About Us | Game Reviews | Feature Articles | Podcast | Best Work | Forums | Shop | Review Game

Why Demon's Souls isn't GOTY material and other strange tales

Matthew Kaplan's picture

Demon's Souls Screenshot

Forgive this bit of Scroogery on Christmas (hey, it's not my holiday).  I'm mostly reacting to Gamespot picking Demon's Souls over Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as Game of the Year for 2009.

It's a positive reaction to the action-RPG title that I've seen elsewhere, so I'm not entirely surprised. But I also feel it's the latest in a series of hyperbolic reactions calling the game "new" and "inventive," when what I really think people are reacting to—both positively and negatively—is the game's difficulty.

Here is my disclaimer: I did not finish Demon's Souls. I did not have the endurance nor the affordance of time to do so. I spent roughly nine hours on the game, about what it takes to finish your average console adventure, simply completing about three and a half stages (and I don't mean all of world 1 or all of world 2... I mean, for example, 1-1, 1-2, and 2-1).

But here is my other disclaimer for this post: I really liked it. I think Demon's Souls does what it sets out to do very well. It's beautiful, atmospheric, straightforward, and provides a level of achievement for doing even the most meaningless tasks that most RPGs do not for completion of their main quest.

Yet this latter trait is what I would call a side-effect of, not the main impetus for, the game's difficulty structure. Recently, I observed an argument on Twitter between a few bloggers whom I follow regarding Zero Punctuation's slamming of the game. The gist of the disagreement was that Ben Croshaw did not fairly evaluate the game because he lacked the skills and, I'm guessing, fairness to spend more time with it than he did. I assume a similar criticism can be levied against me.

I'm not sure to what extent you can take anything Croshaw says with more than a grain of salt. He's a humorist first and foremost, and it's hard not to smile as he rails into a game, even one you admire. The man is nothing if not a salty and vulgar insult comic that loves to dig into the finer flaws of modern video games. But I find there's always a certain amount of truth underlying Croshaw's zingers, and his review of Demon's Souls was no exception. Croshaw finds, as I do, that the system of sending you back to the beginning of a level with all enemies reset feels artificial.

Let's examine the reasons for creating such a system. And no, "masochism" is not one of them. We'll take this quite seriously. Fans of the game (or the King's Field series on which it is based) will say that such a system is in place because it better attunes a player to the raw challenge of the game: It encourages players to take their time examining the craftsmanship of the level, its devious enemy placement and assortment of traps. Stranding the player back at the beginning of the level with fewer items and "souls" (the game's currency) places greater importance on the one thing the player has gained in his/her previous attempt: knowledge. Applying that knowledge in such a way that it allows a player to overcome seemingly insuperable obstacles is what accounts for much of the elation experienced by the game's fans. It is truly a form of game-system mastery.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Screenshot

And here is the opposing criticism: It artificially extends the lifespan of the game. Imagine how much shorter a game Demon's Souls would be if you could start a level over with all destroyed demons gone. Again, proponents of the game's difficulty would argue that this is essentially draining the game of its essence, but the player would still have a chance to experience every trap, every bit of graphical detail and atmosphere... just on a smaller scale. And I mean much smaller.

In my own experiences with the game, I elected to go with a Barbarian character. The lack of usable armor and weapons pretty much doomed my experience with the game from the get-go, although there is no way I would have known this without consulting websites or strategy guides beforehand. Isn't there something to be said for the fact that the Barbarian class exists in the game? That I was drawn to the idea of playing the role of this sort of character? This is a "role-playing" game, after all, no? Yet in the nine subsequent hours in which I ponderously crept through a few levels and got hung up on a boss, I had little to show for my supposed accomplishments. Only nine hours of spent time.

I appreciate Demon's Souls. I admire those who have the willpower and fortitude to stick with it. Perhaps at hour 20 the game becomes something quite manipulable, and the player starts to go back to old haunts simply to experience the satisfaction of dominating foes that once caused grief. I can imagine the immense satisfaction of overcoming obstacles and immense bosses I had not witnessed in my supposedly "brief" time with the game.

But that's the thing: Nine hours isn't brief. Not at all. And like Croshaw must have, I started to do a cost-benefit analysis of those nine hours in my mind. The structure of the game undid itself: It was the game's own worst enemy. Starting at the beginning each time, no matter what new shortcuts opened up, meant an additional investment of real-life time that I shouldn't have had to experience. Why? Because there's the unavoidable fact that the person playing those roles is a real human with real responsibilities. Because I appreciate a game that appreciates MY time just as much as I appreciate the overcoming of an obstacle and game mastery. And Demon's Souls does not appreciate its players. 100-hour games like the Elder Scrolls titles make those hours fly by because the game does masterful work to send you in without constantly pulling you back out. The same cannot be said of Demon's Souls. But then, Demon's Souls is a very different type of game... for very different players.

It is a pandora's box waiting to be enjoyed, admired, unraveled. But it leaves an indelible mark of time on its players. It exists, not to be entered, not to immerse the player, but to be planned-out, strategized, gazed at from afar before being conquered with a killing stroke (or luck). Every time I was plucked from the game due to a clipping error (I remember a particular part in which I kept on being killed by dogs who nipped at me from beyond a staircase wall) or unwieldy combat controls, I was left to, not feel immersed in the intricate game world, but rather stare at my clock near the PS3. The game said, "challenge." The clock, unfortunately, said, "You have other things to do." And sadly that is a very real cost-benefit analysis that every gamer on Earth must come to terms with. Even if it means missing out on some very pretty, very interesting game content.

Demon's Souls Screenshot

The reason I can extend my own cost-benefit analysis to other gamers, however, is for three simple reasons having to do more with the nature of Demon's Souls than with my own time allowance: 1.) It is not an immersive experience. 2.) It is not a role-playing game. 3.) There's really nothing very new or inventive about it.

Demon's Souls revels in taking a player out of the gameplay experience. Again, rather than immerse the player in its stunningly crafted world, the game is meant to shock the player out of immersion. The player is always beholden to the design, not the other way around. Nothing about the game outside of aesthetics and the mere idea of "conquering a challenge" is designed in service to the player.

Thus, it is not a role-playing game. There are no roles to be played, save one: the one that manages to get the player from point A to point B with the least amount of grief. Role-playing games, as I understand the term, are about immersion and fantasy. Yet Demon's Souls makes you aware of its contrivance at every turn, from the drawn out spectacle of its bosses to the artificially inflated difficulty and length.

Lastly, there's nothing really inventive about any of this. Not unless you consider the whole "starting out with all the enemies reset" new. And even then, it's not. Such a system is a relic of the NES and Commodore 64 era, when design limitations rendered such repetitive challenges rote. Perhaps it affords modern players a chance to experience the delights of conquering previously frustrating challenges, yes, but it is not in and of itself anything new.

You can point to the notes system, which is little more than a makeshift strategy guide filled with joyless spoilers and often useless dribble. You can point to the sometimes cooperative and combative nature of the online features, which are largely supplementary. But they adorn a game that is, at its core, a 3D version of the Ghosts 'n Goblins series. Take that as a compliment or insult if you wish, but let it stand as an observation regarding Demon's Souls core gameplay: It's something very old indeed.

And so I come back to my own time cost-benefit analysis, extended now to the larger populace of video game players: Is each hour of Demon's Souls worth it? It may seem a ridiculously subjective question to ask of so many individuals, all at once, and in many ways it is. Yet this is the sort of question that game reviewers and critics ask implicitly and explicitly all the time. And this is my best guess: No. It is a good game. A very good game. But it requires a preponderance of time not at all equal to the amount of pleasure that can be derived from its uniqueness, sense of immersion, or inherent delight. It is grinding incarnate. But then, here's the catch: Not every game player values those things. And those players who do not, and who do value the singular moments in which a particularly tough game seems to bend to the player's will... those players love Demon's Souls. I'm not one to disagree with that kind of logic, even if it's not mine. I do not own a level 80 character with superior armor and mount in World of Warcraft. I have not completed the original Final Fantasy. I am not beholden to the grind. For me, it is largely the antithesis of why I play video games: to experience something joyful and special.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Screenshot

It's worth repeating at this point that this is a game I liked. Those nine hours, misspent and offputting as they were, allowed me to experience a taste of what I think other people see in it. And that taste grew into appreciation. And despite the constant drain on my nerve and willpower, I saw in the game many of the same outstanding qualities that others have: the gorgeous graphics, the chilling atmosphere, the elegantly simple hack-and-slash interface (albeit saddled with some ineffective dodge controls). It is undoubtedly a well crafted game.

But it is also a game that defies the praise that has been heaped upon it, let alone labels of "dark fantasy RPG" and "innovative adventure game." I don't write this to discredit or undermine others' enjoyment of the title. Who am I to argue that someone else did not enjoy Demon's Souls more than any other game this year? Only the person in question knows how they feel about a game.

On the other hand, if one is trying as hard as possible to build a semi-objective comparison between the qualities of, say, Demon's Souls and those of critical darling (and my own pick for GOTY) Uncharted 2, there are some stark differences to be noted. Both games succeed at doing what they set out to do: Demon's Souls is an action game for players with time and patience. Uncharted 2 is a cinematic action spectacle. They're both equal parts straightforward A-to-B romps and intricately detailed gamescapes.

Here is the sad fact of the matter, however: Neither game is anything really innovative or new. I've already made this case for Demon's Souls. Uncharted 2 is largely the same game as its predecessor, although that can be seen as a plus given that the first title was quite stellar in its own right. And the same "complaint" can be levied against many of the so-called "GOTY usual suspects": Assassin's Creed 2 possesses many of the flaws and strengths of its predecessor while adding on a lengthier quest and some meager side distractions. New Super Mario Bros. Wii revels in nostalgia and classic gameplay. You'd have a hard time convincing me that Dragon Age isn't the same BioWare game they've been making for almost a decade, complete with spectacular dialogue and laborious party management.

If any two games truly innovated their genres this year, I would argue that those two games are Dead Space Extraction and Half-Minute Hero. But nothing in me really wants to call either of those games "best." Dead Space is wonderful but it is also somewhat insubstantial, weighed down by many of the constraints plaguing the light gun genre. Half-Minute Hero is as much a lightweight distraction as it is a joyous re-imagining of the JRPG.

This suggests the question central to my post and its (likely) incendiary title: What exactly makes a game "best" of the year? A nebulous range of criteria, to be sure. Here is my best stab at answering an undoubtedly precarious question: The best game in a given year is that which is most likely to both reward and delight, and to the largest degree, those who experience it. That isn't to say that reward cannot lead to a sense of delight, nor that delight isn't itself a kind of reward. Rather, I consider reward to be a sense of accomplishment, and delight to be the carrot that dangles in front of the head, leading one towards accomplishment. And yes, even games that do not seem on the surface "delightful" (e.g., Manhunt or the board game Train) can delight in the sense of offering new ways of seeing the world or new forms of introspection.

Demon's Souls Screenshot

In that sense, Demon's Souls has the reward part down. Down cold. The game is all about challenge and reward. Delight? Well, you've read what I have to say.

Uncharted 2, while by no means anything new or genre-busting, is a fully-formed game of reward and delight. The plethora of spectacle and surprise (namely the sequences in which you are tasked with input while seemingly cinematic events unfold—the falling of a bus or the destruction of a building) delight... the challenge, length, story, and multiplayer reward.

Ideally, the year would have yielded a game like Metal Gear Solid 4 or Fallout 3 that combines a great sense of reward and delight with something genre-bending (in the case of MGS4, the octocam suits and vivid blurring of cinema and gameplay; in the case of Fallout 3, open-world gameplay mixed with an inventive and deep combat system). But it didn't. So I'd argue that the best we have is Uncharted 2 (which is still pretty damn good).

This is the part where I defend Uncharted 2 against what I consider to be largely unfair criticism: It's a cinematic game. So the hell what?

There seems to be a misunderstanding or bit of fallacious reasoning in some critical circles that games are so much a beast apart from cinema and literature that anything resembling those media in modern games is leading to some kind of game design apocalypse... or at the very least, a lack of ingenuity.

Why is this incorrect? Because it would be just as unreasonable to assume that gaming as a medium has developed in a vacuum as it would be to ignore that it is in many ways a medium apart. Games are a product of a blended, synthetic culture. Modern movies incorporate aspects of interactivity and gamesmanship, just as the classic Atari games invoked cinematic spectacle. And games like King's Field and Demon's Souls are nothing if not interactive references to high-fantasy literature. You are welcome to argue that narrative can sometimes take precedent over gameplay; the mistake would be to argue that the two are somehow self-contained in all of modern gaming. Some games, yes. Not all. And even those games that lack distinct narrative possess undeniably literary or cinematic qualities.

Video games are what they are because of their relationship to previously existing media, not in spite of it. Literature, comics, film... all sorts of classical narrative development... are inextricable from the DNA of video games.

So why the urge to punish Uncharted 2 for marrying the cinematic roots of gaming with enjoyable immersion that cannot be found in a movie? What's there is undeniably game. It is no more a movie than Night Trap is a role-playing game.

