The Complete 'Soul' Experience (Demon's and Dark)

Posted by Sarumarine (2238 posts) -

It's October! With games like Borderlands 2 and Resident Evil 6 out and about, naturally I bought Demon's Souls for less than twenty dollars and played it to completion. I tend to do that thing where I play a sequel or spiritual successor and eventually develop a need to play the first games in the series. It's not quite as crippling as Vinny Caravella's need to play games in order before moving on (or soak up all the media associated with a game) but it happens occasionally.

What makes this blog complicated is that I played and beat Dark Souls first, so... I realize my opinion may not mean a damn thing in the long run. I had already developed the Souls mindset, so it can't really compare to the experiences of the people who were there when it first came out. The "Rule of Firsts" is definitely in effect here.

Demon's Souls (and Dark Souls): Unforgiving Fantasy Adventure - The Game

The ancient art of Castle and Dragon

After braving and beating the two Soul games from FromSoftware (that will never not be awkward to read) I can say with certainty that I like Dark Souls way more out of the two. This is mostly because Demon's Souls feels less creative when it comes to their enemy designs and overall setting, which is the thing that brought me to this series in the first place. You visit a fantasy castle, a fantasy mine, a fantasy prison, a fantasy island (but not the TV kind) and a fantasy swamp. There are a few levels with some cool parts to them, but areas in Demon's Souls could easily fit into any medieval video game. The bosses also lack the vicious twist that Dark Souls had, with a few exceptions. I never found any creature as visually menacing as the Chaos Eater or Mimic in this game. Or any area as strange as the giant tree growing on top of a giant bell deep underground next to lava and demon ruins. Those giant flying Manta Rays that fire ice spikes were pretty cool though.

Not to say I didn't have fun (or as much fun as you can have with this kind of game), so I don't mean to sound down on it.

One thing Demon's Souls has going for it is that it feels way less harder than its successor. Whereas Dark Souls is ready to kick you in the balls at every turn, the levels and enemy placement here are much more kind. Some enemies still camp out next to doorways ready to jump you as Soul games tend to do, but for the most part it pulls back on trying to lure you forward so hordes of dudes can attack from behind. The placement of checkpoints from boss fights are also better, cutting out some of the long grueling treks between dying and going for another attempt. Demon's Souls still has its moments though, like Squid Faced Assholes hanging out on spiral staircases where your lock-on has trouble targeting them with the added difficulty of zero room to maneuver. Or more frustrating, placing giant pillbugs in small ass tunnels that soak up so much damage, you'd think they were made of fucking adamantium. And when you kill them, they explode like mini-nukes.

Those Souls games, man. I'm telling you.

Souls... Souls Never Changes

Probably the weirdest part of playing Dark Souls first is catching all the references made to this game before I knew they were references. And it's not throwaway lines or characters with oddly similar names (try the exact names). They're whole scenarios and levels, boss fights and NPCs. In one way, that means that these references work both ways, but it still feels weird thinking about all the tricks FromSoftware decided to bring back... like poisonous bogs lined with shanty towns that kill the frame rate, a boss that calls in reinforcements when it's almost dead, dragons that fry bridges with little warning, enemies that hide out and spawn other enemies in a tomb, a traitorous asshole NPC that kills your friends after you free him from jail, a traitorous asshole NPC that tries to rob you blind and becomes a merchant later, and a disheartened NPC that thinks you ain't shit. I find it hard to fault them for it though. I guess it would be like faulting Mario for using ice worlds or Mega Man for using spikes or those disappearing blocks. They're just part of the game's personality.

What a Pair of Assholes

What's also similar is the flow of the boss fights in this game. Once again, the dual bosses are the hardest bosses (because the Soul games can't handle group combat) while everyone else, especially the final boss, feels like a chump in comparison. The Maneaters specifically should have been the last boss in the game. Instead, they show up in the third level. Fighting two of those fuckers on a narrow bridge while they jump all over you like rabid flying gorillas caused me Capra Demon levels of rage. Every other boss is just a matter of patience. Or in the case of the Penetrator, luring it into an easy pattern of leaping attacks and side slashes until it penetrates no more. After the Maneaters, I really can't complain about the last boss harmlessly rolling on the ground while I incinerate it with fireballs. It was cathartic, for sure.

Sticky White Stuff

Maybe it's just a sign of my skill, but I feel like these games have a common thread where there is no special weapon or all powerful magic that will carry the day. I remember in Dark Souls unlocking the final Pyromancy spell and finding how utterly useless it was (even though it's an area attack spell). I missed Seath the Scaleless with it, a three story tall crystal dragon. Spending time at the blacksmith with rare souls also came up with disappointment as I craft swords and bows I don't have the stats to use. Or in the case of Demon's Souls, never having the right materials. I have to respect these games leaning on the side practical equipment rather than flashy ultimate weapons. I used a fireball and a fire sword to beat the game, and that didn't work half bad.

I was surprised to find lots of people still playing this game well after its release date, as levels were littered with bloodstains and messages. Invasions were a different story. I was only invaded once and didn't even see the guy before he somehow died on his own. But that was welcome considering how broken player combat is in Dark Souls. I don't imagine it would be any different here. There are also other things like level select vs. an open world, item equip load vs. carrying as much as you want. Most of that feels like minor details in the grand scheme of things as the delivery method doesn't change how unforgiving these games are that much. You're still going to die.

