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  • Hey, what's up guys - I'm Dave Klein, and welcome to a new series of mine.

  • A breakdown retrospective of various games.

  • As people know me for the Souls series, I thought this would be a good place to start,

  • but I do intend to cover more games outside of Souls, as Game Design is a passion of mine.

  • Also, I'd love to know your thoughts on this type of video when it wraps, as I'm

  • new to this.

  • So, that said, here's a critical analysis of Dark Souls - both its pros and cons.

  • What makes the game work, and perhaps, would could have been improved.

  • There will be spoilers, as I'd like to talk about the overall game in depth, so you have

  • been warned.

  • Dark Souls starts the game simple enough, with a character creator.

  • Which, I think for repeat play throughs, and experienced players is a great place to start

  • - but can be kind of intimidating for someone new to a franchise.

  • While players returning from Demon's Souls will know what kind of character they want

  • to play - being immediately thrown a number of stats without ever having played a game

  • is a rough place to start.

  • To be honest, on my first play through, I pulled up a guide as I already felt like I

  • could be screwing up at this point.

  • I've never been a huge fan of presenting new players immediately with stat choices

  • to choose before they've even had a chance to play the game for this reason.

  • If you've never played a game before, you don't know what build you're going to

  • like, you don't know what works and doesn't work for that particular game, and it's

  • a lot to handle right from the get-go, before you have any investment in the game at hand.

  • I'm definitely a fan of RPGs, and love the ability to customize your stats, but my main

  • point is this can be intimidating, especially for a game that has the reputation of Dark

  • Souls, whether deserved or not, of being challenging.

  • One possible solution is to have a tutorial portion of the game where the player at least

  • learns base mechanics before they get to choose their stats - and in this case, that would

  • happen when the player arrives at Firelink Shrine.

  • However, that's really just a different choice, as it creates its own problems.

  • The character creator, at that point, would pull you out of the game - and possibly ruin

  • your sense of immersion as you should already have an idea of who your character is if you're

  • doing role playing.

  • I don't think there's necessarily a solution to this problem, but do want to point out

  • my own frustrations with it, as I'm sure I'm not the only one who struggles with

  • this.

  • From here, we get what I think is one of Dark Souls strongest aspects over Demon's Souls,

  • Dark Souls 2, and Bloodborneand even to an extent - Dark Souls 3, which is its intro

  • cinematic.

  • There's a strong pull to take cinematics completely out of video games, as they take

  • you of the game, and at that point you're watching something happen as opposed to playing.

  • But, I think they can have their place, and this is the perfect example of that.

  • In the intro cinematic we find out about the creation of the world, and are given a little

  • backstory to the overall game, which will become essential to its story.

  • But the main point I want to focus on here, is what the cinematic highlights.

  • We're shown horrifying looking Ancient Dragons, and then 4 amazingly powerful lords fighting

  • off these Ancient Dragons and starting the entire world as we'll come to know it - Gwyn,

  • The Witch of Izalith, Nito, and Seath.

  • The cinematic makes them look incredibly powerful, and they absolutely stand out as they're

  • shown fighting off the ancient dragons.

  • What this creates is an automatic understanding of who some of the major bosses you'll end

  • up fighting are.

  • You don't know it yet, but as you progress further into the game, and realize you're

  • about to have to fight Nitoor Seathor the Witch of Izalithor finally Gwyn

  • - living legends who we witnessed creating the world and destroying the ancient dragons

  • - the tone is set for you.

  • These are characters we know, we might revere or fear, and know are insanely powerful.

  • They created the world you stand on, and you're about to have to go fight them.

  • And that's both intimidating and exciting.

  • In Demon's Souls, we're told the overall lore of the world, and given some minor backstory

  • about warriors who've disappeared - which works just fine but doesn't have the same

  • effect.

  • In Dark Souls 2 we get some cutscene about some weird world under the waterwhich,

  • despite all of my lore videos on the game, I still don't really understand.

  • It doesn't do anything for you other than make the world seem mystical and strange.

  • Bloodborne, sets the tone of you being in a creepy world where you seem to have just

  • screwed yourself - but not much beyond that.

  • And finally, Dark Souls 3 replicates what Dark Souls 1 did - giving us beings that we're

  • going to have to fight, and names that we'll know.

  • But, it's not as effective, as these are simply beings who became Lords and had sacrificed

  • themselves to extend the Age of Fire at some point in time.

  • That's not nearly as important or wild as the beings who created the entire world and

  • mythology you exist within.

