A little while ago I wrote a piece on why Bloodborne’s online functionality was essentially ruined in my eyes. It garnered a lot of attention – mainly negative – and I had many comments from people saying they enjoy the changes and hope they will stay as they now are.
I am elated to say that Bloodborne just received a new patch that directly addresses my main problem with the changes that patch 1.04 implemented.
-If a player uses the Beckoning Bell or Small Resonant Bell while using a password, it will be clearly indicated that a password is in use. -If the level difference between the host and the guest when matched using a password is large, the guest’s stats will be adjusted to match the host’s. -Other bug fixes and matching improvements.
Wow. The way From Software has handled this couldn’t have gone better. While the details on how exactly the scaling might work is vague, what we can safely take away from this is that you can no longer summon an exceptionally high-leveled player into your world to make the game easy.
The spirit of Bloodborne has been restored, and my faith in From Software has been strengthened. I am glad they’ve seen why their last update was so damaging, and I am excited to see where they can take this game in further updates.
When patch 1.04 for Bloodborne was being hinted at , I was ecstatic to see my favourite game of 2015 so far being given careful post-launch support. The game was was a masterpiece of design and atmosphere, but despite everything it got right, there were a few things that needed fixing.
I never would’ve expected however, that the patch would not only fix some problems with the game, but single-handedly sabotage the entire design philosophy of the series. It was shocking and disheartening, and I actually wondered if it was a practical joke.
It isn’t a practical joke, and I am having trouble even coming up with a cohesive explanation to why From Software would do such a thing to their own baby.
Summoning Is Sacred
I must admit that I am tempted to simply post this video and leave it at that, as it perfectly encapsulates one of the main problems with this patch – the ability for any player of any level to summon any player of any level.
If you have played Bloodborne or another Souls game, you’ll know that the games are based on what is essentially a glass floor of balance. They’re so carefully crafted that the way in which you take on foes and bosses is beautifully executed, offering some relief when you can gain a few levels, while always challenging you despite how good you become at the game.
This among many other things that I will discuss later are disregarded when you can simply have your high-leveled friend join your game with a maxed out Ludwig’s Holy Blade and some spells to five-shot any boss you’ll encounter.
Furthermore, the fact that you can summon anyone so long as the boss isn’t killed means that you can literally have someone smack their way through the majority of the game with you, doing literally nothing but following on auto-pilot as they reign down chaos.
While some might think that this only affects those who choose to utilize this feature, there is still an inherent problem with the very idea.
We’re In This Together
When I say this, I don’t just mean through jolly cooperation, I mean as a community at large. We all play the Souls games and Bloodborne for differing reasons, but we are all privileged enough to feel the intense satisfaction of overcoming our fears, weaknesses, and ignorance to defeat the game’s toughest challenges, and that is an idea I cherish.
When I’m struggling through a hard area, I can think to myself that there are many other people in the same situation as me. We’re all in this together and we’re all toughing it out to be granted the endless enjoyment of such a unique franchise.
Except that this all counts for nothing when the game is reduced to what I will call Casualborne. A game where you can steamroll every single hurdle through what is now the equivalent of a ghost writer.
Where is the satisfaction in summoning help in the form of an extremely high leveled player? Where is the sense of achievement you’d earn by completing a nefariously designed area? The truth is that if you utilize this feature, you will experience none of this and it’s a damned shame. It goes against the basic design philosophy of this series: overcome through patience and perseverance.
As someone who not only supports this series wholeheartedly, but also wishes to preserve the essence of what makes this series such a stand-out in an age of absolutely tepid triple A titles and pre-order culture, I cannot just watch it happen and accept it.
You should be proud that you are amongst a small group of gamers that enjoy such a masochistic and skill-demanding experience, and you should not let your precious memories of this franchise vanish into nothing but memories of having a friend do everything on your behalf.
We’ve Only Just Begun
I don’t want to give you the wrong impression that this only impacts the single-player experience, as this is also potentially catastrophic to the online experience, and that is where my true worry comes into play.
Bloodborne, like the games before it, has a unique online feature that allows a player to jump into the single-player world of an unsuspecting victim so that the invader may slaughter him and earn some precious echoes.
