In other Dark Arisen news
Broken railings OP, pls nerf
For the record, then, in Dragon’s Dogma one must be level 47 in order to equip the Dragon’s Glaze longbow without a stamina penalty.
And if you haven’t experienced the stamina penalty, it basically means every action you take besides walking/jogging will hit your stamina bar, even unskilled core attacks that ordinarily do not. Even core attacks with other weapons!
I got the Dragon’s Glaze at level 21 and have played the game as a ranger far longer with the penalty than without. It sucks.
The Dragon’s Dogma soundtrack has three different underscores for battle depending on comparative levels between your party and your foes: “Normal” “Tension” and “Hopeless”. When a non-boss encounter starts, it begins playing one of those themes (and loops it seamlessly).
You might recognize their distinctive lead-ins: Normal starts quietly and has a sort of “sonar” warble sound to it. Tension launches into some heavy bass drums with some electric guitar chords and orchestral strings. And Hopeless starts with a guitar glissando and a lot of really heavy choir work.
It’s a cool idea and works really well to convey to the player whether they’re in deep shit or not, even if they don’t recognize right away consciously. Or maybe you listen for it and if that choir starts up you just just run the hell away!
In Dark Arisen on Bitterblack Isle, the concept is the same but the music has been rewritten, and the three tracks are now called “Conventional” “Tension” and “Despair”. They’re more similar to each other than the main Gransys tracks, but still differ in how they bed under your fighting.
Conventional has some moderate drumming and mild guitar work and then gets into some orchestral string beds and arpeggios. Tension starts much the same way but instead of the electric guitar it uses some very fat brass and some heavier drums along with a fairly aggressive bass guitar. Despair is a combination of both Tension and Conventional with some extra choir work that really heightens the idea of “you’re fucked.”
I do want to highlight how fantastic the DD soundtrack is, including the Dark Arisen additions. And! Both the DD OST and Dark Arisen additions are available on CD and are really worthwhile additions to your film/game score library.
Anyway, the random observation is this: when doing a Bitterblack Challenge, you pretty much only ever hear the “Despair” track!
I decided to do one last Dragon’s Dogma Bitterblack Island Challenge as a Strider. I think I got the Frigid Finger for my mage pawn at level 17, the Dragon’s Glaze at level 19 and Dragon’s Pain at level 20.
Now I’m at level 34, after shooting dragons in the face several times, and the fucking thing is STILL punishing me with stamina penalties for “using weapons designed for higher level characters”. So frustrating.
This is the actual form of an “artificial difficulty”, not noob player whining about hard games. I earned those weapons the hard way by kicking ass as very low level character in a very hard area of the game, and it won’t let me use them because why exactly? Fuck. You.
On the other hand, there was an epically hilarious battle where I stood on the pillars in the Rotunda of Dread and re-enacted the scene in The Hobbit where Bilbo incites the trolls to fight each other by shooting cyclopeses in the eye and the golem in the discs from extreme distance, causing them to enrage and flail so they’d strike one another accidentally… and then they aggroed on each other and it was comedy gold.
Such a great game, but so tragically flawed. Sigh.
One week until Dark Souls 2.
So I decided to give the Warrior class in Dragon’s Dogma a go, just to see if there was any meat I missed on the bone. (For those just tuning in, I’m doing “Bitterblack Island Challenges” of most classes. (Which means going to BBI as soon as you unlock Jonathan in the Encampment and not coming back except to sleep at the inn in Cassardis because otherwise the game is way too easy and boring.))
It’s a lot like the fighter class, unsurprisingly. Both warrior and fighter don’t have magic. Except that warriors only have three moves total in addition to the core skills (fighters have three sword + three shield).
But it is still the same class, pretty much.
Instead of trying for a Perfect Block (fighter) when attacked, you either jump and slash, or trigger Exodus Slash for the i-frames.
And instead of Dragon’s Maw in a crowd, you can also hit Exodus Slash, which is very fast and has some good follow-ups.
Jump and slash is good for harpies, etc. And hitting taller enemies in the face (or hand, or knee). Jump and smash is okay but has pretty limited targeting ability, and it’s slow. Both are improved by the Strider’s Eminence augment (+20% strength on jump attacks).
The warrior’s unique abilities are the big charge-up attacks where you either try and hide from enemies for 5-10 seconds (Arc of Obliteration) and then do a big smash, or you stand there and soak up damage (Act of Atonement) and then pay it back.
But overall, the class is pretty boring. These big charge-up moves are just not that great. Not quite as boring as being a sorcerer and firing off Maelstroms, because at least you have to be on the ground. But they take away from kind of the warrior’s more epic moments of swinging and smashing.
Really at vocation level 8+ the warrior kind of turns into a sorcerer. Find somewhere to hide so you can charge up a big hit, then find something to hit with it. Repeat until enemies are dead.
