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Hidetaka Miyazaki sees death as a feature, not a bug (newyorker.com)
313 points by evo_9 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 225 comments

The popular discourse seems to focus on the difficulty of From's games, but that's just one part of the entire experience. FromSoft has a holistic approach to game design that very few other studios manage to match. There's just an incredible amount of depth to their world building, and the gameplay, difficulty level, online mechanics, level design, characters, music, story, and themes all work to reinforce and complement each other.

I think FromSoft's games (and specifically the ones directed by Miyazaki) will be among a small set of games released in the past 20 years that will still be played and studied in 50 or 100 years (or more).

Also, this statement from the article:

> Miyazaki has created the most difficult games of the century.

This is absolutely not true. There are many games that are much, much harder than Miyazaki's games. And it was definitely never his goal to make "the hardest games". The goal, from everything I've read about him, was to make difficult games where the difficulty reinforces the themes he wants to convey, and evokes the emotions he wants you to feel. I could name a bunch of games that are harder -- including Nioh, a game that's partially inspired by Dark Souls, and has a similar combat system (but with a lot more complexity). The difficulty is an important aspect of their design, but it's just one piece of the puzzle.

There's a quote from one of the characters in Dark Souls that I think gives a hint as to why Miyazaki makes hard games:

> The dragons shall never be forgotten… We knights fought valiantly, but for every one of them, we lost three score of our own. Exhilaration, pride, hatred, rage… The dragons teased out our dearest emotions… Thou will understand, one day. At thy twilight, old thoughts return, in great waves of nostalgia.

I think the probably biggest mistake from other studios that try to replicate FromSoft's success is to try to make the games as difficult and punishing as possible.

That really isn't the point. The secret sauce is arguably that FromSoft makes puzzle games disguised as action games. Everything is a mystery, from the lore to the game play. They are rewarding to play because it is rewarding to solve puzzles.

The "difficulty" stems from the game developers anticipating how you will approach situations based on earlier situations, and adding new caveats to the rules. If you don't understand that dialogue between player and game designer, it may appear like it's just really punishing. It's really not, it's always easy if you know what to do. The difficulty comes from constantly being forced to adapt your approach.

It's pretty brilliant how they consistently re-use enemy archetypes between the games. A rat is a rat and a dog is a dog, in Dark Souls and in Elden Ring. They form archetypes, elements of design language. You need that to have that sort of predictability on your easel to be able to pull off the sort of unpredictability they do.

Exactly, it's almost a "cargo cult game design" problem. A lot of other studios are just picking pieces of FromSoft's designs without really understanding why those pieces were there in the first place.

I think it can be fruitful to analyze games through the emotions they evoke. After all, the whole reason we play games is to feel a certain way.

I think the problems with many clones stem from misidentifying the emotion of FromSoft games to be frustration.

The reason we play a souls game isn't to get frustrated, that's the price of admission not an ends in itself. What we want is that feeling of accomplishment.

Along this axis, FromSoft's games are closer related to something like The Witness than say Diablo (which is more about feeling strong and powerful).

> The "difficulty" stems from the game developers anticipating how you will approach situations based on earlier situations, and adding new caveats to the rules.

This assessment seems very strange to me. Their games are hard because you need to be rather competent in their demanding mechanics to progress, and you need to learn every encounter perfectly to get past it. That’s why so many reviewers trashed Sekiro, because they were simply unable to play it.

It's in part this process of learning new encounters I'm talking about.

In the beginning of Dark Souls, you can kill every enemy pretty much the same way. Then gradually you need to use more mechanics to get forward. Very little of it is actually mechanically demanding. What's demanded of you is that you observe and correctly assess the situation, that you recognize that what you are doing isn't working, and the solution isn't to do it harder, but to find another solution.

The biggest problem most new players have is that they try to play too fast and they don't react to what's in front of them. They mash buttons and try to do everything at once. They approach every situation the same way, probably rushing in and probably pressing every button on the controller in a mindless flurry. An seasoned player will almost certainly play slower than a newbie because they're playing a lot more deliberately.

You have people playing these games with voice commands[1] and DDR mats[2] and whatever. If that isn't evidence this isn't a test of dexterity, I don't know what will.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m2a2dLdZ0M [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxKsRf6R-vc

> You have people playing these games with voice commands[1] and DDR mats[2] and whatever. If that isn't evidence this isn't a test of dexterity, I don't know what will.

I thought it's precisely the opposite: people find these kind of challenges meaningful because it is a test of dexterity that is particularly difficult to perform with such controllers.

I think you misread the parent comment. They aren't saying that DDR mats and voice commands aren't a test of dexterity. They are saying that people beating the game using DDR mats and voice commands illustrate that the base game isn't a test of dexterity, because people use those weird difficult input methods as a way to add the actual dexterity challenge.

All of their games demand that you get better at the game mechanics as you progress through them, which is what you’re actually describing, but for some reason you think controlling your character in combat is something other than game mechanics? The fact that people have practiced these games enough that they can beat it with all sort of whacky interfaces doesn’t really prove anything.

Get better as in knowing what to do, not so much about fast reactions or very precise timing of the controls, etc. Those help if you want to beat the games 'the hard way' but there are always easier ways. The gameplay is more about finding what those are, rather than banging your head against the wall trying the same approach over and over, which is a trap some players fall into.

> but there are always easier ways. The gameplay is more about finding what those are

Many FromSoft fans would not agree that this is what the gameplay is about. They’ve always put easy modes into their games, but the game designers really want you to just keep practicing until you get it.

Many of the boss encounters they’ve designed are also specifically about fast reaction times and precise timing of the controls. In the souls games recognising the enemies patterns are reacting quickly with precisely timed attacks and rolls is very important. In Sekiro the entire game is about precisely reacting to fast paced combat, especially if you’ve got chip damage enabled.

That entirely depends on the weapon you have chosen. I can guarantee that if you choose greatswords / ultra greatswords and gear up with that choice in mind, the game pace slows down tremendously as you one-hit a lot of the opposition and withstand many blows that would outright ragdoll other builds.

By that definition, "getting good at game mechanics" is so broad as to be meaningless, and "need to be rather competent in their demanding mechanics" is no explanation at all.

The basic combat mechanics of FromSofts games are specifically blocking, parrying, rolling, stamina, and general movement, along with all the different forms of attacking, casting and item consumption. Most of the difficulty of FromSofts games comes from mastering these mechanics, and then learning every boss encounter individually.

To say the games are mechanically easy just seems like such a nonsensical take to me. Simple perhaps, but lots of simple things are especially difficult.

Most of the difficulty is in using the tools at the right times. This completely permeates the design of the games.

At first the game will show you an enemy with his back turned, and you will discover that this initiates a devastating backstab.

Miyazaki has shown you a new tool, but in doing so has also given himself a new tool for manipulating you: A few moments later, the game will show you an enemy with his back turned, and you'll probably mindlessly rush in for the rewarding backstab, only to be bum rushed by an enemy hidden behind a corner that kicks you off the cliff. You really don't stand a chance at reacting to this, and yet again meet see the familiar "You Died"-screen.

This is the dialogue I speak of, it's easier to point out in level design but very much also exists with in the combat system. Some players will probably miss this aspect and think it's just cruelty. Like, how could you have known? Well you absolutely could have known by being being more careful and looking around that corner before taking the bait.

The combat in general works like that as well. First you're shown enemies that are susceptible to one particular strategy, and then the next, you're shown enemies that are not. The difficulty isn't executing, but coming up with an appropriate strategy for the situation. And the games are very cleverly designed to shut down one-size-fits-all approaches to combat. There are no universal combos to memorize because they don't want you to merely go through the same motions, they want you to engage with what is happening on a more direct level.

What? You don't have to 'learn' any bosses. You can beat all bosses by just striking a few times and rolling away. You don't have to learn any patterns or cheeses or weaknesses. IMO that's not a fun way to play.

You make souls games out to be "memorize the trick" simulators. No, no, no. That's the unfun approach.

Dancer of the Boreal Valley would like a word with you.

While the strategy could be oversimplified to 'hit hit run', it misses the nuance of learning how to apply that strategy to a given boss. I ended up clocking over 600 hours on DS3, between personal challenge runs and invasions, and as the other comment suggests, your level (and gear, and how you distributed your stats) will have a big impact on how difficult a boss feels.

My first playthrough was an absolute slog, since I had very little idea what I was doing with combat, and had no idea how to optimize my character. On my 20th (or whatever) time, with a purposefully under-leveled character (Strength build), most bosses were one-and-done with the right game-sense and cheese tactics (Greatclub is great, and if you disagree, you are liable to be flattened).

If I'm in the zone, Gundyr is a minor roadblock between character creation and Firelink shrine. I think my record is around 2 minutes to activate the shrine bonfire?

Vordt? Gimmie that raw +3 (I think) broadsword with lighting resin, and he's dead meat at SL1[0] since his timings are very predictable after the 15th time killing him. Getting a raw +3 broadsword is the hardest part there.

Dancer, Pontiff, and the wrinkly pink screeching guy in the castle side area are still my hardest fights due to their patterns and movesets.

[0] SL1 = Soul Level 1, achievable when you start as the naked guy with a club and never level up. All other base classes have a starting SL greater than 1.

running up to bosses and smacking them to death really only works if you're way over leveled for the place you're in. And not even then, for many fights. A lot of fights you need to deal with additional enemies before the main boss, or even simultaneously. Ornstein and Smough, from DS1. Or Rom from Bloodborne. You definitely need a strategy, especially when that second phase hits.

Did you really play those games? Because what you say sounds like a second hand opinion.

You do need to pay attention to bosses patterns, but overall mechanics aren't demanding.. and most importantly - they are reused. You have a dodge with huge amount of iframes, you can block a lot of attacks(especially in newer games) etc. There is no need for perfection. And you can always grind for more endurance and vitality in souls games.

Take a step back, observe the enemy, gauge the distance.. and adapt. but don't panic.

Sekiro was hard yes, but it was fair. It was more of a rhythm game to be honest, than an action one, and they added stealth as an 'equalizing' mechanic for open world content. And honestly it has a lot of tidbits that i bet most people didn't notice(Ogre being afraid of fire for one, bull being scared by firecrackers etc) that also help you greatly.

Some fights in Sekiro were really hard, but satisfying to finish - Isshin comes to the mind, and the Demon of Hatred. If some boss seemed unfair, or harsh, its because you didn't adapt to it properly - they gave you prosthetics that counter a lot of them(umbrella for block and counter, spear to pull out centipede from dead monkey, firecrackers etc). That game just punished trying to brute force it.

Also judging by how game reviewers play games(DOOM footage comes to mind).. it would be akin to listening to fresh junior JS dev opinion on state of linux codebase.

Furthermore there is a fair chance that the game just isn't made for those people. Not every product needs to work for everyone, or you'll just end up with mediocre sludge of similar games.

The games are easier then I thought they'd be. I waited to play them for a long time, because of how hard people made them out. But you only really need a bit of patience, slow down what you do in the combat, and give bosses a few try.

I find plenty of other games were a lot harder for me, like Hades, Celeste, Meat Boy or Returnal for example. I think actually the genius about Souls games is that unlike Roguelikes or hard room based platformers, the difficulty is actually well balanced, it is approachable. You get better as you play, you learn the boss pattern, you level up and get better gear, and when you die the penalty isn't too harsh, getting back to the boss isn't like dying in a Roguelike where you gotta go through the whole run again, it's just harsh enough to make you really not want to die when you fight the boss though and feel some added stress from having to walk back to it to try again.

And if I think of casual AAA games likes FF7:Remake, Doom, Last of Us, none of those games I was able to beat at their hardest difficulty, yet I could beat all the souls games. And that's often because these games get hard by handicap or cranking the difficulty in cheap ways sometimes. Souls games are an easy kind of hard, they're approachable, that makes it more accessible in a way, and it's why I think they got popular.

Having said that, I still think they should add some accessibility features that can make the game easier. What they do in Mario Kart or Celeste I think is great. Instead of making difficulties which means some of them won't get proper design and balance. Focus on a single difficulty, but add accessibility features that can make it easier. I think it's important to do that so people who have handicaps, are younger, are too old, don't have the time and patience, can still experience and enjoy some of the games. They could choose to play some section normally, and when they get stuck, instead of quitting the game, they can try and give themselves some help to get over it.

That's exactly it, once you're able to get past the intimidation from things like dark corridors, flailing enemies, abhorrent Things That Should Not Be, you can see they're actually fairly slow moving games, and deliberate action is the way to win - as opposed to a lot of games where button bashing and/or quick reflexes work just fine.

The games are punishing and challenging, but they're not unfair. Every time you die, you realize it's your own mistake; you tried to get another hit in, you forgot there was an enemy around that corner, you read a message saying "treasure ahead" in front of a cliff and actually believed it because it was actually true the one time. But there's so many games where you just don't have that amount of control over whether or not you will die there.

The previous game I was playing, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, has that problem because on the surface its combat system is based on reflexes and positioning. But in practice there seems to be too big an element of chance involved. Every strike is a roll of the dice whether the enemy will block or deflect it.

Whereas in, say Elden Ring, raising a shield will block attacks, but only until your stamina runs out. Rolling at the right time will avoid damage, but the challenge is in knowing the enemy's attack patterns - and some bosses have really long and unpredictable wind-ups initially. And an enemy with a shield, you can either wait for them to drop their guard, wear them out with attacks (which keeps you opened up for counter-attacks), avoid them entirely, or use completely different tactics like ranged attacks (arrows, magic) or even a cavalry charge.

