HBomberguy Defending Dark Souls 2

What do you think of this defense of Dark Souls 2?

I was LITERALLY scripting a video like this, even with a similar title.

Okay, from the get-go, he correctly identifies that there’s a certain level of damage/health where games are most fun. I actually think this is generally correct, with a bit of leeway. The thing he overlooks is, he claims that the souls games are perfectly tuned, which is why they don’t have additional difficulty modes that slide these values up and down like FPS games do. The trouble is, the Souls games actually do have that. They have multiple forms of it actually, in the form of levels, Souls/Body Form and Hollowing, Estus Upgrades, NG+ cycles, and World Tendencies/Intensities. There’s things mucking with your current amount of health and damage all the time in Souls games. They just generally do a good job staying relatively close to the sweet spot, but if you choose to break it, that’s very easy to do.

Also worth mentioning is that he’s correct that it’s very easy to make something hard. The trouble is a lot of the fluff he says afterwards about making a game challenging while remaining fun, requiring a dense interplay of mechanics. A lot of that is just fluff. It’s not about walking a tightrope between making a player feel challenged, and overly punished. It’s about walking the tightrope between allowing any solution to work, skillful solutions to work, and 1 solution to work. This is depth. You want to engage the player in a decision-making process. Making everything have extremely high damage and health means making it so realistically, you’re gonna kite every enemy 1 by 1. Making enemies have low health and low damage means you can ignore their attack patterns, tank hits, and win.

The souls games aren’t just difficult because they have high damage relative to other games. They’re difficult because they use enemy positioning and movesets tactically to make it difficult to avoid getting hit. Making it so enemies have a decent amount of health does also affect the tactics you can take during a battle a little too, you can’t swing first, expecting the enemy to die before they can hit you, meaning you need to stay safe as you attack, performing efficiently versus them over a period of time.

There’s a certain sweet spot for damage here, because enemies will get stale if you need to fight them for too long. If they have infinity health, then you’ll eventually just set them up in a scenario where you can repeat the same few attacks to win with little risk. Enemy health should be proportional to the complexity of the enemy and encounter in order to pace the encounter correctly so it doesn’t lead to repetitive degenerate tactics.

And even though there’s a sweet spot, it’s fairly flexible. You can boost health/damage for enemies and it will genuinely make the game harder. These things do affect the tactics of players to an extent, and a flat damage/health buff may be boring, but it’s still an effective way to increase difficulty, as long as it’s tuned correctly. See DaS1 NG+.

So he’s all, “There’s no way to make the game easier without altering what makes the games fun.” Except there is in the form of levelups, armor, weapons, upgrades, and estus upgrades. There’s even Summons which completely ruin the difficulty curve because enemies are just not intelligent enough to handle multiple players.

I think he’s really overstating how much the various healing systems influence the game. Like, him saying the guy who decides how you get health back is more responsible for the game than the guys who design the levels, that makes me like, physically sick.

It’s funny that he says Demon’s Souls healing is slow, considering it was maligned for being so fast and easy in the circles I traveled. It has an animation, just a short animation. I had that same problem with bloodborne, healing was very low risk.

>humanity
>rare
lol.

I wish he outright framed your health as what’s displayed onscreen, plus all of your healing items combined. What having an animation for healing does is, it makes healing mid-combat a risk. It makes it so in a combat encounter, you effectively only have so much health, and if you’re close to death, you can take this risk to get some of it back. Having a limited amount of total healing as with the estus then adds the strategic component of conserving your total health pool over time.

The fluff he says about how it feels bad to get killed while healing, and how it feels bad to know you’re fucked since you have no heals left over, that’s a load of bullshit. Estus and Lifegems present a variable risk and reward. Estus heals for more life faster, but you have a limited quantity of it now, but you’ll get that back when you die, but you’re rooted in place for a long time. While life gems are practically unlimited, but can eventually run out, but let you move while using them and are fast, but heal at a slow rate. I think it was a wholly negative idea to have lifegems or any infinite healing resource. They’re well implemented relative to what they are, but I don’t think an unlimited healing resource like that should have existed in a souls game at all. Having heals be limited over the course of exploring an area or fighting a boss means you need to be efficient about when to use your healing items, about taking enough damage before using them that you’ll not be wasting potential health regains, about avoiding damage on an ongoing basis across the course of exploring a level instead of only worrying about surviving each individual encounter. The Life Gems are implemented so they have a fair and reasonable tradeoff with Estus in Dark Souls 2, there’s times when you want to use one or the other, even during combat, but no healing item should be effectively unlimited in almost any type of game.

