Comparing Zelda to Souls

Is it fair to even compare Zelda to Dark Souls? I hear comparisons between the two alot, but it never really makes too much sense to me.

I think it’s a fair comparison because they’re both third person action games featuring sword combat. Zelda visibly lost something in translation to 3d, so people think dark souls might have that element zelda lacks, nonlinearity, tight enemy combat, no cutscene bullshit.

Dark Souls gives a glimpse of at least some of what zelda could have been. Obviously zelda has its own established canon of mechanics sine the first game, so there’d be differences in how a lot of the mechanics worked, but a lot of fucking stuff was possible on the N64 and had been done in other formats that zelda could have taken inspiration from. It could have used fixed camera angles to make up for its weakness there as an interim until dual analog came along (playing ratchet and clank and nier back to back, it’s funny how it took until the 3rd 3d gen that cameras got good, considering it’s actually simpler to code a camera like nier’s probably)

Dark Souls in a big way feels like what I originally came to the zelda series for, what I was always looking for, but couldn’t find satisfaction in zelda games. I think this is something a lot of people feel.

To add onto this: Zelda and Dark Souls are superficially similar, being 3rd person action games centered on exploration & secret finding through fantasy settings with primarily Melee combat.

Dark Souls is as hard as Zelda used to be. Zelda was a cultural phenomenon with the very first game (which sold the best proportional to the population of its time, meaning it had the biggest cultural influence of any Zelda game).

In Zelda Ocarina of Time, Eiji Aonuma became the enemy and dungeon designer. Aonuma is a person who did not like the original Legend of Zelda. He never finished it, quitting after fighting octoroks and failing to progress.
http://www.ign.com/…/26/gdc-2004-the-history-of-zelda…

So suddenly he was in charge of designing enemies, and he made them all really easy in Ocarina and they’ve continued to be really easy ever since.

In 3d zelda games, your slashes are really fast, while the enemies are really slow. In Dark Souls, both you and the enemies are slow at the same pace, so you need to either act preemptively, or punish their whiffed attacks. You need to judge your ranges more carefully before deciding to attack.

3d Zelda games are about key-finding more than anything else. You need to find keys to open doors in the dungeons, which give you items that function as additional keys for getting through rooms in the dungeons. There are very few “Interesting choices” in Zelda, meaning choices where you won’t always pick the same thing, where you need to choose carefully and think about what you’re doing, where different options have advantages and disadvantages which change situationally. 3d Zelda is very much about just doing the thing they want you to do. See a peahat? Boomerang it to cut off the propeller, then slash it to death with A buttonmash. Oh, you have arrows? Instant kill. Deku Scrubs? Octoroks? Hold up your shield, you literally cannot do anything else, and have no real reason to not pick this choice because it will always work.

In 3d Zelda’s combat, you really only need to mash A versus most enemies, or use the item that they are weak against. In 2d Zelda, you needed to move around the enemies as they moved and shot projectiles, and find a place to attack them safely from. It was like a Shmup where both you and the enemies could attack in 4 directions. They would pair up different enemies to be more effective against you and pair those with traps or features like walls or water sometimes too.

In other 3d action games, you have a variety of moves to use, but in Zelda, you only really have slashing and jump slashing. There’s also crouch stabbing, but your slashes are already fast, and apart from the exploit where it copies jump slash damage, it’s not really useful.

The puzzles in zelda, the other major element with 3d zelda (one which was mostly absent in 2d zelda, even a link to the past) are really easy and simple in comparison to actual puzzle games. They almost all use different mechanics from one another, instead of a shared system that is built up over time. This is another major problem with 3d zelda, they keep introducing new shallow mechanics that see only a few uses instead of iteratively improving a core set of mechanics like combat or puzzles.

Everyone suddenly got really harsh on Skyward Sword, and it was certainly the worst 3d Zelda, but everything everyone hated about it was in the previous 3d Zelda games. All 3d zelda games have long unskippable cutscenes. All 3d zelda games have bad combat compared to 2d zelda games, to Ys games (Oath in Felgana and Origin have combat similar to 2d zelda), to Dark Souls, to Witcher 3, to Severance Blade of Darkness (2001). 3d zelda could have had better combat design, both in link’s moveset and in the enemy design. It should have considering combat is the core gameplay (if you don’t think combat is the core gameplay, then please tell me what is).

