GWJ Conference Call Dark Souls II Edition

Conference Call

Dark Souls II Spoiler Cast - May 9th, 2014

Join Cory Banks, Shawn Andrich and David Heron as they talk all kinds of Dark Souls II.

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined.

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Comments

Is this in the regular podcast feed that we can find in the app?

(Yes, I am that lazy)

It would have been quicker to check the app. Exceptional laziness, well played.

But yes, it's in the feed.

I died more times in Dark Souls 2 than I did on my SL1 run of the first game, so I definitely found it harder. Self imposed difficulty? Partially, I played melee only in champion's covenant (can't summon) and didn't use those life protection rings, but I didn't use any magic in most of my Dark Souls runs either (just dabbled in Pyromancy for the SL1 run). Healing is slower to initiate and takes more time even when it's going, it's much easier to get staggered, dodging has been crushed by the nerfbat, enemies track you so it's harder to get backstabs, there are more "ganksquad" bosses and there are more enemies that aggro in groups.

Wow, that was a great podcast! Finally a game getting discussed in depth!!
Thanks - listened to the podcast while playing DS2 (or lets better say "while dying").

However the podcast stalled a bit when you guys discussed if DS2 is easier compared to its predecessors. (In my opinion it is certainly not easier). At that point in the podcast it seemed like a bunch of drunk wine experts discussed which bottle is the best - best to forget that part of the podcast!! The guest podcaster appeared especially snobbishly but maybe thats just me not agreeing...

PS: I would love to hear more game-specific podcasts... often times while listening to the regular podcast it feels like many games fall short.

Fun listen. So when is part 2?

kyrieee wrote:

dodging has been crushed by the nerfbat

Yes and no. If you actually put points into adaptability and get your agility up to a decent level, dodging seems as good as it has ever been. The fact that you have to invest stat points to gain that capability is definitely a nerf though.

I find "purist" to be a bit of a loaded term! I don't tend to think of the fog of unknowing as an element of the game itself, but as something that mediates and interferes with my experience of the game. Reminds me of highly seasoned meats—not inherently bad, but I always wonder if they're trying to cover up something.

I followed guides and watched videos constantly for Dark Souls 1 so I wanted to avoid learning anything about DS2 in order to get the feeling of exploration and discovery. It worked well for a half/two thirds of the game but eventually it got too frustrating and confusing with doors I couldn't open and paths I might have overlooked so I started consulting a progression map. I didn't learn the intricacies of the zones but I was happier knowing where to go.

Great game. It's going to be interesting to see what they do next.

One thing that I found fascinating about the game is people's pride in the difficulty and need to defend that reputation (I'm not talking about the 'which is easier Demon Souls, DS1 or DS2' debate. Honestly I can see it both ways.) In the first Dark Souls, when Jeff Green arrived at Sen's fortress someone commented in his stream, 'The real Dark Souls starts here.' and someone else wrote, 'That's the end of the tutorial.' It's as if they are worried that the person playing isn't finding the game enough of a challenge and they have the urge to say, 'well, you've made it this far but it gets REALLY tough from now on.'

In Dark Souls 2 I saw a sign on the floor at the royal rat authority that said, 'the real fight starts here' and then again at the entrance to Drangleic Castle, which is something like two thirds to three quarters of the way through the game.

When Jeff reached Knight Artorias in the DLC, with only the last boss to go in the main game, someone again typed in chat, 'The real Dark Souls starts here.' Jeff told them where to go in a very forthright manner.

One thing that I found fascinating about the game is people's pride in the difficulty and need to defend that reputation (I'm not talking about the 'which is easier Demon Souls, DS1 or DS2' debate. Honestly I can see it both ways.)

Yeah, even just listening to this podcast passively, there's a lot of posturing over who had a harder time (and who's a hipster).

I love all the people on this podcast, but it seemed to be part of the dynamic of this discussion just as, as has been noted, it's a part of the larger discussion of these games.

Side note: "Objective fact" always gets me all ready to be judgmental. Because I'm a hippie post-something.

I think Dark Souls (I & II) actually gets easier as you play. The reflex language you need to learn pretty much applies across the board for the whole game. Once you get into the flow new areas tend to get a bit easier because you're already spotting pitfalls and approaching enemies with a bit more patience.

