During my summer gaming doldrums, I decided to work on my backlog. After enjoying The Last of Us, it was time to move onto the pile. I incorrectly decided to start with Dark Souls; a game I had purchased back at the beginning of 2012. Following up The Last of Us with Dark Souls had about the same effect as the night I watched Hostel followed by Requiem for a Dream. Suffice to say, I quickly replaced my Dark Souls disc with Saints Row: The Third. Having previously completed Saints Row: The Third, I knew it was just the palette cleanser I needed. However, I soon found myself wanting to return to Lordran.
This summer was not the first time I tried to conquer Dark Souls. I made an effort to get through it back in 2012, finally giving up at about the half-way point. I was really enjoying the game, but the unforgiving traps and lizard-men of Sen’s Fortress had me tapping-out. Several times after that, I literally put the disc into the tray and took it out upon getting to the title screen. Without fail my fiancée would always say, “I thought you were going to play Dark Souls?” I soon after stumbled onto Rorie streaming himself playing Dark Souls (side note: is he still doing this?). I enjoyed his sense of humor about the game and learned a few new strategies. I read up a little more on the game and decided to start a new character.
The most jarring aspect of starting the game over was how quickly I was moving through the parts of the game I had already played. I was still dying, but felt like I had learned a lot from my original attempt. I got held up for a bit on the Capra Demon, but was quickly moving on back towards Sen’s Fortress. While I didn’t use it at every opportunity, I love the summoning mechanic of the game. It’s great to have a little back-up for some tough fights. It’s unique in that you can’t communicate with your allies and you risk another player invading you. I was pushing forward and better learning the ins and outs of the upgrade system. I soon arrived back at Sen’s Fortress and what followed was my favorite experience.
I felt a little better prepared for the traps and enemies when I entered. I breathed a sigh of relief when I made it up to the roof; just ahead of where I gave up before. After being burned alive and falling to my death several times, I soon reached the Iron Golem. After a swift death, I made a run back to the entrance and summoned in another player. Having no previous experience, I was not aware I could kill the giant throwing explosives during the fight. I summoned the same player twice, getting frustrated that he wasn’t making an attempt to dodge the explosives on the centre platform. My fiancée kept asking “Isn’t there a way to take out that guy throwing the explosives,” to which I would reply, “No, it doesn’t seem like it”. Feeling dumb, I soon found out he could be killed and a few great chaos fireballs later I was back on track. After my fiancée’s obligatory “I told you so”, I headed back to the entrance. To my surprise, I was able to summon in the same player for a third time. To my delight and with no communication necessary, he rushed up to the tower and checked to see that the giant was indeed dead. We then quickly took down the Iron Golem and I was hooked into finishing the rest of the game.
The rest of the game was very enjoyable; finally understanding why others liked it so much. That is not to say the rest of the game was not tough. Standouts for me include the silver knight archers in Anor Lando, the Four Kings, Great Grey Wolf Sif and Lost Izalith. I actually was reminded of Zelda towards the back third of the game. Collecting the Lord Souls from bosses has you visit some unique “dungeons” that are very distinct from one another. My favorite among these areas was the Duke’s Archives/The Crystal Caves. I pushed through these areas and the rest of the game in a solid weekend. The final fight with Gywn can be described as a marathon, not a sprint. After carefully managing my stamina, I took my openings and beat the game. I was soon eyeing the free copy of Demon’s Souls I downloaded as part of Playstation Plus.
I was a little surprised to see how similar Demon’s Souls was to Dark Souls. This wasn’t a bad thing, but the term “spiritual successor” doesn’t typically make me think of such a direct translation. I was indeed ready for more of the same and started a new character. One of the big differences is the way the game progresses. Dark Souls is an open-world game, whereas Demon’s Souls uses levels and a hub-world. I prefer the open-world layout, but I enjoyed bouncing back and forth between levels. The most interesting aspect of the game for me was seeing how certain areas and enemies inspired Dark Souls. The Valley of Defilement irritated me just as much Blight Town and I promptly killed Yurt the Silent Chief because of the armor he was wearing.
I really didn't expect to be on the other side of both of these games. I figured I’d get stuck at some other point along the way. I felt like writing this because these two titles are unique experiences in gaming. They truly feel different from other games in the RPG genre. If they seem like they’re in your wheelhouse, but you've stayed away due to what you've heard about the difficulty, I recommend you at least give them a shot. I now eagerly await Dark Souls 2.