Joseph Anderson on Dark Souls

What is your thoughts on this guys video series on his critique of Dark Souls?

I started to do a level-by-level critique of dark souls myself. It went unreleased due to audio level issues. I had different criticisms than this guy, like the way that the door out of the asylum demon’s room isn’t more obvious, leading many many players to try to fight the asylum demon instead of realizing they can run away (like sean malstrom). Also the kick/jumping attack instructions could have been more clear, and there could have been a shielding enemy that allowed the kick instruction to come across better. And the room explaining how to put on armor and equipment is easily missed too. I also think they crowded too many messages around the boss fog. I didn’t miss these things, but a lot of other players did from the LPs I’ve seen. I like the dark souls asylum tutorial way better than the dark souls 2 tutorial which has branching paths without any real flow, Though I like the way the dark souls 2 tutorial can be skipped.

I think the big fault with firelink is that the way you’re supposed to go is at your back, and the two ways you shouldn’t go are both roughly the way you’re pointed towards when you land. He’s wrong in that he claims you need the master key to go to blighttown, you don’t. I’m glad we were afforded options here, but the presentation of firelink in terms of guiding the player leaves a lot to be desired.

He’s pretty close to correct about the hellkite wyvern. I think that something like the scorchmarks are a bullshit argument too, considering it’s a visual tell that isn’t established earlier. The dragons in Demon’s Souls were much more fair about their bombing runs. I was expecting the hellkite wyvern because I had played demon’s souls previously. A lot of people die right there, few people figure it out beforehand, it’s like a kaizo block.

His remark on physically consistent level design being good level design is a little shortsighted. It’s good in the context of dark souls, not universally.

Butt stabbing the boar isn’t inconsistent. He shows a ton of clips where he’s too far away. It’s the same range as any other enemy’s backstab.

Complaining that the combat system becomes awful when you have to fight >1 enemy is complete scrub talk. Attacks don’t layer in unpredictable ways, you can see the startup of both enemies. In my opinion, 2 on 1 is when the combat system of dark souls actually becomes interesting, and 1v1 is simply cheesetown for most enemy types. Dude needs to learn to whiff punish, not dodge or block.

Yeah of course the combat remains interesting despite few mechanics, that’s because of good enemy/level design that push the system in different ways and need to be uniquely learned.

I think he could have done this video better by pointing out simply all the common mistakes beginner dark souls players make, then tonally consistent changes that could be made to the game to prevent said mistakes.

Very detail oriented critique. Very gameplay focused. Great description of the game.

What do you think of some of the multiple enemy based encounters in Dark Souls 2?

I remarked in this post that I thought that was one of the best upgrades to dark souls 2 over the original, as I think multi-enemy encounters are where the system of dark souls truly shines.

In single enemy encounters you can easily dodge and attack at rather set times, but multiple enemies make it so you need to judge asynchronous cycles and AI patterns to find opportunities to fight back, which is really fun. With individual enemies, you can parry them or circle strafe backstab them rather easily, multiple enemies cover for each other, making these strategies still useful, but much harder to find opportunities for. There is a similar principle to this in doom and quake (and hell, most other action games).

It’s disappointing to me that this was panned by so many people.

Reading the Dark Souls Critique of Paul Anderson you just mentioned. What do you think about the other parts of his critique. He has five videos total. What are your thoughts on the other four?

I saw. I’ll get around to it. They’re long. I approve of this guy’s style, even if I don’t agree with all his points.

I myself have said that the basement key being used to go to the lower burg is probably the weakest point of connection in the whole of dark souls 1. Uneventful door, uneventful key, almost no connection between the two.

The game doesn’t teach you to block the dogs then counterattack. This is probably the absolute crux of my issue with people remarking that any time you’re thrown up against something for the first time the game is teaching you something. It’ll probably be the example I point to in the future for the mistake of this sort of thinking. The thing he demonstrated in the last video was that he didn’t know how to whiff punish. The best way to beat an enemy isn’t to dodge or block it, it’s to press no buttons at all. Dogs get locked in position when they lunge, you can move away from them to bait their attacks, or circle/run around them. Also 1.5 seconds is far beyond average human reaction time, the sane response is to roll.

