This year will see the release of Dark Souls 3 – I’d say “finally,” but deep inside I cannot shake the feelings of doubt that have locked away my anticipation for this series. I change between the status of fan and not a fan of the so-called Souls series; which includes Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II and I would add Bloodborne as well (since it has the same mechanics and basic overall design), but what stops me from being anxious for the April 12th is Dark Souls II itself.
Back when Dark Souls II was originally announced, I’d been taken aback by a direct sequel to the game I liked (probably a bit too much) and spent so long playing. But who cares? more Dark Souls right? Still in a state of excitement, I pre-ordered – which I soon realised is never a good idea.
When first reviews from the big name sites came out, I only got more anxious to get my hand on the sequel. It had been showered with praise, called equally good or even better than the first Dark Souls game. YouTubers known for their dedication to the series glorified it also and I simply could not stand to wait any longer.
Then came release day, the day I could finally my new game… but what then followed was disappointment after disappointment.
I immediately noticed that the controls that I’d grown accustomed to during my many hours of Dark Souls, which felt very tight and simply good to play had changed. Dark Souls II felt “floaty” and somewhat sluggish, not off to a great start. So the controls had be toned down, as long as everything else in the game worked out, I could still dig it. The came the game’s first areas, which I can only describe as bland and uninspired. Enemies were seemingly placed at random to increase the difficulty and not – as in previous titles, as if they also belonged there according to in-world logic.
The first boss did nothing to release me from this growing feeling of doubt as it was a boring, slow moving giant and the fact that I had a hit-box as big as St. Paul’s Cathedral certainly didn’t help. Enemies sometimes phased right through my sword as if they simply didn’t feel like being hit at all, but still I wasn’t ready to admit to myself that I had been led astray by the allure of this sequel. I still thought that even though Dark Souls was amazing, it still had some weak bosses – I continued…
My journey carried on and true to the game’s name, it only got darker. Not in any visual sense though, as the promised dark areas were so well light that I never needed a torch (not to say anything about the massive visual downgrades), but my mood was certainly darkening. More and more areas I discovered were just as boring, just as liner as the last. Textures repeated so often on bigger walls and longer stretches that it made Deadly Premonition look like a visually advanced work of art.
Bosses never amazed me in the slightest as they always followed the same principle; giant humanoid with weapon and the same moveset. If the developers really felt lazy they’d stick in a boring boss and to raise the difficulty they simply dropped some random enemies in the fight. Whoever thought that was a good idea has never grasped what Dark Souls was all about. Difficulty is a side effect of good design and never an artificial raising of the pressure on the player, but why am I even telling you all of this?
It should be obvious by now that I am not all that excited for Dark Souls 3 but since people are already losing their collective minds over it, I can do little against that. Fans wear blinkers the size of Dark Souls II’s hitboxes and will defend their favourite franchise like Sonic the Hedgehog fans defend the latest abomination to be released from Sega. I saw the network test and trailers and here is my biased and cautious opinion; Looks not good. It seems like a ‘best of’ from all the different Souls games, only not in any good sense.
Enemies are knights and zombies (again), the area was grey/brownish and with not much interesting visual input (again), the boss looked nice as he moved very erratically but his arena is uninspired and he was a boring human with oversized weapons (again), backstabs were the easiest solution to every enemy and while From Software promised to make them harder to achieve I saw a lot of videos of people simply circling until the end of time around the enemy with no repercussions (again), a preview of a bossfight later on showed random enemies in the arena to raise the difficulty (again) and the list goes on…
I do not want to rip a game apart before its release, but I do want people to be a bit more critical towards the game – and in general. Hype and unreflected pre-ordering is exactly the reason unfinished and mediocre games can and will come out. Who knows, Dark Souls 3 might be good and it might even set the series back on track – or finish it off. Nothing would make me happier than a great game (obviously) but I also see the looming shadow of curtailments due to time and other restrictions.
I’m fully aware that I am basically trying to move the Sistine Chapel by blowing against it, because everyone knows that is more likely to happen than fans taking off their officially licensed Dark Souls III blindfolds, but at least I tried.