(Which boss has the funnier name? The Penetrator or Ceaseless Discharge? I can't decide!)

#1 Posted by Sarumarine (2238 posts) -

It's October! With games like Borderlands 2 and Resident Evil 6 out and about, naturally I bought Demon's Souls for less than twenty dollars and played it to completion. I tend to do that thing where I play a sequel or spiritual successor and eventually develop a need to play the first games in the series. It's not quite as crippling as Vinny Caravella's need to play games in order before moving on (or soak up all the media associated with a game) but it happens occasionally.

What makes this blog complicated is that I played and beat Dark Souls first, so... I realize my opinion may not mean a damn thing in the long run. I had already developed the Souls mindset, so it can't really compare to the experiences of the people who were there when it first came out. The "Rule of Firsts" is definitely in effect here.

Demon's Souls (and Dark Souls): Unforgiving Fantasy Adventure - The Game

The ancient art of Castle and Dragon

After braving and beating the two Soul games from FromSoftware (that will never not be awkward to read) I can say with certainty that I like Dark Souls way more out of the two. This is mostly because Demon's Souls feels less creative when it comes to their enemy designs and overall setting, which is the thing that brought me to this series in the first place. You visit a fantasy castle, a fantasy mine, a fantasy prison, a fantasy island (but not the TV kind) and a fantasy swamp. There are a few levels with some cool parts to them, but areas in Demon's Souls could easily fit into any medieval video game. The bosses also lack the vicious twist that Dark Souls had, with a few exceptions. I never found any creature as visually menacing as the Chaos Eater or Mimic in this game. Or any area as strange as the giant tree growing on top of a giant bell deep underground next to lava and demon ruins. Those giant flying Manta Rays that fire ice spikes were pretty cool though.

Not to say I didn't have fun (or as much fun as you can have with this kind of game), so I don't mean to sound down on it.

One thing Demon's Souls has going for it is that it feels way less harder than its successor. Whereas Dark Souls is ready to kick you in the balls at every turn, the levels and enemy placement here are much more kind. Some enemies still camp out next to doorways ready to jump you as Soul games tend to do, but for the most part it pulls back on trying to lure you forward so hordes of dudes can attack from behind. The placement of checkpoints from boss fights are also better, cutting out some of the long grueling treks between dying and going for another attempt. Demon's Souls still has its moments though, like Squid Faced Assholes hanging out on spiral staircases where your lock-on has trouble targeting them with the added difficulty of zero room to maneuver. Or more frustrating, placing giant pillbugs in small ass tunnels that soak up so much damage, you'd think they were made of fucking adamantium. And when you kill them, they explode like mini-nukes.

Those Souls games, man. I'm telling you.

Souls... Souls Never Changes

Probably the weirdest part of playing Dark Souls first is catching all the references made to this game before I knew they were references. And it's not throwaway lines or characters with oddly similar names (try the exact names). They're whole scenarios and levels, boss fights and NPCs. In one way, that means that these references work both ways, but it still feels weird thinking about all the tricks FromSoftware decided to bring back... like poisonous bogs lined with shanty towns that kill the frame rate, a boss that calls in reinforcements when it's almost dead, dragons that fry bridges with little warning, enemies that hide out and spawn other enemies in a tomb, a traitorous asshole NPC that kills your friends after you free him from jail, a traitorous asshole NPC that tries to rob you blind and becomes a merchant later, and a disheartened NPC that thinks you ain't shit. I find it hard to fault them for it though. I guess it would be like faulting Mario for using ice worlds or Mega Man for using spikes or those disappearing blocks. They're just part of the game's personality.

What a Pair of Assholes

What's also similar is the flow of the boss fights in this game. Once again, the dual bosses are the hardest bosses (because the Soul games can't handle group combat) while everyone else, especially the final boss, feels like a chump in comparison. The Maneaters specifically should have been the last boss in the game. Instead, they show up in the third level. Fighting two of those fuckers on a narrow bridge while they jump all over you like rabid flying gorillas caused me Capra Demon levels of rage. Every other boss is just a matter of patience. Or in the case of the Penetrator, luring it into an easy pattern of leaping attacks and side slashes until it penetrates no more. After the Maneaters, I really can't complain about the last boss harmlessly rolling on the ground while I incinerate it with fireballs. It was cathartic, for sure.

Sticky White Stuff

Maybe it's just a sign of my skill, but I feel like these games have a common thread where there is no special weapon or all powerful magic that will carry the day. I remember in Dark Souls unlocking the final Pyromancy spell and finding how utterly useless it was (even though it's an area attack spell). I missed Seath the Scaleless with it, a three story tall crystal dragon. Spending time at the blacksmith with rare souls also came up with disappointment as I craft swords and bows I don't have the stats to use. Or in the case of Demon's Souls, never having the right materials. I have to respect these games leaning on the side practical equipment rather than flashy ultimate weapons. I used a fireball and a fire sword to beat the game, and that didn't work half bad.

I was surprised to find lots of people still playing this game well after its release date, as levels were littered with bloodstains and messages. Invasions were a different story. I was only invaded once and didn't even see the guy before he somehow died on his own. But that was welcome considering how broken player combat is in Dark Souls. I don't imagine it would be any different here. There are also other things like level select vs. an open world, item equip load vs. carrying as much as you want. Most of that feels like minor details in the grand scheme of things as the delivery method doesn't change how unforgiving these games are that much. You're still going to die.

