My evening with Dark Souls.

Posted by shivermetimbers (774 posts) -

After playing Resident Evil 6 to completion the night before, uninstalling it from my PS3, and trying hard not to reminisce on my experience with it, I was very depressed. Not because Resident Evil 6 is a bad game (well it is, but that's not why I was depressed) it was because I feel dependent on others more than I should. I'm not going to tell a very depressing story here, but needless to say I felt worthless. I have high functioning autism as well as having other mental illnesses. All my life I've been called vulnerable, weak, gentle, you name it. It takes me more effort than the average Joe to do many tasks that many people take for granted and do naturally. It takes me a lot of effort to get my thoughts into writing, let alone making it flow together. But I'm going to try and piece this tale together anyway because I feel it's worth telling.

I've had Dark Souls on my "to play someday" list for many months now. I bought the game a month or two after launch and never touched it. I played Demon's Souls when that first came out and remembered enjoying it a lot, but never could get past that Tower Knight boss so I tossed it aside and ended up trading it in. After finishing Resident Evil 6's 4 campaigns, I felt like I needed a break from the whole "popcorn movie" type game and play a game that was supposedly methodical instead of balls to the wall action packed. Simply put, I wanted a game that I could suck myself in, boost my self esteem, and make me feel like a badass while making me feel like I accomplished something. I thought Dark Souls would fill the niche quite easily....And I wasn't disappointed.

I've spent 10 hours on the game according to the save file and I feel like I've completed less than 1% of what the game had to offer me. I started out with the tutorial (of course) that explained the basics of the controls as well as have a taste of the game's on the edge of your seat combat with the Asylum Demon. And indeed, the game is very much a game where every action you take has to be done with care because one hit from a boss can easily take more than half of your life away and have you knocked back. I died a couple of times fighting the tutorial boss, but it wasn't so hard to fight my way back to him, so my frustration levels were kept to a minimum.

It wasn't until later, when I started to get out in the open world, that the game raised my blood pressure. The game gave me no sense of direction and there were multiple passages to which I could take. My objective was to ring two bells, that was all I knew. I didn't really know where to find the bells or how I should go about doing it. In fact pretty much all of the game's systems, with the exception of the controls, are hidden from the player and not explained. Usually a game will walk you through its systems one at a time with long bubbles of text to read through, but not this game. And I'll admit, I initially thought that was kinda too harsh. But it grew on me because most of what I learned in life, I learned by discovery, not by being told what they were. Pretty much every skill I have, I learned by practice. The game taught me how to play it, but it didn't teach me how to uncover it, if that makes any sense.

I ventured off into The Catacombs first, and was swarmed by skeletons that wouldn't die. I found a bonfire, but it was guarded by a man who can take 3/4 away of my health with his fireballs; combine that with the hordes of skeletons, and it wasn't a pretty sight. After awhile I stopped doing that and tried going on another path that was much easier for me to handle.

Everything was all fine and dandy for me until I reached the third floor of a tower and went through the white fog. There I met the Taurus Demon. We didn't get along well...

Where to begin with this guy? First off the battle is fought on a very narrow bridge that can barely support the damn monstrosity. The only way to dodge his attacks is to somehow to roll in between his legs. And there are arrows coming out of nowhere hitting me.

This was my attitude with the game for almost three hours. Not only was the boss virtually impossible, but getting to him was starting to lose its charm. Every time I lost a bit of health from the undead knights on my way to the Taurus Demon, I uttered "FUCK YOU!" and "GODDAMN IT"...Maybe utter is underestimating it a bit...Normally I don't get this angry at a video game, but in a game where I spent hours trying to beat this guy, I lost it a bit. That feeling of dependency suddenly took over me and I felt more than a little depressed and frustrated.

