10 Gaming Franchises That Suffer From Extreme Over-Complication

5. Dark Souls

Good news, if you have an Xbox 360 and Xbox live Gold, you're getting Dark Souls for free in June, and can try it for yourself. The bad news? Clear your schedule. The Dark Souls franchise takes great pride in its obtuse nature and ominous atmosphere, which makes first impressions prickly. The game does a decent enough job introducing you to the mechanics of combat and traversal, presents a wonderfully gothic world Tim Burton could only dream of, but never really gives the skinny on items, stats or the minutiae of the meta elements that tie it all together. Which is fine. An incredible subculture has sprung up around Dark Souls, and there's hundreds of online resources that can get you up to speed, regarding the best approach to tackling this qausi-impenetrable franchise. If you have a friend that's any of the games that's even better. A guide on your journey makes the perilous path far less fraught. But there's something endlessly irksome about having to consult literature or call a friend before you feel comfortable in your own shoes - especially in a game. Because of the Dark Souls' difficult nature, its easy to feel like you're constantly doing something wrong when you can't kill a certain character, or keep dying and needing to retrace your steps for the fifteenth time. Consulting the wiki to see what other people have done makes it easier to progress, but makes you want to play less, it's like reading a history book and constantly needing to flip back to the glossary - it takes out you out the experience. Which is a shame because the combat and contending with your environment leads to a satisfying gameplay loop that's intensely difficult but in a logical and fair way. You'll never say "The computer cheats" when playing Dark Souls. If the game was exclusively just combat and didn't throw dozens of stats and nebulously defined items at you it'd be far more approachable. Beating up a group of six bad guys with barely a sliver of health left is incredibly satisfying and doesn't need the tonnage of stats and weird items with unknown properties to make it good. The Dark Souls games are a marathon in the Mojave, made for the hardest of hardcore. If you're the kind of player who likes challenge in all its forms, fiddling with stat bonus, equipment, managing resources, and truly pouring yourself into a game that gives out as much as you put in, these games are near classics. But for players who are curious what the fuss is about, expect to be frustrated. While you can make your way through the game with no help at all, the omnipresent vibe that you're screwing it all up creates the not-good-kind of gameplay stress. If there was a Dark Souls: Mystic Quest, where the items were less obtuse, the stats more streamlined, and the gameplay just as brutal, 'regular' gamers would eat it up and not even chew - while hardcore gamers across the world foam at the mouth - no doubt taking to twitter to complain about the game losing its guillotine 'edge'.
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Paul is a writer, video producer, gamer, lover, and tie-fighter. E-mail him at MeekinOnMovies@gmail.com.

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