6 thoughts on “Comparing Zelda to Souls

  1. kn83 February 20, 2020 / 11:24 am

    Claiming 2D Zelda had better combat is laughably stupid, when it most of the time boiled down to charge and slash. No actual thought required. And they were no near as difficult as their fanboys say. The the limited movement, the unengaging combat (press A to swipe whoooo so much fun), the archaic dungeon design are things which make the 2D games inferior.

    And claiming the original Zelda had the most cultural impact is extremely dumb (especially from a sales perspective) https://vgsales.fandom.com/wiki/The_Legend_of_Zelda
    It’s an objective fact that OOT had the most cultural impact of any Zelda.

    Like

    • Chris Wagar February 20, 2020 / 11:32 am

      Are you searching my blog for Zelda and commenting on every article?

      “the limited movement”
      What’s bad about limited movement?

      “the archaic dungeon design”
      What’s archaic about the dungeon design?

      Would you say shmup combat is unengaging? 2d Zelda is like a shmup, sorta like Hotline Miami, except you need to move towards enemies to face them and attack them, which means you can’t attack while running away, and since you can only face in 4 directions, you have trouble attacking enemies that move diagonally. This also means you can’t approach and attack enemies from their diagonal sides, and need to line up with the direction they’ll attack you in too.

      Like

      • kn83 February 20, 2020 / 12:11 pm

        “2d Zelda is like a shmup, sorta like Hotline Miami, except you need to move towards enemies to face them and attack them, which means you can’t attack while running away”

        You can totally attack while running away in 2D Zelda, especially with items like a boomerang and bombs.

        “This also means you can’t approach and attack enemies from their diagonal sides, and need to line up with the direction they’ll attack you in too.”

        Again, you make it sound harder and more complex than it actually is in a very autistic way. In realty, you don’t need to be all that particular with were you stand with diagonal enemies, just swing at their direction.

        Like

        • Chris Wagar February 20, 2020 / 12:28 pm

          “you make it sound harder and more complex than it actually is in a very autistic way.”
          I’m being precise, dude. I’m trying to outline how there’s different possibilities, different possible game states that actually matter and are different from one another. If you can control twin stick style, or lock-on style, then your direction of movement isn’t as important. If you can move and attack 360 degrees, then it doesn’t matter whether enemies approach you head on, or from your diagonals. Good game design is about allowing for a lot of things to happen, making those things functionally different from one another, and making those differences matter.

          If you want to say that my analysis is bullshit, you gotta be precise. A lot of your disagreement is vague as fuck and barely means anything.

          “you don’t need to be all that particular with were you stand with diagonal enemies, just swing at their direction.”
          It applies more to Zelda 1 than the later games, admittedly.

          Like

  2. kn83 February 20, 2020 / 11:26 am

    And Dark Souls is easily one of the most overrated game series.

    People say the game is hard, or even “the hardest game ever”. It isn’t. It is tedious. There’s a difference. When a game is “hard”, it requires a lot of skill. Dark Souls does not. It requires patience. It requires watching the boss and avoiding it for a bit until you learn their attack pattern, and then timing your dodge button to avoid those attacks, while slowing whittling their health down during the recovery periods. Doing this is very easy, but quite boring and takes a long time (unless you are over-leveled or over-geared), and you’ll be tempted to get “greedy” and push the envelope a bit (because you are getting bored). That’s usually when you get hit and die and have to start over. Because you weren’t patient enough. That’s all there is to it. And on the run back to the boss, the enemies are pretty much designed to hit and/or kill you if you try to just run past them to get back to the actual boss fight. So you have to waste even more time dealing with them, which generally requires the same “wait for an opening” boring tactics as the boss fights. Most can be skipped if you follow a specific path, but that’s just boring trial-and-error until you figure it out.

    People say “the game punishes you” in response to the above. Yeah. So does every game. Except most games don’t punish you for being bored, and the punishment is usually not causing you to be even more bored and annoyed than you already are. Dark Souls does both.

