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Kerrik52
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LONG BLOG

Changes: The Aging Process of Dark Souls 2

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If there's something that truly unites the Souls-games, it's how absolutely broken they are on launch. Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 have had it worst by far. The differences between the initial products and the final ones are staggering. Since I wasn't around for the horrors of 1.00 Dark Souls and it's greatbow backstabs, merciless dragon butts and stackable curses, I can't write about it properly.

Instead, I'm gonna go through the changes Dark Souls 2, a game I've played since release, and document the changes that it went through. The game was so broken, that as soon as one thing was fixed, the community cooked up something else and made funny montages out of it. It was equal parts awful and amazing. And the three DLC packs were released during this period as well, adding more things to be exploited. All of this together made for a really interesting time, where players eagerly awaited badly translated patchnotes and hackers datamined possible DLC weapons.

Version 1.00-1.04 & Calibrations 1.00-1.04 [March To April 2014]

Ignoring some connectivity and progression-stopping glitches getting fixed, the first big thing to be changed was making restoration of humanity a reward for co-op. At first, this was actually a glitch, but they realised that giving jolly cooperators an extra reward would help both online interactions and mend the need for Human Effigies. They also added a message after using the gender-bender coffin so that people wouldn't go half the game covered in armor and not realise they swapped their things betwixt. This still happened.

Next up was a whole swathe of nerfs to bosses. For as easy as the game is, there were a few aspects of certain bosses that were unreasonable. The Last Giant and the Royal Rat Authority got nerfs to their damage overall, Freja's laser got a bit less silly and The Lost Sinner and Flexile Sentry got nerfs to their minions. The sinner also became less aggressive and now does less damage. I approve of all of these changes. Pre-patch Lost Sinner is scary.

Another big nerf was to the infamous Shrine of Amana. Before the nerf, the sorceresses were strong enough to fire beyond the render distance and track you to kingdom come. I don't remember just how bad it was, but it was an ordeal. Now it's a rather pleasant place with multiple ways to outplay the snipers. I recommend spell-parrying with a touch of panic rolling.

In order to make the summon-based quests somewhat possible, Lucatiel and Benhart recieved an insane boost to their defences. They had Estus before, but it wasn't enough unless you healed them with miracles and used some high-power weaponry. Still doesn't stop them from falling victim to gravity.

Spells are always a heated topic in the series, they're either too strong or completely useless. The two nuke spells Soul Geyser and Forbidden Sun got hit with the nerf-bat. Soul Geyser is pretty bad now since you need to hit with all projectiles to deal full damage. Forbidden Sun is still decent thanks to its speed. It's also a spell that let's you lob stars at people, so that's fun.

Now we're getting into the ”fun” meta stuff. The two rings, the Old Sun ring and the Ring of Thorns were quite a pair. They randomly counter hits taken by either exploding or launching daggers. The damage they did before the nerf was insane! You could beat people by just standing still, it was nuts.

Next on the docket is the good 'ol Sword of Moonlight. Despite being From Software's iconic weapon, it hasn't been all that powerful in the Souls-games. Except for it's unnerfed incarnation in DS2, of course. The big thing is that it only does magical damage and that it could be buffed. That together with the stunlocking you could do back then was both disgusting and majestic. Mostly disgusting.

Lastly was a buff to the durability of the poor Twinblade. It was a sexy new weapon type with a fatal flaw. It's built on multi-hit combos and did not have nearly enough durability to sustain itself. The durability bug didn't help either. I think they buffed it one or two more times before settling on it's current durability of 150.

Version 1.05-1.06 & Calibrations 1.06-1.08 [June To July 2014]

Here's an interesting one. Before this patch, buffs were static and didn't scale with stats at all. And since you can spice down the requirements, a 10 INT/10 FTH character could enjoy the full benefits of the spell buffs. With the update, the time a buff is in effect is tied to your stats. This made them better for dedicated casters and worse for minmaxing melée builds.

Batfog, oh boy Batfog. This patch brought down a bunch of the scummy tactics, making the game severly more fun. Batfog was a glitch with the Batstaff and the spell Dark Fog. The Batstaff has a worthless poisoned strike that somehow boosted the effectiveness of Dark Fog. This lead to near instant poisoning, which was horrrible.

The standard hexes got nerfed in order to reduce their ridiculous damage to cast ratio. Beforehand, you could massacre people with a few shots! This also made the game harder to cheese for speedrunners and probably inspired them to create new routes.

