Posted on November 7th, 2011 in games
I can’t take this…
Yes, more strange, inscrutable gothic fantasy with the difficulty level ramped right up to INSANE from the folks who tested your sanity with Demon’s Souls. In many ways this game appears a big improvement over the last one, which was certainly interesting itself. The upsides? The game world is pretty amazing, the combination of medieval euro-style fantasy 101 with loopy japanese lateral thinking makes for a dark, weird, fascinating, and certainly original experience. Also the design and the way in which everything interconnects is pretty damn impressive – you’ll see a ruined tower on a hill in the far distance and think, huh, nice scenery, then four days later you’ll be standing on a ruined tower on a hill and think, ‘hold on, is this that tower I saw from over there? I think it is, you know…’ On the whole the bizarre, incomprehensible mythos is alluring and atmospheric rather than feeling like a bunch of ill-explained mumbo-jumbo. Then there’s the difficulty level, of course. Few, if any games, come anywhere close to the savage unforgivingness of this one. On the whole it felt somewhat fine-tuned, though, there are more shortcuts than in Demon’s Souls, which mean you’re not as often asked to negotiate a long-winded and extremely difficult build up before being instantly killed by an impossible boss. Twelve times. Now you have a much shorter route to run twelve times before being instantly killed by an impossible boss. Which is something. And on the whole patience and care reap their rewards. Sloppy players will be crushed to dust. Instantly. The upside of all this difficulty is that when you do finally overcome the boss, it’s a feeling of triumph like no other in computer gaming,
The downsides? Well, there’s that difficulty level again. I mean, it wears you down, it really does. Painstakingly working your way through half an hour’s worth of traps and pernickety fights in order to be crushed by a boulder you couldn’t have known was coming and knowing you’ve now got to do that painstaking half hour again? I play computer games to relax, you know? I admire the test, I do, but I’m not sure I’ve got the time or energy any more to be tested this hard, and the unrelenting, punishing, hurting darkness and pessimism of the whole thing, unlit by any apparent spark of positivity doesn’t help in that context. Graphically? In some ways great, in some very so-so. Distant vistas can look absolutely incredible, bursting with atmosphere and visual imagination, especially when you know that strange bridge in the far distance is sure to be one you’ll be edging painstakingly across later. Probably screaming. But close up the textures and so forth are pretty ropey, which makes a lot of the enclosed spaces feel really dank and dull. Plus animation on the main character is clunky and cumbersome, and this does translate to some pretty clunky and cumbersome gameplay, which wouldn’t be so bad if total precision weren’t being demanded so often. I could live with the really narrow swaying walkways if my character wasn’t prone to woodenly topple off even wide stable bridges when you press the attack button. Fighting isn’t really a reflex affair. It’s a grind of careful planning, working out how to draw out one enemy at a time, knowing exhaustively the timings and ranges of your (and their) attacks. Lovers of fluid, devil-may-care character control such as you’d find on Mario 64 or Prince of Persia need really, really not apply.
So mixed feelings, all in all, and there are just so many great games coming out around the end of this year that, having put some thirty or forty hours into this one and being, I’m sure, no more than half way through, I’m just going to have to mothball it. Maybe that means I don’t have the guts, I don’t know, but it feels more like I don’t have the time. I’m just not enjoying it enough. So I started playing Rage yesterday, and when I saw a common-or-garden pessimistic apocalyptic wasteland my heart just sang like a bird released.
DARK souls indeed…