I was playing American Truck Simulator the other day, and it got me thinking. How can such a trivial task like trucking be turned to into an extremely entertaining game? What defines a good game or a bad game? Is there any game that can be objectively bad? Oh, and finally to top it all off, we have a multitude of different types of media, which begs the question, is The Room a bad movie?
Remember steam’s ‘greenlight’ ? That defines bad game
In my opinion, a good game is mainly something that accomplishes what it sets out to do. It’s easy to criticize something, but in my opinion it’s important to see what the developer had in mind while making their game in order to judge it properly.
Take Devil May Cry 1 for example. It is often criticised for having a cheezy story and being very short compared to the average game. Since the gameplay, scoring system and replayability were the primary goals director Kamiya had in mind while making the game, however, many consider the game to be a great title.
On the other hand look at a game like Dark Souls 2. Not a failure by any means, but it alienated fans because of the differences it had from the goal of the previous two souls games. It tried to make the gameplay difficult rather than enjoyable, which directly conflicted with Miyazaki’s goal. This resulted in the many horrible and idiotic enemy placements in DS2 among many other problems, and an overall disappointing game compared to the previous two
And woah, woah, woah woah…you’ve opened a massive can of worms there with your choice of Devil May Cry and Dark Souls 2. Both of those games were great…because for me (generally) gameplay is the most important factor. Back in the day I put in the effort to S rank every level of Devil May Cry, and have only recently played Dark Souls 2, in which I think I put in around 60 or 70 hours.
I wouldn’t disagree that both games are flawed in their own ways, but calling DS2 a failure is unfair, and given the critical response and reviewing the arguments made against it, I think that they’re often coming from a vocal minority. As a “game” DS2 is good, as a cohesive world that glued together as well as the first? Well I can see the failings there…
As I said, I have come to realise what I enjoy about games is gameplay, and the gameplay loops that are established. If a game doesn’t keep me involved or interest me It’ll never be up there as amazing in my book.
I think what makes a bad or good game is really based on if you as an individual find the game resonates with you…
Like I said in:
I think most video games are ‘fun’ to play, the big question is what games do you play and want/can’t wait to get back to it. Not simply an addictive game but something with staying power or deeper meaning.
There are characters, moments and experiences we all remember from games, I would argue those tend to be the ‘good games’.
I never called DS2 a failure. I just stated that it lacks the same vision of the first two games, and is arguably a worse game as a result.
In an interview, Miyazaki clearly stated that he never intended to make the souls games difficult, and that the difficulty was just a way to present the bleak world. However, it is pretty obvious that the people behind DS2 thought that the difficulty was the main draw of the souls games. Which is why the old ladies in the intro tell you that you’ll lose all of your souls over and over again, there’s an achievement called “this is dark souls” when you die, and there’s a counter telling you the total number of deaths worldwide.
This disconnect is what led to Miyazaki being reinstated for DS3, albeit against his will
its pretty simple, all games are bad except for this one https://store.steampowered.com/app/362930/Garfield_Kart/
How so? DS2 is no harder than the first game, and if anything there are far more bumps in Dark Souls than in it’s sequel (and it’s been a while now but Demon’s Souls may be harder still). Getting an achievement for your first death could feature in any game (plus the first game had a release entitled “Prepare to Die”) and the Death counter is no worse than having persistent blood stains from other players. As far as I can see the main complaints about DS2 don’t come from the difficulty but from the world design and enemies compared to it’s predecessors - the world just isn’t as consistent and “realistic” in it’s living, breathing environments.
We’ll never know the truth behind Miyazaki and his involvement in the projects, and certainly reading the retranslations of his interviews it didn’t sound like he had any enthusiasm for Bloodbourne either, but objectively if we look at Dark Souls, a game he was enthusiastic about and which is praised, I think it’s fair to say that Lost Izalith is objectively worse than any area that appears in Dark Souls 2. And if that’s the case then I can’t help but feel that DS2 gets a hard time just because it did a few different things.
I’m not going to defend it without acknowledging its faults - Soul Memory drove me to despair, and the removal of enemies after killing them a few times wasn’t the best idea (and made things much easier than the first game), and the DLC whilst good wasn’t as great as Artorias of the Abyss, but certainly Dark Souls 2 ranks amongst my favourite games. The core Souls gameplay is relatively unchanged and I’d challenge you to suggest something in DS2 that was magnitudes harder than anything in the first game.
It’s true that Dark Souls 2 isn’t harder than Dark Souls 1. What I was trying to say is that the people behind DS2 made game design choices with difficulty in mind, which isn’t the core philosophy of the souls games. Instead of asking themselves how they could make parts more enjoyable, they asked themselves “how can we make this harder?”. Take enemy placements for example. In Dark Souls and Demon’s souls, the enemy placements were challenging, but never unfair. DS2 doesn’t seem to realise this, which is why the corridor in Velstadt and the hallway to the Looking Glass Knight are crammed with tough enemies, making it tedious to progress if you die. This just encourages running past the enemies, which defeats the purpose of the gameplay and level design.There are also places where the enemies can spawn in range of the bonfire, which is probably one of the dumbest decisions made in the series. Many of the bosses in the game are also more than a single enemy, which makes it a pain to fight because the lock-on system is built for one-on-one fights. This was a problem with the O&S fight from DS1, and made that fight more frustrating than enjoyable. Instead of improving this, the DS2 team simply made many bosses like that because they saw that it made DS1 harder. Similarly, the Royal Rat Authority is just a rehashed Sif fight with rats thrown in to make the fight a pain. There’s a reason the Sif fight is far more memorable, but the DS2 team fail to realise this.
