The Dark Souls Two - A podcast celebrating Dark Souls II.

Why I think the Pharros lockstones were a poor design choice in Dark Souls 2, and generally cheapen the experience of discovery.

Going a little stir crazy at work, while I’d rather just be at home cutting this latest episode for the benefit of all you awesome people, I came up with these thoughts while pondering the next area we’ll be covering next week.

Why I think the Pharros lockstones were a poor design choice in Dark Souls 2, and generally cheapen the experience of discovery.

Aside from them being slightly jarring to look at in most of the environments that they’re found, my first real objection is the logistical side of it all. On a recent episode of the podcast we discussed who Pharros was and where these contraptions may have come from. They’re literally peppered throughout the continent of Drangleic and I was left pondering – “how could one man journey through all these areas, set up shop, and go to town chiselling away into walls and assembling intricate mechanisms? And all the while completely left alone by the otherwise incredibly territorial locals in each area”. We hypothesised that he may have been a god, explaining away how he potentially achieved so much, over so many areas and of varying degrees of complexity. But it just felt a tad “dismissive” of the whole thing.

Now the part that I’m truly passionate about however is where I feel FromSoft side-stepped a tonne of exciting potential in favour of these ghoulish faces. The only hurdle to using those often-times very useful devices is “do I have enough lockstones in my inventory to be bothered testing this one?”. I propose that rather than making it a trade off of inventory items, could they not have taken (almost) any of the contraptions and modified them slightly to make it far more about the excitement of discovery? For example take the contraption in No Man’s Wharf. The one that lights up the entire zone and scares the bloathead knocks-offs into hiding. Imagine talking to a friend whose just picked up the game and is having a real hard time dealing with these guys. Now rather than saying to him/her “find that big obvious Pharros-face in the middle of the level and jam a rock in it”, imagine being able to say “Ooo!!! Here’s what you wanna do! Run around and kill all those archers you see until one of them drops a flame arrow. Now with that arrow look toward the roof of the cavern. You might notice a big hanging chandelier. Take your bow and with the fire arrow loose it toward that chandelier. The entire thing will set ablaze and light up the area making those enemies much more manageable”.

Isn’t that cool? Wouldn’t that really suck you into the world and give you a great sense of empowerment as you experimented with the environment and discovered this tiny thing that ends up yielding great changes for the area?

Now, I’m not suggesting throw them all out. Rather take most of those contraptions and put them behind a modest veil of lateral thinking. Things like lighting up an entire wharf with an arrow is the kind of community-made discovery that would get us all praising From for their ingenuity and keep us excited to learn more about this game months after its release. We’re Dark Souls players, we don’t need things handed to us in the form of a face on a wall that magically does things. I want to find illusory walls myself, through exploration, or the aid of orange messages from other worlds. It’s these little hidden nuances in the previous games that kept us excited, kept us together, learning and growing as a community months or even years after their release.

Any time you see one of these contraptions from now on, wonder to yourself, “how would I have slightly modified that to make it less obvious and more impactful?”. See what you come up with. I’m sure anything would be better than sticking a rock into the bottom part of an American power outlet staring at you from it’s rocky abode cut into a wall.

TLDR: Rather than handing you results from sticking a rock in a face, remove the contraption and make it involve lateral thinking to make inflict a change to the world instead.

Discuss.

5 comments

  1. “Ooo!!! Here’s what you wanna do! Run around and kill all those archers you see until one of them drops a flame arrow. Now with that arrow look toward the roof of the cavern. You might notice a big hanging chandelier. Take your bow and with the fire arrow loose it toward that chandelier. The entire thing will set ablaze and light up the area making those enemies much more manageable”.

    I actually tried that before I found the contraption!

    I kinda agree with your point. When I first entered Doors of Pharros, I pretty much wasted all of my stones because I wasn’t expecting there to be so many contraptions to put them in. It was a good idea, but I think From Software could’ve done more with it. On that note, I feel the same way about the torch. Although there was a quite a big fuzz about it in promotion and the video game media, it really didn’t feel that important to me while playing the game – I rarely use, and if I do, it’s only because it’s sometimes pleasant to watch.

    Sometimes, I get the feeling that From Software was just trying some new things out, but didn’t have enough time to fully fleshen them out. I believe I once read in an interview that they designed this engine with the next-gen systems already in mind. Which makes sense, as creating a new engine takes a lot of resources. I have a feeling that Dark Souls III might look a lot like what we thought Dark Souls II was going to look like. Hopefully, not having to work on a wholy new engine will give them more time to concentrate on these new gameplay elements.

    1. Mmm. It’s pretty clear they weren’t able to full realise some of their initial plans. Just look at the trailer quality compared to the final product. They released footage that looked very different and with lighting that made sense for torches, but now torches are next to pointless. It did definitely feel like they were designing for hardware ahead of the PS3/360 generation. It happens regularly where developers will release preview footage of pre-release games running on a beefed up PC and then when the time comes to release on the consoles they suddenly have to start stripping their tech back to make it run at anything over 6fps. Just go on some forums now and check out the vitriol surrounding the whole Watchdogs shitstorm:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBGIi9VA_AI

      Quite a stark difference between the 2012 demo and the 2014 footage.

      This is all why I was hoping the PC release was going to come with lighting that made sense, but alas, while the game itself looks much nicer on the higher settings, the lighting is apparently no different.

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