Saturday, September 8, 2018


I just recently finished playing through Dark Souls 3.  Long overdue, I know, but it turned out to be fortuitous timing considering the first gameplay details for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice have been emerging.  It sounds like the developer, From Software, has been taking fan feedback to heart by addressing long standing issues (some of which were becoming particularly annoying in Dark Souls 3).

Take, for example, the fact that enemies can attack longer and faster than ever before in the series.  Unlike the player, these foes aren't limited by stamina bars or focus points.  Worse still, the player no longer has the mobility that was once available to them in Bloodborne.  Couple that with the fact that parry timing is more demanding than ever and the overall experience is one of frustration when it comes to this kind of defense.  The degree of precision needed to reliably pull off a successful riposte has always been beyond my ability, so like a lot of fans I often rely on blocking with a shield.  Flailing enemies seriously limit this kind of defense though, and when you get down to it at some point you're going to have to make a counterattack.  However, since poise is also less effective than it has ever been previously, it's very easy to have the player's attack animation interrupted and wind up stun-locked (at which point the only recourse is it roll away like a hyperactive acrobat).  Additionally, I've found that certain large or powerful foes have attacks that, even when blocked (with enough stamina to absorb the hit), still cause the player's character to slide back in a momentarily paralyzed state.  Thankfully, Sekiro dispels nearly all these issues with the introduction of a new posture system and a more agile (than ever before) character, who is also unrestricted in terms of a stamina bar.  Conversely, brute forcing through obstacles by power-leveling isn't an option now that most of the stat-driven RPG mechanics have been removed in favor of a more Zelda-like progression system.  Enough about mechanics though...let's move on to athstetics.

Transplanting the setting from an increasingly drab gothic Europe to a more vibrant feudal Japan is a welcome change of scenery.  At some point after the release of Dark Souls 2, I feel like From Software decided that a suppressed color palette mixed with nauseatingly disgusting environmental design was the order of the day.  Granted, that has always been a big part of their games look and feel, but the original Dark Souls had places and enemies that were more haunting than hideous, which helped vary the experience.  Blighttown and the Valley of Defilement were the only swamp zones in their respective games, yet in Dark Soul 3 there are four such areas.  Again, I'm sure ash and sludge were prevailing themes during the development of Dark Souls 3, but they become so ubiquitous that it gets old long before the game ends.

Speaking of endings, From Software has developed a reputation for opaque storylines and cryptic conclusions, but that wasn't always the case.  Demon's Souls actually had a fairly comprehensible plot, although it was easy to miss out on little details due to the weird world tendency system employed by that game.  One wonders if Miyazaki Hidetaka (the mind behind much of what you see in these games) can tell a compelling story without having to depend on item descriptions to convey the lion's share of the details.  I should clarify that I'm not asking for Final Fantasy X or Kojima length cutscenes here.  I just would like to see more than an eight second clip that typically marks the finish of a From Software title.   

Don't even get me started on the ridiculous
number of mimic chests in Dark Souls 3...

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