More importantly, people obviously enjoy what's there. Why the backlash? Why the need to dismiss what is obviously a great achievement in game design? It's as if the great horde of players who enjoy their time with Uncharted 2 have indulged in a kind of digital transfat that is impoverishing or cheapening the whole of video game production.

To say that something like Demon's Souls is somehow more of a game than Uncharted 2 seems to me a form of critical elitism. They're both interactive. Neither one is particularly innovative. Both are undeniably deferential to the roots of modern gaming.

I simply feel that Uncharted 2 offers greater quantities of reward and delight. That it does so with a nod and a wink to Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones is part of the charm (or at worst an inoffensive footnote to the gameplay), not a major detraction.

Category Tags
Platform(s): PS3  
Developer(s): Naughty Dog   From Software  
Series: Uncharted   Demon's Souls  

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Great post by the way. :) I

Great post by the way. :)

I had made the assumption that many people didn't enjoy the cinematic qualities of Unchartered 2, not just because of its amazing set-pieces that made you feel like you're in a movie.

But also its way of passing through the game from area to area in a very scripted fashion, without any difficulty of any kind. If you don't know where to go, the characters will end up telling you. The climbing sequences, are built in such an obvious way, that no difficulty exists in the climbing, but maybe that's just because I don't like scripted climbing events.

The shooting sequences are the parts that break it up, but to me it felt like the developers tried to fix the feeling of scriptedness, and fill it with continuous shooting, which in my opinion, backfires because of it's repetitiveness with no variety.

To me, the scripted environment this game is filled with, gives the feeling that you're merely an observant of these characters, which makes it feel like a movie.

If a challenge appears in a scripted game, then that makes it feel more like a game and not a movie. But since you get used to the shooting in Unchartered, which generally is pretty easy to get used, it gets repetitive very fast, at least for me.

On the other hand with Demon Souls, I do somewhat agree with the ideas you present about its gameplay and its dificulty. I don't think Demon Souls should be GOTY, though it is definitely a great game and should be heralded with some type of award. I do understand that this game represents a realistic law of cause and effect (you know, if you kill the zombie incorrectly, it was probably your fault). But the whole, once-you-die-you-start-back-in-the beginning thing is too old school for me.

Difficulty should be present in things like level design, fighting mechanics (which I think worked in Demon Souls), Item Placement and so on, and not on the actual system of the game.

Anyway, that's what I think.

Demon's souls has it owns

Demon's souls has it owns rules, somewhat realistic ones, dare I say it. You miss a slash, you're enemy steps forwards, stabs you and you die. You either accept it or you don't. If you ask anyone who finished it, they will probably tell you that, really, it's not that hard. You just have to learn the ramifications of its language. It has a complex organic entity that wraps you in, never letting you go, as long as you want to understand it. It's probably a question of taste, and you probably dislike the bleak and despaired nature of the game, but saying that it doesn't immerse the player is simply not true, IMO. It didn't affect you probably because you were too concentrated on its aforementioned difficulty, compromising your ability to unravel its intricacies.

I never, never played the game thinking about its harshness - I understood what it wanted from me and I had the willingness and, yes, time to give it. Let me put it this way, after finishing it for the first time, I started a new game with a different character, a magician (apparently a tough one to start with) and I died about 4 or 5 times on my entire new playthrough, conquering all levels on human form (I also did it because of level and character tendency). Basically, I played it in a totally different way, with distinct tactics, armors and weapons and realized that there are numerous strategies to conquer this infernal world.

So, regarding lifespan, imagine Uncharted without its interminable action-shooting - probably 1 hour of jumping and 1 hour of cinematics. Cinema... Oh, how I adore to see that term in all Uncharted reviews. Thing is, it's cinema allright, but it's the worst part - babes, guns, shooting, explosions, machismo, corny sexual innuendos, stereotypes and a bit more shooting.

Anyway, you can't judge a game on the time it asks you to play it. Do 9 hours make justice to any RPG? I never thought I was wasting time with DS. In every minute of it there's a new understanding, a new thrill, a new realization that lead to this everlasting almost unbearable tension that you must face. Without the imminent threat (it is almost as you're fighting with your heart on your bare hands), the game would be uncharacterized from its unparalleled appeal - the courage it has to present an hellish vision of a kingdom invaded by an unspeakable and indestructible evil.

And how can you say that Uncharted 2 is being backlashed when it has won more than 10 GOTY awards to this moment. Come on, we all now it's the loved game of the year. I really don't get where that comes from. However, If U2 never innovates (and there's no problem with that, really), Demon's Souls innovation comes from its pace, from how it presents a medieval hell-on-earth setting without the fear of intimidating and crushing you, from its silence, from the economy of its soundtrack, from its hypnotic secrets, from a coherent and unique aesthetic presentation. It gives you a world with a life of its own. Something that rarely happens. And when it does, it's magical (and I'm not even going to mention its groundbreaking multiplayer).

In the end, though, I think it's all about taste and genre and not difficulty.

Responses

@Cybrmynd: Thank you, and thank you for the reply. I can see what you're saying about Uncharted 2... I think the difference for me is that what you would likely call "hand-holding" is what I call an "organic" way of showing the player how to progress in a linear level design. To me, it's no more passive a way of playing than following the right-arrow signs in Final Fight or taking contextual clues into account while playing the (admittedly very linear) Half-Life 2. This is perhaps a very simple disagreement of perspective, and I can easily see how linear game design might make you feel like a spectator more than an active participant... but I felt very immersed due to the fun gunplay, great visual detail, identifiable characters, and so on.

@ckzatwork: I think you make some very valid points. I'm sorry if I made it seem as if Uncharted 2 was being picked on by the entire gaming media; that was not my intention. I think I even called the game a "critical darling." Rather, I was responding to some criticism in critical circles (and even that found on this very website) that Uncharted 2 was too "cinematic" a game. Regarding your criticism that it's the worst parts of cinema: I would argue that it is merely following the genre cues of the pulp adventure, which features the elements you name. That said, I find Nathan Drake to be an extremely likeable and identifiable hero, perhaps because I have the extra experience of following him through his first adventure... in which he had a much broader character arc. I would admit that Uncharted 2 features a much greater focus on plot than its predecessor, and it may come at some cost to character development and subtlety. However, I really didn't mind when the characters are portrayed with such convincing pathos via the tightly written script and charming voice acting. By the time the end credits rolled, I felt extremely satisfied with the development of Drake's relationship with both Elena and Chloe. I didn't feel that any of the relationships in the game are cheap or pulpy, even on the level of your average Indiana Jones film.

Can't say I agree with your

Can't say I agree with your comment that the game's difficulty "artificially extends" the game. That IS the game. It's not artificially making it longer - there's nothing artificial about the difficulty. It's supposed to be hard, and dying and learning and getting better is where a lot of the fun comes from. My third time through the game I rarely died and rushed through most stages without exploring, and it only took about 10 hours (still a decent length). This isn't a game that I think the developers were really thinking to make it harder just to make the game longer - it's just a hard game that's supposed to kick your ass, and it appeals to gamers that like getting their asses kicked, as long as it's fair (which it is). It's a hard game, but it's also a really fun one not BECAUSE it's hard, but because the difficulty makes you really consider all the options and tools and toys at your disposal. Some can't get past the difficulty which is understandable, but if it grabs you, it doesn't let go.

I do see your point and totally agree with you about Uncharted 2 though - although I probably had more fun playing Demon's Souls, Uncharted 2's perfect marriage of action movie and video game makes for a hell of a great experience, and I'm a bit tired of comments about games being "too much like movies" or whatever. As long as I'm having a lot of fun, who cares? Games don't all have to fit into one category - you can do a ton of things within the medium, and I'm all for developers taking advantage of that to give you a unique experience. There's plenty of room for the Metal Gear Solids and the Demon's Souls in the video game bucket.

I had to stop reading this

I had to stop reading this article half-way through because the author just doesn't seem to get it. Just as Demon's Souls attempts to foster immersion, it simply demands it. It also demands mastery, and it requires it through repetition. It's quite obvious that this is a challenge the author is not capable of meeting.

The author made some valid points about the game's environment. On many different occasions, I've slid across relatively flat surfaces to my death. There also seems to be an occasional odd step backwards when turning around that can send you off a cliff. Some enemies are able to clip through barriers and attack you, like those damned fire lizards; others can clip through their own friends to attack you, making an encounter with multiple enemies extremely dangerous.

Certainly, the game has its bugs, but the author's other arguments are largely subjective. I had no problems with immersion. I found myself completely sucked in, and yet I still found the time to complete all my courses this semester. The fact that the author found nothing within the game he could consider inventive makes me question whether or not he should be reviewing them. He clearly lacks the knowledge and understanding to be a critic, and this entire article can be summed up with the statement 'It's not worthy of being Gamespot's game of the year because I couldn't find enough time to play it'.

Additionally, you didn't have the time to play the game but you had the time to write this dreadfully long article?

You'd lead by an example of

You'd lead by an example of "better understanding" by arguing the points of the review and not the personal observations, Lun4tic.

Thanks for the reply,

Thanks for the reply, Matthew.

I guess that what bothered me most about your article is the suggestion that a game can't be GOTY, because it lacks universal appeal. It's an extremely subjective and individual concept to begin with -and, personally, it's unjustifiable. As the year ends, different games are being chosen as the game that stands out, even if the usual suspects aren't more than 3 or 4. For example, I'm shocked that Machinarium isn't making part of those lists, except for the IGF excellence in visual art award. But I would never suggest that other games aren't GOTY material.

For the group of people working at Gamespot, Demon's Souls stood out. And I'm happy because of it. It's an extremely deep game, made with love and dedication, whose developers weren't aiming for high sales or or magazine covers. It has evident qualities to be a GOTY to a specific group of people. Heck, its universe is so rich that I easily imagine it being someone's favorite title ever. However, don't you worry, this won't eclipse Uncharted's visibility.

As for Drake, I'm going to tell you a secret, something that I recently realized. He physically reminds me of someone who I worked with. An homophobic and fascist wanna be gigolo. And unfortunately, I can't shake that from my head. The fact that Drake doesn't do nothing in game to prove that he is not an exact replica of my former work colleague, conditions my experience with it. As such, I don't relate to the character, at all. I have an infinite other problems with the game, but because of that association, I will always be biased towards it. Regardless of this, and since the game is transversely worshiped, I would never argue that it isn't GOTY material to anyone. Tastes and experiences are relative and you can't question the legitimacy of anyone's preference, or minimize their weight and importance.

Pretty much completely in agreement

Holy shit, man, get out of my brain! This post encompasses a lot of the things I've been thinking about lately. It really bothers me when people put down Uncharted for being "more movie than game", which is literally untrue. Someone commented to that effect on my personal blog, and I asked him to elaborate on his reasoning, but he never bothered. Oh well.

But it's true that there wasn't much along the lines of innovation this year, at least among the console releases. What games this year really tried something new? Just Flower? As much as I love Uncharted 2, I also want to see new ideas, which is why MGS4 and Mirror's Edge were two of my favorite games from last year. But this year seems to have been more about refinement.

Thanks also for outlining why I haven't picked up Demon's Souls, despite action-RPGs being my favorite genre out there, and further validating that decision. It has taken me over a month to play through AC2--I simply don't have the time or patience that sort of game demands.

@ckzatwork I really have to disagree that Uncharted is all about babes, machismo, etc. Drake may attempt machismo posturing, but his companions are quick to call him out on it, almost constantly undermining him with jokes at his expense or simply out-badassing him. Elena and Chloe both do this particularly well, especially when they team up on him toward the end of the game ("Watch this, Elena, he'll probably break something."). And how anyone can say the women in the game are reduced to action-movie babes is really beyond me. It has better writing and characterization than the movies it emulates (which may be faint praise, but still). Some of the characters may be based on adventure movie archetypes, but the dialogue fleshes them out considerably; the only character who is truly a stereotype is the villain, Lazarovich.

Alex R wrote: Holy shit,

Alex R wrote:

Holy shit, man, get out of my brain! This post encompasses a lot of the things I've been thinking about lately. It really bothers me when people put down Uncharted for being "more movie than game", which is literally untrue. Someone commented to that effect on my personal blog, and I asked him to elaborate on his reasoning, but he never bothered. Oh well.

On our podcast we talked about elements that make video games compelling and unique as an art form like choices, consequences, progression and reward. Uncharted 2 didn't have any of those things or any real choices that felt satisfying beyond what gun to use during a fire fight. In the much talked about action set pieces in UC2, the player is never in any real danger. Even in the sequences where the player can die, the checkpoints ensure that death is of little consequence. That makes the action gameplay unsatisfying (similar to Halo). A better game would make the action interactive and not just a theme park thrill ride.

Alex R wrote:

But it's true that there wasn't much along the lines of innovation this year, at least among the console releases. What games this year really tried something new? Just Flower?

Demon's Souls is one of the more progressive games of the year.

Alex R wrote:

Thanks also for outlining why I haven't picked up Demon's Souls, despite action-RPGs being my favorite genre out there, and further validating that decision. It has taken me over a month to play through AC2--I simply don't have the time or patience that sort of game demands.