(Which boss has the funnier name? The Penetrator or Ceaseless Discharge? I can't decide!)

#2 Posted by laserbolts (5321 posts) -

Nice write up dude. I love reading about these games. I haven't played demon souls but I played the shit out of dark souls. Is Demon Souls hard to find now? I really need to dust off the ol PS3 and play it.

#3 Posted by Turambar (6782 posts) -
@laserbolts: If you don't mind the ugly ass Game of the Year Edition, it's quite common.  The original version is pretty rare at this point though.
#4 Posted by laserbolts (5321 posts) -

I would reply proper but I can't on my phone. Is there any difference with the GOTY edition? Also thanks for the info.

#5 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11722 posts) -

With the release of those new Slim-er PS3's, I'm not going to lie when I say I am tempted to buy one mostly so I can play Demon's Souls (and also MGS4). I imagine it would be a lot of fun trying to apply my skills from Dark Souls to the previous incarnation, especially since I imagine the level-based structure is a lot easier to handle than the free-roaming styles of Dark Souls. According to your impressions, I guess that was the case.

#6 Posted by Jams (2960 posts) -

If you like the Souls games so much, you should check out King's Field. It's pretty much the original Dark Souls.

#7 Posted by Ducksworth (660 posts) -

This makes me want to go back and finish Demons Souls....of course considering I only got a little bit past the tutorial before rage quitting means I have a long way to go.

#8 Posted by Sarumarine (2238 posts) -

@ArbitraryWater: Yeah, the ability to level select makes it a lot harder to get lost or head in the wrong direction. However, you can still play it out of order and die hundreds of times before learning the right sequence to tackle next. I ended up doing the Valley of Defilement (the 5th area) last and totally crushed it no problem, so maybe I was supposed to do it sooner. Hard to say.

I will say that applying your Dark Souls experience will do wonders. If you can handle that game, you can handle Demon's Souls.

@Jams said:

If you like the Souls games so much, you should check out King's Field. It's pretty much the original Dark Souls.

I had heard that. Although I don't know if I would go so far to say I like the Souls games "so much". I respect what they're trying to do, and I do have fun, but there's still some distance from any favorites list. But I'll be sure to give King's Field a closer look.

@laserbolts: Finding Demon's Souls wasn't a problem, although it is the GOTY edition with the red case. I don't believe there are any differences as Demon's Souls never had DLC. The only edition that had extra stuff was the Deluxe Edition and that one is expensive as hell from what I've seen.

#9 Posted by ThunderSlash (1721 posts) -
I had so much trouble with these guys when I was in New Game ++. Took me like 20 tries.

Their "Sonic Boom" attack was especially vicious.

#10 Posted by Sarumarine (2238 posts) -

@ThunderSlash: Hilarious picture! And extremely accurate. God, I can't even imagine fighting those guys as pure melee. Yeah, that Sonic Boom thing was a pain, but I found their leaping attacks the worst of all. If they knock you down, they can almost infinite combo you to your doom if you don't roll at just the right time.

#11 Posted by Rayeth (1041 posts) -

Royal in Demon's Souls is basically easy mode. Dat MP Regen.

#12 Edited by washboardwarrior (5 posts) -

@Sarumarine said:

I was surprised to find lots of people still playing this game well after its release date,

For me, the reason I keep coming back to Dark Souls (I've done 4 separate character playthroughs on XBox, and 2 more so far on PC, which I know is just a drop in the bucket compared to many Souls players) is because there is so much depth and subtlety to its systems. Different weapon move sets and attack animations, unique armor properties, rings, attack spells, buffs, items, etc etc etc. I constantly want to try new playthroughs to spec my characters for whatever weapon/armor/spell set I want to try next. A game like Darksiders II or Diablo III doesn't offer nearly as much depth and subtlety in terms of the manifestations of those types of choices, since the differences are mostly simple changes in stats. Whereas in Dark Souls, picking a different weapon can substantially change the ways in which your character plays.

In terms of the difficulty, I find it continues to be satisfying with every play, even though I know all of the traps, surprises, and enemy/boss patterns. This is because they continue to demand a high level of discipline and skillful execution. You can't sleepwalk or buttonmash your way through the game, no matter how familiar you are with it, and so I'm constantly engaged while playing it.

I also love the equally substantive depth and subtlety in the story, lore, and environment design.

#13 Posted by Sarumarine (2238 posts) -

@Rayeth: I found the ring that did that, but I had so much 'Old Spice' that MP wasn't really an issue except avoiding the boss attacks while using it. Not to mention that MP regen is like watching a turtle cross the street and a lot of the later bosses shrug off magic attacks. Also, I fucking love the fact that the MP replenishing item is called Old Spice. Totally love it.

@washboardwarrior: Yeah, I don't doubt it. One reason I was surprised was the talk of shutting down the Demon's Souls servers at some point. I wasn't sure if that curbed interest or not. But then I looked it up that Atlus had decided to keep the thing going indefinitely, so that's cool.

#14 Posted by Karkarov (3102 posts) -

@Jams said:

If you like the Souls games so much, you should check out King's Field. It's pretty much the original Dark Souls.

