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Default Dark Souls - Retrospective @ Playdar

October 9th, 2013, 02:41
Playdar has posted the second part of their retrospective about Dark Souls.

I've already touched on Dark Souls' world, Lordran, in Part 1, and how it's one of the most fascinating worlds in videogames. Part of this is how interlinked everything appears, both in a literal sense, and with regards to the deliberately vague lore surrounding it. Every part of it feels saturated in mystery, with individual stories wordlessly told through the different areas; nodded and hinted at within the architecture and artefacts, building up Lordran's tale around you. More often than not, it's all left to speculation, where the more inquisitive players are rewarded with tantalising glimpses into the true nature of the place, but are never told the history in certain terms.
More information.
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October 9th, 2013, 02:41
I enjoyed Dark Souls, however I find the quoted paragraph is a little laughable. While I find the world of Dark Souls unique, I don't believe it's one of the most fascinating worlds in video games. Why? Because you really know hardly anything about it, nor is it really told to you or explained throughout. I will say that the developers have a pretty good world design department, but Playdar seems to gush over "individual stories wordlessly told through the different areas." That sentence doesn't make a lot of sense to me and if someone wants to point out the whole "a picture is worth a thousands words," that's fine, but I'm still lost on the history of the world. I will say that I hope that some works of fiction come out of these titles. To hear more about the lore and deeper context with the involved areas besides a few cutscenes and awkward conversations would be more than welcome.
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October 9th, 2013, 09:31
Well, I am speaking for myself of course, and am a definite newbie here (~30 hours in), but I don't want or need more Lore, story or exposition for the kind of game that Dark souls is.

What they are doing is using the true and tried device (as pointed out by the paragraph above, gushing hyperbole aside) in feeding you little snippets of lore in a casual/dry/almost offhand way, creating the illusion of history and giving just enough substance to the virtual playground they created for you (And what a playground that is), by letting your imagination fill in the bits. The atmosphere and excellent and distinctive level design carries the game after that quite nicely and matches the finely tuned combat/exploration gameplay.

It is an experience pared down to its bare/visceral essentials, atmosphere (which they are making the necessary improvements to in #2 it seems, good as it already is) and action.

If you want something with more RPG and story substance even the much maligned Bethesda has something (much) more suited to your desires

P.S hey was there a Miyazaki involved in this game? must be something to that name and impressive world building
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October 9th, 2013, 09:36
I've heard several people speak highly of the Dark Souls lore.

Personally, I haven't played Dark Souls more than 10-15 hours - but I didn't detect any lore worthy of much note.

I did play a ton of Demon's Souls - and the lore was equally vague and "mystically" elusive.

While I can't be certain, I think it's down to how much your imagination works for you in games like this. Some people seem able to create sufficient "lore" just by imagining it's there - and that probably speaks to how powerful the atmosphere must be.

That said, I was tired of the bleak and sparse environments after playing Demon's Souls - so I might have overlooked the brilliance other people are referring to.
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October 9th, 2013, 09:52
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
While I can't be certain, I think it's down to how much your imagination works for you in games like this. Some people seem able to create sufficient "lore" just by imagining it's there - and that probably speaks to how powerful the atmosphere must be.
Exactly. Although not in the sense of starting to imagining thing that noone told you but getting a feeling of history and space the feeds and is fed by the atmosphere (thats probably what you meant, just expanding on it).

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
That said, I was tired of the bleak and sparse environments after playing Demon's Souls - so I might have overlooked the brilliance other people are referring to.
Bleak and (relatively) sparse sounds about right you have to go for that sort of thing naturally. Its the sort of space and impressively vertical scope that tingles my imagination along with all the intricate ways that the areas connect to each other and they fill a seemingly so small space with such a significant amount or carefully designed nooks and crannies (filled with distinct and very well designed monsters). This feels positively Gormenghast type Gothic most often than not. Huge fan

That said, I have not started to get really impressed (I was from the beginning but I fell in love around hour 15 or so I guess) until visiting 3-4 distinct areas and seen how they all tie together (How many have you seen btw). Haven't seen something like that since Jharkendar in NOTR ,another very impressively vertically designed world with an amazing set of distinct but very well woven together great areas. I'd say Dark souls is even a bit more deviously intricate although definitely much less colorful and detailed…

I'd never contest that the game is barebones after all like I was saying
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October 9th, 2013, 10:11
Well, the thing is I played it ~10 hours on PS3 (don't remember exactly) - then a few hours on PC - then a few hours on PS3 after finally deciding I prefer the console version.