This mechanic is one that has been fully embraced by the community since Demon’s Souls, and it is a mainstay feature in this series. This patch ruins it too.
Picture this scenario if you will. You as an honest player spend dozens of hours enjoying Bloodborne and learning the mechanics. After a while you decide that you want to go head to head with someone in the form of PVP, but when you ring your Sinister Resonant Bell and find yourself in the world of another, you come to a sad realisation… it’s been set up.
You join the world of a player your level, and as you go forth weapon in hand, you see that he has a friend (or three) that are not only incredibly high leveled, but possess the advantage of having home field and preparation on their side. You quickly get ambushed in what can only be called a pre-planned ganking scenario, and you find that you are completely helpless to the overwhelming power of these foes.
That is exactly the scenario you will be seeing more and more of as this patch becomes more and more exploited by a community that thrives on ganking montages and yoloswaggin’ PVP videos.
I’d be foolish to think that this is the first time players have summoned friends to mess up unsuspecting invaders, but at least before we had fair-game in the form of level and item restrictions… mostly. This is made even worse when you consider how many exploitable bugs Bloodborne had that allowed any player who so chose, to immediately glitch their way to enormously high levels with unlimited currency.
It’s a big amoeba of small problems that form into one hideous entity that even Miyazaki himself couldn’t have drawn on paper.
Of Pandemic Proportions
If you were under the impression that these kinds of scenarios would be reserved for only small groups of friends, you’d be sorely mistaken, as even those who hate this patch can still be directly involved in it. I’ll explain how with another hypothetical scenario.
You want to experience the world of cooperation and so you think to yourself “I’ll ring my Small Resonant Bell and help someone out on my favourite boss so that I can have a repeated viewing”. After waiting a brief moment, you find yourself pulled into a world that at first seems normal. When you reach the boss fog however, you realise that you have a friendly summon who is so powerful that the boss music doesn’t even get to start before the creature is dead and you are on your way out. You, who is a sucker for challenge and likes to experience the grind of slowly whittling away at a boss’s health until he finally collapses cannot enjoy this, because even you are thrust into the new-found community of boss cheesers. Something I don’t believe is far and few between, by the way, especially when you consider how Reddit has been behaving since the patch hit.
It hasn’t even been a single week and the Bloodborne subreddit already has threads and comments popping up with people asking for specifically high-leveled players to help on bosses.
There are even community-based passwords in place on Facebook, Reddit, and the Bloodborne Wiki that enable you to instantly summon the help of anyone who is also using the password in the community. It’s no longer about finding a summon of equal strength, but now just a waiting game until an obligatory tank comes in and slaughters everything for you.
The idea that we have entire communities set out to cheese a game that is meant to be legitimately overcome makes my blood boil, but I can’t really do much about it.
A Little Bird Told Me
Beyond everything I’ve talked about, what is perhaps the most discouraging thing of all is the response to this patch. It has been overwhelminglypositive from what I and some close friends have witnessed.
It seems that amongst the fans that I have encountered and several articles that have surfaced covering the details of the patch, most people welcome this change, claiming that it’s now a more social experience like they had hoped it’d be.
Since when was a single Souls game about social play? Do you not remember how you couldn’t use any form of party chat on Xbox 360 with the original Dark Souls? Do you not remember how before Dark Souls II’s horrific voice-chat, the only way to communicate in the game would be via gestures? Do you not remember the purposeful design of camaraderie through the conquering of bosses, not through direct interaction? Do you not remember the ‘prepare to die’ slogan the encapsulated the type of experience you’d be in for? Do you not remember how Hawkeye Gough had the only items that could even allow you to directly speak to a player but only by means of a few key phrases? All of this was done deliberately, and this patch again destroys the idea and the design.
The idea of Dark Souls and especially Bloodborne more than all, is to be absorbed in a world and thrust into scenarios that would make anyone quiver in fear. You are meant to be scared, isolated, alone, confused and lost. These emotions make it much more rewarding when you tackle a difficult stretch, and they would all be irrelevant if this were a directly social experience.
You aren’t thinking about the atmosphere or the labyrinthine design of the castle you’re in, if all you’re doing is teasing your friends while you casually swing your swords with your brains off, steam-rolling even the toughest of foes without blinking an eye.
