Fail Forward: Dark Souls 2

Fail Forward is a series of videos all about the bits of games which don’t quite work and why. In this episode, Marsh Davies discusses Dark Souls 2 [official site], but ends up mostly talking about the preceding Dark Souls, the legend of King Arthur and wanking onto goblins.

Remember to subscribe to the RPS YouTube channel for more of whatever it is we do.


  1. trjp says:

    That’s a HELL of a first paragraph – how could I not watch it (that and the fact the last one of these was really excellent so I expect MUCH here!!)

  2. ribby says:


    NO! my baby!

  3. ribby says:

    Oh hahaha wait… Dark Souls II? Oh… That’s fine

  4. AndreiCristian90 says:

    Gonna bookmark this so I can watch it when I get home. ” […] wanking onto goblins.” I do love a good session of squanching onto goblins now and then.

    • Not_Id says:

      Naked dogs yesterday and wanking on goblins today!

      This is now my favourite porn site.

  5. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Can anyone tell me if its got, like, big DS2 spoilers? Obviously its going to have some. Still working my way through and don’t really want to spoil any surprises.

    • Not_Id says:

      He said he’s going to spoil a great deal about both @ around 1:10.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      Ah, went ahead and watched in anyway – for those with similar concerns it shows the final boss fights of both and some of the dialogue. Great watch though. I’ve read/seen a lot of analysis of Dark Souls and this is really up there with the best. Explains the links to medieval lore interestingly and succinctly. This really is becoming my new Deus Ex in terms of “every time someone mentions Dark Souls it gets reinstalled”.

  6. killias2 says:

    If anyone is curious, this video is actually pretty positive to Dark Souls 2. He calls it his favorite game of 2014. But he still points out where it falls short as a work of art compared to the first one. Honestly, it’s a pretty solid look.

  7. Tiax says:

    Is Bloodborne better than DS2? If yes, how does it compare to DS1? I’m thinking about borrowing the PS4 of a friend in order to play it.

    • Matt_W says:

      Caveat: I’m only about 1/3 of the way through Bloodborne so, my words and salt go together.

      Bloodborne has a more far consistent and interlocked geography than DS2, though I don’t think it’s quite as clever as DS1’s geography. And it’s true, as pointed out in the video, that the theme of blood is used consistently in imagining the environments and mythology of the game. (The nature of reality is another theme.) BB is actually most similar to Demon’s Souls, of the Souls games, mostly because it has a Nexus-like area and has consumable health pots rather than the Estus Flask mechanic of DS1&2. It’s also got more dynamic combat — there’s no shield, and you can recover health by counterattacking just after you’ve been hit. This actually emerges as a more significant gameplay mechanic than stamina. I don’t know, though, that I’d call it better than DS2, but if you’re a fan of any of the Souls games, you should try to play BB if you can.

      • EhexT says:

        BB is much better than DS2 and about as good as DS1. The geography is incredible. They succeed in every area DS2 fails utterly – BB manages to make even disconnected-by-load-screen dream geography connect in ways that makes you go “oh now I’m HERE and I see how that connects both geographically and lore wise to THAT over there!”.

        In terms of story it’s the single most cohesive of all the Souls games – item placement, enemy placement, what clothes the enemies wear, the weapons they use – everything has been thought about and means something. It’s quite incredible and you’ll find new things on a second playthrough, and probably on a third one as well. If you want to get the most out of it, binge on the HP Lovecraft Podcast “HP Podcraft” – there is an insane amount of straight-outta-Lovecraft references in Bloodborne, many of which are far removed from the classic Cthulhu/fishpeople stuff. There’s lots of Dreamcycle stuff and even more obscure ones.

  8. Benkyo says:

    I don’t normally sit through videos, but I’m glad I did sit through this one. You nail some of the key reasons that Dark Souls is amazing, and how Dark Souls 2 is merely good.

  9. Wowbagger says:

    Is it just you saying “What R U Casul?!” over and over again in more peevish tones until Rich Stanton turns up and makes it good?

  10. Scrote says:

    Brilliant video, thanks for this!

  11. Crusoe says:

    Superb analysis.

    Reminded me a little of the relationship between Deus Ex and DXHR.

