Experienced Points: How Shadow of Mordor is a Poor Man’s Batman: Arkham Game

By Shamus
on Oct 28, 2014
Filed under:
Column

The Batman: Arkham gameplay is a lot like God of War and Diablo: It’s something that looks simple and easy to duplicate, but it’s not until you play a bad clone that you realize just how much thought and attention went into the original, and how difficult it is to replicate on anything other than a superficial level. My column this week is about how Shadow of Mordor missed a few core concepts that made Arkham work so well.

People were kind of surprised that I included Dark Souls in my Top 64 Games list. I’m on record as someone who hates punishing gameplay, and I’m not a huge fan of high difficulty. Or more accurately, I hate high difficulty when mixed with learning. I hate dying tons of times when trying to master a new system, but I’m happy to crank up the difficulty once I’ve gotten good at a game and decided I like it.

I tried Dark Souls a couple of months ago. As predicted, I found it stressful and unpleasant. I tried to fight that first boss, died twice, and decided I didn’t want to play anymore. I wasn’t having a good time, and unlike most Dark Souls fans I wouldn’t get a profound sense of accomplishment when I finally did get the patterns and timing down.

Strangely enough, it was Batman: Arkham City that enabled me to see what people liked in Dark Souls. People praise Dark Souls for being “fair”, and they say that, “When you die, it’s your fault.” That never made any sense to me, because as a new player the game is manifestly unfair. A sudden bolder rolls down the steps and does massive damage? Yeah. There’s nothing remotely “fair” about that.

But what we’re talking about is a lack of randomness or system noise. In Half-Life 2, even the greatest player in the world will get hit sometimes. Everyone takes damage. So when you complete a room you have no way of knowing how well you did. Could this room be done better? Is it possible to take less damage? Actually, maybe we should rate performance based on how long it takes to kill the enemies instead of damage taken. What’s the core mastery here? Am I working to maximize damage output or minimize incoming damage?

But in Arkham and Dark Souls, there’s no noise. The “fair” bit means that once you fully master the game, it is totally possible to get through the whole thing without taking a scratch. When you die, you don’t have to worry that you were just unlucky and a bad guy got a critical or something. Every death – and even every hit – is avoidable. This means that the longer you play the game, the better you perform. You can see and feel yourself improve.

Dark Souls just doesn’t appeal to me, but it’s the punishment, not the system. For me playing Dark Souls is like trying to learn to play the piano in a situation where fluffing too many notes will force me to go back and practice some other tune that I’ve already mastered.

If you found Batman “boring”, it’s probably because you thought your goal was just to survive, which is obviously pretty easy. But your real goal is to execute fights without getting hit and without breaking your combo. When viewed this way, I find Batman’s gameplay to be immensely enjoyable.

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202020208Great Scott! 88 comments! If only this post was a DeLorean.

From the Archives:

  1. kanodin says:

    So what I get out of this article is that Shadow of Mordor has Assassin’s Creed combat.

  2. Thomas says:

    I actually think Mordor improved on Arkham combat in several ways. You get to break out of any animation for a counter so there’s no moments where your combo gets screwed because you didn’t know that an enemy was going to attack sometime in the future just after you’d started punching someone.

    And the couple of extra seconds mean that you can string combos in Arkham all the way across the map. Comboing from one group of orcs into the next is so much fun.

    Also the critical hit system in Arkham was pretty silly. Press punch once per attack and it’s a critical hit! Mordor adds a timing challenge, you’ve got to attack at the moment your first attack hits to get a critical, forcing an aggressive and fluid play.

    Finally, when you’re good (and upgraded), Mordor combat is _much_ quicker than Asylum combat. You can decimate a group in a few seconds with the right timing in Mordor. Even when your good at Arkham there’s not much you can really do to dispatch a group of enemies much faster.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “You get to break out of any animation for a counter so there’s no moments where your combo gets screwed because you didn’t know that an enemy was going to attack sometime in the future just after you’d started punching someone.”

      That just makes more door easier to play in the center of the mob,while in arkham you are encouraged to skirt the mob,never allowing them to surround you.Both systems have a different feel.

      “Also the critical hit system in Arkham was pretty silly. Press punch once per attack and it’s a critical hit! Mordor adds a timing challenge, you’ve got to attack at the moment your first attack hits to get a critical, forcing an aggressive and fluid play.”

      Actually thats exactly how arkham does it.Press punch once as soon as the animation for the previous hit is over and you get a critical.Its the exact same principle.

      “Finally, when you’re good (and upgraded), Mordor combat is _much_ quicker than Asylum combat. You can decimate a group in a few seconds with the right timing in Mordor. Even when your good at Arkham there’s not much you can really do to dispatch a group of enemies much faster.”

      Arkham gets quicker the higher your combo is up.Especially in 3 once you get the gloves.So you can dispatch of huge mobs quickly if you dont let them break your combo.

      • Thomas says:

        At least in Asylum and as far as I remember, in City, you get a critical just for hitting the punch button once per punch. There’s no timing element to it, you can do that as long as the combo metre is still running.

        I remember reading an FAQ for Asylum that went over the exact restrictions so I know I’m right there. I never noticed a difference for City and it took me ages to get critical’s right in Mordor because I was working under the assumption it was the exact same system when it wasn’t.

