A Debate About Skyrim and Dark Souls

In video games on February 24, 2012 at 8:43 am

I’ve been dying to write about Elder Scrolls: Skyrim but the kid has been swamped with graduate school and other endeavors. I did have a cool email discussion with my boy Chuy. In lieu of a better more critical analysis I’ll include our exchange below. It started with text messages that I can’t recover so I apologize that you’re coming into the conversation midway through and for Chuy’s rather…colorful descriptions. 

DAMON: There are many, many on line discussions about whether a person has to beat a game or not before they can write a review. Most people agree that “no”, you don’t. There is a difference b/w reviewer and critic. The critic is the one who should beat the game depending on what they are critiquing.

I’m sure there are some great reviews from IGN, Gampro, 1Up, etc about Dark Souls which is a great game. But, don’t get it twisted. Most of them will give it to Skyrim for GOTY and/or best RPG. It has over 50 perfect scores!

As good as people say Dark Souls is, it says something that Skyrim is being considered a better game. It means that Skyrim executes what “it” is trying to do better than Dark Souls executes what “it” is trying to do. That brings me back to me original point that something doesn’t quite work w/ the Souls games. Great as they may be there is something they are trying to do that doesn’t quite work.

Really good discussion. I’m going to write about this.

: So, on this premise, all games then fail to do what they are trying to do since it isn’t as good as what Skyrim did with its “it”?

I see….Afterall, Skyrim will get GOTY, right? Shit, that can be its own website.

About the article, what pisses me off is the line, ” I can’t imagine Dark Souls even has an ending. Partly, this is because story-wise I wouldn’t have a clue what is actually going on or what my goal is. And, partly, because there is little hope of me ever actually finishing it.” As a reader, I would then ask, how far did you actually get. Are your bitch ass gaming skills in gaming limbo? At least have a preface or disclaimer: I have only played 15 hours and am in such and such. From this juncture, I’ve made an observation, an interpretation of what I think this game is about (since nobody knows, and I guess that’s the beauty).

Whatever you do though, beat the games (back to back) and then write the piece since you are critiquing it, right?

“That is the point of Dark Souls, I feel: to be in Limbo, to be just another lost, undead soul wandering a stagnant world.”

“Dark Souls is about the journey. One long, neverending journey.”

: [The] game aint about being no hero, son.

: [That] idiot didn’t [even] beat the game. He would have seen that these stagnant towns do get freed once you feed the last soul to the lord vessel. These stagnant people walk up to you and thank the fuck out of you. They can’t believe it. You can’t believe it. You did it.

You feel like the greatest hero ever in a game.

In solidarity, you see people who have beaten it and you rest at the last bonfire, admiring the other heroes who decided to not only take the journey, but actually have the nuts to finish it. What an idiot.

Just another bitch who ain’t got no gaming skills. Sad.

: I – kinda hear what you’re saying. It still doesn’t refute my point. Skyrim will be widely considered a better game. It won’t take anything away from Dark Souls but it does inspire questions about the Souls games and their ability to be as ground breaking and game changing as people boast they are. It say’s a lot that the same sites that jock it put it second best. Now, I could be wrong. They might turn around and give it to Dark but based on what is currently out there I don’t think they will.

But, to your point let us look at it this way… Demon Souls came out in 2009 and garnered nearly the same acclaim that Dark is getting yet it has failed to influence other games, let alone the RPG genre. That begs the question: how “good” is this game? To clarify, this is how I measure the “success” of a game.

• wide critical success
• commercial success
• awards presence in nominations and/or wins
• critical discussion after release and for how long (is it good? bad? fair?)
• clear influence(s) on other games
• (to a small degree) general player reactions

When you look at Demon Souls it hasn’t done a lot to surpass other games, let alone the leading RPG’s in these categories. Also, from what we know of the games that are coming out in the next year or two there is no discussion of that game design being used — in any way — in any other games. That say’s something about a game that has yet to score higher than its previous game. Metacritic is only a sliver of what I look at but it’s score vs. Demon Souls‘ score is indicative of that games’ reaction. It is really, really good but there is something about it that doesn’t quite work.

: Yeah…but Oblivion was clearly influenced by other rpg games, right? Does that make the others better games? What other RPGs have betesthda games influenced? Wouldn’t its influence be seen throughout games which play and feel similar like Oblivion? Bioware says light weight, “fuck it.” Shit…what other RPG developers are there to influence and or compare?

How do you measure influence?

In that case, one could argue that the best game ever is clearly Doom. Shit, that made gaming since it [made] the fps, no?

: Which RPG’s influenced Oblivion? Uh, perhaps Elder Scrolls 1 through 3… You tell me if there are any others and then we can have a discussion about them but until them you’re just speculating and arguing over one bullet point that I never professed to be more important than the others.

