Five Games Josh Liked in 2014: Part 1

By Josh
on Jan 21, 2015
Filed under:
Video Games

Shamus called 2014 The Year of Meh, a sentiment that certainly seems to resonate with a lot of people when they look back on it. And I can’t really blame him or anyone else for holding that view. This is the year that Facebook bought Oculus. The year Google almost bought Twitch, and then Amazon did. The second half of the year was dominated by an oft-violently heated debate, with social movements and counter-movements that, no matter where you stood on the issue, probably managed to piss you off somehow. But all of this is beyond the scope of this piece, and what really I’m interested in discussing here is the games of 2014.

And as far as games go, last year had a lot of misses. Ubisoft took the brunt of it with the triple whammy of Watch_Dogs, The Crew, and Assassin’s Creed Unity. But it was also the year we saw Dungeon Keeper turned into a “free” to play monstrosity of naked corporate greed. It was year where even the “great” games were more often just good games that had no competition from their peers. 2014 is a year without instant classics. There was no “Gone Home” or “Paper’s Please” or “Last of Us” that unified and galvanized gamers like there were in years past.

Even so, I just can’t quite bring myself to say that 2014 was a bad year. There were a lot of games in 2014 I really liked. No instant classics, but I feel that helped me to appreciate the games that otherwise might not have gotten the attention they did. I want to talk about five games in particular in this list, the five games I liked the most this year. This list can be read as a top 5 list, with #1 being my “Game of the Year” if indeed such a thing has any meaning. Of course the actual gradient is much more nuanced and the games so different in what they do and do not do that a direct comparison will always open to interpretation.

I’ve also had to split this list into two parts, as I am apparently completely incapable of writing short, concise blurbs when I’m passionate about something. And the first half of this list is the two games that I feel probably wouldn’t be on it if 2014 had a stronger lineup. So maybe I’m not making a very good case for my point here. Don’t worry, it’ll all come together later.

Without further ado…

5. Destiny

Spaceballs taken literally.

If there is anything that can be said about Destiny, it’s that what we got was certainly… unexpected. The product of an unholy alliance of Activision’s nigh endless resources with Bungie’s skill and experience making shooters, Destiny seemed perfectly positioned to be the Next Big Thing. It would be an understatement to say it was highly anticipated, and it’s obvious Activision was giving it the royal treatment in the press cycle leading up to release. This was to be the first game in a new flagship franchise for Activision, after all, and Bungie is reportedly already working on the sequel. I think everyone who was watching and waiting for it could be forgiven for expecting Destiny to be the next Halo.

I think it’s safe to say now that Destiny is not. But what’s really puzzling is the myriad ways in which it is not. It’s absolutely baffling that a game with such resources behind it could feel so bare-bones. It’s a pseudo-MMO–Borderlands style, except actually massively multiplayer–with only one town and four open world zones, about six or seven dungeons and one raid. It’s small and it’s short. You can easily finish the main story and reach the maximum level (without taking gear into account) within 6 to 8 hours. After that, the only thing left to do is grind for better gear. The game launched with zero social features – there wasn’t even a way to chat with other players. You could form guilds, but you could only do so through an external website. There was (and still is) no matchmaking for raids, forcing players without five other interested friends to seek out third party websites just to find a group. The list just goes on; every quality of life feature developed for MMOs in the past 15 years is either absent entirely or so poorly implemented as to be functionally useless.

Destiny is a skeleton of a game, and the cynical part of me would expect the reason for that to be some awful piecemeal microtransaction scheme that nickel and dimes you for all the “good” content. But there isn’t even that. Aside from the small and overpriced expansion, there’s no DLC or microtransactions at all. It’s just completely bare-bones.

It is mighty pretty though.

And the story is perhaps the most visible example of this. I’ve played through the entire story twice, and I still have no idea what it’s about. Who are the Vex? What’s the Black Garden? Who’s the Queen? Wait, so I died a long time ago and then Peter Dinklage-as-a-robot resurrected me somehow? Is that ever even mentioned again after the tutorial? What is the Darkness? What is the Light? Why is this robot lady following me around everywhere? Why does the moon have earth gravity, and where did all these piles of bones come from? Why are we calling a giant floating ball “the Traveler?”

There is no exposition whatsoever. In the entire game. Every character (what few there are, at that) brings up concepts and events that are never properly introduced, leaving the player in the awkward position of listening to conversations between characters that know way more than they do and aren’t going to tell them anything. Even worse, Destiny almost seems aware of this. But instead of, I don’t know, fixing it, it makes light of it, taunting you with dialogue like, “I could tell you of the great battle, centuries ago, how the Traveller was crippled,” (and then he doesn’t) or the ever classic “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.” And yet the game has well produced, high quality cutscenes with skilled voice actors. Taken individually, each cutscene seems internally consistent, but they never explain anything and, when combined, don’t fit together to form an overriding narrative. They’re just… there.

But even with all of these problems, Destiny is still really fun. It is an extremely technically impressive shooter. Visually, it’s very pleasing to look at. And while it doesn’t break any ground with its realistic visual style, it’s still very well constructed. More than that, the game plays brilliantly. Say what you want about the game’s other failings, but it’s clear Bungie still knows how to make a console shooter. It’s simply fun to play; and that, more than anything else, is what keeps me coming back. Sure, the game would be better if it had about twice the content, any sort of social features, and a story that had some kind of impact or at the very least made sense. But while I was actually playing it, none of those things really bothered all that much. I was just having too much damn fun shooting vaguely-bad dudes in the face.

I think my opinion of the game would be much different if I had been actively anticipating it. I absolutely cannot fault any Bungie fans who can’t stand the game for how far it fell from what was promised. But to me, the only thing I was expecting from it was a fun, dumb multiplayer shooter that I could play with Campster on weekends. And in that, if anything, it exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t looking for a good story and I certainly didn’t find one, but I was looking for a good old shootman romp. And if you ignore everything else, Destiny is that in spades.

4. Dark Souls II

F**ing poison statues!

Dark Souls II is not a good Souls game. It is a very competently crafted game, technically superior to its predecessor in virtually every aspect. But it’s also a game that bought into its own hype. Dark Souls II is a game that was designed by a talented group of developers who knew that Dark Souls was a great game, but crucially, did not know why.

The mantra from fans and media alike has always gone something like, “Dark Souls is good because it’s hard.” The Dark Souls II team clearly agreed with this assertion, and so they took the very logical next step when designing their sequel: “We’ll make Dark Souls II better by making it harder.” This would have been perfectly reasonable and acceptable, if it weren’t based on a flawed premise. Dark Souls isn’t good because it’s hard, it’s hard because it’s good.

Let me explain what I mean: Like most people, I was utter rubbish at Dark Souls when I first played it. I died over and over again against small groups of weak enemies. I was clumsy, I couldn’t handle the camera correctly, I kept getting backed into corners and run out of stamina. Now, I can waltz through those easy areas without even really thinking about it. It’s not because I’m a particularly remarkable player, but because now I understand how Dark Souls works.