        Also, Arkham’s combat does speed up (which both feels awesome and slightly ridiculous at the high speeds), but you’ve got to warm it up. Mordor gets rid of that warm up time, there’s not much you can do to dispatch 5 foes instantaneously in Arkham but you can do that in Mordor with the right strategy

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Well you are remembering wrong,because you are not right.What you remember goes for combos.If you hit the button more than once(if you button mash)you lose your combo.But criticals are gained for pressing the button at the moment animation finishes,so just the same as here.

          “there’s not much you can do to dispatch 5 foes instantaneously in Arkham but you can do that in Mordor with the right strategy”

          Actually,enemies stay staggered/on the ground longer in batman,so the special for taking down stunned enemies will take more of them.It also has a wider area of effect than the one in more door.Also,the warm up time gets pretty short as you level.Plus,your gadgets can take out multiple foes at once,though using gadgets in combat is not present in the first batman.

          • TSi says:

            Doesn’t Mordor have some RPG elements where you unlock skills and improve previous ones in a way that the game gets “easier” or at least gives you more options while Arkham stays the same from start to end ?

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Both have stuff that unlock over time.

              • Felblood says:

                A lot of the unlocks are even the same.

                For example they both have a perk that allows you to use finishers every 5 combo points, rather than every 8. This infuriates me, sine in both games I got these perks around the time I got the counter timing down well enough I could occasionally build combos past 7.

                Congratulations on finally reaching a level of skill you were expected to need to get out of the first room! Your reward is that you never actually need to do that again.

                Fie on both these games, for that.

          • Thomas says:

            No, you’ve definitely got it wrong. If you button mash in Arkham Asylum nothing happens, the combo only breaks if you actually miss an attack. Maybe you’re thinking of Origins combat and not Asylum or City

            Check it out
            http://www.gamefaqs.com/pc/952339-batman-arkham-asylum/faqs/57661

            “To execute a Critical, all you
            have to do is only tap the X button only *once* since your last move.”

            It also explains how you can mash the punch button and it doesn’t break your combo. I’ve done this, I know it 100% correct, I don’t know what you remembering but it didn’t happen. Perhaps you thought there was a timing element in Asylum and so you always did it like that and never noticed it wasn’t needed?

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              http://www.gamefaqs.com/pc/952339-batman-arkham-asylum/faqs/57675

              “Critical Combo Strikes –
              – This is a combat upgrade.
              – It’s available from the first upgrade you get.
              – With this active, you can perform Critical Strikes. To do this, you need
              to be within a combo of at least x3. Press Square once just after
              connecting with an enemy
              , aim at any enemy in your fight, and you will
              jump to that enemy for a powerful strike. You can do this from a
              surprisingly far distance away.
              – Not only will this cause the most damage of any attack short of a takedown,
              but also add 2 to your combo instead of the usual 1.”

              One of those guides is wrong.

              • Thomas says:

                That’s copying from the “hint” text in the game which is actually false. If you want to check out which guide to believe, just look at them, your linking to the ‘upgrades’ section of a normal walkthrough. The first FAQ is an FAQ _specifically_ for the combat mechanics. In fact your FAQ is wrong in a second way. It says

                “Press Square once just after connecting with an enemy, aim at any enemy in your fight, and you will jump to that enemy for a powerful strike. You can do this from a surprisingly far distance away.”

                That’s not a critical strike doing the jumping thing. The way combat in Arkham works, the first two hits are a normal punch and then the third hit _regardless_ of whether it’s a critical strike can jump _any_ distance to hit an enemy

                The only timing window is the timeout for your combo meter altogether. As long as you punch one before your combo fails out, it will be a critical strike.

                This is not how it works in Mordor. You can press the attack button exactly once before your combo meter runs out and it won’t be a critical hit. To get a critical hit you’ve actually got to punch at the moment of combat.

                In Arkham you can actually punch someone, and then move a little, and then punch again and still get a critical hit.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Let it never be said that Im lazy.Ive installed the game* once more,and heres the exact text for the critical upgrade:

                  “Press the strike button once immediately after the contact point of a previous combo blow to unleash a critical combo strike”

                  Ive also tested it.It works only if you press it just as the punch connects.I dont know if the discrepancy is because I play as it should be,while that guide is for a ps,or because of the difficulty(as all real men,I play on the hardest one).

                  Oh,and I was only slightly wrong about button mashing.You dont lose combo immediately,but you do miss almost 100% of the time doing it.

                  And thats asylum,the one that has the most forgiving controls.

                  *Thank you gfwl for making me resort to piracy because I couldnt be bothered to search for a damned patch to remove you.Ugh.

                  • Thomas says:

                    I don’t disagree that the text says that. I know because I read the text and I found I was struggling to do it properly and then I read the FAQ and found I could do it absolutely consistently.

                    I’m not talking multiple seconds here, if you do nothing for multiple seconds the combo runs out and dies. But you’ve got as long to get a critical hit as you have to do anything else before the combo dies. Try waiting that same distance without stunning someone and it will be the same.

