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What’s So Hard About Dark Souls?

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[Author's Note: This article may contain minor spoilers.]

Let me make one thing clear: as of now, Dark Souls is my game of the year. With gorgeous landscapes, incredible enemies, and an unmatched sense of adventure, Dark Souls has wowed me again and again. There’s a new discovery around every corner – even if that discovery is an axe to the head.

Of course, I can’t talk long about Dark Souls without bringing up the game’s difficulty. This difficulty is like temples in Zelda or stars in Mario; it’s a key feature that sets it apart. Even with this difficulty acknowledged, there’s still one more question that comes to mind. What’s so hard about Dark Souls?

Is it the enemies? Personally, they’re never a problem for me. A parry here, a sidestep here, a few slashes, and they’re gone. I’ve seen the videos of players surrounded by Black Knights, beaten mercilessly until they finally drop. But you know what? Play tactically, engaging only one enemy at a time (when possible), and that won’t ever happen to you.

Is it the bosses? Again, they haven’t been a problem for me. Hell, the Moonlight Butterfly hit me maybe once, and the battle only took about three minutes overall. Sure, that particular boss is relatively easy, but even infamous bosses like Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough lose all their intimidation once you realize you can literally run circles around them.

Is it the traps? Nope. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…you get the idea. Yeah, the Hellkite Dragon is going to fry you the first time you try that bridge, but once you make your charge to safety, all is well.  Enemy ambushes? After a few hours of play, you’ll learn to check corners and keep your shield up, and you’ll be just fine.

So it’s not enemies, bosses, or traps… So what’s so hard about Dark Souls? For me, it’s damage taken. I can parry a Black Knight, riposte with my crystal halberd, and watch him fall after one hit. But if he should hit me at all, well that’s 20-30% of my health right there. That Moonlight Butterfly fight I mentioned earlier? Sure, it’s not so hard to take down, but those homing magic attacks knock off a huge chunk of HP.

Once this HP dwindles, what’s there to do but use an Estus Flask? What happens when you run out? Exploring a new area – or even grinding through an old one – is suicide without flasks at the ready. That, my friends, is what I find to be hard about Dark Souls. I can dodge Great Wolf Sif’s sword all day, but if I slip up… Well, you know the drill by now.

That’s why I find Dark Souls difficult: damage taken. Of course, this is only personal. Maybe you struggle with those Stone Knights (get in a few hits from behind when they first wake up), maybe you got destroyed by Crossbreed Priscilla (keep moving and watch for the footprints), or maybe you can’t pass the Sleeping Dragon (there are other ways to get to those areas). My point is this: the question I keep bringing up is not blanket, but personal – different struggles for different gamers.

So I ask you again: what’s so hard about Dark Souls?

  • http://twitter.com/willstrib1996 Will Stribling

    Very good article. I haven’t been able to pop in my copy yet but from what I heard from you I may just want to take a break from Arkham City!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5314554 Dremain Moore

    The control scheme is the hardest part about the game. The inability to aim spells or a crossbow in first person mode forces you to rely on lock on for certain spells, and at times, the controls are too sensitive – I would kill for a stance in which you attack while keeping your weight centered rather than the slight step forward most attacks are accompanied by.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Jonklaas/1728411879 Michael Jonklaas

    For me the hardest part of Dark Souls is not the gameplay itself, but the consequences of failure. Losing 40 thousand souls and 15 humanity will ruin your week, hell, it will probably ruin your month.

    Yes, all the challenges are easier once you understand them, but, it’s not understanding them, it’s getting to the point where you understand them without losing hours (days/weeks in the case of your humanity score) of work in the progress.

    There is just no game with such a huge “oh… oh sh*t….noooooooooooo” factor when you die without getting back to where you were before.

    • Anonymous

      Good point. I lost about 27,000 souls and 2 humanity once because I fell off a cliff. The worst part was that there was no enemy or boss to blame for it…

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