You're not dismissing the Earthern Peak thing as "just a journey shortener". That's an elevator going up
from a windmill in clear scenery. Heide's? You're in the middle of a damn ocean and... walk forwards into a tunnel that leads to a harbour cave? Go from someone's house to super elevated peaks that would be completely accessible from any of the previous areas unless we start pretending that directions are meaningless? It's not convenience to have a bunch of totally disconnected areas where the whole environment says "these connections cannot possibly make sense".
And it's lazy design. Take Hunstman's Copse -> Earthern Peak -> Iron Keep. Even if these transitions made logical sense, the areas are completely lacking in any sort of thematic design. They're just random areas joined up with no thought for why they should be connected. Some areas have sensible connections (the stuff below Majula, the Lost Bastille and No-Man's Wharf), others... remind me why the Doors of Pharros are remotely connected to Tseldora?
If you don't like summoning NPCs for boss fights just to progress their stories, then don't. I've never had a hard time keeping them alive through the boss fights, myself. Maybe it's just my playstyle.
Because it requires me to summon to get items/story when I want to solo a boss. Siegward in DSIII is pretty similar, only there's actually a reason and good writing behind it. It's obnoxious in DS2.
Powerstance is very effective in PvE if you practice using it just a little. Both weapons swing simultaneously and in the same area in front of you so they both hit the majority of the time. Yes, they could have spent a bit more time doing more animation sets for them, but what they did have at least worked. I did a run dual-wielding maces, and it was awesome. Definitely switched over to sun sword and shield whenever I was invaded, however, because that was what I had the best success rate with.
Not saying it's ineffective, I'm saying it makes no sense, looks bad, and doesn't actually contribute
Ladder speed fall damage? WTF are you talking about? I've never taken damage from moving on ladders. And what's wrong with the estus flask? 1-12 uses, depending on how much you improve it, and you have soulgems for backup if you run out. The only problem is that there may be TOO MUCH healing available. Adaptability was a bad stat, yeah. But because you could actually respec in the game (not in DS1!) you could actually test out multiple builds and fix mistakes on where you spent your stats. Parrying in DS2 had an advantage over DS1 because it was the same timing for both PvE and PvP. Once you learned the timing in DS2, it was very reliable no matter who you fought, while DS1 had you learn one timing for enemies, and a wholly different one for other players. That's just fucked up. Hollowing colours were more corpse-like than the red demon colours in DS1, which I think is what you should look like, a corpse, not a mummified red demon. Or maybe your colour contrast is just off and it looks super green on your settings?
I was contrasting things they improved with things that they made... well, worse. So ladder speed was an improvement, fall damage was worse. Estus flasks have more sensible availability but the ADP and speed thing is bad, along with lifegems. There's a consistent inability in the game to improve on one area without worsening it in some way. Parrying has a weird animation and for some reason knocks people onto their ass, plus the timing for a proper riposte is even tighter for... some reason. The point with parrying is that it was fiddled with and came out looking worse with bad animations. Can't say I notice anything about PvE/PvP timings (if they're the same, something's wrong--ping would interfere) because I'm too used to different weapons needing different timings.
Hollowing is blatantly green:
Dex is weaker because it scales worse than Str on equivalent weapons. I tested it out myself. Sun sword is the best example, because it 'should' have equal scaling in both, but Dex is always 30% weaker. And that reduced benefit to damage for Dex actually applies to all Dex-based weapons. The fact that you need rings to bring it back in line shows how much weaker it is.
No, Dex is actually better because DS2 has basically no percentile bonuses. Buffs are a flat value, Ring of Blades is a flat value, Flynn's is a flat value, stat scaling is a flat value (also changes by weapon). But the damage calculation shares things with DSI and DSIII: there's diminishing returns for a higher damage stat over whatever armour is in place. So even if strength scaling is in general better, it doesn't matter, because strength weapons already had higher base damage to begin with and it does less.
What makes dex weapons stronger (ignoring the stat benefits by not needing endurance or poise or anything) is their attack speed. The difference between a STR and DEX weapon in pure damage decreases as you add buffs because of the diminishing returns, so the buffs benefit the weaker weapon more. The weapon with initially inferior damage attacking more often then ends up doing more DPS. On top of more DPS, it takes less stamina to swing, less stats to use with a better roll, and is more likely to complete without being staggered or parried. But then go add powerstance on, and you have two weapons both benefiting from these static modifiers hitting twice at once and being far better than any strength weapon
But that's not all: each weapon has a fixed poise value (plus the ring that buffs poise damage). What's best to shred poise? Not big weapons, quick weapons, due to that damn ring that can be swapped on if you find an opponent with heavy armour. So the thing that makes slow and heavy weapons viable is countered harder by fast weapons than heavy weapons.
It's the game's maths. Dex is better. Buffed powerstanced katanas are OP. :T
Artorias' greatsword isn't the solution to the left-handed problem. For every other weapon in the game, you can't backstab or riposte while playing left-handed, and you do less damage.
Well, I can't see another reason you'd want to wield left-handed? Artorias cosplay is the only rationale I can see for not making the game more complicated than it needs to be by adding in ambidexterity.