    So now that we’ve dispelled the myth that Dark Souls is some sort of achievement in gaming difficulty, what’s the problem? So what if the game’s only claim to fame is a sad misconception, that doesn’t automatically make it bad, right? Well, like I said, it’s tedious. That means it is not fun. Literally the one thing a video game needs to be in order to be good. The “challenge” of Dark Souls is trudging through it despite the fact that you are bored and annoyed, and not having any fun at all. None of its “challenges” illicit a response of “oh damn that’s hard”, but rather something more like “is this piece of shit game fucking serious?” Surmounting them does not give you a “oh man that was so rewarding” feeling, but rather a “I can’t believe the game had me waste my time with that shit”. The game actively and intentionally tries to piss you off.

    The ghosts attacking through walls before you know they are there.
    The skeletons who suddenly jump out of pitch blackness.
    The channelers in the archive balconies who shoot homing magic at you from somewhere you can’t reach them.
    The archers in Anor Londo who shoot super-arrows at you when you are stuck on a thin ledge.
    The enemies shooting blow darts from somewhere you can’t see that have a toxin that’s guaranteed to kill you without any indication of what’s even causing it.
    Can’t forget the mimics. Once you know they are in the game, you can easily determine whether a chest is a mimic. But if you’re playing blind, the first one has a 100% chance to kill you. And of course it’s in one of the more annoying locations in the game, which you now have to do over.

    That is by no means a full list of all the idiotic enemy encounters in the game. All of the above will almost certainly kill you on your first attempt to pass them, or at the very least bring your progress to a halt, until you learn the trick to getting past them.

    But that’s the nature of the game. Anyone who has done more than one playthrough of the game can tell you that the second run was much easier and faster. Why is that? Because they “got gud” after their first playthrough? No. Skill is not involved here. The reason it’s easier is because every “challenge” in the game is easily (even if slowly) circumvented once you know it’s there. Not by developing the skills to deal with it. Mere knowledge of its existence is all it takes to deal with it – and of course varying amounts of patience. “Hard”. Right.

    Let’s move on to something else. The entire control scheme is badly implemented.

    The camera angle control is garbage. Sometimes the camera will random turn while you are running along a thin ledge, which very well could make you fall. It tries to slowly turn the camera to follow you, but does a horrible job of it. Either way, you pretty much have to be rotating your camera constantly so that it’s actually facing a useful direction. Having to fight a game’s control scheme is not a “challenge”, it’s bad game design.
    Speaking of which, the only arguable skill mechanic in the game, dodging, is also badly implemented. You dodge when you release the dodge button, not when you press it. This is terrible. It’s because they bound too many functions to one button (console games/ports, lol). The dodge button is also the run button, so it can’t dodge right when you press it, or you can’t run. Oh yeah, and it’s also the jump button, which is determined by how long you held it before pressing it again. Jump and dodging are not the same, and doing the wrong one is often going to screw you over. Either way, having the most important function in the game be “on release” is horrible. Those of you who think you timed a dodge perfectly and it just didn’t work, that’s why. You only timed it half-perfectly. The other half is dealing with the game’s really bad control implementation.
    To top it off, roll direction is bound to only forward, back, left, and right. This mostly only matters if you are locked on to the enemy. You cannot dodge diagonally forward and to the left; you can only dodge directly toward, directly away, or directly left and right. Before you figure that out, you’ll probably be wondering why the game is making you dodge in a direction you weren’t aiming for. Terrible controls, that’s why. Better players will probably just tell you not to lock on – something that’s only viable once you’ve completely memorized the encounter to the point that you don’t even need to see what’s happening, because given the above-mentioned camera controls, you won’t be. Either way, a major function in the game, one that is critical to most other games of this genre, is so badly implemented that the only recourse is to not even use it? GameDesign™. Not to mention the fact that magic characters have to lock on in order for their spells to hit anything.

    But hey, let’s look on the bright side. Surely the game has some redeeming quality in all of the options you have for character builds. You can use magic, pyromancy, cleric spells, melee weapons of many types, ranged weapons, and a wide variety of armor that makes you choose a balance between mobility and toughness. I actually found some enjoyment in looking into the way the game calculates stats and figuring out the best combinations of weapons and upgrades for a given build. The stats system is actually pretty good, credit where it’s due.