You know, as much as I despise the Monastery Scimitar, I can't deny just how much impact it had. It was the only thing in the game able to parry instantly, just like the parry tools in DS1. This made it child's play to parry anything on reaction. It was so widely used in spite of its rarity that whips became meta. Whips! Everyone sighed in relief when it was finally nerfed into uselessness.

But there's a twist to every good story, and this tale is no different. Another patch in this timeframe accidentally returned the scimitar to its previous state. As soon as this was found out, chaos erupted and whips got equipped yet again. It didn't take long for it to be fixed permanently, but that didn't stop the game from being awful for a while, especially in the arena.

The binoboosting bug was unfair and hilarious. Somehow, zooming in with a pair of binoculars and rolling at the same time accelarated the PC to ludicrous speed. It was used by combatants to fish for backstabs and by speedrunners to shave of precious time on runs. Coupled with parrywalking, which let you lock your Y-axis by rolling while parrying, speedrunners could get down to some insane times.

Mundane scaling on weapons is but a shadow of it's former self. It used to give insane scaling damage to weapons without any scaling, which resulted in some bananas damage on multi-hit weapons like Santier's Spear and the Avelyn. Observe and weep for the times gone by:

In a nice balance move, many spells and weapons got general buffs . Looking at the list, it seems like a good 2/3 of the weapons and 1/3 of the spells got reworked. It shifted the meta slightly from buffed elemental weapons and closer to the diverse one of today. I remember being elated over having spears actually do damage.

But not all spears were so lucky. The whole lightning spear family of miracles were nerfed greatly and for good reason. Before, you got at least 10 casts of the basic lightning spear per scroll and some outstanding damage to boot. I remember steamrolling the last few bosses with them, reducing the impact of my first playthrough.

Now, the casts begin at 3 and the damage is both lower and modified by distance. This does not make miracles unviable, as many claim. You just can't spam your way to victory like with sorcery and hexing. Instead, you're supposed to use the spears to soften up your foes before you strike them down with a weapon. I would have liked the amount of casts to be a bit higher though. Thankfully, Force, Heavenly Thunder and the buffs still work wonders in the right circumstances.

The first DLC, the Crown of the Sunken King, released at this time. I remember the DLC data getting patched in before release, something hackers exploited. They actually managed to get through the impenetrable door and explore it early. It taught From Software not patch in DLC before release ever again. The DLC itself was amazing, with loads of cool items and encounters. Like the magic tree that repairs your stuff if you whip it. Dark Souls is weird.

A really sore spot in PVP scene was the healing in the arena. Since you have to have net wins to rank up in the Brotherhood of Blood, people use the scummiest tactics known to man, and then some! Since healing was allowed, there were a bunch of shitlords who used scratch damage and waited out the duel timer. It's still a scary place to go to, but at least now it won't be as drawn out.

Gower's Ring used to make you effectively immortal if you acted like an asshole. It blocked all damage from behind and breaks easily. The problem was that you could just munch on Repair Powder or swap it for another copy while running around the arena not doing anything. Now it let's some damage through, making it a decent defensive option for your back.

Out of all the things wrong with vanilla DS2, the Tanimura rush was the worst. Affectionately named after the game's director, the technique involved alternating between left and right-handed attacks to stunlock another player infinitely. That means that a single hit often decided who won the battle. This reduced the fighting to a perverted game of chicken where no one dared attack first. I'll admit to running around with useless broken weapons and trying to break armor with the stunlock. Don't judge me, it was fun! When they patched it, it was like a wave of joy passed through every aspect of PVP.

A funny little glitch made it so that the state of the world in the Iron Keep was inconsistent between players. If you pulled a switch to lower the floor into lava, rested at a bonfire to reset it for yourself and then summoned someone, you could appear to be walking on air. If the other players tried it, they fell to their doom. It was a fun time for all.

They also fixed an infamous bug for the PC players. No, not the durability bug silly, the soundmixing of the Looking Glass Knight. His thundercracks ignored all sound options, making it a real headach to fight him with headphones.

Ziplines are fun, but did you know they let you fly? If a player hanging on a zipline got attacked, their Y-Axis got locked and they could run straight into the edge of the level. This probably spooked a few unsuspecting attackers.

A glitch that worked in tandem with the Monastery Scimitar was the roll parry. Just like with parrywalking, rolling att the right time screwed with the game. It made it so that the player had parry frames and I-frames at the same time. So, you were invincible and deflected attacks. The very definition of a broken move.

