Saturday, 11 October 2014

Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Ivory King and Main Game Issues

As much as I love this game it's becoming harder to defend some of the decisions made by FromSoft so here are some questions and complaints regarding the main game and the DLC's in particular The Crown of the Ivory King.

I've seen posts on forums and particularly the developers own forum, where a couple of people don't think broken poise, hordes of enemies, inflated difficulty and bad enemy placement in place of actual creativity and other real problems are fine and we should accept them as part of the game.  That's just short sighted and in my opinion quite ignorant.   I enjoy this game but it has glaring issues, especially since the recent patches.  Anyone who doesn't see that is fooling themselves.

Difficulty does not equal inflating enemy poise and health pools, having hordes of enemies swarm you, faulty hitboxes, and generally making the player weaker to simulate a "hard" game.   That's cheap, not imaginative challenge.
Onto my list of things that need to be addressed in the main game:

1.  Why is it with the plethora of items requiring Twinkling Titanite and Petrified Dragon Bone we cannot get a vendor who sells infinite supplies of both at the end of New Game.  The game was developed so that we couldn't farm ad infinitum due to spawns being limited.  This can be achieved by using Ascetics effectively ascending those areas to NG+ level and beyond depending on how many times you do it.  However, when one progresses to NG+ rotations those areas remain at their elevated levels.

So, you have a number of armour sets that require Twinkling Titanite.  Which one or two do you use all of your resources on?  I wouldn't care if the price was high and it should be, but not limited or requiring farming, which as already mentioned is discouraged.  Farming for hours is boring, so why on one hand limit it and then make it impossible to buy these resources?

There are a lot of Boss weapons, a number of which are inferior to other weapons requiring basic Titanite even when fully upgraded, so why is there no way to purchase unlimited Petrified Dragon Bone?

2.  Why, when FromSoft decides to "balance" the game and entire classes out of reasonable existence do they not ever communicate with their fan base.  I know a lot of game developers don't bother to talk to the people who actually pay for and play their product, (loyal fans by the way,) but a little goes a long way when the game is now so different than it was at release.  And not for the better in many respects. 

OK, some things needed balancing and certain exploits needed nerfing, but there's a point when it goes too far.

 It seems to me they are balancing the game around PvP, and listening more to PvP players, when a very large part of it revolves around PvE.  I have zero interest in PvP but the game was developed with both in mind therefore each have their place, so don't make one inferior to the other.  I'm not the only one who prefers PvE, helping others and getting help myself when needed, and having fun in co-op. 

Stamina regen has been noticeably reduced, but most enemies seem to have infinite stamina, not to mention poise.

Lockon is now at close melee range, if you're lucky and in good lighting.  For mages that's almost a death sentence when enemies in groups rush you.  What is the use of armour when it does virtually nothing for defense and poise?  We may as well run around in rags as many do, for mobility, but also because armour doesn't matter much except for "Fashion Souls." 

The nerfing of Lightning Spear damage, which was supposedly a mistake when reducing the number of casts, has never been fixed, or acknowledged.  However if you pay for the Crown of the Sunken King DLC you get a Lightning Clutch Ring that increases damage at the cost of physical defense. This is a theme over all three DLC's where magic of all types, except for fire, has been reduced, but you have to pay to get a ring to replace it.

To add to that casting speed has been reduced, the number of slots needed for some spells with reduced castings is ridiculous and damage in general has been lowered.  Some say magic was overpowered, maybe it was, maybe not, but isn't playing a mage class about being powerful in their chosen discipline since they can't afford to be hit?  The term "Glass Cannon" came about for a reason.

Enemy resistances have been boosted now, making a mage build even harder and in the DLC's, practically a waste of time.  My mage characters have basically been left to linger as I don't see the point in having to level stats to use a bow which is way more efficient than spells, especially in areas like the Shrine of Amana.

3.  I don't really care because it looks ridiculous, but where is the rest of the set belonging to the Flower Skirt from the Crown of the Sunken King?  If the rest of the outfit was available it may well be worth having even if only to say you have it.  I can't say I've ever seen anyone wearing the skirt either.

4. Why can't we get infinite Repair Powders from a Smith, preferably Leningrast, instead of a functionary at the castle?    Also Leningrast should sell infinite Iron arrows, perhaps if necessary after a certain point in the game. 

Since Majula is the hub for vendors why do we have to travel all over the map to get to the others, some of whom are in dangerous areas.   Straid being a case in point where he is surrounded by exploding mummies that rush you at the bonfire, and could potentially kill him as well, although I don't know if that can happen, but I suspect it's possible.