Difficulty is in the eye of the beholder. While it only took me about 10 hours to beat UC2, I would never want to play it again and would gladly suffer through another 50 hours of Demon's Souls. So would you play Demon Soul's no one mentioned the soul crushing difficulty? The high learning/adjustment curve doesn't really change what makes the game so good. If you're a fan of the genre and you go into it without any preconceptions, I think you'd love it. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts when you do.

Alex R wrote:

@ckzatwork I really have to disagree that Uncharted is all about babes, machismo, etc. Drake may attempt machismo posturing, but his companions are quick to call him out on it, almost constantly undermining him with jokes at his expense or simply out-badassing him. Elena and Chloe both do this particularly well, especially when they team up on him toward the end of the game ("Watch this, Elena, he'll probably break something."). And how anyone can say the women in the game are reduced to action-movie babes is really beyond me. It has better writing and characterization than the movies it emulates (which may be faint praise, but still). Some of the characters may be based on adventure movie archetypes, but the dialogue fleshes them out considerably; the only character who is truly a stereotype is the villain, Lazarovich.

Although some of the characters in UC2 avoid stereotypes, they are still rather cliche. Using the standard for good characters applied in the popular YouTube video of SW Episode I, there isn't a heck of a lot that really interesting about any of the characters. The only thing we learn about Drake in UC2 is that he doesn't think too far ahead, which is a trait of like *all* action heroes. We never understand Choloe's motivations for playing both sides other than the new guy being a jerk and Elena is reduced to a damsel in distress in the end. Contrast this with Dragon Age and its like night and day.

Look, I'm not going to

Look, I'm not going to rehash Matt's blog post. He already laid out the arguments against the criticisms of UC2 and Demon's Souls supposed innovation rather convincingly. All I'll say is that comparing the characterization in UC2 to Dragon Age is pretty ridiculous. UC2 probably had less than a tenth of the space of Dragon Age to establish and develop its characters, and it did a damn good job with that space. It's apples and oranges.

Great post Matthew. I am

Great post Matthew. I am much of the same mind as you and Alex. I think UC2 deserves the praise it's gotten.

Chi, when you say stuff like "death is of little consequence. That makes the action gameplay unsatisfying," you gotta own those statements a little more. Just because you felt unsatisfied, doesn't change the fact that a lot of people, myself included, felt extremely satisfied.

I have no problem with you disliking the game, but don't try to tell me that I didn't find it satisfying. :-) Hell, I'm on my third helping.

Brandon Erickson

Brandon Erickson wrote:

Just because you felt unsatisfied, doesn't change the fact that a lot of people, myself included, felt extremely satisfied.

I have no problem with you disliking the game, but don't try to tell me that I didn't find it satisfying. :-) Hell, I'm on my third helping.

That goes both ways. Matthew's article has the sole purpose of defining his experience with DS as the true one. Unfortunately, he only convinced me that he didn't have the energy, time or skill to play it.

Anyway, it saddens me that these type of discussions always end up with two barricaded groups shooting at each other. There are so many factors that can limit your experience with a game that people should be more open to different appreciations.

Agreed

Alex R wrote:

All I'll say is that comparing the characterization in UC2 to Dragon Age is pretty ridiculous. UC2 probably had less than a tenth of the space of Dragon Age to establish and develop its characters, and it did a damn good job with that space. It's apples and oranges.

I haven't played either UC game (or Demon's Souls for that matter) but this pretty much took the words right out of my mouth. It really doesn't take tons of dialog to develop character, as can be seen in games like Aquaria or Machinarium. Not that having lots of dialog is bad (it works wonderfully in games like DA), but the story has to suit the game type.

hmm

Very nice article, despite my disagreements.

biggest problem is;
UC2 is more cinema than game, to which you say, "So the hell what?"

It's a terrible movie. Gameplay is innocuous, difficulty silly easy, reward a terrible movie. Ok to play through once because I like playing games, but it's simplistic (females with perfect bodies making fun of male pig and everyone ends up happy...very clever and progressive, narratively and in terms of gender politics) popcorn. I like 2012 alright, but I'd much rather watch...

Same with UC2 and DS. UC2's priorities lie with narrative and spectacle (both of which can and have been provided by movies that are much better than this one), which finally leaves me cold and unengaged.

Demon's Souls demands focused engagement, you have to pick up on all the subtle undulations, each level breathing with different attitudes, requiring variegating approaches.

DS is like a blank slate (more form than content), necessitating your input and constant interpretation. UC2 is the opposite, it's always ahead of you, concrete, basically blah.

That said, I liked reading your post because it demonstrates well the wonderful multiplicty of perspective, even though you attempt to present "semi objective" material, ha. I like that.

The biggest tragedy about

The biggest tragedy about Demon's Souls is that it has been widely characterized as having its difficulty be the only noteworthy or innovative aspect to the game.

Demon's Souls does more than just "be hard" and as others have said, the difficulty is a direct result of not understanding the game's language. To approach DS as if it were a typical Action RPG is almost like playing Fight Night with a steering wheel controller. It's not really a game about skill or tenacity, but one of understanding, and to anyone who has successfully interpreted it, the outstanding and unique qualities of the game are self-evident.

UC2 is a great, fun game, and will be remembered for a long time as a high-octane blasterpiece. Demon's Souls, on the other hand, has carved out its own niche in the world of videogames, which is an accomplishment that only gets harder as the medium evolves, and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand because it also happens to be a difficult game to learn.

Richard Naik wrote: I

Richard Naik wrote:

I haven't played either UC game (or Demon's Souls for that matter) but this pretty much took the words right out of my mouth. It really doesn't take tons of dialog to develop character, as can be seen in games like Aquaria or Machinarium. Not that having lots of dialog is bad (it works wonderfully in games like DA), but the story has to suit the game type.

That's exactly my point. I agree that it doesn't take tons of dialog to develop a character so I don't see why UC2 gets a pass for not establishing any real motivation *relative* to the length of the game. I know the comparison sounds a little out there given the natures of the two genres, but if you think about it proportionately, there are more characters in Dragon Age, but you don't spend 60 hours with the same characters. Even for a 10 hour game, that's plenty of time to do a character properly especially one that fancies itself as being movie-like and character-rich.

Alex, I'd also like to read more about why you think the characters in UC2 are well-done beyond the stereotypes as you said in your review. For me, having characters sound more human than your average game isn't enough for me.

Brandon Erickson

Brandon Erickson wrote:

Chi, when you say stuff like "death is of little consequence. That makes the action gameplay unsatisfying," you gotta own those statements a little more. Just because you felt unsatisfied, doesn't change the fact that a lot of people, myself included, felt extremely satisfied.

I have no problem with you disliking the game, but don't try to tell me that I didn't find it satisfying. :-) Hell, I'm on my third helping.

But I did own that statement by explaining how the game that doesn't establish any real sense of consequence and reward. I'd like to hear from you why the feels satisfying in the absence of these elements.

I also elaborated a little more in this previous comment.

There are so many factors

There are so many factors that can limit your experience with a game that people should be more open to different appreciations.

Right. My problem with criticisms of UC2 is when people say Uncharted isn't a game, it's a movie. This is flatly untrue. It's hyperbolic and elitist. There's nothing wrong with describing why you didn't like it, but to say it is not a game--which is what I was griping about in my original comment--is insulting to those who did enjoy it. (Contrast this with Matt's post; he explains why he prefers UC2 over Demon's Souls WITHOUT making statements questioning the validity of DS as a game.)

Uncharted 2 is simply a different KIND of game, and there's plenty of room in the industry for all kinds.

Some major holes in Matt's argument on Demon's Souls

There's a lot of major holes in Matthew's criticism on Demon's Souls, but I'll just point to two of the biggest ones.

First, to say that the Barbarian class doomed you from the start demonstrates that you really didn't understand the character system because character class does little more than define your opening attributes and equipment which can easily be compensated and customized by leveling up after beating 1-1. The classes beyond the start have no effect on choosing what kind of character you want to become.

Second, calling the game a "straightforward A-to-B romps" is pretty outlandish thing to say since its anything, but straight forward. Demon's Souls worlds can be tackled in any order the player chooses and played in nearly any attack style (hack n slash, stealth, range, magic, etc). That doesn't even begin to factor in the world tendencies and online components.

Alex R wrote: Right. My

Alex R wrote:

Right. My problem with criticisms of UC2 is when people say Uncharted isn't a game, it's a movie. This is flatly untrue. It's hyperbolic and elitist. There's nothing wrong with describing why you didn't like it, but to say it is not a game--which is what I was griping about in my original comment--is insulting to those who did enjoy it. (Contrast this with Matt's post; he explains why he prefers UC2 over Demon's Souls WITHOUT making statements questioning the validity of DS as a game.)

Uncharted 2 is simply a different KIND of game, and there's plenty of room in the industry for all kinds.

Hey Alex, let me know if you disagree, but no one here has said that "Uncharted isn't a game". We are all reacting to the same comment just as you and Matthew are and everyone here who isn't in the pro-UC2 here has described in detail what we didn't like about it. I'd like to see the discussion continue on those points.

no one here has said that

no one here has said that "Uncharted isn't a game"

I know! In my original comment I was talking about a commenter on my personal blog, and it is one of the major "criticisms" of UC2 I have heard. (Your response to my comment led me to believe you agreed with that assessment, which, I'm glad that's not the case.)

Oh, wait, looking back, Goatart totally did say that o.O

Alex, I'd also like to read more about why you think the characters in UC2 are well-done beyond the stereotypes as you said in your review.

It's too long for a comment, I'll do a blog post on it ;)

oops

If I said it's a movie, then I made a mistake. I was just responding to Matthew's comment that "if UC2 is more movie than game, so the hell what"

I don't think I ever say that UC2 IS a movie...but that if that's where its priority lies (to answer the so the hell what question), I'd rather watch a movie. I don't want a recreated, dull movie, I want an experience. UC2 is one formulaic convention after another. Since it's the other discussed game, DS on the other hand provides the experience I want out of a game, the experience a movie can't to the same effect. UC2's best result is the same experienced by a movie (which is not the same thing as saying UC2 is a movie), but a bad movie ha.

But this is a more abstract problem I have with UC2 and games like it. I love playing all games, and ejoyed the brevity of UC2. I just didn't dig it as much as others have.

Just wanted to add to the

Just wanted to add to the chorus repeating what Matt has outlined here. It's not so much about Demon's Souls, as it is about an all-too-eager bullying of Uncharted 2 because of its bankroll and pretty face.

Although UC2 is getting tons of praise, I am disheartened by many comments here and elsewhere that somehow Naughty Dog has NOT achieved what is a watershed moment in videogame storytelling.

If Half Life 2 was a breakthrough, Uncharted 2 has become the new ideal. If Resident Evil 4 remains a masterclass in pacing, Uncharted 2 has matched it.

Like the NYTimes review said, Uncharted 2 has made many Hollywood action movies obsolete. That is no small feat.

And FYI I happen to think UC2 would've made for a great movie if it took out about 70 percent of its action sequences, and filled that space up with actual narrative without worrying about keeping the audience's fingers busy.

And yes, it happens to be all about presentation. Depending on how much value you place on presentation, your mileage on Uncharted 2 may vary, and that's completely understandable and acceptable.

But in an industry fueled as much by technological prowess as much as its ingenuity, presentation happens to matter to sizable portion of its audience, and nobody can deny that.

I wasn't going to respond

I wasn't going to respond out of fear of the wrath of lord Chi, ruler of all that we post on, but what the hell.

I didn't like Demon Souls. Not because it was hard and not because enemies respawn when you die, but because it didn't have what I PERSONALLY like in games. I don't like doing the same thing over and over, and I like games with a good story (unless it's the Civilization series. those games suck me in even without one). While technically I wasn't doing the EXACT same thing over and over in Demon's souls, it sure as hell felt like it (TO ME). I think someone made a comment about the check points. If a game doesn't have decent check points then that PERSONALLY kills the game (FOR ME). As I stated earlier I don't like having to do the same thing over and over. Not having good check points isn't challenging to me, it's just freak'n annoying (TO ME PERSONALLY). I'm not met with satisfaction when finally reaching a check point ofter a long level, just relief that I don't have to do that shit again. To top it off, Demon's Souls didn't really have a story. While there are some games I liked that didn't have stories, it's hard for ME (PERSONALLY) to get sucked into games without one.

However, I love Uncharted 2. I like it because it personally has what I like in my games. I loved the set pieces, I loved the voice acting, and loved the Boss fights. Yeah, the plot wasn't as good as FFX or a Metal Gear game, but I liked it. I like movies like National Treasure and Indiana Jones. Hell I even kinda liked Sahara (what did he just say?) While it may not be the best story ever, it's still right up my alley. As for Uncharted offering nothing that a movie can't, I'm sorry but there's a big difference between watching something happen and controlling a character while it's happening.

But just because I like Uncharted 2 and don't like Demon's Souls doesn't mean that I'm going to slander those with different opinions than my own. After reading through these comments I got this gut feeling that all the Demon Souls fans are about to grab a bat and a noose and go Uncharted fanboy hunting and vise versa.

There is a larger overall

There is a larger overall goal for the recent handholding that videogames are resorting to, one famous example being Bioshock's Vita-chambers, and of course Uncharted 2's "press button to see where to go."