    Except… No matter what build you use, no matter the gear you equip, no matter what you do, the gameplay will be exactly the same. The only difference is how easy it will be to dodge enemy attacks and hit them with your own attacks during the recovery period. Whether you’re a glass cannon mage or a full tank with a massive club, every fight is exactly the same. Dodge the boss attacks (or in some cases just ignore them with a shield) and hit them during their recovery period. That’s the whole game – with the exception of a few bosses that have tricks to beating them. Not with skill of course, just with a trick.

    Should I go through every boss now? Screw it, why skimp on the answer now:

    Generic bosses: Asylum, Taurus, Stray, Gaping Dragon, Queelag, Iron Golem, Sif, Butterfly, Ceaseless, Firesage, Centipede, Guardian, Artorias, Kalameet, Manus: Wait for attack animation, dodge it, then attack while they recover, repeat. Boring. Some might have environmental hazards that you need to not walk into (Queelag). Some might have restrictive arenas where you have to wait for them to come to you (Centipede, Butterfly for melee). Some might have instant-kill attacks that are only relevant if you don’t know they exist, and are otherwise effortless to avoid once you do (Gaping Dragon, Manus though in his case you also need to know the trick to avoid them; trial-and-error boss design, much skill). Different builds make it more/less tedious to dodge and get hits in (ie. ranged builds will have a bigger attack window, but they need it because they attack slower), but otherwise the tactics are the same.
    Effortless bosses: Priscilla, Seathe: These both have a gimmick in their fight, but even with it, they are so easy you barely even have to dodge their attacks. Hit Seathe’s crystal, and he’s a joke afterward. Priscilla can turn invisible, but her attacks are completely ineffective.
    Capra Demon: This is more a fight with the camera controls than it is with the actual boss. Same tactics as generic, except you start the fight directly in front of him in an enclosed space, so the camera is going to be constantly freaking out and you don’t have any time to figure out how to deal with the terrible controls, his opening attacks, and the dogs that stun-lock you all at once. That basically makes it trial-and-error for the first couple attempts. Nice boss fight design. Luckily he’s really easy, so once you get over the terrible level design that makes the fight really tedious, there’s nothing left to require any sort of skill. The enclosed space puts ranged characters at a disadvantage, because there are fewer ways to distance yourself, but that doesn’t change the generic tactics involved.
    Hellkite: Sure hope you healed up after the Taurus fight, or you’ll be dying with no warning what-so-ever. Honestly I only fought him at the end of the game when he died in 2 hits, so I can’t say what it’s like if you’re not over-leveled. If you’re ranged, you can just hide in an alcove and shoot him until he dies.
    Gargoyles: Same tactics as generic, except a second one spawns so your attack opportunities are even fewer (even more boring). Ranged builds do actually make this much easier because you can avoid both while still attacking. Not an actual change in tactics though, just easier to do. The run back to this fight also features a room full of crappy hollows, that unless you know the trick to skipping them, require you to sit there and kill them all or they will kill you. Fun.
    Ornstein and Smough: Same as gargoyles, except these are way more aggressive, so you have even less opportunity to get attacks in. People say they are the “hardest fight ever omg”. Translated: most boring ever, because you spend 99% of the fight running around waiting for an opening. Like with gargoyles, ranged is much easier because you can attack from safety.
    Four Kings: The one boss fight I actually kind of liked. It has moves you can’t dodge, so you need to block or take a ton of damage. It spawns clones over time, so you can’t sit back and wait, you need to push to kill each clone quickly. It’s still mostly dodging and attacking during recovery, but the speed requirement actually presented an element of fun. So there’s one good boss fight. Too bad the run back features the ghosts I mentioned above, which you can skip if you find a route, but otherwise will make attempts on this boss take 10 times longer.
    Bed of Chaos: Wow. Seriously? Do I even need to put anything here? I sure hope not. Literally the embodiment of a trial-and-error boss fight. If you haven’t played yet and plan to, watch a speedrun of this fight, and do it like they do. You’re welcome. Bring extra firebombs.
    Nito: First of all, you take massive fall damage to get into the area. Great. But other than that, this is the one fight where build actually matters. He only has one ultra-slow attack that can hit you if you’re in melee, and all his attacks will deal with his own adds, so if you are a melee tank (or just melee in general), you just beat the shit out of him and ignore everything. Any other build, you’ll need to worry about his infinite skeleton adds. If you’ve got divine damage, they won’t be infinite. If you don’t, good luck. Still boring and tedious, but at least builds matter, so… half a point, I guess?
    Gwyndolin: Probably the most boring fight in the game, but I guess it’s tactically different from other fights, so whatever. Depending on which attack he does, you either need to hide behind a pillar, dodge, or run diagonally toward him to both avoid arrows and close distance. Then you get a couple hits in and he runs away. Repeat. So fun, so skillful.
    Gwyn: Same as generic, with the exception that you can parry him. So you at least have two options, unlike most other fights. Parry him to death and win. Or fight normally and it’s the same as all the others. He does attack much faster than any other boss though, so it might actually require (gasp) a bit of skill to manage your stamina. For once.

