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Reed: Why Dark Souls is the hardest game I’ve ever played

Friday, 30th September 2011 14:54 GMT By Kristan Reed

Ex-Eurogamer editor Kristan Reed reckons Dark Souls, released next week, is not only tougher than predecessor Demon’s Souls, but is harder than everything else. Ever.

To compound my harrowing nervous exhaustion to the point of mental illness, after 35 hours of play, my save game became corrupted after I ripped out the power lead in the vain hope of stopping myself from becoming cursed. I now have to start all over again.

Dark Souls is gaming’s very own Boot Camp. It is a game designed to separate the weak from the strong, the committed from the casual, and the obsessed from the sane. It is, by an appreciable margin, the hardest game I have ever played, and even harder than Demon’s Souls. You read that right.

When game director Hidetaka Miyazaki dementedly announced that he wanted to make Dark Souls even more challenging than his 2009 classic, there was a suspicion that this was headline-grabbing hyperbole. Besides, why the hell would anyone want to put people off by effectively telling everyone that they would have an even more miserable, nerve-shredding run of abject failure to tolerate the next time around?

But when you start pouring your life into From Software’s latest, the grim reality hits home the moment you face the game’s second boss, the infamous Taurus Demon. After a fairly routine opening hour or so, the unbridled contempt that this lumbering axe-wielding behemoth has for your presence sets the tone for the rest of the game. You arrive, full of piss and vinegar, and within literally seconds get stomped and hacked into a griefhole of your own risible incompetence.

And because this is From Software we’re talking about, there’s no chance of merely starting off from a nearby checkpoint. It’s back to the nearest bonfire for you, sonny, which often necessitates another five minutes of patient death-dealing, taking out all the respawned minions that you fought so hard to wipe off the map. As with Demon’s Souls, you also lose all the ‘souls’ you collected, unless you manage to reach the spot where you died such an inglorious death.

This probably all sounds horribly familiar for Demon’s Souls veterans; so what’s different? The thing you notice even early on is that even the basic grunts are absolute bastards. They hunt in packs, chase you down and are more than capable of taking advantage of any slight mistake. If you dare to let any complacency into your play, you’re toast. The only answer is to take the attack to these little shits. You either take the failure as a positive and get better through practice, or run off crying to another game where you’ve probably won before you’ve even begun, and where nimble skill and fearless heroic acts only ever play out in cut-scenes.

For about six or more hours, I absolutely hit a brick wall. I tried to resort to the level grinding, in the vain hope that my character might eventually be hard enough to take down this roaring menace. But every time I climbed that tower and faced him, I barely made a scratch. And then came the breakthrough.

If you’re dogged enough, you start to notice the tiny flaws in their attacks. The tiny windows of opportunity to plant your attacks where it hurts. You’ll realise that – yes! you can roll between their legs, get behind them and mess them up. The might destroy you again and again. Joypads may end up bouncing dangerously across the room, but beneath the simmering tension, the progress always gives you heart enough to come back for more.

But in Dark Souls success only drags you further into the mire. You’ll peer round corners and be roasted to death. You’ll journey into the festering bowels of relentless misery and meet creatures that will make you genuinely fear that you’re going to leave behind an important part of your psyche.

Death isn’t even the worst of your worries any more. That point emerges later on, when you find yourself becoming exposed to the terrors of being cursed, and losing half your health bar. Get cursed again, and you’ll lose another half, and so on, until the game may no longer be playable.

To compound my harrowing nervous exhaustion to the point of mental illness, after 35 hours of play, my save game became corrupted after I ripped out the power lead in the vain hope of stopping myself from becoming cursed. I now have to start all over again.

But you know what? I’m actually looking forward to it. The one thing you learn from all this bitter experience is that what takes 35 hours could be easily done in 10. You just have to be prepared to fail, and be braver than you’ve ever dared to be in a videogame. When you’ve broken through the pain barrier, you’ll wonder why you were ever such a pussy about it.

I may only be a quarter of the way through Dark Souls, but my fellow forlorn reviewers assure me that it only gets harder – and I can’t wait.

Dark Souls releases on PS3 and 360 next week.