5. Enemies at bonfires.  As above with Straid, and worse at the Salt Fort bonfire on the way to the Lost Sinner where you could be killed on spawning by crossbowmen if you don't very quickly get out of the way.  I usually despawn them out of spite.  Doing things like this is poor design.

There is also the fact that some bosses have added annoying enemies which for the most part isn't too bad, until you get to the Royal Rat Authority which is a failure of a boss in itself, but to have a group of added rats that can immediately apply a fatal dose of toxin....?  I know Dark Souls 1 had a few bosses with added spawns, but it was done so you had an even chance, except maybe the Capra Demon, but that could be done without so much pain.

6. What is the point of wearing item finding gear, aka the Jester's Hat, Covetous Serpent Ring+2 etc, when drops are so far and few between.  Getting torches and herbs instead of what I'm after is annoying to say the least. This is another problem with farming and limited spawns. I don't expect rare drops every time, but once in awhile in several runs I wouldn't mind getting something useful when I'm using the gear to maximize drops.

7. Fix the hit boxes and ludicrous 360 degree tracking of enemies who spin like tops when you try to get behind them or roll away and you still get hit even though their weapon obviously was nowhere near you.

8.  Many people have complaints about the Netcode.  I haven't had those issues myself except if being summoned by someone for a boss fight who is lagging all over, or being invaded by someone who teleports all over the place, but I've seen the problems in videos.

9. Fix the weapon durability on the PC at 60fps or increase durability overall.  In the Crown of the Ivory King in particular, my weapon threatened to break so many times, and worse it happened in boss fights so that I either had to use multiple repair powders or attune the Repair Spell on a character that doesn't use magic, both of which do not repair nearly enough.

10. This should have been much higher in the list but whatever...Fix poise for heavens sake.  Being stunlocked by rapiers and daggers is stupid especially if I'm wearing high poise gear and the Ring of the Giants.  The DLC enemies, mainly the Crown of the Sunken King have so much poise it's unbelievable.  I cannot stagger the Drakeblood Knights even with two hits from an Ultra Greatsword.

11.  Soul Memory. This has been the most hated and discussed issue since the game was released so I'm not going to go into detail here. I haven't personally found this to be a problem for me, but I don't play with friends who want to co-op together which is one of the things that was supposed to be a core function of the game.  I do a lot of co-op in the Sunbros and I've never had issues finding summons or to be summoned, but that's different to two friends wearing a ring specifically to be able to play together, and can't if their soul memory is too far apart.  This was changed to a degree in one of the patches, but I don't know if it's better now or not.  Having read posts on a few different forums I suspect it's not, but maybe that's due to incompatible internet connections as much as Soul Memory.

12. Finally as far as the main game goes, my pet hate.  It may seem frivolous to some but it should not happen.   The collision boxes on architecture that prevent sniping from safety so you have to totally expose yourself to fire arrows or spells when the enemy can fire back at you.  See screenshots for exactly what I mean.  This game loves to set multiple high damage enemies on you all at once so at times it's an advantage to use a bow if you don't want to be overwhelmed.  When your arrows consistently hit invisible walls it becomes frustrating.  Not to mention playing as an archer build becomes bloody annoying.

Both of these screenshots show the arrow buried in an invisible wall and these are not the worst cases by far.

12a.  Adding to this the fact that enemies can hit you through walls which means staying away from walls when an enemy is on the other side trying to get at you if for example you need to heal.   That's something we can't do so why is the collision so bad that we are at yet another disadvantage. 

Now on to the DLC's and mainly the Crown of the Ivory King where there were a number of things that disappointed me.  I consider myself an above average player, particularly when seeing some of the Youtube Let's Players attempt this DLC, but some things just left me pun intended. 

I enjoyed both the Crown of the Sunken King and the Crown of the Iron King and there wasn't really much that bothered me except for the already mentioned enemy poise and magic resistances in COTSK.  I liked the puzzle elements in both and the level designs in general.

I also enjoyed the level design of the Crown of the Ivory King and I didn't even mind the backtracking as it opened up new areas and had a point.  I was even bright enough to realize that I needed 3 extra knights for the main boss fight before attempting it and that was very well done in my opinion.  I'd go as far as to say it was the best boss fight in the entire game.

Aava was also a refreshing change from the humanoid boss fights and I felt sad to have to kill such a magnificent creature.  The NPC summons have been upgraded nicely as well.   I only used them for that fight with success on the first try.  And they both survived.

