Prepare to Be Humbled

Jeff Green started playing Dark Souls as a joke, an old man playing the hardest game of the generation. He didn't expect to enjoy it. He didn't expect to continue it. He certainly didn't expect to get better at it. But after a dozen streams of the game, the "Mr. Magoo of Dark Souls" is making progress and improving his gameplay. Alongside the backseat driving and rants about him doing something wrong, a good chunk of the audience is cheering him on. "You know I used to chortle into my neckbeard thinking what would happen if he got to Smough and Ornstein, but he's getting better so quickly." "That was better than my first try at the Gaping Dragon. Jeff will be forged into a videogame warrior of steel by the time this is done."

Why are they so understanding? Because they've all been there.

Dark Souls veterans admit it isn't as hard as people think, it's just different. It tests your patience & caution instead of your reflexes. It's easier for novices to learn than the twitch reflexes needed for Call of Duty or Street Fighter, but gamers have gotten so used to throwing caution to the wind it utterly trips them up. Dark Souls is an antithesis to the era of quick saving, zerging, and Leeroy Jenkins. Novice and experts gamers alike are unprepared for the challenges Dark Souls offers, but the experts have the arrogance to think they can handle it. "I've played and beaten plenty of games. This'll be a walk in a park."

Dark Souls promptly humbles them. Rush into a fight? Death. Get too impatient? Death. Get a bit sloppy fighting next to a cliff? Death. The moment you act like you've got everything in the bag, Dark Souls brutally corrects you. The veteran gamers, not used to such punishment, declared Dark Souls "the hardest game ever", and the legend was born. And it is, in a sense.

It's hard to toss out years of gaming experience and start back from square one, to admit you're clueless about how to play, to unlearn and then relearn how to play a game. Dark Souls makes novices of us all. Its challenge shows no favorites, it's equally difficult for everyone. The comparisons to Legend of Zelda are apt; that game was the first action-adventure game for many of us, and Dark Souls replicates that feeling of playing something new & unknown.

It also provides a shared experience: the game makes fools of us all. We've all fallen off a cliff, or gotten backstabbed by an enemy we didn't see, or died to some trap we should've expected. No one got through their first run of Dark Souls easily; everyone took their bumps. When we see people like Jeff & Vinny stumble their way through the game, proclaiming they're "not that good", we emphasize because we all "weren't that good". We watch and encourage them because we also know what happens next: you take your scrapes, you learn your lessons, you improve, and then you beat a game you thought was impossible.

Dark Souls breaks you down & humbles you to build you back up. There is no gap between experts & novices in a game that makes novices of us all. Everyone can relate to that one stupid death, that one surprise, that one boss you finally beat after hours of attempts. That's why we want others to struggle through the game and beat it; if we can work our way up from scratch to defeat it, everyone can.

19 Comments
19 Comments
Posted by ThunderSlash

Dark/Demon's Souls shapes us all into demigods.

Edited by Carlos1408

Well said. Praise the Sun! \±/

Posted by jimmyfenix

Are you the Iron sheik?

I am glad that more and more people are giving Dark Souls a shot even though they might not finish it.

Edited by eroticfishcake

Yeah it's not exactly a difficult game (though that isn't sayng it's not challenging either) it just requires different skills then straight up reflexes. Observation, timing, patience and strategy are core to the combat. But yeah sometimes I think the reputation this game has regarding it's difficulty hurts it sometimes.

For example, at Firelink Shrine a good few people either go to New Londo or the Graveyard which they're terribly underlevelled for and when they die a lot they just assume that's the standard in which the difficulty is set and generally proclaim it as artificial difficulty and stop playing. Some bits of the game seem pretty bullshit but in retrospect the game always gives you clues to them. So it's pretty frustrating to hear people complain about it when all they really need is a different perspective on it. The game has it's flaws and it certainly won't appeal to everyone but at the very least I would like them to understand why the game is the way it is.

Posted by Eviternal

Well said, sir.

Posted by gamefreak9

I've gotta say I don't understand the hype with Smough and Ornstein. Sure they are slightly harder than the average boss but barely. If anything once you learn how to use the columns its fairly easy. I think for instance the Artorias knight is MUCH harder, same for Manus.

Posted by ViciousBearMauling

It really is just a trial of flexibility. Rewiring your brain. In truth, after my first playthrough, (I've beaten it 6 times so far) I really found myself flying through the game without much trouble, because I knew who I was in that big dangerous world, I knew I wasn't safe. I knew that killing everything in my path was unrealistic, for I was just a single, weak, hopeless undead.

Being put in your place is inevitable with Dark Souls, but accepting your place, that's the real challenge.