  • And I know I'm harping on this intro for a while, but I think it's just that good,

  • and that well worth praising.

  • Finally, with the intro cinematic out of the way, we find ourselves in prison, and a character

  • helps break us out - Oscar of Astora.

  • It's worth mentioning this, as it's something I've heard other creators talk about before

  • in mentioning what makes you like an NPC.

  • We immediately like Oscar, and he's more important to us than most NPCs in other games

  • simply by the virtue of its he who gives us the key that gets us out of prison.

  • Characters who help you, or do things for you, are the ones who you'll tend to end

  • up liking.

  • If characters get in your way, such as Lautrecwe end up hating them - regardless of how

  • virtuous they may end up being.

  • Let's further look at Oscar

  • Oscar later on gives us Estus Flasks, which finally allows your character to heal themselves,

  • with refillable vials.

  • Once again, he endears himself to the players by being useful - and he tells you to leave

  • before he goes hollowas he doesn't want to hurt you.

  • When we find him hollow and attacking you later, he's once again endeared himself

  • through his actions of helping you.

  • Butwhen you really think about it.

  • Oscar is also the one who tells you about the Undead journey, which within the lore

  • is a trap created by Gwyndolin, Frampt, or Gwynto get an undead to unwittingly sacrifice

  • themselves to link the flame.

  • It's all a giant lie.

  • But, what makes you, the player, so susceptible to this is that it's one of the game's

  • most likable characters who unwittingly tells you this lie - and sets you on your journey.

  • It's fascinating when you think about the psychology of itand I think other games

  • should look at this as an example of how to properly lie to players.

  • Another game that did this really well was the original Bioshock.

  • It's similar in making you trust someone who keeps on doing things that would seem

  • to help you, when that character has their own ulterior motive.

  • It's great writing - and whether Fromsoftware did it on purpose or not, which given the

  • other characters we find, I assume they did - I applaud them for this.

  • Sohere we are at the Undead Asylum, and what happens to be the tutorial area of Dark

  • Souls 1.

  • I think this, along with Demon's Souls were the best tutorial areas of the Souls games,

  • but before I get into that, I do have a criticism for it.

  • Anyone who's played Dark Souls for an extensive amount of time - especially if you've played

  • Bloodborne, will know that the optimal way to play the game is usually in rolling to

  • dodge enemy attacks.

  • However, the tutorial heavily emphasizes playing the game sword and board style.

  • It definitely teaches you how to roll - but what I mean is this:

  • You're pretty much immediately given your shield, and told how to use it.

  • After this, one of your first scenarios is being ambushed by a mob, along with an archer.

  • The best way to handle this situation is with your shield, so you block all of these attacks,

  • and then strike at your first opportunity.

  • I do think that's great for teaching how to use the shield effectively.

  • But

  • I also feel like you're given the shield too early, or don't have enough enemies

  • to train withand by that

  • I mean even a single real enemy - to train with without a shield.

  • Especially when you're light, and before you're mid-rolling or fat-rolling - it's

  • the perfect opportunity to present a situation where all you have is a sword, and the best

  • way to avoid getting hit is through rolling.

  • Outside of that, I think the Undead Asylum is by far the best tutorial in any of the

  • Souls games, and here's why:

  • Simply put - the Asylum Demon is the perfect first boss.

  • When he first jumps down, it's shocking, especially if you've never played a Souls

  • game, and terrifying.

  • If you try attacking him, you'll probably die.

  • And, it quickly sets the mood for Dark souls in multiple ways.

  • For one - the game is going to be challenging.

  • And for two, if you stop panicking and explore around the room, you'll find an escape,

  • and get away from the boss.

  • You've now been rewarded for thinking and properly assessing the environment, which

  • is a huge deal in this game, which constantly pounds that into you: Be cautious, check the

  • environment for clues, and utilize it properly.

  • Not only that, but when we come to the boss better equipped, you're given a new mechanic

  • - that being the drop attack.

  • This takes out roughly half of the Asylum Demon's health, and presents with an optionally

  • easier boss fight.

  • Now, fully equipped and with healing items, knowing the mechanics of the game, you should

  • be able to take out the Asylum Demon after a few triesif not your first.

  • He is difficult for new playersbut not overly difficult - and this drop attack is

  • a great way for new players to feel like they have a real chance to defeat him.

  • Not only that - but because of how intimidating and challenging the Asylum Demon was when

  • we first met him, it's extremely rewarding when the player defeats him.

  • Right from the get-go, the tutorial has established what the game is about: overcoming challenging

  • situations, and a great sense of reward for doing so.