I think the capra demon is a hard fight, maybe it’s a bit of a gotcha, but absolutely less than the hellkite wyvern, and it’s a spectacular use of level design and enemy combinations, with the weak point probably being the safe zone at the arch above the bridge. There needed to be a high ground of some type, but it being so abusable for plunge attacks and safe from dogs/capra is lame. I think Capra is one of the best parts of the game because of the dynamism of the capra/dog combination. I recently beat this fight using a character at default level with an unupgraded default class weapon, and it was very fun.

So lame that he complains about the channeler in the gaping dragon fight. That was a great touch, similar to the dual dragonrider battle in dark souls 2.

I’m fine with the toxic dart blowers considering the dung pie trick, and that they’re positioned in areas with lots of cover, few enemies, and projectiles are easily avoidable. Also your shield doesn’t have 100% block for status effects, dongus.

Yeah the claw monster on the wall is odd. Clunky design.

He should have recognized by now with the poison mosquitos that flying or jumping enemies don’t actually jump. Their bones are still attached to the ground. This is true of the player as well, which is why you take damage from sources underneath you even if you jump, and activate those switches in sen’s fortress even if you jump over them.

unrelated but love his remarks on the estus flask in the first video and the stamina bar in this one compared to LoZ and SoM. The remarks on the general combat system are great too during the quelaag fight.

He’s right about the undead dragon, I never considered that before. Same with it being poorly designed as an encounter.

Love the slow motion footage of havel’s weapon clearly connecting when he claims it doesn’t.

Damn straight Sen’s is fair.

I noticed the elevator went up an extra level after arriving at the intended destination from the chains I was watching while waiting for it to come down. I intentionally stayed on it to see if there was a secret up there and got killed. I also detected the mimic on my first try and just hit every chest from there on out before opening it. Another tell is that mimic chests breathe slowly.

I found the hidden bonfire to be thrilling, because I thought that the lack of a bonfire was weird, and eventually I looked over that edge to see what was down the side, noticing the bonfire platform.

I eventually found the cage platform, but not on my first playthrough.

I found the first enemy of anor londo to be troublesome because aggroing it by itself was scary as fuck on my first playthrough. I didn’t realize its aggro range was reduced to let you run past and I was scared carrying all these souls with no nearby bonfire. I managed to barely beat it before finding the bonfire.

I agree that the roof you need to run up in anor londo to the rafter room is hidden as hell, not standing out very well. I had to look up how to progress online for this part. The later roofings and rafters are much better designed visually to lead the eye. It’s a good piece of level design in its challenge otherwise.

He’s reiterated this a lot, but yeah, ranged attacks break souls games. Glad they did away with that in bloodborne. They should have had more anti-ranged options on basically all enemies, and less stun/damage probably.

I was disappointed too at the gargoyles in dark souls, considering the same in demon’s souls could fly.

I like the archers, I like the gargoyles before the archers. There’s no surprises here, there’s plenty of space to fight them, you can see everything coming, it’s fair as fuck, just hard. I’ve gone over this before in a previous ask. Also speedrunners have a guaranteed strat for the archers, the second archer was repositioned to prevent it from shooting your back when you get close enough to the first one, and you can parry.

I’ll agree with ornstein’s buggy dash attack being crap, but the rest of his complains are unfounded, except the magic and summoning one. Boss AI (all the game’s AI) handles multiple players poorly.

He says he never dies because he backpedals all the time and waits for safe openings. You can do this with nearly all the bosses, but it’s not as efficient. There are plenty of opportunities to take risks to speed up the fight which aren’t purely backpedaling. Watch a speedrun, they don’t have the luxury to backpedal, and most routes use a melee weapon, even if it’s an extremely strong one.

As usual, I disagree with every instance where he says you should introduce enemies 1 at a time.

You can attack through walls, just only partially.

Solid observation with the nonlinearity making for an uneven difficulty curve relative to level/upgrades.

I don’t mind the ghosts in new londo, You’d be dumb to let them all rush you. They’re all clearly shown and you’re given chances to avoid them.

I disagree with the implementation of making the player be weaker as necessarily a bad thing. I think the only one of these areas that’s really poorly designed is lost izalith with the T-rex butts.

