Seeing all the increased Dark Souls activity from all my friends I decided to get back in the game and complete my sacred vow of never leaving a game I paid full retail price unfinished. Having left the game hanging towards the very end, I was ready to once again dive deep into the world of Lordran. I had beaten Demons Souls on a brand new character just prior to the Dark Souls release just to get myself ready and was stoked when the game came out. In the beginning I was just as engrossed as with the original(Demons Souls), clumsily making my way through the Undead Burg and trying to find that mythical bell tower. Despite small technical hiccups, I was ready, willing and able to tackle another Souls game head on.
What struck me even back then was how much worse the game looked than Demons Souls and at first thought it might be due to me playing the XBOX 360 version. Soon enough I realized that both versions looked somewhat strange, but this didn't diminish the fun I was having with the brutal pinpoint precision needed to get through most areas. Performance hiccups and constant failed summonings were also a midly irritating issues but still I was not deterred. At the time of release another fun fact was that no one knew anything about this game. We all stumbled forward and discoveries by players such as the famed Drake Sword were huge events that happened on a weekly basis. There was a genuine feel of community driven exploration. At a certain point I hit a wall though, and not of skill mind you but rather of perseverance. Strangely enough I found myself losing steam, despite all this anticipation that had been brewing in me up until release. I had defeated Smough and Ornstein, the hardest boss fight yet, and wrapped up a few other lose ends with covenants. I had only a few boss fights remaining before facing down Gwyn, but no motivation to get to any of them. The areas simply screamed frustration rather than challenging fun.
At this point I had stopped playing, literally for a year. As I mentioned earlier the increased activity surrounding Dark Souls coerced me to jump back in and finish it so I can honestly compare it the previous game which I loved so much. At this point I can honestly say I enjoyed the Demons Souls experience a lot more. The entire tail end of the game was very frustrating. The Centipede Demon fight must have been one of the worst boss fights I can recall in recent times. Having to fight on a tiny bit of land, surrounded by lava, with a lock on point that was beyond the reach of my weapon and caused the already struggling camera to explode in clipping induced seizures was the worst Dark Souls experience thus far. It's not even the fact that the boss was hard, because at my current level and gear status it wasn't too challenging but from a technical standpoint it was a nightmare. Bed of Chaos was another poorly designed fight. Instant death if you don't know whats coming makes for a poor fight when you're forced to keep coming back to learn from your two second long mistakes. The designers themselves must have known this wasn't orchestrated too well as uncharacteristically for a Souls game you don't have to start the fight from scratch each time you enter. After these two fights I had to go to Tomb of the Giants next which was just as awful as imagined. The part where the dogs begin is probably the worst and even with the newly acquired Sun Maggot hat, navigating those depth was thoroughly unpleasant. Once again, the boss fight with Nito himself wasn't especially difficult, but getting to him was a nightmare of it's own. Out of all the possible bosses I had to get out of the way, Seath was the most painless to get to. The Dukes Archives were actually an interesting location although nowhere near as atmospheric as the Tower of Latria. The boss fight was easy and I died only due to my own stupidity.
All my troubles finally led me to face off with Gwyn. The Last Kiln area was by far the best looking set piece of the entire game. The scorched earth with a crumbling mausoleum off in the distance was a sight to behold. I feel as if all the Black Knights along the way are actually there as practice for parrying, which I had not used once during the entire game. When I finally faced the Lord of Cinder I already knew that you just had to parry all his attacks and with 20 flasks this was going to be a breeze. For the most part it was, during my very first attempt I had gotten Gwyn down to a sliver of life left, effortlessly parrying most of his attacks. It's at this point that as he was getting up and I was ready to deliver the final blow, I clicked in the stick and the auto targeting completely spazzed out turning me away from Gwyn and getting slashed to pieces. I suppose this annoyed me so much that it completely threw me off balance and it was on my 6th or so attempt that I was finally able to beat him.
Dark Souls is a wonderfully unique game. I had a ton of fun initially playing it but I think in the grand scheme of things the latter sections of the game were simply not designed that well. The Undead Burg, Sens Forthress, those were still areas I was enjoying a lot. Even the fabled Blighttown was not as horrendous as most people made it out to be. Lost Izalith and the Tomb of Giants were horrible areas filled with annoying enemies and terrible boss fights which sucked most of the fun out of the challenge. I sincerely hope they make another Souls game, and will happily play it on next gen hardware, but I also wish they learn and build on the concept. For goodness sake From Software, update the targetting system! While Demons Souls to me was a great experience with areas ranging from amazing to maybe slightly less enjoyable - Dark Souls was a complete hit or miss and when it missed I feel it did so pretty hard. Despite that I am happy to have completed it and anxiously await Darker Souls in 2014 - and for those who might be curious and still actually reading, I decided to plunge the world into darkness.