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#1 Posted by csl316 (8085 posts) -

Dark Souls II is my first experience with a Souls game. It's not super easy or anything, but it's no more difficult than putting a modern action game on hard.

This is not what I've been led to believe.

These games appear on "hardest games ever" lists. The first question for newcomers (like myself) usually tends to be "how tough is it?" I asked my buddy about a boss, and he spoke in hushed tones as if traumatized by the experience.

Do you feel like the reputation is earned? Or is it some weird internet thing to single this series out as a legendary quest?

I'm 7 hours in. I'm carefully approaching battles, observing patterns, and staying patient if I die. Fell in some holes, got hit with an ambush, died on the Pursuer like 5 times. Maybe it gets extraordinarily hard later, but watching Vinny finish his playthrough of DS1 made it look like he was getting through ok.

Personally, I can't understand why the difficulty is overblown to such mythical heights.

(Also, this game is way more fun than I expected.)

#2 Posted by Quid_Pro_Bono (235 posts) -

@csl316: I personally think it's because a lot of people got to the Capra Demon or the Gargoyles in DaS1 and stopped there without bothering to continue in the game. DaS1 is completely manageable, but you really do have to invest time in the game to figure out what strategies work and the game expects you to take your time, which is just not true of other action games. That's where the difficulty lies: you can't just faceroll your way through the game and a very vocal minority gets frustrated and extolls this fact as if it's a negative.

That, and people who don't realize that death in the Souls series isn't so much a punishment as a normal mechanic of the game.

#3 Edited by Zeik (2207 posts) -

The difficulty of the games have definitely been overblown and overhyped. Patrick did a good job discussing this in his article about Dark Souls. I think it's done the series a disservice, because while the games aren't easy, the way people talk about the difficulty it misrepresents why the games are challenging and in what way they are challenging. They aren't designed to be difficult for the sake of being difficult, they're just unforgiving of mistakes and careless play. But too many people have been told they are impossibly hard and only for the most hardcore of the hardcore, so now that's the common perception.

Anyone who has spent a lot of time with the series will likely agree that they can actually even be somewhat easy once you know what you're doing and know what to expect, but you have to get past that initial learning curve.

#4 Posted by MikeLemmer (526 posts) -

It's a weird Internet thing stemming from why it's difficult. It's about as difficult as a modern action game on Hard, but it's a different type of difficulty. It demands caution & methodical progress rather than twitch reflexes. It got a reputation as the "hardest of the hard" because gamers who ate other games' Hard mode for breakfast tried Dark Souls and got pulverized into a bloody pulp by it because it had a wildly different style.

I expect its reputation as "obscenely hard" will fade now that people have played it long enough to explain why it is hard and how to play it properly. Its new reputation will be "hard in an uncommon style", which it definitely deserves.

#5 Edited by believer258 (11628 posts) -

I'm going to take a rough stab at it and say that the people who thought that Dark Souls was impossibly difficult are the people who didn't stick with it, or didn't try to approach boss fights differently when their previous strategy stopped working.

#6 Posted by csl316 (8085 posts) -

@zeik: It absolutely misrepresents what the challenge actually is, and you're right about it being a common perception when looking at it from the outside. When people say the game doesn't explain anything, it'll hit you with cheap deaths, the animation is slow.... I avoided these games for years because that all sounds terrible.

Now that I'm in it, though, I'm learning how the game works and it's really satisfying. It's a different sort of challenge to Ikaruga or Super Meat Boy, but it's not because the game's broken or anything. It's not a cakewalk, but not because the game hates you. It's because you're not approaching it the right way.

It's not a twitch-heavy game like Devil May Cry 3 or Quake Live. It feels a bit more cerebral than that, and the world's atmosphere can fill you with a sort of dread that Doom III did to me. That combination is cool, it's different. But it's not impossible by any means.

#7 Posted by csl316 (8085 posts) -

From what I'm gathering so far in this thread, seems like people more familiar with the game agree with me. It's a different type of challenge from the usual fare.

#8 Posted by Sinusoidal (1283 posts) -

They're not hard. They require patience. A virtue not entirely common. Especially in the average video game audience.

#9 Posted by Dallas_Raines (2132 posts) -

It's the learning curve and the incredibly muddy language that made Dark Souls so frustrating for certain people.(Including myself)

DS2 has been a pretty smooth ride, though.(Thanks to hours of livestream exposure, I suppose.)

#10 Posted by kerse (2100 posts) -

DS2 eases you into it a lot better than the other two, but yeah they are nowhere near what their reputation would have you believe. I think because of how the other two throw you in the middle of it instead of the way 2 does it, a lot of people probably got frustrated and stopped around the gargoyles and never actually got through the learning curve.