  • Demon's Souls attempts this by having an intimidating boss - but allows you to lose,

  • thereby potentially never gaining that sense of reward.

  • Meanwhile, both Dark Souls 2 and Bloodborne omit having a boss, which I think was a mistake

  • on the part of Dark Souls 2, where-as Bloodborne I'm more forgiving as it has totally different

  • feel as a game.

  • I think Dark Souls 3 actually handled this the worst with Iudex Gundyr.

  • He's overly difficult for new players, and certain builds, such as the thief build, are

  • at a huge disadvantage against him.

  • While he sets the tone for: “These games are about overcoming challenge”, I think

  • it's at the point of potentially being too discouraging.

  • Finally, another great thing about the Asylum Demon and the tutorial area is it has a now

  • well-known easter egg that rewards observant players.

  • The Asylum Demon can be seen at the top of the Undead Asylum if the player truly pays

  • attention.

  • Meanwhile, we find Oscar bashed in throughs he ceiling of the Undead Asylum, about to

  • die.

  • And - if we piece this together - it was the Asylum Demon who did this to him.

  • The story is there, and you're rewarded for paying attentionbut it's never thrown

  • in your face.

  • Anyways, I think that's all I have to say about the Undead Asylum.

  • To be honest, the area's a little boring to me, but it does make for a great tutorial

  • area.

  • So, let's hitch a ride with a crow, and head into Firelink Shrine.

  • ————

  • Ahhhh, Firelink Shrine.

  • Thanks in part to the sound design of the game, which opt to almost never play music

  • unless you're fighting a boss, this truly feels like a relaxing hub and safe spot.

  • This element of sound design is actually something I'm a little torn on.

  • On one hand, some of my favorite video game music comes from environmental music.

  • For example: Playing through From Software's first video game series, King's Field, there's

  • constantly this creepy music that plays in the background - and it really helped set

  • the mood of the game.

  • Meanwhile, a game like Skyrim has peaceful tracks playing the background which helps

  • make the game feel relaxing while you're exploring.

  • Dark Souls instead opts to only have environmental sounds ringing throughout, which heavy music

  • playing during bosses to indicate a heightened sense of danger - which I'll touch on more

  • when I get to the Taurus Demon.

  • And while I sometimes do miss the music, it also makes it so every track is far more effective.

  • Because Firelink Shrine is one of the only places in the game with music, it really does

  • feel like something separate, important, and peaceful.

  • Meanwhile, if you eventually find Ash Lake, the track that plays there immediately creates

  • a sense of awe and importance - as no-where else in the game does this.

  • I think - to my point - it's an interesting design choice, and I think one Dark Souls

  • pulls off effectively.

  • Another great thing about Firelink Shrine is that there are multiple branches here,

  • with the game not holding your hand or telling you where to go.

  • It's refreshing for a game to trust its player to figure out what's too difficult

  • for them.

  • And while I'm sure there are some players who have frustratedly quit out of the game

  • at this point, this is the type of choice that makes Dark Souls stand out to players

  • who do end up enjoying it so much.

  • From Firelink Shrine, you can head into the Catacombs, Undead Burg, or New Londo - which

  • actually has even more branches - but, let's first look at a new player's perspective.

  • If you go into the Graveyard, the skeletons are genuinely hard and will probably kill

  • you immediately.

  • One thing I hate in games is when they block off a path telling you: “You shouldn't

  • go here yet”.

  • It's such an obvious marker and pulls away from immersion.

  • But - this tells a player all they need to know.

  • If you died to the skeletons right away, you should probably be thinking: “I'm not

  • ready for this yet”, or at leas try to avoid it and look at other areas.

  • If you want to keep on attempting the Graveyard - fair enough man - but at least you're

  • given the choice.

  • Option #2 is New Londo.

  • To be honest, I didn't even notice the entrance to New Londo my first time playing the game

  • until multiple trips back to Firelink Shrine, which I think is one good point to why it's

  • for later in the gameit's harder to find.

  • That said, everyone's different, so if you do end up here first - once again, there's

  • a lot that will show you not to come here.

  • For one - unless you know to utilize a Transient Curse, you can't hurt the ghosts - and that

  • definitely feels too advanced for a first section of a game.

  • So again, you should figure out right away this isn't the first place to go.

  • And finally, our third option is Undead Burg.

  • Which is really the section designed for a first-time player, and the first area you

  • should go to.

  • BUT.

  • The great thing about all of this, is that it