12 Hours In: My Thoughts on Dark Souls

You started all this, I hope you're happy.

Since before the release of Skyrim I had been craving to play a video game with depth, with systems, with a certain quality that would both challenge me, allow me to craft my own character, and not leave me wanting. Skyrim did just that for long long time, more than one hundred hours worth of time. But yet that game finally worked it's way out of my system and I was left again with something akin to RPG blood lust. And not any RPG could do either. I wanted something deep and engaging that would snatch hours away from me at any given moment and leave me battered, bruised, and happy. Basically I wanted a game to beat me to a pulp and make me happy for it.

Somehow in context with these other games, FTL feels casual.

In that time plenty of challengers rose up to fight the good fight and plenty of them were well worth my time. FTL was chief among them. After dabbling in Oblivion (a game I need to restart and play through) I wanted a game that didn't necessarily require a time commitment. With the RPG elements I wanted and the difficulty level I craved FTL is a nice game to just have for a few hours when you want to play a game but might be unable to commit to a full on RPG. I still need to unlock more ships and I've spotted a few mods that give custom ships from various science fiction sources, so it's a great game that feeds the addiction but just doesn't cure it.

Then, on a whim, I purchased Dark Souls. Recently it had been on sale for something around $20 after sitting at $35 or $40 for the longest time (just like Forza 4 >.<). I thought this my time to strike, to try out this divisive game that I'll admit, intimidated me to no end. Without knowing exactly what that game is you're left with the impression of sheer difficulty that harkens back to games for the NES or worse, the arcade which are only trying to get more quarters out of you. Finally, after weeks of debating, I had a fresh 20 dollar bill in my pocket and spotted a $17 used version at Gamestop. Spontaneity overtook me and I was already at home popping the game in.

I both hate and love bonfires. They're life saving save points and monster re-spawners.

Dark souls isn't a game for a "casual" gamer. You already know if you want to try Dark Souls out or not. No demo, no few hours with the game, can really leave you with an accurate impression of what that game is. It's a game you must spend a weekend with before finally feeling positive or negative about it. It's frustrating, annoying, requires large amounts of your attention, and worst of all can be very cheap. Most sessions with Dark Souls feel like I've accomplished nothing, or worse that I've regressed. My first invasion, wherein someone can come into your world and hunt you down, the played attempted to kite me towards a larger and tougher enemy which I had already stumbled upon and died. He wouldn't stop. Eventually he killed me, both having more experience and simply griefing me until I just didn't care anymore. I lost 4,000 souls (a currency and upgrade mechanic for the game) and after dying attempting to recover them (which loses them forever) I shut my game off and didn't come back for a day.

Endlessly frustrating doesn't being to describe that feeling. I felt like those 12 year olds who yell "hax!" whenever you kill them. I was honestly cheated and game didn't actively discourage, in fact the game set it all up, as if the game wanted me to lose all my hard work and set me back to square one. Which is why, 4 hours later, when I beat the boss of that area, and moved onward to a fresh part of the map I felt amazing. I walked around my house exclaiming to my roommates about my victory and about a game they only had a limited interest in. Later on after beating the next boss I interrupted my roommates phone simply to say that "I did it".

I'll never invade someone...until I'm strong enough.

It's a delicate balance between shoving your face in death and failure and rewarding you shortly afterward. The game hates you, doesn't want you to win, and builds itself up to be something you despise. Which is why when you beat it, playing within its tight rule set and parameters you feel all the better. I beat you at your own game and there is nothing you can do about it. It's like the game had been bullying me for years and one day I come to learn it's just been hired at the company I run. I don't want revenge, I just want the game to know that I had won.

Of course with Dark Souls every victory is met ten minutes later with another series of strong enemies leading up to a seemingly unstoppable powerful boss. Checks and balances I guess. I haven't scratched the surface of Dark Souls and can't tell if I'm hopelessly addicted or one cheap death away from breaking the disc in half, or both. But Dark Souls is an accomplishment. It exists, it's popular, and it made money. All in a world that values slightly iterative sequels and the most popular of games are almost always shooters and sports sims. Maybe secretly we're all just masochists.

14 Comments
14 Comments
Posted by FinalDasa
You started all this, I hope you're happy.

Since before the release of Skyrim I had been craving to play a video game with depth, with systems, with a certain quality that would both challenge me, allow me to craft my own character, and not leave me wanting. Skyrim did just that for long long time, more than one hundred hours worth of time. But yet that game finally worked it's way out of my system and I was left again with something akin to RPG blood lust. And not any RPG could do either. I wanted something deep and engaging that would snatch hours away from me at any given moment and leave me battered, bruised, and happy. Basically I wanted a game to beat me to a pulp and make me happy for it.

