Multiple Enemy Fights are Fair

The claim that Souls combat is best suited to one on one seems quite popular, and even Yahtzee barfed it in his let it die video. ( ) What is the basis for this claim and how would you counter it?

Basis: When you lock onto an enemy, the camera points at them. You cannot lock onto multiple enemies at once.

Counterpoint: This is true in Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising as well, Nier Automata too, and nobody would say this horseshit about those games, even though MGR shits the bed in multiple enemy encounters by having the camera slowly push you into the wall.

Double counterpoint: Ninja Gaiden doesn’t have lockon, you need to move the camera around as you fight enemies and carefully manage it. Nobody would be dumb enough to say this about Ninja Gaiden either. The big important difference between Souls and Ninja Gaiden is that in Souls, the attack buttons are on the shoulders instead of the face buttons, so you can easily reposition the camera and attack at the same time.

Triple Counterpoint: You can move around enemies more quickly when you’re not locked on, meaning even versus individual enemies it’s frequently beneficial to lock off. If you can keep the camera on point, it’s technically better to never lock on, except that it allows you to move backwards and attack forwards. So you have clear reasons to lock off in both single and multi enemy encounters.

Quad Counterpoint: Fighting multiple enemies is fun because of how they can combine their attack patterns, and you have a lot of tools for doing so efficiently, from wide sword swipes to long range moves, to invincible backstabs.

Final Counterpoint: People are stupid. They think it’s suited for 1 on 1 because they’re bad at video games. People come up with all sorts of excuses for how all sorts of forms of difficulty are “artificial” or illegitimate. Souls games have used multiple enemy encounters from the beginning, every time there’s a new one people complain about multiple enemies.

11 thoughts on “Multiple Enemy Fights are Fair

  1. A man March 24, 2017 / 8:34 pm

    Hello, a “Stupid person” here.

    The crutch of your argument deflates the instant we think about HOW those games pull this element off far better. You’re being extremely generous about DS1’s “wide sword swipes and long range moves” – most attacks strike in a very limited range in front of your character, hitting at most 1 to 2 targets. Which, as it turns out, isn’t that great for a situation where you need to hit several. (Although I will give you that From improved on this more after DKS2) Meanwhile, in Ninja Gaiden, not only do you have access to a bunch of different weapons with different combos that you need to learn to maximize your attack area, but most attacks are almost always designed to hit more than a few guys no matter the situation.

    DKS’s backstabs/parries for invincibility frames are freaking laughable in comparison to NG’s izuna drops, wind paths, guillotine throws (which are pretty much essential on MN) etc. The other thing about Ryu is that he’s constantly moving. He can jump, he can juggle enemies in the air, he can run on walls, he can bounce off their heads – all of this shit makes for a better time dealing with multiple threats. As much as I like DKS, these factors make DKS attempts at multiple enemy encounters look elementary in comparison, and all of the DKS SL1 videos in the world are not going to change this.

    The thing about the lock on – telling people to avoid it in many situations says more about the mechanic itself than anything else. If a game wants you to fight multiple guys, have the fucking camera accommodate that. Perhaps put our heads together and develop a new lock on system that can target more than one guy at once. You know, an improvement? Or is that completely off the plate with you?

    “Final Counterpoint: People are stupid. They think it’s suited for 1 on 1 because they’re bad at video games.”

    I have mastered many games that shit all over DKS difficulty. The game is more suited toward 1v1.


    • Chris Wagar March 25, 2017 / 9:57 am

      Hello my man,

      Just so you know, it’s crux, not crutch.

      The least I can say is, you’re given the tools to fight multiple enemies. The camera in Dark Souls is good enough for you to adjust it and keep track of multiple targets at the same time. You play Ninja Gaiden, that game doesn’t even have lock-on, you have to adjust the camera manually all the time, and the camera in Ninja Gaiden honestly isn’t nearly as good as the Dark Souls camera.

      You can dodge enemies in dark souls, you can move around them. You can choose when to attack and when not to, and they are committed to their own attacks. They give you opportunities and you can take them. This is an interesting style of play and saying that the game is exclusively oriented or best suited for 1v1 combat is a disservice to the franchise. When you only have one enemy, you can lock onto them and circle strafe around them to attack their backside very easily. When you have two enemies, you have a much harder time doing this. Hitting only 1 or 2 enemies is fine, if you could hit all the enemies at once, then why bother having multiple enemies? The point is to allow them to threaten you while you are busy attacking, so you need to pick where you will attack and where you will bide your time. You need to figure out how to move around enemies so as not to get cornered or surrounded. This is fun, this is dynamic.