                    Whereas in Mordor you have to time the hit with the point of impact. You have a longer window before the combo dies but a shorter window before the critical hit dies.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Nope.If you try to hit before the punch connects,you get a regular strike,just like in more door.The only difference is that in more door you have a long time before the combo goes away(I think its a second or two),so you arent conditioned to chain your hits as fast as in asylum,because there if you wait even half a second after the hit connects,you lose the combo meter,which is the same window to get a critical,both in arkham and in more door.Now I think this got more lax in the sequels(maybe it was an upgrade there?),but Im not sure of that.

  3. Tobias says:

    Dark Soul felt a lot less punishing to me then “easier” games. Including DS2.

    When I fail in DS I have to try the section again. It might become easier because I picked up some item but it will never become harder.

    If I fail in Arkham I progress, but get less XP. So I make the rest of the game harder by making a mistake. Similar to when I chose a terrible build in Skyrim.
    It might not make that much of a difference as those games are pretty easy, but it is still very annoying.

    • gunther says:

      I remember giving up on Oblivion back in the day when I realized the unintuitive levelling system and level-adjusted enemies resulted in my character getting slightly weaker every time he levelled up. There’s few design choices worse than “if you don’t build your character the way we like, we’ll punish you for it. And we’ll do so very subtly, so that you don’t connect the increasing difficulty with your levelling up decision, and thus don’t correct the mistake and keep getting weaker”.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is; opaque game mechanics suck. You gotta let us know if we’re doing the right thing or not. Dark Souls has a bit of that going on – it’s completely unclear which of your stats are worthwhile.

      • Cilvre says:

        The nice thing about dark souls though is that you aren’t hindered by leveling the wrong stat necessarily, you can stay in the early areas and keep leveling until you feel comfortable to move on. The game doesn’t get any harder just because you are overleveled. While it makes it easier to play, things can and still will kill you though if you aren’t using that time to see how enemies work.

        • Trix2000 says:

          Well, the main thing is that levels don’t really matter so much as equipment does. Really, the only reason stats are important at all is to allow you to use equipment (also endurance is pretty important, but not strictly necessary if you manage stamina well).

          There are enough speedruns with people jogging around naked to show how much you don’t technically need levels or equipment to succeed.

    • Ivan says:

      On the contrary I still find Dark Souls very punishing, and almost spitefully so. Don’t get me wrong, I got through the game and enjoyed it but it really could have done without the loss of XP on death.

      For those who don’t know, in Dark Souls, you get XP from doing things, mostly killing enemies. We’ll call this floating XP because this XP does nothing for you until you spend it (at a campfire, one of the few safe locations in the game). If however you die before you can spend it you will louse all your floating XP in a little puddle on the floor. If you can get back to where you died and recover it then you essentially suffered no penalty except for that long walk and all the fights on the way. If you die though then you louse all that floating XP in that puddle and make a new one with your current floating XP.

      Basically not only do you have to replay a series of rooms you’ve already mastered, but you risk your entire first run being worth nothing. Now maybe it’s just particularly hard for me but every death makes me more and more frustrated to the point where I start making mistakes on challenges I never had problems with before. But, my first death had a very real possibility of sending me into a death spiral, and the idea that I was also making no progress in the game on-top of this was salt in the wound.

      Bosses in particular are exasperated because once you get to them and recover your stuff you have to make the choice, “do I use an item to run away or to I go double or nothing and take a chance and fight them again”. On-top of this, after beating said boss I now have a huge cache of XP and I’m faced with another choice, continue on into new and uncharted territory to find a campfire, or return to a campfire I all ready know so as not to risk my XP. I pretty much always picked the latter and this tactic tended to pay off as well. But is this fun? No this is just adding unnecessary grind on-top of the game.

      The last flaw is maybe self imposed as I was playing a lightly armored dude with a shield and spear, but the game has a tendency to just outright kill you when you do something wrong, and while living in such a lethal world can be cool, and succeeding in it can be awesome, having a high death-penalty is extremely aggravating.

      • Neruz says:

        If the XP actually mattered at all then the system wouldn’t work; it is entirely possible (though somewhat tedious) to go through the entirety of Dark Souls at Soul Level 1 because you don’t need XP at all. Losing souls is upsetting, but not actually debilitating.

        The death penalty in Dark Souls only seems high if you think souls are actually important; they’re not. Better equipment and higher soul levels are just a crutch to make the game easier.

        • Ivan says:

          But that makes it even less sensible. You punish bad play/players by making the game harder? That just sounds like poor design to me.

          • John C says:

            There are some bad design decisions in Dark Souls (i.e. everything about the Bed of Chaos). But the recovery system isn’t one of them.

            One of the central points of Dark Souls’s design philosophy is to avoid holding the player’s hand. As soon as you finish the tutorial level, you have all the tools you need to finish the game (theoretically). You’re free to get better weapons and level up, etc.

            If you aren’t good enough to make it through X part of the game, then by Dark Souls’s design philosophy, you need to get better. It’s not the game’s responsibility to help you past the difficult parts.

            Some people like that kind of game, and some people don’t. There’s nothing wrong with either group.

            • Ivan says:

              Ok, I can see what you’re saying about “hand holding” although I personally really dislike the term. It makes sense that Dark Souls doesn’t want you to just bash your head against the wall till one breaks; but I think it makes the game much more punishing than it needs to be. There is still no reason as to why you need to take out the trash every time you want to make another attempt at a boss. Putting a campfire right before every boss encounter would mean that not only do you not have to do the grind all over again but you could spend all your souls before and after the fight and not have to run all the way home after beating a boss for fear that you’re about to louse all your hard earned souls if you take a wrong tern and end up somewhere you shouldn’t have been.