I can't recall exactly when this fix happened, so I'll put it here. One of the downsides of the Powerstance system is that it made it easier for weird combinations to slip through the cracks. That's probably why they axed it from DS3. The Helix halberd/Mastodon Halberd is probably the most famed one, dubbed Helixadon. Thanks to the Helix halberd's moveset, it's Powerstance moveset was classed as a spear. That let it use the spear double poke for insane damage that usually two-shot people. Every time I fought a player with this combo, I got crestfallen and tried my best before probably dying. Kinda like how I feel whenever I fight anyone in DS3.

An exploit of the Soul Memory system led to some really inventive trolling. Hackers edited down their Soul Memory while using a high level character. Since soul rewards are based on how much the defeated player needs to level, hackers could kill themselves and give the host unimaginable amounts of souls. That's a really powerful gift, but essentially locked them out of their current online interactions, meaning no jolly cooperation.

Version 1.07-1.09 & Calibrations 1.10-1.11 [August To September 2014]

In a nice gesture, spell parry shields got an insane buff. The animation got a distinct effect and ridiculous parry frames. Rolling is still superior, but if you want to look flashy, there's nothing better. I'm still sad you can't return spells to the sender or play Ganondorf tennis though.

The next item on the ”Oh god, how did this escape testing?”-list, is buffstacking. Simply put, it allowed players to stack offensive and defensive body buffs as much as they wanted. A fully buffed player is nearly immortal and quite fearsome. When it was fixed, there actually were people running around in the stereotypical min-maxer SmelterHavel armor pretending to stack buffs as a joke. I'm sure there were some people who didn't read the patchnotes and got confused when their buffs stopped working too.

Something DS2 managed to do was make PVP with a sorcerer fun. I had a blast with powerstanced Blue Flame swords that let's you cast spells as well. Sadly it was not to last. They nerfed the Clear Bluestone ring so that it didn't buff cast speed as much. This made the Blue Flame a bit too slow for my taste, so I switched to a staff & sword loadout instead. But that was pretty fun too, until people learned how to dodge spells. The bastards.

When the Crown of the Old Iron King DLC launched, I was faced with a crisis. The season pass didn't give me access to the DLC on PS3 until a few days after release. It was complete agony. Some people got so desperate that they bought it again separately just to play it as soon as possible. It ended with me getting spoiled on one of the bosses thanks to a video. Thankfully, dear old Fume Knight still managed to beat my ass to high heaven and cemented his stature in my list of great bosses in the series. Also, I got the Smelter Hammer. Such a lovely little thing.

Even with previous nerfs, the Mundane infusion still caused problems. The damage it gave the dagger class of weapons lead to insane oneshot ripostes that upped the lethality of combat greatly. The lethality is already rather high, so allowing oneshots like that didn't do the game any favors. I actually planned to make a Mundane dagger Powerstance build a little before this, so I was kinda dissapointed. But that build soon evolved into a Fume Knight cosplay before finally settling into a Darkwraith build. It's skele-tons of fun.

Here's a weird one. In the Crown of the Old Iron King DLC, there's a rematch with the Smelter Demon, dubbed Cool Ranch Smelter by the community. But its soul is identical to the other one, in spite of them using different elements. So they patched in a boss weapon later. It's just a blue Smelter Sword, but the sentiment was nice. This also let you powerstance them and achieve the Nacho Range combo.

Soon after, the final DLC released, the Crown of the Ivory King. From Soft released a statement telling the players that they would find allies in the DLC. And that's true, but there were also other things in the DLC one might think to be an ally who will betray you before long. It was a genius move, especially since Maldron the Assassin was one of the fakeouts. I love that asshole.

Version 1.10-1.11 & Calibrations 1.12-1.15 [February To May 2015]

Even after all the DLC was released, it felt like something was missing. You get a reward for clearing all DLC, but it didn't culminate in anything beyond that. So it was then that From Software announced the Scholar update. It preceded the next gen rerelease and included the majority of things in it, besides the redone enemy layouts, two weapons and an armor set. Even people who hadn't bought any DLC got the update for free.

The item descriptions got rewritten to clarify the plot and reveal what Vendrick had stolen from the giants, something that had been highly debated. Some descriptions also integrated references to DLC content.

In order to combat the complaint of enemies vanishing while you grind for their items, they made it so that Company of Champions covenant restored them, while still raising the difficulty. I approve of this, but I swear that restored enemies have their drop rates lowered, but I don't have the data to prove that.