Not sure if I get a sense of posturing when talking about difficulty. To me the only reason it's worth arguing over is for new players who may feel skittish about jumping into a new game. If you're not into a ton of challenge or grinding, Dark Souls II is easily the most approachable and forgiving game. Cory agreed with that, he was niggling over difficulty if all things were equal. I think it cuts into a pretty fine distinction at that point but I enjoyed the indulgence

Higgledy wrote:

One thing that I found fascinating about the game is people's pride in the difficulty and need to defend that reputation (I'm not talking about the 'which is easier Demon Souls, DS1 or DS2' debate. Honestly I can see it both ways.) In the first Dark Souls, when Jeff Green arrived at Sen's fortress someone commented in his stream, 'The real Dark Souls starts here.' and someone else wrote, 'That's the end of the tutorial.' It's as if they are worried that the person playing isn't finding the game enough of a challenge and they have the urge to say, 'well, you've made it this far but it gets REALLY tough from now on.

I don't disagree about your larger point, but the 'The real Dark Souls starts here' messages are as much a meme as anything in the game. I have been on voice chat with several friends the past few weeks as they have been progressing through the game, and every time they exclaim "WTF" or complain about a bullsh*t boss fight, the first thing that pops into my head is 'The real Dark Souls starts here'. Sometimes I say it, sometimes I leave it alone, but it's never not funny

Certis wrote:

I think Dark Souls (I & II) actually gets easier as you play. The reflex language you need to learn pretty much applies across the board for the whole game. Once you get into the flow new areas tend to get a bit easier because you're already spotting pitfalls and approaching enemies with a bit more patience.

Not sure if I get a sense of posturing when talking about difficulty. To me the only reason it's worth arguing over is for new players who may feel skittish about jumping into a new game. If you're not into a ton of challenge or grinding, Dark Souls II is easily the most approachable and forgiving game. Cory agreed with that, he was niggling over difficulty if all things were equal. I think it cuts into a pretty fine distinction at that point but I enjoyed the indulgence :drink:

Gee thanks for "indulging" me, Shawn.

I meant self-indulgence! It's not always about you, ginger.

I must have been doing something wrong when building my magic user. I has at about SL 80ish, and my sorcery felt really, really weak. I ended up respeccing to a pure melee guy.

I might be hitting my usual break point with these types of games.. I got through the first boss without that much trouble..but now on The Pursuer I'm finding the demand to be flawless on every "strike" to be too much to get through.. I'll keep trying for a few more nights but I'm just not as patient as I used to be and chances are I'll bail and move onto some of the new games slated to hit shortly.

Sucks because at its core it would be a game that would be immensely appealing to me.. something about the "world" just clicks for me.

There's nothing wrong with going co-op if you're done with a boss fight.

On the Pursuer your 'helpers' do add another element of danger though.

Spoiler:

If someone heads for the ballistas either retreat behind the ballistas yourself or make a note of the firing line and stay out of that.

I don't think you can sidestep any discussions or posturing about difficulty with Dark Souls 2 because the series' reputation of brutal difficulty was its initial calling card; it's inspired a thread here called "Demon's Souls and Mental Illness" where the OP tactlessly likened it to a "mental abuse simulator." The PC port of Dark Souls was called the Prepare To Die Edition, for crying out loud. It's not the only thing that makes the series unique, but it's almost certainly the series' most visible characteristic.

Having said all of that, I do disagree with Cory's framing of the reduced setback punishment as "accessibility"; the ability to more easily retain souls (through more frequent bonfires, rings of life protection, etc.) also makes it easier to level up your character, which has a direct and irrefutable impact on your character's odds in any encounter. It's true that the dexterity and reflexes required for any encounters is mostly the same, regardless of character level, but a higher level character is also very likely to have a higher margin of error. The enemy that kills me in one hit when I'm at level 10 won't do the same when I'm at level 40 with better defense and/or higher HP.

Also, by combining the "accessibility" that Cory touts in the podcast with a considerably shorter (and more frequent) reward schedule for level ups, Dark Souls 2 creates a dynamic where grinding can seem like a more desirable strategy. On top of that, the eventual despawning of enemies provides an additional reward for a setback-averse player to engage in that grind: not only does clearing out an area yield you more souls, but it also gives you an easier path to the next milestone.

(To call a spade a spade, Demon's Souls also had a mechanic that promoted a similar grind: the reliance upon consumable items for healing, which implicitly encouraged players to re-run or "farm" certain segments of that game to build up an inventory of grass and spice.)

