Saturday, 4 October 2014

Dark Souls 2: For Better or Worse It's A Different Game Now

Now that the final DLC has been released for Dark Souls 2, as far as we know, I feel it's time I expressed my thoughts about this game.  Some of this will be good and some will not be so great.  The game has a lot of problems some of which have been made worse by the constant "re-balancing," nerfing of weapons, magic and armour, complete classes made almost useless, and other mind boggling changes.    

I bought the game on the day it was released and except for a couple of weeks, I've been playing it obsessively and still enjoy it to a degree.  I will be 60 years old next month and female and I consider myself a reasonably good player.  I do everything solo except for bosses as I don't have the patience to try over and over again to succeed, so I summon and then return the favour by co-oping for people who need or just want to team up to defeat a boss.  I've talked about that in a previous post.  Having said that, I've gotten better and I can solo some bosses or use the NPC's provided, as useless as most of them are.   The Ruin Sentinels don't strike fear into my heart like they used to, although at Drangleic Castle I can't be bothered with them.  It's just a grind.

 The base game is not that hard really.  The so called difficulty is not there by creative, imaginative means, but by bad enemy placement, ridiculous hitboxes, enemies hitting you through walls, sometimes overwheming numbers and one of my personal pet hates, dodgy collision on the architecture.  Why can I not fire arrows around a corner without a huge collision box on a wall stopping me from sniping from safety.  I have to be completely exposed to the enemy, or enemies plural, to do so because there's an invisible wall poking out a long way from the wall or over a ledge.

Another thing about difficulty - Currently I have one character partway through NG+ but I truly don't know if I'll bother continuing with her or my other characters, especially the way things have been nerfed to make melee classes the only really viable playstyle.  Difficulty past NG should not be about adding red phantoms everywhere, which to me look out of place and a bit silly amid the rest of the environment, but about adding more normal enemies, and/or giving the existing ones better AI and being a bit more creative. 

Many people say this game is not a good as Dark Souls 1, but I believe many of those are looking through rose coloured glasses when reminiscing about a lot of that games mechanics.  Yes, I enjoyed Dsk 1 but it was not without it's issues.  Combat in most cases involved fishing for back stabs, magic was overpowered and it also suffered from cut and paste syndrome.  Lost Izalith is a prime example of that.  In general level design was much better and it actually has Lore where DsK2 is all about heroes, places and objects forgotten in time and remembered by no-one.  

In the main the combat in Dark Souls 2 is more fluid and feels more natural to me.  However, I don't appreciate enemies with infinite stamina, instant 360 degree tracking, inflated health as in the DLC's and also many who have infinite poise.  At times controls are unresponsive (I use a 360 gamepad) and the jump attack and guard block is a "hit and miss" affair a lot of the time.  We also lost the ability to cue commands.

The number of times I've been hit by a weapon obviously out of range due to bad hitboxes, or I press a button and get a different response is beyond annoying. The lockon system is flawed so that I'll locked onto an enemy and suddenly I'm facing another, or I want to retreat and I find myself locked on against my will.  I've changed it several times in the options, but it stays the same. And they even nerfed that in a recent patch so if I'm playing a mage I have to be in melee range to cast my spells and since I put points into magic skills for a mage character I don't have a lot of physical defense and can't afford to be hit.   Isn't the point of playing a magic class to NOT be hit, but to use spells against the enemy from distance?  I detest that my mage has to invest points into levels that I don't want so I can use a bow because my spells don't travel across the map as the enemies' spells do.  Even using the binoculars has become redundant.

Then there's the recent reduction of stamina regen making melee classes unnecessarily harder, reducing the effectiveness of heavy weapons which also ties into stamina, the seeming focus on what PvP players want and ignoring the PvE aspect of the game.

Since the recent all encompassing nerfing of magic and faith classes I've been forced to respec my Cleric to a strength build and my sorcerer to a dex build with support spells.  I already have two each of those and while I enjoy them, I also like to play as a different class for variety.  That's become less and less viable. 

Clerics have support spells, but they also use defensive spells, ie Lightning Spear and Emit Force. In the case of Lightning Spear the number of casts was reduced to a 1/4 and the damage was severely reduced.  Supposedly the damage reduction was a coding bug, but has never been addressed.  Some say Lightning Spears were overpowered, that people cheese bosses with them, which is partially true, but to make a whole class pretty much redundant because of it is a backward strategy.