#11 Edited by freakin9 (1098 posts) -

Demon's Souls was downright easy, it just had a reputation. While magic made it really easy, it was still pretty easy if you ignored that part of it. You would die, but on some level dying was just part of the game, that led to some interesting mechanics. Dark Souls I thought was downright cruel, where it reveled a bit too much on the reputation Demon's Souls had.

I can't speak to Dark Souls 2 since I haven't played it, but I wouldn't be surprised if they went more in Demon's Souls direction based on what I've heard about the game.

#12 Posted by TobbRobb (4579 posts) -

Horribly overblown. It's not easy. But you can abuse the systems pretty hard and make the game a lot less difficult without much effort.

#13 Edited by TheManWithNoPlan (5207 posts) -

For people who don't get past the learning curve and stick with it, they walk away with the opinion that it's cheap and impossible. I've beaten Dark Souls and I can say with certainty It's definitely not as crazy impenetrable as the wider audience believes.

#14 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5325 posts) -

You can argue about Dark Souls and Demon's Souls if you want, this game is straight up one of the hardest games of all time though; I even think it has a legitimate argument against Battletoads.

#15 Edited by CornBREDX (4789 posts) -

Nah. I've said for years (since Dark Souls came out) that the game is not as hard as people make it out to be. If you have patience and are willing to learn the games rules it's really not at all insurmountable. You just have to be willing to actually play it and not expect it to hold your hand like most games these days.

That being said the games are all still challenging. It's nothing insurmountable though. People overstate the difficulty of souls games often.

The difference is Souls games are challenging. People don't know the difference.

#16 Posted by ShaggE (6321 posts) -

It took me a long time to "get" Dark Souls, and while I still think it's a notably difficult game in many ways, once I started viewing the deaths as part of the fun and progression instead of a punishment, it really clicked with me that it's just a game that rewards an entirely different playstyle to other games. Once I stopped trying to play it the way I do other games (get to the end and don't die) and started treating it as an obstacle course/devious puzzle game that just happens to have a story progression, only then did I start having fun.

It's definitely a hard game no matter how you slice it, and I'm terrible at it, but I agree that it's not the masocore king that people make it out to be. It's just a puzzle box that takes a long time (and a well-rounded but basic skillset from the action and RPG genres) to solve.

#17 Posted by golguin (3842 posts) -

Well, I can't really talk about the Dark Souls 2 difficulty because I'm in the Company of Champions covenant, but whenever I co-op in another world the bosses and enemies go down pretty easily. I've currently at 20 or so hours with 2 bosses down thanks to that covenant. I believe I've stopped at 3 different boss fog gates because I wasn't sure of what I'd find. I killed the trio bosses several times and had no issues dodging them in a normal game, but when I tried them in my world I couldn't even dodge a single 1.

The game is no joke for veterans that want a real Souls experience. The normal game is probably fine.

#18 Posted by MikeLemmer (526 posts) -

@golguin: Would you say Dark Souls 2 has a Normal mode and a Hard mode, then? Or a Hard mode & an Insane mode?

#19 Edited by golguin (3842 posts) -

@golguin: Would you say Dark Souls 2 has a Normal mode and a Hard mode, then? Or a Hard mode & an Insane mode?

Dark Souls 2 absolutely has a hard mode. In the starting area of Majula you can join the Company of Champions covenant and it makes the game harder in various ways. The game warns you 3 times if you really want to join it because it tells you things are going to get really difficult.

This is different from beating the game and entering NG+. People say that joining that covenant essentially places your normal game into the NG+ setting. The different is you don't have all your levels and gear like you normally would have in a NG+.

#20 Posted by MikeLemmer (526 posts) -

@golguin: I meant, do you think standard difficulty for Dark Souls is equal to most games' Normal mode, or their Hard mode?

Also, remember when we were scared From would soften the game too much? Oh, how naive we were...

Although having two potential routes to go at the start makes some areas easier depending on what you hit first. I was blazing through the Tower, for instance. Then I got cocky and lost 8000 souls to dark dogs & a dual-wielding conquistador.

Dark Souls.

#21 Edited by VioleGrace (45 posts) -

In my opinion Ds2 is harder than Ds1 .

The game is known to be hard because there is no " Easy Mode" option , while other games might be as hard or even harder in hard mode , this game forces you to play in the default difficulty which is pretty hard , and it caused alot of people to rage quit the game at certain bosses since Ds1 , that's why it's known as a " Hard game"

#22 Posted by dandead (170 posts) -

The Souls games are not hard they just don't hold your hand and punishes you for making mistakes which not many games are willing to do these days.