“you are meant to avoid nito’s spear by sprinting away so it thrusts where you were just standing” What? I thought you were meant to avoid it by timing your rolls in sync with the audio cue.

What I did with the elevator for new londo is simply push the button each time as I run off. It’s an interesting dynamic if you ask me. I know this is more of a speedrun thing, but you get some dead time to switch your items up, and you gotta be careful with where you lead elevators for future use.

The traps in sen’s fortress don’t actually reset when you die or leave. The arrow switch after the first boulder encounter turns the boulder launcher offscreen, which you can hear an audio cue for. The elevators being in a set position instead of magically at the top or bottom when you arrive is not the same as things resetting to their original state on death. Having a 2-way elevator might be less time consuming.

I’m surprised he called 4kings a good fight, doesn’t fit his MO.

lost izalith is terrible and I make no apology for it.

I second that it’s lame that the late areas of dark souls don’t have the same interconnectedness of the world, and lament that no souls game has had that same type of connectedness since.

The forced death against seath is indeed bullshit and shouldn’t have been in the game.

Come on, he should have noticed by now that you can attack through thin walls. I did this against the darkwraiths in new londo, and a ton of other places.

I second that the crystal caves are a boring gimmick. I think the duke’s archives in general are a good area though. Dude has too much trouble with ranged attacks + melee enemies, which I consider an extremely reasonable bread and butter combination.

The critique of the mace versus sword is dumb. Also the sword doesn’t weigh more than the character. The dark souls weight units are pounds or kilograms, and most swords aren’t actually that heavy. They animated the thing that way, accept it. You might as well criticize the stutter on not having enough dexterity.

He doesn’t realize with the backstab that you’re not allowed to backstab when your shield is up.

You’re allowed to roll the instant you get up, it even buffers so you don’t need to be good at timing.

I disagree with his statements on the story, there’s very clearly meaning to a lot of it, and I like the presentation style because it’s so out of the way of the rest of gameplay.

Overall I think his critique is extremely well presented even if I disagree with a lot of it. I’m amazed it doesn’t have more views, he knows what he’s doing and I’d like to see more analysis in this style from everyone.

What do you think about Joseph Anderson?–PiJXCMKxQQ

I’ve been watching his videos, I’ve seen his dark souls series which I’ve covered already. I adore his pattern of making claims about things and backing them up with evidence. He totally broke down the dark souls combat system, he explains differences in methods across playthroughs, cites every example of things happening, and generally gets really detail oriented. Even where I disagree with him, he’s absolutely taking the right method to making the points that he makes.

I’ve watched all his dark souls videos except the DkS2 DLC, The Witness, Fallout 4, and Dungeon Keeper. I haven’t played any of the other games in his videos, so I haven’t watched them yet. I want to watch his Dragon’s Dogma video after playing the game.

New favorite game critic, probably. I might be overly positive because he’s doing stuff better than the previous guys. Still, strong step in the right direction.

4 thoughts on “Joseph Anderson on Dark Souls

  1. treeghettox June 12, 2016 / 3:04 am

    I sure do love fighting tons of enemies at the same time. Deacons of the Deep really showed how much Souls can shine when it follows brawler conventions. I wish Souls players weren’t such pussies about this because it adds much-needed variety to the gameplay and honestly isn’t that hard.


    • Chris Wagar June 12, 2016 / 3:15 am

      I found deacons to be just a tad too easy personally. They’re just a bit too passive, but yeah, Multiple enemies are fun. Congregation in Dark Souls 2 is really fun, but nobody else seems to like it.


      • treeghettox June 12, 2016 / 11:20 am

        I mean yeah, everything in DS III is way too easy. I specifically really liked how attacking fat guys toppled over nearby enemies as well. That’s some classic crowd control action right there. I think the series is getting stale and it really needs more ideas like that to justify new games. I’d also like to see an emphasis on cutting off limbs to handicap large enemies or bosses. The engine is clearly capable of supporting this and it would go a long way towards moving Souls forwards. On that note, why did they get rid of cutting off tails? It’s such a simple and enjoyable feature and it just disappeared almost completely after Dark Souls.


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