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01/22/2020 17:08:53 •••

Much More Accessible Isn't the Same As Accessible

The Dark Souls series is famous for... well, for a lot of things by now, but in my mind, most of them boil down to three areas. The games are difficult, they are inaccessible, but they are well-regarded by those who manage to access them. Bloodborne, a game made by the same creators and which clearly shares a great deal of DNA with that series, represents one of the more accessible entry points... sort of.

To begin with, Bloodborne shares a lot of atmosphere with the Souls games. A bleak, gloomy setting where everything's gone to hell, and the streets are full of those poor saps who failed at doing what you're trying to do and lost their humanity in the process. From there, with an ever-growing array of equipment and feeling of mastery, you set out to figure out what's going on by reading item descriptions and engaging in cryptic conversations, save those who're still able to be saved in a series of frankly obtuse side quests, and kill all the uncontrolled monsters rampaging around the city. Not necessarily in that order.

It's a fun game, with many elements intended to emphasize speed compared to the more plodding and methodical pace Dark Souls is famous for, like being able to recover the last hit's worth of damage if you beat it out of an enemy quickly enough. And while I am bad at parrying all but the most easily-parried enemies, the game swaps out the traditional Dark Souls 100% damage reduction shield for a firearm or torch.

Admittedly, I disliked this change when I began playing, and I still wish they hadn't put a worthless shield as an equipment option as a joke, complete with an item description literally mocking players like me. I do think having that static defensive option beyond dodge, parry, or eat the hit would've been what put this game over the edge into being outright welcoming to new players instead of just the most welcoming.

But, as far as the genre goes, this game is definitely the most welcoming of its kind. It has far, far fewer stats compared to any of the Souls games, so deciding what to improve isn't such a huge obstacle if you aren't checking the Internet for tips, even if it can still feel intimidating and confusing. Upgrades can be easily swapped out at the workbench, so you aren't potentially permanently damaging an item's effectiveness if you experiment with different configurations. While the game's as bad at teaching you how to play it as ever, it's easier to fake it, and the blood vial/bullet system makes it easier to fill up mid-adventure without being quite as tethered to the lantern.

And while stripping down the equipment system means that the player doesn't find cool weapons and armor lying around to play with as often, it also means that they could put a lot of polish into the weapons they did include. The "trick weapons" are all stylish and cool, and offer a variety of playstyles.

There're a few other quibbles. Frenzy is a poor mechanic, and everything about it needed a nerf weeks before launch. Many of the later-game areas are noticeably rushed, and less interesting than what came before. The side quests are as obtuse as ever, and flubbing even a few of them can lock out some of the endings. And I tend to fall on the end of the spectrum that finds the Chalice Dungeons boring and repetitive, which especially sucks because there're important story clues squirreled away in the bottom of many of them.

Bloodborne is a good title, and the most accessible game of its kind... but I wish they'd gone the whole nine yards and just made it outright accessible.

01/22/2020 00:00:00

\"I wish they\'d gone the whole nine yards and just made it outright accessible.\"

I literally have no idea what you\'re on about here.

01/22/2020 00:00:00

Wow, you finally have an avatar.

01/22/2020 00:00:00

Yeah, turns out you need to install it in different places. Apparently having one on the forum isnít enough? I donít remember.

01/22/2020 00:00:00

I gotta side with Crowley, what exactly do you define as "accessible"? Soulsborne games may be hard, but they're for the most part, pretty straight-forward. Kill nearly everything in front of you, open a shortcut, continue killing everything in front of you (or run pass the hardest/annoying ones, nobody has to know).

01/22/2020 00:00:00

As of right now, the only \"accessible\" souls game out there is Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. It\'s by far the easiest of all using the formula and even has difficulty levels.

01/22/2020 00:00:00

I mean "accessible" in the sense that... well, surely you have to admit that these games really do a remarkably poor job of explaining many of their mechanics and tricks, and that many actions have a very high opportunity cost. Even I, who misunderstood what the A rank on my Ludwig's Holy Blade's Arcane scaling meant, accidentally spent a lot of Echoes upgrading my Arcane stat when I would've probably had an easier time putting those precious, precious levels into Strength/Dexterity/Vitality/Endurance. And then there was no way to respec short of starting a new game. Either some quick, painless explanation of what "Arcane scaling" actually entails, and/or a respec option would've been limitlessly friendly to new players, and they didn't.

Shields! Shields are an excellent crutch for the Dark Souls games. I admit it's less of an issue here, especially since there's no equipment weight to worry about, but all too many enemies can easily stunlock a player to death, and dodging out of the way requires far more precise timing than it should.

And the game never actually explains that the Serrated and Righteous bonuses exist or which enemies they actually apply to. Or what that Beasthood stat on your character sheet actually does. Or even that a weapon's scaling increases as you upgrade it, something that caught me off-guard as I was leveling my saw spear or cleaver early on, I forget which, and found the other stat going up instead. Or hell, even that you can't backstab with chain weapons.

I guess I just always think back to my younger brother (who is still a grown-ass man, mind) playing this game for the first time, and how if I hadn't been there to talk him through what many of the choices he was making actually meant and entailed, he would've, by his own admission, dropped the game early and just written it off as "too hard," and after I was able to sit him down and explain some of them, he had a lot of fun with the game and even beat it.

Plus, again, there're many side quests in this game that're pretty obtuse, and it's very easy to lock your way out of endings, or even fun late game story content, if you aren't looking everything up on the Internet ahead of time. And what fun is that? I rather like figuring this stuff out for myself.

And I wonder how many my brothers there are out in the world, just waiting to make a successful series even moreso, but can't because the people making them stubbornly refuse to get better at designing the game to teach the player how to play it.

And that's why I call it "inaccessible." Presently partway through Dark Souls III, and I find that it's a bit schizophrenic in terms of some steps forward and some steps back between this game and the original Dark Souls. And it was on my mind a lot.

I wouldn't call Fallen Order a true Dark Souls style game, mind. Just a game that takes a lot of ideas from a lot of places, and has Souls style combat.


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