If we had a flask system similar to DaS3 where you choose a ratio of Flasks/Gems, that might be cool, because they’re well designed tradeoffs between front-loaded and back-loaded risks/rewards, just no unlimited health.

I find it weird and schizophrenic that he praises the Bloodborne system of blood vials immediately after saying DaS2 does it best because it allows infinite healing on the go. You need to grind for vials when you run out, it’s a pain. It’s like the most limited souls system for healing in that regard.

Also screw him for saying it’s more enjoyable to be able to heal quickly. Screw him for saying dying while healing is never fun or interesting. What the actual hell? This is literally just him being a scrub. Get good at finding safe times to heal.

I’d rank the healing systems like this:
DaS3 (Slow limited healing, no exceptions)
DaS (Slow Limited Healing, w/ infinite Humanity)
DaS2 (Slow limited healing + medium speed limited healing that needs to be grinded to be restored)
BloodBorne (Fast limited healing that needs to be grinded to be restored)
Demon’s Souls (Fast unlimited healing that needs to be grinded to be restored)

Like, he has no reasoning or justification behind this, he literally just hates getting hit when he’s trying to heal. If you’re going to make healing fast then you might as well let people do it in the menu, or display like 7 healthbars onscreen, or go with MGR’s nanopaste.

I think the glut of humanoid enemy types is kind of disappointing from a presentation standpoint, but I don’t care much about it. It’s solid and unique content, even if it’s a bit tiresome in terms of theming. I don’t think he says much that is interesting or noteworthy in this section, it’s mostly just his preference. Though I do like fights with bosses that are of similar size, are very mobile, and very aggressive, with a good attack variety, which tends to be fights like Penetrator, False King Allant, Gwyn, Artorias, Ornstein and Smough, and so on.

I think most people were disappointed about the presentational aspects there and didn’t really care that it was new enemies with unique movesets placed in interesting ways across the level, which is all I cared about. It was solid content, even if it was uninspired, which is fine by me.

I agree that MM’s video was a huge contributor to the zeitgeist of hatred towards dark souls 2. It was incompetently put together, it made poor arguments, and is absolutely MM’s worst video which managed to lower the level of thinking across the whole discourse, with issues that have effects even now, like the multiple enemies thing.

If this video is doing anything right, it’s calling MM out on his bullshit. I completely agree with everything he says here, except I’d also have elaborated as to why multi-enemy combat creates complex combat scenarios, I’d point out strategies for dealing with multiple enemies, and linked my dragon rider fight:

You’re given so much leeway in this fight versus the arrows, it’s absurd. They’re the only arrows in the game that don’t guess your future position, and you have an audio cue too.

Actually, regarding enemy tracking of the player, I was replaying Dark Souls 2 recently, and I was struck by how little enemies actually track you. It’s less than they track you in Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne, just the tracking is less noticeable because DaS3 and BB are the first games in the franchise to implement animation blending for a lot of movements, making monsters turn more smoothly with motions that look more like actual footsteps. Like, enemies in DaS2 track you more than in DaS1, but you can still mostly circle strafe them, and they can’t change the direction of their attacks very much while they’re attacking, letting you get behind them.

But yeah, it was a good change for the series because it made circle strafing harder, which was previously a degenerate tactic. I agree with Hbomberguy on this one.

I think the interconnectedness of Dark Souls 1 was great, I think the limited warp bonfire placement of Dark Souls 1 was great (except the daughter of chaos bonfire), and I think having every single bonfire be warpable was a terrible idea. I like backtracking. I’ll acknowledge his complaints about taking on an area from 2 directions, but I think having every single checkpoint be warpable was a terrible decision for the rest of the series. I think Dark Souls 1 has one of the best non-linear structures of any game, and it’s a damn shame it didn’t return, because without that type of structure, you might as well have every level be an entity unto itself, like Nioh did.

I don’t think Dark Souls 2 having a world that folds on itself is a bad thing, it’s just kind of silly in hindsight. Again, it does no worse than what Nioh or Demon’s Souls do by simply having you warp to a new area.

I don’t really give a fuck about the presentation of Dark Souls 2 which he praises, or the cohesiveness other people complain about here. I’d personally prefer an interconnected non-linear world like dark souls 1 because it was a more interesting structure to run around in. I don’t really care if it makes physical sense or not.