It's my belief that this was done to make way for rings added by the DLC's, which is poor thing to do and it's too bad for the people who don't have or want the DLC's.  This included the Lightning Clutch ring, Sorcery Clutch and most recently Fire and Dark Clutch rings which increase the damage while reducing your overall defense.  Then there are the new spells with stupidly high requirements that would be almost impossible to use in a NG game and which encourage people to go to NG+ and above to be able to use.  I've already mentioned why I probably won't be doing that.

FromSoft do not communicate with their fan base, we do not get any info re why they feel the need to continue this overall nerfing of weapons, spells and other things, yet they open the road to exploits.  Some of the new gear in the Crown of the Ivory King DLC is going to infuriate a lot of people in PvP, at least the victims of exploitable situations.  I have no interest in PvP at all but it seems to me, and a lot of other players, that they are trying to balance the game around PvP and ruining PvE in the process.  They will lose a lot of fans by continuing down this road, but I imagine nothing will change now which is a pity.

I did say there would be some good in this review, but thinking about it I'm finding it hard.  Obviously I still play the game and despite the problems I still get some enjoyment from it, but it's far from the game I paid for.  It states in the Eula that changes can be made at the developers discretion, but they are going entirely the wrong way about it.

All of these things make the smaller annoyances more glaring.   One of mine is the NPC's who repeat their starting dialogue every, single bloody time and block you entering the inventory at the end because they have to get in the last word.  The worst is the Emerald Herald who you have no choice but to speak to and then click, click, click through it after the first time.   At the end of the NG cycle there is no merchant who sells infinite Dragon Bone and Twinkling Titanite which means grinding or using Ascetics.   The problem there is limited spawns, so grinding becomes redundant. Using Ascetics is a solution but also has the side effect of being permanent so going to NG+ and further makes those areas even harder.

On to the DLC's. 
Crown of the Sunken King.  I liked the level design of this DLC and the puzzle elements they added. I could have done without the infinite poise enemies, inflated health pools, the Drakeblood Knights ridiculous,  relentless attacks and Elana summoning Velstadt which was a cheap tactic.  I didn't mind the "gank squad" as everyone calls them as it was of course meant to be a co-op area.  Sinh was a great fight.

Crown of the Iron King.  Two of the bosses were excellent, then they had to ruin it by re-using Smelter Demon and re-skinning him to be magic based with altered moves, as if that was an innovation.  This was another challenge area meant for co-op but to be honest I found it to just be annoying more than fun and challenging, so did it once and never returned.  I thought the DLC  level design was every good and I liked the concept of destroying the Ashen Idols.

One moment that gave me a particular pleasure was using a Seed of the Tree of Giants against that lance wielding asshole as watching him be destroyed from above.  Thank you to whoever it was that posted that hint on one of the forums.

Crown of the Ivory King.
I've gotten two characters partway through thus far.  The environment is beautiful and the enemies weren't all that hard, however I haven't yet gotten as far as Killing the Ivory King.  I have found all the Loyce Knights so that's next on the list.  I loved Aava, the tiger boss and actually felt bad for having to kill such a beautiful creature.  It was a nice change from humanoid bosses and it moved and behaved exactly as a big cat would, except for the magic of course.  Not at all fond of the bone wheel replacements, the stunlocking small creatures with icy spikes.  I don't know what they are called, but they are a pain.

I have not yet attempted the Frigid Outskirts, the new co-op area, but I have seen videos. The crystal horses(?) look amazing, but they constantly respawn and are very strong, you are in a constant blizzard whiteout with very low visibilty, and the run to the boss is a long one.  Not to mention there are two of them, also tigers. 

I'm sad to say I'll probably have a run through to see the area, but I certainly won't be bothering to go back again and again.   There's challenge and there's challenge.

The NPC invader who used Chameleon was genius. He caught me out the first time. In fact nearly all of the NPC invaders have been improved, however why they give some of them lances which are almost impossible to counter, I'll never know.

Anyway, I'm sure I've forgotten to mention a lot of things and this turned out to be more about the game's faults which become more glaring at every patch cycle.  I also expect that many would disagree with some of my comments, but this is my opinion and that's what matters here. 

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