When Demon Souls came out and everyone on Talking Time was talking about how wonderful/awful the game was I didn’t pay much attention. I don’t own a PS3 and I, generally, don’t play games that endlessly punish the player. When the unofficial sequel to the game, Dark Souls, came out on the Xbox 360 Talking Time is again abuzz with discussions of the game, its difficulty, and how best to play the game. Now, though I wasn’t as distanced from the game, I own a 360, and in a moment of weakness I picked the game up. I opened it up last night and played for about an hour…
What have I got myself into it?
Much like its predecessor this isn’t a game designed with many modern sensibilities. The designers expect you, nay they actively want you, to die. The gimmick being that death just kicks you back to your last save point and you’re stripped of all the experience you’ve gained but you can reclaim it all if you make it back to the spot where you died. There is no map of the game (so far), the manual is a mere three pages thick and fails to explain anything. There are a lot of stats that effect the performance of your character and none of them are clearly explained nor are the equipment, magic, everything systems. If it wasn’t for the internet (game forums, wikis, FAQs, etc.) this game would, for the majority of people who play it, remain opaque. It appears that there are a number of complex systems operating in the background of the game but there seems to be very little in the way of accessing them outside of intense trial-and-error and numerous replays. This game is dying for a meaty manual, one that could better explain the games background, story, and mechanics. Something akin to the manuals that accompanied such games as Darklands, Civilization, or Baldur’s Gate 2.
Sadly, it seems game publishers have abandoned their duty to inform and enlighten the people who play their games handing over that responsibility to either strategy guide publishers (who will charge you a hefty fee, sometimes more than $20, for information that might not even be correct) or the players themselves. I just don’t have the time or energy, right now, to sit down and play a game endlessly trying to figure out information that should have been included in the manual. I’ll poke at the game little more if I have time and maybe I’m wrong about all this, but not from what I’ve seen so far and heard from those who have played it much more than I have.
I wonder why people don’t complain about this sort of thing when the designer says it was intentional but tear developers apart for the exact same crimes in games in which the inscrutability of the game isn’t advertised as a “feature?” Bad design is bad design intentional or not, right?
I guess I’ll just go back to playing Quest for Glory: So You Want to be a Hero?