>Having said that, I still think they should add some accessibility features that can make the game easier. What they do in Mario Kart or Celeste I think is great. Instead of making difficulties which means some of them won't get proper design and balance. Focus on a single difficulty, but add accessibility features that can make it easier. I think it's important to do that so people who have handicaps, are younger, are too old, don't have the time and patience, can still experience and enjoy some of the games. They could choose to play some section normally, and when they get stuck, instead of quitting the game, they can try and give themselves some help to get over it.

But why? The difficulty is part of the experience and adds up to the oppressive nature of the ambiance. In a sense, the difficulty is part of the artistic vision of the designers. Not every piece of media or hobby needs to be vanilla and accessible to everybody; you would not request of Dostoyevsky for a 'simpler version' of his works, so that children and those not inclined to reading could experience them.

This is more akin to having Dostoevsky on big print and in Open Dyslexic font, on thick pages easy to grab and handle. Is not about easing the media itself or diluting its essence, it's about making it approachable to people that want to experience it and is not able to.

I am not disabled in any relevant way, but i know intimately people that is, and having a big chunk of the world unreachable like that is very demoralizing.

Accessibility is important; short of a punishing worldwide eugenics program, there will always be people that require accommodations, and that may perfectly happen to you or a loved one.

It's always good to be mindful of other's needs.

No, that's not akin to having Dostoyevsky on big print --- that is how you consume the content, not the content itself. Those things would be comparable to having a controller that a disabled person can use, which Souls games don't limit: you can play them with whatever controller you want. Requesting an easy mode, or a god mode, is more similar to requesting for the author to modify complex prose, or avoid using words that you don't know.

I agree that accessibility is important, but the games are not unreachable to the disabled. If you are missing an arm, for example, the game will probably be more difficult, but this applies to every hobby in which you are not a passive consumer.

I think it's debatable; where the «experience» or delivery a game tries to reach, end? Where do we draw the line between considering it a modification of the "soul" of the game?

This is an important distinction because a game is much more rich and complex than a book, and has many more axes where things can change. I fathom that for some people the level of punishment is just too much, and maybe that flies in the face of how do they enjoy the game.

This is not to detract from the artistic vision of the creators, given art has a meaning imbued by its maker, and a meaning bestowed by its consumer, i think that having the /option/ to change something that a player can't enjoy is always a plus.

Not all ability or disability is on the body, as some may lie on the mind, whether it is because of a persistent problem, a bad time in your life, or just constraints.

Gatekeeping things like this is, IMO, a bad pick (assuming that they would be properly implemented and tucked away under several menus, not shoved down your throat or made default).

> Where do we draw the line between considering it a modification of the "soul" of the game?

At this point it is clear difficulty is a staple of the series and the ambiance of all the Souls games. Every time a new game comes out, this complaint is raised by people who don't play the games and Miyazaki has decided not to add these explicit difficulty changing settings, so I think it's evident that its part of the soul of the games.

> Not all ability or disability is on the body, as some may lie on the mind, whether it is because of a persistent problem, a bad time in your life, or just constraints.

You can't expect authors to adjust to every single person on Earth circumstances on their works. This is not accessibility, and I think it's an argument in bad faith to claim it is.

This is not gatekeeping; If you want a challenge with fantastic ambience, you play a Souls game --- If you don't, you don't want to play Dark Souls, and that's perfectly fine, there's million other games where difficulty is not core to the experience. Not every piece of art or entertainment has to be palatable to everyone.

> If you want a challenge with fantastic ambience, you play a Souls game --- If you don't, you don't want to play Dark Souls

What you seem to be missing is that what counts as "a challenge" will vary from individual to individual. When I argue that soulslikes should have better accessibility options (including difficulty settings) I'm not saying that I want the game to not be challenging -- I'm saying that the difficulty should adapt to meet the players where they are to maintain a challenge for them.

You could say, well, there IS an easy mode; just spend days grinding out levels. That kind of sucks, though.

Also ...

> This is not gatekeeping

[goes on to write a paragraph that could be used as the definition of gatekeeping]

>I'm saying that the difficulty should adapt to meet the players where they are to maintain a challenge for them. (...) You could say, well, there IS an easy mode; just spend days grinding out levels. That kind of sucks, though.

That is not the only option. Summon other players. But you understand the contradiction of what you're saying, correct?

>[goes on to write a paragraph that could be used as the definition of gatekeeping]

I think you should rethink what gatekeeping actually is, because I'm not sure you know it. I'm not gatekeeping you out of Grave of the Fireflies if you tell me you don't want to watch a sad movie and I suggest against it. It would be gatekeeping if I said 'if you beat the game with summons you didn't actually beat Dark Souls', and it's not something I would say.

> But you understand the contradiction of what you're saying, correct?

I do not. What is the contradiction in what I'm saying? Giving the opportunity to grind levels isn't at all the best way to meet players where they are. If the game let you beat any boss by poking yourself in the eye with a stick that wouldn't be a good method of addressing difficulty either. Unless you're saying that Dark Souls is somehow about having to grind.

> Every time a new game comes out, this complaint is raised by people who don't play the games

I've played the games and still have that criticism. I consider them less good because of it. Ever since I played Celeste and saw the way they handled accessibility options, when I see a game that doesn't, I'm like, ya, that's just a negative of this game, it just gives you less than Celeste does, and mind you I didn't use them in Celeste, but I tried them out, really well done, really commendable, and I did have to use them for the DLC, that damn Chapter 9, holy cow, Souls games are a stroll in the park in comparison, I don't know how anyone finished Chapter 9 of Celeste without help, but I disgress haha.

That said, maybe this is a good example, if Chapter 9 of Celeste didn't have accessibility options, I'd have not been able to experience all of it, to close out on the story, or to get around some of the hardest rooms in it and in doing so being able to then enjoy beating some of the ones after without the cheats. I'd just have gotten less enjoyment out of it. On top of that, beating something with the cheats feels like training, I still have the thought of going back one day and trying it with less of them, or without them at all, and getting further. So I imagine for some people Souls games are like Chapter 9 of Celeste is to me, and I really see only positives in that case to have such options.

People's response times go to shit as they get older. Games without some kind of affordances for that (or just difficulty settings) are much, much harder for older folks than they were intended to be.

People's cognitive capabilities can also degrade as they age. Should every author write easier to comprehend versions of their works because of it? I don't think so. That being said, even with degraded reaction times, every Souls game is completely passable.

> Should every author write easier to comprehend versions of their works because of it?

The tradeoffs are much less clear for prose. That said, outside of fiction writers should absolutely be thinking about accessibility, and should pay attention that they are writing in a way that can be understood by their intended audience (which may include people with cognitive impairment).

Further, if someone who has difficulty with Crime and Punishment wants to read it, there are abridged versions, audiobooks, dramatizations, and other ways to enjoy it.

>Further, if someone who has difficulty with Crime and Punishment wants to read it, there are abridged versions, audiobooks, dramatizations, and other ways to enjoy it.

And if you really want to play Dark Souls and can't be bothered with all the tools the game gives you that make it easier, you can mod it or use cheat engine.

I'd say it's more akin to having Dostoevsky with easier vocabulary and grammar, or a Crib's note version that condenses it so you don't have to rid all 840 pages of Brothers Karamazov

Having a difficulty selection doesn't remove anything from the game. Those who want to play on easy can, while those who want the "standard" experience can stick with the regular difficulty.

When I play Doom (be it classic, or 2016/Eternal), at a minimum I play on Ultra Violence because I personally think that's how the game is meant to be played. Believe it or not, there are plenty of people that play those games on the lower difficulties and it doesn't impact my experience whatsoever.

> Having a difficulty selection doesn't remove anything from the game.

I actually seriously disagree here. Especially with Souls games. Difficulty, whether it scales with your abilities or not, etc, is a pivotal, foundational component of game design that affects nearly everything else. And as the article points out, the point here is not the difficulty per say (something that is way too overemphasized with these games -- they're not that hard), but the emotional result of it. A "difficulty setting" is just far too basic a paradigm of thinking about something that is actually very complex and not easy to change while still retaining the game as something recognizable as itself.

I'm even against having tutorials in these games. Not because of some "hardcore" or "gatekeeper" thing, but because figuring it out (and the resulting lightbulb moment) is magic and rare in games nowadays, which are pathologically opposed to doing anything that isn't holding the player's hand for dear life. It's annoying and feels condescending, like a piece of software that doesn't allow you to do what you want. The Souls games respect the intelligence and ingenuity of the player, and that's one reason why I truly love them, and why Elden Ring's tutorial kinda irked me a little bit. There's a lot in this game that makes me feel like From is inching more towards all the trappings of standard AAA design -- pop-ups, tutorials, waypoints, etc. The beauty of Souls games is the brutalist, dropping you into the deep end, and letting you figure it out, and I really hope that the genre's popularity doesn't get rid of what makes fans love them.

Was Elden Ring's tutorial any different from what they've been doing? Except for being skippable, it felt basically like the DS1 tutorial.

Their other ones are very minimal. "R1 for fast attack." Etc. That's it. And they're delivered as messages, which simultaneously introduces you to the messaging system.

ER delivers them as very big popups that actually pause gameplay -- a first for the series, I think (pausing of any kind, I mean, besides cinematics). The fact that they're not delivered through the messaging system has I think led to some confusion for new players as to what the messages even are.

The popups also have more info, which I think can ironically be overwhelming for new players. Something as simple as "R1 for fast attack" allows players to discover the intricacies and nuances on their own through trial and error, whereas a big wall of text that takes them out of the game can feel like information overload after the 2nd or 3rd. I'm a pretty experienced player of the genre and even I was like "jesus, chill out" after the first few popups explaining new mechanics that are specific to ER (another problem -- there's a lot of new mechanics, so it really can feel overwhelming fast, and thus finding mastery and the pleasure it brings can be more difficult).

It's not a huge thing, but I definitely noticed it and was actually really struck by it. I found it very surprising, given the previous games' extreme minimalism in this regard.

It impacts your experience in the sense that development time was given to balancing different difficulties. Even if the Souls games had a 'no damage taken' mode, for example, there are multiple mechanics where you fall off a cliff and die, and these things would take development time to correct. And again, it would mess with the author's vision on what the ambiance of the games should be like; It's oppressive because it's supposed to be, and frankly people who don't get it and demand explicit difficulty settings don't really want to play Dark Souls at all.

You don't need to have explicit difficulty selection to make a game easier: as said multiple times in these threads, there are a bunch of ways From does it without recurring to it.

>It's oppressive because it's supposed to be, and frankly people who don't get it and demand explicit difficulty settings don't really want to play Dark Souls at all.

I 100% agree. I'm not really deep into the Souls games. My first game was Dark Souls 3 (after which, I went back to the original, and am still trying to setup and emulator for Demon's Souls).

What I find very compelling about these games' design is that the environment itself is very fair yet brutal. You don't run and jump across cliffs willy-nilly. You don't sprint into a dark room. A rickety bridge isn't something you carelessly waltz over. Everything is designed around patience and observance. Literally every trap in the game (with one exception) is telegraphed by the environment. You just have to look. Things being able to easily murder you is part of the experience. You don't level up in so much as get better at observing the game and learning mechanics. Stats do matter, sure, but even so your large healthbar isn't a guarantee of your survival. It allows you to make a few more mistakes at best.

I think people that want these games with a lower difficulty slider don't "get it". Virtually every other RPG pumps you full of stats and tells you that you're the chosen one. The leader, the one to rule them all. But you don't really earn it. Every level up makes you stronger while the world remains static, eventually culminating into you dominating based off of pure passive, mathematical advantage. Which I guess is fine for a medium that a lot of people use for escapism. But if that's what you want, then Miyazaki's games aren't for you. You have so many other games to choose from I don't understand why there's such a dreary emphasis on one of the few exceptions.

I haven't played Dark Souls, since I'm pretty sure it would be too difficult for me. But from reading what people value of the game, one way that might allow them to adjust difficulty without compromising the spirit is to slow the enemies down. Some of us don't have as good of reaction time and coordination as people who are good at video games, so even if I am carefully watching the game, and thinking about how to approach it, I often times can't execute on that. Games that mix reaction skill with problem solving (like people describe Dark Souls) are the worst because I can never tell for sure if I am approaching incorrectly, need to practice my timing more, or if the game has just hit my fundamental limits.

That said, I have no problem with some games not being made for me. I only state this because the article mentioned Miyazaki wanting to make his games more approachable. I'm curious as to what was done differently in in Elden Ring.

I agree with you in pretty much every case, except probably from games and games aiming for the same thing.

So much of the experience comes from the struggle to overcome overwhelming odds and an oppressive world. That’s thematically why the hollows exist in ds, it all builds toward its theme. Lowering the difficulty would disrupt this, those odds become a lot less daunting, the atmosphere is hurt, and the player dosent engage with the world in its themes in the same way.

A more under appreciated aspect is the bonds it creates within players. There is a shared experience between players, and the difficulty encourages players to engage in the subtle cooperation that inspired the series in the first place. Not to mention the summoning mechanics make the game much easier while pushing this cooperation and solidarity

In games that emphasize this, the difficulty is crucial to the expirences and engaging with it in the same way. I see it the same way as filmmakers or authors using unconventional techniques to push the viewer to engage with the themes in a deeper way

Because I just don't see why not.

