Thought of the Day: Gaming, 27 Dec 12

Issues that annoy me in Dark Souls:

I mentioned last time how this game reminded me of a very old school RPG experience, what with its lack of in-game reloads. Here's another one: There is no pause button. Think I'm kidding? I'm not. Due to this game's "you're always online playing a mostly single player game" nature, you can't pause it. If you get a phone call or have to run to an elementary school to stop a shooting, you're only option is to quit the game. And keep an eye on your controller's batteries. If they go out, you're screwed.

More old school "fun" in Dark Souls: Nothing is obvious in this game. How do you cast spells? You buy a spell, select it, and press the "cast" button, right? No, dear reader, not at all. You cast spells by following these steps:

  1. Buy the spell.
  2. Buy a talisman.
  3. Go to a bonfire (rest area) and "attune" the spell.
  4. Assign the talisman to either your left or right hand.
  5. Select the talisman (instead of your sword, shield, or whatever).
  6. Press RB or LB to use the talisman in your right or left hand, respectively.

Real obvious, right? Right, but making this better: None of this is in the manual. Let me repeat that: None of this is in the manual. What does the manual say instead? Nothing. Magic is not mentioned anywhere in the manual. When I said the other day that Dark Souls was a Wikia game, boy howdy was I correct. Other than possessing that nice new videogame smell, the manual is completely useless.

The voice acting in this game is terrible, laughably bad. Reader, we could get together, write better dialogue, and record better voice samples than From Software did for this game. As you know if you read my publication here, the other game I'm playing currently is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Deus Ex has BioWare-level voice acting, so the effect of moving from that kind of quality to Dark Souls is quite jarring.

Not only is the voice acting bad, but the script is poorly written. A guy just said to me "I can share some spells with you if you'd like...unless you find magic unsavory that is." The game prompts "How do you respond?" with the options "Yes or No." Okay...am I answering to "Can I share some spells?" or "Do you find magic unsavory?" The two previous times this has come up, I picked "Yes" to get what the NPC had to offer. "Yes" is a positive response, so I just assumed that was the right choice. But no, of course not. In this case, I was actually saying "Yes, I find magic unsavory." WTF?? Again, this is the sort of ambiguity I've not seen in any RPG developed in the last 15 years.

My final complaint is the lack of story. Again, back to this being an old school RPG, the "story" here is the minimum you can have in a game and it even be called a story: The protagonist has an end goal that he wants to achieve that in some way relates to the human condition. Your character experiences no development, at least not that I've seen 50 hours into the game. NPCs are few and far between, and as I've already mentioned, are incredibly shallow. There are next to no meaningful choices to be made that affect yourself or the people around you. The few choices that are present are not obvious. Let me say it again: Nothing in this game is obvious. There are a couple people who you can help and then gain assistance from later, but it's extremely easy to miss these opportunities. There is no quest log in this game. There is no automap. There are no hints in any form as to where NPCs are located. I've already found by reading a Wiki that I could have rescued a knight earlier in the game who would help me later on. I didn't even see him. As if the lack of hints weren't enough, half the NPCs aren't even in plain sight; they're literally in areas you would think of as "secret." Finally, there are factions in this game, but again, nothing is obvious. I joined my first one by accident, and from what I can tell, it has absolutely no effect on anything. Since then I've joined two others. There are no questlines associated with these factions. At best, they open up a new merchant.

Ultimately though, this lack of story is the least of my complaints. Story is not what this game is about. This game is about the gameplay and the RPG elements (e.g., the grind). Frankly, I'd rather a game just ignore the story than make a hackneyed one like in Wolfenstein and waste my time. The game certainly could use some more direction however. After all this complaining, tune in next time, and I'll tell you what I actually like about Dark Souls.

Post Script: There are some stability issues with this game. Dark Souls has crashed twice on me in about 50 hours. Admittedly, that's not much, but considering I've recently played three games from start to finish without a single crash, I think it's worth mentioning.

