Professional animator for over 7 years, working on indie games for 2 years, Co-Founder of Gardenfiend games, and occasional enthusiastic writer.
An industry-defining controversial masterpiece
Stepping back into Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition today is a fully surreal experience, knowing you’re playing a game that’s re-defined video game difficulty and has become a new landmark of sorts. The sheer amount of questions that Dark Souls raises is staggering to new and old players alike, my goal with this retrospective is to tell you why Dark Souls is truly worth your time, even if you don’t consider yourself a “hardcore” gamer.
It doesn’t take that many hours to get good don’t worry
Before we begin a pseudo-analysis of this game I’d like to present some qualifications, my name is Felix I am a professional animator with close to eight years experience in my field, and two years in animating and developing games, across the Dark Souls trilogy alone I have over 675 hours of playtime and that’s not even counting Bloodborne and Sekiro, 141.6 of those hours were spent in Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition.
Prepare to port
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the grittiest game of 2011, it truly has to be admired how bad of a port Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition was, and prepare to die is the “fixed” version. It crashes, the resolution is terrible, it’s a nightmare to play with a keyboard and mouse which I did for some reason before I came to my senses, you have to download a basic mod just to do that and get full HD resolution, but even then it’s a gamble on how long it’s gonna take you to set that up. Thankfully this isn’t an issue anymore with Dark Souls: Remastered, but I personally didn’t want to pay twenty euros (discounted from owning Dark Souls already) for what is ostensibly a glorified patch, but if you don’t own Dark Souls, or even if you do, you should probably get it and just have a much smoother experience overall, and all the fun mods work there too.
Daughters of ash and other mods completely rework most of the game for a fresh experience.
Let’s be real here, Dark Souls and the Souls-borne series of games are hard, anyone who tells you otherwise is simply trying to gloat or is misguided in how to present these games to newer players. Dark Souls is hard and you will die, but this does not mean it’s impossible or not worth the trouble, let me explain.
The difficulty in Dark Souls comes down to several key factors and many more than most people believe. The path to “getting good” is a rocky one and requires you to understand several key factors, enemy move sets, weapon move sets, fast, middle and slow rolls and at least a basic understanding of weapon scaling, dark souls is a true RPG with a plentitude of ways to make a character and to truly dominate many areas of the game you previously found impassable obstacles.
This however raises an interesting point throughout the rest of this article, because the best weapon in dark souls bar none, is Wikipedia.
The game does a poor job of explaining to you all of those things above besides move sets that you can learn by watching and experimenting, it becomes exponentially more fun when you learn that you can play different builds and what enemies are weak to, and how to get those weapons that make it so much easier. Many people struggle through the game clutching the first shield that protects them from damage and poking out tiny hits with whatever weapon they like the look of. It doesn’t have to be this way, but without a super analytical mind looking at every part of the UI closely, it would be very hard to determine how these systems work on your own, especially if you’re a new player.
In summation, try to go in blind if you can, or only with an understanding of those four things I mentioned, killing a boss and overcoming a challenge in dark souls is one of the best feelings in the world to the point it should be legally classified as some kind of drug that keeps me buying these games, but if you feel stuck, turn to the internet for help, it will make things so much clearer and if you use the Wiki as training wheels, you won’t ever need them again.
“Weapons like the drake sword, black knight sword and more can help you early game”
In Lordran the story truly is something to marvel at, and yet another of the questions Dark Souls raises, is your story worth telling in a way that most people might miss?
Item descriptions the curious may read and get a basic understanding of what’s going on, along with the incredible voice-acted dialogue of the NPCs you meet along the way, but to truly get a full picture of the story or to even follow the unique questline of every NPC to its full extent requires an unbelievable amount of ingenuity to do on your own. Once again the wiki and several incredible YouTubers are your friend here, Dark Souls may feel like a movie that you watch and then see “1000 things you missed in Dark Souls” as soon as you come home and wonder if you really even watched the movie.
But it is all worth it, Dark Souls is full to the brim with personality and heartfelt stories, a mirrored experience between player and character, the very act of giving up the game in frustration is an experience that affects the people in the game world, if you give up, you go hollow, your character stops pursuing goals and becomes a hollow shell with nothing to do, seek out the story of Artorias the abyss walker, of Siegmeyer and Solaire “sun bro” of Astora, these are characters that will stick with you long after your time in Lordran is over.
“We are amidst strange beings, in a strange land. The flow of time itself is convoluted, with heroes centuries old phasing in and out. The very fabric wavers, and relations shift and obscure. There’s no telling how much longer your world and mine will remain in contact.“
It may sound insane to want to jump into a game you just completed through tears and hard work, but it’s arguably one of the best parts of the experience, going through places you struggled and dominating them with your new-found knowledge and skill is immensely satisfying, and trying a different type of character is just what RPGs are all about. You can be a holy cleric, a dangerously fast rogue, a bulky strength-focused build, anything you want to do, Dark Souls isn’t the game with the most build variety of the series (that’s for next time) but it sure as hell comes close, and it’s fun to tackle the same bosses and enemy packs in different ways, or maybe do a full playthrough with a friend, it’s completely possible now more than ever with Remastered, it’s a journey you won’t forget.
Playstyles and builds can vary your experience with dark souls wildly
Dark Souls is a masterpiece, not without its flaws, but if you stick with it, it’s truly worth your time. It has helped some people conquer issues in their life by showing them perseverance they didn’t know they had. If you’re scared of the difficulty just remember this game has been mastered by so many willing to teach you, it’s been beaten on a dance pad and with a guitar,
it has tons of incredible mods that give it even more longevity, some of them rival official expansion quality, the community is incredible and it is one worth diving into, if you feel stuck just remember that we’ve all been there, you can see them in the game world with the bloodstain and shadows of other players still playing this game to this day, bring a friend or play alone. I could talk about this game for days, but to close this out remember, it’s ok to fall down, but keep getting back up.