They also introduced the Agape ring. This ring locks down your Soul Memory, making it easier to control matchmaking. Sadly, you have to give up a ring slot for it and it more or less locks you out of anything that costs souls, like arrows and chime hexes. This also let the twinks have their fun at last. It became a challenge to make as powerful a build as possible in the Soul Memory tier when you can get the ring. It's still nowhere near as bad as in DS1 where you can be invaded at any level and invaders can have any weapon upgraded they want.

Some nice updates to online mode made the warp menu show where players in your range are and activate the temporary effigy effect when bosses are defeated. The second one protects you from invasions for half an hour before fading and allowing multiplayer again. A much better solution than in DS1, where you can lock yourself out of PVP in an area.

But the big thing was the scholar himself. The interactions with him were a bit ruined, since I was already at the end of the game. This let me just walk between his encounters in like half an hour, culminating in the new ending. But man, is he awesome, the voice in particular. I would post the dialogue here, but it's best enjoyed in-game.

A few months after this, the Scholar of the First Sin version was released. On consoles, they upped the resolution and framerate greatly. On all versions they layout of enemies and items swapped around. It's basically DS2: Master Quest. I love this version, since there's just more things to do. They added more invaders with fun gimmicks and made the Fragrant Branches more integral to progression. As a sort of collectible, there's a bunch of hidden moths and invicible hollows who drop goodies. I still think I haven't found all of them.

This version also got one last patch which finally, after a whole year (!) removed the durability bug. Weapon degradation was tied to framerate, so the PC version was haunted by weapons breaking at the drop of a hat. Worse still, on all versions, corpses and allies somehow counted as multiple hits when struck, leading to weapons breaking in seconds. I do hope that it was tough to fix and that they didn't fix it just because it became a problem on consoles.

Oh yeah, as a final farewell, they also buffed the counter damage of katanas, something people had wanted them to reduce since day one. From Soft giveth, and From Soft taketh away.

The Final Game

As it is now, Dark Souls 2 is excellent. All the things mentioned here are related to specific items that were balanced incorrectly. But amidst all the horror, the mechanics remained solid and fun. And with the DLC and the two versions, there's just so much game to enjoy. There are a few things that remain unpatched, but I can live with that.

I think my favorite thing to do was update my builds as things got patched and DLC got released. It's just so fun to continuesly optimise as you learn the game better and explore more equipment. As it stands now, I have a whole lot of diverse builds polished to near perfection to use or redo at my leisure. I don't think I'll be able to go through that again, unless Absolver turns out to be the perfect mix of God Hand and Dark Souls that I want it to be. A man can dream, and so he shall.

- Welcome to my world, Enjoy your stay, But always remember, There is no return.


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About Kerrik52one of us since 3:12 AM on 02.28.2016

Greetings, one and all. I'm known as Kerrik52 around these parts and I think I'm pretty swell, for a Swedish dude.

I love all games, except the bad ones. I play games when possible, thinking I'll eventually break into heaven. I'm currently studying computer science.

I have written some blogs here exploring old games by From Software with more to come later. Not to mention my salty bitch series on the Souls-games.

I also have a little Youtube channel bearing my name that mostly contains videos related to my blogs.

I some games I love are:

Dark Souls
God Hand
Resident Evil 4
Tales of Eternia
Kingdom Hearts
Jak & Daxter
King's Field
Devil May Cry
Legacy of Kain
Shadow Hearts
Spyro
Ys
Shin Megami Tensei
Resistance
Patapon
Legend of Heroes
Yakuza
Locoroco
Ape Escape

I have a very low standard for movies, but I have some favorites. These include:

Coraline
Tintin
The Secret Life of Walter Witty
Pooh's Grand Adventure
Scott Pilgrim VS the World

The last TV shows I watched were House, Mythbusters and Fringe.

Anime on the other hand, is something I watch often. I like:

Symphogear
Jojo
Gonna Be the Twintail
Nichijou
WIXOSS
Black Rock Shooter
Nobunagun
Airmaster
Fist of the Northstar

I don't read very much anymore, but I like Asimov and Lovecraft.

Music-wise I'm an apostle of Dio and the German power metal scene. Otheer favorites include:

Gamma Ray
Iron Savior
Freedom Call
Dreamtale
Axel Rudi Pell

Go ahead and share a piece of your world with me and I'll pay back in kind. Don't be deterred if I answer you in a wall of words. I despise unfulfilling writing.