreliable, and gets more unreliable depending on the zeitgiest and month-to-month popularity of the game. Integral or not, if relied on as the only hint it has the potential to hinder a bit of souls DNA much truer than it- that secrets reward exploration and attention to detail, period. So in this case, it should still be supplemental. Even something as simple as putting more obviously crappy loot behind the first wall - Twin Humanities is not crappy enough because there are literally only 2 vanishing walls before that, both in optional areas and neither containing loot so no basis for comparison - would be enough. Hell, they could even do what they did with the other vanishing wall hiding significant content- put a developer message revealed by seek guidance. Wouldn't be enough, but would still be a bit better. That would, I hold, be a better designed solution catering to a larger percent of their playerbase and compromising nothing.

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