The game would still be the same, I'd have experienced it the same way. The only change is a few more people would have also gotten enjoyment out of it.

Dostoyevsky is a bad example, because a book is a book, the only accessibility option you can provide is a dictionary maybe and some guides to go along it.

But a video game isn't a book, you can easily add a few cheats as options without changing the work in any way. I'm not Dostoyevsky, but if I wrote a book, I'd love for a way to have even the illeterate somehow magically be able to read my book just the same. That's what video games allow the authors to do.

I agree with you in pretty much every case, except probably from games and games aiming for the same thing.

So much of the experience comes from the struggle to overcome overwhelming odds and an oppressive world. That’s thematically why the hollows exist in ds, it all builds toward its theme. Lowering the difficulty would disrupt this, those odds become a lot less daunting, the atmosphere is hurt, and the player dosent engage with the world in its themes in the same way.

A more under appreciated aspect is the bonds it creates within players. There is a shared experience between players, and the difficulty encourages players to engage in the subtle cooperation that inspired the series in the first place. Not to mention the summoning mechanics make the game much easier while pushing this cooperation and solidarity

In games that emphasize this, the difficulty is crucial to the expirences and engaging with it in the same way. I see it the same way as filmmakers or authors using unconventional techniques to push the viewer to engage with the themes in a deeper way

I understand what you mean, but I fail to see how adding some accessibility options would change that.

I keep using Celeste as an example, because it's an even harder game, but it had accessibility options done very well, and everything you say exist in that game and was not harmed in any way.

The game is brutal, it plays into the atmosphere and story, the players bond over it, had to learn to overcome the challenges, there's forums of people talking about how brutal and how many times they died and how happy they were when they made it, etc.

That's why I don't see the resistance to adding options like that, because from my vantage point, it doesn't take anything away, it only expands who can get to experience a similar thing.

The only reason I can think of is if you're saying that you personally couldn't resist turning on all the cheats all the time and thus ruining the experience for yourself. I don't have that problem, and from other Celeste players I don't see many who had that problem. It seems even a lot of people when turning on cheats wait a long time, and then they try to turn on the minimum amount and see if they can make it, and only after failing more time do they maybe try to add another one, etc.

Anyways, that's just my point of view. I respect the people feeling differently.

Fair, didnt know too much about the celeste options until this recent debate. Dont have too much to add, but thanks for the very well put together argument.

I am very much one for keeping the artists vision as true as possible so maybe that effects my view on this, also haven’t played much of celeste. Maybe I see the brutality as being so core to dark souls that an abundance of difficulty options might feel like reading the spark notes as opposed to engaging with the book. Saw a tweet from a dev I follow who highlighted the feeling of being trapped so far away from safety in the original dark souls and knowing that he has to make the journey back somehow. I cant help but wonder if that feeling might not be as impactful if you know you can just make it easier. Celeste being able to maintain these things is defiantly reassuring, though I cant say I have experiences with it or similar games with these options.

I’m definitely for accessibility options in games, and in many they have been handled very well. I think the hard part though is finding a balance that aligns with the vision and allows the most amount of people to play the game. At the end of the day not every game is for every person. From soft games are built upon the cycles of immense hardship followed by gratifying relief, and if one dosent enjoy it I dont think they will every really enjoy the game.

>Having said that, I still think they should add some accessibility features that can make the game easier.

They do have that. Particularly the first Dark Souls game:

- You can bonfires if you need extra help getting through levels.

- You can summon people for help if you're struggling on a boss.

- You can just level up or grind some more.

That’s what summoning players for co-op is, a way of reducing difficulty.

Genichiro Ashina fight from Sekiro took me 3 days of multiple 15-20 mins sessions.

With each attempt you learn the attack patterns and tells of which move-set boss will use.

Its immensely satisfying to slowly learn and see yourself improve.

When I eventually beat the boss I felt like a badass.

But most importantly its memorable experience, something that is hard to create.

From Soft can created hard but fair experience, and that's what makes the unique blend of emotions while you slowly master the game/boss.

Ugh, Isshin the Glock Saint. Thorn in my side, as someone who loves the entire soulsborne series, beat most of them (not including DLCs) - he did break me. Sekiro is one of the tightest, most well designed games, it's super fluid, you feel incredible and animations are on point. This game is the hardest of the series because it is not something you can stat-pad against at least not as harshly as you could grind on the other games.

I spent many, many tries against him to get to the later phases but still would die. Like you multiple days, many sessions but against Isshin.

I moved on and came back to my save years later, that muscle memory was lost and did way worse. Realizing this may be a boss I simply don't conquer.

Elden Ring has sparked joy.

The secret to beating Isshin is you dont try to kill him. Think of him as a friend you’re trying to hang around and not let go. Once you get muscle memory for all his movesets you can sense that you can end the game whenever you want.

Genichiro definitely almost broke me. Walked away from the game a few times trying to beat him sure that I wouldn't come back, but every time I returned and eventually I prevailed.

Agreed, Genichiro is such a great boss fight. I remember the exhilaration of finally winning and just staring at the screen with my heart racing for a minute.

The difficulty is definitely an overstatement. It can be rendered trivial with in-game options, the right build, co-op. The quality that these games have is forcing players to be tactful. It's not a mindless affair, but it doesn't require fast reflexes either to excel either.

However, ways to approaching the game are unclear at the outset and they don't hold your hand either, which is a double-edged sword. There is value in discovering things through trial and error or communication with other players, though on the other hand if reading a starter guide drastically improves first-time experience then the games could benefit from better direction. I see that Elden Ring has implemented more guidance, though the open-world nature has created another confusion. You have to kind of enjoy not knowing where to go exactly. But the option to read a guide is there.

Someone made the puzzle game analogy and I think that works. There's always talk about whether an easy mode would be appropriate: would one also demand that puzzle games hold your hand through every puzzle effectively solving it for you? It would miss the point.

> You have to kind of enjoy not knowing where to go exactly

Honestly, this is why I've never really enjoyed the Dark Souls games. Difficult bosses I'm fine with; I can handle gameplay. But I get lost going to the bathroom. If I leave a game for two days and come back to it I have no idea what I'm doing or where anything is. Without something prodding me in the right direction (or helping me get back to where I was before) it's hard for me to enjoy myself.

There are guides, I suppose, but I find following them tedious.

That said, I'm told Elden Ring has a map, which makes me 100% more interested right there.

Yeah I get it. It's funny because, despite ER having a map, I feel way more lost in the open world. DS games may have had a few branching sections but they're more or less linear, here you're having to just pick a direction and hope to find something. And then you encounter all these random bosses that seem overpowered and calculating when would be best to fight them.

> I think FromSoft's games (and specifically the ones directed by Miyazaki) will be among a small set of games released in the past 20 years that will still be played and studied in 50 or 100 years (or more).

I can definitely see this. Until this morning, Dark Souls had been the only FromSoft game I had played, mostly because I only managed Capra last year despite first playing around release. But I still boot it up at least every couple of years, slog my way as far as I can, and enjoy every minute of it. The only problem is that it scratches that itch so well I never got around to trying the later ones.

> Very little of it is actually mechanically demanding.

Sekiro though

100%. There is a lot of love and care that goes into the balance of their games. It's not unfair.

I guess I'm at a loss then.

I've enjoyed the Souls series and have beaten all the games multiple times. They're also the only RPG I've ever played where I have absolutely no idea what's going on with the character past the entrance cinematic. I go into areas, kill things, fight named bosses until they die, and then go somewhere else. I'm sure it's a thematic part of the experience, but it makes the games feel like empty shells past the combat to me.

I love From's games and yes this is a criticism that I absolutely agree with. In previous games, the story and lore was cryptic, but rich. It was delivered in a way that made you intrigued and you had to look for it, but it was all very coherent and cohesive and detailed and satisfying. And even if you didn't dive deep, the cryptic nature was intriguing enough to still make a shallow experience interesting.

I'm 30 hours into Elden Ring, have no idea what the Elden Ring is or why I or anyone else wants to be the Elden Lord, whatever that is. This is easily my biggest criticism of the game. Combat-wise it's as good as ever, but man in this area it is sorely lacking. But who knows, maybe it'll open up more as the game goes on. I've admittedly done very little of the story stuff (ran into Margit and fucked off doing random stuff so I could be strong enough to face him, which I plan on doing tonight), so perhaps that's the problem.

My new take about Miyazaki's games, that I will refuse to give up going forward, is that part of the reason they're so good is because they are secretly comedy games (among everything else): https://twitter.com/docsquiddy/status/1498192962680930304

I'm new to From Soft games and decided to buy Elden Ring because it's a similar game to Zelda Breath of The Wild which I really liked.

I was afraid that the game would be too difficult. After playing 17hrs, the game is indeed difficult but there are many things you can do in the game to make it easier for yourself (Which I did because I'm more interested in exploring the world than mastering the gameplay).

For example, if you're a casual gamer focus on exploring and having small wins (beating mobs, beating mini bosses, buying weapons) in the game before tackling the suggested route.

There are guides online to help you lower the difficulty through finding certain items and buying certain things in the game. This is essentially the easy mode everyone wanted but the core souls fans.

Anyway, great game.

I like that the extremely challenging bosses can be bypassed, but are still there for those who want it and I think frees FromSoftware to make some bosses even more challenging.

For example, there’s a spot where 2 of 3 major bosses have to be defeated. The third one is EXTREMELY difficult compared to the other two. Like, not even close. I didn’t have to beat it, having handily dispatched the other two, but I set a personal goal. I then proceeded to spend 4 hours the other night trying to beat it. I got frustrated, I got help from other players, but I just couldn’t progress.

Finally the multiplayer servers went down, and I didn’t want to quit. I started paying attention. I analyzed why I was dying, and adapted a three phase strategy for the different parts of the boss fight. First time, died, second time, died but got it to low health. Third time was the same, then finally the fourth time it all came together in harmony, and I beat the boss. The feeling I got from that was exquisite, like I had EARNED something, even if it’s just some game and mostly a waste of time.

It felt similar to when I used to raid in World of Warcraft, but without the 40+ hour a week commitment.

It’s been years since I’ve felt a sense of accomplishment anywhere close to that because of my professional career. Most of the projects I work on are pretty boring.

>This is essentially the easy mode everyone wanted but the core souls fans.

I don't think souls fans (which I am) are against 'having an easier time with the games', I think most are just against explicit difficulty settings and stuff like god mode, because they break the motif of the games. Easy mode has always been there, since DeS, in that there are multiplayer summons who can carry you through every fight.

> This is essentially the easy mode everyone wanted but the core souls fans.

This easy mode has been in every From game I’ve played. It’s the reason core fans don’t want the much-demanded difficulty settings.

This is also true for BOTW. My wife, who plays very little, grinds healing and stat increases before boss fights. I think the difficulty argument is just some dumb journo-take that guarantees easy outrage clicks.

I'd argue that Sekiro doesn't have an easy mode as such; while you can often explore different areas and alternative routes, when it comes down to it you need to master the combat system.

I'd argue it's possibly the least accessible From Software game. But, also the tightest in terms of combat.

Yes, it's one of the reasons I'm not a big fan of Sekiro. I especially dislike how the posture mechanic puts time pressure on the player, because just playing more defensively for a short time will deplete the enemy posture bar far enough that the whole fight until that point was almost for nothing. It's a good game but it just feels more restrictive in many ways.

The intention is that you do enough hp damage that their posture bar doesn't drop very much at all. In practice though that doesn't happen for most people with the vast majority of boss fights - you either get good enough at the combat that you deathblow them while their hp is still high through consistent posture damage or you die before you do much hp damage to them.

Sekiro wants you to see an enemies attempts to attack you as a potential advantage. It's a very different way of playing, and I agree with you that compared to the dark souls games it can feel more restrictive (even though there is a lot of variety you just do not have access to turtle builds or spell casting builds for example).

Most of the demands for an easy mode are about accessibility concerns. If you’re working with a motor impairment you may be blocked out of ever playing a souls game.

A mode with slower enemies or more forgiving dodge timing would allow those people to experience the game in some form.

I've watched some one beat the game using wired bananas as the input method. The game just does not demand a lot from players in the form of twitch reflex or even particularly precise inputs. Basically, there may not be a accessibility menu but the design is already very accessible.

Considering that boss design is essentially "big ol' fat windup, -with a teeny pause to mess with your reaction times- then slamma-jamma into the ground" then it's pretty solvable. I'm playing Elden Ring and some monsters will basically require you to dodge roll once every 5 seconds or so. With very clear and telegraphed attacks.

And there are things you can do to make it harder too! Like limiting yourself to certain weapons, speed running or even doing a no hit run.

I hated BoTW, would I also hate Elden Ring?

Probably. The fighting mechanics are very different (and more interesting) in Elden Ring, but a ton of the fun of both games is seeing something cool on the map or off in the distance and exploring it. If that loop with its lack of explicit guidance or goals didn't work for you in BoTW it probably won't work for you here.

I didn't like BoTW much. Possibly not for the same reason as you: I felt it was very pretty and had a lot of individually very nice game mechanics. But the world felt empty. Just a massive canvas for a bunch of little puzzle rooms that all give the same reward.

Elden Ring, on the other hand, feels quite dense and there's a massive amount of variety in that density.

I'd just like to add that one of the most important features of a souls game is the fairness of it. It's almost always your fault when you lose; for reacting too slow, for rushing in, for not keeping your eyes open, for forgetting to equip the right stuff. You are punished for not learning.

