Matthew Matosis did a critique of Dark Souls 2. He normally calls his videos Reviews rather than Critiques. I think this is a fair example why, because when he tries to critique, it calls on something that isn’t normally exercised in a review, and he struggles with that. For the record, I think Dark Souls 2 is the weakest Souls game, but by no means a bad game. My replies are numbered more or less randomly. Replies ordered relative to time in the video, so if one of them doesn’t make sense.
1. Miyazaki never said that difficulty was never the point, he’s always taken the stance that he does not think of the games as difficult, he thinks of them as rewarding. You made up all this crap about the difficulty just being there to pull you into the world. Take your immersion ideology to a different series, this is not what the developers have stated. Miyazaki’s only statement on bringing characters into the world is how he writes the item descriptions himself, and how he more or less makes things up to make the world seem like there’s more to it. He also said that he made up so many ways to die because he’s a masochist and he imagines himself dying in those ways.
2. It doesn’t seem like they were asking how to make the fights harder, since most of the fights are very consistent with the difficulty curve present in dark souls 1. The only difference is that most of the “cheese” strategies for dealing with enemies were done away with or had specific counters built in for them. Even when multiple enemies are introduced for a boss fight, each individual enemy in those fights is given a lot more holes in their offensive pattern to allow the player opportunities to hit the other enemies present in the fight. The most obvious example of this is the dragon rider boss fights. In the first one, he has a very easy pattern to avoid and punish, and they compensate for that by making his boss arena so small so that the fight will be challenging, that way when there are two dragon riders they won’t be overbearing on the player and give the player opportunities to hit both of them.
3. “If you can’t make it good, make it difficult by adding more stuff” What is making it good? One of my favorite situations in the original dark souls was the rare times when a ton of enemies could get crowded around a player, like in the undead burg in some areas, or the opening room to the Duke’s Archives after going up the first elevator. Isn’t this indirectly saying that using multiple enemies is an illegitimate means of making an encounter interesting?
4. The Belfry Gargoyles have new models, new animation rigs, new weapons, new attack animations, and entirely new attacks, as well as being less aggressive, having a different HP mechanic than the originals, and having shorter ranged weapons. You might as well say the original maneater fight was lazy and call it a day if you’re going to call this fight or any other fight with multiple enemies lazy.
5. I disagree that the mechanics of the Souls games are built for one on one fights. Citing that the camera will lock onto whatever enemy is locked onto is a poor argument. It’s acting like there is a lock on system in some other free camera game that seriously doesn’t lock the camera onto whatever enemy is locked on (I can’t name any, can you?). By this metric, you might as well say that Bayonetta, DMC4, and Metal Gear Rising are not built for combat with multiple enemies because they all have free cameras that lock onto enemies when you are locking onto those enemies, and the Souls games have always had better cameras for dealing with many enemies than MGR and Bayonetta did.
6. The slow attack animations aren’t evidence for being built for one on one engagements, you have a variety of moves after all with large horizontal or forwards ranges capable of hitting multiple enemies. Neither is them being uninterruptable during their startup period, most games don’t allow you to cancel attack startup. They even let you change their direction on a dime with the heaviest weapons in the game right before you start to swing. If that’s not evidence they wanted you to change to slash other enemies around you, then I don’t know what is.
7. For the Prowling Magus fight, the caster enemies all have huge breaks between when they cast spells so that you have opportunities to hit the other enemies. Being aware of offscreen enemies is a common skill in the Souls games and 3d action games in general. Can the fight where the Channeler casts spells down at you while you fight the Gaping Dragon be considered a poor fight for the same reason? What about the opening of 4-1 in Demon’s Souls where you have to fight 1 or 2 silver skeletons up close while an archer shoots from a range? Or the part after that where you fight more silver skeletons with 2 archers? You have audio cues that the priests are casting, and even on a heavy melee character, your swings are faster than the caster’s spellcasts. The game is giving you fair opportunities to beat it, and all you want to do is complain because you can’t deal with being challenged a bit more in one skillset that they have already challenged you with before in the past.