So I never got very far into it. I've explored a bit of the first large area though and found a few secret areas and spoken to some NPCs. It's for sure that the vertical sensation is powerful and I can easily see why some people would be taken by it.

But apart from being non-linear - it's extremely similar to the feel and world of Demon's Souls, based on the first area, anyway. Large, dark, oppressive, bleak and sparse

I liked that as well - but I guess I'm just not that much into the bleak and sparse. To me, the games are too combat oriented and I don't like the lack of interaction.

Ok, you can smash barrels and stuff - but it doesn't have that kind of tangible feel I like, where you can pick up lots of stuff and throw it around. I tend to like "clutter" you can interact with, like you'll find in TES games and Gothics. Even if you have no use for a spoon - you can pick it up and put it down. It makes the world seem more real and tangible.

I don't like inferred or elusive storytelling much at all (much like I don't enjoy David Lynch and Terrence Malick movies) - and I like a more no-bullshit approach to delivering a tale.

I don't really care for the attribute-driven character system either. I know it's very intricate and all stats matter - it just doesn't provide enough sensation of reward. Those tiny steps towards performing better aren't very exciting to me.

I fear I've also become too tired and jaded for the exhausting trial-and-error gameplay, which is a huge part of the first many hours of these games. You have to learn monster patterns and you have to figure out what stats to invest in - and given how frustrating and repetitive it is to die and have the area reset, I just haven't found the surplus of energy to invest sufficiently again.

I got an imported Demon's Souls from Japan - back when it wasn't a very well-known game, and I got really into it for a while. But at one point, I was hit by gamer-fatigue - and I've never been able to go back and enjoy it.

I fully expected Dark Souls to revitalize my interest in this style of gaming - and I was really excited about getting it for my PS3. But I didn't last long.

I still intend to one day give it another go - but I fear I've moved beyond this kind of game.
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October 9th, 2013, 10:37
I can definitely see where you are coming from. I'll freely admit that a couple of times, the tedium of retracing my steps for the nth time through a specific area made me just alt tab and back-up/reuse my save . I've done it a precious few times though (to avoid hurting immersion) and the more I progress the less it seems necessary at all. You usually just have to explore a bit more to discover bonfires you missed or ways to overcome obstacles without dying etc. The game has a steep learning curve, though worth it imo.

If you ever decide to give it a try you may find that the visual improvements brought by the DSfix mod (SMAA, downsampling from a pretty high internal rendering resolution, AF, DOF you can adjust to your taste etc) make the PC version worth some consideration. I was able to tune the controls with the DSmfix mod to something I can definitely work with. Its far from perfect (the distance based lock goes haywire with fast mobile enemies or enemies in different z axis level and you have to disable as often as you enable it etc.) but not a problem either.

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I don't really care for the attribute-driven character system either. I know it's very intricate and all stats matter - it just doesn't provide enough sensation of reward. Those tiny steps towards performing better aren't very exciting to me.
Not a huge Fan either and they seem to be changing it a bit for #2 to a more classic approach. In #1 it seems the actual tangible difference in your char's performance comes from gear crafting, the upgrade paths you take for your weapons and the way that gear scales with certain attributes. Even a +1 or +2 upgrade to weapons and armor makes a more definite impression than several levels earned. Makes you think pretty hard on where to spend those souls

Its an entertaining system especially for someone like me that enjoys crafting in games but I agree and I am eager to see a bit more substance to leveling up too.
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October 9th, 2013, 10:45
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
I can definitely see where you are coming from. I'll freely admit that a couple of times, the tedium of retracing my steps for the nth time through a specific area made me just alt tab and back-up/reuse my save . I've done it a precious few times though (to avoid hurting immersion) and the more I progress the less it seems necessary at all. You usually just have to explore a bit more to discover bonfires you missed or ways to overcome obstacles without dying etc. The game has a steep learning curve, though worth it imo.
Hehe, well, once you go down that path.