I think the games feel hard compared to "normal" games because they don't hold your hand. If you see that and adjust, they are not that hard. They do test your patience, and force you to deal with frustration. Most games try their hardest to avoid this.

As an old nethack player I really appreciate this. I think in some ways, Souls is what nethack might have been if it was developed today.

And there's zero enemy scaling, and no level cap. If you want, you can go grind yourself to an absolute unit, then come mop the floor with the boss

Kind of. It helps, but especially in Bloodborne it's no guarantee.

And Sekiro goes against that as well. While you do get some improvements in things like health, healing ability and weapon strength, the game still leans mainly on your own skills. It doesn't have an RPG style leveling system, any improvements are thanks to your own exploration and victory. It's really gratifying to get the deflects timed just right.

I've finished most of it, I'm close to the ending now but I somehow can't bring myself to finish it?

Sekiro doesn't have the RPG style leveling system but having the correct prosthetic attachment or combat art equipped can really trivialize a lot of boss fights.

Lucky for you there are multiple endings, so finish it, start a NG+ and achieve a different ending...:D

Alternatively you can just never level up and still beat the whole game with enough patience. That's what I like about the Souls series compared to some other RPGs, it lets you do whatever you want and is balanced to make late-game enemies literally just more challenging, not some unfair instakill situations (hello Skyrim & Witcher 3).

Miyazaki games are always unfair instakill situations :)

> “I do feel apologetic toward anyone who feels there’s just too much to overcome in my games,” Miyazaki told me. He held his head in his hands, then smiled. “I just want as many players as possible to experience the joy that comes from overcoming hardship.”

It's been great to see how their games have inspired so many people. If you go search any of the subreddits for their games, it's not rare to see testimonials of how the game "saved their life". It helped them learn to believe in themselves. To believe that they can change and overcome the challenges that are facing them, things they previously despaired were insurmountable. To use terminology from the Dark Souls series, they were hollow and through mastery of the game they were able to reverse it.

Although they didn't have quite such an effect for me, these experiences nevertheless have built confidence that I otherwise wouldn't have. Just because something is difficult, just because I don't understand it now, doesn't mean it will always be that way. If I keep at it, if I think and experiment enough, the thing at hand becomes legible and one day soon, doing that thing that used to be so hard will become second nature. It's an empowering experience.

I've always thought that the only way to lose at Dark Souls is to give up, and go Hollow.

It's a small missed opportunity that From Software didn't indicate where in the Game players went Hollow; that is, if a player died, show their bloodstain and how they died. If a player died and hasn't resumed playing for a very long time (they gave up), then put a new hollowed enemy instead of a bloodstain.

I love the 'overcoming challenging boss fights' thing these games have.

You go through so many emotions on a tough boss. Start pretty confident, go through stages of "this boss is so stupid" to "the controls are so bad" to "I can't do this".

Then you get to a stage where the first part goes cleaner, and you start to believe again. Get it down to 20%, choke, die. Then going through sweaty palms, trying to stop yourself being too aggresive. Running out of flask charges, etc.

Then there's the time where you know it's one last hit and you wait your moment. Attack and you see the boss dying animation. Often I can't believe I just done it and then the feeling you get is amazing. My hands are shaking for a good 20mins and you are just giggling to yourself.

> You go through so many emotions on a tough boss. Start pretty confident, go through stages of "this boss is so stupid" to "the controls are so bad" to "I can't do this".

And with a lot of bosses, it starts with a "what the actual fuck is this thing?". I'm thinking e.g. Cleric Beast in Bloodborne, which is an Experience to run into initially because of its size, distracting appearance (lots of flapping fur), sound design, the music swelling up to an epic discordant mess, its aggression and the limited space. But also the second story boss in Elden Ring.

Absolutely spot on. I had this with Leonine Misbegotten last night and had to go on a walk to calm myself down again, it was incredible.

I enjoyed reading this, but had to filter so much overhype out of the article. The author should consider reducing the dose of caffeine.

One thing is that the ideas noted here aren't really unique to Miyazaki. The game industry once shared the same notion implicitly, but they lost it as their businesses got bigger. Many games these days are more like digital drugs that stimulate your peripheral nerves. Many of them go further and make players suffer, so that players pay money for relieving that pain (pay-2-win). I mean, it's the game industry went haywire, not that Miyazaki is doing something special. He has been simply preserving what should have been kept right there.

In the same context, I'm strictly against calling Miyazaki a genius. He's rather an opposite case of being genius. Geniuses do colors; something feisty and brilliant. Miyazaki does muddy brown; he silently does the due diligence within his scope. That is, his works are rather an accumulation of mundane tasks - persistence and craftsmanship - not some random gotcha moments, or a wrong electrical zap in brain synapses.

You can really feel this difference by playing his games carefully. Following through his works, I could sense how deep he went. There's something that word "smart" can't really cover.

You could say he has genius in some respects, and craftsmanship in others. Games are big, complex things that actually have a lot of different systems and aesthetic inputs, so it's not really fair to act like their creators are similar to someone painting a masterpiece or writing a book.

On the other hand, it's also not fair to give Miyazaki all the credit. Hundreds of other people worked on this game, and their creativity and contributions are unknown.

What people seem to miss IMHO, is that this is "difficulty" thing is a time trade-off deeply ingrained in this type of game design. The frustration as you learn the rules of the game and try to improve this particular set of dexterity brings exhilarating satisfaction once you overcome the previously deemed impossible obstacles. But this also means that you need to have the time to plunge into this type of long-form challenge. And time is our most precious resource, so obviously this niche is not for everyone; especially in an era of infinitely available entertainment.

I think this is the point for me. I really love the concept of these games. The world building and lore is incredible but I don’t have the time to invest to make any progress. Instead any playtime is confusing and frustrating and then I have to stop before I’ve time to make and progress to counter those feelings.

A game like Jedi Fallen Order is a Souls like game and I make some headway with it before eventually throwing in the towel and switching to easy mode once I couldn’t defeat a particularly difficult boss.

Another issue is performance. These games have always been choppy and that doesn’t help.

Yep great observation. I started my first FromSoft game last week - Demons Souls remake - and I had no idea what was going on. Making very little progress and restarting levels over and over. So I decided to follow a guide and the game has become so much fun. It’s quite a bit easier because I’m not dying thousands of times to find which way to go. But I wouldn’t have kept at it otherwise.

Agreed. It's funny, since getting into these games I've more or less stopped consuming other media. Out with movies, TV shows, even books (at least for now while I'm riding high on the games). I just play for an hour or two before bed, and it's wonderful.

No other games give me this feeling of melancholy, longing and revisiting once glorious places that are now dead and faded. Elden Ring is his magnum opus and I don't know how he tops this. What a tremendous achievement.

If you haven't played Elden Ring, give it a try - you may be surprised how absorbed you are.

Shadow of the colossus did that for me.

The thing with souls like games is that the locations are loaded with enemies and challenges. It adds to the game play but makes the places feel too video gamey and breaks the immersion.

Yeah, it feels like SotC was a big influence on this game; the article mentions that Miyazaki was inspired to go into video games from Ico by the same studio that did SotC, and Ico itself also has this feeling of an old, empty, fallen empire about itself.

Actually, most of From Software's Soulslike games have that atmosphere. DS3 is a cyclic world in one of its last cycles, society no longer exists as such and all that is left is ghostly and undead remnants. Bloodborne takes place in a city and area where the great heroes from back in the day have long gone, it's barely holding together. Sekiro is an old society that is still active, but war-torn. And old. Probably the least dilapidated of the three.

Isn't it a little early to declare this his magnum opus? It's been out less than a week.

I've played all Souls games and am qualified to give this assessment.

It's funny how far the conversation has swung in the trash direction compared to 8-10 years ago. Used to be Proteus was controversial for having the nerve to call itself a game while having no gameplay...these days it's real games that have to defend themselves for having...real gameplay

I just beat Sekiro last month and picked up Elden Ring this month. I think Miyazaki is a genius - FromSoft smashed it out of the park with this one, and I honestly had no idea how he could outdo himself after the masterpieces that were Dark Souls 3 and Sekiro.

Definitely try Bloodborne as well, it's up there as well.

Been meaning to. I don't like the idea of buying a PS4 for just 1 game. I keep hoping it will come to PC.

I keep hoping they'll remaster it and fix all the performance issues. One day...

>I do feel apologetic toward anyone who feels there’s just too much to overcome in my games

Psh, I ain't buying it. I think they found a niche and like sticking to it, and maybe like making folks salty. They make a ton of people happy with the difficulty, but nothing about these games are apologetic.

As other comments say, the difficulty has been oversold. I don't know what your experiences with these games are, but there are lots of forgiving aspects to them that wouldn't be there if they just wanted to make the hardest games on the market. Here's a few:

- every death refills your main healing items, so you can't run out

- you keep all the items you collect before you die

- you can recover lost experience points/currency by returning to the place where you died

- you can summon NPC or online co-op partners when you need. This trivializes most bosses.

- other players can leave messages in the game. Lots of them are tricks, but it almost guarantees that you won't miss any important items.

- they're RPGs. If you don't have enough health or whatever, you can level up to correct that.

These games definitely punish you when you make a mistake, and sometimes they are just janky, but if you invest the time it all starts to make sense.

Unfortunately, I think it's their own marketing department that really pushed the difficulty angle, maybe they're trying to back out of that now that they're not an underdog.

Yeah, it's not the game that's difficult. It's having the ability to keep trying it and work it out that's difficult.

I think of it like going back in time. You walk into a boss, you die.

The game says, "Ok, what did you learn from that death"? "Oh, I shouldn't try to dodge backwards from that attack", "Ok, you're back where you started - try again".

In this regard the games feel challenging but very fair. You can fight that boss for two hours straight and you haven't lost anything (other than possibly the souls you dropped). Any death you have is your fault, and you can't blame the game because you lost an item and now you are playing with another weapon or anything like that.

Demon's Souls was much more difficult in some ways, because you got weaker when you died (zombified), and your potions are consumable items that don't automatically recover. However you could also farm lots of potions, so there were ways to game it.

Beating Demon's Souls on a tiny CRT in an even tinier Japanese temp-apartment is one of my most cherished gaming memories.

I imagine him with his characteristic smirk as he says that. He's apologetic -- but also fully enjoying it. Miyazaki is a pretty brilliant troll.

Elden Ring deserves an easy mode, so people can bypass Miyasaki's vision and don't have to experience the joy of overcoming hardship.

I heard about these gamed and watched a few hours of gameplay each. I was unconvinced and closed the YouTube tabs after it became too boring.

I guess I have to play it to feel it? But most of the games I enjoy playing are fun to watch. Duke3d and Baldurs Gate are two examples. Can someone elaborate why Dark Soul is actually fun to play, and more importantly why sold for so many copies? I read other comments and the thing they mentioned (world building and music and game design) isn't really particularly recognizable from the few hours (actually about 10 hours) I watched, and even if they are excellent surely there are other games that match?

Very simply, no other game series does the "mastery" thing so well. The game is both wide and deep, and even though there's superficially a leveling system, it won't save you if you can't actually play.

This raises some accessability issues, definitely. I'd love to see Fromsoft games take that challenge on next. (Or another studio, there are plenty of great Souls-like games out there.) Especially as I'm getting older, I definitely feel like I have a lot more "knocking the rust off" to do when I start up each new Soulslike game before I'm competent enough to play well.

But once I'm in the zone, once I've achieved that mastery, enemies that I had previously been decrying as "absolute bullshit, what the hell am I even supposed to DO about them?", I'm just carving through casually, while theorizing in my head what stats I'm going to raise at the next level up or where I should head next.

At least for me, there's no other game series that does that quite so well.

> This raises some accessability issues, definitely. I'd love to see Fromsoft games take that challenge on next.

> Especially as I'm getting older, I definitely feel like I have a lot more "knocking the rust off" to do...

I would definitely appreciate novel takes on accessible mastery. I likely [1] have visual memory (immediate + delayed), subtle but measurable visual motor difficulties, and ADHD:I. Having zeitgeist games feel so thoroughly inaccessible is alienating.

One thing that feels like it helps (no concrete data, placebos and all that...) is high refresh rates. My guess is that it frees my visual memory from being used for interpolation. Ironically, From Software seem almost antagonistic to providing this.

[1] Measured definitively ~15 years ago; who knows what's happened since then.

Why that sounds very familiar. I'll have to see what I can do about increasing refresh rates, seeing if that helps.

Weirdly, what I've found helps is restarting games. Like, play 2-3 hours, go offline for a day, then come back and replay those 2-3 hours. I find I have a lot less "newness" fighting for attention, and my subconscious has had time to assimilate a lot of it subconsciously, and then I have a much better "second play" experience, and then I can continue on happily after that.

Also, same tactic for boss fights. Sometimes I'll be stuck on a boss for an hour or so, and all I really need to do is go to sleep and try again tomorrow. I actually spent like 1.5h on a miniboss in the first major castle, then the next day, came back and beat him first try. Feels bad to set it down, feels great to smash through that barrier later.

Couldn't have said it better myself. I got into Dark Souls 3 last year and have only fallen in love more and more with the genre. Like many, I absolutely hated it at first, but as time went on I started to "get" it. Now I don't really have any interest in playing anything else, including previous favorites like Breath of the Wild and Skyrim.

