Home Editorial Balance Dark Souls 2 is horrible, and here’s why (the bosses)

Note: This is the first article in a series dissecting the good, bad, and horrid of Dark Souls 2. Rebuttals to the arguments presented here will come in future articles, but feel free to disagree in the comments below. These opinions are my own, and are informed by others as little as possible.

Hatred for Dark Souls 2 is rampant, going so far as to infect writers of Forbes. The game is, at its core, inferior to the first Dark Souls in almost every way imaginable. Almost everything fails to meet the high marks set by the original Dark Souls. Are there moments of brilliance? Of course, few games can claim to be completely awful, but Dark Souls 2 fails on so many different levels that you might even consider these bright moments moot. There are any number of problems, three major ones stand out: bosses, map design, character development and plot construction. I’ll cover the bosses today, and the rest in future articles.

Bullshit bosses

The original Dark Souls had its fair share of poorly designed bosses, from the Capra Demon to Bed of Chaos and Nito, among others. Their primary failing was in a lack of actual challenge, and instead of redesigning them to accommodate skill, the induced a sense of artificial difficulty through the use of tight spaces, surprise insta-deaths, and additional enemies. Capra’s dogs and Nito’s skeletons, while certainly relevant in context, add nothing but annoyance to the fights themselves. Bed of Chaos, for its part, forced players to accept that the boss was really just a series of death pits and otherwise served as little bearing on skill (at least on the first few go arounds).

Dark Souls 2 takes these concepts and amplifies them, but not in ways that enhance the experience. Rather, most of the unfairness comes from an exploitation of a faulty mechanic or the expansion on an already unsavory design choice. Three examples come to mind: Lost Sinner, Duke’s Dear Freja, and the Skeleton Lords.

Lost Sinner: This fight is an outright exploitation of the sub-par locking mechanics. Unless you take the time to light the lanterns in the arena from the outside, the battlefield will be almost completely dark. As a result, lock distance is minuscule, easily broken, and, with Sinner’s frequent jumping, almost impossible to maintain. Sinner is an extremely fast boss, with powerful attacks that come in waves. If you can’t keep tabs on her for any length of time, you’re likely to be respawning with a little less total health. Provided you’re fighting her alone, the frustration will be palpable every time Sinner jumps and transitions into a lunge. Add to all this that her weapon’s damage hitbox is larger and wider than the sword model itself, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Duke’s Dear Freja: Like Nito before her, Freja is a chump without assistance. And like Nito, her minions respawn in large enough numbers to be bothersome. In this case, however, the spider mooks are faster, harder to hit, and guarded not by a squishy boss but by invincible spider legs. Moreover, none of Freja’s attacks can injure the little spiders, where Nito would kindly murder his undead allies on a whim. In short, then, Freja is an easy fight in a “difficult” game that they made “difficult” by adding distractions instead of focusing on actual difficulty.

Skeleton Lords: If I can wax personal for a moment, let me just say Fuck you, From Software. No one needed a boss that includes bonewheels, and that you have to kill the fuckers in order to progress. I can’t think of a single person who, when they made it to the Catacombs in the original Dark Souls, said to themselves, “Oh, sweet, now I can fight the bonewheels!” If you are such a person, please commit yourself to an asylum after writing me a personal email detailing your insanity. On a more serious note, like Freja, this fight is more about avoiding the mooks and killing them than actively fighting the boss itself; the boss is mooks essentially, and that’s just sad.

 

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7 replies to this post
  1. Bonewheels <3 being chased by them while trying to beat the boss with a bonfire ascetic to get that +2 ring early game with low-ish level magic is scary. :D
    At least I'm not the only one who gets annoyed by the Lost Sinner's bullshit hitbox.
    What annoys me a lot with most of the bosses is that when fought in co-op the fight just turns into a simple matter of "look over here! come attack my big shiny shield while my ally pokes you in the back." Sure not all builds use shields but the concept is the same.

    • I remember getting to the skeleton lords and saying aloud to myself, “They made a boss fight of the most annoying enemies in the game. Fucking fantastic.” or something to that effect.

      And to your second point, a buddy of mine destroyed the Lost Sinner with the help of Lucatiel because I’d mentioned how annoying she was. Without help, a lot of bosses take thought and planning. With all but invulnerable AI assistance, the fight becomes a cakewalk. How then to fix this? From’s answer: more mooks! Sad really. I love Dark Souls 2, don’t get me wrong, there are just so many things that could have been better.