          • Alexander The 1st says:

            Actually, bad play/players get told to figure out how they want to pass through the challenge they were provided, not punished for having to level up before progressing.

            Your enemies don’t level up with you (Except for whom you can be invaded by or summon for help), so when you get punished for failing a challenge, you learn that it might be best to cash in those stats and get, for example, more endurance so you can block that blow and survive – if that’s how you choose to get through it.

            And if you do make that change, then your opponents end up unable to defeat you because you can absorb that attack with your increased endurance, and there’s nothing your opponents can do about it but let you win.

            Dark Souls’ failure systems don’t become a compounding failure problem like the Nemesis system in Shadow of Mordor where you go back and realize you opponent is now immune to the thing you wanted to do when you leveled up and got back (From what I’ve heard, if you fail to defeat a guy often enough, he can be immune to physical, magical, and sneak attacks. Which means that as you fail, you get less options – Dark Souls still gives you those options, you just need to figure out how to make them work.).

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              “Which means that as you fail, you get less options”

              Not really.These options you always have:
              – Lure the orc beneath a fly nest and knock it down,damaging the orc,and scattering every other orc that would prevent you from going one on one.
              – Lure the orc into caragors/sic caragors on the orc
              – Lure the orc into ghuls
              – Lure the orc into a graug

              And these are the options you get later on,that also become options you always have once you unlock them:
              – Sic a graug on the orc
              – Brand a literal army of orcs to help you
              – Brand orc chieftains to help you
              – Activate the one of the three “10 seconds slaughter” options that the orc is vulnerable to(he will always be vulnerable to at least one)

            • Ivan says:

              Yeah, while cashing in is a good idea the game makes it the least fun possible. Using those souls means using a campfire which means that everything re-spawns and you have to kill it all over again. If you don’t want to risk lousing all your souls then you have to commit to another grind, and again, the game’s favorite way to tell you that you’re doing it wrong is to kill you, so by the time you realize that your endurance is too low, it’s probably too late and you have to do a corpse run. That means a grind up to where you died, then running or using an item to get back, then another grind back to the challenge you failed at. That’s assuming that you’re better at dealing with the frustration than I am and it doesn’t cause you to make a stupid mistake and die and louse everything.

              • 4th Dimension says:

                I didn’t have too much problem with respawning mobs because I liked the DS combat. So grinding an area was usually quite fun in my opinion. And if you are failing a boss his is usually not the only path you can take. Usually you can forget him for a while and do side stuff and level there and come back when you are not feeling frustrated. DS is best played in bite sized pieces.

                • benengr says:

                  “… because I liked the DS combat.”

                  I actually think this is perhaps the biggest thing that seperates people who like Dark Souls and people who don’t. If you like the combat then dying isn’t a punishment at all, you just start playing again right away. If you didn’t really care about the combat and just want to get to the next area or see the next thing it’s extremely fustrating. I’ve been in both states of mind while playing and either love the game or just give up for the night.

                  I seem to be opposite of Shamus where I did not particularly like combat in the Arkham and didn’t want to learn how to do it right. I just wanted to mash buttons and get to the next story points. In Asylum, I enjoyed the game becuase I liked the story, but I ended up not liking City (and haven’t played Origins). In City, the story fell apart for me and I felt like Batman was falling for some pretty obvious ploys and was thinking, “Damn, I’m going to have to fight a bunch more mobs before I can get the story to progress”.

                  • Ivan says:

                    You may have a point there. I do enjoy the combat and would like to see it in more games, in all it’s lethal glory too, but the #1 reason I finish a game and then never play it again is because I’ve seen all or at least most of what it has to offer and don’t want to replay huge sections to find the bits I missed. Mostly though the combat started to feel like a grind because I wasn’t interested in killing the trash again, I was trying to figure out how to pass a new challenge and making me replay a section I had already mastered did nothing to help me past the difficult parts.

                    For the record though, I consider all of this exploration, weather I’m exploring the story or the combat mechanics, or a specific boss or trap it makes little difference. You can only discover something once though and making me replay sections of the game that are irrelevant to what I want to explore is just torture.

                • Starker says:

                  I wonder if it’s in part a difference between people who have experience with consoles and people who haven’t. Something about being used to checkpoint saves. I don’t remember hearing much complaining about having to refight enemies in Super Metroid, for example, and enemies respawn each time you leave a room there.

            • Felblood says:

              This is not correct, in two ways. The game does a great job of giving players other things to do, and no captain is completely immune to all combat styles.

              When a foe defeats you, he gains one or two levels, and two new captains are introduced to the board. If one of his minions got the last hit, they become one of those captains, with a measly power level of 2-4.

              Two levels is actually not very much. It’s just enough to discourage stubborn players from throwing themselves at the wall repeatedly. The game doesn’t want you to worry about taking down that particularly stubborn war-chief, and makes an effort to direct you away from him. Bosses that kill you even spend a time celebrating, and won’t gain levels by doing missions for a while, so they leap ahead, and then fall back in step with the pack.

              Players are actively encouraged to hunt down and kill that wussy upstart right away, as when they kill him quickly, he will drop higher level loot that his level would normally indicate.

