“I did it!”: the joy of crossing Dark Soul’s finish line

Monday, 12 August 2013 09:02 GMT By Dave Cook

Dark Souls came out in 2011, but VG247′s Dave Cook only just finished it last month. Was the journey worth it? “Hell yes”, he says.

It’s over. I finally did it.

Completing Dark Souls has got to be one of my most proudest moments as a gamer and for the first time in years I actually feel like I earned victory, instead of having it dispensed through obligation.

This is not a case of simply coasting through a game’s plot or funnelling your way along corridors to see some end credits. Dark Souls is an endurance test from the word go and while it seems intimidating at several junctures you just have to keep reminding yourself that each of the game’s challenges – however seemingly impossible – were made to be beaten.

I’d forgotten this golden rule after giving up on the game last year. By that point I had just passed Sen’s Fortress and I was getting read to battle my way to Ornstein & Smough. I had heard many intimidating horror stories about these guys before, and the fact that my VG247 work was really piling up caused me to file my Dark Souls disc away. I vowed to return again one day.

To be quite honest, I think 2012′s pre-Xmas rush of games nearly crippled me in terms of workload and I was still playing them to write articles over the holiday break. That’s usually my quiet time, where I return to old games I’m yet to finish, but I decided to batter through XCOM: Enemy Unknown instead. Dark Souls had to wait a bit longer.

Then Dead Space 3 and BioShock: Infinite happened to name a few and finally, once the new releases started to wane I dug out Dark Souls and got spanked by Ornstein & Smough again, and again, and again, and again. Back went my disc into filing.

I wrote about how I eventually killed the duo here, and the short version is that I consulted the Wiki community and spent some 20 more hours grinding and upgrading my gear. My friends and the gaming community were a great help and I started to really appreciate the level of kinship both Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls bring out in people. It’s a fan-base that’s eager to help each other no matter what.

I turned 30 this month and as part of my birthday spoils I got myself this Ornstein & Smough tattoo. Seriously; I can’t think of a completion milestone this decade that has impacted me in such a way. The game made me work so hard for that victory and I’ll never forget it. Literally.

From that point onward I set about slaughtering the Four Kings down in the New Londo Ruins, and I laughed to myself when I remembered the time I went down there from the starting point at Firelink Shrine and how those ghosts murdered me in a matter of seconds. I steam-rolled the bastards when I returned, and it felt great.

Through the Four Kings up to The Bed of Chaos I think I grew a tad too dependent on the Wiki guide, so I decided to tackle Seath the Scaleless, Gravelord Nito and Lord Gwyn on my own. My massive grind to destroy Ornstein & Smough really did put me in great stead for the challenge but I was still killed whenever I did something foolish or without strategy.

I was still being pulverised by those sodding Minor Capra Demons at level 90+ and don’t even get me started on those giant dinosaur leg-things in the lava river. The point is that you can grind Dark Souls all you want yet you’ll still be killed if you’re a nugget and try to act too cocky. It truly does show that the game’s biggest enemy is your own lack of discipline.

You’ve probably heard me say that before but it still fascinates me how even the hardest of warriors can be cut down to size if they’re arrogant or ill-informed. It’s never, ever the game’s fault, and that smacks of intelligent, rational game design from people who understand how to craft a gratifying experience.

With all four of the Lord Souls tossed into the Lordvessel, I decided to go on one last levelling-up tour of the world to gather more souls and to check out anything I might have missed. There was something almost touching about sprinting through the Undead Burg again, chopping enemies to death in just one hit.

To think that those grunts killed me repeatedly almost two years ago felt strange, but it truly was a measure of how much time and effort I’d ploughed into the bloody thing. I ran through Blighttown for shits and giggles and came through after downing only one Estus Flask. At first attempt I had trouble stepping ten paces into the area before getting poisoned.

That last tour really summed up for me my character’s development, and my own growth as a Dark Souls player. By the end I was able to back-stab each invading Black Phantom with surgical precision, defeat most regular foes without fear of death and sprint through traps and packs of foes to avoid confrontation entirely.

But then came Lord Gwyn. I realised after the first few deaths that I should have focused on my Endurance stat more than Vitality, because he kept on breaking my guard after about four swipes of his flame sword. After grinding the Black Knights in the Kiln for a while I eventually got one of their shields to reduce Gwyn’s chip damage.

I then walked up to Gwyn’s fog gate for the last time, cast Flash Sweat, rocked my Lightning Spear+5 and stepped through that dreadful white light.

I get asked this question a lot whenever I write about Dark Souls, so here’s my final load-out in full:

  • Soul Level: 100
  • Right Hand: Queelag’s Furysword+4 / Lightning Spear+5
  • Left Hand: Black Knight Shield+3 / Pyromancy Flame+10
  • Armour: Black Iron Set – Helm+2 / Armour+5 / Gauntlets+1 / Leggings+2
  • Rings: Ring of Steel Protection / Flame Stoneplate Ring
  • Vitality: 37
  • Attunement: 16
  • Endurance: 33 ( I know, should have been waaaay higher!)
  • Strength: 36
  • Dexterity: 23
  • Resistance: 11
  • Intelligence: 14
  • Faith: 12

    During the battle I teased Gwyn into doing his big jump attack and rolled under it, which gave me a window for a few swipes before retreating behind pillars to drink an Estus Flask or re-cast Flash Sweat. The battle lasted ages and all the while that quiet, melancholy piano song twinkled along in the background. It’s a sombre encounter and a truly beautiful piece of game design that begs to be experienced.