Video games are here and mainstream, but I'm not even talking GTA or Modern Warfare. The more complicated storylines and narratives (along with the gameplay) remain within the niche of guys like us. We KNOW how to play these games, we know how to adjust the analog sticks to get to where we want to go or to shoot a certain somebody.

Forget movies for a second.

Let's face it. We know how to read these games. When it comes to absorbing information and turning the page to progress in a video game, we're literates. Scholars even.

Now imagine the illiterate child in public school. Would you hand him copies of Dostoevsky's greatest work? No you'd find something a little easier, more palatable.

The fact of the matter is, there are many people out there who are game illiterate. Farmville is about as far as they might go.

It's clear the industry's goal is for future market growth. Nintendo recognized this, and games like Bioshock and Uncharted 2 are trying to attain this by other means that may hopefully appease the more literate crowd.

Their success is still questionable, but these are very deliberate decisions made with what is unquestionably an admirable goal (if also fiscal) to grow and educate the reading population of video games.

The real question about

The real question about Demon's Souls (for me) is 'is it fun?'
I played it alot the first couple of weeks after I bought it, and thought the design was rock solid, and I also didn't find it entertaining, and I would agree with the articles comment that it is an anti-immersive game. The threshold of fun vs. time spent did seem problematic. 15 hours is usually my limit with a game I'm not really getting caught up in.

Discussion Disclaimers

coyls3 wrote:

I wasn't going to respond out of fear of the wrath of lord Chi, ruler of all that we post on, but what the hell.

Damn, what did I do to deserve such a reputation. ;-)

Joking aside, I'd like to thank everyone for their well-thought out comments and keeping this debate civil as in accordance with our CoC.

I also wanted to clarify that I don't think anyone here is denying anyone's right to like/enjoy UC2 or any other game. GOTY awards-type programs are usually divided into two camps: viewer popularity contests (VMAs) and artistic achievement decided by peers/experts (Oscars). While there's tons of gray area and people are free to interpret things as they please, this site being what it is, I personally favor discussing the artistic achievement side of things. In judging artistic achievement, innovation is typically high up on the list of criteria and that's how I've tried to judge UC2. You don't have to hold the game to the same standard, but I mention this so people understand where I'm coming from.

Matt vaguely describes what he considers to be "challenge and reward" in UC2, but bases more of his GOTY selection not by its own merits, but by how others are unfairly judging it. And Gene says UC2 is a watershed moment in video games because it sets a new ideal and matched the pacing of Resident Evil 4? In my mind, these are not strong arguments for GOTY or any artistic achievement.

On a more personal note, please also do not take the amount and passion of my responses to be an indicator of how much I love Demon's Souls and how much I hate Uncharted 2. While its true I am rather fond of Demon's Souls, I don't hate UC2. I find myself commenting a great deal here because a) I genuinely disagree with a lot of what's being said in these comments and seek to learn from the differences of opinion and b) those who know me know that I am always passionate about discussing any video game.

For all the talk of Demon's

For all the talk of Demon's Soul's inaccessibility, it's interesting how little praise the game gets for its uniquely *inclusive* online components. People have praised how it elegantly blends seamlessly with the single-player experience, but its also praise-worthy because it allows players like Brad and I who normally don't enjoy that sort of thing to participate and enjoy in the community experience without the usual low-brow competitive atmosphere.

Unnecessary Repetition

I just picked up a PS3 not too long ago and have been playing Demon's Souls. I've put about 25 hours into it and have beaten 4 demons. Here's my braindump so far.

Overall I think the game is a very good game. I find it very immersive, with some fantastic atmosphere, superb level layout, and fun challenge. But the game is not without its major issues that keep it from being top-notch. The overarching problem I'm having is that I keep having to replay the same areas over and over due to multiple design choices, and in many cases the life of the game does seem artificially extended.

First, simple level connection issues cause unnecessary repetition. In the Tower of Latria, for example, you cannot backtrack from the second archstone if you want to explore the latter portion of the stage just before the first demon. Instead, you have to run through most of the prison stage again. I'm not sure why there is a lack of connection in such places, as it is very inconvenient.

Another design decision that causes unnecessary repetition is the imbalance of item drops between different areas. By this, I mean, certain stages drop only one or two types of items. For example, the enemies in the Tower of Latria only drop items that heal poison or bleeding, or the occasional mp recharging item. Only the enemies of Boletaria drop healing herbs. I've stocked up on 30+ items that heal bleeding and poison and not once have I ever needed to use them! Because I am a light melee class (Thief), I use quite a bit of healing herbs and I do not use much mp. As a result, I occasionally find myself farming healing herbs in Bolataria just so I can stock up on them for new adventures in the other areas. That gets old and repetitive. Why not just have the enemies in all areas drop an assortment of items? Don't mages need mp items in Stonefang?

Without a doubt the biggest issue is the fact that if you die, you get sent back to the beginning of the level with all enemies reset. I feel the exact same way that Matthew does regarding this mechanic: it is a relic of the NES days. It very quickly attuned me to the nature of the game, the fragility of my character, and definitely got me to play smarter. I do enjoy the challenges. However, it quickly gets old and repetitive running through the same stage multiple times just so I can have another go at the boss. For most of the bosses I've encountered, death is inevitable in the process of discovering a strategy for success. Penalizing the player so harshly in these instances just seems unnecessary.

There are a host of other options that could have easily been implemented instead of this outdated mechanic.

For example, checkpoints could have been spaced out more appropriately. This was done extremely well during the first section of Boletaria before the Phalanx Demon. However, I've encountered deaths in multiple other places where it takes 20 or 30 minutes of carefully moving through the stage only to find no checkpoint before a new demon or an entirely new extremely dangerous area. One such instance was just after releasing Yurt (I think that's his name) from a cage in the second stage in the Tower of Latria. After descending far down to the base of the tower in the elevator, I found myself in a completely new environment with no idea of what to expect. I proceeded very cautiously, but nevertheless I was quickly dispatched by a new enemy. Having already played through the previous section three times, I had no desire to spend 20 minutes running through it again. The game's level layouts are fantastic, but a location like this is just crying out for a checkpoint. Good game design, in my opinion, should allow checkpointing between discrete challenges.

Another option would have been to always put a checkpoint just before each boss, and simply charge souls for failure, or even charge souls for entry into the fight. At least that would give the player a few tries on a boss before forcing them to replay the stage.

Still another option would be to give the player a single checkpoint they could create anywhere they wanted. The checkpoint would need to be picked up in order to be placed anywhere else.

The game obviously has a large degree of replayability once completed, what with the different playstyles available (knight, mage, etc.) and various trophies to acquire. I really don't see why the designers did not devise a system that allowed the player to avoid unnecessary repetition.

In response to your post,

In response to your post, Odofakyodo, I'll have to include some minor spoilers. So keep reading this with caution, just like you're playing DS. :P

I actually think the game is balanced in its item placement. You'll need all those poison and plague lotuses for world 5. I think most players, if not all, will finish this world last. From Software made a great job in sculpturing valley of defilement - the world is so repugnant (you can almost smell the plague) and tricky that it discourages the bravest of heros. So, by the time you decide to conquer it, you'll be well supplied to face its horrors. As for the herbs, you can buy them from some characters throughout the areas, without having to return to world 1. I've finished the game 4 times now and have no memory of farming for healing herbs. Anyone?

You'll need magic sooner or later, and those spices will sure come in handy. I can't imagine beating the game without at least one range spell. It's possible, but I believe you'll struggle more than necessary. But, yeah, it would no harm if the player could change them for other items.

It's funny you mention the design of world 3 because its precisely 3-1/3-2 that left me perversely in love with DS. Playing these two levels for the first time at three o' clock in the morning will eternally remain at the top of my unforgettable moments in gaming. Descending to the swamp on 3-2, with the continuous heart beat of that suspended organism, was a living nightmare of tension and excitement. I was trembling when the cage opened. And frankly I can't imagine it ruined with a checkpoint. I remembered thinking "when will this godforsaken level end for crying out loud, I'm shaking here". The emotional impact was so grandiose that I couldn't think of a more frightful structure. It was audiovisual terrorism. True survival horror - still subtle and elegant, with no symphonic fanfare or cheap scares. If, by any chance, I knew that a checkpoint was being activated before/after reaching the area, the entire sequence would loose its shocking effect.

The lack of a "bridge" between 3-1 and 3-2 is unfortunate, though. I recall wanting to go back and waiting for the gargoyles to fly me to the cathedral. Apparently, they were out of order. But you can rapidly move through 3-1 after discovering the best and quickest way to kill the mind-flayers.

I am fully aware that you

I am fully aware that you can buy healing herbs from some of the vendors hanging around, but honestly, they cost too many souls to be worth it to me. You could either farm the herbs or farm the souls. Either way, you're replaying the same stages over and over again.

I responded psychologically to descending to the swamp in 3-2 in the same way that you did. I was terrified, and I did enjoy the experience. From my current knowledge, I feel the level could have used a checkpoint there because it is quite simply a chore to get back to that point. I'm going to need to either farm some herbs or farm some souls before trying, too, which is all manners of ugh. In the end, I could probably live without a checkpoint at the swamp descent. I had already been playing for 2 hours at that point, and I have not bothered to go back to it yet.

I think there does need to be some kind of balance between the "audiovisual terror" and the penalty for failure. When the balance is there it's great - for example, in 1-1. However, there have been a couple of times where the balance is extremely off for me. If I encounter a demon for the first time and die to it, what good does making me run through an entire stage again do? I'm not being rewarded in any way. I'm only being severely punished for dying to enemies that can kill me in 1 or 2 hits. The shock effect you mention is severely gone because I already know where all the enemies are, so at that point it is no longer true survival horror - it is just a chore because I'm forced to spend 10 - 20 mins doing something I know I can already do, and do fairly easily. I don't mind repeating something if that helps me master it, but running through entire stages over and over does not help me master the boss.

Really, I think when the game is on it's really on. I love the environments and the level design. 3-1 and 3-2 were uber creepy. I disagree with Matt's idea that "there are no roles to be played" or that it is "not an immersive experience", and I love the online component and how it "seamlessly blends with the single-player experience" and how all the apparitions contribute to the spooky atmosphere.

But come on, do I really have to climb all the way back down to Flamelurker after dying to him the first time? It's really pretty easy once I've already done it. That's an unnecessary time-sink, and that's where I see eye-to-eye with Matt.

I don't understand why you

I don't understand why you complain of difficulty when you can summon two souls and let them run through the enemies for you. Still, even with souls aiding you, it's entirely possible you'll die. It's something you really need to accept while playing the game.

Checkpoints would detract from the overall feel of the game. Instead of slowly exploring, fighting for you life with every encounter, you'll dance around, relaxed, knowing your only penalty will be returning to a checkpoint only a few steps away. The stages really aren't that big. They only seem that way because of how long it takes you explore, collect, and kill. From the Armor Spider archstone to the Flamelurker is really only a minute or two.

Btw, he's weak to magic. The Flamelurker is one of the few enemies in the game who's especially weak to magic damage.

I want to clarify that I

I want to clarify that I have no problem at all with Demon's Souls becoming game of the year. The game instilled in me a level of obsession unheard of since Fallout 3, and although I would never play it again, the two weeks I did play it it enveloped my thoughts.
Demon's Souls is an incredibly innovative and its gameplay is very artful, compelling.

That's where I differ on Matt. I played through the game three times and I fully appreciate everything about it. It is a strong choice for GOTY and I wouldn't begrudge anyone for picking it because it may be my own.

That said, Matt's post I think was mostly a reaction to GC's reaction to UC2's critical response. Like Alex said, I'm not going to go line by line, but the whole "lack of interactivity" argument is largely unfair since the game is nothing but a game, and that's the argument all of the "UC2 apologists" have been saying in this thread.

I don't think calling Demon's Souls GOTY is an error in judgment. But to denigrate as UC2 no different than watching a film or playing "Dragon's Lair" is, and that's where our beef is.

Far be it for anyone to say whether they should like or not like a game. But there is a level of critical objectivity art critics must uphold in order to be a trusted voice of authority.

Chi it's much like your appreciate for Taylor Swift (yes everyone, Chi likes Taylor Swift :P). You understand what makes her an accomplished artist and you understand her limitations, and what she's trying to achieve, yet you can praise her for what she does, mostly because she achieves what she seeks. It's the same with Uncharted 2: It's largely a success because it obtains much of its goals.

And before anyone rags on me for using the word "objectivity" and saying how all reviews are reviews, I'm going to point to a saying by a man whose fundamental beliefs this very site is based upon, Gene Siskel. He has said, "There is a point when a personal opinion shades off into an error of fact. When you say 'The Valachi Papers' is a better film than 'The Godfather,' you are wrong."

Nobody has to like Uncharted 2, and I respect that opinion up to a point. But to wish to choose between two girls in the story when it was never the point in the first place? To say that the characters are poorly written yet acknowledge that they defy stereotypes? It's an error in judgment.

And yes Chi, the NYTimes

And yes Chi, the NYTimes article that says Beatles RB might be the most important game ever was very clearly wrong too.

what Gene said.

what Gene said.