Then something amazing happened; you see those arrows that came out of nowhere actually were from snipers on top of the tower. After giving myself a mental facepalm, I took them out before going to face the demon, but I still proceeded to die from it. One time before facing the snipers, however, I decided to go after my souls first. This accidentally triggered the demon. I proceeded to quickly run to the tower and take out the snipers, the demon following behind. Luckily, the demon stayed at the edge of the tower while I slayed the snipers. I thought to myself, "huh, I guess I should try that plunge attack that I used for the Asylum Demon." I proceeded to do so and took a good chunk of his health off. I muttered "Gotcha bastard!" and did that same plunge attack 4 more times and killed him.

Suddenly all of the trials and hardships of my past were rewarded with joy. And most of all, it gave me a great sense of accomplishment and the notion that I can achieve anything with a little practice. Every battle up to that point was a practice of my patience and willingness to be careful and examine my options. Every battle felt tense and strategic, testing my might. Perseverance is an important tool, and this game reinforces that notion well. It's a testament to how video games /can/ teach people life skills. If I examine my options and learn from experience, surely that makes me independent. It may take more effort on my part, but giving in to my depression would've meant giving up, but I didn't. I saw the battle all the way through.

I'm currently further on in the game in the Undead Parish area with the blacksmith. And ever since the Taurus Demon, not a single curse was uttered. Hopefully I can keep it that way, and hopefully you all can see the importance of not giving up.

#1 Posted by shivermetimbers (774 posts) -

After playing Resident Evil 6 to completion the night before, uninstalling it from my PS3, and trying hard not to reminisce on my experience with it, I was very depressed. Not because Resident Evil 6 is a bad game (well it is, but that's not why I was depressed) it was because I feel dependent on others more than I should. I'm not going to tell a very depressing story here, but needless to say I felt worthless. I have high functioning autism as well as having other mental illnesses. All my life I've been called vulnerable, weak, gentle, you name it. It takes me more effort than the average Joe to do many tasks that many people take for granted and do naturally. It takes me a lot of effort to get my thoughts into writing, let alone making it flow together. But I'm going to try and piece this tale together anyway because I feel it's worth telling.

I've had Dark Souls on my "to play someday" list for many months now. I bought the game a month or two after launch and never touched it. I played Demon's Souls when that first came out and remembered enjoying it a lot, but never could get past that Tower Knight boss so I tossed it aside and ended up trading it in. After finishing Resident Evil 6's 4 campaigns, I felt like I needed a break from the whole "popcorn movie" type game and play a game that was supposedly methodical instead of balls to the wall action packed. Simply put, I wanted a game that I could suck myself in, boost my self esteem, and make me feel like a badass while making me feel like I accomplished something. I thought Dark Souls would fill the niche quite easily....And I wasn't disappointed.

I've spent 10 hours on the game according to the save file and I feel like I've completed less than 1% of what the game had to offer me. I started out with the tutorial (of course) that explained the basics of the controls as well as have a taste of the game's on the edge of your seat combat with the Asylum Demon. And indeed, the game is very much a game where every action you take has to be done with care because one hit from a boss can easily take more than half of your life away and have you knocked back. I died a couple of times fighting the tutorial boss, but it wasn't so hard to fight my way back to him, so my frustration levels were kept to a minimum.

It wasn't until later, when I started to get out in the open world, that the game raised my blood pressure. The game gave me no sense of direction and there were multiple passages to which I could take. My objective was to ring two bells, that was all I knew. I didn't really know where to find the bells or how I should go about doing it. In fact pretty much all of the game's systems, with the exception of the controls, are hidden from the player and not explained. Usually a game will walk you through its systems one at a time with long bubbles of text to read through, but not this game. And I'll admit, I initially thought that was kinda too harsh. But it grew on me because most of what I learned in life, I learned by discovery, not by being told what they were. Pretty much every skill I have, I learned by practice. The game taught me how to play it, but it didn't teach me how to uncover it, if that makes any sense.

I ventured off into The Catacombs first, and was swarmed by skeletons that wouldn't die. I found a bonfire, but it was guarded by a man who can take 3/4 away of my health with his fireballs; combine that with the hordes of skeletons, and it wasn't a pretty sight. After awhile I stopped doing that and tried going on another path that was much easier for me to handle.