See, Dark Souls has a deceptively simple combat system: R1 is your light attack, R2 is your heavy. Block with L1. Dodge with B. There are a few more advanced moves, but that’s your bread and butter. There’s no combo system and no super power-ups. The camera works by locking on to an enemy, meaning the combat system works best against single opponents or small groups. Attacks have mostly long wind up animations and cannot be cancelled, but all your opponents are bound by the same rules, and everything has a tell for when it’s about to attack. The catch is that even a mook can kill you if you’re not careful; attacks do a lot of damage and you don’t have a lot health. It’s simple on paper, but it punishes you severely if you mess up. That’s what makes Dark Souls so compelling: it’s like riding a bicycle: once you get it, it’s the simplest thing in the world. It’s getting there that’s the challenge.

Dark Souls II doesn’t really get this. It has the Dark Souls combat system–it’s even improved upon it in many ways–but it no longer feels fair. Enemies don’t play by your rules anymore. They spin like a top while they’re winding up to track you as you try to move out of the way. They have odd, janky attack animations with massive hitboxes that can hit you even when the physical model of their weapon never makes contact. Many enemies don’t have obvious tells and can do damage when it looks like they haven’t begun to move yet. And sometimes it seems like the encounter designer just gave up and dropped a dozen enemies for you to fight in a small room, a situation Dark Souls’ systems were not designed for and handle very poorly; you’re pretty much assured to take damage because you simply can’t focus on all of the enemies at once. The game is undoubtedly harder, but it’s not better.

This one is also pretty.

Again, it’s important to point out the developers didn’t dislike Dark Souls; indeed, they practically worshiped it. And I think Dark Souls II would have been much improved had they instead tried to forge their own identity, rather than simply iterating on the first game. Nowhere is it more apparent than the story: it’s a jumbled rehash of plot devices, themes, and even entire characters that have been lifted straight from the first game. Once again you’re an undead cursed with immortality at the cost of slowly losing your sanity, once again you go to a fantastical kingdom in search of a cure, once again you have to collect the Lord Souls to open a door (they’re even implied to be the exact same Lord Souls from Dark Souls). It even ends on the same note, kindling the First Flame. Except this time you also become the monarch, or something, I guess. The whole “find a cure” thing is dropped after the tutorial and there’s no real reason given for why you’re doing anything after that point.

Perhaps the worst part about all this is how it retroactively diminishes the core theme of the first game. Dark Souls was ultimately about mortality–that everything must eventually end, that all things die and even the brightest of flames will fade. Dark Souls II excuses its blatant rehashing with a theme of “It’s all about cycles, really.” You can imagine why I was pissed.

But now I’ve spent eight hundred words complaining about Dark Souls II. What’s it doing on this list? Well, it’s a bit like Destiny. Once you get past the irritating bits, it’s still really fun to play. It turns out that a mediocre Souls game still makes for a pretty damn good video game, if not a great one. It’s certainly better balanced than Dark Souls ever was, in terms of the options you have at your disposal. You no longer have to be using a shield or two-handed greatsword. There’s more viable weapons, spells, and specialties than ever before. It is superior to Dark Souls in every technical aspect, from graphical fidelity to framerate, to the feel of the game in your hands. And the PC port is actually functional. It may not be exactly what I was looking for from Dark Souls II, and its story and lore certainly didn’t grab me the way the first’s did, but it’s still a very good game. And I probably poured more hours into it than any other game that came out this year.

If there’s one thing I’m discovering while writing this list, it’s that I’m very good at finding things to dislike about games. But I do mean what I said about Destiny and Dark Souls II. Despite all their faults, they’re still good games and I’m glad that I played them. And indeed, still am still playing them.

Stay tuned for the second half of this list, and some closing thoughts on 2014 as a whole.

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From the Archives:

  1. The Rocketeer says:

    It’s always interesting to see a more in-depth take on things from Josh.

    • Jokerman says:

      I agree….

      Josh, write more stuff.

      • The Rocketeer says:

        Really, though.

        We have this established persona of Josh as the Troll-Father, abuser of spirits, who doesn’t take things seriously and functions primarily as an engine that runs on dismay and produces chaos.

        But careful observation of the Josh reveals a guy who likes Star Trek for its thematic depth and idealism, and its character arcs; who likes strategy games for their complex, interlocking systems and how those mechanics systemize the real world that they mimic; and who likes games like Dark Souls for how they use elegant mechanics to establish and reinforce a unique tone and theme. And who can elaborate on all of those things with authority, clarity, and insight.

        Josh clearly has as much to say about games as Shamus or Campster, even if his output amounts to the occasional post on someone else’s blog, or playing the established Cuftbertian persona to torment his friends and audience.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          “We have this established persona of Josh as the Troll-Father, abuser of spirits, who doesn’t take things seriously and functions primarily as an engine that runs on dismay and produces chaos.”

          Clearly,you havent payed much attention if thats what you think.Oh yes,Josh is a troll father,abuser of spirits,but he takes his job very seriously.He will research the shit of a game in order to find the most convoluted bug,the wildest of play styles,just so he can break the game completely,and make the developers weep at the sight of ensuing chaos.

        • Neil W says:

          Before the Diecast the most interesting episodes of Spoiler Warning were the last of each season, when Josh stopped either trolling or concentrating on the moment in front of him and joined the others in the credits discussion of the game as a whole. It gave context to what he had said and done for the rest of the season. I only exaggerate a little when I say it was revelatory.

          Now we get him every week on the Diecast, so rather than the shocking transformation from troll-player to analytical-critic we see the full spectrum all the time. The Spoiler Warning 2-D sitcom-character Josh has been replaced by the fleshed out Sham-verse light-hearted drama Josh.

          …what he’s not fictional? Wow, my mistake.

          • Sleeping Dragon says:

            There is a lot of pressure on the “driver” in a live let’s play. They have to get through the game, they have to do so at a brisk and flowing pace with possibly only as few hiccups as are entertaining, they have to keep it interesting. I know from experience it’s hard to hold conversation midgame, even more so with people who aren’t actually there, and I wasn’t trying to share game deconstruction/criticism.

            Not to mention that Josh specifically came out as a huge strategic player and a big history nerd, not only but perhaps most notably during his totally complete and finished Shogun 2 series.

        • Joe Informatico says:

          FYI: Back in the day, Josh was an occasional contributor to The Escapist, and pretty good at it too.

  2. Dormin111 says:

    I agree that Dark Souls 2 is the worst souls game but still a fine game over all. I’m surprised that you didn’t bring up “confusing progression” as one of its major flaws. The multi-path system was a perplexing failure which introduced pointless ambiguity into how to actually go forward. Many experienced Souls players (including myself) had to Google where the next boss was and how to get to it. The odd “psuedo-open world” system of DS 1 was elegant in comparison.

    • IFS says:

      I think a big part of how the multi-level system of 2 failed was that few of the transitions between areas made much sense. You’d reach the top of a windmill in a poison valley and then take an elevator up to a castle sinking in a field of lava that was entirely absent before. Dark Souls 1 weaved the world together very smoothly and with great internal consistency which made it easy to keep a mental map of how everywhere linked together.