I think one of the questions

I think one of the questions a GOTY needs to successfully answer is whether it can stand the test of time. Whether or not in 5-10 years time people will still be talking about it or refer to it.

Although, U2 is a fine game which can be thorougly enjoyed by practically anyone its achievements will not be remembered in a few years time because it relies too much on its graphical splendour. It does not do any gaming mechanic particularly well but it has excellent pacing (for the most part) and a really good dialogue (for games).

Demon's Souls on the other hand relies on game mechanics that have been around for a couple of decades and revels in them. Not only that, it clearly states to everyone that accessibility is not the only way forward. I too don't have that much time for this kind of games anymore but every now and then there is room for it. Dying in Demon's Souls has consequences and it's something that i have missed in current generation gaming. Also it has managed to think somewhat outside the box regarding the online features.

When choosing a GOTY one needs to judge whether this is a game you will keep thinking about in the future. For myself Demon's Souls is such a game.

Gene P. wrote: I don't

Gene P. wrote:

I don't think calling Demon's Souls GOTY is an error in judgment. But to denigrate as UC2 no different than watching a film or playing "Dragon's Lair" is, and that's where our beef is.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I never said that UC2 is the same as watching a movie. What I said in previous posts is that the things that people are celebrating about UC2 (mind-blowing action, emotional characters, etc) as being ground-breaking to some degree, are better experienced in films. Its a subtle, but important distinction.

Secondly, you should know that Space Ace is the first arcade game that I dedicated myself to mastering and is one of my favorite games of all-time. It's influence can still be felt in QTE driven games like Shenmue, God of War and the upcoming Heavy Rain. So I have no idea why you believe comparing UC2 to Dragon's Lair/Space Ace (you left out two other classics that I put in the same company, Out of this World and Wing Commander) is in any way shape or form "denigrat[ing]."

Nor did I bring up these titles to say that UC2 is the same as playing these games. I cited them because if UC2 is the answer to the question "what would it feel like to be in a movie?", I felt that question was relatively answered years ago by those games. I felt similar emotions when playing those games and in fact, I felt more emotionally invested in the alien companion in Out of this World than I did with any of the companions in UC2.

Gene P. wrote:

Chi it's much like your appreciate for Taylor Swift (yes everyone, Chi likes Taylor Swift :P). You understand what makes her an accomplished artist and you understand her limitations, and what she's trying to achieve, yet you can praise her for what she does, mostly because she achieves what she seeks. It's the same with Uncharted 2: It's largely a success because it obtains much of its goals.

Ouch! Good one. Using Taylor Swift against me. I knew that would come back to bite me in the ass one day! ;-)

The *BIG* difference however is that I never called Taylor Swift's music ground-breaking or even trend-setting. And that's my beef with folks praising Uncharted 2, whom like Matt said isn't particularly innovative and yet still decided its the most praise-worthy game of the year despite a host of other games that did more to advance the art of video games.

Gene P. wrote:

Nobody has to like Uncharted 2, and I respect that opinion up to a point. But to wish to choose between two girls in the story when it was never the point in the first place? To say that the characters are poorly written yet acknowledge that they defy stereotypes? It's an error in judgment.

I'll try to avoid getting all philosophical here, but to me, choice is a fundamental element in all games. Participation is what defines video games as an art form. All games allow for a different variety of choices and options. IMO, the best video games are ones that provide quality choices that make players contemplate themselves and their world. That to me is the point of video games.

As for the writing, just because it avoids stereotypes doesn't by default make the characters interesting. Writers often all to often make characters boring because they are too politically correct. How can I root for characters where so little back story and motivation is provided? We're talking storytelling 101. And while there are moments of humanization, I find it baffling how anyone can praise the general Betty and Veronica characterization of Chloe and Elena as anything original or noteworthy, coupled with the fact that both women are reduced to damsels in distress when it matters the most. Why couldn't the women have been equal participants through out the game as playable characters?

One of the reasons GOTY is

One of the reasons GOTY is such a flamebait discussion is the criteria is different for everybody, or at least groups of people.

IMO, the best video games are ones that provide quality choices that make players contemplate themselves and their world.

In that case, isn't Dragon Age the only decent video game out there? ;) Really though, DA:O is the only game I have ever played that seems to actually pose realistic, there-is-no-optimal-solution questions, let alone ones with actual consequences. Which is not to say that you're wrong, but that the industry isn't quite there yet.

I find it baffling how anyone can praise the general Betty and Veronica characterization of Chloe and Elena as anything original or noteworthy

While on the one hand it's sad that having female characters that are actually human and not incompetent idiots is so notable, I really think that UC2 goes beyond that to make them actual interesting characters in their own right. In fact, I would argue that Elena and Chloe are the two MOST interesting characters in the whole game (this may partially be because the men have more and subtler adventure-genre archetypes to lean on, whereas the two female archetypes, either completely helpless or over-the-top ass-kicker, are both rather extreme).

This is verging on blog post territory (which I am going to write I PROMISE), but, for example, Chloe actually goes through some character development. (SPOILORS, OBVIOUSLY:) Throughout the early parts of the game she is presented as self-interested and a bit ruthless. She argues with Drake for trying to rescue Jeff the cameraman, saying he will just get ALL of them killed, but by the end of the game SHE is the one carrying the wounded person to safety, without even questioning whether or not it is the right thing to do.

Now, that one change isn't quite enough to prove you wrong, but like I said, blog post is forthcoming! It's just that, to say Nate's choice is simply blonde or brunette is doing a disservice to the characterization that is there. It's subtle, and it takes a back seat to the action (the game doesn't hold your hand, especially as far as back-story is concerned), but it's there.

Responses

lun4tic wrote:

I don't understand why you complain of difficulty when you can summon two souls and let them run through the enemies for you. Still, even with souls aiding you, it's entirely possible you'll die. It's something you really need to accept while playing the game.

Please go back and read what I wrote. I never said the game was too hard or difficult, and I never complained of dying in and of itself. I loved RE4 and I died hundreds of times in my three playthroughs of that game. One of those playthroughs was on the hardest mode which I found to be ridiculously difficult at a few points but I was up to the challenge. What I did say was that I felt there was so much repitition in DS that I occasionally find it unnecessary. By that I mean it was not new content. I'm only forced to conquer the exact same fairly easy challenge over again, and thus it is artificial.

lun4tic wrote:

Checkpoints would detract from the overall feel of the game. Instead of slowly exploring, fighting for you life with every encounter, you'll dance around, relaxed, knowing your only penalty will be returning to a checkpoint only a few steps away. The stages really aren't that big. They only seem that way because of how long it takes you explore, collect, and kill. From the Armor Spider archstone to the Flamelurker is really only a minute or two.

I think you have a completely valid point in that too many checkpoints would detract from the overall feel of the game. My beef would go away if they simply put checkpoints before each boss, as they did for 1-1. The boss fights themselves have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the stage, and I find it a bit lazy game design to not checkpoint there. They could penalize souls, armor durability, items used, and world tendency for dying on a boss, so there's pleny of reason for tension.

lun4tic wrote:

Btw, he's weak to magic. The Flamelurker is one of the few enemies in the game who's especially weak to magic damage.

Write a message in-game, and I might recommend it. ;)

Brad Gallaway wrote:

Odo> Dunno if you know this or not (and forgive me if i'm telling you something you already know) but it sounds like you need to invest in the Evacuate miracle. With it, you can instantly return to the Nexus and probably alleviate a lot of your issues with the system. Also, souls aren't much of a problem as you get further into the game... it was pretty common for me to have 300-500 arrows on top of dozens and dozens of the upper-tier herbs (all bought) once past the beginning when you're scrounging for souls. Once you find your groove and know how to get what you need, most of the problems you mentioned become less so. Hope that helps!

Thanks for the tip, but honestly I have no idea how to learn miracles! No NPC I've encountered has offered to teach me a miracle. On a similar note, I've got an insane stock of ores that no blacksmith seems to be able to incorporate into any weapon upgrades. I assume that eventually I'll meet these people. Note: Please don't spoil here. I prefer to play the game and explore on my own.

All that being said, I'm not sure how returning to the Nexus will prevent me from having to run through an entire stage again just for a shot at the boss. :)

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

I'll try to avoid getting all philosophical here, but to me, choice is a fundamental element in all games. Participation is what defines video games as an art form. All games allow for a different variety of choices and options. IMO, the best video games are ones that provide quality choices that make players contemplate themselves and their world. That to me is the point of video games.

Chi this was pure money. Gameplay is what choices the player can make. Movies are better at showing what happens when someone else makes a decision. Games show me what can happen when *I* make a decision. If done well, I think the latter has more potential to impact me and my worldview. I agree with Alex that the industry is not there yet.

Witcher

Alex R wrote:

Really though, DA:O is the only game I have ever played that seems to actually pose realistic, there-is-no-optimal-solution questions, let alone ones with actual consequences. Which is not to say that you're wrong, but that the industry isn't quite there yet.

The Witcher actually did a good job at this as well, and actually had choices that were a lot more far-reaching and consequential than in DA. While it has a number of design flaws and other problems that push it way below DA (and make it almost below average in my opinion), it presents its giant moral grey area pretty well.

Going back to our Taylor

Going back to our Taylor Swift discussion Chi, if you recall correctly, my beef with Taylor was the fact that she was voted The Associated Press' "Entertainer of the Year" and you defended that choice.

"Entertainer of the Year" means nothing about being the most groundbreaking artist, which is why my choice of Lady Gaga wasn't even the most groundbreaking. Why does "Game of the Year" hold a higher standard to its games? Perhaps because you hold games to a higher standard?

That may be, as do I. At the same time, critical objectivity demands that we look at the year's greatest successes. Forza Motorsport 3 is a near-perfect racing game, yet I've never heard it mention once in this circle of gamers. I don't mind because I suspect many simply haven't played it, but I still think it's a strong consideration as one of the top 10.

Chi, to fault Uncharted 2 for not providing a choice or for having "too much shooting" is completely besides the point.

You guys, notice how there was one poster here in this very thread who mentioned how he had a distaste for Demon's Souls because why? Because it has a very poor narrative.

Now notice that nobody even bother responding to that post, even though it was his OPINION and it was a very valid personal reason to not like a game.

Because the fact of the matter is, Demon's Souls not only has barely a narrative, but what's there is very poor and messily put together. The NPCs are as empty a shells as Borderlands's.

So if this poster was a guest critic for GameCritics.com, and he published a review giving the game a 4 or 5 because the narrative was so hamstrung together and you basically have to jerry rig your own story in there, wouldn't you all give a shit fit? I know I would.

Why? Because the criticism would be besides the point. It's not what Demon's Souls is about. Why did everyone ignore this poster's criticism? Because it's besides the point.

You all understand Demon's Souls's point in very articulate ways, as this thread and even Matt has proven.

Why isn't Uncharted 2 afforded the same courtesy? That's all we're curious about. Why ask for things that are completely besides the point of the game?

Odo> >>Thanks for the tip,

Odo>

>>Thanks for the tip, but honestly I have no idea how to learn miracles! No NPC I've encountered has offered to teach me a miracle. On a similar note, I've got an insane stock of ores that no blacksmith seems to be able to incorporate into any weapon upgrades. I assume that eventually I'll meet these people. Note: Please don't spoil here. I prefer to play the game and explore on my own.

Ok, no spoilers but if you want some more detailed help, LMK. BTW, it's not a given that you'll figure it out... the game doesn't 'introduce' you to these things, you need to find it out on your own. it can be tough, so don't be afraid to ask. = )

>>All that being said, I'm not sure how returning to the Nexus will prevent me from having to run through an entire stage again just for a shot at the boss. :)

It would help in the sense that it allows you to earn souls and then leave a stage (so you can use them) without having to actually run all the way back to an Archstone or beat the boss. it seems to me that if you were able to capitalize on that mechanic a little more then your survivablility rate would probably start going up faster than it has, and you'd have to retrace your steps prior to bosses less.

That said, i do agree that there should be an Archstone before each boss, no argument there.

Chi it just seems to me

Chi it just seems to me (from the podcast and the postings here) that you're rather resentful of games that force you to give up authorial control when it comes to a narrative.

That may not be your cup of tea, but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of games that do that.

And you make it as if UC2 is just literally Point A to B without any player improvisation at all. Where the path is set, the player can still shoot, punch and jump his way to it. This is FAR from Dragon's Lair, or even Out of this World.

That may not have been interesting to you, but it's THERE. So to fault a game for not providing player choice in a narrative is really reaching as far as valid criticism goes. Same with allowing the player to play as one of the girls. I mean for God's sake Chi, the story is about Nathan Drake and how his personality is reflected with his interactions with other people. It's not going to be "the raven-haired girl's sidequest jaunt."

Bioshock is a game that is more susceptible to this criticism, because from the outset it was billed as a very important moral choice and ended up not being really all that.

This is very similar to your criticism back in the day of Grand Theft Auto 3's dictation of your reputation through a storyline, or choosing which side to take. You completely missed the mark on that game, a game that has indisputably become one of the most important video games of the decade. It was only reactionary to what other's have said about that game, and not a self-contained criticism, and that was my biggest problem with it.

I'm not saying UC2 is unassailable, or that there is no such thing as a fair argument against it.