Except Blighttown.... that shit is just AWFUL

Fuck Blighttown
Posted by Pezen

The fact that the game is more methodical and paced slower than most games is a big reason why it feels relaxing to play. Sure, it can be stressful, but that's because every encounter feels like it has a logic to it and you notice in an instant when you're breaking the logic and become sloppy. Watching my little brother play it for the first time last night was fun. To see him make, for me, obvious mistakes despite my warnings. And I'm on my first run at level around mid-late 20s (I think, I am not entirely sure off the top of my head), but the game have a few basic truths that never seem to change and you need to work with them and/or around them to come out on top. And so far the game's logic had not entirely clicked with him. But the more it did, the better he was doing. Until he got impatient. And we've all been there. Which makes me think there's probably a ton more things I have yet to learn, which is exciting in it's own right.

@eroticfishcake: That initial graveyard had me questioning the game's design at first. I was dying there thinking "but this is the beginning, what the hell?" -- until I explored the other way toward the Undead Burg area and suddenly my foes were a lot more suited for my skill level. It's part of what I really like about this game. It doesn't beat you over the head with what to do or where to go, so whenever you go somewhere stupid, you fear the enemies in a way that's really rewarding.

Edited by TheHT

The comparisons to Legend of Zelda are apt; that game was the first action-adventure game for many of us, and Dark Souls replicates that feeling of playing something new & unknown.

YEAH SOMEONE ELSE IS REMINDED OF ZELDA!! specifically Ocarina of Time. it's the z-targeting man. target a dude, strafe around him cautiously with your shield always up, roll when you need to and it's safe, then attack when you get your opening. and of course by the end you're just doing circles around fools, not breakin a sweat.

when i first played through Demon's Souls and Dark Souls i got the same feeling of tension and adventure, and went through the same process of being guarded all the time to not needing to give a fuuuuuuuck.

Edited by eroticfishcake

@pezen: Yup yup. One of the many reasons why I love this game is because it takes full advantages of all the facets of one. Running around, poking at things, talking to folks, reading item descriptions and examining the environment are things only games can do and this does it supremely well. Hell, even a certain boss' moveset told me something that really moved me in a very special way when I discovered it. I guess DaS came at a perfect time when I got tired of games with hand holdings and whatnot. It's certainly a celebration of a game understanding it's abilities and not trying to be a movie which most triple A games seem to be going at.

Also is anyone getting notifications for replies? I'm not getting them at all.

Edit: Ah, turns out they were turned off by default in the settings. Must've been the site redesign a while back that caused it.

Edited by Sinusoidal

Both the Souls games are a bloody stroke of bloody genius in a medium clogged with clones of itself. I really hope we see more developers take a chance like From Software did with the Souls games this generation. They're a real testament to the unexplored potential of video games.

Posted by Petiew

Dark Souls' reaction to players

Posted by Ravenlight

I dunno, Blighttown is definitely a bastard at first. But eventually you master it and make it your bitch (this can take half a dozen playthroughs but it happens eventually) and it feels awesome.

Posted by MikeLemmer

@theht: I think the Z-targeting is just a minor similarity; plenty of games have that targeting system, but just let you dump onto enemies once you've locked on. Dark Souls reminds me more of the original Zelda: a wide-open world with few hints on where to go next, where you can uncover the last dungeon before you beat the first, where secrets are vital instead of just collectibles.

@gamefreak9 :Smough & Ornstein are the most challenging mandatory bosses in the original game. The first half is fighting 2 at once, the second half is fighting a super-powered boss. I definitely felt like I had overcome the difficulty hump when I finally managed to beat them.

Posted by Random45

Having beaten the game, I can say with confidence that I thought The Witcher 2 was a much, MUCH more difficult game. Except for the DLC boss fights - those were really damn challenging.

Posted by Cybertification

Oh thank god I wasn't missing something! I thought this was going to be the hardest game ever and instead it was just a fun combat game, a really good one, but the difficulty isn't anything special.

@mikelemmer: I beat Smough and Ornstein on my third try, just have to summon solaire, that guy's a tank.

Posted by ViciousBearMauling

@ravenlight: I just skip the place with a Master Key and some precise falling. Saw a speed runner do it and I practiced it so I only have to spend like 10 minutes in Blighttown (Including Quelaag)

Posted by nonekjr

I'm on my first playthrough and I'm really enjoying it, taking it super slow. I'm at level 50 and I'm about to start the boss in Sen's Fortress. Had some really frustrating times in there and I'm looking forward to the next area. I'm probably way over level for where I am but I've been grinding some areas for fun, practice, and items (moss for Blighttown...). The melee mechanics are super satisfying. Makes me think of Killing Floor where the gun play is similar in its feel, it's so meaty and tangible.

Been watching Jeff also and cheering him on. It's fun knowing what he has ahead of him.

Edited by MikeLemmer

@nonekjr: Good luck with that. On the Sen's Fortress boss, gravity is either your best friend or your worst nightmare. And yes, it is! (I cackled a bit once he approached his first slime. He did not disappoint!)

@cybertification :I beat them solo, on my fourth try, with no estus and only 20% health left. Think I danced for a few minutes after that. So satisfying.