It’s almost as if nobody wants to play a Souls-like Souls game any longer. It’s like they want the title of ‘I beat an extremely difficult game’ without actually having to put in any work, and that is discouraging to say the least.
With rumours and leaks of Project Beast teasing the internet for weeks, it was no surprise that something would be mentioned at E3. What nobody expected, was that Project Beast is its own entity, separate from the Souls universe. Bloodborne, FromSoftware’s next project, will release on the Playstation 4 in 2015, and does it ever look great!
The most noteworthy thing to come from this news is that Hidetaka Miyazaki, FromSoftware’s new president, is the director of Bloodborne. He is as talented as he is worshipped in this industry, and it can only mean great things for Bloodborneto have him at the helm.
Introducing Bloodborne, the latest Action RPG from renowned Japanese developer FromSoftware, exclusively for the PlayStation®4 system. Face your fears as you search for answers in the ancient city of Yharnam, now cursed with a strange endemic illness spreading through the streets like wildfire. Danger, death and madness lurk around every corner of this dark and horrific world, and you must discover its darkest secrets in order to survive.
A Terrifying New World: Journey to a horror-filled gothic city where deranged mobs and nightmarish creatures lurk around every corner.
Strategic Action Combat: Armed with a unique arsenal of weaponry, including guns and saw cleavers, you’ll need wits, strategy and reflexes to take down the agile and intelligent enemies that guard the city’s dark secrets.
A New Generation of Action RPG: Stunningly detailed gothic environments, atmospheric lighting, and advanced new online experiences showcase the power and prowess of the PlayStation(R)4 system.
You can pre-order Bloodborne at the official Sony website.
After Dark Souls II‘s critical success, it is no surprise that DLC is on the way. Bandai Namco announced that three pieces of DLC will be arriving over the next several months for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.
The DLC trilogy, titled ‘The Lost Crowns’, will take place over three new locales, and offer a variety of new challenges for the most brazen of fans.
The following statement discusses the first expansion and what it entails:
“The Crown of the Sunken King sends players on a quest to reclaim the Crown that King Vendrick once owned. With an entirely new areas to explore within the Dark Souls II universe, players will find pyramids, underground caverns, and unknown foes. It is said that the Ancient Crown is buried deep below the surface, but surely it cannot sit unguarded?”
Though not much else is known outside of the press release, we’ve been informed of the titles, their respective release dates and that each piece of content will be $9.99. If you have the utmost confidence in the quality of the DLC, or want to save a few pennies, a season pass can be purchased for $24.99.
The Crown of the Sunken King – July 22, 2014
The Crown of the Old Iron King – August 26, 2014
The Crown of the Ivory King – September 24, 2014
What’s more, Bandai Namco included a trailer for your viewing pleasure.
From Software’s upcoming Project Beast, rumoured to be a Playstation 4 exclusive, has had its first gameplay leaked this fine evening. Though this seems reminiscent of the first screenshots that were shown, this is high quality, and comes in video format. The images prior to this didn’t really do the game much justice, but praise the sun, as this is looking like it will be a gorgeous game.
Though the youtube link is nice, a higher quality version can be found here. I’d definitely recommend hitting it up if you want the ultimate viewing experience.
I can’t even express my excitement for this game.Dark Souls II was a fantastic experience, and I am hardly able to wait until E3’s hopeful showing of Project Beast.
The most admirable thing about the Souls series is that it isn’t afraid to take risks. While most games hold the players hand and teach them absolutely everything, Souls lays out the bare foundation and sets you off on your journey. You are given naught but the basics and must learn the rest through exploration and experimentation, finding your own way through the dark.
I couldn’t be happier to say that Dark Souls II is every bit as challenging, rewarding, and utterly brilliant as its predecessors, even if a few of the changes weren’t for the better.
Dark Souls II has you playing the role of an undead as he/she attempts to remove the curse that is cast upon him/her for reasons unknown. Like the previous entries in the series, the plot is told in an interesting way in that it denounces any sort of cutscene/expositional format, and instead has you searching for the answers yourself. This can be done in several ways, from engaging in dialogue with NPCs as they spout off vague clues, or reading item descriptions that tell tales of old and fill in the blanks.