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35 Comments

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  1. Johnny Cullen

    This is probably true because I can’t even get past the prologue boss on Dark Souls. Demon’s Souls first hour was a lot easier than this. And even that was difficult :S

    #1 3 years ago
  2. viralshag

    ^Haha, I’m a glutton for punishment when it comes to tough games so I can’t wait to get my grubby little paws all over this.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. UuBuU

    Sounds good.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Razor

    Sony really dropped the ball by not publishing this.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Lounds

    @JC I can’t neither, I used all my fire bombs and I cba to run round castle all over again lol.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. Blerk

    I’m really not sure whether I can be bothered with this.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Hell-Raiser-85

    IGN is doing a 24-hour Dark Souls Livestream. Started 8pm BST yesterday. http://uk.xbox360.ign.com/articles/119/1196640p1.html

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Joe Anderson

    I got past the first bit, but wow it’s hard. This is gonna be a hard one to review, luckily someone else is doing it for our site, I’m not that patient.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. Mike

    Sounds like the antithesis of everything I want from a game. If you pay me, I’ll play it. Not the other way round. I work 5 days a week as it is, thanks.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Johnny Cullen

    @7 Yeah, Keza MacDonald’s doing it. Watched the beginning of it last night.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. StolenGlory

    This sounds like the gaming equiv of inhaling a mountain of Phall.

    Count me in!

    #11 3 years ago
  12. Telepathic.Geometry

    Join us Blerkie. You’ll never grow old and never die.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Telepathic.Geometry

    Disclaimer: You will die actually.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. viralshag

    Usual question: What platform is everyone going for?

    As Demon’s Souls obviously punished my PS3, I think it would be fair to punish the 360 this time around.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. Edo

    Frustration benchmark.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Ge0force

    #14: PS3 is the leading platform for Dark Souls, so that should always be your platform of choice.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. viralshag

    @16, For some reason I have always thought the 360 was the leading platform for this one. My bad, I guess.

    #17 3 years ago
  18. YoungZer0

    Huh, such a shame. I’ve fallen twice to the hype of the first game. Didn’t even manage to defeat the third boss. Encountered him, was introduced to some characters i didn’t care about and then decided to just leave it at that. Turned the console off and gave it back.

    Too aggressive and impatient for this type of game. Growing tired of using excuses. Girlfriend sitting next to me, hearing me moan and yell at the scream. There is just too little pay-off.

    #18 3 years ago
  19. Dralen

    I remember Demons Souls being even harder depending on what class you chose. The first time I picked up the game I chose the knight class; thinking he would be a heavy plated badass and I could just plough through the level…WRONG!! Magic wielders and lightily armored classes had a much easier time of progressing through the game. I’m curious if this will be the same.

    I thought I wasn’t going to like this game because I can be impatient and get frustrated easily with some games, but I didn’t with this one for some reason.
    The games that really get me really frustrated are games like FIFA and COD. I scream all sorts of shit when playing them, but this was different, perhaps it was because I new it was supposed to be hard.

    #19 3 years ago
  20. DrDamn

    @18
    There wasn’t any hype for DS was there? It was all great feedback from those who imported. That’s not hype, that’s word of mouth.

    #20 3 years ago
  21. lexph3re

    @19 It was harder for a knight then a mage. My first play through I chose a knight too later to find out from my friend he did some research and found that the mage was best. Main reason was becuz magic destroyed EVERYTHING in demon souls. My poor knight got his ass handed to him over and over again by those skeleton guards TT^TT. But I heard this time around it’s suppose to be even harder on mages because of a item limitation or something along those lines. So, sitting back and blasting away won’t do you much good this time around lol I SOOO can wait for dark souls… still have to figure out how im gonna beat demon souls(bastards keep envading me when I’m alive, so I’ve been waiting for them to shut the servers down…)

    #21 3 years ago
  22. Gekidami

    ^ To be honest i consider that a balancing issue i hope is fixed in Dark. Though it was quite funny that the best way to beat some of the bosses was to strip down to your characters underwear.