              Also, any Nemesis missions on the map will resolve without your influence (RNG seems to think that archers are way more survivable than they really are), and you’ll get a whole new set of missions to pick from.

              Dying is basically punished with a 30 second montage of other things you might try doing and a stern warning to either come up with a better strategy, or practice your skills before facing that boss again.

              No captains will be fully immune to all 3 styles.

              If you are very very unlucky you’ll be pitted against a foe who has a lot of abilities that make him harder to fight in melee, and is immune to the other two tactics, but if you can lure him into an advantageous situation, you can still beat him.

              Moreover, while they will gain more health an special abilities as they go up in level, it’s very rare for a captain to gain an outright immunity without dying at least once. I suspect they can get one from leveling up normally, and one from dying (and even that isn’t more than half the time, if they don’t gain it upon first becoming a Nemesis). A particularly tough foe might be immune to a couple of fighting styles and take only normal damage from other finishers (rather than fatal or massive damage), but nobody is immortal.

              If you do find a captain who has that perfect combination of abilities to make him unkillable, they forget about killing him and find a way to make him YOURS. Your pet war chief needs bodyguards.

          • Tobias says:

            That is pretty much my point.
            Punishing people by making the game harder is bad design.
            Dark Souls has probably the least of that out of any RPGs on the market.

            Remember that every resource you can lose by dying is an infinite resource. And even if you don’t recover your soul you are in exactly the same situation as if you had reloaded in a normal game.

      • GiantRaven says:

        The problem you have is that you care if you lose souls. Souls are meaningless. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time to get some more and there aren’t many situations where you need to spend your souls in order to progress.

        My whole outlook on the game changed completely when I had that realisation.

      • kdansky says:

        You lose the souls for your former death if you die again, that is true, but that’s not the important thing.

        What you don’t lose is your time spent practising, and practise in Dark Souls outshines XP on a few orders of magnitude. I can take out everye boss at soul level 1, and a beginner couldn’t kill any boss at soul level 200. If I die five times, I don’t actually lose anything. I just don’t get a stronger character because I died.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats why theres a ton of side content in arkham.If you screw up doing a main thing,float around doing side things and youll quickly get even.Or better yet,you can surpass everything by grinding for a bit,making the main thing easier and easier.

      Theres no such thing in dark souls,where you are good no matter the path you choose,or you suck no matter the path you choose.

      • Starker says:

        Actually, there is a lot of optional content and side areas in Dark Souls — if you take time to explore, you’ll find XP items, weapons, armour, and even upgrade items that give you a big boost you your damage and defence. You can also make suicide runs to grab items behind enemies that you can’t defeat yet (items are permanent in Dark Souls). And you can also grind to level up and/or buy upgrade items (XP is also the currency of the game).

        The beginning is somewhat “linear” (you’re basically forced down the path of least resistance unless you’ve played the game before), but the game opens up a lot later.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Is any of those optional things easier than the main things?Because in arkham,most are.

          • Starker says:

            For a careful player, there aren’t all that many difficult things apart from the bosses and a few minibosses. Most areas are pretty manageable and even the difficult spots have solutions that you can take advantage of (lure the enemy into fire, use ranged attacks, etc).

            And once you get access to spells or things like charcoal pine resin (which is relatively soon), it lets you take some bosses down way easier.

            I’d go as far as to say that the biggest skill that you need in Dark Souls is patience. Don’t rush into traps. Don’t rush into groups of enemies. Don’t try to be a hero — summon NPCs to help you with bosses.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              So the actual answer to my question is no.

              • Starker says:

                No, the answer is yes.

                Take these two players, for example. Two players who are new to Dark Souls — one is a professional reviewer at a gaming site who has a coach sitting by his side trying to teach him how to play, the other is so new she even has to figure out how to play with a controller first, but she plays carefully and thoughtfully and is much more successful (and has an easier time) as a result.

                One is bashing his way through the game, not bothering to explore much. The method works, but he is essentially brute forcing his way through with much screaming and wailing.

                Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHmXXPpEc1g&list=PL8EDF103C6EBECA64

                The other takes time to explore, tries out different weapons, thinks about the game mechanics and even figures most of them out on her own. She actually takes all the wrong paths at the beginning (graveyard, New Londo) and tries to fight enemies way above the league of an average newbie. As a result, when she gets to the Taurus demon, she has enough training and equipment to take it out on her first try. And she also takes down the first black knight (the one that gave Josh, our veteran Dark Souls player, so much trouble) on her first try, just by making clever use of her surroundings. She’s not doing well because she’s good at the game, she’s doing well because she’s playing smart and because she explores both the world as well as the mechanics of the game thoroughly.

                Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaTUtYVcSww&list=PLFPEDTXyQKoNbqs8NEkKbObhIGrVmRhxT&index=1

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Again,I didnt ask how it should be played,or which style is better,or whatever,I asked a simple question:is the side content youve mentioned easier than the main content.You have answered that it isnt.

                  • Starker says:

                    No, I answered, “Most areas are pretty manageable and even the difficult spots have solutions that you can take advantage of (lure the enemy into fire, use ranged attacks, etc).”