The game never beats you over the head with what is happening, and you might even find yourself unsure of what has transpired after completing your journey, only to encourage you to delve deeper and find the answers for yourself. It is a very rewarding and mysterious way of telling a story, and it is enhanced by the wonderful characters introduced to you within your approximately 60 hour journey in Drangleic.
From the ever tricksy Mild-Mannered Pate to the crestfallen Lucatiel of Mirrah, you’re bound to fall in love with the eclectic cast of characters. Benhart of Jugo, the Scottish Knight obsessed with his beloved sword becomes a sort of friend and companion, while Gavlan, a bearded dwarf, offers you broken English and a place to sell your wares! You’re always hoping to run into someone interesting, and like the previous Souls games, Dark Souls II is no exception.
Like the NPCs, the world design is colourful, grotesque, and fascinating. Each area feels as if it were torn out of a high fantasy novel and transformed into a macabre setpiece. From vast forests made from the corpses of giants, to a pirate cove built within a dank, dark cavern, you will always want to take a moment to ponder what you’re seeing. Sweeping landscapes with frightening, yet comforting horizons grace every corner, and utterly hideous sights are placed to contrast the beauty of Drangleic.
The enemies you will face in each area help keep that fragile atmosphere in check with their placement and designs. Each time you venture into a new area of Drangleic, you will run into a myriad of new enemy types. They never feel out of place, instead, feel perfectly natural, as if you just happened to encroach on their environment.
The bosses are much the same, in that they feel like the truly do live in this world. The design of the bosses in Souls are always a selling point for me, as the artists at From Software know how to make tired ideas captivating and frightening. Each boss you will face is more surprising than the last, and they all have their own subtle design and attack patterns that make them a thrill to fight.
All of this is rendered within Dark Souls II’s updated engine. Boasting advanced lighting and particles, this game successfully shines brighter than ever before, though it comes at a cost. The textures in Dark Souls II are noticeably lower in quality, and it is jarring to walk into a beautiful castle with hilariously awful textures in some of the objects. I never found that the textures detracted from the atmosphere or design, but it is noticeable to say the least.
Luckily, the frame rate has improved drastically over Dark Souls, with no areas being even remotely comparable to the infamous Blighttown. It’s somewhat impressive considering the lighting they have crafted. Running through a corridor with a torch is often thrilling, as it seems like lighting was studied religiously before implementation. The shadows are wonderful and spooky, and walking into a new area just to see ash from a flame glimmer through the rays of the sun is breathtaking in some locales. These kinds of aspects really further the atmosphere, making dusty ruins feel filthy and untouched, and coasts of the seemingly endless shore feel tranquil and serene.
The music in Dark Souls II is as memorable and gorgeous as Dark Souls before it, and each track was made with respect for the environment and boss encounter it coincides with. You will have your typical God choruses and strings sections, but they do manage to transcend other staples in the genre, while offering a more bizarre twist.
Beyond the more artistic side of Dark Souls II, the gameplay remains mostly unchanged. The combat is still weighty, deliberate, and offers visceral swordplay that few games achieve to this magnitude. There are still many builds you can create, from a Katana wielding Thief to a spell slinging temple knight. Magic has been overhauled this time around by allowing the player to essentially ‘level up’ spells capacity and damage, while giving mages the option of a strong and weak attack. Archery was also revamped by allowing a player to move while firing arrows. Little things like this have been expanded upon in Dark Souls II, and it makes a lot of the game feel even more refined in the end.
Unfortunately not all of the changes are for the best, as a statistic called Soul Memory has somewhat ruined the co-operative aspects of Dark Souls II, putting players not only behind a level wall, but a skill wall as well. Soul Memory calculates the collection of souls you’ve attained throughout your journey, and pairs you up accordingly. This sounds nice in theory, but makes summoning a much rarer activity. This truly becomes a problem when you attempt one of the bosses that are clearly designed for co-op, yet cannot find a buddy to help you. Though I could delve deeper into the numerous small changes, like most of the things in Dark Souls II, it’s best to explore and discover for yourself.
Dark Souls II is an absolute colossus of a game. It features almost unparalleled amounts of meaningful customization, bizarre worlds to explore, repulsive bosses to conquer, and endless secrets to discover. It is not only better than Dark Souls, but it might be one of the best RPG’s I’ve ever played.