If you ever decide to give it a try you may find that the visual improvements brought by the DSfix mod (SMAA, downsampling from a pretty high internal rendering resolution, AF, DOF you can adjust to your taste etc) make the PC version worth some consideration. I was able to tune the controls with the DSmfix mod to something I can definitely work with. Its far from perfect (the distance based lock goes haywire with fast mobile enemies or enemies in different z axis level and you have to disable as often as you enable it etc.) but not a problem either.
I've tried several iterations of that mod. I never got it working to my satisfaction, though.

It just seemed more natural to play it on my PS3 without worrying about quirks and weird control issues.

Besides, playing it on a projector with a large screen - with surround sound - is a good match for this kind of game

Not a huge Fan either and they seem to be changing it a bit for #2 to a more classic approach. In #1 it seems the actual tangible difference in your char's performance comes from gear crafting, the upgrade paths you take for your weapons and the way that gear scales with certain attributes. Even a +1 or +2 upgrade to weapons and armor makes a more definite impression than several levels earned. Makes you think pretty hard on where to spend those souls
Yup, it worked that way in Demon's Souls as well. But I found the crafting limited and predictable. I also managed to ruin it for myself by studying guides on wiki and what not - so I saw a listing of the limited arsenal available, which was a stupid thing to do.

I guess Dark Souls expands upon the crafting - but it sounds like it has that similar 1,2,3 progression which is a bit predictable.

But, anyway, I'm glad so many people are enjoying this game. It's always a good thing when people are having fun with a game that works for them.

Sometimes, there really isn't anything to be said other than some things appeal to some people for some reasons - and not to others for other reasons
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October 9th, 2013, 11:04
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Hehe, well, once you go down that path….
Nah, I can reign myself in. After you've done it a couple of times it gets even more tedious than retracing the level… I could write a script though if push comes to shove

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Besides, playing it on a projector with a large screen - with surround sound - is a good match for this kind of game
Agree on the surround at least. Although one of my complaints was that the sound field is a bit sparse (they are fixing it for #2). Definitely an area where I do not appreciate sparse Still sounds good on my Audigy 2 and semi decent 5.1 Logitechs. Nice impact on weapon/armor sounds etc…

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I guess Dark Souls expands upon the crafting - but it sounds like it has that similar 1,2,3 progression which is a bit predictable.
Spoiler – They seem to have expanded significantly on that.
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October 9th, 2013, 11:11
Spoiler – They seem to have expanded significantly on that.
Spoiler – Crafting stuff
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October 9th, 2013, 11:16
No, I think even this early on you are definitely right: this is not a Diablo like level of variety although it sounds a bit more than Demon Souls.

I personally am a Fan of "few things making a big difference" as you put it. I'd say on that scale, Dark Souls seems to be sitting somewhere in the middle between Gothic 2 and Diablo. Still guessing at this point though
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October 9th, 2013, 11:24
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
No, I think even this early on you are definitely right: this is not a Diablo like level of variety although it sounds a bit more that Demon Souls.

I personally am a Fan of "few things making a big difference" as you put it. I'd say on that scale, Dark Souls seems be sitting somewhere in the middle between Gothic 2 and Diablo. Still guessing at this point though
Well, I prefer lots of things making a difference both small and large

I don't like a lot of things not really mattering much at all - that's even worse.

But the reason I prefer "lots of things" is that I don't enjoy "getting" a system fully. I love the sense of mystery when it comes to mechanics and builds. I don't like feeling I understand what's ideal and optimal - because then the journey is almost over before it starts - if you take my meaning.

This is probably why 3.0 and 3.5 D&D remain my favorite RPG systems - because you can always come up with something completely new and exciting to try out.

The cool thing about a proper Diablo game, is that you can complete the game over and over - and yet still keep discovering entirely new kinds of loot - opening up very different builds.

I understand that Demon's Souls and Dark Souls both have the same intricate character system - and I'm sure there are tons of "builds". But when we're just talking about larger health/magic/strength/whatever pools - the builds don't seem to set themselves apart as much as a, say, Dual Wielding/Frenzy build versus a Whirlwind build - each with an entire subset of passives that can change everything up.

Maybe I'm wrong, though, and I've missed some of the finer nuances of the DS system. It just seems to me that no matter what "class" you go for, you're still doing the same things as any other class. Well, except you'll be casting more spells as one class, and fewer spells as another - but the spells remain the same.