    #22 3 years ago
  23. Bluebird

    I’ll be going for the Hunter class again. A bow and a big, old axe should take care of most things. :)

    @21: Play offline. Or in soul form. ;)

    #23 3 years ago
  24. lexph3re

    :-( @23 I tried! My guy keeps getting his ass handed to him! I’m at the part with the dead dragon in the middle of the castle court yard and when I was alive ALL of these red phantom dudes fill the area, when I’m dead that knight around the corner past the dead dragon gives me hell killin him if im not alive. So when i’m alive it’s a F’n red phantom barrage on me or im envaded. When i’m dead my guy is just to weak to survive the chaos up those stair’s. I would start over but I already killed like every BOSS and I don’t want to have to do all of that again :-(

    Demon Souls has made me it’s Bitch….

    #24 3 years ago
  25. The_Red

    This article made me even more scared of curses. Curse these hard games. Now my life is gone.

    #25 3 years ago
  26. monkeygourmet

    My Demon Soul class of choice was the Priest.

    It’s been a pretty good choice so far as i have some basic magic attacks (heal, soul arrow etc…) aswell as a fairly strong attack and defend strength.

    Im almost at the end of the game now i think, clocked around 50+ hours. Unlocking Blacksmith Ed and Sage Freek as early as possible is definatly recommended! I expect their are similar useful NPC’s in Dark Souls that need rescuing too…

    The most difficult level for me was def The “Valley of Defilment”, being attacked by tough enemies while also catching the plague or being poisoned ever 5 seconds was pad smashingly annoying!

    Anyway, bring on Dark Souls, i feel like i should be able to hit the ground running as i’ve just come of the back of kicking ass in Demon Souls!!! :)

    #26 3 years ago
  27. K-V-C

    damm who ever played the 30plus hrs and then got corruption im sorry 2 hear man !!! mustv been hateful

    #27 3 years ago
  28. masterawesome

    Somebody has never played battletoads

    #28 3 years ago
  29. Clupula

    I haven’t just played Battletoads. I beat it.

    Demon’s Souls was not the hardest game I ever played, but it was certainly old school in a very cool way. It didn’t want to be your friend, as someone said, as I liked that. I’d start to get the hang of things, get that typical game arrogance, and I’d die from a simple little enemy. You always had to be aware of what you were doing.

    It was probably one of the fairest games I’ve ever played, in that aspect.

    #29 3 years ago
  30. RedBirdiii

    The more people talk about it this way, the more I like it..

    #30 3 years ago
  31. jldoom

    Just came back from Best Buy :) Pre order is set and ready to go for October 4th! Cant wait till next week. I definitely agree with you guys about the balancing issues with the mage classes. PvE, hands down they own. PvP they can be tamed if you know how to counter all their magic. Still though, more often than not, when I do PvP I get a mage/melee combo of sorts.

    I like how they limit the magic here, but I hope the mages melee attacks are strong enough to dispatch the mobs with some sort of fairness as an all out melee character. I imagine trying to fight off a boss without magic if you’re a mage type character would probably be a bit over the top. Even for Dark Souls lol! Still, I’m so stoked for this game, CANNOT WAIT!

    #31 3 years ago
  32. Bluebird

    @24: Oh, but those 3 red phantoms remain dead once you’ve killed them. Draw them out one at a time. The blue knight around the corner is a problem though… Can’t give you anymore tips for that level, because I never tried to get past the first dragon in that level. :)

    #32 3 years ago
  33. monkeygourmet

    @24

    Yeah, thats a pretty tough section! What soul level are you?

    3 Red Phantoms can be sniped if you have a good bow, they shouldn’t even get near enough to attack (just make sure you have the theifs ring equipt).

    Best way i’ve found to take out the knights (Red or blue Eyes) is to use the Soul Arrow spell although im not sure if you’ve got it yet. You should be able to sucker them out then keep zapping them.

    Other good options are a strong shield and leveled up spear combo. I use that as the spear has a long distance range and you can hold the shield up while still attacking.

    Once you get up the stairs just keep suckering the enemies down and maybe try to knock them off for a quick kill! Also, watch out for the Ninja dude at the top!

    Good Luck! :)

    #33 3 years ago
  34. Len

    Off to pick my copy up in a few hours. :)

    Scared… ;)

    #34 3 years ago
  35. jldoom

    Wait?! @34 how did you get your copy so early?

    #35 3 years ago