    After striking the last blow I viewed the ending and then started my first New Game+ to a feeling of elation, reward and relief. I’ve now started to play Demon’s Souls again armed with everything I’ve learned from this experience and as a result I’m fighting smarter, harder and more efficiently than my first weak attempt.

    Completing Dark Souls was a proper test of patience, determination and skill that I almost gave up on several times. But now I can finally say “I did it!”

    One last time; let’s get some discussion going about your own personal journey through Dark Souls. I want to hear about your toughest trials, your best strategies, your maddest encounters and more. I want to hear from you.


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    1. Aullah

      QF is OP. GJ BTW.

      #1 2 years ago
    2. YoungZer0

      “It’s never, ever the game’s fault, and that smacks of intelligent, rational game design from people who understand how to craft a gratifying experience.”

      Meh, Fanboy talk.

      Of course it can be the games fault. Awful, broken aiming-system, camera being in the way most of the time, buggy gameplay, cheap enemy attack patterns, fps running into the single digits, all faults of the game or its design.

      I’m glad that they finally tried in Dark Souls 2. It actually looks like a decent game with realistic animations. Hated the fact that fat or gigantic or heavily armored guys could change the direction of their swing mid-attack or attack superfast. Hazel is one of the best examples of bad attack patterns. You could stand behind him and he would swing right back at you, with little to no animation between.

      The game has many flaws, people just choose to ignore them.

      Which Convenant did you join? Also did you visit the Great Hollow and the Ash Lake? Go more into the details, did you kill the … illusive woman? :)

      btw. nice tattoo.

      #2 2 years ago
    3. diggidy

      Thanks for the inspiration Dave! I also gave up at Ornstein & Smough but I think it’s time to jump back in there! Thunder cats are a go

      #3 2 years ago
    4. NinjaMidget

      QF is only overpowered if you manage to keep 10 humanity on the go. And at that point if it’s your first fun through then not dying and keeping that power is more a skill not a matter of being overpowered.

      #4 2 years ago
    5. Dave Cook


      I joined lots of covenants for the achievements (sorry!) but stuck with Queelag’s sister’s covenant in the end. I felt bad for her.

      Thanks, it’s my 8th tattoo and probably the one I’ve reacted worse to. See? Ornstein & Smough are STILL hurting me in death…

      @3 Do it seriously. Get Queelag’s Furysword and the Lightning Spear upgraded. Level up your armour and shield loads and you’ll nuke them. The wiki guides are your friend.

      #5 2 years ago
    6. Belmont

      A tattoo of those two ?

      Sorry, but this game is getting too much praise.

      #6 2 years ago
    7. polygem

      What a great victory. A great feeling. A rewarding and beautiful moment! I am a proud member of the club as well.


      #7 2 years ago
    8. Dave Cook

      @6 It’s my choice what I get tattooed on myself isn’t it? I saw the art, thought it was cool and got it done. What’s he harm?

      @7 Thank you, feels good doesn’t it? :D

      #8 2 years ago
    9. GwynbleiddiuM

      You know Dave, if I as going to get a Dark Souls tattoo it was definitely a bizarre depiction of the “Fair Lady” herself. I’m a true servant of Chaos Queen as well. So /high5

      My Fair Lady *maniacal laugh*

      Excellent read, as always. :D

      #9 2 years ago
    10. Dave Cook

      @9 Nice :D I was a Chaos Servant as well by the end. There’s something pretty tragic about her.

      #10 2 years ago
    11. JonFE

      It does feel good to finish Dark Souls! As for Oliver & Stan, wait until you meet them again in NG+. 8)

      Great tattoo BTW!

      #11 2 years ago
    12. illuminatusv

      @Dave Cook: Oh man, you had help from (a) SunBro in the final boss battle, didn’t you!

      #12 2 years ago
    13. polygem

      I am covered in blackwork tats. Lots of it are cover ups of my 90′s hardcore scene tats. Those have been great old school tattoos and i did not regret them- but wanted a change. Now having a full body design and i love it. Not much space left on me. My arms are completely black for example :)

      Bad ass motive dave!


      In dark souls i was a covenant whore.

      #13 2 years ago
    14. Belmont

      @ Dave

      Obviously the tattoo is your choice, It’s absolutely none of my business(Sorry !). I just wanted to say that I can’t see the reason for all the praise. But anyone gets any tattoo they want !

      #14 2 years ago
    15. Dave Cook

      @14 Ah I see, yeah I get what you mean :)

      @13 tattoos are addictive. This is my 8th one.

