#4 Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
I can’t play this game. It doesn’t fit my style, and I have tried 5+ times to play through the game but I can’t do it. That being said, I still do recognize its greatness, and unique approach to video games.
For years, video games developers had been creating games to be as accessible as possible. They wanted anyone to be able to pick up a controller and within a few minutes of a tutorial, or introduction to the game, they could be successful. Dark Souls doesn’t tell you anything, it doesn’t make anything obvious, and it will frustrate you more than any toxic League of Legends player ever could.
There are no difficulty settings, the tutorial is minimal, and the story is easy to miss. You can easily die 5-10 times the first time you play the tutorial. In fact I think the first time I ever played the game I quit without beating the mini-boss at the end of the tutorial. I didn’t beat it until my roommate at the time showed me what I needed to do. Basically it turns out there is a move you can do at the start that makes it way easier but I didn’t know that move was a thing.
In the picture above you can see a dragon, it’s a boss that you are supposed to skip at a low level, its fire breath can kill you instantly, but if you shoot him with a bow he will come down and fight you. He is a boss for much later in the game, but he is still as powerful now as he will be later. To let you know how much there is of a skill difference between a casual player and a big Dark Souls fan, my roommate at the time, beat the dragon on the first try, I tried 5 times and never got more than 1/20th of its health gone. Of course, after this somewhat embarrassing course of events, I again quit the game for a while.
But quitting because of difficulty in the game would become a recurring theme for me. I recently started a play through from the beginning so that all of this would be a little fresher in my mind when writing this article. I beat the tutorial on the second try, I beat the first boss on the second try, then I beat the next mini boss on the first try, and the next mini boss on the first try and then I got to a hidden boss. I knew he was there, I found him on another play through.
He is incredibly strong, probably 8x stronger than your character is at this point in the game. But you can save him (he is locked in a cell like structure) and then he tries to fight you, it’s important because if you don’t save him and kill him, he murders an important NPC. It’s incredibly difficult to beat him, but you have to successfully parry him about 9 times to kill him. Parrying is one of the most difficult technical aspects of the game, it requires frame perfect execution to work, and you have to play the game for hours to be any good at it. The first time I tried to beat him I successfully parried 0 times. The second time I successfully parried 2 times. The third time I successfully parried him 8 times. He had a sliver of health left, and then I missed one parry and died. I immediately turned the game off. I came so close to winning, but I lost the fight because of one mistake. I waited 4 days and then got him on the first try, which was a nice little touch. When you beat him you get this awesome item you aren’t supposed to get until later in the game.
Dark Souls forces you to get better at the game, and to learn from your mistakes, to beat bosses that are exponentially stronger than you are. It takes skill, and a plan in order to win most boss battles, and it also requires a lot of adjustments as you understand their attacks, and the pattern, the bosses use in different situations. When you figure these things out and are able to take advantage of it, it’s quite satisfying.
At some level it’s refreshing to see a game that doesn’t allow you to waltz through the game with a glass cannon build and one shot everything in sight. It’s nice to know that after 20+ hours playing the game I am still well below the level of skill that I need to be very successful in the game. The skill gap between an average player and a great player is huge. Great players can exploit frames of invincibility when they roll, those become more and more important as the bosses get tougher and tougher, and you are forced into tight quarters against bosses that can kill you with one hit. This game forces you to get better, or suffer the consequences, you have to try hard, and analyze from your mistakes to become a great players, and from people I know who have reached that level, it’s one of the most awe-inspiring accomplishments in gaming.
It’s universally heralded as one of the best games to ever be created and rightfully so. Though I can’t play it (Though I continue to try and then quit), I would highly recommend others to get it. I might be too weak of will to play through it, but I recognize its unique greatness and I think everyone should at least give it a couple tries to see if it’s for you. I would recommend waiting for one of Steam’s big sales. The game is normally priced at $20, but during those seasonal sales you can get the game for $5 or less. I think I got it for $4 or something. Definitely worth it if you can get it at $5 or less.