      • The whole Manscorpion creature to me felt like they lacked ideas for any boss designs.

        What upset me the most with DS2 was that when I started playing and saw the new throwing knives and firebombs and that they had been buffed since DS1 I thought yay I can actually do a complete Castlevania play-through of the story rather than just making a build endgame to pvp with like in DS1 what me and some friends did, from the beginning by getting the Old Whip which took a few tries to do the 5:20 trick or whatever time it was. Only to then find out how the whip breaks within literally 10-15 hits… not even kills (I know there’s the ring to increase durability but it just wasn’t worth it). Much to my disappointment.

        Fortunately this was balanced out when I rebuilt one of my favourite/most powerful DS1 builds, the low(ish) soul level melee INT build with the almighty Moonlight Greatsword which now combo’d beautifully with my Illusory Ring of Exalted and CMW for an invisible crystal beast of a weapon which easily and stealthily shot down those pesky Estus Flask drinkers all whilst looking innocent and harmless (pre-patch… cough… :'( yup, more disappointment with DS2) taunting newbies one week into the game.

  2. I enjoyed Dark Souls 2 and I feel like this article gets a bit hyperbolic at times (Freja for instance is only easy once you work out a pattern to “solve” her, which describes almost every boss in the first game, an intimidation-and-mastery balance I actually kind of liked even when it comes to bosses like Nito), but I generally agree. It’s hard to enjoy the game when its predecessor was such a masterpiece.

    My feelings on the game are pretty analogous to my feelings on Skyrim. It’s a sequel to a brilliant game (Morrowind, in the case of TES) which for intents and purposes was done by a different team, and which is valuable in its relative success in cloning some of the harder-to-clone aspects of its predecessor. Good-enough fodder for the fans who ultimately just want more game to play. But it’s hard not to compare it to the brilliant piece of work it’s palely imitating, and so its faults are much more strongly felt, much more difficult to ignore, than they might be if the game were its own beast. Of course, this is a perfectly fair line of criticism – Dark Souls 2 even seems eager to reflexively comment on its nature as a sequel. It could never have existed without its source material.

    That said, Dark Souls 2 probably has the smoothest gamefeel in the series, it has really good mechanics for exploring the stats and playing with different character builds ( my second-playthrough ranger build was tons of fun), and it’s still loaded with enough satisfying moments of discovery to lead to at least one enjoyable run. If someone who doesn’t tend to deep-read their games asked me which game to play in order to get into the series for the first time, I’d probably say Dark Souls 2.

    • The hyperbole is partially intentional. These articles are first because I love Dark Souls 2 a ton. I’m still playing and experimenting, and there’s so much good I want to talk about. But I wanted to get these things off my chest, primarily so I can talk about what I do like, as there’s a lot of that.

      And you’re right, in comparison to the first Dark Souls, 2 is a pale comparison, but the real trick is judging the two on their own merits rather than side by side. Now, that’s harder given how often two refers to its predecessor, but I think any major critique that does so has more weight with me that one that takes the two at once. This of course means my own criticisms here weigh less on my own mind than they would otherwise.

      And from a feel standpoint, everything is tight, has heft, and generally flows more smoothly, I agree. I actually just made the suggestion to another buddy of mine that if they wanted to get started in the Souls series, they should probably start with DS2. While it can never be what DS1 was, simply by virtue of 1 existing, it’s a good gateway game to a much deeper experience.

  3. For those who say the game lacks story and substance take the time to beat the game and farm all the gear and read the details to unfold plenty of masterful story plot made into a like jigsaw puzzle theme. There is plenty of plot and plenty of story’s to keep you wondering. For example a story about the bell towers price and princess and the boss mantra . Just because your to lazy to work for your “prize” doesn’t mean you should bash on the game. The game is balanced and fair to boss fights and pvp alike. Not like other games where you become so overpowered that the game become butter or without substance. I have a 288 soul level acc and I just got the 3rd dlc and it’s still kicking my behind , which is good because what the point in buying a ten dollar dlc if your just going to fly through it. Also the game is meant to be played with challenges like a soul level 1 run through. Which is possible in games like these. I actually prefer ds2 to ds1 because in ds1 your were either overpowered or underpowered and for the boss fights ds1 bosses were somewhat retarded to where you can hit a leg of a giant boss and it will fall to it’s death. No better the parrying the pursuer and using the crossbow to kill it. At least that took some skills.

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