It’s funny in retrospect how with most of the DD classes the skill progression is such that you start out having a lot of fun doing direct melee, doing mostly chip damage, evading enemy attacks, really just having a blast, and then by vocation 9 you’re all about just finding opportunities to charge and spam the big hits. The pace of battle is much slower.
It’s much less fun, I think, than if instead of getting new “big hit” skills, instead the core skills just got more powerful, so we had to get better at using them. Of course, the game’s damage equations don’t allow that to happen. Which is my big complaint about Dragon’s Dogma.
But it’s such a cool world and there’s so much variety in the gameplay, at least at low vocation levels. It just gets boring at the endgame.
I’ve been working my way through the DD vocations, playing on Bitter Black Isle exclusively. (Sort of the BBI Challenge thing.)
I’ve just discovered there is a tenth Dragon’s Dogma vocation, though I’m not sure how playable it is.
The “Bad Boss" vocation.
Where you hire a bunch of pawns and don’t do anything yourself. Don’t fight any monsters. Don’t pick up any items except what you want for yourself. Just hang back and use the pawn commands.
I kinda wanna give it a try…
Believe it or not, I’m not going to go with the ridiculously overpowered and game breaking Sorcerer’s Grand Maelstrom.
Or the rather glorious no, fuck you of the Fighter’s Dragon’s Maw.
And as much as I enjoy using the the Assasin’s Lyncean Sight to plunk arrow after arrow in Daimon’s forehead from across the chamber, and as cool as it is to set up multiple Mystic Knight Great Cannons then plonk a Ruinous Sigil right next to them and have some big dumbass stumble into it and get shredded (along with the gameplay FPS), or the fun times of letting loose a bunch of the Magic Archer’s Ricochet Hunters within the confines of a tiny room (can you say, Cuisinart?)
No, my favourite skill is Backfire / Immolation / Flameshroud, one of the simplest skills a Magic Archer can learn.
Because it is like hot sauce. You can add it to anything, and then everything gets better. Particularly dagger fights. As much fun as it is to run up to a cyclops or dragon and climb up and start stabbing the hell out of it, it is even more fun to do so while you are on fire.
But even without fighting. Just ignite yourself and run around the battlefield and give all the little mobs each in turn a little fiery hug and kiss, setting them ablaze.
Watch those goblins run!
And then recharge your health with Grand Scencion, which has some tremendous stagger & knockdown ability. Did you know? Damn.
Also! Johnny Storm.
You know? Fantastic Four. The Human Torch.
FLAME ON, motherfucker. vomf
And people say I’m hard to shop for.
That this exists is enough to say, yes, humanity can exist another day.
Just a few excerpts from the interview section in the Dark Souls Design Works (English edition) art book interviews.
This post has extracts from the overall game design section of the interview. I’ll add another post about other sections later on as this is running long.
Game director Hideteka Miyazaki: For Dark Souls, I put three major guidelines in place: Gods and knights centred around Anor Londo, demonic chaos and flames centred around Lost Izalith, and the theme of death centred around Gravelord Nito. To these themes we added the special concept of ancient dragons that predate all life, and this formed the basis for Dark Souls.
Miyazaki: [Anor Londo] has complex architecture and is a key destination the player strives to reach for the first half of the game. We wanted Anor Londo to be an epic location that would offer the player a real sense of accomplishment once they arrive. After ringing the bell and overcoming the numerous traps, the player gets to step foot in Anor Londo and has that glorious moment where they get to bask in the wonder of their achievement.
Miyazaki: … the initial order is usually made up of abstract terms or keywords that really don’t make sense to anyone but me. As an example, when ordering a new equipment design I might say something like, “I want something… you know… that can make you feel like you want to entrust your life to it on the battlefield. Something that oozes with a strong conviction or even prayer regarding victory and life, something that seemingly has the power to dispel death itself…” (laughs) I imagine the designers sometime walked away from our meetings thinking, “What the heck was he going on about…?” (laughs)
Designer Masanori Waragai: All the time!
Miyazaki: Sorry! (laughs)
Miyazaki: … a certain sense of refinement, elegance and dignity are very important to me. I’ll usually tell the designers that flat-out grotesque or splatter type designs will not get past me. This has everything to do with my own personal sensibilities, and it is something that I apply to every design that I approve. […]
Waragai: I remember when I was drawing the Undead Dragon, I submitted a design draft that depicted a dragon swarming with maggots and other gross things. Miyazaki handed it back to me saying, “This isn’t dignified. Don’t rely on the gross factor to portray an undead dragon. Can’t you instead try to convey the deep sorrow of a magnificent beast doomed to a slow and possibly endless descent into ruin?”
Miyazaki: [Firelink Shrine was] one of the first designs we worked on and despite being such a small area it linked to many other places, offering a lot of exploration and discovery.