The launch of Dark Souls II has been overwhelmingly positive for From Software and Namco Bandai. The game has received staggeringly positive critical reception and the community has embraced it with open arms – for the most part.
Fans of the series have been starting petitions to get some of the more controversial aspects of the game fixed.
The first petition asks Namco Bandai to fix Soul Memory. For those who are unaware, Soul Memory is an aspect of the game designed to better pair you up with people of your skill level. The problem is that it’s so stingy that it’s now making invasions and cooperative play sparse and overly difficult, effectively sabotaging the community they wanted to pull in with Dark Souls II‘s new accessibility.
Finite respawning, also in the petition, is a new system in place to help people who are stuck at a certain area progress. In the original Dark Souls, you would have to kill the enemies to progress, but if you died, you’d start over and have to kill them all again. This repetition was frowned upon by many, but embraced by monster farmers. The problem is now that farmers have more trouble gathering precious loot, and some argue that it’s making the game too easy.
The second petition asks Namco Bandai to fix the timed cooperation. In Dark Souls, when you summoned a player into your world, they could help you progress through the level or take on a boss. This was not a timed endeavour and, as long as you both lived, could continue playing together. In DS II, there is a time limit to how long summons last, making exploration a thing of the past while engaging in jolly cooperation.
I have sunk over fifty hours into Dark Souls II thus far, and I tend to agree that these aspects need to be fixed.
Namco Bandai released a final trailer to promote the launch of Dark Souls II today, and it causes more cognitive dissonance than any other trailer for the Souls series thus far.
Dark Souls is famous for its crushing difficulty and grotesque atmosphere, so it should come as a surprise that the song of choice for this trailer is a Jethro Tull song. It’s jarring that it is placed over over what is potentially the best example of atmosphere in recent memory. Thus, any feeling this game is supposed to evoke has been crushed by such an awkward choice in music… at least, I think? The lyrics match up to everything going on to an almost poetic degree, but the song itself couldn’t feel more out of place in tone and style.
Beyond the song choice however, the trailer is interesting in that it shows off a few new bosses and enemies that until now, we haven’t seen. The actual design possesses a unique, macabre look as usual, and it’s really exciting to see what is beyond the dilapidated bridges of Drangleic.
Will you be picking up Dark Souls II? I regret to inform you that I will be quitting every aspect of my social life for it.
To celebrate the launch of Dark Souls II, I have prepared my top five favourite bosses from the entire Souls series. These games do almost all of the bosses so effectively that it was truly a challenge to come up with the top five, but, I persevered and will explode your mind with my exceptional choices.
To make this list, each boss had to be unique, atmospheric, well designed, and have wonderful music to boot. They must also be a boss that cannot be exploited easily, a la Gwyn.
Of all the bosses on this list, I have never been so enraged by a fight in the Souls series.
Picture this if you will: you traverse a hideously atmospheric tower of thinly crafted bridges, hidden elevators, and winged creatures that ambush you from all sides. After somehow making your way through the dark pathways, killing your beloved Yurt, and trudging through a vile swamp of red pus and pulsating veins, you find yourself atop the highest tower. You naturally assume that after the nightmare that is ‘Tower of Latria’, they’d throw you a bone and give you a pushover for a boss. This is not the case however, as you’re fighting two large, flying, snake tailed, lion headed creatures that are relentless in their combined assault. The devilish design of Demon’s Souls is never more apparent than here as you’re forced to fight them both at the same time on a narrow bridge, where one charged attack from either one will send you falling off the ledge into the chaos.
This is made even worse by the fact that as you’re attacking one, the other is either floating in the distance shooting dangerous magic at you, or out of sight, waiting in the shadows to ambush you from behind. There is no brilliant tactic for this fight, it’s simply a battle of attrition as you slowly chip away at them, while using all of your precious herbs to counteract their ridiculously powerful attacks.
It may sound like a nightmare, but it’s an utterly fantastic nightmare.