I think Brad's critique in his second opinion of firefight pacing is very fair, as is his asking for more "Sneaky Drake." It's fair because there is a number of stealth encouraged missions (including one forced one). Because the player DOES get a taste of THAT choice within the missions, it's fair to say that the game's pacing would've been improved by allowing for the stealth-enabled sections of the game to be stretched out. It's clearly there in the game, suggested, and it's fair to ask why Naughty Dog didn't just take it further.

I don't question Brad's review at all. I thought it made total sense. But to ask for a narrative choice in a game that never intended for it?

That's like me wishing that Demon's Souls had a new game plus without increasing subsequent difficulty levels. And I do. But I wouldn't fault the game for it. But isn't that what RPGs are about? A gradual progression of strength and overwhelming odds? How immersive is it that the most powerful armor in the game won't protect you from a one-hit kill from a weak enemy during a New Game +++ game?

But then again, the game is about progression through player behavior, and that's what's groundbreaking about it isn't it? My wishes for it to be more palatable are besides the point. And so are yours for author control.

Games with Choices/Consquences

Alex R wrote:

In that case, isn't Dragon Age the only decent video game out there? ;) Really though, DA:O is the only game I have ever played that seems to actually pose realistic, there-is-no-optimal-solution questions, let alone ones with actual consequences. Which is not to say that you're wrong, but that the industry isn't quite there yet.

Old school: Law of the West, Ultima (series), Mechwarrior, Wing Commander, Sim City, Rise of the Dragon, Civilization (mostly old PC games, were there any good 8-bit/16-bit console games that allowed for choice/consequence?)

More Recent Games: The Sims, Way of the Samurai, Oblivion, Fallout 3

I'm sure there's a few other titles that are not coming to me right now. That's not to say that every game has to have earth shattering choices. What I'm saying is that games that allow for more choices tend to be more engaging and ones that allow for deeper consequences are the ones I would consider to be more progressive and deserving of achievement status.

Alex R wrote:

This is verging on blog post territory (which I am going to write I PROMISE), but, for example, Chloe actually goes through some character development. (SPOILORS, OBVIOUSLY:) Throughout the early parts of the game she is presented as self-interested and a bit ruthless. She argues with Drake for trying to rescue Jeff the cameraman, saying he will just get ALL of them killed, but by the end of the game SHE is the one carrying the wounded person to safety, without even questioning whether or not it is the right thing to do.

Now, that one change isn't quite enough to prove you wrong, but like I said, blog post is forthcoming! It's just that, to say Nate's choice is simply blonde or brunette is doing a disservice to the characterization that is there. It's subtle, and it takes a back seat to the action (the game doesn't hold your hand, especially as far as back-story is concerned), but it's there.

I never said that the characters didn't develop and/or change, but for the sake of discussion, let's examine this story arc. Why exactly did Chloe have a change of heart? Was it something in particular that either Nate or Elena said or did? Was it something that happened to her that caused her to reexamine her beliefs? Fundamental shifts in values are often the stuff of epic drama like when Valjean pledges his life to God in Les Miserables. Usually such details are key to making characters believable, relatable and interesting. Perhaps I missed it, but even if I did, that's UC2 failure for not making it central to the drama of the story or perhaps its was simply convenient to involve her in climax of the story.

Gene P. wrote: You all

Gene P. wrote:

You all understand Demon's Souls's point in very articulate ways, as this thread and even Matt has proven.

Why isn't Uncharted 2 afforded the same courtesy? That's all we're curious about. Why ask for things that are completely besides the point of the game?

I'm not really focused on the flaws as you might think. Any game that successfully accomplishes it's goal, is considered a 7/8 in my book. For a game to get a 9/10 or deemed GOTY, it has to do more than just fulfill its vision. It has to be innovative and establish a new paradigm relevant to game culture and history. Only time will tell how Demon's Souls measures up to this standard over time, but for 2009, DS met this criteria more for me than any other title.

As for UC2, almost everyone universally agrees the gameplay is derivative of other games. The graphics, while impressive, still aren't particularly unique or exceptional compared to its top peers (KZ2, MW2, etc) and we all know that come next year, another game will crowned the meaningless title of "best graphics ever". I've already discussed the weaknesses in the storytelling and characters at length. So UC2 doesn't give me many reasons to celebrate beyond being competent or above average, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Gene P. wrote:

Chi it just seems to me (from the podcast and the postings here) that you're rather resentful of games that force you to give up authorial control when it comes to a narrative.

That's an interesting way to put it. ;-) I'm not even sure how one goes about "resenting" a game. I don't ever recall a game having ever taken away anything from me or caused pain and suffering in my life that would warrant resentment.

I do get a little annoyed at how quickly the media and gamers are all too often willing to celebrate mediocrity/not broken/accomplishes-its-goals for greatness because if that's what we a call a 10 out of 10, what do we call something that's truly innovative? 15 out of 10?

Gene P. wrote:

That may not be your cup of tea, but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of games that do that.

And you make it as if UC2 is just literally Point A to B without any player improvisation at all. Where the path is set, the player can still shoot, punch and jump his way to it. This is FAR from Dragon's Lair, or even Out of this World.

I got the
same kind of balls-to-the-wall cliffhanger action thrills in Space Ace and the same kind of integrated cinematic gameplay experience in Out of this World (with more consequence actually). So in 20+ years time, the best thing that UC2 can add to game culture is more improvisation in shoot/punch/jumping (stuff it took from other games), that pretty much proves my point.

Gene P. wrote:

That may not have been interesting to you, but it's THERE. So to fault a game for not providing player choice in a narrative is really reaching as far as valid criticism goes. Same with allowing the player to play as one of the girls. I mean for God's sake Chi, the story is about Nathan Drake and how his personality is reflected with his interactions with other people. It's not going to be "the raven-haired girl's sidequest jaunt."

So it's my fault for wanting to play characters that the game tries to make me care about? Even Alex said that Elena and Chloe are the two most interesting characters in the whole game. So doesn't it make sense for a video game to allow the player to control the two most interesting characters and perhaps have a hand in deciding their fates?

An odd contradiction?

I wrote this in the comments for the GameCritics GOTY podcast, but it seemed appropriate to post here as well.
____

I saw a Tweet from Atlus announcing GameCritics' choice of Demon's Souls as its game of the year--yet also read a long (and reactionary) article from Matthew Kaplan criticizing this same choice on GameSpot's part.

Games journalism intended to call out other outlets is questionable at best, and unprofessional at worst. But when the writer's own site chooses the said game as game of the year as well, these kinds of articles become more than questionable--it becomes hypocrisy. I'd love to see an official response on this. If Matthew is prepared to call out another outlet (which is not appropriate, though I recognize that this happens on a frequent basis on this site), he should be prepared to call out his own. If he cannot stand by the decision elsewhere, he should not be able to stand by the same decision here.

Not only am I appalled by the hypocrisy, but I should remind everyone about the old adage regarding stones and glass houses. By tearing down another's choices, you don't rise above them. Next time you decide to call out another site... think first.

Chi, I have to thank you for

Chi, I have to thank you for writing everything that my poor non english communication skills and inherent dumbness allow. We think completely alike regarding this subject.

*Don't* allow. See, I'm just

*Don't* allow. See, I'm just stupid.

I don't think Matthew's

I don't think Matthew's article is hypocritical. In fact, it seems brave, since he knew that the staff from gamecritics was divided and ended choosing DS as game of the year. However, I didn't appreciate the condescending tone of "DS is not GOTY material". I've already explained why this type of sententious assertion is pointless - to me, he can't use his experience as the sole illuminated one, disrespecting other views, no matter how hard he justifies it to himself.

Coincidentally...

... a couple of people I know just had articles published on Gamasutra that are relevant to this conversation:
The Fallacy of Choice - Justin Keverne
Analysis: The Sexual Politics of Uncharted 2 - Tom Cross

Alex R wrote: The Fallacy

Alex R wrote:

The Fallacy of Choice - Justin Keverne

Justin maintains that adding decisions in UC2 would take away the point of making the player feel heroic, but isn't the decision to act while facing fear and uncertainty the very definition of heroism? If Nate isn't consciously deciding to confront his fears, then isn't he just acting out of blind instinct (like young Anakin in Episode I). Secondly, isn't Nate suppose to be a rogue-type? But the game doesn't allow him or the player to act rogue-ish in any way shape or form. He's just 100% good guy all the time.

I find Tom's article to be curiously bi-polar. On one hand, he call out UC2's characters for all its action movie cliches and stereotypes, but still decides...

Quote:

Among Thieves is an example of careful writing, world-building, and characterization, something we rarely see in games.

That line is followed by this curious one:

Quote:

Chloe Frazer stands head and shoulders above all video game characters, but compared to most women in games, she is truly unique. Forget, or the moment, the way in which her sexy bad girl status is both facilitated by and neutralized by the game’s traditionally romantic story arc.

Even if I can accept that Chloe stands above *ALL* video games characters, Tom continues to celebrate Chloe for a level of emotional complexity and decision-making that is never realized in the game either on-screen during gameplay or in a cut-scene. If the game never fleshes out any of the details of the relationships, choices and back story, is that good dramatic writing/characterization or just conveniently contrived to give the appearance of good writing/characterization while players shoot/jump/punch? And if you say that's not the point of the game, then why is it being celebrated as such?

Choice

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

Justin maintains that adding decisions in UC2 would take away the point of making the player feel heroic, but isn't the decision to act while facing fear and uncertainty the very definition of heroism? If Nate isn't consciously deciding to confront his fears, then isn't he just acting out of blind instinct (like young Anakin in Episode I). Secondly, isn't Nate suppose to be a rogue-type? But the game doesn't allow him or the player to act rogue-ish in any way shape or form. He's just 100% good guy all the time.

I don't think choice is necessarily a magic bullet to make the player feel more engaged, or heroic for that matter. Sometimes seeing a totally scripted story with predefined characters and outcomes can work beautifully. It's entirely possible (at least in my experience) to be engaged in a game's narrative without having any semblance of choice whatsoever. I haven't played either Uncharted game, but take games like FF6, Chrono Trigger, and The Longest Journey for example-the game follows the script, and as long as the script is good (again, I can't speak as to the quality of Uncharted) then I think player choice would just get in the way. Choice can make for great and engaging games like Dragon Age, but it isn't an absolute necessity. Indeed, choice can be a non-factor or even a hindrance, such as in games like inFamous or BioShock.

And of course, I think you and I both would acknowledge that as long as Nathan Drake displays basic situational awareness (which again, he may not, I don't know) then he's leagues beyond little Anakin. Not that that says much about Drake :)

This post was right on the

This post was right on the money for the most part. I can understand you had some difficulty in defining what makes the better game, especially as most of your post basically undermines that project in the process. What you're hinting at is a universal truth which more critics are slowly realizing: video games have the ability to radically redefine our notions of "play" and "pleasure;" on paper, Demon's Souls does not sound like fun, but those with video gaming experience can surely imagine how that could be the case.

The logical result is that no one can really say what the best game of any time period is, but just acknowledge how well a particular game accomplishes a particular kind of goal, and what pleasures people get out of it. To say that one game is more "delightful" than another is still an opinion which reflects one person's experience of the game.

As you've observed, it's a little easier to pin down when something is innovative. Innovation is what elevates video games from mere entertainment to art -- the more there is, the more games can accomplish and the more experiences they can offer. But even then, the most innovative game is not necessarily the "best" game either.

What I find, more and more, is that we should look at what games DO - to gaming, gamers and culture at large - rather than slapping a value judgment on them and placing them in a hierarchy.

I just have to say - we're

I just have to say - we're contrasting quicktime events in a movie-game on the one hand, vs. too much gameplay in a video game on the other. Maybe it's a devil's advocate article?

It's the highly polished product of what's been going wrong with game design - the gradual erosion of player control - vs the surprisingly well done resurgence of a game model that nobody expects to do any business these days. Which game matters more in a couple years when Uncharted's little graphical and physics innovations are par for the course on the next crop of me too war-games?

That new market the community loves to talk about has to grow up and start changing its gaming priorities at some point. They age too.

Uncharted 2 is GOTY because...

Let's switch things up. Forget about everything that has been said here for a moment and just complete just *one* of the following sentences in one or two lines.

Uncharted 2 is GOTY because...
Uncharted 2 is innovative because...
Uncharted 2 is unique because...

Gonna make this quick since

Gonna make this quick since this has already been an endless ping pong match, but in short: Yes Chi, it's your "fault" (certainly your prerogative) for wanting some narrative choice in Uncharted 2.

I don't see how that would be a valid criticism against Gears of War, Metroid Prime, or even Zelda.

So let me clarify. Now, if you were to write a feature piece advocating narrative choice in ALL games, including all of the aforementioned, than by all means I think it's a very valid and reasonable point to raise, and the discussion can launch off there.

I easily and readily accept anyone's opinion of Uncharted 2, but I draw the line in asking for something that's not only not hinted at in the game (and most of the genre), but never even considered.

I have no problem with the statement that UC2 is not innovative because it flatly isn't. I have no problem with UC2 not being GOTY, because there's good arguments against it. I'm just calling you out on that one specific critique, because it's baseless. Not every game can cater to our every arbitrary and formless whim. There's a point where objectivity and nonbias must factor in to a review of an art piece, and only so far the "it's only an opinion or my experience of the game" argument can go.