      The reason I posted that video was to make clear, you don’t have to lock on. Frequently it’s to your advantage to not lock on. This is true in all games with lock-on, not just Dark Souls. The thing I was trying to address was that people feel like lock-on is necessary, that you need to turn it on in order to fight, but you don’t. It is a tool that you should both be using and not using as the situation demands it.

      I definitely agree with you, our camera systems could be improved. I’ve written up ideas for how to code camera systems that better capture everything on-screen so a lock-on isn’t as necessary. A lock-on that captures multiple targets though, I don’t think that’s really feasible. Maybe having a toggle mode to force the camera to keep all enemies on-screen versus focusing on the character and where they’re going might be a nice idea, but still, I play dark souls all the time. I fight multiple enemies in souls games all the time. It’s perfectly possible to stay aware of their relative positions and manage the camera as you fight. We should not be excluding this type of challenge from the game because some people think the game isn’t built for it, because it’s extremely fun in the souls combat system.

      Also, I’ve mastered games harder than souls too, this does not change things.


      • A man March 25, 2017 / 6:27 pm

        I was expecting a hostile answer, but you actually impressed me. That’s very refreshing.

        The camera for Ninja Gaiden, yeah, it’s not that great. It was one of the first hurdles that made me pause before getting into those games.

        What we’re discussing about movement and interaction with enemies is something fairly basic that can really be said about many 3D action games.

        I’m very happy that you acknowledged the point about attacks having limited range. It’s a big example of what I mean though: Dark Souls wants to be this game where you’re fighting a bunch of guys and shit at once, but it never truly commits itself to the concept like the other games mentioned above for the reasons I mentioned in my previous post.

        I could keep going on this but I have other things to do. You seem like a hardass in your blogs but I respect that you answered me honestly and you discuss some interesting shit on your blog posts, even if I disagree a lot of the time. I’m trying the youtube review thing out, so maybe sometime you’ll have a swing at my stuff. I’ll see you around, man.


        • Chris Wagar March 25, 2017 / 9:18 pm

          Seems to be a running trend that people expect me to be hostile, but when they actually talk to me they’re surprised that I’m not gonna be rude to someone who is an actual person rather than an abstract idea of a person.

          I think Nier Automata did a spectacular job with its camera customization settings. I’ve never seen a game that let you customize how far the camera sits from the character, plus horizontal and vertical auto-adjust and pursuit speed. I think ideally in the future, cameras will be optimized to the point where the player does not need to manually move them, and will simply frame everything with only minimal player direction.

          Souls doesn’t give you the same crutches that Ninja Gaiden does for dealing with multiple enemies. It expects you to take on multiple enemies with a minimum of cheese and a minimum of easy escape methods. And this is hard, but I’d strongly argue that it’s not unfair, and that is is an amazingly fun type of difficulty.

          If you make a review and want me to have a look at it, I promise I’ll give you a fair shake. Other people have found my criticism of their video reviews really helpful, like Novacanoo.


          • Lyssavirus February 19, 2021 / 11:07 pm

            Can you explain why you consider it a crutch for NG? It’s really not a crutch, but movement options like Ryu has WOULD be a crutch in a game as unhurried as DS. You can also find a way to cheese any game unfortunately, but I had a hard time seeing opportunities in NG. UT is kinda a crapshoot especially on higher diff, but it’s a nice card to play for a gamble and you really can’t spam it iirc. It’s not really a game that goes for the amount of stuff you can do or string together, but there’s videos of that if you look for them. It’s depth come from its enemy aggression and your defensive options, and the weapons all have functionality, you just have to commit to one. Anyway, I like your website and I love your focus, but you should probably at the least go back to NG/Black and give it another go, and aim for some higher difficulties. It may have been a while, but I know the accessibility can be a hassle.


  2. Augus SA (@Augus_SA) April 9, 2017 / 10:43 pm

    I used to think the problem with Dark Souls 2 was throwing too many enemies at the player at once, but then I watched Joseph Anderson’s video about the game and how locking off is often the superior strategy. Replaying the game (PS4 version) recently with that knowledge in mind, it clicked a lot more for me. I started looking at enemy encounters differently and weighing my options of pulling them one at a time vs fighting them head-on. Sometimes I challenged myself to fight them all at once even if it seemed like a really bad idea, and I would surprise myself with what I was capable of with the game’s mechanics. Beating those two giants in Black Gulch without cheesing them with ranged attacks was a big landmark achievement for me. And the Ruin Sentinels ended up being one of the more really enjoyable fights in the game. I used to hate and dread having to do that fight, to the point I would just go in another direction and come back with decked out weapons to destroy them quickly. This time I fought them as soon as they were available and only took a couple tries. And the crowd of Royal Swordsmen outside the fight? No problem at all. I realized that I was trying to approach fights with multiple enemies the same as 1-on-1 fights instead of thinking about my available options, and the wide sweeping attacks my greatsword had, and figuring out an actual solution to the problem the game was confronting me with. I stopped treating the use of life gems like it’s cheating and started seeing them as a utility for dealing with situations where the much slower and more limited Estus doesn’t cut it. I was enjoying the game way more than I was before.