At this point the only (Souls-like) From game I haven't played is Sekiro.

Hades really scratched that itch for me. It's very easy to get going and have fun, but requires investment to completely finish it.

I'm pretty terrible at most games so it took me quite a while to actually finish a whole run, but it was a lot of fun once I did.

Avid Dark Souls fan here.

Somebody in another comment said it... but they're not action games. They're puzzle games.

The satisfaction of playing a Souls-like is in trying a challenge over and over again, recognizing the patterns and actions that will get you through it. The game puts a challenge in front of you, and through practice and tenacity you get through it.

It's almost never unfair. Most of the time, if you fail it's because you didn't understand how to win. Seeing yourself do better at the game not just because you've leveled up your character (in fact, even low-level mooks can wreck you up if you lower your guard), but because you have gotten better is one of the most satisfying feelings.

You're not gonna have fun by just watching (though there's plenty of content creators that make Dark Souls fun to watch. YMFAH is my favorite). You also need to be aware that the formula takes practice. If you ever feel like giving it a try, I feel either Bloodborne or Elden Ring would be good games to start.

Chiming in to say that I think DS3 is the best intro the series. I tried a couple, including Bloodborne, and swore them off claiming I hated them. But then I tried DS3 and for some reason the whole thing clicked. It benefits from the faster gameplay and lessons learned from Bloodborne, but is a bit less difficult than Bloodborne, and still gives you a shield (very useful for newer players).

Yeah I agree; DS 3 is a lot more versatile in terms of playstyle than Bloodborne and especially Sekiro is.

DS3: Dodge, shield block, shield parry, stick to ranged attacks, heavy armor, your choice. Bloodborne: Dodge or parry with a gun, which sometimes works. Sekiro: Deflect or you die. Lrn2play noob.

I'm oversimplifying probably, but the point is DS3 is the most versatile while Sekiro is the least. That said, as one overly long youtube documentary took an hour and a half to say, Bloodborne's restrictions in playstyle can actually make you a better Dark Souls player. For a lot of players, they get a sword and shield and that's how they expect to have to play - defensive, turtling, slow, etc. But Bloodborne actually rewards aggression; if you get hit in that one, you can regain some of your lost health by damaging the enemy.

Referring to hbomberguy right? I love his videos.

And yes, I agree -- even if BB isn't your first (could be a good first for some people, but it wasn't for me), it more than any other From game affects your play style for the better. Starting as a knight in DS3, using the shield and hiding behind it, was pivotal in allowing me to start to understand and appreciate these games, but my enjoyment and skill skyrocketed when I took a page out of BB's book and ditched the shield.

I have a different take on what makes the Souls game interesting (but it has changed somewhat with Elden Ring).

What I enjoyed most about the Dark Souls games and Bloodborne was the sense of adventure/exploration/dread that comes with leaving a safe zone (bonfire, lamp) and venturing out into the unknown. You don't know what to expect, there will be new enemies that you don't know how to deal with yet, there might be traps but somehow you forge on, not knowing when you will reach the next save point. With every enemy you kill you gain currency you can use to level up, but one mistake and it's all gone. Then you have to be extra careful to get it back. The sense of relief you feel when the level design all of the sudden brings you around to an old safe zone is beyond anything I have felt in other games.

That's also why I didn't care so much about the boss fights initially but I came to enjoy them for the challenge. To the point that I spent 2 hours yesterday in Elden Ring trying to defeat a boss that was totally optional.

I tried Dark Souls multiple times and I just find it dreadfully boring.

I like video games to challenge my mind, not how fast I can duck-roll-dodge-hit-dodge-roll-hit and so on for 10 minutes to kill a boss or whatever.

You might not be into the medieval-ish theme of Dark Souls or Elden Ring. I know I wasn't for awhile. You see it and you instantly think Skyrim, the Witcher, or any number of other similar looking games.

I would check out Bloodborne. It has a Lovecraftian horror vibe going on. The environments are simply incredible. Not to mention the music and sounds. There is also Sekiro, if you prefer samurai and old Japan.

> Can someone elaborate why Dark Soul is actually fun to play

The fun part comes when you successfully defeat a boss you've attempted ten times. In addition, the exploration of the world is great. You generally progress down a path for a while and eventually unlock shortcuts back to your "safe" points (bonfires, lamps, etc.). If you die, all enemies respawn. That sounds stressful, and it can be. If nothing else, this game teaches you resilience. Not many AAA games are willing to stick it all on the line like that. Most games offer easy/medium/hard options. Not FromSoft.

> Can someone elaborate why Dark Soul is actually fun to play

Enemies actually feel real, actually feel like they're making their own smart choices, instead of merely being pylons for the super powered player to knock over.

I wouldn't say that applies globally however. Plenty of NPCs get locked into sequences of attacks when they have no chance of hitting you, simply because they started an attack sequence.

And that isn't a problem, because these games aren't about smart enemies. They are all about complex enemies that challenge you till you figure them out. It may sound nitpicky, but there is definitely a fine line between them.

Smart enemies are simply not fun to play against. You need to give players that "aha!" moment, when everything clicks and something that was otherwise tormenting you is now doable, all because you figured the mob out. These games are still about power trips, but relying on pattern-finding in addition to just mechanical prowess.

For actually smart enemies, PVP games are the go-to. But those get tiring, and come with their own host of issues.

I will say: I find these games to be extremely fun to watch (and a lot of others do as well, as they consistently get very high views on Twitch and YouTube), but maybe not so much if I wasn't already into playing them as well. I think the viewing experience is greatly improved by having a personal experience of the game itself, and the skill that goes into what you're watching.

This is perhaps similar to watching a fighting game: it's probably hard to enjoy watching somebody play Street Fighter if you haven't actually put hours into it yourself, and understand the depth and nuance of what you're watching.

Honestly, I think both Souls games and Street Fighter are very watchable for non-players. Both rely on a very strong link between animation and gameplay, which I find reads more intuitive than something like watching someone play a shooter I'm unfamiliar with.

I actually think the hit volume based damage in both makes this rather untrue. Both Souls games and SF have moves where damage happens completely incongruously to the animation. This is partly what makes both ‘hard’ because there is this piece of hidden knowledge that when you first encounter it seems really unfair because you get hit by attacks that look like they missed. It’s somewhat remedied in fighting games because they incorporate practice modes that expose all the hidden state.

It’s not really “completely incongruous” though?

Big haymaker swings deal massive damage. Or a jab/stomp from a gargantuan creature. Small/quick attacks from small creatures deal small damage.

What’s the problem?

I would say that to a casual observer, i-frames (invincibility frames) from dodge rolling are not intuitive. Why would an attack clip through them just because they rolled? (or in the case of Elden Ring, mounted or dismounted their horse)

It feels very intuitive when you've played games that include mechanics like that, and there are more and more games that implement it nowadays, but if you've never seen a game with i-frames as a core combat mechanic, I'd imagine it can be very jarring.

>Why would an attack clip through them just because they rolled?

See, I actually do find that a very intuitive situation, and not because I have a great grasp of i-frames, but because I'm not really thinking of "Why" questions. I'm just focused on the spectacle in front of me, with no regard for the underlying set of rules that produced it.

I might just be atypically disposed to enjoy watching things without needing to understand them.

The thing I said, that you get hit by attacks that don’t visually connect.

I cannot recall if they were popular games that matched it at the time. Let's not underestimate the online elements of the game (and the lack of difficulty levels, lack of saving game, that goes with it). As for the combat, that was the height of "Batman" combat on consoles. Cue internet discussions where fans of DS praised its combat design, while PC players with Mount&Blade were not impressed much.

I like the FromSoft games. I think the difficulty is a bit of a cross-cutting issue. What I like is the diegetic treatment of death in the games. There are reasons in game or in story reasons the player character and the monsters re-animate, and it has consequences in the game. In fact much of the theme of the game is arranged around this.

For games like Doom the player sees their character die, but from the monsters' point of view these are alternate timelines that didn't happen- the monsters see one one selected timeline where the played didn't happen to die.

Must admit, the article and comments have completely changed my impression of the Souls series.

The "git gud" mantra has been drilled into my numbskull to the point where I would restart a boss fight even if I got hit once.

I got a wee bit too persuaded into rushing and mastering (which, of course, can't be done at the same time), because anything less meant that I ain't doing it right.

In the end, I gave up on the Souls series and classified it as not being for me, but now I'm considering returning to Bloodborne and Sekiro again.

Cheers for the new perspective everyone!

Sekiro is very different from souls style combat - for me Sekiro was more like a rhythm game where you have to tap the deflect button to the cadence of enemy attacks. It's still very fair and rewarding though, if you persist through the initial learning curve

I've bounced off Sekiro 2 or 3 times, but DS3 was the game that got me hooked, so give that a try as well.

The difficulty isn’t particularly high, it’s just high for a mainstream AAA game in the year it was released, and was probably the first time many in the generation of Dark Souls encountered actual challenging gameplay. There are much, much more punishing games out there from the mainstream (Ninja Gaiden and Nioh) to Indie (IWBTG and Super Meat Boy).

I think Dark Souls is celebrated less for its difficulty and more for its beautiful world building.

I think it's because the difficulty sits in the right zone where you don't need extraordinary effort to complete it, but you need just the right amount so that you feel accomplished.

The world building is icing on the cake, but not the main idea imo.

I think Miyazaki's games are great and I enjoy them myself, but the continued (even in this article, somewhat) framing of accessibility features as ruining the artistic vision of hardship is a little disingenuous at this point. Many disabilities make games several times more difficult than they are for people without them, and a difficulty slider or increased stats help level the playing field so that the games can be of equal relative difficulty for all players.

It's on FromSoft to own the fact that sticking to their stance on accessibility features means they are choosing to exclude players who didn't get to choose what they are and aren't capable of. I think that tarnishes the meaning of their works more than the risk of someone making the game "too easy" does.

Its tricky. If we look at games as art, and I think we can agree that From's one are complex enough to warrant it, on one hand I agree that cutting off someone from experiencing your art seems silly and injust, but then you think of other media: a dyslexic person will not be able to experience a complex book like a non dyslexic would. Is it right to simplify the book to only use simple english or would that compromise the book? Hard to tell. I can see the argument for which games can be made more inclusive more easily than other media and thus they should, but everything is built for a target audience and only works best when aimed at them. Im really on the fence here. I would like more people to experience From's work, but I feel the work itself wouldnt be as memorable if Blighttown was less hopeless (yes even if it was optin, as youd give into temptation)

Accessibility for dyslexia isn't about changing to "simple english" though. You can offer customizable fonts on e-readers (people with dyslexia may find some fonts have more recognizable word shapes than others, e.g. Comic Sans is a popular option that is widely available), you can offer your work as an audiobook, etc.

There are many games that offer similarly difficult experiences with accessibility options that did not "ruin" the difficult experience. Celeste, for example, is a difficult platformer that offers lots of options for making the game "easier" and yet it's still known as being a very difficult, and rewarding, game, especially in the later levels.

I mean, the other example of not all art can be accessible to everyone is film and people who are blind.


Sure, I don't get to enjoy a movie's unique visual style, but I can at least follow along with the story and enjoy it on some level together with my family.

I think the problem with a difficulty slider is that it puts lots of extra burden on the developer. Balancing difficulty is already tricky, and now you have to do it n times? And a newcomer to the series might choose "easy", which is not the intended experience for the average player.

My proposal is an "a la carte" difficulty instead, where you choose what mechanics you want to mess with. You could get unlimited estus or health, give yourself any item or any number of souls, freely adjust your level, etc. Basically cheat codes. That way you really choose your own difficulty. The whole game can be a cakewalk or can just skip one area that's giving you trouble. And honestly that would just be fun for everyone to mess with.

Yes, some games have started doing that and giving them as accessibility features, and I love it. I think it's a great way to do it. Mario Kart 8 and Celeste are two examples that come to my mind which do that.

This is really the answer. I don't know why every (singleplayer) game doesn't do this. I know some players like to complain that it ruins the game, but I can't see how. There will always be the default/designed way to play the game, available for anyone who wants it.

I grew up with games before ubiquitous internet access, where you could edit game files easily. If I wanted to play a game regularly I could, and if I wanted to edit stats, I could. It's just a form of meta agency on gaming. It's about having fun, and I think a lot of purists have lost that, at least when it comes to denying others their way of fun.

To note, there are many other mechanisms to adjust the playing experience than a difficulty slider or an explicit "easy" mode.

I think a lot of us prefer a more natural and "legit" integration of different paths into the gameplay. It requires more effort and creativity on the developer side, but it also allows players to move from laid back/easier playing to more demanding play in a seamless way.

To put it in your terms, I prefer games where the player chooses _in game_ what they are and what they aren't capable of, instead of dealing with settings and weird modes where you don't even know what they effectively mean and how well they would fit you.

> To put it in your terms, I prefer games where the player chooses _in game_ what they are and what they aren't capable of

What are some examples of games that do this? I haven't played many recent titles, so the only examples of this I can think of are some games like skyrim that let you max out everything so you can play as any class you like and move between them at will or Final Fantasy/Pokemon where you can grind your way to victory if you're willing to spend the hours.

I'm pretty sure I've played a title or two that tried to automatically adjust the difficulty according to how well I'm playing, but I always resented it. It feels like punishing success and it's too easy to game by intentionally holding yourself back.

