Dark Souls is the greatest game ever made as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve said many times in many venues that I will likely play it until the heat death of the universe. But with a sequel announced, I figured I should delve into the things which could be improved in Dark Souls II, because despite being my favorite game of all time, Dark Souls still has a few flaws which could really use addressing. Beyond that, I have some requests for features which should persist, and minor additions.
So first, the criticisms:
1. Multiplayer Success Rate
Everyone who has played Dark Souls for a serious amount of time is overly familiar with “Summoning Failed!” The multiplayer back end needs a fairly serious overhaul for the sequel. The mechanics can largely stay the same, but it would be nice if the system was more reliable. On that same note, rebalance the multiplayer servers so that you always have a pool of summons to choose from in a given area. It’s frustrating to need a summon for Capra demon and not have any. I get that sometimes other people won’t be playing in that area, but with thousands of people online at a time, it seems unlikely to me that there is ever an extended period where there are no summon signs at all.
2. Let Me Play With My Friends
We’ve been through two iterations of the Souls games now, it’s time to let me play with my friends. Everyone who plays eventually figures out a method of playing with specific people, only it involves jumping through hoops and a ridiculous amount of time investment. The rest of the mechanics can ultimately stay the same, but just have my friends’ summon signs always show up in my game. I can make it happen anyway, but it’s a fifteen minute damper on what should be an immediate and awesome gameplay experience. Keep blocking voice communication though, this doesn’t bother me at all.
3. Performance and Netcode
Must I say Blighttown? Even on the PC version, Blighttown’s performance suffers at times. I love Blighttown as much as I hate it, but I still wish I could run it at a nice and smooth framerate. Some of the boss fights can occasionally chug the framerate too, and that’s just not good for anyone. The netcode is pretty terrible both for PVP and Coop. It would be great to see a big improvement in that area.
4. Provide Clearer Statistics.
One of the metagames in Dark Souls is the extreme level of stat optimization. So please, let me see some numbers that are very clear about how much damage a weapon does relative to other weapons. It would also be nice to have a direct readout of how much weight you have left for the various encumbrance levels. I have to do so much math when optimizing my equipment weight. It’s tiring!
5. Make All Upgrade Paths Worthwhile
The upgrade system provided by Dark Souls was vastly better than Demon’s Souls, so keep it up. In Dark Souls II, I’d like to see all upgrade paths be worthwhile to pursue depending on your build. For instance, boss weapons and drops make for great play, but it would be worthwhile if there was a reason to stick with Divine or Magic/Enchanted paths. Did anyone ever use Raw for anything other than an achievement?
6. Learn From Your PC Mistakes
Make sure that the PC version properly supports PC features out of the box. Yes, the excellent PC community can fix your mistakes, but they shouldn’t have to. I am grateful for the contribution of people like the guy who made DSFix and the community which maintains it now, but I would be more grateful for a game that worked immediately on purchase.
7. Improve the AI
It would be great if in Dark Souls II, you couldn’t simply circle around every enemy and backstab them. I’m not asking for all enemies to be excruciatingly difficult, but it would be nice if it felt like I earned a chance via an enemy mistake, and less like I can simply move freely around them.
8. Tweak Covenants
Some of the covenants in Dark Souls are borderline non-functional, and it would be nice for their gameplay systems to be balanced such that every covenant is of more use. There shouldn’t be covenants that everyone avoids because the mechanic for levelling up in them is effectively broken. It would also be nice for every covenant to have perks at all levels. I’m still not sure what the benefit of higher levels in the Forest Covenant is.
Now, on to things which should be kept:
1. Keep the Bonfire System
This is probably one of the most interesting additions I’ve ever seen to a game, and I absolutely love the kind of gameplay it fosters. It strikes the perfect balance of allowing people to learn, minimizing frustration and difficulty, and negating the benefit of turtling through the game.
2. Keep the Seamless World
The continuity of the world in Dark Souls is one of the most impressive things I have seen in recent history, and it allows for a ridiculous amount of immersion. Whenever I take a moment to breathe and look at the scenery (PRAISE THE SUN!), it always amazes me that I can see other parts of the game, and to know that the game isn’t cheating in some fashion.
3. Continue to Embrace Sequence Breaks
The amount of sequence breaks in Dark Souls, and the fact that none of them break the game, including the spectacular one in Duke’s Archives where you can skip the first encounter with Seath, and the entire jail escape sequence at the same time. That the game carries on without breaking is amazing, and allows for so much player agency and wonder. It also kind of blows my mind how many bosses I can simply skip when I have a particular goal in mind. Taurus demon? Does anyone even fight him anymore?
4. Keep to Passive Storytelling
It is refreshing to play games where the story isn’t flung in your face at every turn. It’s also nice to have a story which is enigmatic and requires a lot of community effort to decipher. I think it’s very cool that the complete back story to the game is only now being hashed out by fans.
5. Don’t Break the Combat
The combat system is the best I have ever encountered in a game, and I largely feel there’s not a lot of mechanical improvement to be had. Everything works great, and the mechanics are flawless. Sure, it could use some extra variety in kill animations, but that’s minor and won’t affect the gameplay itself. It also might be worth exploring what would happen if riposte and backstabs didn’t make you invulnerable.
And finally, some general improvements which would make an already great game better:
1. Make the Environment Even More Important
Dark Souls allows for some brilliant use of the environment, from causing armored boars to fling themselves against a nearby fire, to dropping gates on enemies, or luring enemies near a height advantage for drop attacks. It would be great to see even more of this, perhaps even allowing the player some limited climbing abilities and playing even more with height variations in some levels. More traps that can be used for or against the player. It would even be nice to have combat involve the environment, with slamming enemies against walls, or the player being bashed against them, could allow for some interesting dynamic elements.
2. Allow Communities on PC
One of the biggest problems with the PC community for Dark Souls is the amount of hacking going on. It would be nice if you could set up specific communities, where all match making would pull primarily from that community, so you can control who you play with on a slightly higher level. At the very least, allow for some kind of blacklisting mechanic so that the community can police themselves against hackers.
3. More DLC!
I love Dark Souls and the DLC for it was fantastic. Ultimately I would love if there were regular large DLC updates to expand on the world and allow for even more gameplays and strategies over time. Frankly, I am of the opinion that we don’t even need a Dark Souls II; From Software could simply have released DLC forever and I would have been happy. I hope they make use of that route in the sequel.
4. Even More Variety
Sometimes Dark Souls feels like that joke picture of the Swiss Army Knife with one hundred functions, and that is what I love about it. More! More! More weapons, more armor, more flexibility within those groups. It would also be nice to have even more spells, and spell functionality. More flexibility with area of effect attacks would be nice, as would more utility spells.
5. Bring Back World Tendency
This one will be controversial, but I loved the world tendency system in Demon’s Souls. However, I felt that its biggest problem was being difficult and tedious to manipulate. I would love to see it return, but I would prefer for tendency to be largely driven by either developer controlled events, or tied to something cyclical, like day of the week or time of the year. It wouldn’t hurt if it could be influenced by mass player actions as well. Just make sure that it doesn’t rely on playing flawlessly or killing yourself repeatedly, okay?
That’s my Dark Souls II wishlist. I guess I should add: Can I please have it for Christmas? I’ve been a good boy.
Oh, and one last thing. Don’t market the game based on how difficult it is. It is not a difficult game, in the common sense of videogames, and marketing it that way just chases off potential fans. I know a lot of people who won’t even play games they consider hard who have put hundreds of hours into Dark Souls because they love it so much. There’s no reason you should be lying to people and telling them the game is something it is not.