Dark Souls Review: The Failure Of Game Design

Step into the world of death and monsters. Third-person action Role Playing Game (RPG) Demons Souls, debuted by publisher ATLUS and developer FromSoftware with sound game mechanics, but unfortunately lacked any real substance; there was a missing concept of a true online system, supplanting orbs for people, and finally a death experience that heightened difficulty of the gameplay to an extreme high. While difficulty is surely a subjective experience, the implementation is hardly anything but objective, which previously gave the Demons Souls creators the inconceivable notion that extreme difficulty is something more than a boorish attempt at making a game discernible in a market where most games. The sad fact is, lack of balance aside in Dark Souls, difficulty has clearly been made a tool that serves as a spectrometer for a a terribly aggravating game experience not based on actual complexity of difficulty, but rather in the Neanderthal notion that difficulty “just makes a game better.” Monsters are endless in their boring dungeon-raid assaults, certain gameplay design elements with huge bosses are flawed in the design aspects to kill them properly without backtracking for better equipment, and moreover Dark Souls lacks any strong rewarding experience other than the satisfaction of having finally completed an aggravating 15+ hours of gameplay.  Dark Souls does have solid elements in terms of visual aesthetics of enemies, traditional inventory and button mashing, but even these are hardly enough to keep it from appearing more than a button mashing disaster of massive proportions.

The open-world structure has been implemented since Demon’s Souls, beginning the storyline of humanity and essentially the denaturing change of Dark vs Light, or the concept of Humanity Gained vs Humanity Lost as thematic elements. As an Undead character, you are thrown into a decrepit asylum for the insanely undead, where the world branches out in swamps, caves of tessellated gorgeousness, and even dungeons with pit-falls and bosses underneath them.  The main point of the game itself focuses around humanity that players gain as they progress in the world where the lost souls purvey. The storyline element design itself is fairly weak, providing no real exposition to details. Players will have to search around for clues and deviate the world around them through characters, but the lack of storyline pacing is a severe problem. Players are left wondering: “Why,” but most importantly finishing “did I spend so much on this?” Regardless, for whatever reason, you are given the task of ridding the world of this Undead infestation to restore humanity.

Dark Souls sadly can be perceived as a game with too much to offer in its simplistically designed extreme difficulty, but the fact is in terms of any realistic elements both RPG and even action adventure, there is a translucent disregard for detail in gameplay design coherence and the deadly caustic combat button-mashing system which creates a flawed combat experience against bosses and enemies alike.  What you essentially are left with is a very basic game in its nature, something which hardly feels like it is deserving of the price tag labeled to it. Gameplay design is the central issue with Dark Souls. Exactly like Demons Souls, Dark Souls creates a terrible balance of difficulty with actual reward, and this makes the rest of the gameplay suffers. While the reward of “staying alive” as the developer claims is more than enough to keep you going, in reality it transposes the real problem: Dark Souls is a game with hardly any elements worthy of a play session. Despite being unpolished, Dark Souls creates this unbalanced gameplay design element and places it at the top of its offerings from the beginning, and the downhill quality of the game carries into the battles themselves.  The other notable issue with Dark Souls is the horrible control movements they feel very loose and in an the last thing players need is for the character to be all over the place when minute movements can be key to survival, which the game fails to grasp. For those who are gluttons for a game that even fails to execute punishment properly, this is an ideal game but sadly for realistically minded people, this is a gameplay factor that hardly outweighs any sense of reward having an amateur combat system where Magic use itself is limited and means to attack are just clearly obfuscated beyond delirium.  To supplement the terrible balance of difficulty and the atrocious combat system in the battle to make nothing remotely rewarding, the camera is a constant issue in not only the way it runs through dungeons, but also boss battles. The camera also needs to be readjusted on a frequent basis which is particularly frustrating when fighting some of the larger bosses and most of the screen is obscured by something. The combat itself feels all over the place and this lack of respect for a notable design system seems to lead to an obvious conclusion given that Dark Souls provides no coherence in many elements from the neanderthal notion of game difficulty, to the equally complementing and terrible system that comes from it as a result: Dark Souls accomplishes nothing and fails to do anything worth remembering either offline or even indirectly online.

Dark Souls tries to make things easier through the orb-like system of Demons Souls, where players are able to leave tips, directions, hints, tidbits, and what have you in orbs and writings across the walls with online connectivity. To call this element an achievement of community has to be enough to be a certified mental patient worthy of Akrham Asylum. Rather than providing useful documentations through the game world themselves, FromSoftware decides to have players account for their lack of concern in providing players with any direction whatsoever. This was clearly a conscious choice, but one that is just not realistic and more of a lack of attention to details, which leaves the beautiful visual world feeling cold and dead (not in an Undead, “this totally makes sense,” way).

Darks Souls is undoubtedly a sadistic representation of a game title that is more intentional in its ethos of difficulty in making it the game it is where suffering plays a thematic element throughout gameplay. This very suffering is something FromSoftware tries to implement into its difficulty, presenting an almost artistic view of a chaotic destruction of its own gameplay. The fact is that despite this notion of suffering and difficulty, the rest of the elements have their own problems for this sense of suffering to be perfect and anything other than a creative mess. Creative in the sense that there is suffering and this theme utilized in a nonexistent storyline of monsters upon monsters, but a mess in the total failure of its game design to properly be cohesive or noteworthy of anything other than the back of a cabinet collecting dust.

Collaborated by: Stuart Blair and Usman Ihtsham
I'm all about one thing: reviews that are easy to understand and make sense of.

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