I think options/settings still have their place. There have been several times when I (as a relatively non-disabled person) would have loved an option to disable a time limit or lower the difficultly level of a boss fight and there are games I've started but never finished because I couldn't. Cheat codes have really fallen out of favor, but they had their place too.

Celeste, another famously hard game (that incidentally I used to speedrun and am wearing a tshirt of right now) has "Assist Mode." (which I now see was mentioned downthread) When you select it from the menu, it states:

> “Assist Mode allows you to modify the game’s rules to reduce its difficulty. This includes options such as slowing the game speed, granting yourself invincibility or infinite stamina, and skipping chapters entirely. Celeste was designed to be a challenging but accessible game. We believe that its difficulty is essential to the experience. We recommend playing without Assist Mode your first time. However, we understand that every player is different. If Celeste is inaccessible to you due to its difficulty, we hope that Assist Mode will allow you to still enjoy it.”

Well, more properly, that's what the initial version said. There was a lot of discussion in accessibility circles about this; it was clear that they had their hearts in the right place, but it was still a little ... condescending is too strong, but a little too judgy, maybe.

When they released Chapter 9, it was updated to instead say:

> “Assist Mode allows you to modify the game’s rules to fit your specific needs. This includes options such as slowing the game speed, granting yourself invincibility or infinite stamina, and skipping chapters entirely. Celeste is intended to be a challenging and rewarding experience. If the default game proves inaccessible to you, we hope that you can still find that experience with Assist Mode.”

This is still an options/settings style solution to this problem, but the way it's framed is significantly different, and the options are fairly granular, so you can tune things as you wish.

Incidentally, Maddy, the game director and one of the devs for Celeste, had a Twitter thread about what she would imagine an Assist Mode for Sekiro might look like: https://twitter.com/MaddyThorson/status/1113534763564826624

> What are some examples of games that do this?

The Souls games, and Elden Ring. There are places you can go in-game to find powerful weapons and easily level up. If a boss is too hard you can go explore surrounding areas and come back when your character is more powerful. Or you can choose to persist and master the boss’s mechanics to beat it at your current strength. Each area in these games works like a puzzle with multiple solutions.

Dark souls has been on my list of games to try for some time. Sounds like they went the route of the grind which I'm fine with as a compromise (in some games I even prefer to be over-leveled). I'm still trying to decide between playing on PC or console though. I know the PC port had issues, but there have been plenty of times when a mod or simple console command would have saved me from bugs if I were on PC instead of a console.

Grinding is certainly an option, but wasn’t what I was trying to communicate. The games tend to have dense worlds that reward thorough exploration. It’s in the course of this exploration that player characters have the opportunity to become more powerful by finding valuable items tucked away off the main path.

Of course, if the player doesn’t know what to do with the things they find then the extra exploration won’t help. A common mistake is failure to engage with the weapon upgrade system. Encounters seem a lot harder when your attacks do half the damage they ought to.

While you can grind to an extent in Dark Souls games, I would say the route they've taken is to let you explore. So very often if you're stuck on a particular boss or area you could grind lower level enemies for souls to level although this is generally inefficient, or you could try looking around a different area you've not explored and potentially find an item that lets you upgrade your weapon, or a spell that greatly helps with the boss fight. This is subtly taught early on in the game when after leaving the tutorial zone there are multiple routes you can take, but you quickly come to realise that one is a lot easier than the others.

Note that this isn't as true with Sekiro, which has a lot more sections where you are forced to just learn a particular encounter. That's not necessarily a bad thing and in fact is part of the reason why many people find the combat a lot more satisfying once it clicks, but it's worth keeping in mind that it's a different kind of game and it probably shouldn't be approached with the same mindset.

As for the Dark Souls PC port, the original release (Prepare to die edition) was locked to 30fps. There was a mod that let you run it at 60fps, but it caused some slight gameplay issues (I believe you would go half the horizontal distance when jumping). That version is not available anymore - you can only purchase Remastered edition now, which runs at 60fps.

Dark Souls is mentionned elsewhere, I think Zelda BTOW also works roughly the same way: there is a base level of skill that you will need to beat the bosses, even with the strongest weapons, but on top of that bare minimum you get to choose how hard you want to play.

I’ve watched 8~9 yo olds play, and they heavily rely on the infinite remote bombs, always looked for field items (iron containers, powder kegs etc.) to ease encounters, maxed their cooked items, avoided the stronger monsters and bought special arrows as much as they could.

Of course it doesn’t mean they can explore explore everything in the game, and they also move slower, but they get to see most of it, finish the story and see the ending.

Oh yeah, you can make lots of choices on how to integrate them or what features to offer! Celeste assist mode lets you control the game engine's speed, modify how many jumps you have, etc. Hades gives you a mode where you get a permanent 2% health buff every time you die that allows the game to meet you where your capabilities lie instead of of forcing you to guess.

I think you touch on why a singular difficulty level can be good when you mention meeting where your capabilities lie instead of forcing you to guess. When I encounter something difficult in a game, I'm always tempted to turn the difficulty down and often do. With Souls games I explicitly know if something is too hard and take it as a sign I need to do something different; whether that's my mechanical technique or the need to explore more. An increasing buff or other difficulty helpers would mean I could eventually brute force my way through without considering other options. Maybe I would prefer that, but it would just be a guess unless I did it the other way.

Yeah, that sucks for those people. I don't think framing it as a moral failure on Fromsoft's side is right though. It's an artistic decision, not a 'haha, go fuck yourself you armless twats' one.

It's not one or the other. It's both an artistic decision to leave no remote possibility of altering the difficulty, and a moral one to exclude folks whose disabilities make the game vastly more difficult than it is for others. They're responsible for both.

People with disabilities have beaten Fromsoft games. There are numerous accounts of that. From what I have seen, it's usually people without actual disabilities propping them up as a shield for their own laziness and excessive need to chase the current trend.

In short, they want the reader's digest version.

> a moral one to exclude folks whose disabilities make the game vastly more difficult than it is for others.

I disagree with this premise. Why hold game makers to this standard and not any other business? We don't hold car makers morally responsible for not accomodating blind drivers, or florists for excluding people with allergies.

What someone with a motor disability needs is a specialized controller, not a difficulty slider.

That’s not really a universally applicable assumption. I have a degenerative nerve condition and auto-immune disease, they both substantially make my response times and ability to press buttons worse. I am absolutely loving Elden Ring and I have beaten each Soulsborn Fromsoftware has put out. However, I am terrified that I will reach a point where I will simply not be able to play the games. I am working on hardware interface designs (ie controllers and keyboard/mouse) to hopefully allow me to overcome this, but I’m not sure it will ever be doable/usable enough to still enjoy my favorite games. I don’t want a difficulty slider, but some options could exist to make my future life better (more iframes, narrower hit boxes on enemy attacks, etc).

I agree, adding accessibility features seems pretty trivial for them, they can keep the game the same, but just add options to have say double the health, extra armor, auto-parry, etc.

This isn't just something that could help people with disability, but also younger players, more casual players, older players. But most importantly, even me, I've beat all the games, but I'd have fun replaying them in a God mode, after going through it feeling like a chump, it be fun to replay them feeling like a god. So in my opinion it would bring more opportunity for fun from people who already played them, and also allow more people to enjoy the game.

Where do people get this entitled attitude that every game should be accessible to everyone as much as possible? Nothing in the world is like that.

I feel that what's presented here is an intractable problem; there's no right answer, there are only aspects to the problem. I've thought about it a lot.

First, this is a legitimate example of a slippery slope. That alone is not a reason to avoid adjustable difficulty, but when done in the name of making a game more accessible it becomes difficult to pin down when a game's difficulty is the "correct" level of accessible. A wheelchair ramp is a wheelchair ramp; they work for practically anyone with a wheelchair, if built to a quantified code. But difficulty is particularly, well, difficult, to quantify. There will always be people who can't enjoy video games, because disability is a multivariate spectrum unique to every individual.

On one end of that spectrum, there are many people who despite being otherwise able-bodied and minded cannot beat Margit. A friend of mine was struggling with him quite a bit. A couple hours later he finally got it. He was ecstatic, of course, then said "I don't know how you beat him so quickly". I didn't. It took me about 80 deaths and three hours of aggregated attempts. That's the point; many people view Souls games as having some Elite Echelon of players who "get it", destroying every boss handedly, and while there certainly are players like this, the fanbase is predominated by people who experience exactly the same difficulty players who "give up early" do. What we're talking about, in these instances, is not an able-minded skill differential; we're talking about Patience and Willpower. I don't believe its fair to consider these aspects of human nature a variable in the "difficulty" argument; making From's games easier purely to cater to people who don't have the patience or willpower to push through fundamentally changes the experience they have; it would no longer be a "great" game, because what makes it great is predominated by its demand on your patience. Its weird; some people like that, some people don't. But you take it away and its unclear if what is left actually has a similar value; it turns out, maybe you just wouldn't like it either way.

Its similar to demanding that a scary movie have an option to remove the scary scenes, because I don't like to be scared; this demand would similarly be rooted in this idea that a tranche on the population is "missing out" on what many people love about scary movies, so they want to change the artform in order to enjoy it. Not all art is built for all people. Not everything should be a Disney movie.

Your argument that a difficulty slider provides options for players to find a level of difficulty which is "right" for them is cute, but it assumes that players know what this true difficulty should be. The problem is: we don't. How can I, able-bodied and minded or not, be trusted to make a decision on the "correct difficulty for me" of a game whose entire point is to be near-impossibly difficult? I die to Margit eighty times; should I turn the difficulty down? How about a hundred times? Two hundred? What is the right number of deaths that a player should experience facing Margit?

Some games firmly take the stance that the number is near-zero; that's absolutely fine, I love these games! From's games are not that.

Second: I've played a ton of games. Too many; many with difficulty sliders, many without. I've literally never seen a game implement a difficulty slider which resulted in a satisfying change in difficulty at the level of FromSoftware's game's difficulties. When games implement difficulty sliders, they almost always take the form of: start with a base level of health, damage, etc, call that Medium. Increase by 25% for Hard. Increase by 50% for Insanity. Decrease by 25% for Easy. Etc. It doesn't matter if its TLOU's Grounded, or Mass Effect's Insanity, or God of War's GMGOW or Fallen Order's Jedi Grand Master. Sliders ALWAYS, in 100% of cases that I've seen, mean: there's numbers within the matrix of the game's design, lets tweak those numbers up and down.

Someone gets shafted, in literally 100% of situations. Either a game was designed for medium, and the hardest difficulty is unsatisfying because enemies become damage tanks, or ammo becomes too scarce, or something. Or: a game was designed for the hardest difficulty, and the easier ones feel like an afterthought where enemies are tissue paper and you're a god amongst mortals. It turns out: game development is REALLY, REALLY hard. Its a miracle games are even released, let alone that a small number are great. Your assertion that a difficulty slider would help make a game relatively equally difficult among differently-abled people either would never work, as it hasn't in the past, or is tantamount to demanding game developers design and build multiple finely-tuned copies of their game for each difficulty. Not just health, ammo, damage values; but animation timings, ability sets, parry windows, item drop locations, its a herculean task!

Not to mention: your assertion assumes that the quadratically multivariate spectrum of human disability can be satisfyingly encoded into a linear slider. TLOU2 is the only game I've seen which has multivariate difficulty sliders; from enemy health to drop rate, you can tweak five or six variables. But: that circles back to my previous point; it becomes a slippery slope where players are overloaded with fine-grained control over difficulty in order to produce the perfectly tuned game for them, without any guidance on what that "perfect tuning" actually is or should be.

I think some of the perceived difficulty comes from Miyazaki’s games requiring practice. Generally quite a bit more practice and learning than more mainstream RPGs and action games require (though less in certain ways than character action games like Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden).

That level of practice is honestly not for everyone and that is ok. Fighting Games require a very, very large amount of practice. For someone like me it’s too much, especially because there aren’t even any community events near me. If I am going to practice that much, for the stage of life that I am in with how little free time I have, I would rather practice something else. And that’s fine too. That doesn’t make fighting games bad or “too difficult,” they are just not for me.

Elden Ring has become my life! 25 hours in since last Thursday (which for me is a lot of time). Absolutely love it, best game I’ve played since Hades and before that probably Borderlands 2.

For the record I love Sekiro, and went back and beat Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, but gave up on DS2/3, Bloodborne and Elden Ring.

I believe Soulsborne's only charm, is when you finally beat that foe, that feel of accomplishment, that depends on the fact it's hard, the game is nothing on easy.

The battle system itself, basically roll forever and slash once here and there, is inferior to most action games.

Sekiro on the other hand, has like the best battle system.

The immortals got bored of eternal peace in heaven so they created a world of mortality filled with endless crises so that they can experience death over and over again. Unfortunately the mortals' world has become peaceful as well and mortality has become a long distant memory. So the mortals have decided to create a world of mortality filled with endless crises so that they can experience death over and over again.

His games are the siritual successor to Ultima games. You’re given very little to go on and you’re expected to create your own adventure and discover the main story. Mistakes are harshly punished so caution is needed.

Add in BotW and you have Elden Ring. It’s a masterpiece.

A good reminder to face your mortality each new day. I love this perspective on life and not allowing the "dark" into his family as it might be seen as a negative trait. What a unique philosophy for something so creative.

Since Friday, I've been pouring hours and hours into the game. It is marvelous, but arguably inferior to their previous titles on a highly subjective level (I've missed, for example, the more accentuated dread and hopelessness of Dark Souls and Bloodborne). I guess these points will probably be addressed more thoughtfully by people more qualified than me in due time.