4. Knight Artorias
Knight Artorias was a boss that reminded me how effective a straight up brawl can be. He is a unique boss in that he isn’t a huge, towering brute, simply a skulking knight with a greatsword. That said, he is a ruthless, intimidating boss with immensely satisfying, unpredictable attack animations and a power up stage that will kill you in seconds if you do not stop it. What makes him truly interesting though, is that he has arguably the best sub plot in the game.
If you’ve fought him, you’ve probably noticed that his left arm is limp, and that he uses his two-handed sword with one arm. This is because he died to protect Great Grey Wolf Sif when he was just a pup.
Artorias and Sif have a connection that touches most people that play the Souls series, but witnessing all of the events that unfold – that I dare not spoil – make this fight feel very unfortunate. I never want to actually fight Sif or Artorias because they don’t feel evil or malevolent, just an obstacle that you must overcome to progress.
3. Manus, Father of the Abyss
Manus is a fight that I hate and love. I hate how challenging it is, yet love the feeling of completing it. He is like no other boss in that there is a specific pendant you can loot beforehand to defend against his dark magic attacks. It was an excellent design choice as it really changed up the pace of the Dark Souls bosses. To use the pendant, you had to equip it to your Estus slot, so you’re effectively swapping between Estus and the pendant making an already tough boss fight that much harder.
The other thing that makes him so memorable to me is his overall design. He’s horrific, grotesque, and he glows in a way that almost makes him beautiful. Those red eyes are the only thing that stands out in the endless black, so he has a sort of aura that he gives off that makes you feel uneasy.
What’s more, he has a massive arm that will repeatedly smash everything in the immediate area, and getting caught in even one combo will give you an almost guaranteed game over. He is excruciatingly hard, and the only thing that makes him easier is that you can summon Great Grey Wolf Sif.
Not only is Sif the best summoned phantom in the game, but this fight makes Sif and Artorias’ story all the better, and I cannot get enough of it.
Flamelurker was easily the best boss fight I’ve ever had in a game until I played Dark Souls. He is a bit underwhelming to look at as he is just a hulking beast that is essentially on fire, but what he lacks in design creativity, he makes up for with near-perfect design. He intimidated me so much from the fan outcry online that I literally gave up on Demon’s Souls for several years until I had the gall to take on him and the rest of the game.
Flamelurker starts off as an easy enough fight. He’s menacing and fast and can appear to be overwhelming, but he doesn’t do much damage so you can generally shrug off his hits without worrying… that is, until you actually start to win.
He is amazing because he ramps up in difficulty as the fight progresses. What starts off as a manageable encounter leaves you sweating, shaking, and heart pounding after you win or lose. He becomes more aggressive as you take off his HP, throwing fists, breathing more fire, and charging you like a bull. If this weren’t enough, the radius and damage of his attacks increase, essentially making it nearly impossible to get more than two or three sword attacks in before you have to run and hide to recover health, assuming he doesn’t trap you in a corner or do the aforementioned bull charge.
Good luck is all I have to say.
1. Ornstein & Smough
A lot of people must’ve expected this to be the number one spot, and that means that you understand the absolute perfection that is this boss. Like Flamelurker, O&S was the one encounter I was absolutely dreading in Dark Souls. They are notorious for being merciless and cruel, but everything about this boss fight is just perfect.
You have Anor Londo; the most beautiful area in Dark Souls that subsequently has the most vicious and menacing boss encounter. It is a perfect contrast to the appearance and warm atmosphere of the environment. Furthermore, the music is a dissonant god chorus that sums up the essence of O&S’s terror, making the fight with them all the more intense and nerve-wracking.
In the fight itself, you fight both Ornstein and Smough at the same time, but it is not simply a two on one encounter. Depending on the order in which you kill them, they have a drastic change of character that shocks everyone who has taken part in the battle. If you kill Ornstein first, Smough crushes his body with his massive hammer, absorbing the power of lightning to use against you. If you kill Smough first, Ornstein grows dramatically in size, making him Tower Knight 2.0 with lightning and agility.
This is incredibly daunting because you had just spent countless lives trying to kill them, and after a gruelling fight that drains your Estus and elevates your heart rate, just to have From Software slap you in the face for getting cocky.
It is this design that truly makes Dark Souls shine, and while I could gush more about this boss fight, I needn’t, as you have either experienced it and know of what I speak, or you haven’t played Dark Souls and should immediately.