The other decisions aren’t any better. The various NPCs in the world seemed to have been dumbed down in DS2. In DS1, you weren’t the centre of the universe and all NPCs seemed to have their own quest and purpose. In DS2, they seem always ready to cater to whatever needs you have. At least for me, this ruined my immersion and hampered my experience when compared to the previous titles. The healing in DS2 is a step back from the effective Estus system in DS1. I can’t believe they went back on the simple fix for the healing abuse that was a problem in Demon’s Souls. I’m kinda rambling at this point so I hope I made my points clear. The problem with DS2 is its misdirected focus which hampers players’ experience of the game and robs it of the charm the previous two titles had.
I take your points but honestly I can’t say that they impacted me the same way (I played the PS3 version with DLC so I didn’t have the SotFS changes). Certainly the two choke points you mention slowed things down a little but never caused me excessive problems…if anything I hated the run up to the Four Kings more than either of the examples you gave. Plus in DS2 if it’s a problem you can stop the enemies respawning by murdering them until they don’t appear any more.
The bosses in DS2 were certainly worse than in DS, at least those outside of the DLC areas anyway. However, I actually preferred the Demon’s Souls bosses over Dark Souls (by a significant degree).
Dark Souls 2 may not meet the Souls-ian standards we might expect from the previous two games, and doesn’t offer the cohesive lore and worlds or the previous games, but from a gameplay perspective I genuinely don’t feel it’s poor at all, and I’d never discourage anyone from playing (in fact I do the opposite!). To that end I really couldn’t be cajoled into shifting it into the bad game categorisation. I enjoyed all my time with it…and I spent enough of that with it thanks to the DLC!
The souls games have always encouraged a slow and careful approach to their levels. This is usually due to the enemy placements, and shortcuts that make the level easier if you ever happen to die. Taking your example of lower New Londo, it’s true that there are no shortcuts in the level, but the enemy placement makes up for this. Unless you get impatient and try to sprint through the level, you never fight more than one Darkwraith at once (except one time towards the end I think). In DS2, rather than placing shortcuts, the devs resorted to placing way more bonfires than necessary and then tried to balance this out by cramming tons of enemies in a small area or corridor. The two choke points in DS2 I mentioned earlier aren’t the only areas that suffer from this problem. The Lost Sinner and Executioner’s Chariot are some more examples. These areas can easily be traversed through with the help of ranged attacks or magic, but this can’t be considered anything short of bad level design because the other games were balanced enough to ensure that you could get through the entire game with only a sword and shield as was initially advertised. Getting rid of the enemies by killing them over and over is more of a bandaid solution because it just makes the gameplay more tedious. The main problem I have however is that, like with the boss fights, this was originally a problem in Anor Londo, with all the Silver Knights before the boss. It’s almost like the DS2 team used that area as a reference for most of their game.
I agree that overall the Demon’s Souls bosses were better than DS1. The archdemons in particular are something that is unique not only to the series but to games in general. That being said, there were also a lot of bosses in DS1 that I loved over Demon’s Souls like Sif, Artorias and the Four Kings. Because many of the fights in DS2 are similar to eachother
or copied over from DS1 and Demon’s Souls, I can’t say the same for the bosses of that game. The change from the Maneaters to the Bell Gargoyles is a well realised one, but the subsequent change to the Belfry Gargoyles is just lazy.
I want to stress again that I don’t consider DS2 a failure or a terrible game. After all, I’ve played it more than once, which is more than I can say for a lot of games. It’s just because of all of the steps backwards made to the changes from Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls and the overall lack of anything distinguishing it from the other entries that I consider it an objectively bad game and would much rather revisit another game in the series, including Demon’s Souls after all these years.
A good game is fun to play. After that population matters. When a lot of people have fun, its a popular good game. When few people have fun, its a fun niche game.
A bad game is a glitchy game that isn’t fun. Or a game nobody plays. If WoW was released, and nobody played it, despite being a popular game there would be a consensus that it is bad.
That’s why people like “hidden gem” advertisements. A niche game that I would like but couldn’t find unless someone told me. Still, sometimes its fun, sometimes its still not.
You have fun in bad games as well i guess That’s why i dismiss ‘it’s more fun with friends’ argument when talking about games. Everything is more fun with friends.
There are plenty of terrible games which are considered ‘fun’ by people but they are objectively bad
I think when defining a good or bad game I have to look at what it sets out to do. Does it achieve that well? Then it’s likely a good game. And I mean well in the sense that it is fun to play.
Sometimes though, the game can ultimately fail in its objective in one way or another and still be good. Take Skyrim for example. A game so massive, it is full of bugs and glitches (looking at you mountain horses), but can still be perfectly enjoyed without mods.
With that said, I think it’s just such a murky grey area that except in the rarest cases I don’t think it can be objective (see Digital Homicide game fiasco).
If it is telling a story, it has to have good story. If it is telling a story and tried to sell people on incredible mechanics, it needs to have both in my opinion. So the narrative and game mechanics need to be great, or at least the narrative needs to be great with fun enough mechanics that players aren’t bored.
If the game is purely arcade-y or whatnot, with no story whatsoever, then the mechanics need to be engaging enough that the player forgets that they are playing a game that has nothing more to give but that one thing. For example, Gwent has only the purpose of the player playing cards, so that mechanic needs to persuade the player that it is good enough that nothing else matters.
If the game can do any of that, it is good for what it is doing. Then it comes down to grabbing the people who like those genres.
Personally, I prefer mostly story oriented games myself, so if a game doesn’t have it I’m not sold.
This is a really good game that came from that…
There are exceptions. Cant argue with that