#23 Posted by Christoffer (1756 posts) -

I like the description someone made in the 8-4 Play special. Dark Souls isn't much more difficult than any other game, but we haven't really been trained to play anything like it (as opposed to the myriads of shooters, fighting games and platformers that exists). As soon as you "get it" it's not that hard, as long as you're patient.

#24 Edited by DystopiaX (5292 posts) -

Agree that it isn't deserving of it's reputation. It's nothing like a Dwarf Fortress which takes a hell of a long time to learn, I understood it pretty much right from the start. I think a more accurate descriptor is tough, as in there's little margin for error, you'll die really fast. That plus the fact that it's an action game that requires to actually block/play slowly rather than button-mash your way through gives it its tough reputation, if you go in running up to things and mashing attack or you're slow to learn enemy patterns/how to block things you're going to find it really hard but if studying patterns and being patient is your thing you won't find it that hard at all.

#25 Edited by martez87 (67 posts) -

This has always annoyed me about the gaming press and the Dark Souls community. The games are not easy, but you don't have to be a masochist to enjoy them. You just require some patience. Overstating the difficulty of these games does them a disservice and actively drives people away from them. It is not uncommon to read in the comments section of a Dark Souls article that somebody is too scared to play these games! Of course, I can't place the blame for this directly at the community's feet; From Software / NamcoBandai seem more than happy to use terms like Prepare to Die in their marketing, which seems counter productive to me! I died more on the final boss of Metal Gear Rising than anything Dark Souls threw at me, and that was on normal.

#26 Posted by Blommer4 (191 posts) -

IMO the game got it's reputation exactly because it is, say, harder than another action game on hard, but you cannot choose it! There are gamers who like or even loves to play games on hard, but they are probably the minority. Being forced to play on "hard" in a game would turn many people off, and that's basically what happened to the souls series. They couldn't choose, it was hard so they quit, and now they speak of the game as some of the hardest stuff.

What I believe, anyways

#27 Edited by CptBedlam (4449 posts) -

@martez87: @csl316: Agreed. I think the gaming press played a huge role in perpetuating this misconception. Very few press members actually really "got" the Souls games 2 or 3 years ago while many (including the GB folks) just turned up their nose and ridiculed the Souls games as being up their own ass because of the perceived extreme difficulty. Only after the community of these games grew, many press members came to understand that these games are not what they themselves made them out to be. It just goes to show how utterly disconnected the enthusiast press can be from "common" gamers. I also believe that many unfortunate developments stem from the gaming press' different perspective on games, being under a tight schedule all the time and therefore preferring short games that are easy to breeze through etc.

It's too bad that the misconception about the Souls games' difficulty still persists. For example, none of my real life gaming buddies will touch a Souls game because they think these games are insanely difficult, no matter how much I tell them that that's not true.

#28 Posted by csl316 (8085 posts) -

Although I created this thread to bust a myth, I also need to start pushing my own agenda:

ilomilo is the most difficult game ever made.

#29 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5325 posts) -

@csl316: Not going to push for Vagrant Story? Bastard.

#30 Posted by EthanielRain (765 posts) -

It's a weird Internet thing stemming from why it's difficult. It's about as difficult as a modern action game on Hard, but it's a different type of difficulty. It demands caution & methodical progress rather than twitch reflexes. It got a reputation as the "hardest of the hard" because gamers who ate other games' Hard mode for breakfast tried Dark Souls and got pulverized into a bloody pulp by it because it had a wildly different style.

I expect its reputation as "obscenely hard" will fade now that people have played it long enough to explain why it is hard and how to play it properly. Its new reputation will be "hard in an uncommon style", which it definitely deserves.

#31 Posted by bnutz2k (90 posts) -

I'm sorry, while I agree the overall difficulty is a bit overhyped, Sen's Fortress and a couple of other areas in the games made me want to cry. I definitely feel like they're the hardest games I've ever played (aside from maybe a space shooter a la Darius back in the day). The beauty is that it's hardly ever unfair and it encourages you to progress. If you feel that these games are not legitimately hard, then pat yourself on the back, you have mad skills.

#32 Posted by stryker1121 (1338 posts) -

For me, DkS's reputation definitely preceded it. Patrick and others here explained it best - the game more so than anything punishes sloppiness and impatience in ways most other games don't. Nor does it tell you how to do anything. Those two factors are alien in modern gaming, and it took me awhile to get used to.