Yeah Jams I don't get why half the people who slave over the Souls games have never played, or in some cases, even heard of King's Field. I actually like King's Field 4 The Ancient City better than both souls games from a pure single player perspective.

In reply to other comments... there is no difference between the GOTY Edition and the normal edition. The Collectors edition is only different in that it had a strategy guide, an art book, and the soundtrack with it. Heck the only difference between the US Demon's Souls and the EU/Asia versions is who you can play online with and the EU/Asia versions have the crappy english translation.

@Sarumarine:

As for "super weapons" Demon's Souls had plenty, you just didn't find them. Maneaters are honestly a easy fight, if you know how to approach it and have one specific spell. False King and Flamelurker are probably the hardest as you go into higher game levels. Well except for that one guy who can still be the hardest boss in either game by far depending on how unlucky you are and who is online.

Also you talk about the stuff in Dark Souls as being crazy enemies but did you not notice that one moment in Demon's where you are literally in a room filled with aborted baby fetus's covered in blood which will grab you and bite you to death? The plauge/poison muck in Demon's is way more dangerous than it was in Dark too. Blighttown is a joke compared to 4-2 as far as I am concerned.

In the end the one thing I like more about Demon's is it's hub design, you just had a lot less pointless backtracking, and it's level design. Not for the "immersion" or creativity of it. The levels were simply better made, many of them could be navigated quickly with very little enemy resistance if you truly knew the level, almost all of them also had shortcuts and secret paths. Dark always made you either kill or run from a small army to get anywhere, well that or take an extremely inconvenient route. Demon's Souls levels just felt better laid out.

The last thing that sucks though is you missed the multiplayer. It was vastly superior in Demon's than it was in Dark. You could co op with your buddies reliably, easily set up organized duels, connections in general were more reliable unless the "host" had slow internet. They did both have their fair share of multiplayer cheese, but I feel like Dark went farther with it than Demon's though.

#15 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5456 posts) -

You should've kept a death count for posterity and good humor. Maneater is a cheap and annoying boss but there's lots of ways to cheese it. Flamelurker is arguably the hardest boss alongside Gwyn, I'm assuming if you found either trivial you looked up either a really cheesy build or just watched a video on how to fight them.

Edit: You're definitely correct that Dark Souls is superior, it's a whole bunch of nostalgic bullshit saying otherwise. But that doesn't make Demon's Souls completely worthless aside from the Valley of Defilement which can go straight to hell. I understand it would be difficult to play the older title first because Dark Souls improves upon the original in almost every way (take out Four Kings and its pretty much a clean sweep), but if you like the Souls games enough I'm sure you'll have some fondness for it, also despite its simplicity there's still a good deal of relaxing charm to the Nexus theme.

#16 Posted by JackSukeru (5911 posts) -

It was cool to read the perspective of someone who played them the other way around. Myself I've been thinking about replaying Demon's for a while now. I got way, way deeper into Dark Souls than I ever did Demon's which I played a bunch but only finished once, so I am curious if I'll be any better at the game than the first time I played it. It definetly feels like I understand better how to play them these days.

Upgrading weapons was another thing that I found a lot easier to grasp in Dark, but I guess that had something to do with materials being a lot more straightforward, I don't really remember. I remember my go-tos were a spear and a curved sword, the latter which became pretty useless by the end of the game while the former became incredibly kickass once I tried making it into a magic weapon. I killed so many pillbugs with that shit.

Besides 1-1 and 1-2, which I've seen enough of to last me a lifetime, I'm looking forward to revisiting the stages as well, especially Tower of Latria which is the one place in these games I've found to be genuinely creepy. I've also only faced the Maneaters once and managed to kill them without really seeing their deal. At the time I had read a thread where a lot of people lamented their encounter with them so when I met them I was nervous (I still hadn't heard anything about them beside their name), but aside from briefly becoming worried when the second one showed that there were going to be infinetly new spawning ones I guess I lucked out and trampled them.

Did you know about the thing with the 3-3 boss Old Monk where he would sometimes be replaced by an invading player? It was one of the cooler things that didn't make its way into Dark Souls. Though with health items being possibly far less limited and usable by both parties it could also get fairly ridicilous. I totally won once(!) while invading and got a sweet, ridiculous tuba-golden-tornado-hat as a reward.

Good times.

#17 Posted by Sarumarine (2238 posts) -

@Karkarov said:

@Sarumarine:

As for "super weapons" Demon's Souls had plenty, you just didn't find them. Maneaters are honestly a easy fight, if you know how to approach it and have one specific spell.

Also you talk about the stuff in Dark Souls as being crazy enemies but did you not notice that one moment in Demon's where you are literally in a room filled with aborted baby fetus's covered in blood which will grab you and bite you to death? The plauge/poison muck in Demon's is way more dangerous than it was in Dark too. Blighttown is a joke compared to 4-2 as far as I am concerned.

You say the Maneaters is an easy fight. And I don't believe you! :) That's the rub with the Souls games in general. It's so vague and withholds so much information from you, that's it's impossible to go into those battles with the specific spell and knowing how to approach it. At least until you die a bunch of times.

Also, aborted fetuses. What? What the fuck? Where was that? I can't believe I missed that. How could you tell they were aborted? I really want to see a picture of them. Do they actually look like bloody babies? They're not like small monsters are they? I have so many questions now!