                    The point with my examples wasn’t that these places had tougher than usual mooks, the point was that she gained the necessary things to breeze though the tough main fights (that the other player kept bashing his head on) through exploring areas that weren’t on the main path. She found merchants and items that she wouldn’t have if she had stayed on the main path and she got some good practice on the tougher-than-usual-but-not-as-tough-as-the-bosses-she-fought mooks.

                    You said that…
                    “Theres no such thing in dark souls,where you are good no matter the path you choose,or you suck no matter the path you choose.”

                    But in fact Dark Souls is like a puzzle — the solutions are there, but it’s up to you to find a way. You can go and explore to find better gear and helpful items (and the areas will be in most cases or at least up to a point easier than your current main path difficulty spike) and you can also grind to level up and upgrade your weapons and armor.

                    Dark Souls is a lot like Thief in a way — if the player adapts to the game, they are going to have an easy time. If they expect the game to adapt to them, they’ll have a much harder time.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      “No, I answered, “Most areas are pretty manageable and even the difficult spots have solutions that you can take advantage of (lure the enemy into fire, use ranged attacks, etc).””

                      Which is the answer to a question I didnt ask.

                      “You said that…
                      “Theres no such thing in dark souls,where you are good no matter the path you choose,or you suck no matter the path you choose.””

                      No,I didnt.

                      “and you can also grind to level up and upgrade your weapons and armor.”

                      Which everyone says is useless anyway.Heck,even in this conversation tree,Neruz says that leveling and equipment arent important.

                      “if the player adapts to the game, they are going to have an easy time”

                      Thats true for every game.

                    • Starker says:

                      Okay, I’ll give you a simple and straightforward answer then. Yes, there is a lot of side content that is easier than the most obvious path to the end boss.

                      “No,I didnt.”

                      Hmm… Daemian Lucifer October 28, 2014 at 9:14 pm

                      Must’ve been a different Daemian Lucifer with your avatar, then.

                      “Which everyone says is useless anyway.Heck,even in this conversation tree,Neruz says that leveling and equipment arent important.”

                      Neruz doesn’t say that leveling and equipment aren’t important, only that it’s possible to beat the game without them (which is true). But upgrades and stats make a huge difference in both the damage that you dish out as well as the damage that you can take.

                      For example, if you have a shield with 85% fire resistance that means you’re able to block 85% damage from any fire attack. Fully upgraded weapons do a multiple of the damage that they do unupgraded and stats give significant bonuses as well. Not to mention spells which can become so powerful that int based builds are sometimes called “easy mode”.

                • Cinebeast says:

                  Hey, a link to Kay Plays! Kay is great.

                  Uh. Moving on.

          • Alexander The 1st says:

            Once you have a key to the door beyond Hadvor (The big guy at the end of the Spoiler Warning special for Dark Souls 1 – I don’t remember his name personally), you can sneak through there and run across a bunch of the area, then run down the left side (Away from the ice hydra thing boss area) and eventually find and pick up a Shield of Regenerating Stamina. Or rather, I seem to remember getting that there. It’s been a while since I’ve played Dark Souls, but I distinctly remember getting that because it made my Thief build with a shield actually work pretty well. Block or dodge, and you could regenerate all your stamina pretty easily by not blocking or dodging. It was a 3x boost, IIRC.

            That’s the type of example Starker is saying – no explicitly spelled out solution, but the solutions are there.

  4. Daimbert says:

    I think I have one or two of the Batman games but haven’t played it yet — like, sadly, a lot of games for me — but my goal in the game would be to survive to see the story, without worrying about maxing the combo meter. At which point, you aren’t making Shadows seem bad to me.

    • MichaelGC says:

      The Arkham games are still fun even if you’re a bit rubbish at the combat! I certainly am, but still found them to be extraordinarily good (particularly Asylum & City). And, whilst I’m rubbish at the combat, I am getting better – as Shamus says, they do gently encourage that sort of thing.

      • Daimbert says:

        My biggest fear of the game was always that: that I’d be terrible at the combat and have to give up on the game, even if I was enjoying it. So that’s good to hear.

        But I have a long list of games to play that I’m not playing at the moment …

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You can always try the stealth route.There are plenty of rooms giving you options to do stealth,and even when they dont,you get gadgets that help you avoid direct combat at least half the time.

      • Daimbert says:

        I’m, oddly, worse at stealth than I am at combat [grin].

        My general combat style tends to be Wolverine-like: get in there and slash/punch wildly at them until they go down and hope that my health lasts longer than theirs. Sure, there’s a little bit of skill and learning in there, but that’s the general idea.

    • Jokerman says:

      Most of this criticism is lost on me too, i barely even notice the combo system (I actually forgot it was there until shamus brought it up.) Getting a high score at the end of a combat holds zero interest to me, as long as i am alive i call it a win.

      Getting through the fight smoothly is rewarding on it’s own.

      • Shamus says:

        This is completely true. The “smoothness” (and the speed build-up) are really satisfying. I focused on the combo meter in the article because that’s a little easier to convey in text. Saying, “It just feels real good,” is too easily dismissed. I barely noticed the combo meter my first time through Arkham Asylum.

      • Benjamin Hilton says:

        I think the smoothness concept is part of it. I don’t really care about combo meters either but making batman look like the badass he is instead of fumbling around is what I go for, and in the end that is pretty much the same thing as what Shamus is describing.

