To preface, it’s an absolutely fantastic game that I adore. It’s an easy contender for one of my favorite games ever. But I think the critical reception has ignored several flaws with the game, as well as the technical issues, some of which have persisted since the original Demon’s Souls on PS3. I’ll just briefly throw down some relatively unstructured thoughts here; this is by no means a comprehensive list of my gripes with the game.
- The game’s technical performance is not where it should be for what it puts on the screen and the hardware it runs on, especially compared to its contemporaries. The developers have historically been poor at technical optimization and I think at this stage it’s inexcusable. If they aren’t able to optimize their games, they should outsource or hire external resources that can.
- Lock on is wonky. It often breaks against bosses and regular enemies, and frequently picks nonsensical targets (i.e. prioritizing a timid enemy behind you on a different platform rather than the aggressive one you’re currently engaged in combat with). This is made worse by the addition of critters to the overworld, making switching lock-on targets to the enemy you want a ridiculous affair. This has been an issue since Demon’s Souls, but is magnified here thanks to the pace of the game and the quantity of enemies thrown at you.
- Input buffering is overzealous. This has been an issue since Demon’s Souls.
NPC questlines are needlessly obscure.
- They seem to just randomly move about the world with no indication of where they’ll show up next in some cases.
- Often it’s done well, with NPCs being found organically through careful exploration, and traveling in a direction sensible for their story.
- Sometimes it’s just baffling. Why does Millicent appear in Dominula after being given the prosthetic, even though her dialogue clearly indicates a different destination. Why does Alexander move from Caelid to Liurnia, a lower-level area? How was I expected to find the entrance to Nokron when no one gave me any indication where the meteor had landed, aside from “Limgrave”, which was an area I’d already thoroughly explored and didn’t want to re-traverse.
- Late game bosses are ridiculous. They’re too aggressive, too mobile and deal too much damage for the player to reasonably handle with the simple combat mechanics the game provides.
Restrictive upgrade system
- The availability of upgrade materials and their respective bell bearings is confusingly restrictive. Even with thorough and exhaustive exploration, I felt the game barely provided me enough to consistently maintain two strong normal weapons throughout my game, and maybe 2-3 special weapons.
- By the time a bell bearing is found, it’s often worn out its use in terms of the materials it makes available for sale.
- Smithing stones  and  are made available for purchase in mid-late Liurnia, by which point a +6 weapon is outclassed by enemy strength.
-  and  in Altus,  and  after Morgott, and  and  at the very end of the game.
- In every case other than the last, the level to which you’re able to upgrade your weapon with the materials just made available for purchase is redundant against the enemies you’re facing. By the time you get the last bell bearing you’re already at the end of the game, and the ability to freely upgrade your weapons is no more than a novelty; it’s too late to really use them.
- The same problem repeats itself with somber smithing stones, grave gloveworts, and ghost gloveworts, which are even more frustrating, because you need a different tier stone for every new level. I could have a +5 special weapon, and possess several Somber Smithing Stones ,  and  and an Ancient Dragon Somber Smithing Stone, and I’d be unable to push my weapon any further, because I lack a .
- This could be so easily solved by just repositioning the bell bearings. For example, move Smithing Stone Bell Bearing  from Liurnia to Limgrave,  from Altus to Caelid,  from Land of Northern Giants to Altus, and  to Land of Northern Giants. Move Ghost Glovewort Bell Bearing  from Nokron to Ainsell River Well (accessible via the Liurnia well),  can stay where it is, and  to Mohgwyn. This is more thematically appropriate anyway;  and  are found in ancient cities underground (and made accessible at the same point in the story), where you also find all the Great Ghost Gloveworts. Yet  is just randomly at the end of Haligtree, which isn’t accessible until the end of the game.
- Instead, have all 3 underground, in locations made accessible at different points in the story.  when you reach Liurnia,  when you beat Radahn, and  when you reach Consecrate Snowfields.
- This is a frustrating issue as it severely restricts your ability to actually enjoy and make use of the huge variety of weapons, spells and spirit ashes the game gives you.