But the poison and plague wasn't a big deal because Demon's Souls drops a crazy amount of healing items. And I also had that witch outfit that boosted all your resistances to plague, poison and bleeding. Of course, I also did the Valley last and nearly one shot every enemy and did crazy damage to the bosses with fire attacks, so that was probably my fault for not doing it sooner. I figured it would be the last area of the game, but it didn't feel like it.

@Fredchuckdave said:

You should've kept a death count for posterity and good humor. Maneater is a cheap and annoying boss but there's lots of ways to cheese it. Flamelurker is arguably the hardest boss alongside Gwyn, I'm assuming if you found either trivial you looked up either a really cheesy build or just watched a video on how to fight them.

No, I don't look up guides when I play these games although I admit crumbling and getting maps for Blighttown and Sen's Fortress during Dark Souls. I never had that panic with Demon's Souls. When you say builds, I assume you mean leveling up your character in a specific way. I just used Soul Arrow and occasionally poked dudes with a spear or a fire sword. I'm sure that's not the most efficient way to do it, but it worked okay for me.

And I don't mean to disparage your Souls experience, but I didn't think Flamelurker was a big deal. Sure, he's aggressive and looks like a gorilla set on fire, but the only attack that really annoyed me was his megaton punch that caused an explosion that bypassed your shield. I beat him in one try (although I got really close to dying when I accidentally did the parry move instead of blocking). One-on-one you can take just about any boss in a Souls game. When you say Gwyn (I'm assuming not the King Allant guy) he did kill me plenty of times, but it was nowhere near as bad as the Capra Demon and Smough and Ornstein. I don't mean to imply I skipped by him with a big grin. It's just by comparison, Gwyn ain't shit to those other guys.

It's when there are more than one when it becomes a problem like the Maneaters, at least for me. They must have killed me twenty or thirty times. Those guys have that leaping attack that can knock you down even though you're blocking. And when two of them are doing it on a narrow bridge over a bottomless pit, I don't see how any other boss in that game could seem tougher by comparison. I kinda wish I had looked up a guide so I could cheese the shit out of them. That's one boss battle I wouldn't mind skipping if I had the choice. What a pair of assholes.

But that's just me. I also think the Capra Demon is the hardest boss in the Souls franchise with his two dogs and his narrow alley where he can just beat the snot out of you when you're early level without any cool armor. And the camera is stuck in a building or a tree leaving you blind while he chops you up with his pair of machetes. That guy... he left me scarred.

@JackSukeru said:

Did you know about the thing with the 3-3 boss Old Monk where he would sometimes be replaced by an invading player? It was one of the cooler things that didn't make its way into Dark Souls. Though with health items being possibly far less limited and usable by both parties it could also get fairly ridicilous. I totally won once(!) while invading and got a sweet, ridiculous tuba-golden-tornado-hat as a reward.

Good times.

Man, fuck the Maneaters, THAT sounds like the hardest boss in video game history. I am totally glad that never made it into Dark Souls, or I would have never beat that game. How are you supposed to beat a player as a boss battle? That sounds broken in tons and tons of ways. Maybe I got lucky for playing this game way after it's release date, but when I went up there it was just a Black Phantom with a silly hat trying to punch me to death with claw weapons or whatnot.

I feel like I dodged a bullet there. Holy shit, that sounds frightening. You're mad, FromSoftware! Totally and completely mad!

#18 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5456 posts) -

@Sarumarine:

The main thing with Flamelurker is he can get stuck on walls and things, did this happen when you fought him? Also I'd say just try it with a melee character, and of course try it on NG+ (Scales much better than Gwyn, no way to parry, no warding/Iron Flesh pre 1.04, but he does stagger and Gwyn doesn't, he does slightly less damage as well). Personally I never died more than say 5 times to a boss, most of the time its 0-2 (Demon's Souls has much easier bosses to boot, aside from Flamelurker); so I've never had a boss kill me 30 times as you say; playing both games completely blind. People talk about that happening but I've never really seen it happen, so it's sort of a distant thing to me, is it just an exaggeration or an actual literal amount? Dark Silver Shield helps, shooting arrows through the fog wall helps (yeah that works, right side), whatever the two "boost your damage to ridiculous amounts at low hp" items were helps; but those don't really help with Flamelurker because its a bitch and a half to actually dodge him in melee range (5 frames or something).

Capra Demon is a random fight so it could take you 10 tries or it could take you 0, you could suck horribly at the game and still beat it in one go; or you could be a master and take a long ass time. Ornstein and Smough are interesting, but ultimately with either a high powered build or a highly survivable build they're repeatable; and of course there's always Solaire to help out in a single player run.

Other players aren't exactly Savants in the Souls multiplayer audience so the main thing you're combatting is dying of boredom, infinite grasses that full heal or close to. The advantages Old Monk gets aren't that significant, and lag, luck, and propensity for being a douchebag are much higher determinants of success than skill.

#19 Posted by Sarumarine (2238 posts) -

@Fredchuckdave: Flamelurker kept mostly to the middle of the room (as I was trying to circle him to avoid his pouncing attacks) so he didn't get stuck on anything. That would probably be awesome if you came loaded with arrows or lots of spice for the magic attacks.