You know?
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October 9th, 2013, 11:30
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Spoiler – Crafting stuff


Spoiler – Definitely subjective.


*Edit*
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
I personally am a Fan of "few things making a big difference" as you put it.
What he said ^
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October 9th, 2013, 11:39
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Spoiler – Definitely subjective.
I'm not really sure why we're spoilering this

In any case, Borderlands only had cool weapons - the rest of the loot was kinda boring.

But I certainly found a LOT of variety within the Borderlands weapons - and obviously BL2 takes that much further.

It wasn't just about upping damage - but about weapons that had unique properties, like elemental damage, single-shot/high ROF, scopes of various kinds, explosive damage, all kinds of effects upon reloading, and so on.

Maybe that's not a hundred thousand meaningful differences - but it's certainly more than anything in Demon's Souls.

At least to me.

As for "few things making a big difference" - I do prefer that to many things making small differences. But since I'm greedy - I prefer many things making all kinds of differences (including very small and huge ones), as I said above.

I have no idea why anyone would prefer few things to many things in that case - but to each his own.
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October 9th, 2013, 11:46
As I said, it's subjective. My example stands though. Most of the time, you were only upgrading for a small difference in Borderlands.

It boils down to whether you prefer less frequent upgrades or if you're the type of person who likes to come by them easily and often. You're obviously the latter.
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October 9th, 2013, 11:52
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
As I said, it's subjective. My example stands though. Most of the time, you were only upgrading for a small difference in Borderlands.

It boils down to whether you prefer less frquent upgrades or if you're the type of person who likes to come by them easily and often. You're obviously the latter.
I think you're wrong in that you're "constantly" swapping between nearly identical weapons. My experience is that you're swapping between weapons that are often quite different - which is part of the fun. The "constant" part is mostly in the beginning - and as soon as you find some of the unique weapons - the frequency will drop significantly. Obviously, this requires you to have played the game for a while.

I don't know why you'd conclude that I prefer easy and frequent upgrades. All I'm saying is that I like more variety - and I don't need all that variety to be super significant.

I'm fine with waiting for significant upgrades - and I'd feel saturated if I got something super sigificant every few minutes.

Again, my problem with "few things" is that games tend to be very predictable in terms of builds and mechanics if there aren't enough things to choose from.
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October 9th, 2013, 11:58
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Maybe I'm wrong, though, and I've missed some of the finer nuances of the DS system. It just seems to me that no matter what "class" you go for, you're still doing the same things as any other class. Well, except you'll be casting more spells as one class, and fewer spells as another - but the spells remain the same.

You know?
No I think it is clear one of the main design goals was indeed to have a completely open character system. So the only thing limiting you is how much you want or not want to grind and some finite resources (i.e unique souls etc.). Its entirely possible (I believe) to become a master of all Disciplines in time and that is one of the problems of always respawning/grinding designs coupled with a character system like this. In the end it comes down to the player and that can be both a good and a bad thing.

I clearly prefer designs providing you with some exclusivity throughout the character progression (not to mention actual content). I don't really hold most of the basic design decisions on the DS system to any higher regard than the early days (when I was bitching about them ) just because I am now gushing about its level design. The system is entertaining and engaging enough to me and ties very well to the combat so I am not complaining too much either now though.

That said I am not a particular fan of the Diablo approach either though. I never liked skilltrees that much and while I understand they (when made right) allow for some distinct character builds they always felt a bit contrived/gamey and limiting. I prefer complex stat and skill/proficiency/talent based systems that don't limit you on a prerequisite based path. The exclusivity of a character build I expect to come from proper game balance (don't let me grind infinitely or give me enough XP to max everything) and story/exploration based choices. In the end I appreciate letitng me do at least some degree of mixing and matching and fooling around while at some point forcing me to make a decision about where to take the build.

(Love 3.0 but I haven't really played 3.5 to appreciate the difference btw.)
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October 9th, 2013, 12:00
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I think you're wrong in that you're "constantly" swapping between nearly identical weapons. My experience is that you're swapping between weapons that are often quite different - which is part of the fun. The "constant" part is mostly in the beginning - and as soon as you find some of the unique weapons - the frequency will drop significantly. Obviously, this requires you to have played the game for a while.