    This isn’t to say DS2 isn’t without its flaws though. Fighting multiple enemies at once is fine and the game gives you the tools to handle them, but I think especially in the original version of the game, a good number of these fights are poorly-balanced. Fighting more than one ogre at once is frustrating because the ogres are poorly designed enemies in general, and their issues are exacerbated when paired. Specifically, their grab attack has horrendous hitbox issues, you can be teleported into it so easily, and mitigating this by rolling past them instead of away from them isn’t much of an option when there are two of them. Some of the large knight enemies have ridiculous movesets with poor hitboxes, seemingly infinite stamina, and bizarre animation cancels that are out of place in the game, and then you’re outright forced to fight several of them at once with no real way to try and separate them. These aren’t issues with the combat system, it’s an issue with poorly-balanced enemy encounters. The other games in the series aren’t free from these issues, but Souls 2’s issue is that in the base game it never really reaches the heights that these games reached, it wallows in mediocrity and becomes outright bad every now and then, it’s actually quite good at points, but is never nearly as amazing as the best levels in the other games. There are just so many levels and bosses that are forgettable, trivial, or both. A lot of it feels half-baked, like they had good ideas but never got around to developing them. Considering the major technical downgrade the game had to go through mid-development, and how much work that must’ve been, it’s not that hard to see how the game ended up being underwhelming.

    The DLC areas are largely free from these issues. In fact, they are some of the best experiences the series has to offer, with genuinely intricate and fun level design and interesting enemy encounters that still utilize large groups but in a balanced way. I absolutely adore sanctum city, it’s just a wonderful area to explore, filled with clever encounters and interesting environmental puzzles that let you get the edge on enemies. Not to mention how it’s dripping with atmosphere, how the level loops around on itself, and fantastic bosses. Elana is a great example of a boss fight against multiple enemies that works, her spells compliment Veldstadt’s moveset incredibly well and the fight can get very frantic and exciting. The only problem is that there’s a huge element of RNG with the fight, because sometimes she just won’t summon Veldtadt at all and the fight will be many times easier, and other times she’ll summon him right away and just revive him immediately the second you kill him. Fighting the two bosses at once is no problem, the inconsistency of difficulty is the issue. Dark Souls combat isn’t “built only for one-on-one fights”, it’s individual, poorly balanced encounters where groups of enemies become a problem.

    It’s not just Dark Souls 2, I’ve heard this complaint about “combat not being designed around multiple enemies” in many other places too, some of which were just really baffling to me. I actually even saw someone say that Breath of the Wild’s combat isn’t designed around multiple enemies, and I just had no idea how to respond because it’s so blatantly wrong. The game just constantly throws splash-damage explosives at you, both figuratively and literally. How is that not suited for groups of enemies. How did you even turn on this video game.

    Agility is still a really fucking dumb stat though.


  3. Chris Wagar April 10, 2017 / 3:19 pm

    I’m glad you were able to find multiple enemy encounters enjoyable after a change in mindset.

    I agree that the ogres were terrible and their grab attack just had a really poor hitbox.

    Dark Souls 2 certainly doesn’t shine as brightly as the other entries in the series. I just disagree with the popular opinion that it’s a bad game. It was uninspired and mediocre in many ways, but it built itself on top of a solid foundation. It wasn’t inspired, but it also wasn’t a travesty.

    People had a lot of negative expectations of the game from the first trailer for it, and upon the news that Miyazaki wasn’t directing, and the downgrade kind of sealed the deal in many people’s minds. It deserved a fair shake, but drew a bad lot.


    • Augus SA (@Augus_SA) April 10, 2017 / 10:37 pm

      Yeah it’s definitely not a disaster or an insult to the series, but it’s very underwhelming as a whole, and while it’s easy to say “But the DLC is good!” you have to own the game, play at least 20 hours of it, AND pay extra for the DLC or the remastered version in order to access that DLC. It’s pretty clear the game had a troubled development cycle. It started out overly ambitious and changed directors midway through, and the changes made to downgrade the lighting, textures, and even the models and level architecture to something workable are so major that it couldn’t have possibly been a good situation to bring the game to a finished state. The fact that the combat works as good as it does (albeit with some wonky animations and weird endlag) is kinda a miracle.


