Confession: I’ve never played a “Souls” game. There have been at least 5 core games, starting with Demon Souls, then Dark Souls, and with a Bloodborne interlude, we’re looking at Dark Souls 3 releasing this week. There are, of course, a wealth of imitators/inspired-by games out there, too.

Here’s why: I have MAYBE 1 hour gaming sessions at a time, sometimes less. The thought of making 0 progress in a game in that hour terrifies me. Souls games have the reputation of being hard, and you can easily get stuck replaying a section for your whole gaming section. Of course, beating that section must feel tremendous… but is it worth that pain that precedes the glory?

Tuesday, 12:15 pm – Gavin

I have also never played a Souls game.  I understand them to be well-crafted, well-designed games that are released to critical acclaim, but it just doesn’t sound like it’s my kind of thing.  Like Ricky, I have short bursts of gaming these days, and while I don’t mind a hard game every once in a while (VVVVVV was punishingly difficult the first few times I played it), it needs to have the benefits of a game like that, or Super Meat Boy, or something like that – quick respawns close to the point at which you died.  Something about massive shiny AAA titles and bite-size gaming sessions just doesn’t sit right for me.  I can’t imagine being OK with playing a Souls game, or any game like that, barely making any progress, and then moving on to do something else with my day.

It’s part of why I set the difficulty to easy on every game I play.  I don’t have time for games where the excitement is the challenge – I need narrative design, or aesthetic value, or something else beyond “this thing was challenging and I beat it” to keep me going in a game.

I struggle to think of what the most difficult new* game is that I’ve played recently.  The Mario 3D games have incredibly difficult levels, but the core game can also be beaten with limited struggle.  I think that Axiom Verge is probably the most difficult new game I’ve played recently – I could adapt my gameplay style to replicate that of a good Metroid game, but a lot of that game is hidden in fairly obscure ways, so I did need a walkthrough to get through a good chunk of the optional parts of that game.

*I’ve played plenty of difficult games recently, but they’re all ones I’ve played before so I know that they’re hard, but I also know how to get around them.  Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory wasn’t as difficult for me as it could have been.  Same with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Metroid Prime 1 and 2, etc.

Over the weekend, I got another couple of hours into Watch Dogs.  Overall, I have a decently positive impression of this game.  It combines the parts that I like from GTA IV and Splinter Cell (to a degree), but is unfortunately mixed in with some very bland narrative ideas.  The gameplay itself shines at times, such as escaping from the police and using the environment mid-drive to create diversions or accidents to slow/stop the police.  It has a basic stealth system that isn’t anywhere near as good as Splinter Cell, but does take some ideas from it.  Stealth driving, i.e. driving so as not to attract attention and avoiding police checkpoints is a unique twist on stealth missions that works well.

I don’t know if I’ll finish it, especially knowing that I have The Witcher 3 and Rise of the Tomb Raider waiting for me, not to mention the many other great games I’d like to replay.  But I’m getting my enjoyment out of it, which is good.  Graphically, it looks great on the Xbox One, though cutscenes are very jittery and jagged.  The world is built nicely and the “profiler”, the tool that shows information about NPCs up on screen does a great job at fleshing out the world and making it feel more alive.  Everyone has a story, even if it’s only bite-size.

Reviews for Watch Dogs were fairly harsh when they came out, and I understand why the complaints were there about the narrative, as it’s bland and the main character isn’t very likeable.  The open-world gameplay and design isn’t as good as GTA IV and the stealth gameplay isn’t as good as Splinter Cell or Deus Ex, but Watch Dogs is also the only game I can think of that combines those two (note: I haven’t played The Division yet).

Monday, 4:03 pm – Ricky