I don't know why you'd conclude that I prefer easy and frequent upgrades. All I'm saying is that I like more variety - and I don't need all that variety to be super significant.

I'm fine with waiting for significant upgrades - and I'd feel saturated if I got something super sigificant every few minutes.
I played Borderlands fairly recently and all the way through to the end, and my experience was that I was upgrading every few minutes for the majority of the game.

Were there unique and powerful weapons in Borderlands? Of course there were. My point though is that the upgrade process was something that was constant and very frequent, and that's a fact.

That's not what I like in a game, but to each his own. Personally, I don't get excited by constant upgrades, and it has nothing to do with variety.

I'm not claiming that one way is better than the other. Again, it just comes down to what an individual prefers.
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October 9th, 2013, 12:06
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
No I think it is clear one of the main design goals was indeed to have a completely open character system. So the only thing limiting you is how much you want or not want to grind and some finite resources (i.e unique souls etc.). Its entirely possible to become a master of all Disciplines in time and that is one of the problems of always respawning/grinding designs couple with a character system like this. In the end it comes down to the player and that can be both a good and a bad thing.

I clearly prefer designs providing you with some exclusivity throughout the character progression (not to mention actual content). I don't really hold most of the basic design decisions on the DS system to any higher regard than the early days (when I was bitching about them ) just because I am now gushing about its level design. The system is entertaining and engaging enough to me and ties very well to the combat so I am not complaining too much either now though.

That said I am not a particular fan of the Diablo approach either though. I never liked skilltrees that much and while I understand they (when made right) allow for some distinct character builds they always felt a bit contrived/gamey and limiting. I prefer complex stat and skill/proficiency/talent based systems that don't limit you on a prerequisite based path. The exclusivity of a character build I expect to come from proper game balance (don't let me grind infinitely or give me enough XP to max everything) and story/exploration based choices. In the end I appreciate letitng me at least some degree of mixing and matching and fooling around while at some point forcing me to make a decision.

(Love 3.0 but I haven't really played 3.5 to appreciate the difference btw.)
3.0 and 3.5 are pretty much functionally identical

Well, I can't say which system I prefer for ALL games. Some games are more about presenting a realistic and immersive simulation of a world - and then things can get a bit too gamey if care is not taken to present mechanics in a plausible way.

But I consider Demon's Souls to be pretty much Diablo 1 from a different perspective. They're both hub-based action RPGs focusing on combat and loot. They're both set in very Gothic and oppressive environments and they're both about learning learning the patterns of a variety of enemy types. They both have similar waypoint and respawn systems. They both have "hidden" NPCs to discover on your path with potentially unique rewards if you complete quests. They both have similar spell systems - where all spells are available to all classes. They both have scrolls that work in a similar way. They're both extremely strict when it comes to player deaths.

While I'm sure some fans of the franchise that are not into Diablo will try to deny the significance of these similarities - but I'll eat several hats if Diablo wasn't a main source of inspiration.

I will concede that Demon's Souls is more about the skill of the player - and Diablo is more about the strategy behind the build of the character. That's really the most significant difference to me, except for Diablo having a less elusive story presentation - and obviously the impact of having a third person 3D perspective in Demon's Souls.
Last edited by DArtagnan; October 9th, 2013 at 12:25.
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October 9th, 2013, 12:12
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
I played Borderlands fairly recently and all the way through to the end, and my experience was that I was upgrading every few minutes for the majority of the game.

Were there unique and powerful weapons in Borderlands? Of course there were. My point though is that the upgrade process was something that was constant and very frequent, and that's a fact.

That's not what I like in a game, but to each his own. Personally, I don't get excited by constant upgrades, and it has nothing to do with variety.

I'm not claiming that one way is better than the other. Again, it just comes down to what an individual prefers.
Ok, we must have had very different sessions. I tend to find some weapons I really like - and I keep them for quite a while and often for hours after reaching the higher levels.

You kept upgrading every few minutes from start to finish? Wow, you must have had some serious luck! I'd often have to play for what seemed like hours before finding something that made a difference towards the end.

If my experience with Borderlands had been minimal upgrades every few minutes - and I couldn't see how different the weapons behaved, I'd probably have much the same opinion as you.

But that wasn't the Borderlands I played, so I can't agree with your conclusions.

It's all good, though.
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