It's one thing to be provocative, which I fully appreciate and advocate. But reviews should be critiques of what's presented, not a statement on the industry as a whole. There's a place for that as well, but it's largely outside of the context of a review.

And of course, blogs, and this very thread, is a proper context for it. Which is why I'm glad you didn't review Uncharted 2. :P

Gene P. wrote: This is very

Gene P. wrote:

This is very similar to your criticism back in the day of Grand Theft Auto 3's dictation of your reputation through a storyline, or choosing which side to take. You completely missed the mark on that game, a game that has indisputably become one of the most important video games of the decade. It was only reactionary to what other's have said about that game, and not a self-contained criticism, and that was my biggest problem with it.

GTA2 allowed the player to dynamically choose which gang to side with. It was very superficial, which is what I criticized about it at the time, but it was something they could have choose to evolve in part 3, but didn't. So did I miss the mark on something that the developers introduced?

Gene P. wrote:

So let me clarify. Now, if you were to write a feature piece advocating narrative choice in ALL games, including all of the aforementioned, than by all means I think it's a very valid and reasonable point to raise, and the discussion can launch off there.

I easily and readily accept anyone's opinion of Uncharted 2, but I draw the line in asking for something that's not only not hinted at in the game (and most of the genre), but never even considered.

So when a game assembles an ensemble cast of colorful characters, you don't see that as a hint of perhaps allowing for multiple controllable characters and perhaps different narrative perspectives? When a game introduces a love triangle, you don't think the player should have any involvement and interaction in that plot device?

Secondly, I'm surprised that you have this complete vision of what the developers were shooting for. Its common knowledge that developers often start off with one vision and end up with another due to technical limitations and time constraints. Unless you have internal memos from Naughty Dog that say otherwise, I don't see how you can clearly define what the goals of the game were and weren't.

Nor am I saying that all games have to have narrative control. Given the elements that are introduced in UC2 (ensemble cast, love triangle), I didn't feel it was a stretch to criticize this for lacking such elements for a game that many are hailing as GOTY and revolutionary. Right from the get go, I said that I don't hate this game, but for me to call it revolutionary or a new paradigm, it would take some of the features I mentioned whether or not it was intended in the developer's scope.

Gene P. wrote:

I have no problem with the statement that UC2 is not innovative because it flatly isn't. I have no problem with UC2 not being GOTY, because there's good arguments against it. I'm just calling you out on that one specific critique, because it's baseless. Not every game can cater to our every arbitrary and formless whim. There's a point where objectivity and nonbias must factor in to a review of an art piece, and only so far the "it's only an opinion or my experience of the game" argument can go.

It's one thing to be provocative, which I fully appreciate and advocate. But reviews should be critiques of what's presented, not a statement on the industry as a whole. There's a place for that as well, but it's largely outside of the context of a review.

And of course, blogs, and this very thread, is a proper context for it. Which is why I'm glad you didn't review Uncharted 2. :P

So I criticized the game in what you consider to be an appropriate forum for such discussion and yet you still have a problem with my "baseless" criticism? And why can't reviews be statements on the industry? How can we truly appreciate games as art artifacts if we don't consider the culture and history of games?

Or perhaps this comment was directed at my GTA3 second op, which is one helluva long time to hold a grudge. ;-)

Responses

I can't believe this post, now on Page 2, is still going in the comments section. I take that as a bad thing, not a good thing, because some of these comments are no longer constructive.

@Tim:

First of all, I am not an editor of this site. I'm a guest contributor, although that also qualifies me as a staff member (I assume). I had ZERO knowledge of the fact that GameCritics, which is hardly a unanimous or synergized organization along the lines of a staff-paying online publication, was "picking" Demon's Souls as GOTY. If there was some staff get-together to make this a consensus pick, I was unaware. As far as I can tell, Chi and Brad felt it was the best game of the year. If that makes it the GC "GOTY" pick, so be it. I'm not one to stand in the way of this site's choices. Chi is the site's owner, not an Editor in Chief, and he can do as he pleases. I'm only a contributor. But please realize that what I wrote in this post (which is actually just a copy of a post I made on my PERSONAL blog) has nothing to do with what anyone else wrote here, before or thereafter. I respect Chi's opinion. I respect Brad's opinion. And your charges of defamation or libel or whatever the heck you're saying (you didn't make it completely clear) are completely unfounded.

Second, I never "called Gamespot out." I said my post was a response to their choice of Demon's Souls over Uncharted 2 (as well as other nominees). Am I not allowed to disagree with their choice of GOTY? Do I somehow represent Gamespot's corporate ethos, Game Critic's public ethos, or the greater ethos of all online published materials? No. I am simply an individual blogger. The best dialogues, however, are born out of disagreement. I don't see my disagreement as "calling them out." Perhaps if I were frowning upon their publication process, their editors, or saying that I felt Gamespot was somehow a poor site.... But I didn't say anything of the sort. So please, stop overreacting on their behalf. I actually like Gamespot quite a bit.

@Chi:

I think I and others have answered the "fill in the blank" questions you posed. I also think you and Brad have done a solid job of defending your opinions about Uncharted 2, though I and others may disagree with them. I can only speak for myself, however, and I will reiterate:

I feel that Uncharted 2, though in no way innovative (and I stand by the argument that Demon's Souls isn't innovative either), is GOTY material because it aspires to be more than rewarding game design. It aspires to be great storytelling, great level design, AND great action game mechanics. I feel it succeeds on all counts. You and Brad obviously disagree, feeling that the level design is too restrictive and game mechanics are too derivative. But hey, variety is the spice of life, and I welcome a variety of perspective on any of the above opinions.

On that note, I and others have also suggested that the key problem with what you're suggesting is that you seem to feign ignorance over the kind of game that Uncharted 2 is trying to be. It is a linear roller coaster ride dressed in cinematic overtones... the Contra III of 2009. But you seem to want Contra III mixed with Zelda. I don't see how that is possible to do in Naughty Dog's game without removing the soul and appeal of what makes Uncharted 2 a terrific roller-coaster ride. And I'm not sure why you expected something other than the game with which you were presented. Now, if you're arguing that Uncharted 2 is simply nothing new in terms of genre convention, I would wholeheartedly agree. I think everyone above has agreed on that point.

But to say that dissenters have sidetracked the discussion by talking about the "nature" of the game is somewhat misleading. Because this IS a discussion about the nature of the game. Naughty Dog obviously had a very specific vision of what Uncharted and its sequel were supposed to be when they sought to create linear action games. How well they succeeded in bringing that vision to life is certainly up for debate, but my honest... honest... honest best guess is that they did not set out to make the game you appear to prefer. Is that their fault? Well, that, too, is arguable. But again, I would say no. I think genre conventions carry specific design traits... and Uncharted 2 follows most of them. What you're describing is something very non-action-game-like, if that makes sense.

Responses, cont'd.

KCalder wrote:

I just have to say - we're contrasting quicktime events in a movie-game on the one hand, vs. too much gameplay in a video game on the other. Maybe it's a devil's advocate article?

It's the highly polished product of what's been going wrong with game design - the gradual erosion of player control - vs the surprisingly well done resurgence of a game model that nobody expects to do any business these days. Which game matters more in a couple years when Uncharted's little graphical and physics innovations are par for the course on the next crop of me too war-games?

That new market the community loves to talk about has to grow up and start changing its gaming priorities at some point. They age too.

Now this is an excellent comment, and I think you make outstanding points, KCalder. Where I would disagree, however, is that Uncharted 2 has nothing to show for its design save surface gloss. How exactly does Uncharted 2 represent "the erosion of player control"? You are in control of Drake even during sequences that in other titles would be relegated to non-interactive cinema.

Now, it is true that in these games--like many other games in this genre--you are give a very clear objective and a linear path towards it. The same can be said of Gears of War, Half-Life 2, and so on (although I haven't seen as much criticism levied against those two--arguably excellent--titles). But is that a matter of player "control" or "agency"? On the contrary; I'd argue that it is simply a different kind of player empowerment, although its contrivance is more heavily masked than, say, player agency in Demon's Souls. Even though the player is being led towards a goal, there is the illusion--however arguably potent--that the player is in charge of his/her destiny. This illusion is created via a mix of compelling story and immersion into intricate level design. Because those things, too, have a great deal to do with how a player conceives of his/her "control"... whether we like to admit it or not.

In fact, it is this very tension of perceived agency vs. real agency on which Bioshock has crafted its glowing reputation. Why fault Uncharted 2 for something that other games even go to great lengths to point out about their design? I'm not saying that all games SHOULD be like Uncharted 2. No one here is. But to argue that fewer games should be? What is the compelling argument for this? Just because the game is linear? Hey, I enjoy playing Tempest 2000 just as much as I enjoy playing Elder Scrolls. They're simply *different.*

Why people like to make this into a qualitative argument regarding the very future of our industry is beyond me. For now, I'm satisfied with the fact that we have excellent games of linear and non-linear sorts. I think you should be satisfied by that, too.

Chi Kong Lui wrote: So I

Chi Kong Lui wrote:

So I criticized the game in what you consider to be an appropriate forum for such discussion and yet you still have a problem with my "baseless" criticism? And why can't reviews be statements on the industry? How can we truly appreciate games as art artifacts if we don't consider the culture and history of games?

Or perhaps this comment was directed at my GTA3 second op, which is one helluva long time to hold a grudge. ;-)

Toward the end of my last post was when I suddenly realized that I may be unfairly harping on you for simply commenting on a blog post. That is the reason for the awkward slight backpedaling toward the end of it. :P so I humbly apologize!

It's also certainly the reason WHY I brought up your GTA3 second op in the first place, because it was in my mind the most memorable example of you using this reasoning for another game.

Please don't take this as me being haughty, but I brought it up to caution you against using this line of critique in future games. Honestly I'm not even talking about just Uncharted 2 opinions anymore. This is about critiquing.

I don't have ND's internal memos, of course. But I've followed the game's development through media and it's been said time and time again (even in the game's in-game documentary) that the purpose of the game was never going to be about player choice, but providing the same experience for all players.

As Matt just said (and the article posted by Alex), giving player choice in UC2 would've given us a COMPLETELY different game in probably a different genre altogether even.

Now that's all fine and dandy as a personal preference, but if a critic goes around wishing all games catered to his or her arbitrary whims, that critic would become an unreliable narrator to all except those with similar interests.

Linearity

Perhaps I came off a bit harsh on Uncharted 2, which I do think does what it's designed to very well.

Maybe I can restate my argument on Bioshock and System Shock 2, since you mentioned Bioshock as a good example of a game that successfully balances between linear gameplay and exploration.

It's a good comparison to make, because I can point out all the things that Bioshock stripped out of the experience in the name of fixing the game model for a wider audience. The inventory management, the key-fetching and puzzle-solving elements, to a large extent the hidden items, and to a large extent the stat and job system, are just not in Bioshock.

There's method to that madness. Bioshock, after all, has some great combat set pieces, and in general is more about in-your-face conflict rather than meticulous survival.

Really, it is entirely too easy to suffer economic death halfway through System Shock 2. Even if you are juggling the disparate elements of the game pretty well. People I've recommended the game to (as one of my all-time favorites) just don't get the joy of starting over and trying a different route, a different class, or trying harder to explore and conserve. For me, managing those rpg elements in pursuit of the all-important story progression isn't a chore. For me, designing the controls just the way I want them isn't a distraction. When done right, as I feel they were, they enhance immersion in the role, rather than detracting from it.

I can enjoy a more linear encounter based game - after all, what's a boss fight? You're correct in saying that no one really criticizes Half-Life for being too scripted - it created a very strong illusion of reality and sense that anything can happen, and for what it's worth, so does Uncharted.

But I think these days, these design choices, which do represent almost a shortcut to good game design, are overused. By that I mean controlled situations, managed levels of difficulty, simplistic controls. I don't really care about industry trends in gaming beyond the effect they have on what kind of games are available to me. For my part, it's the unscripted moments - the Mexican standoffs, the headlong retreats, the back and forth struggle of tactical combat - that's what makes a game gold.

It's got to be very hard to design a game with that intent. Bad, predictable AI can sour things so easily, turning all events into the same event. On the player end, sometimes one tactic works too well on every challenge, and that ruins it too. I would argue that this kind of gameplay is very contingent on nonlinearity, on situations that might be -too- challenging or -too- easy depending on how you approach them, and interface/controls that really put you in a position to make a lot of choices, some of which might be the wrong choice.

Demon's Souls is not actually that much of a standout in terms of free-form exploring, at least not on the level of System Shock 2 or Oblivion. Where I think it excels is in combat control, which feels very organic and unscripted. Usually in this sort of game there are a plethora of useless moves - as well as glaringly overpowered moves or weapon types. Usually it is very easy to break the system by exploiting the AI. This game fixes stuff that nothing else out there was ever likely to fix.

I mean, nobody really expects combat improvements out of Elder Scrolls, ever. At most, we hope the next version's expedient way of sucker-punching monsters will be entertaining.