8. For the Dragonrider fight, the first half of the battle is the easiest part. It’s a question of timing. The Archer Dragonrider fires at periodic intervals with a bit of variance. If you keep track of those intervals, you’ll know when he is going to fire. Additionally, the AI in dark souls 2 for archers got tuned up a lot with them firing a lot more predictively, and arrows no longer homing to hit the player anymore like in previous souls games, this tuned up AI was removed in the dragonrider fight, allowing the player to always avoid the arrows as long as they are moving around the archer when an arrow is fired. And again, you have sound cues that you can react to. I did that fight without EVER looking at the archer, and in the majority of my attempts to beat them, I had the archer at my back with the red dragonrider in the corners closest to the door. I made a video demonstrating this. You didn’t try to find a solution, and are blaming the game for it.
9. That’s not the only strategy. In the throne watcher/throne defender fights, both of them are programmed with lulls in their attack patterns that allow you to punish the other one’s attacks if you can read the situation well. The main challenge in MOST dark souls and souls game fights is not losing your cool and doing something risky and punishable before the end, even versus single enemy bosses. You taking the slow and boring way out doesn’t make the fights slow and boring, it’s symptomatic of your playstyle and inability to adapt.
10. The tracking from enemies isn’t an unnecessary degree, it’s enough to counter the ability of players to simply circle strafe bosses. It’s still possible to circlestrafe many bosses, ironically The Rotten, which you chose to show during this clip is hilariously easy because of it’s poor tracking and the boss not having any answer to you simply going behind it. That and the tracking on enemy attacks existed in EVERY souls game. Additionally, the player can do the same bloody thing and has been able to in every souls game. This one even made it so you can do that during lockon with heavy weapons! You can do it to the same degree the bosses can, and it’s an important tactic for countering backstabbers in PvP and always has been.
Bosses SHOULD have movesets that rely on tracking the player in such a way, it’s only consistent with the rest of the goddamn series. Additionally, that you choose to show you lazily circle strafing around abjucator during this segment is pretty telling that you don’t want the bosses to be able to deal with circle strafing, you want to be able to repeat the strategies you’ve always used.
The turtle enemies aren’t a good example of this, they’re designed fine. The whole point of the tracking is to make it so that if you want to safely strafe to the side of the enemy instead of dodging their attacks, you will need to work harder to get a hit to their vulnerable flanks or backside. Meaning, you actually need to FIGHT THE ENEMIES more instead of relying on what has been the safest strategy in the previous souls games. They decided to make the timing tighter so you can’t get free backstabs or flank hits. That the turtles have an attack to counter attacks to the back isn’t the clincher, it’s just another part of making an interesting enemy instead of an easily abused one.
“The challenge here should have been this thing that I am making up” No, the challenge here is whatever the challenge is.
11. You’re conveniently ignoring the forest hunters, which were a group of 4 or so enemies all placed close together, and all difficult for that level. Also the cats in the forest, the giant stone soldiers, and the giant guards in and around Anor Londo, at least 4 of which you have to go directly past (groups of 2 smaller giants and 2 larger giants + an archer). Or the various silver knights in Anor Londo rooms that were grouped together. Or the white demons outside. Or the crystal skeletons in the duke’s archives, giant skeletons and skeleton dogs in tomb of the giants, T-Rex butts in Lost Izalith (though those were kind of bullshit), Crystal Golems and the Hydra in Dark Root Basin, the Anor Londo archers, and probably others I am overlooking. There are plenty of examples of Dark Souls 2 putting you into a situation with many enemies. You’re choosing to ignore them to slam what I think was one of the best level design philosophy changes in Dark Souls 2.
Even more irritating is how you say Dark Souls 2 haphazardly places strong enemies like that, when showing the mastodons outside Drangleic Castle, somehow ignoring that you could very well run past them, and that Anor Londo had almost exactly the same setup, except the giant enemies weren’t petrified when you first pass them. And you say it encourages players to use cheap tactics instead of playing fair, like there’s an implicit notion of fair play to begin with or like you can’t play fair in these situations too. That’s a load of bullshit, they have the multiple enemies there to discourage you from using different cheap tactics and to play fair by fighting them straight up rather than cheesing individual encounters. That you fell back on other cheap tactics (which are in the other Souls games and are even MORE viable in the other Souls games, because ranged attacks now cost stamina and enemies have further follow distances) isn’t a good critique of their multiple enemy policy. Backing off and firing at the AI from a range almost never happened in my playthroughs, that you had to resort to it is again more of a statement about you than about the game.