Everything was all fine and dandy for me until I reached the third floor of a tower and went through the white fog. There I met the Taurus Demon. We didn't get along well...

Where to begin with this guy? First off the battle is fought on a very narrow bridge that can barely support the damn monstrosity. The only way to dodge his attacks is to somehow to roll in between his legs. And there are arrows coming out of nowhere hitting me.

This was my attitude with the game for almost three hours. Not only was the boss virtually impossible, but getting to him was starting to lose its charm. Every time I lost a bit of health from the undead knights on my way to the Taurus Demon, I uttered "FUCK YOU!" and "GODDAMN IT"...Maybe utter is underestimating it a bit...Normally I don't get this angry at a video game, but in a game where I spent hours trying to beat this guy, I lost it a bit. That feeling of dependency suddenly took over me and I felt more than a little depressed and frustrated.

Then something amazing happened; you see those arrows that came out of nowhere actually were from snipers on top of the tower. After giving myself a mental facepalm, I took them out before going to face the demon, but I still proceeded to die from it. One time before facing the snipers, however, I decided to go after my souls first. This accidentally triggered the demon. I proceeded to quickly run to the tower and take out the snipers, the demon following behind. Luckily, the demon stayed at the edge of the tower while I slayed the snipers. I thought to myself, "huh, I guess I should try that plunge attack that I used for the Asylum Demon." I proceeded to do so and took a good chunk of his health off. I muttered "Gotcha bastard!" and did that same plunge attack 4 more times and killed him.

Suddenly all of the trials and hardships of my past were rewarded with joy. And most of all, it gave me a great sense of accomplishment and the notion that I can achieve anything with a little practice. Every battle up to that point was a practice of my patience and willingness to be careful and examine my options. Every battle felt tense and strategic, testing my might. Perseverance is an important tool, and this game reinforces that notion well. It's a testament to how video games /can/ teach people life skills. If I examine my options and learn from experience, surely that makes me independent. It may take more effort on my part, but giving in to my depression would've meant giving up, but I didn't. I saw the battle all the way through.

I'm currently further on in the game in the Undead Parish area with the blacksmith. And ever since the Taurus Demon, not a single curse was uttered. Hopefully I can keep it that way, and hopefully you all can see the importance of not giving up.

#2 Posted by Zooey74 (53 posts) -

Cool - keep up with it, plenty more experiances to be had like that in the game. It's definatly one of the most rewarding things i have played in the past few years. Not sure that you are gonna keep up the non-swearing all the way tho, the real Dark Souls starts here!

#3 Posted by Mirado (993 posts) -

@shivermetimbers: It seems like there's such a fundamental difference between those of us who played Demon's Souls inside and out and those who barely touched it before picking up Dark Souls, and I have to admit I'm kind of envious. You sound like I did after finally progressing through the first game, and now that I'm wise to its mechanics, I haven't been able to re-capture that same sense of joy and wonderment at my progress. Still, a great game overall if a bit less challenging then the first.

Best of luck to you, especially in some of the areas ahead. A few of them have some unfortunate technical problems that you might not be aware of, and without a strong Demon's Souls background I hope you don't get overly frustrated slogging your way through them.

#4 Posted by Ghost249 (250 posts) -

It's always a good experience to feel that sense of accomplishment when a task given is complete. It was a good read too since you actually gave me a new viewpoint that I haven't thought about before on dark souls. Never thought it could impact someone in real life, I was mostly accustomed to the joy of playing a great game that had challenges that were (in my case depending on the area) mind-boggling or confusing but after that it has been a great experience and I cannot wait for the console DLC on Oct 24th. More joy in exploration and lore! Keep it up and never back down a fight in Dark Souls!

#5 Posted by Akeldama (4250 posts) -

@shivermetimbers: I would try experimenting with different character classes now before you get too deep into the game. The right build for the right play style can make all the difference.

#6 Posted by shivermetimbers (774 posts) -

I started out as a knight, but I want to see how it is to be a spellcaster, so I might try that out later.