1 Comments
1 Comments
Posted by Palantas

Issues that annoy me in Dark Souls:

I mentioned last time how this game reminded me of a very old school RPG experience, what with its lack of in-game reloads. Here's another one: There is no pause button. Think I'm kidding? I'm not. Due to this game's "you're always online playing a mostly single player game" nature, you can't pause it. If you get a phone call or have to run to an elementary school to stop a shooting, you're only option is to quit the game. And keep an eye on your controller's batteries. If they go out, you're screwed.

More old school "fun" in Dark Souls: Nothing is obvious in this game. How do you cast spells? You buy a spell, select it, and press the "cast" button, right? No, dear reader, not at all. You cast spells by following these steps:

  1. Buy the spell.
  2. Buy a talisman.
  3. Go to a bonfire (rest area) and "attune" the spell.
  4. Assign the talisman to either your left or right hand.
  5. Select the talisman (instead of your sword, shield, or whatever).
  6. Press RB or LB to use the talisman in your right or left hand, respectively.

Real obvious, right? Right, but making this better: None of this is in the manual. Let me repeat that: None of this is in the manual. What does the manual say instead? Nothing. Magic is not mentioned anywhere in the manual. When I said the other day that Dark Souls was a Wikia game, boy howdy was I correct. Other than possessing that nice new videogame smell, the manual is completely useless.

The voice acting in this game is terrible, laughably bad. Reader, we could get together, write better dialogue, and record better voice samples than From Software did for this game. As you know if you read my publication here, the other game I'm playing currently is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Deus Ex has BioWare-level voice acting, so the effect of moving from that kind of quality to Dark Souls is quite jarring.

Not only is the voice acting bad, but the script is poorly written. A guy just said to me "I can share some spells with you if you'd like...unless you find magic unsavory that is." The game prompts "How do you respond?" with the options "Yes or No." Okay...am I answering to "Can I share some spells?" or "Do you find magic unsavory?" The two previous times this has come up, I picked "Yes" to get what the NPC had to offer. "Yes" is a positive response, so I just assumed that was the right choice. But no, of course not. In this case, I was actually saying "Yes, I find magic unsavory." WTF?? Again, this is the sort of ambiguity I've not seen in any RPG developed in the last 15 years.

My final complaint is the lack of story. Again, back to this being an old school RPG, the "story" here is the minimum you can have in a game and it even be called a story: The protagonist has an end goal that he wants to achieve that in some way relates to the human condition. Your character experiences no development, at least not that I've seen 50 hours into the game. NPCs are few and far between, and as I've already mentioned, are incredibly shallow. There are next to no meaningful choices to be made that affect yourself or the people around you. The few choices that are present are not obvious. Let me say it again: Nothing in this game is obvious. There are a couple people who you can help and then gain assistance from later, but it's extremely easy to miss these opportunities. There is no quest log in this game. There is no automap. There are no hints in any form as to where NPCs are located. I've already found by reading a Wiki that I could have rescued a knight earlier in the game who would help me later on. I didn't even see him. As if the lack of hints weren't enough, half the NPCs aren't even in plain sight; they're literally in areas you would think of as "secret." Finally, there are factions in this game, but again, nothing is obvious. I joined my first one by accident, and from what I can tell, it has absolutely no effect on anything. Since then I've joined two others. There are no questlines associated with these factions. At best, they open up a new merchant.

Ultimately though, this lack of story is the least of my complaints. Story is not what this game is about. This game is about the gameplay and the RPG elements (e.g., the grind). Frankly, I'd rather a game just ignore the story than make a hackneyed one like in Wolfenstein and waste my time. The game certainly could use some more direction however. After all this complaining, tune in next time, and I'll tell you what I actually like about Dark Souls.

Post Script: There are some stability issues with this game. Dark Souls has crashed twice on me in about 50 hours. Admittedly, that's not much, but considering I've recently played three games from start to finish without a single crash, I think it's worth mentioning.