About those games influenced by EC: O

How about the Two Worlds series? That isn’t influenced by Oblivion? Witcher? Fallout 1 and 2 looked nothing like Fallout 3. I remember reading a review of Hunted: The Demon Forge that described it as a game that would hold Oblivion fans over until Skyrim. I thought both Deus Ex and Dragon Age had a little Oblivion in it. You don’t think Obsidian Studios was hired to make New Vegas for their ability to use elements of that design in Alpha Protocol? And, one of those Lord of the Rings games had an Oblivion-like design.

The most famous RPG series before Oblivion on consoles were Biowares’ shit and Final Fantasy. When Oblivion came out in — what, 2007 — it was a wrap! Now, if you want to make a hit RPG you have to go with a Bioware or a Bethesda design (why do you think people aren’t feeling Fable anymore?). Hell, even hack & slash RPG’s (which is what the Souls series are) have not adopted that design since 2009. Torchlight? Diablo? Nope.

CHUY: Notice that Alpha Protocol ate cock. Two Worlds ate cock and a half. New Vegas compared to Fall Out: cock. In other words, all that “influence” didn’t achieve the “metacritic” score of Dark. That “influence” didn’t translate to what, according to you, makes a good game: sales, acclaim, etc. Influence, in all the examples you’ve given, matter to what degree? Well, you know. Money. Same shit. Cookie cutter. Wash and repeat. That’s what’s plaguing the industry. You said it best: if you don’t adapt, you lost. In other words, shit starts becoming predictable, feeling the same, and looking the same. Fuck, it’s the equivalent to top 40 music, all sounding the same/looking the same to make a hit.

Therein lies the beauty of Dark. It discards everything. That is what’s so refreshing. It treats the player as though he has the capacity to be independent and think for himself. It trusts that the player is smart enough to figure the puzzle out. It feels revolutionary, a breath of much needed fresh air. Like others have said, it’s the blue pill that really allows you to see where games can be and where games currently are.

It’s a fucking rush. Shit, call it a high. No other “crack” provides that. Once you try that other stuff….man….you wish there was more of it somehow.

I like this article since it talks about design and the pressures of Metacritic.

I can’t wait until you step into the dark, boaiii. Im going to invade your bitch-ass and make you run to that pop shit.

: Sigh… I’ll call this: “Dark Souls isn’t Broken, John. It Just Doesn’t Quite Work”

Plundering the internet for articles that agree with you do not make you or them right. And, it’s counter-productive. One: write your own articles and opinions. And, two: find someone that disagrees so you can understand what’s wrong with the design and your argument. The problem with this article is right below the title, fam: “Opinion: John Dean thinks…”

The fuck is John Dean!?

If you were really paying attention you would have noticed the comments below that terribly predictable article (“Dark Souls is great!” No shit. Now, tell me why it doesn’t quite work. I’ve been reading these type of articles since 2009). Peep. People read through an article PRAISING Dark Souls but actually bothered to leave comments expressing PROBLEMS with it. That should tell you something about the game design. Opinions are split almost right down the middle.

The Souls games moved you…

Here, I’ll put it this way.

In 2007 Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction came out. I loved that game! It came at just the right time for me. I was tired of violent, overly brown, end of the world games that took themselves too serious. Ratchet was fun, funny, colorful and deep in its gameplay. It was the best game of 2007 — for me. The ACTUAL best game that year was easily Bioshock, one of the best games not only this generations but arguably… EVER.

I knew that then. I know that now. I’m not so enamored w/ Ratchet that I don’t see which game achieves its goal better than another game. You can have your best game, but that doesn’t make it the best game, nes pa?

Last, whether the copycats were critical and commercial successes is irrelevant. For some companies they’re cash-ins. How do we make money? Lets copy a design that works. Demon Souls? No, Oblivion. You see where I’m going? There are some bad military shooters out there but nearly every studio has to have one. Why? Because Call of Duty 4 shit on everyone. It was a game changer. Demon Souls was not. Dark Souls? We’ll see.

Also, you neglected to mention anything about Fallout 3. Or, that New Vegas wasn’t [as] good clearly because Bethesda didn’t do it (Obsidian is known for making buggy games). Or, Deus Ex. Or, Dragon Age

Marinate on [these comments], homie:

“Making a game stupidly difficult doesnt mean it deserves to get good marks . Just because you think that current games “hand hold” doesn’t mean you are correct. From what ive seen, it looks “ok” graphics arnt spetacular, the controls are clunky and you are left in the dark for most of the game. The voice acting looks poor, the facial animations looks poor. the narrative doesnt carry the game well.”

“….Can someone explain how a game like this is fun? I get that it’s uncompromising, challenging blah blah blah but where’s the fun in dying over and over again?”

“This pretty much sums up how i feel about competitive online multiplayer gaming.”

“Totaly agree with you, it’s a great game, just as Demon souls was, its 80s gaming updated for this generation…this will keep me going for weeks, I’m not a great games player but i find this game a great challenge and very rewarding, it’s all down to patience and learning. The only problem i have with this game is trying to find time to fit in Skyrim as well.”



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