First up, an admission – I’ve never really played any of these “Souls” type games. I bought the SE of Dark Souls on PS3 years ago but couldn’t handle what I felt was the “loose” controls and put it down forever after less than an hour of play. Turned out later that the “loose” controls were simply the crappy DualShock3 sticks when compared to the superior 360 controller that I was so used to (I played most of my last-gen stuff on 360, due to it being the better console of the two – just as this-gen I’ve moved over to the PS4 – and yes, I own all four and no, I have no fealty to either faceless multinational company.)
So Dark Souls 1 on PS3 went back into the backlog pile, and has been there ever since.
Still, in the intervening years, I’ve read an endless stream of people praising these games to the high heavens and always kept one eye open towards having a go again at some stage. I tend to play games on easier levels these days – and that’s basically because I have a lot of video games, can afford to buy lots of video games, but between work, painting models and my other interests, I simply don’t have huge blocks of time to play video games any more like I did when I was younger and in school. I also have eclectic tastes, and like a lot of different stuff (as you can see with the model collection) and tend to like to buy too many games, so I like the idea of playing through a game to see and experience it, then moving on to the next one. I generally don’t have the time or inclination to spend 50 or 100 hours on one game when there are so many others around to play, so from that perspective, easier (or at least not brutally difficult) tends to be better.
So with this as the background, I picked up Lords of the Fallen late last year. It looked very pretty in all of the pictures and previews. It was on sale for a good chunk less than it’s release price, and happened to be the Limited Edition pack with a few extras, and it turns out that it had sold well (!) enough that months later I even got the pre-order bonus code for another extra. Reviews of the game tended to talk about how it was a kinda-“Souls-lite” and “a bit too easy” – and while that tended to be a criticism, it was usually written by people who clearly played a shit-ton of Dark/Demon’s Souls and were well-versed in these games. I figured that this might be a good entry point for myself to this style of game, so I picked it up and onto the pile it went.
Now I have some time off work, and so I decided to install it and give it a run.
Well. I lasted less than an hour. When I turned off the PS4 I was tempted to eject the disc and snap it in half. Instead I put it in the case and threw that across the room, where it bounced off the couch and landed next to me, unharmed.
Basically, I loaded it up, fought the first tutorial-guy. Started to figure out how to play by killing a half-dozen blind “trainer” mobs, killed one “warrior” mob, then was thrown into battle with a Boss: The First Warden. My character, who controls ponderously got the living shit kicked out of him, over and over. I had already wanted to save the game to get back to before I’d even gotten to him (I often play games in small 20-min chunks, going back and forth between a game and my paint desk), so when I found that I was essentially in a death loop, I became more and more frustrated and eventually cracked up and turned the game off.
So what’s my point?
Basically, it seems that unless you’re already one of the converted, or love being brutalised by games and have an awful lot of free time to spend getting good at this genre, there’s no real entry point to these games for the rest of us. The usual internet feedback by the moron classes would tell me that I’m just butthurt because I’m bad at games. I’d partially agree. There are lots of games I’m not good at. I’m no RTS wizard, and never got into Starcraft properly. I don’t have the skills to rank up high in AoEII. I never learned to fly particularly well in any of the Battlefield games, and I’m no twitch-headshot master in CoD.
But other games and aspects I got bloody good at. Sometimes easily, but usually after a non-frustrating chance to develop my skills. In Lords of the Souls, I’m not good. And I am butthurt. I’m further annoyed by the addition of two sets of paid DLC: The Foundation Boost and The Arcane Boost – at three bucks apiece, their description states: The DLC package contains 2 special resource cards which can be redeemed for a small boost to help Harkyn get started. The resource cards are of course consumed on use, so if you decide to go for a second (or third) playthrough, you’d theoretically need to buy them again. I just feel that it’s quite dirty, expecting new and inexperienced players (ie the ones who will most likely need these boosts) to pony up an additional three/six bucks to get started.
Especially in light of that DLC, I’m rather pissed off that as a new player, there’s no opportunity to learn the game a bit more by fighting “normal” enemies, and that it’s going to take me an hour or more of ponderous, un-fun gameplay to get past the first boss, and I’m probably not going to bother investing that much time into something that’s not actually fun, so ultimately it’s been a waste of my cash.
And if this is the “easier” cousin to Dark/Demon’s Souls… well, I’m simply not ever going to bother with trying this genre again. And that’s the shame.
Edit – I’ve gone back to the game and given it some more time… and… well, I still stand by everything I wrote earlier. I killed and killed and re-killed one of the few guys that were upfront before the boss over and over before going back in to fight him after each death, and he dropped a fancy Bardiche (I think the game calls it an axe of some kind). With the additional reach, and the additional of cowardice and running away I eventually defeated the first, cheap boss. Not until after watching a YouTube video where the YouTuber went on about how easy it should be for everyone playing the game for the first time to defeat this first boss without being hit at all. /sigh
Shortly afterwards, I figured out how the exp system works in the game and spent some time going back and forth between the game and my goblin fanatics – essentially treating the game almost like a Roguelike. Kill some mobs, get some exp, buy a skill or stat point. Kill the same mobs, get some exp, buy a skill or stat point. Die a bunch, but essentially killing resetting and farming the mobs in the initial area (and the hidden cellar) like the bad old days when we used to claim multiple camps in EverQuest for an old-fashioned exp grind. Only instead of auto-attack doing the work, it’s a chop, chop, dodge instead. With a bunch of slow healing throws in for good measure. Just like caster soloing in EverQuest and meditating, come to think of it.
I’ve just gotten past the second boss, and did it in the super special sekret way (no blocking) to get the special reward of a better version of his shield. Not sure how much “skill” is involved in auto-lock and circle-strafing the boss to get a few whacks in when his guard opens up and quaffing the odd potion. While Marouda wouldn’t be able to do this, I’m not sure it’s an especially good marker of being “good at games” or “bad at games” – not that those titles are an especially useful marker of anything.
So at this point, my opinion has changed slightly. The game is awful to start with. I’m also not convinced that a throwback to EQ-style mob grinding to level up is an ideal mechanic, though. For those unfamiliar with EverQuest and mob grinding. Check out the South Park World of Warcraft video instead. It’s the same thing.