12. I don’t get how you can say that players were driven to Demon’s Souls by having to play the level over again when there was no shortcut because it was hard and fair, then point out the exact same thing in dark souls 2, like “and here are all these enemies here you have to fight to get back to the boss, why put these in if you know most players are going to skip it” Can’t you ask that question of Demon’s Souls? Dark Souls too? I did skip most of the enemies on second playthroughs of levels. In replaying Dark Souls, I skip most enemies on first playthroughs of levels. You make no effort here to explain what isn’t challenging or isn’t fair about the enemies before the Velstadt or Looking Glass Knight boss fights, nor do you explain how the same can’t be said about literally any demon’s souls level. Let me twist one of your sentences: “There is no sense of progress in Demon’s souls, slowly making your way through the level fighting the same enemies seven times, so you’re more likely to just run through it” In what way is this more applicable to Dark Souls 2 than Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls 1? They function near identically.
Then you advocate for sticking the bonfire right next to the damn fog door to “save everyone the hassle.” Come on, you just talked about how the runbacks were a big part of Demon’s Souls, isn’t this again advocating for a game where you have to play the game and deal with the gameplay challenges less?
“This isn’t level design, it’s tedious, lazy, and frustrating” Then it was in Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls too. In Dark Souls you have Runbacks of equal duration (including enemies) to the ones you listed for Artorias, Gargoyles, Taurus Demon, Moonlight Butterfly, Sif, Quelaag, Manus, Capra Demon, Iron Golem (if you don’t find the hidden bonfire), Ornstein and Smough, Seath, Nito, Pinwheel, Firesage demon, four kings, priscilla, and gwyn. The list of bosses where you don’t have a runback for is shorter.
In Demon’s souls, there are a large number of runbacks too, I’m not going to run down the list for all of them. You’re acting like a lot of your criticisms are uniquely applicable to Dark Souls 2 and not any other Souls game and not backing them with a reasoning that would apply universally.
13. I don’t mind the criticisms of the story. I agree with most of them. A lot of the game feels really purposeless, and the big characters in the mythology don’t fit together at all.
14. The answer to the lot of the whining about suspension of disbelief is, stop suspending your damn disbelief. This is part of the reason I was so skeptical of your Wonderful 101 review, and why I wouldn’t trust any review you did of Devil May Cry 3 or 4, or a fighting game. A lot of your critique comes from a useless perspective of suspension of disbelief over near everything else. Part of what I like so much about the souls series is how unconcerned it is with that compared to the western RPGs it was inspired by and how it places the emphasis on the gameplay systems.
15. Please tell me how on earth you got back up to the top of Stonefang Tunnel from the Flamelurker boss fight. I’m stumped.
16. WHAAAAT? Dark Souls did a worse job in building the world than Demon’s Souls? Are you kidding me? Dark Souls has huge incentives to go to all the alternate paths available at the start and allows access to almost the entire game world without killing any bosses. There are useful items, way more useful items, littered around everywhere and it lets players approach the world with a freedom that is unparalleled by demon’s souls’ five linear levels. Where Demon’s souls has 5 bosses open to you at the start, after the tutorial in dark souls you could fight any one of 9 different bosses without defeating even a single boss beforehand, and without picking the master key. I have issues with Dark Souls 2’s level structure, but claiming that Demon’s Souls did it remotely better than Dark Souls is insulting to Demon’s Souls, the same way you claim comparisons to dark souls 2 are insulting to Demon’s Souls. There is way more freedom in Dark Souls on subsequent playthroughs than demon’s souls ever had.
17. The largest issues with the grass were really that the grass had a super short use time, making it extremely safe to heal in combat situations, where in dark souls, taking a swig of estus or humanity was frequently as risky as outright attacking many bosses. Dark Souls 2 makes the various healing animations even longer, and has a clear balance of risk versus reward for them. The estus animation is over quicker, but in the walkup beforehand, you move much slower and are rooted in place while drinking. With the various life gems and other items, they take a lot longer before you can block or dodge, but can walk around slowly for their whole duration. That and humanity wasn’t uncommon in Dark Souls 1, you could farm it just as easily as grass in Demon’s Souls. Also the regeneration ring is horribly useless, are you kidding me by even bringing that up?
18. So wait, you have suspension of disbelief problems with tracking, but not with invincibility frames?
19. Your problem is that the covenants don’t explain themselves? My problem was that most covenants didn’t really offer any sane rewards or fit into the gameplay style of the game very well in Dark Souls 1. This was clearly revised and works a lot better in Dark Souls 2.