I've been dying for a good RPG lately. I'm going to be an unpopular guy and say that I don't care for The Elder Scrolls games or Fallout 3 and NV. I'm also not touching the newer Final Fantasy games. In fact the only RPG that I cared about recently is Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and even that game had its fair share of problems. I really wanted to like Nier more than I did, but I thought the game was too boring. I can totally see why someone would think it's a great game, however.

I tried Risen 2: Dark Waters as I was a fan of the first game despite the fact that it was kinda broken, and that's pretty much the only RPG I've played all year. The main reason I stuck with the first Risen is mainly because I liked the fact that I wasn't out of the gate killing everything I saw and that exploration was pretty much essential. The game had terrible combat, which was borderline broken, but despite this and other problems I stuck with it. Risen 2 seemed to only make the problems I had with the first game worse and the challenge is mostly cheap.

One RPG that was recommended to me by a friend is Resonance of Fate. I may very well try that out as well. But anyway, Dark Souls will likely keep me occupied for awhile, so I'm in no rush.

#7 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5554 posts) -

@Mirado: Demon's Souls is not harder than Dark Souls except in asinine ways like being able to completely fuck yourself over if you turn a world to pure black world tendency on accident; every boss except Maneater, False King, and Flamelurker is extremely easy compared to most Dark Souls bosses, enemies are less challenging in general, and some early weapons can be used throughout the game and on into NG+. The best two rings in the game by far are found in the first area; you don't even need to look at those inventory slots for the rest of the game (except maybe for Ring of Avarice after killing a boss). The Dark Silver Shield and Large Brushwood shield trivialize elemental damage on into NG+ Spear/shield is even easier than it is in Dark Souls.

#8 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

Welcome to Dark Souls, brother.

@shivermetimbers said:

Then something amazing happened; you see those arrows that came out of nowhere actually were from snipers on top of the tower. After giving myself a mental facepalm

These are my favorite moments in the game; the times when something clicks and what seemed like a Sisyphean slog through endless failure becomes "I'm about to totally rock demon face" are great times.

#9 Posted by Nentisys (892 posts) -

Good to hear you are sticking with Dark Souls!

@shivermetimbers said:

I started out as a knight, but I want to see how it is to be a spellcaster, so I might try that out later.

I've been dying for a good RPG lately. I'm going to be an unpopular guy and say that I don't care for The Elder Scrolls games or Fallout 3 and NV. I'm also not touching the newer Final Fantasy games. In fact the only RPG that I cared about recently is Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and even that game had its fair share of problems. I really wanted to like Nier more than I did, but I thought the game was too boring. I can totally see why someone would think it's a great game, however.

I highly recommend the Witcher series.

#10 Posted by Mirado (993 posts) -

@Fredchuckdave: But you don't get the fast travel, you don't get the flask, you cannot add magic to a character like you can with pyromancy unless you spec for it, those three bosses are harder then anything Dark Souls has to throw at you, the Humanity mechanic makes it far easier to find items (as well as turn human/pump up your resistances), they got rid of the item weight limitation so you can carry everything you want at once, you have full health in either form, invasions are a lot harder to do...and a million more. Demon's Souls first playthough is a back-breaker in comparison to its sequel, whereas the NG+ on either is more or less trivial once you know the tricks.

Hell, if you're unlucky like I was, you keep getting assholes for the Old Monk boss who roll away from you and cast acid cloud all the time, the bastards. Dark Souls has nothing close to that in terms of pain.

#11 Posted by NegativeCero (3005 posts) -

I love that people are still getting into Dark Souls and sharing their experience. I still have to finish it, but my time with it has put it on the top of my favorite games list.