  12. Rizlar says:

    Great video, it really lays out a lot of what makes Dark Souls so incredible. Interesting if unexpected segue into Arthurian legend. :P

  13. quarpec says:

    good video, and i agree with pretty much everything, but god damn the footage from ds2 instantly remind me of how much smoother and crisper it both plays and looks than ds1’s laggy choppy blurry messy graphics and feel

  14. BenAttenborough says:

    The focus on Authurian legend is interesting but given Miyazaki’s cultural heritage I wonder also about the influence of Japanese myths and legends, and especially attitudes to death,

    • Rizlar says:

      And yet it’s clearly based in stories from medieval Europe. Even stuff like ‘Undeadburg’ sounds a bit like ‘Edinburgh’. Alright, maybe that’s pushing it a bit too far, but it’s very much a Japanese take on European stories and history, which is part of what makes it feel so familiar yet strange.

      • Procrastination Giant says:

        Yeah, pretty sure that i’ve read an interview or article-thingy about him mentioning that his main influence for the series comes from reading a lot of western/european stories and myths in his youth. And a lot of the strangeness/vagueness and slight “cultural discoloration” comes from the fact that he read those in english, while not having a perfect grasp of the language – It was good enough to get the big picture, but he still had to use his imagination to fill in a lot of language barrier related blanks. The Dark Souls lore is basically his attempt to emulate that exact feeling… I’d say he did a pretty good job.

        • Rizlar says:

          Although in the sober light of day I realise that BenAttenborough also has a valid point – it would be interesting to look at the Japanese influences too.

  15. Synesthesia says:

    Wizard Jizzwand approves.

    What a great video, fantastic work. I’ve been thinking about this lately. The archeology of dark souls is one of the most fantastic things i’ve bee able to do in a videogame, and that is almost completely absent in DS2. It’s there… it’s just a lot more… soulless. The cynicism of a sequel is not something I see working for dark souls, as a souls game. It might work, they are fantastic games, but they are stripped of their self.

    I can’t wait to play bloodborne.

  16. cosmitz says:

    I love these, but i will be honest, the language used could be tamed for a wider audience and concessions made. In writing, this would probably be ten thousand words of joined together ranting.

  17. Procrastination Giant says:

    This might be the second best Dark Souls video i’ve seen so far this year – fantastic work! (and it’s only second because Well, what is it is just… so… incredibly delightful) Its a shame that Dark Souls itself is shrouded in so much myth itself, when it comes to what it is and what it isn’t, about “how” it is difficult, “why” it is difficult and i frequently get sad and overly wordy when i see people on the fora dismiss it as “probably not their thing” – It’s definitely not a game for everybody, but i fear that a LOT of people who’d really love it just as much as i do miss it due to misconceptions about “what” Dark Souls really is.

    Either way, there’s one tiny little detail in this video that i have to disagree on: I feel like the recent Scholar of the First Sin version does a lot more than just mixing up enemies for added variety, but instead actually adds a LOT of consistency, percieved connectivity and little details that were previously missing… Tiny details like Hollow Soldiers endlessly hacking away at “those trees” (brilliant!), Syan Knights guarding certain chests (those with sublime bonedust… it’s a nice detail from a lore perspective) or a lot of “incursions” by enemies from the next and previous zone (No-Man’s WharfLost Bastille is a good example), which gives the feeling that the world actually is connected logically – Of course that doesn’t fix the somewhat lackluster level design, but it really improved the feeling and really shows that they actually put quite a lot of thought into that particular version.

    • amateurviking says:

      That video made me laugh a lot. Vastly improved by the fact that it’s effectively an inadvertent in-joke to Marsh and Rich’s awesome/harrowing DaS1 playthrough, where much rueing ensued.

  18. Monggerel says:

    Hey, Lost Izalith! What a fucking piece of shit! Literally! Nothing can ever redeem that fucking piece of shit! Nothing! Piece of shit! Fucking!

    Crystal Caves! Why even bother! Just fucking give up! It’s alright! We both want to die by this point!

    Cavee of GIants! It’ s terrible! Why did you makes this! Nobody likes this! It’s awful! Just don’t do this man! Giant Skeledogs ate my soul! I am screaming in pain! And sorrow!

    Blighttown! Not even halfway thru and I’m vomiting out of my belly button! that shouldnt even be possible! But now it is! Blighttown!