As for dying tons of times on the Maneaters, it was probably closer to ten or twelve, but occasionally I got caught up on the spiral staircase with the Squid Face guy and died that way too. I tend to count treks back to the boss as an attempt considering the mental wear and tear of repeating sections over and over again is a boss battle in itself. I got knocked into the bottomless pit tons of times. It certainly feels like 20 or 30 deaths though when you add the frustration. The Bed of Chaos from Dark Souls felt the same way even though that's more of a puzzle room with near-impossible-to-dodge, sweeping arms. And I didn't even know about the shortcut to Lost Izalith so those were long ass treks across the lava.

That's one thing I really like about Demon's Souls, it was before they developed the need to make you replay huge sections of a level before getting to the boss fog door.

#20 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5456 posts) -

@Sarumarine: Your last comment is a bit odd, though maybe you didn't run into the notorious runbacks very often; 4-1 (Shrine of Storms) is a 45 minute walkback sometimes, though there's a way to bypass the horrible cliff sections. Playing the more difficult game first probably helped.

Bed of Chaos may seem like it's impossible to beat it in one try but it actually is (not your first try ever, but on repeated playthroughs); you can either have a ridiculously high stability shield like Artorias' or time your dodges very carefully. It's fun to do but I still don't get in a rhythmic feel like I do fighting Flamelurker in melee range, that's something else; every dodge has to be perfect unless you're using Large Brushwood shield but that's just boring.

#21 Edited by Karkarov (3102 posts) -

@Sarumarine: Yeah the little baby f'ers are in the room with Saint Astraea. They hide in the plague ooze in the bottom of the room. If you walk in it the little sum bitches will pop out of nowhere and start biting your legs like piranha. Trust me, 3-5 of them get on you then you can kiss your ass goodbye I don't care how buff you are. As for their look... uh yeah, the are little human babies covered in blood and brown crap. No, I am not kidding.

Maneater you just need firestorm and a bad ass high hit res shield. You stand at the door with the shield up, let Maneater 1 charge in and get winded, you cast firestorm while he stands beside you, he falls down. Two casts, tops. Rinse and repeat for Maneater 2.

Yeah the Yellow Monk could potentially be the hardest boss of any of the games. I know I dropped quite a few players as that boss. It gets you this lovely yellow beach towel you can wear on your head too when you play as him and win. Way dumber looking than the Xanthous one from Dark, it is like you have a stationary yellow tornado on your head. It also boosts your magic damage I think.

As for people saying it is nostalgic shit saying Demon's is better.... uh no, I honestly prefer Demon's. It had the better, more reliable, multiplayer, I feel like the levels were better designed from a navigation/construction standpoint, the lore was a little less flimsy, I like the hub design better than the constant backtracking, weapon upgrading in general was more useful (like I could use a magic weapon as a strength build and not hit like a girl). There was also only one point in the game where I felt the game could cause a legitimately "cheap" death, there are at least a half dozen of those in Dark. I could go on.

#22 Posted by eroticfishcake (7786 posts) -

Interesting read. It's odd how people still write a lot about Dark/Demon's Souls in comparison to other games despite the fact that it's been around for a while. Game journalists and bloggers just love dissecting and analysing this series. Hell, there's even an article on GB that seems to touch on Dark Souls.

#23 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5456 posts) -

@eroticfishcake: It's a game, partially by virtue of being absurdly difficult, that doesn't show all of its elements within the first few minutes or even hours of playtime. Even on future playthroughs you can notice plenty of things you might not have the first time around, and at least in the case of Dark Souls the world is extremely well structured and designed; a 50 hour hyper difficult Metroidvania.

#24 Posted by eroticfishcake (7786 posts) -

@Fredchuckdave: Oh I know what you mean considering that I've spent at least 300+ hours in DaS but even so I still find out new things about it. It's an extremely dense game filled with a number of details that are easily missed unless someone pointed it out to you. I wouldn't call it an absurdly difficult game though rather the game philosophy teaches you that death is harsh but important lesson to be learned and that it's going to happen a lot if you're not careful so you just have to accept that. Mind you, despite the hours I've sunk into it I still die a lot but it's constant reminder of the hard, yet manageable difficulty the game offers.

#25 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5456 posts) -

@eroticfishcake: Well absurd relative to the rest of the industry; though it is essentially the hardest non platformer ever made with a few potential exceptions (I think Vagrant Story is harder personally). I can go through the whole game and die only a handful of times (or even just the once if I put forth the effort and play with a boring build), but it certainly wasn't like that on the first go around.

I shall explain my logic further. Dark Souls isn't a game about execution and there are no difficulty levels; yet it still frequently kills new players over 100 times; how many other games do this on the first run of the normal difficulty of that game? There are individual feats in other games that are more difficult, especially in terms of execution; the Tactical Challenges in Vanquish, Heroes of Might and Magic V on the hardest difficulty, a few specific checkpoints in Killzone 2 on Elite (which is either the hardest or second hardest FPS of this generation), and any other number of things. But these are all pretty peripheral to the player's first experience with the game unless you're a psychotic person and went through Heroes V on hardest to start with (would take at least a thousand hours). Since Dark Souls isn't about execution it can be approached and completed by anyone willing to die a fair amount; but assuming they play the game blind they will most certainly die. A lot.

#26 Posted by Sarumarine (2238 posts) -

@Karkarov: Oh, that would explain it. Garl Vinland fought me on the upper area and when I finished with him I went down and Astrea killed herself. I didn't spend much time in that room near the toxic swamp stuff. Sounds like I lucked out.