#33 Posted by csl316 (8085 posts) -

@bnutz2k: They're certainly challenging, not denying that.

#34 Posted by bnutz2k (90 posts) -

Heh... I keep trying to convince my roomie to play since DaS1 and he's not convinced it's any fun due to my constant swearing and complaining that he can hear from the other room. It's seriously the most stressful fun I ever had.

#35 Posted by BoFooQ (659 posts) -

How much of this has to do with strategy not being wildly spread around yet? If you are playing and haven't gotten stuck or aren't that far in yet maybe you think its easier. Maybe, since most people played the first two games they know what to look for and how to make better builds.

#36 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5325 posts) -

@bofooq: Builds in the traditional sense are sort of out the window with how stats work/what weapons you're likely to find/the necessity of having a good shield; the most efficient builds will be dramatically different than just "dump everything into one stat + stamina/vitality"

#37 Edited by White (1320 posts) -

Remember the good old days of Demon's Souls where people knew jack shit about the game? That's why it was difficult. The scarcity of knowledge is what made it unforgiving and tough.

But now, you go into a Souls game with some preparation, be it prior experience, reading wikis or just getting knowledge through osmosis. If you were playing it like how people were during Demon's days, I'll bet you'd fucking scream and break controllers.

#38 Posted by bnutz2k (90 posts) -

Oh, I was screaming at the screen last night. There are a couple parts in the Forest area where you can easily get overwhelmed by three or four enemies. If one of them gets one hit in, you're toast. WTB more AoE pls.

#39 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5325 posts) -

@white: Demon's Souls was like an 80-100 death-ish game on a blind solo playthrough without lucky finds; Dark Souls was around 100-120, but Dark Souls 2 is probably going to average 200+ There is one pushover boss in the entire game. Out of 35+. In Demon's Souls there's like 10-12 easy bosses, in Dark Souls there's 7 or 8. There's a few bosses that are sort of fun but not particularly tough, they'll still probably kill you once or twice though. And then there's the hard bosses. Oh yes.

#40 Posted by csl316 (8085 posts) -

@white: I respect the people that have come before when Demon's Souls came out.

Haven't been using guides or anything, but DSII seems to explain itself well enough for me to survive.

#41 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5325 posts) -

@bnutz2k: Firebombs are decent AoE and their damage is respectable for the first half of the game (still alright after that, just you'll probably have figured out whatever method for dealing with many enemies).

#42 Posted by bnutz2k (90 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: I started running away if I could to make some distance and then using Lightning Spear, which is one shotting those hollowed soldiers.

#43 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5325 posts) -

@bnutz2k: Yeah single target ranged can work as well, but firebombs will stun the entire group instead of just the one guy.

#44 Posted by Deusx (1903 posts) -

@csl316 said:

Dark Souls II is my first experience with a Souls game. It's not super easy or anything, but it's no more difficult than putting a modern action game on hard.

This is not what I've been led to believe.

These games appear on "hardest games ever" lists. The first question for newcomers (like myself) usually tends to be "how tough is it?" I asked my buddy about a boss, and he spoke in hushed tones as if traumatized by the experience.

Do you feel like the reputation is earned? Or is it some weird internet thing to single this series out as a legendary quest?

I'm 7 hours in. I'm carefully approaching battles, observing patterns, and staying patient if I die. Fell in some holes, got hit with an ambush, died on the Pursuer like 5 times. Maybe it gets extraordinarily hard later, but watching Vinny finish his playthrough of DS1 made it look like he was getting through ok.

Personally, I can't understand why the difficulty is overblown to such mythical heights.

(Also, this game is way more fun than I expected.)

Not at all! That's the main misconception about the Soul's series. It's not exactly hard. It's punishing. So if you make a lot of mistakes, you're gonna die. As long as you play carefully and swiftly like you seem to have so far, you're not gonna have much problems. It's just that the souls series is the only one that challenges the player with it's deep mechanics unlike every other game out there which just lays everything in front of you. Dark Souls is obscure and challenging, not difficult and unfair.

#45 Edited by csl316 (8085 posts) -

@csl316: Not going to push for Vagrant Story? Bastard.

Vagrant Story is only hard if you see a wyvern and go "wyvern's got nothing!" And then you hit him for zero damage, but insist on comboing til your Risk hits 100 and you're doing like 10 damage. And then you decide to try Reflect Damage but fail miserably and die in a couple hits because of your lowered defense. And instead of enchanting or using a different weapon you try the same thing over and over but at least the music's good so you keep going. Then Snowfly Forest.

