Ranking The 10 Worst Areas In From Software Games | Column from the Editor

Recently, the best areas found in From Software gaming were discussed here. While From Software definitely has put together some masterpieces, and generally succeeds far more than fails, they’ve managed to put together some clunkers over the years. Today’s piece will discuss the ten worst areas in a From Software game. It will go in order from ‘least bad’ all the way down to their #1 worst map.

Let’s begin.

‘Dis’honorable mentions:

Byrgenwerth (Bloodborne)
The Duke’s Archives (Dark Souls 1)
Anor Londo (Dark Souls 3)
The Ritual Path (Demon’s Souls)
Tomb of Giants (Dark Souls 1)

10. Road of Sacrifices (Dark Souls 3)

The general pacing for this area is really bad and sets the tone for the average experience going through it from the get-go. At first, there’s a great pile of nothing that stretches for several minutes of just walking. There will be the occasional hollow dog or humanoid crow that shows up briefly to fight the player, and there’s one pointless NPC fight that the player has to go out of their way to locate. After inevitably deciding that just running past everything is the best course of action, the player will arrive at a bonfire where they’ll likely meet Horace the Hushed and Anri of Astora. Afterward, the area immediately transitions from a long trail of nothing into a great big, heavily congested circular area loaded with enemies, two NPC invaders and a slew of mostly useless items for the looting. At least there’s an Estus Shard to be found here, so looting the area won’t be a total waste of time.

Because of the second half’s layout, Road of Sacrifices became a very nice place to enjoy some PvP matches right around where the second bonfire is located. This is probably the area’s only truly redeeming quality. To make things worse, an uninspiring matchup with the Crystal Sage is on tap at the very end, so from a PvE perspective, this map offers virtually nothing and was a shoo-in for this list.

9. Consumed King’s Garden (Dark Souls 3)

As it happens, this area is thankfully completely optional. Unfortunately, if the player wants to eventually earn the Coiled Sword Fragment or have the opportunity to experience a thrilling fight with Champion Gundyr, both things are in an area coming after this one- this means Consumed King’s Garden would be mandatory if the player wants those two things.

The only good thing to be said about the area is that it’s short. If the player is ignorant or silly enough to actually spend significant time exploring it, they’ll be treated to the two worst ideas From Software ever had- pools that don’t inflict regular poison, but rather Toxic and the Pus of Man enemy which is definitely the (2nd) most annoying idea for an enemy ever. There are plenty of both of these elements, and because the only thing worth looting in this area, the Undead Bone Shard, is found easily and early on, there is no reason to do anything other than try and run past everything in a mad dash to get to the boss fog door.

When the best thing to be said about a map is “well, at least you can run through it and skip everything easily,” that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

8. Farron Keep (Dark Souls 3)

Farron Keep ultimately manifested into Dark Souls 3’s “swamp map”- one of From Software’s many iconic traditions from game to game, and probably the only one that the majority of their player base absolutely cannot stand.

Farron Keep isn’t From Software’s only swamp map- Dark Souls 1 has Blighttown, Bloodborne has the Forbidden Woods and Nightmare Frontier and Elden Ring has the Lake of Rot, for example. Incidentally, Blighttown was a part of InReview’s top 10 list. Why is that the case when Farron Keep shows up on this one?

Farron Keep is a swamp map which does a few horribly aggravating things from a design perspective that make it far worse than the others. For one, the poison swamp the player will have to frequently travel through has many points in which the swamp is so thick that it restricts the player’s movement. Unless you have a dagger, go ahead and enjoy slowly walking and being unable to effectively roll while poison builds up from the ground you travel on. This wouldn’t be the end of the world, but enemies who walk on this very same terrain aren’t restricted. As Souls games in general are largely hand-eye coordination stressors, the ability to roll and properly navigate a short space to fight is essential. The game is pretty much ripping the character’s legs off, making combat far more one dimensional and frustrating.

Farron Keep is a lengthy area, but the path to go from start to finish is actually surprisingly linear. On paper, a player could approach this as if it were the Consumed King’s Garden and just ignore everything, taking a ‘feet don’t fail me now!’ approach to just reach the end of the area. Sadly, that won’t do any good, as the player will quickly find their progress impeded. In order to actually make it to the end of the map, the player must locate and interact with three open flames positioned in bowls around the map. Once done, the player can properly finish the area and get to the boss fog door.

With Farron Keep being an area that tends to reinvent the wheel with Dark Souls’ very own core mechanics, one that inflates the length of the area artificially and being a part of a very hated trope, it was an easy inclusion onto this list.