    • dp says:

      Asylum and City’s combat was still fun for a rubbish player (like me) with one critical exception: the boss fights. Fighting mooks was fun and interesting even without any particular skill but in both games I got stuck on a (lame) boss and then had to replay from the start on easy.

  5. Mr Compassionate says:

    When people say Dark Souls is Fair what they mean is that if you act with the same terrified caution you would use if you were actually there and react decisively to threats you can avoid hits even the first time through. This isn’t always true but the times it isn’t are much later in the game.

    For example that boulder? If you had the camera pointed up the stairs (where you are going) and reacted fast enough you could have rolled out the way. Even if you don’t the boulder doesn’t kill you instantly it just hurts you. What the game is saying by making that boulder smack you is “Pay Attention!”. Similarly every enemy has pretty long windup animations before attacking so if you were fast enough and smart enough you could just avoid being hit altogether. I think people have told everybody over and over how hard Souls games are that outsiders assume the game is literally just being killed over and over, which isn’t what makes DS great.

    The only cruelty of Dark Souls is that it treats you like you are actually there, enemies don’t pull punches and it doesn’t accommodate for laziness. If you try and sleepwalk it like any standard AAA RPG then it punishes you, if you pay attention and act with urgency it crowns you as a badass.

    Of course none of that applies to Dark Souls 2 because the people who designed that are chimpanzees.

    • IFS says:

      I will say that that first boulder trap is one of the few unfair moments in the game (and I say this as a huge fan of the game) it is there to teach you to keep your wits about you and to direct you to the hole it just made and while it is avoidable I feel like you need to know its coming to have time to react (yes you can hear it coming, but it’s quiet and there isn’t a visible switch that triggers it), so personally I find it to be one of the less fair moments of the game and while it’s not without purpose I think its a shame that it comes so early on.

      • John C says:

        Even if you get hit by that boulder, it doesn’t take anywhere near a majority of your health. I don’t know why everybody always brings that up.

        If we’re going to talk about things in Dark Souls that are bullshit, how about the invisible bridges in the Crystal Caves, or the Bed of Chaos?

        • Neruz says:

          The boulder trap is extremely fair; if you actually use the camera controls to look around you can see the boulder sitting there at the top of the stairs with the Hollow who pushes it onto you standing behind it just waiting for you. The trap only catches people who do not point the camera in the direction they are going and exists to teach the player that yes you need to pay attention to the environment around you.

          As noted it also does very little damage and you get Estus Flasks right afterwards so it serves as a little intro to how healing works too.

        • Cybron says:

          The game does you give hints about the crystal caves. I manged to spot one of the invisible bridges my first time through with no foreknowledge because of the falling crystal flakes, which visibly indicate that there’s SOMETHING there. I won’t pretend they’re fun or well designed, but if you pay attention, you can spot them.

          There’s no excuse for Bed of Chaos, though.

          • GiantRaven says:

            I was lucky enough to see the Crystal Caves for the first time as a summon with the host being aware of the invisible paths. I shudder to think of the rage I would’ve had if I wasn’t aware they were there.

          • Ivan says:

            I had to look it up to figure out what people were talking about, I thought the Bed of Chaos was a zone. Maybe I just got lucky with the boss but I didn’t find it to be particularly bad. For instance, the Capra Demon in Undead Burg was the worst boss in the game for me and would consistently kill me in less than 10 seconds. Honestly, he attacks you as soon as you’re inside, there is no room to maneuver, and he has two dogs to help him. Easily killed me at least 20 times and really, he’s the second reason I haven’t tried to replay the game. The first being that I still have no clue how I managed to beat the Ceaseless Discharge.

            • tmtvl says:

              Ceaseless is easy: Pick up the clothes, run the hell away to the fog gate and hit his arm a few times when he jumps after you.

              Another option would be to cheese him through the tunnel.

              Capra isn’t too difficult when you get used to dodging around like a right ninja: Dodge his jump attack, dodge the doogs, then climb the stairs and cower on the far end of the ledge.

            • Cybron says:

              Ceaseless isn’t that hard even if you don’t cheese him. Just dodge his attacks (they’re all pretty obvious) and then hit him during his long recovery. Though I may have had an easier time of it because I never used shields so I was always relying on rolling.

              I have no idea how you managed to have an easy time on BoC. That boss is the only section of the game I never want to play again.

              • Ivan says:

                Yeah well the ceaseless discharge had a nasty habit of spamming his fireblast attack. While I can survive one of these, I have no idea how to avoid it or what his tell for this is, and he would do it over and over until I was dead. I finally realized that he did it less often when I got in close to him but it still felt like a craps shot.

                BoC definitely killed me, but no more than anything else, I don’t know exactly how I figured out how to kill it because looking back on it, hitting that first root wasn’t exactly intuitive, but by keeping my distance and timing my sprints I was able to avoid every attack when I wasn’t being careless. Even the collapsing floor didn’t do me in until I tried to jump it at the wrong spot. It always fell apart as I was getting to it but by moving cautiously around the edges I never fell in. Maybe there’s some attack I didn’t see that is really hard to avoid but I feel like I could do the entire fight without a death with a little practice.

        • GiantRaven says:

          Coming back to the Asylum and accidentally finding the Stray Demon. That was one of the few times I cried absolute bullshit.