    And this answer wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the PvP. The PvP in Dark Souls can be summed up in a few words: an intentional and encouraged mechanic for griefing other players. That’s pretty much all it is. Most game devs punish you for griefing. Dark Souls rewards you. GameDesign™. I won’t get any more into it because technically you can avoid it by staying hollowed the entire game, which is only a minor annoyance. Regardless, the PvP is yet another element of the game that fits with its overall design philosophy: make the game as annoying and tedious as humanly possible.

    When it’s all said and done, a video game has literally one job. Be fun. Dark Souls fails at this. I guess a few people probably do find it fun though. Everyone prefers different things. But if the fandom consisted only people who enjoy playing bad games, I doubt it would be as popular as it is. Maybe people see the game as succeeding marvelously in what it set out to do: be annoying, tedious, and boring every step of the way. And somehow, being that way is okay, because it’s intentional.

    Somehow, some people go through all of the above, and rather than coming out of the experience with the realization that they just played a bad game, they feel accomplished for having done it. As if tolerating a bad game is an achievement, and that said feeling of achievement somehow redeems the game for how bad it was.

    I bet it’s my fault for being bored by the game. Maybe I’m spoiled by casual games (despite the fact that I grew up with games like Battletoads and Contra, and later competed in Counter-Strike and Tribes) and/or can’t appreciate a game that isn’t about high-skill action (despite the fact that some of my most played games include SWTOR progression raiding, Civ 5, ARK, and Arma 2). Maybe this genre just isn’t for me (despite the fact that Devil May Cry and God of War were two of my favorite series, not to mention both harder and more punishing depending on difficulty, and yet more fun than Dark Souls). It’s definitely not the fault of the game.

    I think that’s enough. Let’s hear it.

    Like

    • Chris Wagar February 20, 2020 / 12:10 pm

      “When a game is “hard”, it requires a lot of skill. Dark Souls does not. It requires patience. It requires watching the boss and avoiding it for a bit until you learn their attack pattern, and then timing your dodge button to avoid those attacks, while slowing whittling their health down during the recovery periods.”

      Okay, so you chose the easiest and slowest way to beat bosses. You can beat bosses that way in Devil May Cry too. You could just spam guns from afar and wait until they die. Would you accept that as a criticism of DMC?

      Watch a speedrun. Maybe one from before the newer attack glitches and skips were found, so it’s better representative of the normal gameplay. People beat bosses fast. People avoid enemies on the runback easily.

      I’m not exactly a dark souls fanboy who hypes up how hard it is. I don’t think it’s the hardest game ever either.
      https://critpoints.net/2016/05/26/games-that-are-harder-than-dark-souls/

      “The ghosts attacking through walls before you know they are there.”
      You can see them and hear them before they attack. The game expects you to pay attention and watch for traps.

      “The skeletons who suddenly jump out of pitch blackness.”
      Tomb of the Giants has enemies with smaller aggro ranges than other areas of the game. You can always see them before they aggro. You can also get items or spells to see in the dark.

      “The channelers in the archive balconies who shoot homing magic at you from somewhere you can’t reach them.”
      There’s pillars you can hide behind, and you can dodge or block. This is a really weak complaint. Are you trying to say they’re unfair? It doesn’t match the pattern of the previous two complaints.

      “The archers in Anor Londo who shoot super-arrows at you when you are stuck on a thin ledge.”
      Oh come on! That’s a cool and unique challenge.
      https://critpoints.net/2016/01/10/dark-souls-those-silver-knight-archers/

      “The enemies shooting blow darts from somewhere you can’t see that have a toxin that’s guaranteed to kill you without any indication of what’s even causing it.”
      Do you have vision problems? Some of these suggest you have vision problems.