7. Nightmare Frontier (Bloodborne)

Take Farron Keep, make it longer, include more irritating enemies along with forced and frequent PvP, and you get Bloodborne’s Nightmare Frontier. Virtually everything that can be said about Farron Keep can be said here, so instead of regurgitating all of what makes Nightmare Frontier suck, let’s talk about why it’s slightly worse than Farron Keep.

For one, the area is a bit larger than Farron Keep while being far, far less linear. At least Farron Keep’s pathing is easy to understand, but Nightmare Frontier can be quite confusing to navigate. There’s also only one singular shortcut, and it’s found just before the Amygdala boss fog door. The lack of a central checkpoint or any shortcuts until basically the very end means that if you die at any point from the beginning until the very end, you’ll need to redo the whole thing all over again. Given the map’s size, this can be immensely frustrating.

Forced PvP is also a thing in this area. In areas other than Nightmare Frontier and Ya’Hargul, the player can only be invaded by another player if they use a specific item or summon a cooperative player to join them. Here, however, the player can be invaded at anytime without needing to do anything, and they cannot remove this element from play without killing the Bell-Bearing Woman found on the map. Until the player defeats the Amygdala, this will be a constant factor which serves to include yet another complication in traversing the map. 

Finally, if Patches the Spider hasn’t been killed, he makes a grand entrance to mess with the player here. He will push them off a small mountaintop down into a trench where a group of Rock Trolls will be able to freely throw at the player as the player is powerless to do anything about it. Do yourself a favor and have Patches killed long before entering the Nightmare Frontier.

6. The Gutter (Dark Souls 2)

At least there’s an interesting boss fight waiting at the end of this appropriately named “Gutter” trash of an area. What’s interesting is that From Software seems to have taken inspiration from two of their previously made maps to make this one- the aesthetic and enemies shooting poison darts at the player is directly a reminiscent of Blighttown, while the extreme darkness, confusing layout and tendency for anything remotely challenging to be a gank fight is very similar to Demon’s Souls Path of Defilement.

How did From Software screw up trying to recreate Blighttown? Blighttown works well because it includes several new challenging elements, but it gives the player the tools to mitigate all of these to the point of being non factors with smart play. The layout is confusing but in a good way, encouraging the player to think outside the box.

Here, it’s as if From Software just wanted to punish the player for existing. In Blighttown, everything has an answer to it. In the Gutter, you’re kind of just screwed. You will get poisoned a lot, the enemies who inflict the poison will respawn, everything is a gank fight and it’s being done in a dark room with poor visibility that includes many spots the player can fall to their doom from. 

This map probably would’ve been redeemable, but one last aspect of it gets hindered by Dark Souls 2’s own mechanics surrounding the use of torches. The fact that the player is on a timer with their torch constantly as they use it, and there aren’t many reliable ways to actually keep it lit, is one of the silliest concepts in a game period. It doesn’t help that the entirety of this enormous map is incredibly dark, necessitating frequent use of the torch just to avoid falling entirely.

5. Demon Ruins (Dark Souls 1)

When discussing the general quality of each From Software game, experienced players will often speak of Dark Souls 1 fondly, with the caveat of there being a “second half drop off” to the game. Demon Ruins and one other map being discussed very shortly are largely responsible for this, and it won’t take much of a trained eye to quickly realize why this is.

Demon Ruins’ main issue is that, where maps like Nightmare Frontier and Farron Keep were infuriating concepts, Demon Ruins doesn’t even feel like a concept at all. It has a serious lack of polish from both a visual and structure standpoint. It’s a lot of very basic terrain extending for seemingly miles, where the player will fight reskin after reskin to go with numerous uninspiring gank fights meant to create an artificial challenge. Approaching hordes of demons is just weird, because a handful of them stand in a single file line through a narrow, cramped up hallway as if they’re just standing around waiting to fight the player. 

At least Farron Keep, Nightmare Frontier and other maps on this list keep the player engaged with the game. Demon Ruins is just boring and completely lacking in inspiration.

4. Lost Izalith (Dark Souls 1)

This area is inept to a comical extent. Fun fact- when the original game launched back in 2011, the lava found within Lost Izalith was so poorly designed that it would actually crash the game for PC players and was the catalyst for the “Dark Souls 1- Found Izalith” fan-built mod literally solely designed to correct this. Mercifully, when the game was remastered in 2018, this was corrected and that fan mod is now defunct. The absurdity of the whole situation practically speaks for itself.

It doesn’t take game breaking bugs to make the Lost Izalith suck. The structure is very bland and is almost childlike in design. In order to make it through the map, the player must dedicate a portion of their build to include a ring meant to diminish damage taken standing in lava, as running through this lava several times is a must.

To make things even worse, the boss fight for this area is the largely maligned Bed of Chaos, one of if not the worst designed boss in From Software history.