#27 Posted by ImmortalSaiyan (4676 posts) -

I played a bit of Demon's souls before Dark but never got into it. After beating and loving Dark Souls I went back to demon's this year. I still prefer Dark Souls but Demon's is great as well and is it's own beast. I don't agree that the levels are bland I think 3-1, 3-2 and 3-3 are fantastic and some of the best level design I have ever seen. The levels in Demon's souls are so great because they tell a story if you pay attention to them in linear order.

I love the Astrais boss "fight". That moment has more impact and prompted more self reflection than most games which make story the forefront.

#28 Posted by Genkkaku (735 posts) -

I played Demon's Souls first and as awesome as they game is there were just thing's I like more about Dark Souls.. the single continuous world with shortcut's to be unlocked, just exploring it and finding every little thing is just so much fun.. Though I found Demon's Souls harder maybe because it was the first experience that I had and by the time Dark Soul's came around I used to it..

Still these games know how to break you down in a second, first time I went into the forest as a human and forgot that you get invaded if your not in the forest clan (I forgot the name). Needless to say I got destroyed in 2 seconds, so I resolved to go back in and defeat whoever comes out. So turned back human, summoned another played to my game then just stared killing every invader to a point in which the same invader's started recycling and as soon as they saw us just started running so we would aggro every enemy between us and them.. It didn't work. But then I decided okay I've got this guy rolling with me, I think it's time to take on Sif.. Walk in the door and BAM two hits and I'm dead, went from feeling like I could kill anything to not wanting to verse Sif ever again..

No other game has given me that kinda of experience and that's why I love those games..

#29 Posted by Sarumarine (2238 posts) -

@ImmortalSaiyan said:

I played a bit of Demon's souls before Dark but never got into it. After beating and loving Dark Souls I went back to demon's this year. I still prefer Dark Souls but Demon's is great as well and is it's own beast. I don't agree that the levels are bland I think 3-1, 3-2 and 3-3 are fantastic and some of the best level design I have ever seen. The levels in Demon's souls are so great because they tell a story if you pay attention to them in linear order.

I love the Astrais boss "fight". That moment has more impact and prompted more self reflection than most games which make story the forefront.

I didn't mean to imply the levels are bland, they just seem to lack the twists Dark Souls had. The Tower of Latria (that's world 3 right?) seems like a fairly basic fantasy prison to me, but there is that towering, massive organ thing held up by the two chains. And when you cut it loose it spawns parasites like a nest. That was well done, and really weird.

Also, the story elements are probably the biggest stumbling blocks I have with the Souls games. I'm sure they have a lot of cool back story for bosses and locations and NPCs... but I feel like they bury it far too deep. Or they put it in menus or item descriptions where it comes off really dry. I know that's a deliberate decision as these games have a very much "if you want to see it/kill it, you have to earn it" mentality, but I feel like they have boatloads of missed opportunities like Queelag and her sick sister hidden away behind a secret wall where you can only talk to her with a ring you have to choose at the beginning of the game. Or what the hell is up with Seath the Scaleless. Why would a dragon need a library? It's a really cool image of a dragon hording the treasure of "knowledge" but I would really appreciate even the smallest bit of context.

Or in the case of Demon's Souls, what Maiden Astrea's deal was. That "boss fight" could have been a really powerful moment if there was some kind of lead up to them. But in the case of my playthrough, it was a matter of walking through a fog gate, finding two crazy people next to corpse piles and killing them to progress the game. I felt like I knew what they were trying to do with that fight, but I didn't have any reason to care about them. I remember after I killed Garl Vindland, and Astrea killed herself, I thought "what a weird, easy fight". I felt like I had played the game out of order if the Valley of Defilement ended on that note. It kind of felt random.

It feels a big disservice to those games (at least I feel) to have to watch YouTube videos if I want to figure out what happened to the Onion Knight guy or pour through Wikis to get the back story of bosses. I'm sure that stuff is in there somewhere... but I don't have a single clue how to find it except by accident.

Of course, those are just my personal feelings. I also sort of admire the concept of making the story bits hard to find. I feel like it would be an incredible moment for the people who figure that out on their own. Like some real revelations and satisfying stuff. Maybe I just need story hooks before I go digging, but I know that's not what the Souls games are.

#30 Posted by mordukai (7150 posts) -

The main thing that brought me back to Demon's Souls was the amazing PvP and Coop. Trying out builds and seeing other players and how they fight was a treat. Even after 300+ hours I still got goosebumps every time someone invaded me or when I invaded people.

#31 Edited by Ashler (96 posts) -

Nice read man.

In my opinion Demon's Souls is harder that Dark Souls, having played Demon's first. I'm pretty sure that everyone feels that the first of the two they play as the most difficult. It makes sense as its the first experience into the Souls mechanics and the learnt skills carry over to the next game, as they play very similarly.

Having said that, I enjoyed Dark Souls more. :)

#32 Posted by JackOhara (227 posts) -

@Fredchuckdave said:

@eroticfishcake: Well absurd relative to the rest of the industry; though it is essentially the hardest non platformer ever made with a few potential exceptions (I think Vagrant Story is harder personally). I can go through the whole game and die only a handful of times (or even just the once if I put forth the effort and play with a boring build), but it certainly wasn't like that on the first go around.