      • Esteban Navarrete says:

        I highly recommend you download a map viewer and the map files from DKS and DKS2:
        You’ll note how in-game and mapfile-wise DKS is “Governed by real-world physics” and makes sense of being completely aware of how each locations relates to the rest, or how “Hell” is below the swamp, which is below the sewers, which is below the city, which is below Olympus.
        DKS2 has no idea how each place relates to each other on a spacial sense (heide’s tower of flame elevator that goes below sea level, yet there’s an actual dock…
        How from a valley/mine you go up an elevator to the middle of a Volcano-like place, even though from the valley you can’t see nothing but grey skies…

        Honestly, go to the graveyard besides Firelink Shrine and look to the horizon: You can see the swamp of Blightown , the pillars of the “mean” side of vertical Blightown, the Arch-tree entrance of Ash Lake, the Undead Burg and you can probably point out where Sen’s Fortress is…

        • IFS says:

          If I had the games on PC that would definitely be something I’d look into, but I don’t so alas I can’t. That said I definitely agree that being able to see how the world fit together in the first game was amazing, and that 2 had more places where it didn’t fit together I just mentioned the lava fort one as it stands out in particular to me.

        • Eric says:

          To be fair, they did try to get some spacial relationship between locations in Dark Souls 2. The fact that you can see hints of some locations in the background from others shows they were still trying to build a coherent world – just not one that necessarily had to fit together perfectly.

          There are also some hints that there were additional locations planned that had to be cut, hence why some don’t fit together correctly. For instance, in Harvest Valley there are hints of a snowy mountain beyond it, and we have pre-release concept art also showing a snowy location that leads to a fiery volcano (Iron Keep?). Some of these cuts probably ended up being converted into DLC locations.

          The effect of that 100% coherent, “puzzle-piece” world in Dark Souls is incredible, but it was also probably huge amounts of work for relatively little benefit (i.e. this area *has* to be *this* size, because that’s how much space we have, and if we want to change the size or position of one area, the adjacent ones also have to all change). The level designer in me just curls into a ball and whimpers thinking about it. :P

          • Valthek says:

            The snowy mountain you mention may have been added afterwards. I haven’t played the DLC yet, but from what I’ve seen, the Crown of the Ivory King DLC takes place in a snowy landscape.

            And the Crown of the Iron King seems to be on top of a series of towers on top of a mountain.

            And speaking of the DLC, especially in the Crown of the Sunken King DLC, the areas are stitched together in a much more cohesive way than in the core game. You once again get the feeling of exploring an area and finding an elevator at the end that leads you back to an area near the beginning from where you can once again set out to find more things to get murdered by.

  3. I’m kind of amazed that “5 Nights at Freddy’s” hasn’t been mentioned in these lists, if for nothing else, making such a compelling concept in such a simple form. I’d definitely put it on a “most bang for your buck” list, if you like the mechanics.

    • Sorites says:

      But it only works for jump-scare fans. Most people fall into at least one of two pits: Some find the “tense build-up” to be a lot of boring waiting, and some find the jump scares intolerable. Many have both problems at once.

      5 Nights is good at its one trick, but fans of it underestimate just how niche that trick is.

      • Kind of. The jump-scare is to be avoided. It’s what you get for failing at the game.

        I think the nostalgic setting turned into a source of horror works in its favor, and, as I said, for the amount of money used developing it + low cost, it’s pretty amazing how well it’s done and the fandom it’s generated.

        • Trix2000 says:

          Thing is, it seems like it’d be very difficult to play through the whole game without failing at least once, if not multiple times. So jump scares are practically a given.

          That said (and considering I don’t tend to like horror much), it does look like a fairly cleverly-designed game. I just can’t help but be surprised at how simple and yet creative a premise can be turned into an engaging horror experience. It’s one of the more unique concepts out there too.

    • MintSkittle says:

      I’m someone who dislikes horror in visual media, but am much more accepting of when written. So while the idea of Five Nights at Freddy’s interests me, I have no intention of playing. What I did do is hit TVTropes and read the relevant pages. Also, watching the Game Theory videos on youtube were rather illuminating, even if the theories are bunk.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Myself I hate playing through horror games and so won’t touch it with a ten foot pole but I experienced a few through let’s plays and 5 Nights is pretty entertaining in that medium, especially if you like watching people fail and laughing at it…

        I may or may not be a horrible person.

        • Kylroy says:

          The consensus is that FNaF probably wouldn’t be the hit it is without LPers using it to get easy entertainment out of showing themselves scared witless. The game seems to be a lot more fun to talk about than actually play.

          Kind of like EVE.

          That said, it’s still a clever idea, and the fact that it was pulled off by one guy doing the ultimate lemons-to-lemonade move (he was told his animations looked like cheap animatronics), so I give the game a thumbs up even if it’s not my cup of tea.

          • Other than Half Life 2, what game’s animations DON’T look like cheap animatronics most of the time?

          • Sleeping Dragon says:

            I did not know that backstory to the game, that’s kinda cool.

            Personally I avoid the LPers who do exaggerated panic but with FNaF I’d say that it’s more of a jump than it is a scare. Still the tension mounting in the room is just so fun to watch (“Where is the duck?!” “How should I know!”).

  4. tmtvl says:

    The Dark Souls II gameplay is a bit of a paradigm shift: very few iframes from rolling (unless you jack up agi), but you get iframes from the little hop back you do when dodging without holding a direction, and you can parry during animations.

    Most of all, ranged weaponry, items and spells have become pretty powerful, which means that players who went Sorcerer in DS1 can become pretty comfortable by the time they slay their first boss.

    • Ivan says:

      I also heard that attacking chests now causes them to break, and so this is no longer a valid tactic for checking for mimmics. Also supposedly invading players can attack and destroy chests thus denying you the items in them. This just sounds to be incredibly aggravating and is honestly one of the reasons I haven’t given Dark Souls II a try yet (it sounds way to easy to do some serious trolling, as if it wasn’t bad enough in DS 1 when you were human).

      I suppose in practice this might end up being ok though, but that is only if chests never contain an item that you can not obtain through other means or if they are cleverly placed so that important chests are out of reach to other players (like in or just after boss rooms).

      • IFS says:

        It takes multiple hits with most weapons to smash a chest, which makes it still a viable tactic to check for mimics. Vital items are always in iron chests which are unbreakable, and while I have heard of it happening I myself have never had an invader break chests on me, so I don’t think its as big of a concern as you might think. You’d have to check the wiki to see if anything can be permanently lost via breaking a chest, as I can’t say for sure myself, but I can’t think of anything off the top of my head.

        • Vipermagi says:

          Only minor things such as Human Effigies (like three or so across the game?), Lifegems, maybe a hat that drops off the enemies guarding it. And, well, a broken chest does get you something you will otherwise never get – Rubbish! So there’s that.

          There is only one wooden chest that, prior to the Crowns DLC, I never wanted to see broken. In the Doors of Pharros is a chest with a Petrified Dragon Bone, a then-very-rare upgrade material. There’s an enemy that walks up to the chest to hit a nearby button (using a hammer), but the button has been placed in such fashion that the Gyrm is all but guaranteed to demolish the chest if you’re too slow.
          The button he’s hitting? It shoves you off the path that leads up to him, by virtue of wall spikes. Sod off.