At least, that's how my first playthrough went.

#46 Posted by Fredchuckdave (5325 posts) -

@csl316: Yeah, that's how everyone's first playthrough went. Though amusingly the first Crab boss is when I put down the game and eventually came back and had an epiphany. 15 hour learning curve is one of the longest in history; though Dark Souls II might top it; would have to get a player playing it solo and blind without having played either of the two games to comment.

#47 Posted by HatKing (5812 posts) -

Dark Souls was hard for me because I didn't really get what the fuck was going on. After watching some video coverage I was able to walk through the parts of that game that I cared about playing.

I think that was my major problem with it. It was so abstruse that it kind of required some sort of peripheral research or guide, but that inevitably destroyed the air of mystery. It wasn't satisfying to just do what I was told, and it was too frustrating to decipher what the game wanted from me with what was given. I didn't have a community or a friend giving me only the right details, so I had to rely on Giant Bomb's coverage or other guides. I think a lot of the problem was that I didn't jump in immediately, so I wasn't there to learn with the community. By the time I got to it, the game was clocked, and I could have every detail I would ever want about making it through it unscathed.

I really loved watching most of the Souls coverage here on Giant Bomb, and I've been really jealous of the experience people have been able to have with it. So when I finally decided that I was going to give the series another shot with DSII, I went on media blackout. I only picked up minor details from what I've overheard about the beta, or stuff Vinny and Brad mentioned off hand during the Bombcast. I avoided the preview coverage, the articles, and the Quick Look. The only video I watched was to confirm that the menu system wasn't an unintelligible mess. And now that I am finally having the Souls experience people were able to have years ago, I think I get it.

You die a lot, but that's not the hard part. Who cares? You just walk right back to where you were, re-stab the dudes you already proved you could kill. You get way better at the combat because of how much practice you get. Within the rules of the game, the short trek to makeup progress isn't even really that punishing. The punishment is when you get sloppy and lose four or five runs worth of souls. The difficulty comes from the mystery. Is there going to be an enemy around that corner? Three? Or maybe a healing item or bonfire? You have to always be on your guard and on the lookout. You have to be willing to make mistakes and take risks. Hard isn't really the right word for it, because if you're playing this game not to die, then you don't really understand what it is. That's like saying that playing Super Mario without jumping is hard. No shit, that's a massive mechanic in the game, use it. Death isn't the enemy here, it's a safety net. Impatience is the enemy. Mystery is the enemy. That mother fucker hiding around the corner with fire bombs, that's the enemy.

Do I die a lot? Yes, absolutely. Do I think it's difficult? Yes, it's presenting a unique challenge. Do I think it's this impenetrable beast that some people love to pretend it is? No, absolutely not.

#48 Edited by benspyda (2030 posts) -

They're just old school in ways like making you have to get passed areas full of enemies every time you fail a boss fight and how you can lose all your souls if you can't recover them. The actual combat is quite simple, which is why I love it, no memorizing combos and button inputs.

I am finding in DSII the fact that you lose health after every death, meaning the worse you are at the game the more your punished, pretty harsh.

#49 Edited by fisk0 (3849 posts) -

@zeik said:

They aren't designed to be difficult for the sake of being difficult, they're just unforgiving of mistakes and careless play. But too many people have been told they are impossibly hard and only for the most hardcore of the hardcore, so now that's the common perception.

Anyone who has spent a lot of time with the series will likely agree that they can actually even be somewhat easy once you know what you're doing and know what to expect, but you have to get past that initial learning curve.

Yeah, the main difference compared to many other games today is that it demands that you to pay attention to what's going on, it gives you hints - both through the in-game message system where there are some permanent messages from the developers included, as well as environmental clues, and tends to telegraph attacks pretty clearly, but what it doesn't do however is having objective checkmarks or some voice telling you what to do at every step, and the clues that are there are clues, not explicit descriptions of what to do.

They also seem quite fond of tricking the player to lower their guard, and then screw them over - giving you a series of fodder enemies with predictable patterns, making you overly confident and making you pay less attention to the environmental hints, and then when you rush around a corner without holding your shield up, there's someone there, just out of view, ready to knock you off a ledge or stab you in the back.

#50 Edited by MikeLemmer (526 posts) -

@benspyda said:

I am finding in DSII the fact that you lose health after every death, meaning the worse you are at the game the more your punished, pretty harsh.

There is a way around that. When you aid another player via Co-Op, there seems to be a random chance you'll become human afterwards, even if you fail. It's an interesting way to get more practice on a boss while reviving your health w/o using Effigies.