When I first saw the trailer for Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy, I wondered how trash like that could find the success that it did. I know that game has other inspirations, but I think I found its precedent regarding its mainstream success:
This is a hack ‘n’ slash. Right off the bat, the game pissed me off by assigning the lock-on to R3 of all things. It’s not like this is a twin-stick shooter or anything; the right stick is only used for camera control. There’s also no option to remap controls, so you just have to get used to it. The game even assigns combat actions to the shoulder buttons: R1 does a light attack, R2 does a heavy attack, and L1 blocks. Despite this, the face buttons have crucial actions assigned to them as well: the B button is for dodging and running, and the X button uses an item.
My biggest issue with the game is that its combat is designed completely backwards. Normally, games are designed so that whatever hazards show up or whatever the enemies do, the player always has a way to counter it. In this game, the reverse is true: no matter what you do, the enemies always have a way to counter it. What’s worse is that the results of combat can be completely random, so there’s no way to learn from failure and get good at the game. If you try to block an attack, sometimes it will work and give you an opening to attack, but other times you’ll get stunned (even thought your stamina bar was full) and the enemy will have an opening to attack you. EDIT: Speaking of the stamina bar, sometimes, successfully blocking a hit only takes away a little bit of stamina so you can combo the enemy, while other times, nearly the whole thing gets taken away from one hit so you can only attack once before having to back off. Sometimes the enemy will only attack once, while other times, that exact same pre-attack animation will lead to a full combo, with each consecutive attack coming quickly and closer to you, meaning even if you dodge away from the enemy, you’ll still get hit because your dodge move doesn’t go far enough. You could try to dodge past the enemy and get behind it, but sometimes, the enemy will immediately turn to face you and continue its combo, hitting you before your dodge animation finishes and trapping you into the rest of the combo. Oh, and on the off chance you do land a hit and can start your own combo, enemies can sometimes break out of your combo and attack you, and since you can’t interrupt your attack animation to dodge (seriously, why do so many hack ‘n’ slash games do this?), there’s literally no way to avoid damage when that happens. No joke: it is a much more viable strategy to run past most enemies than to try to engage in this laughable excuse for a combat system.
It gets worse when you have to fight more than one enemy at a time. The combat is designed around only fighting one enemy at a time, and for the most part, it is possible to lead one enemy away from a group to pick them off one by one. However, there are several times where the game forces you to fight multiple enemies at once, and due to the random, asynchronous nature of the enemy AI, it’s only really comparable to something like Rockman 2 Neta; technically doable, but there’s so much randomness at play that it can’t really be considered skill-based.
Oh, but that’s not all. The game also has a habit of hiding its enemies so they can surprise you and land cheap shots. I knew I was going to hate this game when I went down the first staircase in the first level after the Firelink Shrine, locked on to the skeleton dog, and immediately got shot in the back by an archer who was hidden on a ledge behind the wall. For those taking notes, this is NOT how to use level design to increase difficulty; it’s comparable to a 2D game using foreground objects to hide hazards. This is far from the only time the game does stuff like this, too: look forward to having an enemy run in and hit you from the corner where you couldn’t see it (bonus points if you can’t even lock onto it before triggering it), or for a seemingly empty path to have skeleton dogs fall from the trees. The point I gave up was against the Abyss Watchers because they so perfectly encapsulate everything wrong with the game’s combat: its reach is too far to dodge away from, it turns to face you if you dodge behind it, it can break out of your combos, it can easily stun you if you try to block, and if you do manage to get its health down a bit, it’ll summon a low-HP clone of itself to attack you at the same time (out of view, of course). Plus, if you do manage to defeat it somehow, it revives itself and gets a flame sword, increasing its reach even further.
To add insult to injury, the levels are made to be as confusing as possible. Multiple paths wind back into each other or dead end. Heck, the second bonfire (first checkpoint) in the first level after the Firelink Shrine is in a hidden-away dead end split path, and this isn’t the only time the game puts its checkpoints in out-of-the-way-locations. Plus, half the time, if you find the boss, that path will dead end as well, so you have to go back to wandering the stage to try to find where to go next. The worst example I came across was with the Cathedral of the Deep. I managed to defeat the boss only to reach a dead end. I wandered around the stage, trying to find where to go, but to no avail. Eventually, I looked up a map (because of course there are no in-game maps) and saw that the entire level was a dead end; I had to go all the way back to the previous area to find the branching path I needed to go down to progress.
Needless to say, I wouldn’t recommend this one. At this point, I’m convinced that the reason fans have used “get good” (and variations thereof) as a defense for this series is because it’s indefensible once you analyze the details. Lost Kingdoms is better and less random than this (and that game has a card-based combat system). Hell, even Drakengard is a better game than this since at least that game has maps, a radar to see nearby enemies, and clear objectives. This game may even be worse than the Tales franchise. Seriously, if this is what hack ‘n’ slash fans consider the proper way to increase difficulty, I may have to blacklist the genre like I did with RPGs.