#12 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5554 posts) -

@Mirado: Instead of the flask you get infinite grasses, some of which can full heal you. Not only that they also heal much faster than the flask does (did you think this through? Humanities heal sure but they take 15 seconds to use) Gwyn is about on par with Flamelurker, various arguments for either side; I think Gwyn is better designed and Flamelurker is a tad more difficult personally, both on the top 5 bosses for quality and difficulty all time (Guildenstern being at the top of both of those lists). Hell Flamelurker is the one and only reason to play Demon's Souls at this point, Dark Souls is so much better in every other respect. Four Kings is harder than Maneater (as is the Capra Demon, if we're sticking to poorly designed fights), and you can no longer cheese them with a warding type spell so yeah. False King isn't really that hard, except maybe the first couple of times, but if you had warding he'd be extremely easy even on the first try. However it is extremely cinematic and solid; Ornstein and Smough, Seath, Gaping Dragon, Stray Demon and Quelaag are all comparable or more difficult.

Item weight limitation being removed just makes the game less tedious (and makes it superior to vanilla Skyrim in exploration facets), everything in Dark Souls hits much harder so the full health isn't much of a trade off assuming you're using the Cling Ring (why wouldn't you). Invasions have nothing to do with difficulty, that's something completely random and almost anyone with a generic havel armor/mask/lightning Zweihander build can 2-3 shot 75-90% of their invasion targets.

If you had played Dark Souls first you'd think Dark Souls was harder, if you had played Demon's Souls first you'd think Demon's Souls was harder, for obvious reasons. I don't have nostalgia issues and I'm generally pretty objective and perceptive so even though I played Demon's Souls a year or two beforehand I can still tell that Dark Souls would have been much harder overall (so many let down fights in Demon's Souls, almost none in Dark Souls).

#13 Posted by laserbolts (5324 posts) -

Thanks for the good read. Glad you pulled the trigger on Dark Souls. It really is something special. I agree with it being extremely rewarding and I love how you just get better at the game with practice. You should keep us updated on the playthrough because I love reading about others experience with this fantastic game.

#14 Posted by Mirado (993 posts) -

@Fredchuckdave said:

@Mirado: Instead of the flask you get infinite grasses, some of which can full heal you.

Which are never in short supply for the first third of the game and show up in the first area, right? You're mainly stuck with the crappy grasses for a good chunk of the game, and the better ones don't show up until later (4-1 is when they finally start being sold).

Hell Flamelurker is the one and only reason to play Demon's Souls at this point, Dark Souls is so much better in every other respect.

Pretty sure I never mentioned quality once. Although you are correct in saying that Dark Souls is better. It should be, as it's From's second attempt at this style of game.

Four Kings is harder than Maneater (as is the Capra Demon, if we're sticking to poorly designed fights), and you can no longer cheese them with a warding type spell so yeah.

I nuked Four Kings easy, personally. Maneater was a real pain because I didn't have warding, and had to rely on the enviorment to trip one of them up, but I guess it's all build dependent.

False King isn't really that hard, except maybe the first couple of times, but if you had warding he'd be extremely easy even on the first try. However it is extremely cinematic and solid; Ornstein and Smough, Seath, Gaping Dragon, Stray Demon and Quelaag are all comparable or more difficult.

I didn't find any boss all that difficult in Dark Souls, especially Seath. We probably aren't going to see eye to eye on this.

Item weight limitation being removed just makes the game less tedious (and makes it superior to vanilla Skyrim in exploration facets), everything in Dark Souls hits much harder so the full health isn't much of a trade off assuming you're using the Cling Ring (why wouldn't you).

That tedium (and by extension obtuseness) is part of the difficulty. Not a good part, mind; it certainly doesn't make the game any better for it. But it does make it harder. The same goes for the world tendency system; if you fucked it up you were in a bad way, and you might not even realize how you did it. It's bad design but it's bad design that makes the game harder for it.

Also, I think you are very clearly forgetting enemies in Demon's Souls. Remember those mind flayers from 3-1? How about the first time you decided to pick on the red eyed knight in 1-1? Dark Souls version of that encounter is the first black knight guarding the blue tearstone ring, who you can actually handle straight up if you're careful. Hell, you even get a reward for at least getting past him, where the red eyed knight isn't guarding anything you can reach at the moment, and when you die you go back to the start. Lovely.

Invasions have nothing to do with difficulty, that's something completely random and almost anyone with a generic havel armor/mask/lightning Zweihander build can 2-3 shot 75-90% of their invasion targets.