Designer Daisuke Satake: We had it so that you could basically go to another area from every direction, though some of those paths didn’t make it into the final game. We even had plans for Priscilla to be there as the heroine, and …
Miyazaki: Let’s not go there right now …
[Interviewer] Kadoman Otsuka: I think Priscilla is the prettiest character in the whole game!
Miyazaki: Thank you! She was originally intended to be the main heroine, so I appreciate that. [!!!]
Waragai: The “gauntlet of traps” was a fairly easy concept to figure out, with things like a pendulum, rolling boulders, and such. I just laid out a bunch of archetypical traps that players would easily be able to identify or that they would find easy to relate to.
Miyazaki: You almost have to shake your head at the obvious nature of Waragai’s traps., though I think the somewhat humorous approach is another thing that makes Dark Souls fun and appealing to most players.
Otsuka: … Was the [Duke’s] archives influenced by what I think it was influenced by … ? (laughs)
Miyazaki: I guess it’s pretty obvious that the revolving staircase is a reference to “Harry Potter”… (laughs) It was a personal desire of mine to have a location called an archive, so that’s where the general idea came from. I do think we could have done more with the details in those locations, though.
Miyazaki: … we took the structural style [of New Londo Ruins] straight from a building that exists in the real world: Mont Saint-Michel. Of course it’s not an exact copy, but I think you can easily spot the similarities.
Miyazaki: To tell you the truth, the Painted World was based on a prototype Dark Souls map, and the prototype map was designed in great detail in order to ensure we were all on the same page. I wanted to include it in the actual game because we had put so much work into it, but the problem was it just didn’t seem to link up with the other areas in terms of visual style. That’s why we decided to pull out the notion of a “painted world” where we could pretty much get away with anything.
Waragai: Not to mention the snow.
Miyazaki: Exactly… Wait, this makes us sound like a bunch of lazy developers! (laughs) I can tell you that we had a separate concept for the Painted World, but it just happened to match up with the prototype map really well.
Otsuka: Why did you decide to put Priscilla there?
Miyazaki: I just thought that environment suited her. It certainly helped that her colour scheme is very snowy in nature. Thinking about it now, I guess you could also say she belonged there because the Painted World is where exiled souls will gather. (laughs)
Waragai: Like a last refuge for those who lost their true place in the world?
Miyazaki: Yes, though I’m not sure you can technically say that about Priscilla… (laughs)
I keep coming back to compare Dragon’s Dogma to Dark Souls.
I really do like the depth and variety of play styles available in DD. But the game doesn’t seem to have much holding power. It’s easy to get kind of bored with it, unlike DkS. And I think that reason comes down to the damage calculation equations. Basically, how much damage you do when you hit an enemy (or they hit you).
DD’s damage equations seem to heavily favour the defender. A high defence stat can completely (or almost completely) mitigate a low powered attack. For example, if my level 10 dude with a broadsword were to go up against a gorecyclops, I could pound on it all day and not do any damage at all. This is particularly true with low powered magic: if you have a low powered staff, you’re hopeless against minibosses.
But in DkS, however, no matter how imbalanced the attack/defense stat is, you will always do some damage. You can beat the game completely with a level 1 character and with basic weapons. It takes a lot of skill and patience. But you can chip away and prevail.
The boredom in DD, though, sets in when you realize that though you know all the weaknesses of your enemies, all their moves and special attacks, and how to counter and resist them, and could indeed trivially survive an encounter for an hour or more just dancing around and avoiding any damage at all, that you’ll never beat them because your gear is inadequate to do any damage.
But once you get the good items, the tide turns pretty quickly. I wouldn’t say it’s as much of a “press X to win” as, say, the Batman games. But it sure shifts into that realm.
It’s not your gameplay skill that ultimately matters in DD, it’s how much time you’ve spent hunting around for that next upgraded bow, or the better archstaff, or the good daggers or whatever.
In Souls games, winning is more about real time battle tactics. In Dragon’s Dogma, winning is more about getting the good weapons. I’m not saying one is better than the other. But it’s important to know the difference.
What it comes down to is that in DkS, your ass is always on the line. No matter how great your armour is, even fairly puny enemies are able to kill you if you don’t pay attention. And you’ll always be able to beat a boss if you’re persistent and smart enough, no matter how shitty your sword is.
But in Dragon’s Dogma, once you get the great gear you can waltz up to just about any boss level fight with a reasonable confidence of winning even if you’re lazy or careless, and conversely you can just spam “attack” at any low level enemy and they’ll hardly be able to damage you.
I’ve mostly drained the fun out of the Fighter/Assassin class and Sorcerer class in DD by this point. I’m still looking forward to trying the Mystic Knight and Magic Archer classes just to see how the playstyles differ; it’s been fun enough so far, but I expect the boredom will set in fairly quickly.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), DkS2 will be out in a little more than a month.