          You also cannot be invaded there unless you want to, so the only remotely significant wooden chest I can think of, is safe from invaders anyways.

  5. silver Harloe says:

    This post makes me wish Josh weren’t always playing the games so he could do more real talk.

    • Ivan says:

      It makes me wish they’d do a Dark Souls SW, but I know it wouldn’t be a great format for this game. I recently watched the Geop LP and that one worked but involved a good deal of editing and off screen play/grinding.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTcKa5wedNM&list=PL1iwwMmsVqKOMes-ZAoWaS0iQKDcGk7Ln

      • IFS says:

        That was also a blind run, Josh knows Dark Souls pretty well so I think he could get through it without needing to redo or grind that much. I also would like to see a Dark Souls SW season, though I think most of the cast is opposed to it and might not have much to say.

        • Trix2000 says:

          Considering how the Dark Souls episodes they DID do before went… I’m just a little apprehensive about doing it for SW (and that’s not even considering how well it would work for their format).

          …I’d probably still watch it, though.

        • Agamo says:

          If you’re looking for Josh-esque shenanigans, I would look at the streams that Kuvo (one of the co-commentators from the above LP) did somewhat in parallel to that LP. Sadly, many of the exploits he shows off were patched out.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          The fact that GeoP went mostly blind into that LP but had expirienced Dark Soulers at hand was the beuty of that LP.
          This way GeoP was a typical new Dark Souls player and could be surprised by new mechanics and stuff and thus showcased how you, somebody that has never played DS, would fare in it. It also showed that you can pretty quickly pick up main ropes of combat.
          Also since he had expirienced DS-ers along for the ride when he failed too much he could allways fall back to asking them for advice which eliminated majority of uneccessary deaths. Also since they played the game allready they could point out shortcuts, and talk a bit more deeply about the story.
          Really that LP had best of both worlds.

      • Slothfulcobra says:

        It would work pretty well with the format, there’s not a lot of dialogue that they would have to talk over, and if you’re experienced enough at the game like Josh probably is, there probably wouldn’t be a lot to hold up the game.

        Also Rutskarn would be as savage on the game as possible without exactly knowing what he was talking about like with Last of Us

        • Ivan says:

          The dialog is a really weird part of the spoiler warning formula though. It gives them a lot of stuff to talk about, but the best time to talk about it is during the conversation. Having subtitles on helps but only to a point, because no matter how much I try, I can only concentrate on one conversation at a time, and let’s be honest, I’m not going to rewind and watch it twice.

          Idk I guess It’s kinda like how you wouldn’t watch the movie with the director commentary on the first time around. So maybe there just isn’t any way around this for games I haven’t played (which is honestly most story driven AAA titles).

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And the second part will come quite soon,on january 22.Of 2019.Just after the second part of 8 by zombies,finishing parts of shogun 2 lets play,and half life 3 episode 4.

  7. Merlin says:

    2014 is a year without instant classics.

    Well SOMEBODY clearly didn’t play Shovel Knight.

  8. Ilseroth says:

    It’s funny because when I play Dark Souls II all of those issues you say come up in my head… but I can still play it and completely ignore them because the game is just so well tuned. That being said I just recently got the ability to do the DLC, and found those issues with difficulty are massively worsened in the DLC. Tons of awkward hitboxes and areas that spawn hordes of enemies where you can’t really draw enemies into 1v1 circumstances.

    I really hope the Bloodborne manages to keep the dark souls 1 spirit, while continuing to improve upon the mechanics that were improved in the 2nd one… Sadly I don’t have a PS4 so it may be a while before I play it; but it is the kinda game that would make me consider buying one.

    • Eric says:

      This. I love Dark Souls, but I also love Dark Souls 2. Both games are excellent, but for different reasons – Dark Souls for its atmosphere, world design, sense of horror, that very palpable feel of history and lore influencing every facet of the game; Dark Souls 2 for its much better-feeling controls, combat variety, (at times) level design, better character building, relatively more balanced PvP, better integration of multiplayer elements and covenants, and so on.

      While I don’t know if Dark Souls 2 is the sequel everyone wanted, what it did do was look at a lot of the problems in Dark Souls mechanically, and polished up and improved on them, often quite dramatically. I’ll be the first to agree that some elements like the world design, lore, story, etc. didn’t impress as much, but I actually spent something like twice as many hours in Dark Souls 2 than the first one, just because it *played* so much better.

      (I also disagree with Josh about his comments on hitboxes, invincibility frames, etc. – I personally feel Dark Souls 2 was actually much better this way than the first game, despite a few egregious exceptions.)

      In many ways it’s like the old Fallout vs. Fallout 2 argument. Which game is better? They’re both great, for different reasons. Just like Fallout vs. Fallout 2, I’ll still say the first one is the better game as a whole, but I’ll also readily admit the sequel benefited a lot from all the refinements and new ideas the designers had.

      • Slothfulcobra says:

        The controls may be better, but I feel that doesn’t matter when there’s not much opportunity to practice them because the enemies all die off before you can get a hang of things. In the first Dark Souls, I would keep revisiting and clearing out the Undead Parish to see how strong I had become, or to test out a weapon to see if it was worth using, but that’s no longer an option in DS2.

  9. PowerGrout says:

    I know Revengeance isn’t gonna be on this list, was it even a 2014 game? whatever…

    DS2, interesting to here these words of praise considering this is the only ‘Souls game I’ll ever get to play blind. ‘*sadface.jpg’ can but convey a pale shadow of my regret.

    But as for enemy attacks that auto/insta-target in the 11th moment of the windup animation, they’re something of a staple of Dark Souls if not the previous games.
    Enemy attacks that connect with only the tenuous suggestion of having any contact with your characters mesh… the same and these points are very valid for your own attacks too

    ..these are a core part of ‘mastering’ a souls game, this is where your sense of accomplishment/superiority comes from, I guess it brings to adventure games that feeling of learning to bunny hop or strafe run. Does that cheapen it all some how, there’s an uncomfortable callback here to how DSII “retroactively diminishes” aspects of the previous iterations…

    maybe I’m getting too old
    maybe we should bask in it and the genre should be called Adventure Hax? Hax n Slash?
    maybe I have nothing positive to say

    Is it that the death, the finality in fact the very essence of the first game – the set-up & extended realisation, then the last fling with that magic after the game coyly teaches you to abuse it’s mechanics, encourages it and the goes welp congratulations/you defeated/roll credits – but then the second game tries to bottle the magic?

    me am go too far

    • Vipermagi says:

      “But as for enemy attacks that auto/insta-target in the 11th moment of the windup animation, they’re something of a staple of Dark Souls if not the previous games.”
      No.

      Enemies in Demon’s and Dark Souls have only minor tracking. If you are sprinting in a circle, enemies are all but guaranteed to miss; there’s even a fair amount of enemies where even that is unnecessary. If they start their wind-up and you roll past them, enemies rarely have enough turn radius to home in on you.