I'm still not sure if these accommodations make Dark Souls 2 a lesser game -- Drangleic is not quite as dire and desperate as Boletaria and Lordran, so the smoother road isn't exactly dissonant with the game's tone -- but it does make it somewhat less evocative to me as someone who, hilariously, has become a veteran of the series, despite my misgivings in that Demon's Souls thread I linked above. Dark Souls 2 feels much more like a careful reconciliation of all of the series' tropes and expectations and, while that certainly positions it as the best possible introduction to the Souls series, it also leaves me yearning for a more satisfying subversion of the series' legacy.

mudbunny wrote:

I must have been doing something wrong when building my magic user. I has at about SL 80ish, and my sorcery felt really, really weak. I ended up respeccing to a pure melee guy.

I can tell you from personal experience that a pure sorcerer build has some challenges in the beginning, especially if you don't find the Fire Longsword early on. You don't have a shield, you've got lousy stats for melee, and your Soul Arrow isn't immediately strong enough to completely counter-balance those disadvantages. However, just like old school D&D, sorcerers that overcome the steeper curve and make it to the latter half of the game become walking gods with spells that can render bosses to ashes in minutes.

TheGameguru wrote:

I might be hitting my usual break point with these types of games.. I got through the first boss without that much trouble..but now on The Pursuer I'm finding the demand to be flawless on every "strike" to be too much to get through.. I'll keep trying for a few more nights but I'm just not as patient as I used to be and chances are I'll bail and move onto some of the new games slated to hit shortly.

Sucks because at its core it would be a game that would be immensely appealing to me.. something about the "world" just clicks for me.

For what it's worth, the Pursuer boss fight is also optional. You can get to the next area (Lost Bastille) without having to defeat him, though you do get access to a nice set of items if you can push through.

I gave strict instructions for my wife to stop me from buying or playing Demon Souls because it sounded exactly like the sort of game that I would think I'd like, then spend a month rating about before finally conceding defeat and trading it in on something that I actually like.

Of course, that means that Dark Souls 2 is on my steam wishlist.

One thing about this podcast was bugging me though: in the context you were using it I didn't see much difference between "easier" and "more accessible." Not having played DS2, and only going by what has been said here today, it sounded an awful lot like two people who are having a really heated argument over a 50/50 mix of white and black paint.

"It's GREY paint."

"I disagree wih that characterization. It's GRAY paint."

"I hear what you're saying, but it's objectively GREY paint."

"No, you're wrong. It's like you're saying this is Black mixed with White for the English, when it's just GRAY."

And so on.

But you did warn us at the beginning that you'd be crawling up your own bums, so I can't say I wasn't warned.

I eventually rage-quit Dark Souls shortly after killing the Hydra for one simple reason - the repeated "gauntlet" of running from spawn to a boss you need to beat to progress, dying, then repeating got old REALLY quick.

Is there any variety between runs to the boss? Do monsters spawn even slightly differently?

I'm a new parent with more limited time than ever to play, and I don't want to "waste" time killing the same guys over and over again who don't pose a challenge only for the sake of increasing the time it takes me to fight the boss again.

Thoughts on if I should buy this? I put around 40 hours into Dark Souls on PS3 and 30 hours into the PC version. Loved it a lot until the end with a boss I just couldn't beat. (The guy with the dogs.)

Great discussion! I have to say, I really prefer having this sort of big spoiler section / game deep-dive separated out into a distinct podcast, but still within the same GWJ feed. I hope this becomes more of A Thing.

I still have to go back and finish my DS2 game on the PS3... I stopped somewhere in the long hallway after that big dragon skeleton when a surprise encounter (which I realized was going to happen about 4 milliseconds before it happened) wiped the walls with me in 1 hit, and I just haven't gone back.

PostOldGreek wrote:

Is there any variety between runs to the boss? Do monsters spawn even slightly differently?

There's zero spawn variety within a given New-Game level (or combination of NG & Bonfire level?). That said, if you kill a given creature a certain number of times (around 10-12 I believe), it will never respawn for that NG&Bonfire level.

PostOldGreek wrote:

I eventually rage-quit Dark Souls shortly after killing the Hydra for one simple reason - the repeated "gauntlet" of running from spawn to a boss you need to beat to progress, dying, then repeating got old REALLY quick.

Is there any variety between runs to the boss? Do monsters spawn even slightly differently?

Not really. There is an anti-farming mechanic that will stop monsters from re spawning after you kill them enough times, though.

I'm a new parent with more limited time than ever to play, and I don't want to "waste" time killing the same guys over and over again who don't pose a challenge only for the sake of increasing the time it takes me to fight the boss again.

Thoughts on if I should buy this? I put around 40 hours into Dark Souls on PS3 and 30 hours into the PC version. Loved it a lot until the end with a boss I just couldn't beat. (The guy with the dogs.)

Tough to say. You may find this is more convenient than the last game, but I don't know if it's enough to respect your specific time.