The PC version of Dark Souls 3 is on the brink of descending into disarray.
First off, let's recap the game's struggles thus far:
- On launch a high number of players were experiencing crashes, typically when near a bonfire. This seemed to be fixable by turning lighting down to low, and a subsequent patch has fixed the issue for many.
- The performance was also pretty poor for some. Again, a patch has apparently improved the situation, although many players still complain of framerate drops and stuttering when collecting items.
- More recently players seem to have discovered that the game's poise system (one of its defensive mechanics) has been deactivated since launch. Whether this is deliberate or not remains unknown and a matter of fierce debate.
- Players have also been receiving warning messages about possible online bans – and From has admitted this has been occurring in error.
- (Just this weekend this author encountered a bug in the Catacombs that not only crashed the game, but brought Windows 10 down with it. The error message thrown up by Windows is typically associated with a CPU failure, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Efforts to fix the problem are ongoing, as is the urge to just load up the PS4 version).
This weekend, however, the situation appeared to get a lot worse for the game.
Rumours started to emerge that one hacker had discovered a way to hack a weapon so that it grants rivals players additional souls when they are struck. So what, you may think? The problem is that artificial soul inflation is one of the key signposts that From monitors to determine hacking. If your character's soul level rises unexpectedly, you're in danger of a softban from From's primary servers.
Said hacker spent much of the weekend streaming footage of himself infiltrating other player's games, warping himself to a rival's location and hitting them with the weapon (while invisible), the result of which was not only a boost to their soul level but also an alteration in their appearance and their kicking back to the hub level.
Now, whether this activity actually results in either the flagging up of a user's account or a softban is itself a matter for debate, with anecdotal evidence supporting both arguments.
What is known is that the fiasco sent both Reddit's Dark Souls 3 page and the game's Steam forums into a frenzy – all of which was exacerbated by From Software's ongoing silence on the issue. Is a player really able to get others banned through no fault of their own? What has From not banned the hacker himself? So far the studio has simply acknowledged that it's aware of the situation.
Some have even gone as far as to call for From to either abandon softbans altogether, or alternatively softban everyone, as either approach levels the playing field. The hacker does claim, however, to have been banned from the Steam forums. Redditors had been contacting Valve urging for his complete ban from Steam.
It's worth noting that while the internet echo chamber can give the impression that the game and its community is in meltdown, for large numbers of people all is well. They play without problem, completely unaware and unaffected by the issues. The game is selling great on Steam and, by and large, is From's best PC work to date.
How much action From is able to take is another matter entirely, of course. Much like The Division, Dark Souls 3 multiplayer is handled client-side.
There are even those who argue that the hacker is helping the situation, as From is (hopefully) being forced into 'fixing' its game. The developer has historically been pretty slow to respond to problems, though.
The PC version of Dark Souls 3 remains the definitive release, for sure, but the allure of playing on PS4 and Xbox One, both of which are to date free of hackers, is unsurprisingly growing. From Software needs to take control of the situation, and visibly, or else it risks a revolt among its most dedicated players.