Somehow in context with these other games, FTL feels casual.

In that time plenty of challengers rose up to fight the good fight and plenty of them were well worth my time. FTL was chief among them. After dabbling in Oblivion (a game I need to restart and play through) I wanted a game that didn't necessarily require a time commitment. With the RPG elements I wanted and the difficulty level I craved FTL is a nice game to just have for a few hours when you want to play a game but might be unable to commit to a full on RPG. I still need to unlock more ships and I've spotted a few mods that give custom ships from various science fiction sources, so it's a great game that feeds the addiction but just doesn't cure it.

Then, on a whim, I purchased Dark Souls. Recently it had been on sale for something around $20 after sitting at $35 or $40 for the longest time (just like Forza 4 >.<). I thought this my time to strike, to try out this divisive game that I'll admit, intimidated me to no end. Without knowing exactly what that game is you're left with the impression of sheer difficulty that harkens back to games for the NES or worse, the arcade which are only trying to get more quarters out of you. Finally, after weeks of debating, I had a fresh 20 dollar bill in my pocket and spotted a $17 used version at Gamestop. Spontaneity overtook me and I was already at home popping the game in.

I both hate and love bonfires. They're life saving save points and monster re-spawners.

Dark souls isn't a game for a "casual" gamer. You already know if you want to try Dark Souls out or not. No demo, no few hours with the game, can really leave you with an accurate impression of what that game is. It's a game you must spend a weekend with before finally feeling positive or negative about it. It's frustrating, annoying, requires large amounts of your attention, and worst of all can be very cheap. Most sessions with Dark Souls feel like I've accomplished nothing, or worse that I've regressed. My first invasion, wherein someone can come into your world and hunt you down, the played attempted to kite me towards a larger and tougher enemy which I had already stumbled upon and died. He wouldn't stop. Eventually he killed me, both having more experience and simply griefing me until I just didn't care anymore. I lost 4,000 souls (a currency and upgrade mechanic for the game) and after dying attempting to recover them (which loses them forever) I shut my game off and didn't come back for a day.

Endlessly frustrating doesn't being to describe that feeling. I felt like those 12 year olds who yell "hax!" whenever you kill them. I was honestly cheated and game didn't actively discourage, in fact the game set it all up, as if the game wanted me to lose all my hard work and set me back to square one. Which is why, 4 hours later, when I beat the boss of that area, and moved onward to a fresh part of the map I felt amazing. I walked around my house exclaiming to my roommates about my victory and about a game they only had a limited interest in. Later on after beating the next boss I interrupted my roommates phone simply to say that "I did it".

I'll never invade someone...until I'm strong enough.

It's a delicate balance between shoving your face in death and failure and rewarding you shortly afterward. The game hates you, doesn't want you to win, and builds itself up to be something you despise. Which is why when you beat it, playing within its tight rule set and parameters you feel all the better. I beat you at your own game and there is nothing you can do about it. It's like the game had been bullying me for years and one day I come to learn it's just been hired at the company I run. I don't want revenge, I just want the game to know that I had won.

Of course with Dark Souls every victory is met ten minutes later with another series of strong enemies leading up to a seemingly unstoppable powerful boss. Checks and balances I guess. I haven't scratched the surface of Dark Souls and can't tell if I'm hopelessly addicted or one cheap death away from breaking the disc in half, or both. But Dark Souls is an accomplishment. It exists, it's popular, and it made money. All in a world that values slightly iterative sequels and the most popular of games are almost always shooters and sports sims. Maybe secretly we're all just masochists.

Moderator
Posted by Zippedbinders

I keep poking at this game every now and then and my opinion of it keeps flip flopping. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I just want to give it away (because I'll never finish it). Its a constant barrage of low blows and false hopes (I'm pretty certain that leveling doesn't mean jack shit). Go one way? There's a fucking Hydra you aren't ready for. Go another way? A fucking butterfly that one shots you.

I want to hate this game, to decry it and whine like a spoiled child. Yet its still sitting on my shelf, laughing at my goddamn face. I can't even muster fake rage at it, because its exactly the game its advertised as.

Posted by Ares42

Oh the days of being completely oblivious to how these games work =D I probably shouldn't say too much (to not ruin your experience with it) but just know that it's almost always your own fault, you just don't know it.