Dark Souls 1 let you fight like, 12-16 different bosses from the instant you stepped out of the asylum. Sure, you had objectives that needed to be completed in a certain order, but you had a massive number of different paths you could take to get to those various objectives. If you wanted to, you could go directly from the asylum to Sif in the forest, kill him, get the covenant of the abyss, drain New Londo, and kill the 4 Kings at the very beginning. Dark Souls 2 gives you 2 paths at the beginning, you either go kill Last Giant, or Dragon Rider. Maybe Ornstein, but he’s optional and that’s a dead end.

Dark Souls 1 loosely enforced an order of operations, but gave you an incredible freedom in how its world could be traversed. Dark Souls 2 has 1 path each to 4 bosses, then a path to the ending. Dark Souls 1 has like, a billion paths to 2 bosses, then the game becomes 1 path each after Anor Londo.

You actually don’t need the master key to kill the bosses out of order in dark souls 1. It’s not even the fastest route. It’s faster to skip the master key, drain new londo, and exit to valley of drakes that way, rather than the master key shortcut. Just it’s a lot harder to do that, so most people go with master key unless they’re attempting WR. Maybe he shouldn’t have used footage from a marathon run to make his case, considering they’re not going to go for Black Knight Halberd or Black Knight Greatsword, and are just going to go with a marathon-safe route.

Also, he considers killing the rotten 4 times in a row to be more entertaining. What? I speedran Dark Souls 2, and I don’t consider the million souls route to be very entertaining.

Also, there’s shrine of winter skips in every version of DaS2 I’m pretty sure. Oh. He cited my 4kings and Sif example. That’s kind of funny.

Also he acknowledges that you need the king’s ring and tries to pretend like it’s not the same thing as the fog.

Yeah, I saw a lot of that freedom with encounters in Dark Souls 2. This is what I’d call Depth, but I saw it in the other games as well. I disagree that you absolutely need to deal with archers first. Their arrows are easily dodged by staying in motion as you fight, you don’t even need to see them to do this. This entire part on level design exists in other Soulsborne Games, it’s not unique to Dark Souls 2.

Then he tries to justify summoning. Please don’t.

Play Conditioning: Buzzword for concept that’s been around since before Egoraptor. Mario Bros 1 did this in 1-1.

I didn’t have any problems learning how to play Demon’s Souls, I didn’t have the conditioning problems anyone else had moving on to Dark Souls, 2, or Bloodborne. Git Gud was used to counter people who complained that the game was bad for a reason that was related to their own ineptitude when the game came to PC and there was suddenly a deluge of PC players who were bad at the game and complaining that the game was bad. The suggestion of Git Gud, is to look inside yourself and try to find a way to perform better before blaming the game.

I don’t care about the story criticisms. I think the stories of Dark Souls 2 and 3 are rather weak for an assortment of reasons that I think are completely unimportant to any critical assessment of these games.

It’s funny and makes a degree of sense that game critics have been very positive about the souls series, though honestly I feel like a lot of them were beaten into submission by its authenticity and felt they had to go along with the crowd, and most of the souls games were snubbed for GOTY awards. Dark Souls 1 only got one from Game Trailers after a heated discussion amongst their staff. I feel like Dark Souls as a series is taken to be good on a token value, not a serious level, by game critics, except the youtube kind who had the well poisoned by Matosis on this specific matter.

For the record, I bought Demon’s Souls because Yahtzee complained about it

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2 thoughts on “HBomberguy Defending Dark Souls 2

  1. Vx€R May 22, 2017 / 4:19 pm

    Fun fact: Hbomberguy also said this.
    https://curiouscat.me/Hbomberguy/post/135264777?t=1492365937
    I think he doesn’t know you.

    I watched his Undertale analysis a while ago. One thing that bothers me about the whole second part of it is how he frames the “explore all of the content in a game just because you CAN” in a negative light.
    Isn’t the point of games to explore their state space and get better at navigating it (physically or metaphorically)?

    If Toby Fox made a game that’s apparently worth replaying (both because of varied shmups mechanics and hidden content) with the message of “stop playing this so much, for your and the characters’ sake”, then the choice of “let go vs. explore more” isn’t as obvious as Hbomb paints it, right? I feel like it’s more of a choice between which part of the medium (game medium vs. narrative software medium) you value more, instead of just a dry, anti-completionism statement. Or am I overthinking it?

    And why did I spend 30 minutes writing a rambly comment that is only tangentially related to what you talk about in this blog? Dunno, it’s a thought I wanted to write somewhere.

    Like

    • Chris Wagar May 22, 2017 / 10:16 pm

      And I barely know him. I’ve literally only seen his bloodborne video and this video. Good find on the curiouscat though. Most people don’t apply depth very rigorously like I do.

      Like

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