      “Can’t forget the mimics. Once you know they are in the game, you can easily determine whether a chest is a mimic. But if you’re playing blind, the first one has a 100% chance to kill you. And of course it’s in one of the more annoying locations in the game, which you now have to do over.”
      I didn’t fall for the first mimic. I’ve seen other people play blind and not fall for the first mimic. Sen’s fortress is cool, the hell do you mean annoying?

      “Having to fight a game’s control scheme is not a “challenge”, it’s bad game design.”
      As long as a control scheme has predictable input and output, it’s not a problem. The camera does suffer in some places, such as tight hallways, or running up the thin rooftop in anor londo to the hall with the painting guardians, because you pass through 2 tight pillars that jolts the camera suddenly, but largely the camera behaves predictably.

      “Speaking of which, the only arguable skill mechanic in the game, dodging, is also badly implemented. You dodge when you release the dodge button, not when you press it.”
      Then why not just press and release quickly when you mean to dodge? If you know it works that way, and it does the same thing every time, why are you complaining about it?

      “To top it off, roll direction is bound to only forward, back, left, and right.”
      It’s a minor letdown at most. It does mean you can’t roll diagonally around the boss like in later games, which is arguably a bit too good, but I’ll concede that it’s limiting.

      “Before you figure that out, you’ll probably be wondering why the game is making you dodge in a direction you weren’t aiming for.”
      It’s fairly obvious, because the character has unique rolling animations that continue to face the boss when dodging left and right.

      “Better players will probably just tell you not to lock on – something that’s only viable once you’ve completely memorized the encounter to the point that you don’t even need to see what’s happening”
      I alternate between locking on and locking off, and I did this when I first played dark souls (because I played demon’s souls before it). Good players can recognize when it’s useful to lock on or not. It doesn’t take memorization.

      “Either way, a major function in the game, one that is critical to most other games of this genre, is so badly implemented that the only recourse is to not even use it?”
      It works in a predictable way. You have an arbitrary standard for “badly implemented”. It matters that mechanics are predictable in their function, and deep in their application. 4-way dodge is admittedly not as deep as 360 degree dodge that later games in the series had.

      “Not to mention the fact that magic characters have to lock on in order for their spells to hit anything.”
      You can free aim, and people do. This guy was known for noscoping in pvp to lead his shots.

      “No matter what build you use, no matter the gear you equip, no matter what you do, the gameplay will be exactly the same. The only difference is how easy it will be to dodge enemy attacks and hit them with your own attacks during the recovery period.”
      It’s better to not dodge. If you can, it’s better to walk or run out of the way, so you don’t have to deal with dodge recovery time.

      The game has a core concept for its gameplay and it largely sticks to that. Different weapons have different ranges, speeds, and area coverage, but it’s a game about timing your attacks, dodges, blocks, and movement. It does what it can within that framework.

      “When it’s all said and done, a video game has literally one job. Be fun. Dark Souls fails at this.”
      What does “Be Fun” mean to you? I’m sure you’re aware, that’s rather vague. It’s a game with a variety of challenges and iterations on a core formula. It attempts to give you compelling reasons to choose between attacking vs defending, to make you consider different types of defense that have their own tradeoffs. And you need to consider your movement versus opponents and avoid getting yourself boxed in a corner, while using the environment to block enemy attacks, but not get your own blocked. It’s obviously not perfect, I think Nioh did a better job at the same formula, but it did a lot.

      I’m not going to accuse you of being a casual for disliking it. You didn’t cite anything especially casual in your criticisms (Except getting annoyed by the anor londo archers, are you serious?). You’re expecting me to be a rabid fanboy when I’m not. It’s not a perfect game. None of the games in the franchise are without faults, like obviously bed of chaos (I prefer Nioh and it’s not without faults either, though it does reward aggression more than dark souls due to the enemy stamina system), but I think a lot of your criticisms of dark souls are superficial, and the way you describe the gameplay makes it sound like you played it in a boring safe way and were frustrated by the parts that attempted to push you out of your comfort zone.

      Like

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