Posted by FinalDasa

@Ares42: I talked to a friend of mine who has played it way too much and pretty much knew it was all my fault. But I think that's half the fun with the game, grinding through to dumb tough parts only to realize I could have done so much to make my time easier.

Moderator
Posted by MstrMnyBgs

The only thing that ruins the experience for me is when I reverse hollow so I can kindle a bonfire or so I can summon phantoms to help, but on my way to the boss/next area I get invaded by someone with the best gear possible against my generic non-leveled stuff. Half the time I'll just kindle a bonfire and then go die to nearest enemy on purpose, just so I cant get invaded.

I wish they would either implement a way to have better "matchmaking" per-say, or a way to turn off invasions completely. I understand it is a risk/reward of going human, but to me I don't want to play the game for PvP.

Posted by xaLieNxGrEyx

I've never found these games that difficult. Devil May Cry 3 is harder than either of the Souls games by a long shot.

Also 4,000 lost souls? I've lost hundreds of thousands in both games, it's never really a big deal. You'll get them back, and in a couple hours 4,000 souls will be nothing more than pocket change.

I got hit off a cliff in Demon's and lost well over half a million. Shit happens.

Posted by Eviternal

@Zippedbinders: The distinctions between physical, magical, fire and lightning attacks are enormous in Dark Souls, far more so than in similar games. Investing in resistances and/or a range of diverse offensive measures may help you.

@MstrMnyBgs: If PvP is ruining the game, I suggest playing offline. It's fantastic, and defeating the bosses on your own is very satisfying.

Posted by YOU_DIED

As someone who has spent well over 500 hours with the game, I can say wholeheartedly and with certainty that there is only one place in the game that is actually cheap. I've found that most people who consider the game to be cheap or overly hard are typically trying to brute force their way through. I feel the need to point out that the difficulty of this game is way overstated, usually either by the people I just mentioned or by journalists who have never played the game.

You need to be actively thinking about what gear and tactics you are using, and change things up if you keep dying. Read item descriptions, and pay attention to clues in the environment. Most importantly: get it out of your head that death is a fail state. Also, the environment and enemies don't hate you, they are simply indifferent, which is a big part of the overall tone of the Souls games.

Posted by tarvis

I didn't enjoy Dark Souls specifically because it is iterative. After Demon's Souls, I was hoping they would avoid or fix some of the issues in that game. Like poor map design leading to inconsistent frame rates, awkward lock-ons and the feeling of ice skating around the world. And I was hoping they would have made changes to co-op that would have made it easier to join games. And addressed the complete lack of risk to invaders.

In Demon's Souls I have a Platinum Trophy. Dark Souls I barely finished one play through. Maybe had I not invested so heavily into Demon's Souls I would have had a different experience with Dark Souls. And, despite their faults, I enjoyed King's Field II and III back in the day. Never played Shadow Tower.

Edited by SuperWristBands
@YOU_DIED  said: 

As someone who has spent well over 500 hours with the game, I can say wholeheartedly and with certainty that there is only one place in the game that is actually cheap.

Which spot is that? If you don't mind telling me. I'm not trying to call you on it or anything, just curious. I'm in the middle of my second playthrough (not NG+ cause I want to complete the main game without using the lightning spear/havels/iron flesh like I did back when the game first came out) and am curious about pretty much everything about the game at the moment.
Posted by NecroMongo

@SuperWristBands said:

@YOU_DIED said:

As someone who has spent well over 500 hours with the game, I can say wholeheartedly and with certainty that there is only one place in the game that is actually cheap.

Which spot is that? If you don't mind telling me. I'm not trying to call you on it or anything, just curious. I'm in the middle of my second playthrough (not NG+ cause I wan't to complete the main game without using the lightning spear/havels/iron flesh like I did back when the game first came out) and am curious about pretty much everything about the game at the moment.

I'm guessing it's the twin archers in Anor Londo. That's the only bit that had me screaming at the TV. Capra Demon can be a bit cheap too IMO.

Edited by GnomeonFire

I never died at the archers, guess I was just lucky that they were so willing to cooperate with me and decided to run off the edge to their deaths.

The only "cheap" thing to me was a glitch once where I fell through the ground in Blighttown. And maybe some shitty framerate problems that may be considered cheap.

Posted by phrosnite

@GnomeonFire said:

I never died at the archers, guess I was just lucky that they were so willing to cooperate with me and decided to run off the edge to their deaths.

You sound like you did one playthrough...

Anyways you can truely appreaciate Dark Souls the more you play it. Keep playing.

Posted by GnomeonFire

@phrosnite: I don't care for playing games multiple times very often. But eh, I just might for Dark Souls.