      In Dark 2, almost all enemies will track you during the wind-up of their swing, as well as making last-minute adjustments right at the tail end. Combine this with a hefty dose of “everything uses sweep attacks” in some areas (Ivory King! *fistshake*) and it’s a much more prominent issue in Dark 2 than in either of the previous Souls games. Yes, tracking happens, but it had always been very limited and to a fairly large extent reasonable.

      I’ve played 1100 odd hours of Dark Souls 1, and just dinged 600 on Dark 2. Deaths in Dark 1 do not bother me; I still get actively frustrated by Dark 2. There’s just so many little things that don’t feel right, that don’t feel consistent enough… Tracking is only a small part of that, but it’s definitely very different from the first two Souls games.

  10. Isaac says:

    “Enemies don’t play by your rules anymore. They spin like a top while they’re winding up to track you as you try to move out of the way. They have odd, janky attack animations with massive hitboxes that can hit you even when the physical model of their weapon never makes contact. Many enemies don’t have obvious tells and can do damage when it looks like they haven’t begun to move yet. And sometimes it seems like the encounter designer just gave up and dropped a dozen enemies for you to fight in a small room, a situation Dark Souls’ systems were not designed for and handle very poorly; you’re pretty much assured to take damage because you simply can’t focus on all of the enemies at once.”

    I knew I wasn’t crazy! I just got Dark Souls 2 (its my first Souls game!) pretty recently and one of the things I’ve struggled with is the tracking that certain enemies have. Specifically, the big dudes in Dragonrider’s world who have giant swords but don’t have shields. Its especially obnoxious whenever you try to roll dodge out of the way of their overhead attack! I usually don’t bother to fight them anymore and end up just running past them. The hitboxes are also kind of shit but Josh I think that one of the reasons the player still takes damage after dogding is because of the shockwave effect that appears after their attack lands.

    So the reason why I’m sucking at DS2 isn’t just because I’m a scrub, its also because the enemies are sort of cheating! I AM VALIDATED!

    • Esteban Navarrete says:

      DKS2 also has some of the worst Enemies/Bosses in the history of FromSoftware’s when you reach the “physically” highest point of the game, you’ll come across both em back to back…
      It’s not even funny the lack of thought of these enemies…

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “If there is anything that can be said about Destiny, it’s that what we got was certainly… unexpected. ”

    Not so sure about that.Ive heard many a people say that it was going to suck.And it sure did not surprise me when it turned out that it indeed sucked.

    The only unexpected thing about it is that people are still playing it.And not just new players that were living under a rock,oh no,the ones that bitch and moan how bad it is are the ones playing it the most.

    And seriously,people praising destiny for its shooting in a year that gave us wolfenstein new order?Is the pisser game library so starved for fpss that this generic thing is considered to be good?

    The only logical thing I can think of is that destiny is designed to make your pisser exude cocaine.

    • Patrick El muy loco says:

      I’m still waiting for the genre to die, actually. I got bored with FPS and PvP 10 years ago after getting my ass handed to me for the 50th time on quake. And unreal. And everything else. Just recently i saw an ad on TV for the complete Halo series and though “How is this STILL a thing?

      I mean really, as gamers we outgrew platformers 15-20 years ago. Sure they still have a niche, but back-in-the-day platformers WERE the industry. Then it was Doom, Quake, Goldeneye, Unreal…blah blah blah.

      I don’t know… I guess I am shocked FPS are still relevant. To me they all look the same. The only one I have played in the last decade is Borderlands and that had more to do with the style and humor than the actual genre.

      • Adam says:

        See above, regarding Shovel Knight. We’re not as “over” ANY genre as you’d think. Really solid games in EVERY genre are still coming out, even in a “dry” year like 2014. That said, if FPS games aren’t your thing, don’t buy destiny. It has NOTHING for you.

  12. Retsam says:

    All these video game year-end retrospectives… and I just realized there’s been a disturbing lack of TwitchPlaysPokemon. Honestly, that’s my favorite “Game of 2014”.

    • Thomas says:

      That the first thing that has actually given me evidence that maybe we’re all focusing on the negatives this year.

      That was a brilliant thing that people should’ve been talking about at year end.

      ———
      Although the whole “this game totally sucks but-” in the top 5 games of the year is also a good reason for why people may be down on the year.

      ——–
      And Josh, you’ve got a picture of Transistor as your header. If it’s not on the list this is going to be a massive troll (but it totally should be on your list)

      • Trix2000 says:

        There’s that and the fact that (at least IMO) Nintendo had a banner year. With the WiiU lineup gaining a lot of momentum and the 3ds going on strong, they seem to have done pretty well.

        • Thomas says:

          I can understand why the Nintendo conversation is weird. Everyone mentions the games are great, but there’s the unspoken thought that it’s now almost certain the Wii U is only ever going to get Nintendo games.

          So everyone is like “Well these games were frigging fantastic… but you can only really play them if you can afford to buy a whole console for the 10ish games worth playing it will receive over it’s lifetime”

          For a lot of hardcore gamers buying a console to go with their PC/other console is fine. But to a lot of other people it’s a huge amount of money to be splashing around.

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      As much as I like TwitchPlaysPokemon (Especially the format the idea takes), a remake of a game shouldn’t really count.

      Otherwise, TLOU and GTAV and the ORAS games would also count.

  13. poiumty says:

    I’m not sure the biggest fault of Dark Souls 2 is that it’s harder. It is, artificially so, but only in certain situations. I think one of the worst things about Dark Souls 2 is that it offers you choices.

    I know, what heresy are my words committing. But Dark Souls was the first game that taught me freedom of choice isn’t necessarily the be-all end-all of game design. More than anything, Dark Souls was good because of the amount of limits you were subjected to. It was still an RPG, so you had a staggering amount of options in regards to character customization and encounter approach, but when it came to the actual difficulty, your only option for an easy mode was to summon people, something you had to put effort into and actually learn to do, not to mention putting yourself at risk. It started hard, and let you figure out ways to make it easier. Note how you had to be human in order to kindle a bonfire – in other words, you had to subject yourself to griefing in order to make the game easier.

    Dark Souls 2 goes backwards: it starts out easy (for a Souls game) and gives you options to make it harder. Whether it’s using bonfire ascetics, joining the Hard Mode Covenant, or tackling the new Hard Mode Paths in the DLCs, there’s no shortage of options… and that right there is why it doesn’t feel like a Souls game. You can also buy as many healing items as you want, which negates a lot of the tension and careful flask management. Overall, Souls games were akin to puzzle games with a skill element. Dark Souls 2 is an RPG with an in-game challenge mode.

    • Dormin111 says:

      To add to your point, one of the most important choice sets presented to you in DS 2 is what path you choose to take. By allowing players to transport between bonfires, they can jump between the game’s many paths (some of which are entirely optional), thereby allowing players to find the easiest way to progress at any given time and saving the harder paths for later. Demon Souls had the same system, but Dark Souls 2 did not, or at least not until the last third of the game.

      • poiumty says:

        Yes, the old “go any way but this way and skeletons will make love to your skull” isn’t present either. That was a deliberate choice restriction that felt more like MMOs and old RPGs. DS2 feels more like an open-world game.