The more flagrant problem is the abysmal graphical performance for 2022 standards — it is borderline unacceptable, no art direction can compensate for the insistence on a clearly obsolete tech foundation. I wonder why they are reluctant to change.

One unfortunate thing about the newer From games is how the difficulty relies so heavily on the two things humans will lose over time: focus and reflexes. Its most ardent fans will age out of being able to play their favorite games as they get harder and harder to play.

They'll be forced out of their niche.

Why do they have to eat so much of my mobile screen with these silly sticky bars at the top AND bottom?

Didn't even bother reading this...

I hope when I'm close to death that I think this way too.

Heck yeah. Me too. It requires a tremendous amount of peace to pull it off.

I've been wanting to make a pact with someone else so whoever is going to die first will be detonated in a spectacular firework. Rather go out with a bang than a wimper.

If space travel is cheap enough when I die, I'd like to be shot into the sun.

That sounds awesome. Like an immolating monk except by pure light/EMG itself :-) Count me in!

Hell yeah man! Just going back home.

I doubt that some New Yorker journalist can really appreciate the gravity of what Miyazaki has done to gaming. The man switched careers in his 30s and literally changed the face of video games, releasing one highly influential game after another. Yes, you die a lot in his games, and they are hard, but that isn't the point. The point is that the influences of Miyazaki games are now visible in almost every AAA game these days. It's tough to really know how much Dark Souls changed the game design zeitgeist unless you play a lot of games (like me). With Elden Ring, he has only cemented his place as once of the great game designers of all time - I really hope some of the design decisions influence other games in the same way.

The author of the piece has been playing Dark Souls since before Twitter had a 'retweet' feature.



some New Yorker journalist

You can just google the name. Simon Parkin has been writing about games professionally for 10+ years and like many people his age grew up playing games.

You could try reading the article before assuming what the author will say. The author clearly is keen to Miyazaki's games and puts them into the context of the debate about game difficulty. Yet it justifies the author's intent. Give it a read.

I love Miyazaki, and I hope the words in the headline are something they've put in his mouth. That's just banal deathist copium.

“Death and rebirth, trying and overcoming—we want that cycle to be enjoyable. In life, death is a horrible thing. In play, it can be something else.”

I bought ER the other day after hearing rave review and was super disappointed. I ended up returning it after a couple hours.

* Visuals: Disappointing. Looked like a cheap free-to-play MMO. Cheap-looking textures, stock-looking characters, bad rigging (e.g. characters holding things in unnatural poses), etc.

* Controls: Unpleasant. Controls felt very sluggish. If this is supposed to make the game more challenging or something, this isn't a very fun mechanic.

* Software quality: Terrible. Performance is not good, tons of bugs, graphics issues, wouldn't recognize my controller when I had multiple input devices plugged in.

* Dialogue: What little I saw was super corny. Used as a crutch for poor level design. E.g. a ghost telling you something to the effect of "you need to jump into this hole to continue the game".

* Multiplayer felt like a cheap gimmick. I wanted to turn it off.

And so on. This honestly felt like someone's first attempt at making a Unity game, not a magnum opus from an experienced developer.

Am I missing something? This is my first souls game; is feeling cheap and clunky part of the aesthetic?

For the visuals, FromSoft has always been a step behind from a graphical fidelity level. But they make up for it in art design, which is some of the best in the industry. Some of the areas in Elden Ring are legitimately jaw dropping. But the graphical fidelity is certainly nowhere near the level of something like Horizon (or even the Demon's Souls Remake, which was done by another team).

For the controls, the game is all about animation timing. You may be used to games where you can cancel animations. FromSoft's games instead require you to commit to your actions, giving everything a lot of weight. It takes getting used to. In some ways it's more like a fighting game than a lot of other action games. It's also possible that you were playing a character with heavier equipment load: try taking things off, so you have a faster roll.

There's no excuse for the performance / port issues. It released in a pretty poor state, but they are at least working on patches. I'd imagine it'll be a lot better after a few more patches.

The dialogue is a bit of an acquired taste. I find the writing to be brilliant, but at first it just feels odd. It helps to realize you're meant to feel out of place, without enough initial context to understand fully what's happening. You have to put the pieces together as you play, and then things finally begin to make sense.

The multiplayer is quirky and different, and probably not for everyone. You can always turn it off if it's not your thing.

> FromSoft has always been a step behind from a graphical fidelity level. But they make up for it in art design, which is some of the best in the industry.

I'm not just talking about lack of rendering bells and whistles - I also thought the design itself was tacky, reminiscent of much lower-budget games like Valheim or those mid-2010s f2p Korean MMOs. Admittedly this is subjective.

> For the controls, the game is all about animation timing

OK, knowing that this is an intentional design aspect makes it a lot more reasonable. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but at least understandable.

Lack of rendering 'bells and whistles'? That statement doesn't mean anything, what bells and whistles?

It looks like a mid-2010s f2p Korean MMO? what planet are you on.

I cant believe I replied to this nonsense.

I love the game but I'm not sure what you are not getting? It is a pretty mediocre looking game in terms of graphics tech at least. Horizon Forbidden West came out at the same time and it looks like it was made on another planet compared to Elden Ring.

Why not explain the 'bells and whistles' that are missing, for e.g. "It doesn't support ray-tracing", rather then in general terms that are trollish like "rendering isn't good".

How does that impact the game exactly? If a game does not incorporating the latest features in DX12 or whatever the features Nvidia brings out for its cards, does that compromise the artistic integrity of the game? Does a painstakingly detailed boss with incredible art and fluid animation just not cut it without these graphics settings?

I feel like some people are playing a different game to me.

There's constant pop-in, flicker and shimmering, the lighting is flat, the textures are low resolution, the meshes are low geometry. Graphically it just sucks, many last generation console games beat it easily. It also has completely crashed the console multiple times.

And I'm playing on PS5 which is reportedly the best experience.

PS5 is the best experience? Who said that?

What you described sounds bizarre and far removed from most peoples experience (mine included) with the game regardless of platform. How exactly do you know what resolution textures are or how many polygons are rendered.

Everyone is saying the PC port is a mess. Some people say it might be compatibility issues with certain hardware, but unless you think it's a huge conspiracy you surely have to admit there are swathes of players finding it unplayable on excellent machines. The critic reviews for the PS5 version are the best of the bunch.

My experiences are similar to what a lot of people are saying on Reddit, here and user review sites. Multiple different parent posters in this thread also said it but you dismissed them too. Even people who like the game are saying the graphics are poor.

I can't tell you what the actual resolutions, are but I can tell you that I can see the textures are blurry and that I can see lines on objects that would appear curved on most modern games. I can tell the same way I can tell that Horizon Forbidden West has a higher density mesh than classic Tomb Raider.

I also recently played the Demon Souls remake. It has better graphics.

Conspiracy, give me a break. Show me a new release AAA game on PC which ran flawlessly for 700,000+ people day 1.

People have issues, but everyone saying the PC port is a mess is not true. I have the game on PC and its runs better than most new release games I've played and I've player more than enough of them.

The critic reviews stating PS5 version is the best is baseless, I could say the critic review state the PC version is the best.

Listing some random social site names or pointing out a vocal minority isn't proof of the games graphic quality, I could find 10x more people who would say otherwise.

I recently played Demon souls remake, It doesn't have better graphics.

Basically every post-release review for the PC version mentions stuttering and performance issues. They aren't affecting everyone but they are widespread enough that Bandai Namco have apologised and said they're going to work on a patch.

Clearly you aren't having issues, it does seem to be hardware dependent, but for me and many, many others it's the first game I've played in a while to be so buggy at release (though I didn't play Cyberpunk). I've never had a game crash my PS4 or PS5 like this game does, and quite a lot of people are reporting the same.

However the general consensus is clearly that the PC version has serious performance issues for many people. PS5 certainly doesn't seem to have performance issues but it is crashing the entire console for me and others so that's hardly better.

I'm not even saying it's a bad game. It might be great. I just can't get far enough to tell because the game crashes my console.

> How exactly do you know what resolution textures are or how many polygons are rendered.

A couple comments ago you were complaining at me for not being specific about why the rendering was bad, and then when someone gives you specific examples you lash out with "well how do you know that's why it's bad!?". We know because we have eyes.

No your eyes aren't good enough to know the resolution of minute textures or the polygon count on screen on for games on current gen systems. You see low textures while others don't, it's completely subjective without really numbers and your obvious negative bias plays into it.

I asked for details, and now they are provided you can see they are flawed.

And please, stop pretending that you even played the game past 5 minutes and you know what you are talking about.

Why would we have a negative bias? We bought the game. We wanted to enjoy it. I'm not in the habit of buying things simply to criticise them online.

You're trying to deny that it's possible to see difference in the visuals of video games, which is bizarre considering the whole point of new generations of consoles and GPUs is for the graphical improvements. I can see the difference in mesh density, texture resolution and lighting when I upgraded from an RTX 2070 to an RTX 3080. Do I have figures? No. But the obvious improvements were why I'd shell put so much for the card. Ditto for the PS5. And I can tell you with absolutely certainty: this game looks far worse on PS5 than Demon Souls does, or The Last of Us 2 does on my PS4 Pro.

Even people who really like the game generally will admit the graphics are not great. You can watch YouTube videos of people playing and there is plainly evident pop-in, low render distance and LOD issues. Also various other things like enemies walking through each other and so forth. None of it is critical, the graphics are perfectly playable, but it's well below what you'd normally expect in a highly reviewed AAA game on the latest hardware in 2022.

You can argue it's unimportant and the art direction makes up for it as many fans do, but instead you just seem to be sealioning.

You paid $1000s for a GTX 3080 but bought the game on PS5 and claim it is some low res, pop-in, shimmering graphics on console but yet its the best version although you never played it on other platforms.

You can differentiate texture resolutions and polygon counts across platforms. You claim everyone agrees that the PC version is horrible port and has some major performance problems and crashes, but strangely enough it's currently the most played game on Steam.

You say for many many people it's one of the most buggiest games they've experienced at release, yet it hasn't been taken down for sale like Cyberpunk or had its player base disappear like BF2042 or New World.

You continue to make generalised statements like 'many many people', 'all critics', 'everyone agrees' and name random social sites giving the misleadingly impression that everyone agrees with you.

I can tell you with absolute certainty that it looks better then Demon Souls remastered from a PS3 game with reused upscaled textures. Everyone agrees so it's true.

...Sorry but I don't think anything you say is genuine, so there is no point continuing the argument.

I didn't buy a 3080 for Elden Ring. I play other games too. I bought the game for PS5 because the reviews said the PC version is a bad port and I prefer the PS5 controller. I'm more typically a console gamer because PC games tend to be worse ports now, but if you think that's so suspicious, the reason I bought the 3080 is for Flight Simulator in VR.

I said for me and many others it's one of the buggiest games, but that I haven't played Cyberpunk. I don't know statistically how many people that is but it seems fairly widespread. I haven't even heard of New World.

I'm making generalized statements because what else can I do? If I point out individuals, you just say that's one person. I don't keep stats for reviewers. If you can't see that most post release PC reviews mention performance and stuttering then that's up to you I suppose.

It's like I said - it may be a great game. I just can't play it. I think the graphics suck but that wouldn't stop me playing it. The last buggy at release game I played was Flight Simulator, and I quit it after buying it for a few months as a result, and picked it back up later. Now it's one of my favourite games.

It's strange to me that you appear to be taking criticism of a video game so personally.


I'm also playing on PS5 and had zero crashes so far (20+ hours).

Pop-in, flicker and shimmering? It feels like I'm playing a different game to you.

Perhaps there is some sort of issue within the game that's making it render and behave differently for different players.

I don't know what to say other than my console works perfectly for every other game and I've never had a console crash before I played ER, or since while playing any other game.

The whole console suddenly turns off, I have to yank the power, and when it comes back on it sends an error report to Sony. Suffice to say, I lose my progress.


* https://www.futuregamereleases.com/2022/02/elden-ring-ps5-cr...

* https://www.reddit.com/r/Eldenring/comments/t102fd/ps5_keeps...

I have also experienced hard crashes.

For some unfathomable reason, the game comes with HDR turned off by default. You need to start / load a save, press start -> system -> video -> enable HDR (you cannot do that in the main menu for some reason). This improves visual fidelity significantly and makes it feel at least like something resembling a PS4-era game.

Coming from Horizon: Forbidden West, the graphics of Elden Ring still feel very dated, with low-res shadows & textures, flat lighting, low draw distance and constant frame drops. The UI is also rather clanky - this is the first game in a decade I actually had too look-up instructions for equipping items.

Even with that, I find the atmosphere and experience very enjoyable and I'm looking forward to exploring the world in more depth. I also love the lack of artificial level scaling/gating - go unprepared to the wrong spot and you are dead.

> I'm not just talking about lack of rendering bells and whistles - I also thought the design itself was tacky, reminiscent of much lower-budget games like Valheim or those mid-2010s f2p Korean MMOs. Admittedly this is subjective.

Did you make it into Limgrave?


To everything else people have said about the controls system, I'll add that the combat system these games use is the only thing that really makes the diversity of weapons meaningful; if your play style is zippy and responsive, you need to use zippy and responsive weapons, and there are dimensions to it besides "fast" and "slow"; a curved sword, a straight sword, and a poking sword will have different movesets, and differing levels of commitment and payoffs. Without that system, the only difference between these things would be damage stats and maybe an AOE radius.