I shall explain my logic further. Dark Souls isn't a game about execution and there are no difficulty levels; yet it still frequently kills new players over 100 times; how many other games do this on the first run of the normal difficulty of that game? There are individual feats in other games that are more difficult, especially in terms of execution; the Tactical Challenges in Vanquish, Heroes of Might and Magic V on the hardest difficulty, a few specific checkpoints in Killzone 2 on Elite (which is either the hardest or second hardest FPS of this generation), and any other number of things. But these are all pretty peripheral to the player's first experience with the game unless you're a psychotic person and went through Heroes V on hardest to start with (would take at least a thousand hours). Since Dark Souls isn't about execution it can be approached and completed by anyone willing to die a fair amount; but assuming they play the game blind they will most certainly die. A lot.

I think it's wrong to compare Dark Souls to other games by how many times you die, since in Dark Souls death is not a fail state. This is a really important distinction that many people fail to make when talking about the difficulty. Not to mention the fact that the difficulty is way overstated, usually by people who haven't played the game at all or have tried and failed to brute force their way through it.

#33 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5456 posts) -

@JackOhara: Well there is no fail state or "Game Over" in Dark Souls; but at the same time what is a fail state in a modern shooter is ultimately a 5 second setback as opposed to a 15-30 minute setback in Dark Souls; hence even though you're technically not ever reaching a continue or an automated continue point the process of dying is still more grave than it is in most other games. So the value of each death is emphasized, 100 deaths in an RPG could be comparable to 500 deaths in an FPS; each death is a learning experience to be sure; but the learning curve hump itself is only a few hours long.

I died hundreds of times going through Inferno near Diablo 3 launch; but this wasn't me learning anything about the game it was just absolutely everything having the potential to one shot you, then you'd respawn a few feet away. This is obviously the worst possible way to go about tuning difficulty, but it is kind of comparable to a very difficult FPS where you die in a few hits (though not necessarily comparable to Vanquish since you have all sorts of tools at your disposal to both limit incoming damage and enhance your mobility and killing potential). I never felt accomplished for going through Diablo 3, I just kind of felt like a rat in a cage enslaved by Blizzard for all eternity. In Dark Souls progress is indicative of your skill and especially understanding of the game and most of the time death doesn't feel cheap.

#34 Posted by tourgen (4495 posts) -

Great write-up, it's an interesting perspective - the order you played the games.

#35 Posted by Sekoku (84 posts) -

What's also similar is the flow of the boss fights in this game. Once again, the dual bosses are the hardest bosses (because the Soul games can't handle group combat)

I'm glad I'm not the only one to think this. S&O is such a stupid bossfight simply because the game engine can't handle two giant bosses coming at you and freaking the camera out every time.

At least in Demon's Souls case the Maneaters will only come one at time until the first one get's to half (IIRC?) health, but even then you're on a "linear" path to where the camera can't freak out relentlessly while you're fighting them.

But that was welcome considering how broken player combat is in Dark Souls. I don't imagine it would be any different here.

Nope, it's still broken. You ain't missing anything. And again: Glad that someone else agrees with me on this.

But I have to respectively disagree with you on Dark being better than Demon's. I feel the changes (and adding poise!) to Dark Souls made for some worse game design decisions than leaving some decisions alone but tweaking them. For instance, I feel magic was nerfed too hard in Dark (even if it still does "crazy damage") due to the fact that if you pick a mage class you're going to have to return to bonfires to recharge your magic, whereas in Demon's you're simply eating grass to regain your magic. I understand they were trying to make it more tactical but again: why play a mage class when you're main claim to fame/the magic isn't going to be able to be used for 99% of the time? Might as well roll Knight/other warrior class and sub into magic for those rare cases then.

#36 Posted by P_Pigly_Hogswine (102 posts) -

I had a much much tougher time with Orstein & Smough than the dual Maneaters. At least with the Maneaters you can focus on one first, then put that central fire pit between you and them. With O&S you have both charge at you at once, the big one destroys all cover, and the engine freaking out because of the lightning AoE effects and the camer a struggling to keep up with the fast one. Add to that the shitfight right outside the door with those giants.

Personally I found you could ... exploit? ... be clever? ... use the environment to your advantage? more in Demon's Souls than Dark Souls. In both games direct combat means instant death, but Dark Souls gives you fewer opportunities to put something in between you and 12 stories of impending doom. Early in Dark Souls you get thrown onto a roof top with two gargoyles, nothing to dodge behind. Just you, two big bosses, and a whole lot of rolling.

Overall I found Dark Souls much tougher than Demon's. I wouldn't say I breezed through Demon's because I definitely struggled in places such as the world 4 levels and some of the world 5 shanty town, but it was a game I definitely found easier as it went on. By NG+++ you could cut through just about anything the game could throw at you.

With Dark Souls, I'm finding not only the combat tougher, but the unwritten world rules. I got screwed by the NPC who asks you a vague question and answered incorrectly, not knowing it would result in a merchant leaving and now not being able to purchase a certain pyromancy. Dark Souls has loads of these instances. It's like the whole game is forcing you to repeat your mistakes until you learn to get it right.

#37 Posted by development (2314 posts) -

player combat was broken in Demon's, but that just made it better. i still fondly remember hammering down on an unwitting mage-specced invader with my warrior-build's dragon sword and killing them in one hit as they rounded a corner. i will always remember that.

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