          • Kristoffer says:

            It was hilarious! You falling through the floor to a demon in stead of the other way around this time? That’s some cat mario/you wanna be the guy humor right there.
            Also, I thought you wrote “Arkham Asylum” there for a second and got all excited. The one thing the Arkham games could use is a good boss, though they got better.

  6. Ambitious Sloth says:

    The only thing that I think is a shame about you not liking Dark Souls, Shamus, is that I think you would actually like to get deep into the combat system. At its heart it’s actually a sword fighting game that is robust enough to let just about any weapon paring go head to head and still be determined by the players skill. You can have someone with a 6ft axe charge someone with only a rapier and despite conventional wisdom the sides are pretty much even in regards to who will win. That’s just kind of cool.

  7. tmtvl says:

    The ultimate Anti-Shamus games: bullet hell shoot the bullet games. If you die in the first stage you might as well restart the game because you’ll need every life you can get.

    • AR+ says:

      Well, that’s not true. You can still keep practicing w/ the rest of your lives. But more importantly, bullet hell games w/ a skill-based mechanism for gaining lives, like Touhou Project games, are not like that. Now, it might seem like the classic, “it only helps you after you prove you don’t need it,” but it isn’t! Because as you keep playing the early levels, you can still make progress by getting better at gaining lives early on, even after you’re no longer dying there. So there’s still a need to give it your all early on, since it gets you more lives to use in the latter levels.

      Subterranean Animism, for example, gives you lives for defeating a boss’ spell cards w/o dying or bombing, so there is still room between “can barely beat this boss” and “can stomp this boss so thoroughly that I get extra lives out of it for the bosses that I can’t beat yet.”

      • tmtvl says:

        Yeah, SA is the best thing ever, even slowbeef loves it. I’m thinking of stuff like ygs2k and such where you don’t get extra lives, period.

        Although getting in more practice is usually a good idea, if you’re trying to go for a 1CC, dying in the 1st stage is usually pretty unacceptable.

  8. Isaac says:

    To show what Shamus is talking about when it comes to this:”In the hands of a skilled player, Arkham’s Batman is an amazing thing to see.”

    I’d like to link to this vid:<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho-42rSea8s&index=11&list=PL9342551B8C0A1630&quot;

    Even though its only tagential (and I want an excuse to post an awesome Arkham vid).

  9. Abnaxis says:

    Now that you can do console games, how long is it going to be before we see an Arkham Spoiler Warning?

  10. Darren says:

    I agree that there are a few instances in Dark Souls that are unfair or at the very least unreasonable (the two archers in Anor Londo spring to mind), but if you’re ever up for giving the series another shot, keep an eye out for Dark Souls II on sale. It doesn’t quite have the atmosphere of the first game, but mechanically I thought it was subtly but significantly improved.

    However, I really don’t agree with you about Shadow of Mordor. I suppose I can’t be objective about the tutorial–I thought it was a breath of fresh air after the endless tutorials of Assassin’s Creed and Borderlands–but I disagree with some of your statements about the combat system.

    For one, the inclusion of archery all but requires allowing the combo meter to be retained after moving around a little; there are times when I want to use fire arrows mid-combat with little to no Focus left, and that requires a moment of positioning.

    For another, the game does punish you with negative feedback, particularly if you try to take on a Warchief without clearing out his body guards first or a Captain without knowing his weaknesses. The key is that it takes more of a long look at the structure of play rather than the minute-to-minute of an Arkham game. With Arkham, you just follow the checkpoint, fight some guys, maybe solve a light environmental puzzle, and repeat until the end of the game. In Shadow of Mordor, you have to consider your long term goals and prepare for them.

    It’s not as slick as Arkham, I’ll grant you, but it’s far from the pale shadow you make it out to be.

  11. Spammy says:

    But the thing that separates Arkham Asylum/City from Dark Souls is that the Batman games are fun, and Dark Souls is boring.

    Honestly that is the Real Dark Souls for me: Mind-numbing tedium because nothing about the levels changes, you just have to do all the same things over and over and over again when they never got any more engaging to do. And there’s nothing else to do in the game. In Batman I can just fly around, do Riddler quests, cleanse my palate. The level design in Batman is also generally good, whereas Dark Souls begins to suck past Undead Burg and Parish.

  12. Felblood says:

    I don’t really contest any of the the supporting points, but I find your theis “Shadow of Mordor is a rough copy of the Batman: Arkham series gameplay.” to be totally wrong.

    I would argue that Shadow of Mordor is a crappy Arkham game, becasue it’s too busy being good at all the things that make it good an unique, to care about it’s combat system being a little flaky. Being a combat master is not really core to it’s player arc, and encouraging players to master it would be drawing attention to it’s weakest link.

    Shadow of Mordor borrows some combat mechanics from Arkham, becasue it needed some combat mechanics that portes smoothly between platforms, and the details were completely unimportant. If you go into this game expecting it be Arkham, you’re going to be just as diappointed as a person who goes into Cave Story expecting Super Mario Brothers 3. These are both great games, but each is weak in places where the other is strong.

  13. Talby says:

    Bayonneta 1 and 2 as well as Metal Gear Rising spoiled melee action games for me. Arkham Asylum is extremely simple, easy and boring compared to a well made beat ’em up.

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