Horizon is a game series that makes the opposite decisions --- it's amazing looking, super responsive, and extremely ergonomic. And for me it might as well be a 2D platformer. Combat looks spectacular, but nothing means anything, as you quickly come to realize while your character crafts 20 special arrows that involve soldering robot parts onto twigs in slow-motion as she aims. Why even maintain the conceit that she's shooting arrows? Just give her a ray gun.

I agree with you about the visuals! I'm playing on a PS5, and this is the least visually impressive Soulsborne game I've played. The comparison downthread with the Demons Souls remake is spot on; Demons Souls looks incredible on the PS5, but Elden Ring isn't even competitive with From's PS4 stuff.

I also think the game suffers visually from the open-world design; the linear paths in previous Soulsbornes have let them do a lot of interesting stuff with level design, but in this game almost everything on screen has to be addressable by the character, from arbitrary directons. This was especially apparent to me when I got to the Hieronymus Bosch-inspired midgame. In previous Soulsbornes, that would have been a wall of composed visuals; here, it's a flat plain studded with red blobs.

It's also much easier than any FromSoftware game since Demons Souls, which may be good for you, or may make it harder to see why people love games like Sekiro so much.

Bloodborne is the canonical starter Souls games for Soulsborne skeptics, and my bid for best AAA game of all time (but I don't play a lot of these games, so, grain of salt.)

You realise that the hole is deep on purpose to give the impression that it's dangerous. That the dialogue is telling you to let go of your fear and jump down, which begins a tutorial that is completely optional.

> Am I missing something? This is my first souls game; is feeling cheap and clunky part of the aesthetic?

The visuals are... better than preceding games, but not as 'next gen' as they could be, definitely the same engine as they have used for a long time now.

That said, games like this need some time to grow; I've played Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 myself, I do feel like this one only starts to come into its own when you've passed through the first dungeon.

The combat being sluggish is a design choice; it forces you to move deliberately / with intent, instead of button mashing like in similar styled games (like God of War, uhhh. Devil may Cry. Maybe Horizon). Combat is more strategy than action oriented; once it clicks, it's really satisfying though. Can be, anyway.

Anyway, it might not be the one for you, that's fine. There's other games in the wider genre that might click with you better; I think Bloodborne for example has a much more compelling story and atmosphere (think of all the horror variants you know of). Hollow Knight plays very easily, doesn't have the clunkiness, but does have the challenge, the gameplay loop of die and try again, and the atmosphere of a half dead land well past its glory days. There's also Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, I haven't played it myself, but it has similar gameplay but set in the Star Wars universe.

I started playing Elden Ring directly after finishing God of War on PC, and that is way more mashy. I don't think I realized how much so.

ER is my first FromSoft game and the length and weight of the animations is something that took me a very long time to get used to. Mashing R1 isn't going to do you any favors at all. I don't think I've ever played a game that respects your buffered inputs as much as this game. But I'm starting to dig it.

Are we supposed to pretend you have any idea what you are talking about? Every point you made is stupendously wrong (bugs withstanding). It goes against the consensus of the overwhelming majority of players. Are they just suckers while you know the real truth? Please enlighten us with examples of games that make Elden Ring look like a first attempt at a Unity game.

I think the main thing you're missing is the actual game, presentation aside. You touched on controls, but I don't think you've grasped how complex and finely tuned the combat sandbox is, or how it enables different styles of play depending on equipment choice. When you're deliberate in your gameplay, it doesn't feel sluggish at all, but if you're just mashing buttons it definitely will.

There's a reason Fromsoft games are so popular, and it's not because they're on the cutting edge of AAA presentation—it's because they're so tightly designed, and in turns challenging and rewarding if you put in the work to engage with them. Most other, superficially similar games feel downright sloppy in comparison.

Unfortunately, engaging with them is a leap of faith on the part of the player, and I can definitely see why some aspects of the presentation would be off-putting.

Just my own opinions to respond to a couple of your points:

- Visuals: Disappointing. Looked like a cheap free-to-play MMO. Cheap-looking textures, stock-looking characters

What settings did you have the game on? This has never been my experience with a Souls game - and definitely not Elden Ring.

- bad rigging (e.g. characters holding things in unnatural poses), etc.

Yeah, agree. Pretty typical for every game though.

- Controls: Unpleasant. Controls felt very sluggish. If this is supposed to make the game more challenging or something, this isn't a very fun mechanic.

The Souls series is definitely a little slower in that sense than most other games. If you want a faster weapon, use a faster weapon. There are a ton available, but there are tradeoffs! The series puts a focus on calculated, well-timed strikes; the most successful strategy is to learn your opponents' attack patterns and take advantage of the right moment to strike. Once you hit the attack button you're locked in to the attack, so you absolutely have to know the boss isn't winding up for another attack.

- Software quality: Terrible. Performance is not good, tons of bugs, graphics issues, wouldn't recognize my controller when I had multiple input devices plugged in.

Keep in mind these games are designed for and primarily sold on consoles - PC is the minority.

- Dialogue: What little I saw was super corny. Used as a crutch for poor level design. E.g. a ghost telling you something to the effect of "you need to jump into this hole to continue the game".

I won't comment on the "corny" part other than saying you kind of just have to lean into it... Enjoy it for the fantasy it is.

"you need to jump into this hole to continue the game" - that's the first 15 minutes of the game, teaching you that you'll need to pay attention to that kind of stuff later. There is very little handholding past the intro.

- Multiplayer felt like a cheap gimmick. I wanted to turn it off.

I'm curious about this, can you elaborate?

- Am I missing something? This is my first souls game;

In my opinion yes. But the genre is just not for everyone. It's a really different type of game and some people just won't like the gameplay.

- is feeling cheap and clunky part of the aesthetic?

Yes, but as someone who enjoys the genre, I wouldn't use the word "clunky". It intentionally pushes the player away from the modern norm where a game can be blown through by mashing the attack button.

> What settings did you have the game on?

1440p "high" on 3060 Ti. My visual objections weren't just the low-quality lighting, textures, framerate cap, etc. (objectively kind of bad) but also the visual design of the game (which I thought was kind of tacky/garish and reminiscent of 2010-era low-budget multiplayer games).

> Pretty typical for every game though.

I saw some stuff that looked really out-of-place in an AAA game.

> If you want a faster weapon, use a faster weapon.

Yeah, I think this was me confusing an intentional design decision with poor UI. Still, I subjectively definitely prefer more responsive games.

> can you elaborate

The multiplayer didn't feel like an integral part of the game. They had to artificially incentivize you to use it in a ham-fisted way ("you get HP if people upvote the ugly textures you leave littered all over the place"), and the random ghosts popping up all over the place (I think part of multiplayer?) seemed useless and distracting.

> It intentionally pushes the player away from the modern norm where a game can be blown through by mashing the attack button.

I think this is an uncharitable comparison for non-souls games. I can think of several games I've played recently which absolutely ace many of the things that bothered me about ER and are by no means button-mashers. For example, Ori 2 (beautiful graphics and design, ultra-smooth rendering, extremely snappy response time, etc. - excellent implementation of a singleplayer timing-heavy game) and HL Alyx (incredibly good level design, solid graphics, very smooth, intense focus on control experience)

I’ve watched around an hour or so of gameplay and reviews, mostly with footage from consoles (I think almost entirely PS5) and while I noticed some frame rate inconsistency and some image quality weirdness on like shadows and vegetation, mostly I’ve found the game to be extremely impressive visually. Sometimes jawdroppingly so.

To compare it to low budget free to play games from 10 years ago honestly makes me wonder if your setup is majorly borked somehow. I’d love to see footage straight from your system to know if you’re seeing something very different or if our ideas of what looks good are truly so fundamentally different. Maybe the PC version is uniquely terrible or something?

> The multiplayer didn't feel like an integral part of the game.

That's because it's not. These are not "multiplayer games" like CoD or Smash. These are single player games with some online/multiplayer elements.

> the random ghosts popping up all over the place (I think part of multiplayer?) seemed useless and distracting

Those pop up when you touch "bloodstains," i.e. seeing what other players did that caused them to die. Farthest thing from useless, actually -- they've saved my ass many times.

Making up excuses for why you died so much/taking it out on the other parts of the game is 100% part of the experience. There's even t-shirts with common new player complaints. For example: https://mobile.twitter.com/jasperrolls/status/87390752244861...

That didn't bother me at all - the difficulty level seems good. Not one of my objections

Ah, just admit it. :D

The sooner you admit it, the sooner you can get into the culture. It's not only one of the best series of games made in the past 15 years, but it's also got one of the more fun communities around.

You are definitely missing something. You just had your first whiskey and you don't have a palette for it yet.

I had a very similar reaction when I first played Bloodborne, especially to the controls. I'm very into tight, kinetic controls, like in Donkey Kong Country and Super Meat Boy. Bloodborne felt squirrely and didn't appeal to me at all. I returned it.

The game didn't stick for me but Dark Souls 3 did, and over time I came to understand. The controls are perfect for these games, Elden Ring included. It's just an acquired taste, and I think you need to understand the gameplay mechanics and control paradigm to really see why they're perfect. It's hard to explain -- more just something to understand and feel. That said, I'll try and give you a few tips:

First off, the foundational difference between the Souls genre and every other game you've ever played is this: movements cannot be interrupted. You attack, and you are committing to that attack. The animation will play out until the end, and you are essentially frozen (and vulnerable -- though there are some caveats to that) during it. Ditto for your enemies. You might not have consciously noticed it, but basically every game you've ever played has allowed you to interrupt yourself mid-movement and do another action instead. Therefore, Souls games really require you to think before you do something. One reason people are so "hardcore" about these games is because they truly are games of skill.

R1 is your fast attack, R2 your slower but more powerful attack. Really take note of the timing. Long, isn't it?

It's slightly different in every game, but in ER Y or Triangle, and then R1 or L1, will make your right or left weapon two-handed. Your R1 and R2 attacks will be a bit more powerful. Also, press L2 (and depending on the weapon, follow that up with R1 or R2), and you'll get your "special" attack that's only available while two-handing. There's a lot of finesse in figuring out when to do what, but for now, just stick with R1 and R2 (one- and/or two-handed), and get the feel for combat. It might take a little bit, and don't be afraid to look stuff up. Trust me, the effort is rewarded here, truly.

Push the right control stick to lock on to an enemy. It took me ages to figure this out, and was the number one thing that started to make the game feel good. With time I've come to see it with more nuance -- sometimes it's good to lock, sometimes not (particularly when facing a lot of enemies), but at first I'd pretty much keep it on all the time while fighting. Notice that if you jerk your left controller, the lock will move from one enemy to another. Learning how to quickly switch locks between enemies is a huge help.

Hold B or Circle to run. Tap it to roll. These two actions are key to the Souls genre. Rolling is everything in combat. Getting a feel for when to speed up (especially when circling an enemy) is also huge. You are briefly invincible while rolling -- learning to time a roll through an enemy's attack is a key component of these games.

Jumping is quite different and more of a main mechanic in ER, whereas in former Souls games it was easily the most cludgy control (and therefore one of the least important movements). Just like rolling, you're invincible for a few frames while jumping.

Rolling and jumping into an attack makes the attack more powerful.

There's lots more: parrying, back stabs, critical hits, plus weapons scaling with your stats, magic...but for now, the bread and butter above should be all that matters. Move and hit with grace/speed/thought.

Regarding the visuals, I simply could not disagree more. A common refrain about From's games is that, while yes, they're never on the bleeding edge in terms of graphics quality, their art design is second to none, and I absolutely agree with that sentiment. It's just the best there is. They definitely have a "look," and their characters especially have this really particular, slightly janky look, but that's part of the charm. The world, though...honestly best in class, consistently. Their art direction and atmosphere is just incredible. Personally I'm finding ER lacking compared to DS3 and Bloodborne (though ER does have a few absolutely jaw-dropping moments), but it makes up for that in other ways. Also, it's a massive, open world -- it can't be expected to be blowing me away as much as a more linear, closed, and thus composed game like DS3 or Bloodborne.

Yes, the software quality is bad right now (sounds like you're on PC?) but this is unfortunately par for the course early on with PC games in general. It always takes a sec to iron out the bugs. I just got an update tonight and it helped a ton, only had one frame stutter in about 3 hours. Also be sure to update your GPU drivers.

Dialogue: these are high fantasy RPGs, they're gothic and can be over the top and are quite dramatic. If you don't like that, I highly doubt you'll like the games, full stop. That said, boy, I could not disagree more regarding "poor level design." From's level design is quite simply the best in the business.

I think you misunderstood the "ghost" -- that was probably above the "tutorial cave," if I'm reading what you're saying correctly. From's games famously don't really have tutorials, so ER having one is a bit odd. I took the whole "the door's clearly right over there, but go jump in this hole real quick anyway" type thing as a cheeky, typical From humor way of saying "tutorials are a bit crude no matter what so we're gonna literally stick it down in a hole." I suppose if you're new to From's humor it might not land, but then again I wouldn't suggest ER as a first From game anyway.

Multiplayer being a "cheap gimmick" seems a bit harsh and odd wording. What part of it is a "gimmick?" That said, I personally prefer to play the games offline, so I'm with you there. The messages are hilarious and the bloodstains can be useful, but overall I like to feel left alone on my first play through. Later on I can play online to inject some fun and variety.

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