Dark Souls/Inquisitor (PC) Review
Posted by Marc Morrison on 09.20.2012
Inside is a look between a retro-style 2D RPG and a 3D RPG with similar trappings. How do both of these games fare in today’s world?
This review is going to be a bit different than normal ones. This experiment has been done before, notably with my earlier Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion/Warlock reviews. That went fairly well, so I chose to do it again with these two RPG’s. I won’t go into depth that much on the systems in place, but I’ll comment about general thoughts on each game and how they are similar and different from each other.
Let’s start with the better of the two, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition. Dark Souls is a fairly decent port of the Xbox 360/PS3 masocore RPG that is beloved by some and hated by others. I fall somewhere in the middle, finding normal enemies provide a good (if unfair at times) challenge but the bosses an exercise in frustration. You find new weapons and items, gain souls (the currency in the game world), do quests and die…often. Hence the subtitle “Prepare to Die”. This game prides itself on killing you, around 300 times (at least) as you play the game. It features 10 different classes from warrior, thief, cleric, bandit and so on. Each has different stats and weapon/armor compatibilities. Don’t expect the Sorcerer to use a broadsword, for example. The game largely follows its console’s counterpart though, so if you’ve had any experience with that version, this version is the exact same; only with some more areas and things to do once you are very far in the game, if you can manage to make it to anything new.
The lesser of the two games is Inquisitor. Frankly, Inquisitor is one of the worst games I’ve ever played. And yes, I’ve played Superman 64, and this game is worse than that. On the surface, Inquisitor looks like an old-style 2D D&D rpg, like Planescape: Torment, or Icewind Dale. That is about all it has with those classic games, the isometric perspective. Inquisitor fails at combat, story, item, and just basic gameplay systems. Dark Souls is a challenging and unfair game, but it isn’t completely broken in what it sets out to do. Here’s a good example: most RPG’s have various weapon classifications. You’ll have “short swords” as a class type, with daggers or knife as the only two types available. In Inquisitor, there are 6 short sword types available; Knife, Dagger, Stiletto, Falchion, Short Sword, and Double Blade. Each has their own uses also, for the different classes. There are 6 “main” weapon classifications (minus throwing weapons) and each has at least 5 subcategories of weapons. That equals about 30 weapon varieties, just at the start of the game. That is arguably, insane, and there is no rationale for doing so. The game is set during the 13th century and has period specific weaponry, notably a Partisan and such, but that doesn’t make it a good design choice, just one that has some historical bits mixed in with demons and magic.
There are three classes in the game, Paladin, Priest, and Thief. To the game’s credit, each starts off a bit different from one another but it’s all broken. Combat draws from a fatigue system that Stamina system that you need to put points into first, in order for it to regenerate any. Same goes for the mana system, where initially, you’ll run out of mana and have no idea how to get it back. You start off with a few potions to restore some but that’s it, initially anyway. One note about the game is that your character moves slower than dirt. There are two things to help move you faster, the run button, and the speed skill (in talent tree). The run button, R, is broken. It is supposed to alternate you between a run and a walk and it does nothing. The speed skill says it makes you move faster, but it’s also broken. As an experiment, I made a new character and maxed out the initial speed skill, going from 5 to 15. The first quest you get is you’re told to wander around the town’s walls killing bats (that aren’t labeled on the laughable map). It took me 3 minutes and 10 seconds to make a full lap around the town, with the “speedy” character. With my main character, it was longer, but I was actually trying to fulfill the quest objectives. By the 20 minute marker, I had given up and just yelled at the guard to open the gate and let me in, or I’d kill him.
Both games do a terrible job of telling you what to do, with Dark Souls it’s by design, with Inquisitor, it’s by ineptitude. Playing Dark Souls is an exercise in not understanding what the hell anything does, with game systems giving you no quarter to help you out. You’re frequently given points for leveling up, Humanity (another form of currency), and the like, but the game never explains what is good for what class. You can play, and reasonably enjoy Dark Souls, but looking at a guide, a FAQ, or a wiki is really the key in actually getting your money’s worth out of the game, and how to progress. Inquisitor just takes the tact of throwing as much text as can possibly fit on the screen at you, so that none of it ever sticks. Accessing the quest log gives you no help, since nothing is marked on the map. Trying to find out what gear is better takes more button presses then it should. You can’t just get an instant pop up of a weapon/armor’s stats; you have to right click the object for it to bring up stats screen.
Graphically, each game does different things, once again with Inquisitor falling WAY behind Dark Souls. Actually, you can’t even compare Inquisitor to Dark Souls, just due to the nature of each game’s. I’ll be quick and say that Dark Souls looks a little better than the console versions. The walls are shinier, areas look more detailed, the game ran faster, and so on. Some enterprising modders out there boosting the game up even more, with higher resolutions and a 60fps patch out, so if that really matters to you, it’s out there. I still find the game too dark, even with the brightness turned all the way up, but that is a personal preference. You’ll need a fairly powerful computer to run the game well, but it does look nice, especially with the long draw distances in the world.