    Fucking Fore Kings! More like Four Kings amirite! Fucking… wow! Amazing.


    Hey, it’s ok. Kiln of the First Flame makes up for that previous four hours. It’s really good. I like it. Your failure of a final boss left me with a bittersweet symphony. Now I am writing songs aobut my teenager life and how that one time I wish I kissed that guy cus I actually really fancied them and no instead I’m lonely miserable coward. See, I am drunk now. All things tend toward a lower state of activity.

    -I shoudl make a disclaimer here: I actualy prefer Dark Souls 1 to the second game. But it has many fucking awful bits. Utterly terrible. DS II is more consistent in its quality, and when it does spectacle, it does it far better (Heide Ruin, Drangleic, Dragon Arie, Shrine of Amana, Brume Tower, Eleum Loyce – visual flair, I mean, these and many other places have some awful encountres)

  19. Tim James says:

    Thanks for your contribution to the highbrow criticism of this series and framing the flaws of the sequel in a supportive tone. But as I say every time, it ultimately ends up in the same place as rants by the reddit whiners. I played Dark Souls II for over twice the amount of time as the first game because I loved the build variety, multiplayer, and technical improvements. It was an RPG brawler playground I wanted to run through over and over again. *shrug*

    Hey, I hope Miyazaki combines the metaphysical coherency of Dark Souls with the mechanical lessons learned in Dark Souls II and creates the greatest game in the history of creation. That’d be cool.

    • SlimShanks says:

      It’s interesting that you say Darks Souls 2 has more build variety. I felt that almost all builds even approaching PvP quality felt very samey. Seems like everyone is a sword and shield warrior with intense magic buffs. As a straight warrior with no magic or miracles I was at a huge disadvantage. The same thing happens with a straight mage. In the first game I saw a bazillion different useful builds.
      Could come down to a difference in playstyle, maybe?

  20. Frye2k11 says:

    A bit late to jump on the “DS2 is a lot worse than DS1” bandwagon imo. It took the gaming hivemind over a year to put a finger on its glaring flaws. Except for myself of course :) and some youtuber called Matthewmatosis.
    Reddit should listen to me a year sooner next time. Oh the curse of being born with good taste in a world of barbarians!

  21. amateurviking says:

    Excellent stuff! Can also heartily recommend Marsh and Rich Stanton’s DS1 playthrough on the Crate and Crowbar’s youtube channel. And their DS2 playthough featuring the inimitable Tom Senior from cheery RPS fansite PCGamer (although the latter seems to have petered out [perhaps justifiably] 30-odd hours in) ((the playthrough not the inimitable Tom Senior))(((can you tell I’ve been drinking?)))

  22. Time Cube says:

    Anybody know what that pointy silver helmet was in the DS2 bits ?

    • Procrastination Giant says:

      And again, since the reply function was moody: White Hollow Mage Hood

  23. SlimShanks says:

    Absolutely excellent video. I had actually never thought of humanity and souls as opposing forces, and now I need to do a lot more thinking about lore. Thanks for improving my week somewhat.

  24. Procrastination Giant says:

    White Hollow Mage Hood as far as i can tell – drops from those annoying casters in Brightstone Cove

  25. Thathanka says:

    DS is probably my favourite game of the past 25 years. However, I hated DS 2 when it first came out.

    Recently though, having finished Bloodborne, I sank 200 hours into Scholar of the First Sin. I actually loved it. It’s a huge improvement over DS 2 via merely small tweaks. I never returned to Bloodborne again.

    Can’t wait for DS 3 – which has apparently been in development since DS 2 and BB were being worked on.

    • jecomans says:

      I agree that Scholar helped. A lot. Played each version through once. It made a pretty mediocre game a somewhat good game. That said, I don’t think I ever need to touch Dark Souls 2 again.

  26. Garou says:

    This is a brilliant video article, more of this sort of thing please. Excellent work Marsh!

  27. drewski says:

    I liked this. Even though I’ve never played a Souls game (or Bloodborne) and almost certainly never will.

  28. mcwizardry says:

    Great video, there is something off with the audio recording you can hear interference of some kind.

  29. running fungus says:

    More of this! I would have listened to another hour of this.