      • Chris Wagar April 11, 2017 / 8:02 pm

        I’ve actually never played the much acclaimed Dark Souls 2 DLC or Scholar of the First Sin. I’m defending the base game on the base game’s merits alone.

        There was a LOT of shit that went wrong with Dark Souls 2, however by all reasonable standards, it’s still a great game. It’s not even a 7/10, it’s at least an 8/10. It’s a disappointment compared to the others, but it still has all the core gameplay features that made the other games in the series great. It fell short of high ambitions, and people only see it in terms of what it could have been instead of what it is.

        Plus people saying multiple enemy encounters is bad, or an invalid way to design a game, that’s fucking dangerous. That sets a horrific precedent for future games.

        It’s really not a “miracle” that the combat works as good as it does. We had 2 playable demos before the game came out. It works almost exactly the same as the other souls games. It’s faster even in many ways. They adjusted the visuals of a lot of areas, not the core gameplay code.


        • Augus SA (@Augus_SA) April 12, 2017 / 5:09 pm

          I wouldn’t underestimate the problem that comes with visual adjustments. The adjustments they made were far-reaching and dramatic, entirely different assets in many cases. This is a lot of work. It’s a ton of pressure that requires other things to be shelved. You can’t put a few more rooms in a level when you need to completely redo the stuff that’s already there.

          A lot of the areas themselves definitely seem like actual level design was cut. There are a couple of changes from the demos that are not just visual. A hallway changed in Forest of Fallen Giants, a walkway leading in a different direction that was absent in the final game, Aldia’s Keep being laid out differently, that kind of stuff. Then the main game itself has all of these doors that very much look like they were supposed to be accessible paths, like the game visually guides you toward them and everything, but are hastily covered up by debris. I don’t want to try and be a mind-reader or anything, but every time I’ve played the game, even after coming to enjoy it more, the impression I’ve gotten was that a lot was missing. And not just in a “this game isn’t big or long enough” way, what I mean is that it kills your enthusiasm after a while. It starts out fairly promising but doesn’t last all that long before it starts stuttering and running on fumes, like all it’s on autopilot. It was probably wrong to say it’s a “miracle” the combat works though, yeah. It was clearly something they got working early on and didn’t need to change much. The combat is consistently fun, but there isn’t enough interesting things built around that combat. And I don’t want to come across like I was hyped by the demo and then let down when the final product wasn’t the same. Beyond an early teaser, I didn’t follow news about Dark Souls 2 at all, I went into the game with very little knowledge. I’m talking about the early demo not to try and show that the fanbase’s expectations were betrayed, but to try and see where the game’s problems came from.

          I consider the level design to be the most important part of Dark Souls, and for it to fall so short in that area at many times is what makes the game frustrating to me. There is no singular thing in the game as bad as Lost Izalith, but once you collect the great souls (a bit before that, really) the overbearing feeling I have is like the game has run out of steam and is just meandering about, not much unlike the feeling of the last third of Dark Souls. Scholar of the First Sin helps a bit by upping the enemy variety in Drangleic Castle, and Shrine of Amana is genuinely good in any version of the game. But Drangleic Castle ends too quickly and lacks any interesting design, it’s completely unremarkable in its architecture. There are twice as many bosses in the game as there need to be, almost every area has at least one utterly trivial and boring boss, and one genuinely engaging boss. Earthen Keep has Mytha the Baneful Queen, a decent boss, but then Covetous Demon dropped in the middle. Mirror Knight is just a short jog away from the Dual Dragon Riders. It screws with the pacing of a level. There were very few levels in the game that felt like they had a proper introduction, a substantial journey in the middle, and then a proper conclusion. The poor structure makes much of it feel like white noise even when the combat isn’t any less fun, it never gets a chance to leave an impression. I praise a lot of the changes in Scholar of the First Sin but by a long shot it doesn’t go far enough to fully remedy these problems.

          I don’t really like score systems, but the base game would be, in my opinion, a very firm 7/10. It’s not a bad game. It’s a good game in fact. But its flaws are big ones and are spread too widely throughout the game to be easily forgiven. I’d say the DLC would elevate the game to an 8, with the DLC itself hovering in the upper 9 zone, only dragged down slightly by lazy “co-op areas” that are tacked on but are thankfully entirely optional and easily ignored. It takes the good combat of the base game but does it infinitely more justice by shaping interesting level and boss design around it. Just about everything Dark Souls 2 lacked is present here. It even kinda elevates the game’s last stretch, by giving you the goal of collecting the crowns from the DLC areas to obtain a final reward in the base game before the end. The final boss in the base game felt like it came out of nowhere, collecting the crowns gives the game a more proper third act.

          I’m probably droning on a lot, I just really like Dark Souls okay?


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