KCalder wrote: Usually it

KCalder wrote:

Usually it is very easy to break the system by exploiting the AI. This game fixes stuff that nothing else out there was ever likely to fix.

Great points throughout. Except maybe this one. I exploited the hell out of the Flamelurker's AI and his room's faulty design. The guy was so incredibly hard, there was no way I was going to do a fair-and-square fight against him my third runthrough.

Same with the Maneater exploit of killing one of them without even entering the boss room.

I can only assume you made it through Demon's Souls without discovering these exploits, and if that's true, your Demon's Souls guy can kick my Demon's Souls guy's ass. :)

Much of the confusion over

Much of the confusion over how narratives in games like UC2 relate to how good the game is results from the fact that a “video game” is a complex computer program with both narrative and game components. In something like UC2, or some other heavily scripted game (since I haven't played it), the narrative component primarily provides motivation for the player to take action and glues sections of gameplay together in terms of fiction, but does not really affect the game component much otherwise. It involves most of the character development, location set up, objective set up, and so on. The game component is where the player has control and can manipulate the symbols that have been set up.

Currently the state of games is such that they excel at simulating physical space and doing environmental storytelling. They are also pretty terrible at simulating things like character and personality. It's not that this stuff can't be done or even done well, but it is much more difficult to simulate a believable person than it is, say, an explosion of debris. I think it takes a willingness to try, and there are a lot of factors that come into play, from who the developers are to what the publishers think will sell to how hard a particular rule set is to program.

Matthew K wrote:

Why people like to make this into a qualitative argument regarding the very future of our industry is beyond me.

The reason is that player choice - the ability to configure the events that unfold - is what differentiates games from other media (not that you were saying all games were, by any means, because you differentiated between the types of games and accept them both). If games aren't even willing to try to give the player a choice, then in a real sense we have reached as far as we are going to go, and that may be what sometimes frustrates people like me or, I presume, Chi.

Matthew K wrote:

Even though the player is being led towards a goal, there is the illusion--however arguably potent--that the player is in charge of his/her destiny.

Matthew, excellent comment distiguishing real and perceived agency. Real agency, or to actually make a decision yourself and bear the consequences, is far different and has much more potential than this perceived agency, which is when someone else makes the decision. This is why, for a game, every time someone says things like

Gene P. wrote:

the purpose of the game was never going to be about player choice, but providing the same experience for all players.

God kills a kitten. ;) If we want all players to experience the same sequence of events, why not just watch a movie, where the storytelling is decades ahead of where it is for games? These heavy narrative games simply give the illusion of agency. While the game is unfolding the player may refer to the avatar as "I" and have an identity that overlaps to some degree with Drake. However, when all is said and done,

KCalder wrote:

Which game matters more in a couple years when Uncharted's little graphical and physics innovations are par for the course on the next crop of me too war-games?

How many people remain affected? How many people really personalize the decisions that Drake, or Snake, or whomever, takes? Not many, I would think. If I play a game where *I* make the decisions and the events that unfold are a direct result of those decisions, then it's much more likely to have a lasting effect on me, because I'm doing rather than merely interpreting.

I haven't played Demon's

I haven't played Demon's Souls yet, as there does not seem to be a Europe release in sight. However, the Gamespot GOTY did surprise me a lot. Maybe there's still hope for the "proffessional" gaming journalism. Keep in mind, this is the kind of writers who'd but something like Oblivion or Modern Warefare 2 as GOTY.

Hi, just passing through

Hi, just passing through here. Great discussions you guys have been having.

As someone who is currently playing Demon's Souls, I can fully testify to the charm of this game. I can also relate to everyone who is disappointed with the amount of time it takes, though I am split personally in my opinion of whether it is a bad thing or not.

The one thing I will whole heartedly agree on is that it would have been nice to have more checkpoints. I should point out here, by 'checkpoint' I actually mean 'shortcut'; just like the ones seen in world 1.1. The descent into the swamp was a particularly bad one, as it was quite a hard area with a very tough enemy at the end, and a lot of my time spent in 3.2 was simply running from the archstone to the swamp, running by all the gargoyles.

It's moments when you feel like you are drudging through established ground that really make me let out a sigh and wonder what else I could be doing. It's good for the game economy in a way, though I do question whether leveling up as a result of playing the same stage multiple times in a row is really a mechanic that should be encouraged (but it does feel oh so good to see that you have over 10,000 souls waiting to be cashed in).

The worst of it is, you can do a section so many times that you are cock sure you have it down to a T, but then as soon as you start thinking you can waltz through it, the game hands your ass back to you on a platter.

I love this game though, and that is my excuse for ploughing on - I just must know what happens next.

As a thought about the rinse-and-repeat game play, I would be absolutely against the suggestion of having all enemies die permanently, as it would feel like I were purging the game of all its fun as I ran through it. However, I do agree that some system to curtail the grinding moments of the game would definitely be an improvement. Summoning players into a game to help could be argued as solving this problem, but I personally want to finish the game by myself before inviting others to help complete it with me.

But all in all, I really am infatuated with this game. As an experience it feels so very chunky, thick with experiences to be had. I completely disagree that it is not immersive; the worlds have frequently taken me inside them, and the logic they display in their construction is quite charming, from tunnel dwelling lava bugs deep beneath a mining network, a lake of purple poison sitting beneath a blackened sky, and to the dragons roosting on a craggy cliff beside the castle, looking out for fresh meat along the walls. Everything has its place, its home, in Demon's Souls. Unfortunately, sometimes I really want to leave them be and find somewhere new.

Me again, I just thought it

Me again, I just thought it would be interesting to others for me to post my thoughts on Uncharted2 (in case anyone is building a dossier of what kinds of gamers think about what :-))

I loved Uncharted, I thought it was extremely charming despite the often monotonous gameplay. It was the characters and the story that allowed me to enjoy it; perhaps it was just what I needed at the time, a light-hearted Indiana romp through some lush (if artificial) environments. It never sat well with me just how many random thugs I was shooting to death, however. Still, I very much enjoyed the experience.

I have Uncharted2, but have not played it too far into the game, so my thoughts on it could well be invalidated by this fact. I loved the intro train section, despite feeling like there really wasn't any chance of me doing something wrong. The museum section was hit and miss...I frequently had to restart sections because I didn't do them exactly how the game expeced me to. The first jungle part was OK though I had some troubles with setting the bombs (I didn't realise I was at the place I was meant to be doing it, because it looked like an insignificant collection of shacks). I remember there was a big firefight afterward that took some attempts before getting past. Then I was in the city, and I killed some people.

I don't remember much of the story. I don't remember much of the story of the first game, either, though. I think I stopped playing because I got bored, but I feel like I was potentially at a tipping point where it stops being a dull on-a-rails shooter and started introducing some spa-zaz into the gameplay, but unfortunately I wasn't holding my breath, as I feel that the cinematics were all there to give me the impression there was more the game than there actually was.

There were many, many moments where my actions were given positive feedback via scripted actions on screen...they were, in effect, blind quick time events. The trouble is, whenever I experience this in games, I always feel used. I feel like the game is manipulating my sense of acomplishment by offering greater reward than that which I am doing...I am effectively watching a movie that is button-driven, and makes up for this by having somewhat interesting firefights inbetween. But...the game? Where's the game?

I'm sure I will time to play Uncharted 2 all the way through. I'm sure, at that time, I will enjoy it. I am not confident it will be high on my list of inspiring games, however. Rather I fully expect to feel like my body has been inhabited by the designers for 6 hours whilst I experience their fun-ride, and I am sure I will feel used.

Demon's Souls...is a hard game. But damn it I'm the one getting through it, my way.

@JC

JC, thanks for taking the time to comment and to relate your own experience with these two games. If you're still interested in the Demons Souls, Uncharted 2 debate, it was continued for quite a bit in Chi Kong Lui's take on UC2:

http://www.gamecritics.com/chi-kong-lui/the-fallacy-of-universal-authorship-in-games-and-why-uncharted-2-isnt-goty

Game of the year

I'm going to make a few quick counter-arguments to your interpretation of Demon's Souls.

"And here is the opposing criticism: It artificially extends the lifespan of the game. Imagine how much shorter a game Demon's Souls would be if you could start a level over with all destroyed demons gone."

No one is arguing that DS is good because it has a long "lifespan". I think that most fans of DS would tell you that playing the first 5 or so levels is sufficient to get a great DS experience. Hell, 3 levels, 1-1,2-1,3-1 would be a substantial experience.

"In my own experiences with the game, I elected to go with a Barbarian character. The lack of usable armor and weapons pretty much doomed my experience with the game from the get-go, although there is no way I would have known this without consulting websites or strategy guides beforehand."

News-flash: naked people are more likely to be injured by swords, spears and falling rocks. This is true in real life, and most video games. I applaud DS for refusing to indulge your naked-adventuring fantasy.

"Demon's Souls revels in taking a player out of the gameplay experience. Again, rather than immerse the player in its stunningly crafted world, the game is meant to shock the player out of immersion. The player is always beholden to the design, not the other way around. Nothing about the game outside of aesthetics and the mere idea of "conquering a challenge" is designed in service to the player."

I experienced a deep level of immersion, and so did many other people. The challenge and the intensity forced me to focus completely on staying alive, deeply immersing me in my character. Beating 2-2 in one shot on my first try, not knowing anything about what was in the level, was tremendous.

I find the idea of games "designed in service to the player" morally questionable. When you're working on a quest-log 30 pages deep, you rarely stop to ask the question, "Why am I doing this?"

"It is grinding incarnate."

I whole-heartedly disagree. Skill, focus, planning, analysis - Demon's Souls rewards all these things. To me grinding = mindless gameplay, aka the opposite of DS.

Barbarian

I just created my first barbarian to see what that experience is like. Barbarians start out with a decent shield, two caveman clubs, wearing nothing but their underoos. They are extremely agile, deal high damage and can only take a few hits. It's fun: it encourages a fast, creative play-style. It really encourages you to "live off the land," because you're sent in with no equipment. I was really enjoying the firebombs and the crossbow that I found - I had never played DS as a "consumable items" character, but that definitely has potential.

Yes, barbarian is a very advanced DS class. It's like the DS equivalent of a survivalist tv show like "Survivor Man" or "Man vs. Wild." But, to be honest, you're not at as much of a disadvantage as you think you are. The club is a good weapon and you find or buy armor that you can wear for the entire game in the first levels. Hell, you can buy plate armor in 1-1. The truth of the matter is that everyone gets owned on their first play-through, even if they have armor or magic.

But, I do see your point. If you are short on time, I can see how you could get incredibly frustrated when you lose progress. Having limited time would make you rush and thus make you die horrifically. It's like an episode of the Twilight Zone: your desire to progress quickly makes the game take forever.

This is an old post, but I

This is an old post, but I like commenting on old posts anyway.

First off, Oblivion is my favorite game of all time (although I've certainly logged more time in Diablo II, haha). An immersive, open, and extremely fun RPG like Oblivion just can't be beat. I really really really put off buying Demon's Souls, because I was convinced I would hate it for all the reasons you mentioned. Wow, was I ever wrong. I'm 9 hours in, and I'm convinced that it may top Oblivion as my favorite game ever (well, honestly, it'll probably come in 2nd, still impressive). I consider it to be one of the most immersive games ever. I feel alone, scared, and completely wide awake whenever I play it. It's quite a feeling.

It's true that the difficulty lies in restarting from scratch whenever you die, but so far the game has given every opportunity to NOT die. In other words, I really only die when I'm careless and don't take the time to assess the situation. Granted, I've only had to beat 3 bosses so far, so maybe the "tricks" to beating them are difficult to figure out later on...we'll see.

As for Uncharted 2, I loved the game, but it's not even in the same league as Oblivion or Demon's Souls. It's a good action game with a nice, friendly story. Immersive? No... Fun? heck yeah!

You've got some very good

You've got some very good points in this article, but maybe a bit off-topic, I could really do with a reminder as to how Fallout 3's combat system is "inventive and deep", it was a good game, but overall the combat system was exactly the same as the majority of other games coming out at the moment. And I don't quite understand how you can rate FO3's combat system as "deep" over that of Demon's Souls.

Regarding Demons Souls'

Regarding Demons Souls' harsh death penalty. I think its in the game for a reason. Does it extend the time you spend with the game by a whole lot? Yes absolutely. But more importantly, as others have said, it forces you to take the game cautiously and stay alert, recognize the patterns.

For me personally my heart was pounding during the bosses of Demons Souls and it was because the stakes are so high. There are few games that have given me the same feeling. If the game had checkpoints it would completely ruin that feeling of genuinely wanting to avoid dying at all costs.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Code of Conduct

Comments are subject to approval/deletion based on the following criteria:
1) Treat all users with respect.
2) Post with an open-mind.
3) Do not insult and/or harass users.
4) Do not incite flame wars.
5) Do not troll and/or feed the trolls.
6) No excessive whining and/or complaining.

Please report any offensive posts here.

For more video game discussion with the our online community, become a member of our forum.

Our Game Review Philosophy and Ratings Explanations.

About Us | Privacy Policy | Review Game | Contact Us | Twitter | Facebook |  RSS
Copyright 1999–2010 GameCritics.com. All rights reserved.