Things aren’t too optimistic this low in the list, but at least they’re slightly better than the bottom of the barrel garbage we had last week. With that, let’s begin this week’s rankings.
100. Memory of the Iron King (Dark Souls 2)
The only redeeming factor to this area is that it has an incredible boss fight against Sir Alonne waiting at the end of it. Otherwise, this is the same pile of misery we saw at Iron Passage just dressed slightly differently. Enemy placement in terms of balance is a joke. Like Iron Passage, Frigid Outskirts and Cave of the Dead (which all incidentally appeared on last week’s list) this area was intended to be tackled in cooperative multiplayer. Needless to say, that was a terrible idea on From Software’s end.
99. Consecrated Snowfield (Elden Ring)
Fortunately, we’re past the areas that are just plainly horrible to go through. That said, Consecrated Snowfield could’ve been omitted entirely from Elden Ring and nobody would’ve fussed one bit. This is basically like if Frigid Outskirts slowed way, way down and was quite a bit bigger. Unfortunately, that means the player will still occasionally be ambushed by enemies they had no way of detecting. When arriving, most players are going to want to go in a straight line and head right for Ordina, which is where this map really starts to tank. Completing the puzzle in Ordina to advance to Miquella’s Haligtree is extremely tedious except for very specific builds.
98. The Gutter (Dark Souls 2)
The Gutter is kind of a drag to go through, but the area isn’t as horrible as the trash discussed last week. From Software’s B Team did have some fairly neat ideas that just didn’t mesh terribly well in practice. Based on the wooden structures and all the poison along with the vertical and horizontal layout, this seems to have been the B Team’s take on a Blighttown-esque area. This also came with a twist, with many sconces around to heavily involve the torch as a means of lighting the pitch black area. Sadly, it doesn’t work too well because of one critical flaw: what happens if the player simply doesn’t use a torch? Because you don’t have to use a torch to complete the area with relative ease. If you do it that way, this turns into some very minor parkouring with fairly monotonous enemies in an area with no boss and no scenery courtesy of the darkness. At least you can tell they tried.
97. Earthen Peak (Dark Souls 2)
Another area that has signs of creativity and originality that just didn’t quite work. As well, the interior of Earthen Peak is just plainly ugly on an aesthetic level. The walls really do look like they’re optimized for a much older console than the PlayStation 3 or 4. The area does have a neat concept for a gimmick: there are various poison pools or bogs across the map which will be drained if the player burns a nearby windmill. The logical absurdity of that aside, this would’ve been a well done gimmick if the game had given the player much of anything to actually discern it. There is an NPC summon, Devotee Scarlett, who will attempt to point the windmill out to the player, but as she is incapable of speech, this is likely to just confuse the player if they’re new to the map. Finally, the boss of this area is Mytha, the Baneful Queen, and apart from the aforementioned gimmick, she is completely forgettable.
96. Catacombs of Carthus (Dark Souls 3)
Out of all the Dark Souls 3 areas, this one was probably the most boring and forgettable. It doesn’t do anything plainly offensive, but it doesn’t seem to really ever try anything interesting. Enemies are just skeletons after skeletons after skeletons. The aesthetic of the area is very bland, as most of the traveling through the area is just small, tight and grey corridors, or wide open grey passageways. The only point of interest is being able to advance one completely optional questline. The only even brief positive point this map truly offers comes at the tail end, when the player can be pursued by a huge legion of skeletons, only to cut down a bridge behind them and watch all the skeletons fall off into the darkness. That can be kind of amusing. Of course, arguably the easiest boss in the game in High Lord Wolnir resides here, so he isn’t doing the area any favors.
95. Black Gulch (Dark Souls 2)
The one and only thing this otherwise awful area has going for it is being a place to farm upgrade materials and having a pretty neat ‘secret’ to it underneath the main area. Apart from that, this area is pretty horrible. Aesthetically, the pitch black darkness was already getting old due to the area right before this, The Gutter, and the dark green just doesn’t do it much. Constantly being spewed with poison by dozens of rock statues to the side of the main pathway gets annoying. Perhaps most irritating is that getting hit in the head by this will cause your character to spend several seconds recoiling while they take poison damage and continue to get shot. The only way to reliably avoid this scenario is to tediously destroy every single statue on both sides of the player. Apart from the underbelly of the area, there is also basically zero exploration whatsoever and the path to the boss is basically a straight line from the start. The boss itself in The Rotten is a merely decent encounter at best.
94. Nightmare Frontier (Bloodborne)
Juxtaposed to the Black Gulch, Nightmare Frontier seems to want the player to do a lot of exploring but barely rewards them with anything good or worthwhile for doing so. It’s also an area with many opportunities to get poisoned as well as encounter Winter Lanterns. Finally, there is only one shortcut which the player essentially has to reach the end to acquire. It isn’t entirely terrible, as the area is a notorious PvP hotspot and it can feature another encounter with the iconic Patches. As well, the area boss in Amygdala isn’t the most epic encounter ever, but it’s a fairly solid one at that. If this map was roughly half the size, it’d be a decent experience. Good thing it’s entirely optional.
93. Farron Keep (Dark Souls 3)
Almost all of the same things said about Nightmare Frontier can be said about Farron Keep. The main differences are that there are more checkpoints and the boss fight against the Abyss Watchers is generally more appealing than Bloodborne’s Amygdala. That said, we see a return of the horrendously annoying gimmick of a poison swamp slowing the player down while having zero impact on enemies. At least the player can kind of roll this time around, but it isn’t even a fast roll at that. Apart from the aforementioned Abyss Watchers, there is a relatively well hidden mini-boss encounter of sorts against the Stray Demon, which can reward the player nicely for winning. In general, this area does have some nice loot, another advantage it has on Nightmare Frontier. If the map’s progression was a little more intuitive, this would be a solid one.
92. Lake of Rot (Elden Ring)
The title says it all, doesn’t it? This is an enormous lake of scarlet rot, Elden Ring’s version of Toxic. The only real reason it shows up in front of many other From Software swampy areas is because it’s easy to just blow through the area in a minute if you don’t care to truly explore it. Plus, it’s entirely optional, so it’s easy to simply never come here in the first place. Past this lake is a boss encounter with Astel, Naturalborn of the Void. If fought at a proper level, this is a solid encounter that can feasibly incentivize players to take the mostly painless trek through this area to reach.
91. No Man’s Wharf (Dark Souls 2)
This is like The Gutter, only with ever so slightly more enemy variety, a different take on vertical progression and without the parkour. It tried to get the player involved with using the torch, as the area is very dark with many sconces around the area that can be lit for enhanced visibility. There are also Darkdwellers which will be mostly docile if the player has a torch in use. Unfortunately, while the enemy variety is greater, so is the enemy density. Gank fights make up almost the entirety of this area, which can get old and annoying quickly. On the flip side, NPC engagements are fairly amusing, with two fan favorites available for use on this map. Unfortunately, a rather underwhelming boss at the end in Flexile Sentry just doesn’t do this map much good.
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