The NPC invaders were fine overall, but Maldron version 2.0, with his inflated health, that damned lance and super human recovery times made for a long, boring and unnecessary fight.  After being tricked the first time opening the gate and having him run to hide behind a large enemy, I thought I would leave him to his own devices and not even go to him again.  However, I took particular pleasure in poisoning him, even though that wasn't easy either.  I guess since he was such a troll in the previous DLC From thought it would be funny to do it again, but in a worse way, and I didn't think it was amusing at all.

I wasn't a fan of the Ice Rats, as cute as they are (sort of.)  Being damaged just by touching them and then stun locked into infinity and losing most of my health when they roll into me is beyond annoying.  Thankfully, they have little health and arrows can kill them quickly.  I suppose they are a replacement for the Bonewheel Skeletons.

However, there are things I absolutely hate about this DLC.  OK, I farmed 15 Loyce Souls as far as getting the boots, gloves and chest piece, then discovered I had to get 35 souls to get the helmet.  Really?  In a game where farming is discouraged! It can be done by co-op, but I'm damned if I'm going to farm another 20 souls for a helmet not matter how good it is.  Besides I would never wear it as it looks silly.  The armour itself looks amazing, but unfortunately no other headpiece I have looks good with it.
And surprise, surprise it needs Twinkling Titanite as expected.  Where do we get all of this marvellous material for all of our special armours?   Oh, that's right there's no vendor that sells infinite supplies.

Then I discover I need 50 souls to speak to Alsanna and have a chance to get the Ivory King Set and her soul.   You have to be kidding!

You can shoot her with arrows for her soul without farming, but since she is one of the non evil Shards of Manus I don't see why I should kill her.  She is a tragic soul and doesn't deserve to die for her family's evil doing.

Another thing that's a little annoying about farming these souls is that I am more often summoned to help fight an invader, then get crystalled out.  This happens at both bosses, Aava and the Ivory King so actually getting to co-op a boss fight is not easy.   The Charred Loyce Knights also seem to stop spawning after a time so what is the point of it all?  I'm not going to use an Ascetic just for that.

Most of these things I can put up with or ignore, but the Frigid Outskirts is about the worst area I have ever played in any game.  I didn't mind so much that I'm in a constant blizzard with low visibilty where it clears for literally only five seconds every so often so you can briefly see where you're going.   In fact it adds a bit to exploration and finding something special.

I do mind very much the Ice Stallions with infinite poise that cannot be staggered even with an Ultra Great Sword or the Great Club fully upgraded. It doesn't matter that you roll in plenty of time to avoid attacks, but they still manage to hit you when they charge for a good chunk of health even when I hear them coming.  If that wasn't enough they start coming in pairs and even in threes in a couple of instances and even with the NPC summons, or human ones it becomes a chore.

Not only do you burn through resources at a massive rate, ie health items, repair powders, and others, but then you get to the boss, if you're lucky (?) and find two reskinned tigers that use magic and have AOE's like Aava, in a relatively small arena.  Now this wouldn't be so bad if the camera didn't screw you up, you didn't get caught under one or against a wall so you can't see what's going on, but when one is at around half health the other tiger joins the fight.  Then, he buffs himself so he takes less damage and regains health.  The buff is short lived, but is that really necessary after the trek to get there and having supposedly already killed the other, or not if you're not doing enough damage.

I realize this is a challenge area and optional, but whoever designed it has no idea of real challenge and difficulty.  There's just not enough manoevering room to fight these bosses especially when you have partners, and it just becomes a confusing mess when you can't see what's happening around you.  That's not a challenge, it's cheap and boring.

I've seen videos of people successfully fighting these bosses and most of them were doing it solo, (which is their own fault really) and raging mightily about the same things I am here.  Maybe that would be easier since I did actually get there solo after both my NPC's died, and got one tiger to half health, but I'm not patient enough, or skilled enough I suppose, to do this over and over again 50 bloody times because it's supposed to be "hard."

Despite what I said in the previous post, I am going to try NG+ with my main characters now that I've done everything I want to do, but it already feels like I'm doing them a disservice and should retire them instead of putting them, and myself through that again.

Oh, and one last thing.  After speaking to King Vendrick in his memory the crowns gain the ability to cure the curse for good.  What's the point of that after finishing the main game and the DLC's and finding that bonus doesn't carry over to NG+, or so I've read on the Wiki.  I wouldn't have expected it to, but it seems a bit useless at that point in the game.  I never killed Vendrick and now I can't see any reason to.

I know I'm wasting my time by typing all of this, FromSoft don't communicate their reasons for doing anything and none of it will be fixed, but I had to get it off my chest.

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