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.


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72 Comments on "Why Demon’s Souls isn’t GOTY material and other strange tales"

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Anonymous
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Anonymous
6 years 1 month ago
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… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
6 years 2 months ago

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.

Oblivion Fan
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Oblivion Fan
6 years 4 months ago
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).… Read more »
blackboxme
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blackboxme
6 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
blackboxme
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blackboxme
6 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Matthew Kaplan
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Matthew Kaplan
6 years 7 months ago

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

JC
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JC
6 years 7 months ago
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,… Read more »
JC
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JC
6 years 7 months ago
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… Read more »
Zas
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Zas
6 years 8 months ago

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.

Odofakyodo
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Odofakyodo
6 years 8 months ago
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.… Read more »
Gene P.
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Gene P.
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=KCalder] 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. [/quote] 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… Read more »
KCalder
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KCalder
6 years 8 months ago
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,… Read more »
Gene P.
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Gene P.
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Chi Kong Lui]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. ;-)[/quote] Toward the end of my last post was when I suddenly realized that I may be unfairly harping on you… Read more »
Matthew K
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6 years 8 months ago
[quote=KCalder]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… Read more »
Matthew K
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6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Gene P.]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.[/quote] GTA2 allowed the player to dynamically choose which gang to side with. It was very superficial, which is what I criticized… Read more »
Gene P.
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Gene P.
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago

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…

KCalder
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KCalder
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Quiche
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Quiche
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Richard Naik
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Richard Naik
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Chi Kong Lui]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.[/quote] I don’t think choice is necessarily… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Alex R]The Fallacy of Choice – Justin Keverne[/quote] 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.… Read more »
Alex R
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6 years 8 months ago

… 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

ckzatwork
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ckzatwork
6 years 8 months ago

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.

ckzatwork
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ckzatwork
6 years 8 months ago

*Don’t* allow. See, I’m just stupid.

ckzatwork
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ckzatwork
6 years 8 months ago

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.

Tim
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Tim
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Gene P.]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?[/quote] 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… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Alex R]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.[/quote] 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… Read more »
Gene P.
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Gene P.
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Brad Gallaway
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Brad Gallaway
6 years 8 months ago
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’… Read more »
Gene P.
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Gene P.
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Richard Naik
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Richard Naik
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Alex R]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.[/quote] 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… Read more »
Odofakyodo
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Odofakyodo
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=lun4tic]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.[/quote] 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… Read more »
Alex R
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6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Gene P.]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.[/quote] 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… Read more »
Zolos
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Zolos
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
coyls3
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coyls3
6 years 8 months ago

what Gene said.

Gene P.
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Gene P.
6 years 8 months ago

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

Gene P.
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Gene P.
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
lun4tic
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lun4tic
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Odofakyodo
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Odofakyodo
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
ckzatwork
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ckzatwork
6 years 8 months ago
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. 😛 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,… Read more »
Odofakyodo
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Odofakyodo
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago

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.

Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=coyls3]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.[/quote] 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… Read more »
RandomRob
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RandomRob
6 years 8 months ago

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.

Gene P.
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Gene P.
6 years 8 months ago
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.… Read more »
coyls3
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coyls3
6 years 8 months ago
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,… Read more »
Gene P.
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Gene P.
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Goatart
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Goatart
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Alex R
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6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Alex R]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… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Alex R
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6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Brandon Erickson]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.[/quote] 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… Read more »
Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Richard Naik]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. [/quote] 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… Read more »
Trent Fingland
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Trent Fingland
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Goatart
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Goatart
6 years 8 months ago
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… Read more »
Richard Naik
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Richard Naik
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Alex R]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.[/quote] 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… Read more »
ckzatwork
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ckzatwork
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Brandon Erickson]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. [/quote] 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… Read more »
Brandon Erickson
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Brandon Erickson
6 years 8 months ago

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.

Alex R
Guest
6 years 8 months ago

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.

Chi Kong Lui
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Chi Kong Lui
6 years 8 months ago
[quote=Alex R]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.[/quote] 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… Read more »
Alex R
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6 years 9 months ago
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… Read more »
ckzatwork
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ckzatwork
6 years 9 months ago
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… Read more »
Anonymous
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Anonymous
6 years 9 months ago

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

lun4tic
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lun4tic
6 years 9 months ago
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… Read more »
Seluropnek
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Seluropnek
6 years 9 months ago
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… Read more »
Matthew
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6 years 9 months ago
@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… Read more »
ckzatwork
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ckzatwork
6 years 9 months ago
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… Read more »
Cybrmynd
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Cybrmynd
6 years 9 months ago
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… Read more »
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