        Note that in Demon’s Souls you did have choices but the checkpoints were incredibly sparse and the levels themselves often had side events designed for you to visit later. In DS2, those are usually under lock and key, the decision of when to brave them fully controlled by the game and not the player.

    • Eric says:

      I also disagree with the supposition that the developers “didn’t understand Dark Souls” or its appeal. I think that’s a pretty damning accusation for a team that worked (in part) on both the first game and the second game as well, and frankly, a bit insulting to them.

      I think the emphasis on difficulty was largely the publisher playing it up for hype. That was not something stressed very often early on in Demon’s Souls’ and Dark Souls’ marketing campaigns, but it was something that we started to see once it became clear it was turning into more than a tiny cult hit (for instance, with the “Prepare to Die Edition” of Dark Souls on PC).

      Now, maybe some aspect of the marketing even had effects on the game itself – for instance, the old women in the intro addressing the player directly, saying you’ll lose your souls over and over. But I don’t think that indicates that the developers were just trying to make the hardest game they possibly could, or thought that challenge was the core appeal of Dark Souls. Even if they *did* think that, that also doesn’t mean they intentionally neglected other aspects of the game or felt they were unimportant.

      Rather, I really get the sense Dark Souls 2’s faults (less coherent world, story, etc.) are a result of overall project direction (it’s a “direct” sequel rather than something brand-new), attempts to solve problems with Dark Souls’ gameplay that some players don’t necessarily agree with (like the more player-controlled difficulty), a poor and inconsistent localization (the Japanese version seems much more consistent and better about telling its story), and what appears to be a rushed production cycle towards the end (it’s clear that a lot of cuts happened and there is a lack of polish/balance/etc. in a few locations).

      In other words: it was a typical sequel – bigger and more expansive, smarter implementation and refinements, more of the same but improved upon, perhaps lacking some of the consistency, and not necessarily better. And because Dark Souls was so good at what it set out to do, and so iconic, I’m not sure *any* direct sequel could have completely satisfied fans.

  14. Blake says:

    So Josh, any Shogun 2 this past year?

  15. Adalore says:

    pretty much in full agreement with the darksouls bit. A few things I’d like to add though are related to the “wtf geography” of some of the areas…esp harvest valley to iron keep.

    I know for a good while I was constantly talking to someone also playing the game and pretty much mutually agreed that the souls series really needed to adopt some visual tells that if kept subtle shouldn’t break the “COUGH” realistic/gritty world…Namely weapon trace lines, SHOW me the hitbox guys and color code it for if you can parry it or not.

  16. Jamas Enright says:

    So… Josh only likes pretty games, got it.

  17. Isaac says:

    Why are DS fans so concerned about the world making sense when you can carry swords that are the length of cars and heal yourself by drinking Sunny D?

    • Gruhunchously says:

      While I’m pretty sure this comment was made in jest, (?) I’m always suspicious of the “why do fans of [franchise] care about the story making sense even though [unrealistic aesthetic detail inherent to franchise]” argument. Internal and thematic consistency are important to a serious work, not matter how fanciful the premise.

      • Felblood says:

        I would argue that a more fanciful world demands greater internal consistency.

        When something wierd happens in a world that resembles our own, we have a frame of reference to fanwank* excuses for it.

        When something unexpected happens in a world with alien rules, there needs to be some kind of exposition somewhere, that explains how that exception fits within the established rules. Otherwise, the impression is not “there’s something here we don’t understand” but rather “these writers can’t even play by their own rules.”

        *(TV Tropes link generously averted, for those with compulsive link-clicking addictions)

  18. V8_Ninja says:

    God damn does it feel good have one of my favorite people validate my complaints about Dark Souls II. It’s not a bad game, but the design philosophy of Dark Souls II only understood the superficial elements of the original game and never pondered why its predecessor did and didn’t do certain things.

    Also, this was a great piece Josh. I’m looking forward to the second part, which presumably has some games which you can say more good things about than bad things.

  19. Dragmire says:

    Well, 2014 wasn’t a lot to a lot of people but to me it gave me Shovel Knight, a PC version of Valkyria Chronicles, Defense Grid 2 and most importantly, South Park: The Stick of Truth. Those games, especially the last one, made 2014 a blast!

  20. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Your comments about Dark Souls 2 are among the things you guys have been saying about that game that inspired my “Critics be careful what you wish for” question. In reality it seems to apply a lot more to fans. Devs try to give them something they say they want but either misinterpret the request or don’t see how it negatively impacts the game.

    I liked Obsidian’s approach of going to mod sites and seeing what the popular mods are. This apparently is what inspired them to build The Sink base for Old World Blues, having seen all the fan mods built to provide player bases. It really does almost feel like something a modder would build especially with all the special workbenches and ways of converting trash and consumables as well as a merchant right in the base. How many mod homes have I seen include basically that set of features? And by look at the rates of download, you can get some idea of what your less vocal users think of a feature.

  21. Grimwear says:

    I feel this will seem like a very negative post but Dark Souls 2 has a lot of problems which as Josh said deal entirely with the FromSoftware team not understanding what makes a souls game. For this reason I personally believe that the B team does exist and should not have been put in charge of Dark Souls 2 development. This will be a giant wall of text so I apologize in advance, I really don’t belong to any forum group and have nowhere to post/share my thoughts on the game and while Shamus is not a fan I know Josh is so please forgive me if I go on too long and feel free to ignore me. On that note I’ll leave you with a slight bit of optimism. You should get this game if you only plan to play it once or twice then once having beaten it will move on to a different game. You will have fun and the combat is much improved. Quick note: everything I talk about has to do with pve not pvp.

    As for negatives there are too many to really count but I shall try my best to detail the biggest problems as I see them. First a quick note on story: Unlike what Josh said you are not searching for a cure for the undead curse in DS1. Rather you get the famous Oscar speech where he says “Thou who art undead art chosen” and instead bestows upon you the task to ring the bells. No mention of what it does and later as you progress you will most likely only meet Frampt who then tries to convince you to link the fire. Really your story is you are the chosen one go do this one thing! Dark Souls 2 however says you are searching to cure the undead curse then you show up and are immediately told, “Hey are you the next monarch? Go see the King!” without knwoing what the king can do for you or if it really even relates to curing the curse (I’m ignoring the DLC for story purposes and the “cure”). The plot is very disjointed but the big problem is the end. In DS1 you can link the fire or let it die. This is a choice and serves an important point, do you reignite the flame and let a dying age continue in a never ending cycle (but which allows undead to die) or do you usher in a new age which has been attempting to gain ground for years? This is why killing the fire is viewed as the good ending as it’s the only decision that creates change and provides a new outcome. DS2 however doesnt even give us this choice, instead we get vague statements about the throne and the cutscene showing us sitting on it. We then have to use our imagination on what we actually do. We are constantly told in DS2 that we must link the fire and so assume that when we reach the throne our character automatically does so. There is no other choice. We’re never shown the other side of the coin as we are in DS1 with Kaathe.