Since I can’t compare Inquisitor to Dark Souls, I’ll compare it to a game it’s clearly trying to look like, Planescape: Torment. It might be trying to look more like another of the old Infinity Engine games, but Torment is the only one I really know. Torment came out almost 13 years ago and it STILL looks like a better game than this. Inquisitor has shoddy world textures, doors that have about three frames of opening animation (closed, open at 45 degrees, and completely open), horrible characters models, poor enemy designs, and so on. The higher up the resolution scale you go, the more zoomed out the world gets, and the uglier the game becomes. The walking animation is downright laughable, be it your own character or the NPC’s. Your character can turn in a clock-like direction, but can’t walk like that. This leads to him skating around the map, having to walk at 11 o’clock, if he’s trying to just walk in a left line. Retro-2D style RPGS can be fine in today’s market, just look at Penny Arcade Episode 3 RPG, or even Obsidian’s Project Eternity. There is a place for that, but this game’s graphics don’t scratch that itch at all. They should have just licensed the Infinity Engine and used that in this game. To be fair, I’m not sure if they did that or not (but I’m guessing not)
Audio is something both games certainly have, but again can’t really be compared much to one another. The music in Dark Souls is appropriately grim and dour sounding. The sound effects are great though, adding weight to every hit and attack and make you feel like you are a part of the world. The bad side of Inquisitor’s sound is the effects. They are weak and barely register at all when you’re playing the game, except for the “Quest updated” sound, which is kind of hilarious. The music is actually very solid though, and might be the best part of the game. The main menu theme is great, with a nice hint of religious music but still catchy. Most of the other music, as well, is solid, with the town’s song having some good nature ambient effects mixed with the music. If there is one bright-side to the game, it is the music contained within it.
The replay factor with both games is highly dependent on how much you can tolerate playing them. For a normal person, you could spend a few hours in Dark Souls and not even begun to scratch the surface. There is a large amount of content within the game, bolstered by the “Prepare to Die” extra bits. Inquisitor also had a large content load but few will be able to stand the game enough to see it. I would estimate that most people would play the game for an hour and shut it off, never to be played again. If you can tolerate the game, you will enjoy it, but I fear the number of people who enjoy it is extremely small.
Dark Souls is a challenging, tough, sometimes cheap game that doesn’t hold your hand at all, but is rewarding when it all clicks together. Inquisitor is the worst game I’ve played this year, if not for the past several years. To the terrible gameplay, horrible run animation, archaic graphics, and mountains of text that everyone seems to spout off, it’s truly abysmal. Some decent music isn’t enough to save this RPG, not by a longshot. If you really have an itch for that style RPG, just go buy Planescape, or Baldur’s Gate, or Icewind Dale, or anything from that era. Inquisitor has made zero improvements on those old games, and has actually degenerated the genre quite a bit.
Dark Souls PC Note One quick note about the PC version of the game, the online is currently kind of screwed up. Functionally it works, but a lot of people are hacking the game, making themselves invincible or killing players with one hit (if they join your world). The write message system basically the same as the console versions, but the rampant hacking of characters and such is something to really be on the lookout for.
Graphics -- 2.0 Well, nothing is technically broken. The higher up in resolution, the uglier the game. Horrible designs, terrible effects, and some of the worst walking animation I’ve ever seen.
Gameplay -- 1.5 It looks like one of the classic D&D RPGs, but it certainly doesn’t play like them. Combat is barely there, so much text just to learn anything, a messy inventory, and a run button that doesn’t work.
Sound -- 5.0 I found the music actually to be solid enough to not hate all my time with the game. The sound effects are pitiful sounding, though.
Lasting Appeal -- 2.0 I can’t really fathom anyone that would spend long periods with this game. Still, someone out there has to be, but that person scares me to death. The walking speed alone kills any desire to play more of the game.
Fun Factor -- 1.0 Aside from the music, and timing how long it took me to run around the town, I had almost zero fun with this game. Playing it has been the low point of this year.
Overall -- 2.3
Better than the console versions, but not a huge leap (without mods anyway). The game is too dark still, but the world is always interesting to look at.
Brutal, uncompromising but rewarding when it clicks. Multiplayer is kind of screwed up, but the single player is fun, if you can manage to understand it all.
Good enough. The voice acting is a bit weak at times, but the music is solid. The sound effects are great though and add to the immersion factor.
You’ll be able to find a ton of things to do, with a huge world to explore. Multiple classes and ways of doing things adds up to many hours playing the game.
This game isn’t really for me, but even I had fun playing it. Once you finally manage to take down a boss, it’s incredible. The 40 deaths before it though, are a bit frustrating.