3. Prison of Hope (Demon’s Souls)

In the realm of confusing maps that are hard to navigate, this area hoists the crown. It was also the beginning of one of From Software’s many quirky trends- never can an openable door in any of their games ever simply be unlocked. That’s the name of the game here- finding keys. You’ll need to find many, many keys to open many, many doors and as you’d expect, they’re scattered all throughout the map. Finding these keys, remembering where they go, then figuring out what key you still need to escape this horrible place is 90% of the fight.

In terms of challenge, this area has basically none whatsoever, serving to make it quite boring and difficult to remain engaged. A whole slew of hollows are being imprisoned in this area. Some of them will attack the player when freed, but they’re hollows so they’ll die in one or two hits without issue. There are also a handful of mind flayers which seem to guard these cells. They’ll do good damage if they actually manage to hit the player, but their attacks are so telegraphed and they’re so slow that they shouldn’t end up posing too much of a threat. There is a mini boss found after the player manages to escape the prison and get out into the courtyard- this guy is very imposing, as it has a large health bar and deals a lot of both melee and ranged damage. That said, it’s also completely immobile and the player can use pillars to minimize its threat. Combine that with the fact that the game doesn’t actually reward the player or incentivize them to go kill this creature, and scarcely will you find a player who actually bothers doing so.

In all, this map is plainly and simply a snooze fest to truck through, and its a long one at that. At least it looks fairly nice in the remake,

2. Irithyl Dungeon (Dark Souls 3)

Most of the maps on this list have some complex reasons for being bad. However, Irithyl Dungeon sucks and it can be summed up in just one word: Jailers. Jailers somehow make absolute farces such as the Pus of Man look well built in comparison. Jailers are very simple- when aggroed, a large swath of yellow smoke will emit a Jailer as they go to cast a spell. If the player is even in line of sight at this point, their maximum HP will be progressively reduced until it’s so low that it reaches a laughable number- going from as high as about 2200 down to something silly, as low as around 10-11. This will remain in place until the Jailer has been killed or the player has been out of sight for a long period of time, upon which the spell is undone. However, the player’s current HP won’t be touched, so they’ll have the tiniest sliver of HP left when they get their usual max back, and will need to heal. Moreover, the Jailer has a grab attack that can kill the player as their magic is working simultaneously, meaning we have a regular enemy here capable of one shotting the player under a series of very conceivable circumstances.

The rest of the map sucks for sure, as it’s fairly bland, confusing to navigate and mostly very bunched in, with little room for maneuverability. However, the existence of Jailers is largely responsible for this map arriving on this list. They are common, they’re unfair to fight and are way too punishing on the player, warping their play style in a way that isn’t necessarily challenging as much as it is tedious and annoying. As such, it was a shoo-in to appear on this list, despite the fact that a fun boss fight with Yhorm the Giant awaits at the end of it all.

  1.  Valley of Defilement (Demon’s Souls)

This may be a tad unfair, as Valley of Defilement is technically three areas rolled into one. The Prison of Hope, discussed earlier on the list, is a part of the Tower of Latria archstone, basically working the same as the Valley of Defilement.

Even still, this area is abominable enough to make these semantics moot in the end. The Valley of Defilement was From Software’s first ever ‘swamp’ area and is typically what the player base will point to as evidence that these types of maps don’t work. However, to write this one off as some crappy swamp area and calling it a day wouldn’t be doing it enough justice.

This map is bland and ugly just to look at. On paper, you might assume this is understandable seeing as how it’s meant to be a poison swamp, and probably shouldn’t be bright and cheery per se. However, not all artwork is bright and cheery; it is possible to make captivating design using dark, dreary colors. Look no further than pretty much the entirety of Bloodborne, a mostly dark and dreary Lovecraftian video game where the sun doesn’t even rise. Bloodborne is a work of art, and it does so using this gothic design style.

Valley of Defilement is bland because it’s boring and lacks the polish Bloodborne has. It’s pretty much a big open cave with miserable lighting that makes it difficult to see. In essence, it’s Farron Keep only someone forgot to pay the power bill. Moreover, the ‘challenge’ is either nonexistent or artificial. Like Farron Keep, the player will find themselves slowed as they muck their way through the poison, and the enemies do not. When the player gets to fight on fairground, it’s either a total joke or it’s a gank fight that’s still not even all that challenging. The Leechmonger boss found at the end of 5-1 is a total joke. Dirty Colossus, found at the end of 5-2, at least bears a good design, though is hardly anymore challenging than Leechmonger. Finally, at the very end we get Maiden Astrea, an ‘end game boss’ who is completely incapable of threatening the player directly and can be cheesed in several different ways due to awful design.

Overall, Valley of Defilement has consistently been the butt of many jokes over the years. It absolutely had to be at the very top of this list.

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