    Now that story is roughly dealt with we’ll deal with the major problem which is mechanics. Now as I said earlier DS2 has much tighter combat mechanics and feels more fluid which is good. The problem is that the B team focused too much on making sure the game was difficult and to stop high levels of play. For the purposes of this discussion I am separating regular players (those who play through once or twice) and the so called Dark Souls Elitists (of which I would be a part of please don’t get fixated on the term it really does matter call me whatever you want I’ll survive). When I say high levels of play I mean the people who play the game through so many times that they reach a point where regular enemies hold no challenge and people bypass them entirely in order to rush bosses. In DS1 this can be done for essentially the entire game. B team viewed this as people finding the game too easy which is why they added the delay to moving through fog doors (which is fine) but also started throwing more and more enemies in rooms in order to block people from just running through (most notable example is the fog gate leading to Velstadt where there are I believe 7 Syann Knights guarding it). This is anathema to the Dark Souls experience. Dark Souls thrives on small scale encounters with a few enemies in the real world and with 1v1 encounters for bosses (with a couple exceptions) so that you can learn attack timings, notice attack animations and respond in kind. DS1 tries its hardest not to deal with luck and random chance and in games that are so punishing this is good. The problem is that the boss design in DS2 is rather tame and most bosses have so few attacks that in order to not be easy they add more and more enemies to the boss rooms or just give you two high level bosses in one room. As Josh said, this is not what’s supposed to happen, people should not be cheated when they enter a boss room and cannot keep track of more than one boss and their attack animations/timings and end up getting killed. DS2 is a game based on quantity over quality rather than DS1’s quality over quantity.

    This then leads us to the second problem. The introduction of adapatability. In DS1 your roll/i-frames were based on weight. Now they are based on what your agility value (most influenced by adpt). This has created a scenario that while your dodges may look good on screen your hitbox is actually outside your character which makes it look like a hit missed you entirely but you still take damage. This is bad as you are trying to make people learn roll timings with an invisible box they can’t see at varying levels of i-frames, many more levels than the DS1 version which had 4 based exclusively on how heavy you were and could be easily seen based on how slow your roll was performed. Couple this with their new tracking mechanic which can change mid swing and the player begins to feel like their deaths are not the result of their own failure but rather the game being unfair to them. This is bad!

    I realize now this post is super long so I’ll end with one very important thing which influences many Dark Souls Elitists but not so much your regular player and this is the attribute system and ng-ng+7. In Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls 1 stats were relatively pointless. The vast majority of your damage was coming off of weapon upgrades and not stats (spells are slightly different as the heaviest hitting has a high attribute requirement but I digress). All that really matters is that attribute hard caps (in which you no longer get good bonuses after bypassing that point as the bonus is almost negligible) was perfectly ok to be sitting in the 40/50 range. The game was balanced well enough that by the time you started hitting hard caps or going slightly beyond them in your main stat at ng+7 your character was still dealing extremely good damage and you felt that as you were progressing through all the subsequent games your character was growing. This is not the case in Dark Souls 2. In Dark Souls 2 your character is actively punished by progressing past ng+. When I say this I mean the B team was unable to properly scale your character to the game you were playing with how many souls you were accumulating. If I make a character in ng who uses a melee weapon with strength for instance I will use 4 stats (vigor which hard caps at 50, endurance which hard caps at 20, strength at 40, and adaptability 39). That makes 127 levels which I can easily achieve in a ng run. My damage essentially gets maxed out in ng but there are still 7 more iterations before the game stops scaling. This is not balanced. What’s worse is that spells were seen as too powerful since their spell use attribute was set low but dealt high damage so the B team went and reduced the cast amount/damage of all spells thereby making casters irrelevant at higher levels. For example, I recently took out my sorcerer in ng+5 that I was using before the changes months ago and with one of the strongest spells in the game (which uses 2 of my 10 spell slots) and gives me 4 casts I was doing roughly 600 per hit on a boss with roughly 22, 000 health. When hitting her with my sword which scaled with intellect I actually did slightly more damage than that per hit. This is insane. The scaling got reduced because the B team viewed the initial ng being too easy and so reduced all stats to ng forgetting that ng+7 existed which is an important aspect of the souls series. Dark Souls 2 actively punishes you and makes you weaker for progressing through multiple new games which runs completely against the Souls formula.

    I actually have much more to say especially with regards to ng+ and beyond which ties into the DLC as well as level design but I think this is too long already. If anyone is ever interested I’ll be more than happy to talk about those issues as well just I guess…respond in the comments but fair warning it will be another essay.

  22. Phantos says:

    I keep hearing people say that Dark Souls II is harder or less fair, and yet I have had much fewer cheap, BS deaths than in the first Dark Souls.

    I mean, I’ve lost MILLIONS of accumulated souls in DS1. Literally six digits. And while a not-insignificant portion of that is definitely my fault, growing pains of learning the system, most of it was just weak enemies suddenly getting in cheap shots or ignoring defenses or glitching out.

    I don’t think I’ve lost anywhere near that much in the second game, despite the more frequent invasions and higher mob density.

    Everything you’ve said is true about the game, and yet that wasn’t the experience I had(except in the DLC, which is so brutally unfair it made me violently angry). Did I just get better at this type of game, or was I just playing an easier character build?

    In any case, this is a really well-written article. You put a lot of stuff into words that I’ve had trouble expressing about these games, things I could never quite put my finger on. I didn’t think there was enough to say about Destiny to warrant even a small summary review, but you found a way.

    • Ivan says:

      Idk, it might have been your build or play style. The Bed of Chaos is such an infamous Darksouls boss but I had to look it up to figure out what people were talking about when it came up in a different discussion. I figured I must have gotten lucky but more recently I did a second play-though of Darksouls and only died 4 times, and one of those was a careless missjump, and another was actual inexperience where I didn’t realize that I wasn’t safe after I landed after that jump you have to make.

      I still don’t know exactly why that boss is considered to be so bullshit but apparently “From” was aware of it as well and patched the boss at some point. I don’t know what the patch was, maybe the patch prevented your progress from resetting after each death, idk.

      In any case, I find it entire plausible that it was something about my play-style that made that boss much easier for me to handle than it was for most people, and that it’s something about yours that exposes you to less of what the masses are complaining about.

      (Though having not played the game, off the top of my head if you were to go in with heavy armor and a strong shield then you don’t need to dodge attacks to avoid damage, so that might have something to do with it)

      • Phantos says:

        Funny you mention Bed of Chaos, because that’s something else that makes DSII more enjoyable for me: Dark Souls has so many bottleneck points where the game just kind of drags to a halt.

        Early on you can’t warp to bonfires, so there’s a lot of wasted time backtracking through places that don’t offer a lot of souls. And then the late-game bosses don’t have bonfires you can warp to, or shortcuts to the boss rooms, so there’s STILL too much backtracking.

        It essentially turns the Bed of Chaos, Four Kings, Seath, Gravelord Nito and Queelag into chores instead of exciting challenges.

        In Dark Souls II, the increased amount of bonfires means there are a lot fewer “Oh God, I have to do ALL THAT over again!” moments. And there’s rarely a huge trek to a boss fight in case you failed. Losing is it’s own punishment, so I’m glad this game threw away that time-wasting tradition.

        Boy, I bet Shamus is just tickled-pink to have people talking a lot about Dark Souls II on his website.