I didn't mean the difficulty of the invaders, I mean the difficulty in actually invading someone. There are a lot of specific steps that you need to in Dark Souls to have an infinite invasion item; most of which involve joining a specific covenant and none of which show up all that early. In Demon's Souls you aquire the item in 3-1 at the latest, meaning (at least for me) a higher rate of being invaded. Plus, there were more bullshit spells and equipment in the first game; the aforementioned acid cloud teamed with a Scraping Spear was something I ran into more then I care to admit, and while I'd normally win, half of my shit would be degraded in some capacity. That fucking sucked.

If you had played Dark Souls first you'd think Dark Souls was harder, if you had played Demon's Souls first you'd think Demon's Souls was harder, for obvious reasons. I don't have nostalgia issues and I'm generally pretty objective and perceptive so even though I played Demon's Souls a year or two beforehand I can still tell that Dark Souls would have been much harder overall (so many let down fights in Demon's Souls, almost none in Dark Souls).

I'm not sure how you are correlating nostalgia with difficulty, as that makes little sense. Dark Souls is the better of the the two games. Demon's Souls has more obtuse and tedium inducing mechanics, more restrictions placed on the player in terms of what strategies are viable, and more fights that rely on bad terrain or poor pathfinding. That, in my mind, makes it the tougher of the two games.

I might have died two or three times in Dark Souls, but I was brutalized in Demon's Souls dozens of times. I don't think I got that much better in between, and just because you are wise to their tricks shouldn't mean it's all that easy to pull off.

#15 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5554 posts) -

@Mirado: Two or three times eh? Few things: In terms of grasses you can farm the Blue Knights next to the Tower Knight archstone, by that point it should be relatively apparent to the player that they always drop them and they're always of a better quality. Now having to farm them is where the issue arises, the joy and excitement of killing the same two enemies 20 times. Half/Late moon grasses are more than good enough for every fight in the game save Flamelurker, though its still just a luxury for him.

Tedium can not create difficulty by nature, all it does it pad game length and aggravate or bore the player. Obtuseness can and does create difficulty, and there is a way to make Demon's Souls much harder than Dark Souls due purely to obtuseness, but BPs are pretty much a dead stopping point for a new player where they either look up what spawns them or quit entirely; once you know how the tendency system operates there isn't much chance of the game randomly getting harder (and more than a few people just restart once they figure out how it works).

The HP Lovecraft Squid monster guys are annoying at first but they kind of just become a stealth section after you kill your first one, several regular enemies are more difficult in Dark Souls (Lost Izalith walkers, golems in Crystal Caves, larger sentinels, Capra/Taurus demons, Skelewheels etc.). Giant Depraved ones are difficult due to how badly they're programmed, but you only have to fight 2 in the entire game. Black Samurai skeletons are interesting but very uncommon and their AI is pretty poor when they're leashing.

The Black Knight with the Greatsword can kill you in one hit for roughly the first half of the game and is more difficult than any enemy in Demon's Souls except maybe BP Satsuke (whose difficulty is mostly due to grass healing), he hits so hard that he can cut through your shield in seconds as well. You don't have to fight him but he is still there. The bull is also much more difficult than any regular enemy in the first game, and is positioned in kind of a "fuck you" place which doesn't really happen ever in Demon's Souls (you could argue for the Mancleaver BP but 5-2 is so enormous there's a solid chance of never even seeing her). As for the other Black Knights: They would be difficult if you hadn't played the first game beforehand and they're still quite dangerous in their own right. For a decent player fighting the one with Lord Guan's weapon very early in the game is an exihilirating experience; though he is a bit out of the way.

#16 Posted by nitronomicon (52 posts) -

It makes me happy to hear of another person discovering the joy of Dark Souls. This is a game that, for me at least, got better the longer I played it. At first, the game unfolded slowly and with some frustration, but in the end became one of this console generation's best. Once you learn the game's systems you can play any style that you like. Also, the community is one of the best.

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