  23. Jarenth says:

    Yeah, Josh talks about his five games of 2014! Excellent. I look forward to reading about each and every one of them.

    *Reads article, which only covers two games*

    …Josh, you magnificent trolling bastard. You’ve done it yet again.

    “Oh, I’m sure the second part of this article will arrive any day now!” I’ve been hurt before, Josh. I’ve been hurt before.

  24. MichaelGC says:

    I am apparently completely incapable of writing short, concise blurbs when I’m passionate about something.

    You say that like it’s a bad thing. :D

  25. Darren says:

    The only assertion I disagree with is that Dark Souls II is harder. I thought it was much easier than Dark Souls, with a more flexible structure and the ability to clear out areas for safe traversal later. I never beat Dark Souls, but I beat Dark Souls II, although I admit I never tried the DLC for either.

    But I’m glad to hear someone who agrees with me about Destiny. It’s not really a plot so much as a setting, and in that sense it actually reminds me of STALKER. Replace “Stalker” with “Guardian,” “Monolith” with “Traveler,” and throw in some Warhammer 40k-style alien factions, and there’s your world. And, like STALKER, I’m almost infinitely less interested in the poorly told story than in the day-to-day details of life in this setting. Unlike STALKER, there’s precious little of that.

    Fortunately, the Crucible is great, and I’m more into the multiplayer than I usually am in an FPS. The loot track actually keeps me invested where I’d have normally lost interest. Bungie’s got me on the hook for now, and it just goes to show how having no interest in a game beforehand can lead to a better appreciation of it when you do experience it.

  26. Eruanno says:

    “See, Dark Souls has a deceptively simple combat system: R1 is your light attack, R2 is your heavy. Block with L1. Dodge with B.”

    Augh, Josh! B and R2 are two different controllers! Aaaagh! You’re crossing the streams! The streeeams…!

  27. Joseph P. Tallylicker says:

    I burned out on DS2 in the tower of mordor-alike, just didn’t feel like playing anymore.

    Does the game get better after that or did I already go through the best bits of level design?

    • Robyrt says:

      Thankfully, DS2 starts getting better immediately after this level. Once you unlock Drangleic Castle, the art design gets better, the level design gets better, and the plot starts happening again. The endgame DLC content is up to par with the original game in everything except enemy design, which is high praise.

  28. Slothfulcobra says:

    What really killed Dark Souls 2 for me was the plot. If you look back on From Software’s previous games, they’ve been doing this whole “the land fell into decay since the king went nuts, kill him and become the new king” bit since the King’s Field games in 1994, but when Dark Souls did it, it had a lot of pageantry, the opening cutscene was full of all this crazy neat junk, and the game still held back some of the story to tell yo later, it had great delivery. When DS2 did it, the opening cutscene and the first three NPCs were just all bragging about the game being hard (DS1 had a classier approach to that), and the first person you meet just tells you to find the king.

    The game is also pretty dull, aesthetically. I quit playing in the Lost Bastille. There was a boss that I had been stuck on whose only defining characteristic was that there were three of them, and as I kept throwing myself against it, the lead up to the boss steadily became less interesting as enemies stopped spawning, and after I finally beat the boss, my reward was more mucking around in the dark blue stone corridors.

  29. Till says:

    Mathew has a wonderful video about Dark Souls 2, coming to same conclusion as Josh:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UScsme8didI

    • Ivan says:

      Oh my god! thank you. I have been on the fence on this game for so long but this video has finally said the words that I needed to hear in order to make a decision.
      @~6:37
      “The game-play suffers heavily from the multi-boss setup. you need an extreme amount of patience to get through any of these encounters in a safe manner…
      …the main challenge in these fights is not lousing your cool and doing something risky before the end. So really the only reason these fights are even difficult at all is because they are so boring that you want to see if you can make them end slightly quicker by seeing if you can maybe get a second attack in before rolling away again.”

      Yeah I definitely would not enjoy this game. I really liked how Dark Souls combat worked and I wanted to see that system improved upon, but if the entire game is just a bunch of fights with the bell gargoyles then I think I’ll just take a pass and see if From decides to make a 3rd one, or someone else decides to implement a similar combat system.

      Actually I’ve heard that monster hunter plays like a dark souls game, and one is coming out for the 3DS so I have that to look forward to at least!

  30. Phantos says:

    I think it’s funny that literally hours after I go on a public comment section saying “Dark Souls II wasn’t that hard”, now there’s a relatively easy part of the game that’s giving me trouble.

    Left 4 Dead did this for me too. It’s like games wait for me to praise them, and then they turn on a hidden “f-ing impossible” switch or something.

  31. Vipermagi says:

    I just felt like complaining a bit. Don’t mind me.

    One of many things that frustrate me to no end in Dark 2, is enemies with shields.

    When an enemy is blocking and they finally decide to start attacking you, their shield stays active for the entire swing animation — even if they’re swinging their shield, overhead. And, because they’re blocking, they take practically no damage and just continue swinging like nothing ever happened. Fuck. You.

    Enemies blatantly do not consume stamina to attack. They do technically have stamina, but it’s only relevant when they’re blocking your attacks. What this means is, if you want to guard-break a monster, you need to completely drain your own stamina bar onto their Shield. This’ll deal no significant Damage and you don’t have enough time to recover stamina and get a hit in before their stagger animation is finished.

    Using shields yourself is also generally just a bad idea. If an enemy strikes your shield and recoils from it, you generally don’t have enough time to counterattack without catching their next attack with your fleshy exposed face anyways – after all, you’re friggen one-handing so your poise Damage is never enough to stagger them in one hit.

    On the other hand, if you two-hand any sort of weapon, even a dagger, you can deal sufficient poise damage to stagger even armoured enemies reliably… Unless they’re doing a particular attack where they gain a million poise, in which case they just stick a burning sword in your gut.

    There’s two Boss weapons with exactly the same moveset; the Pursuer Greatsword and the Sinner’s Sword. One of these is larger, one of these deals more Damage, one of these deals less Damage when you have Sin.
    Pursuer Greatsword holds the first two traits, the Sinner’s gets the negative modifier. *facepalm*

    Scythes have the unique ability to pull enemies towards you, instead of knocking enemies back. Scythes alternate between pulling and knocking back. However, you need to actually hit with the blade of the scythe and not the handle, and the pull/kb distances are such that you either never deal full Damage, or you can only hit once before having to move. Ugh.

    Damage types are… poorly balanced. Not counting the DLC zones, roughly 70% of all enemies are weak to strike damage, and the remaining 30% just takes regular damage. Many early-game bosses that pose issues to people (Pursuer, Ruin Sentinels) are extremely vulnerable to strike damage and resist just about everything else you throw at them. What this means is, Clerics are hilariously overpowered simply because they hold a Mace by default. You wanted to play the dual-wielding swordsman? I sure hope you like two-handing that short sword you got because it’s by far your best option. Slashing doesn’t do jack against all these bosses in heavy armour.

    Still sank 600 hours into Dark 2, and counting. I wonder if it’s going to come close to Dark 1 (1130 hrs) eventually.

  32. Abital Deng says:

    Destiny is my favorite game of 2014, its absolutely amazing.

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