      @11 Thanks chief, it does feel brilliant yeah :D

      #15 2 years ago
    16. Blackened Halo

      #2 actually, it seems youve never played the game, at least never beat it :PP …Dark Souls is masterpiece !! :))) 10/10 …It is hard and difficult but fairly! :) no bugs, no problems, no nothing! :)

      #16 2 years ago
    17. redwood

      yaaaaaaaay… congrats man :) btw, did you make a sword? I made the cursed sword of artorias :) it could damage those wretched ghosts with out any buff.
      Also I was in the same covinent as you … the chaos wraiths i think, really felt sorry for that poor girl :(..
      @2 looks like someone got their ass handed to them :P it’s a great game and it has it’s flaws. But when you play the NG+ than you really get to play the real dark souls because you are just as bad-ass(powered up) as they are, so the playing field is rather even.
      I actually fucked up my experience really bad, like i killed the first vendor (undead burg) and since i didn’t knew what souls really were, I actually lost a lot of them by just constantly dieing and not going back to pick them up. So I my first “vendor” was that iron smith dude otside of the forest. but even than i still enjoyed it.
      that battle with Sif is one of the most memorable boss battles i have ever experienced.

      #17 2 years ago
    18. Telepathic.Geometry

      Well done Dave man. Despite the fact that I have the plat, I’m actually not finished the DLC, so I can’t tell you my load out, although I am an absolutely stacked mage, with maxed intelligence and endurance, the best armor in the DLC (upgraded pretty far along), a +5 enchanted straight sword, fully upgraded crest shield, and my character looked like and was named after my ex, Mika. She was a bad-ass sorceress, and no mistake.

      Anyway, good job there Dave. /proper bow

      #18 2 years ago
    19. Dave Cook

      @18 nice effort on the Plat man, seriously well done!

      And thanks, it feels good. I’m now playing Demon’s Souls with greater appreciation than when I first bought the Black Phantom edition on day-one :)

      #19 2 years ago
    20. Dave Cook

      @17 I made Queelag’s Furysword, Smough’s Hammer and I think that was maybe it actually. I need to play the DLC now.

      #20 2 years ago
    21. cindayjon

      just as Scott answered I am surprised that someone can profit $5048 in 4 weeks on the internet. did you see this link,,,

      #21 2 years ago
    22. schnide

      Well done for crossing the line Dave, it’s a great feeling.. Now finish Demon’s Souls if you haven’t already. Both are great games, but I found the first game to be much harder since the second allows you to just run under or behind the majority of bosses and they weren’t anywhere near as much challenge as before.

      #22 2 years ago
    23. Dave Cook

      @22 Thanks :) I actually gave up on Demon’s Souls after buying it day-one in the UK. King Allant put me off, but I’m currently playing it through again, doing much-much better this time :)

      #23 2 years ago
    24. Clupula

      I beat the game a few weeks back and then found myself with no urge to do New Game+. I think it was how underwhelming the ending was. The journey was great, but then I felt like the end was just a step below “A winner is you.”

      My other big complaint was that the last boss battle went from super hard to super easy when I summoned Solaire to help me out during it. Gwyn focused almost completely on him, so he ended up becoming the easiest boss in the game with help. That was a bit disappointing.

      Overall, though, I do think the game itself was pretty damn great. Watching some of the lore videos on Youtube also made me realize how tragic most of the story is, and how little you of it you actually see unless you’re paying really, really close attention to everything.

      #24 2 years ago
    25. Clupula

      And I pretty much joined any covenant that was offered to me, pretty much for the trophies, yeah.

      #25 2 years ago
    26. stretch215

      Nice article man. I actually started dark souls a month or two ago, and it’s pretty much all I’ve played since. While the game definitely has it’s flaws (as said by #2) it’s probably my #1 game this gen, and I still haven’t beaten O&S. Those fuckers just keep on killing me! I thought about giving up, but instead I’m grinding out darkroot forest and exploiting those human enemies near the cat covenant for souls. Last time I had super smough down to less than a quarter health and he killed me with that fucking lightning jump. Bastard. I can’t wait to go back and bury those

      #26 2 years ago
    27. Dave Cook

      @26 thanks dude :)

      #27 2 years ago
    28. YoungZer0

      @5: Yeah, I did the same thing. Kind of liked the fact that our fair lady would get better the more souls you would sacrifice to her. I actually used the witch ring, which made her think I’m her sister.

      When I had all I wanted from her, I killed her. Disgusting creature.

      Are all of those 8 tattoo from games? I only got one. Need to have that fixed.

      btw. check out this channel:

      This is why I adore Dark Souls. The lore is just freaking fascinating.

      @17: Oh please stop, I completed the game when I understood how it works. That’s only possible through wikis.

      Which is another flaw of the game they are going to finally address in the second one. I enjoyed the experience, but it is far from a perfect game. I never summoned any help and I actually managed to kill the brothers on my third try, so *fartnoise*.

      @25: I think some of the youtubers overdo the drama a bit. If you believe their stories everyone in Dark Souls had good intentions and you’re the monster when you kill them.

      #28 2 years ago
    29. Clupula

      @28 – Which is exactly what I like about the lore. Most people usually have good intentions, in the real world, even when they’re doing something fucked up, and those often corrupt, so I liked that aspect of it. That my character is not necessarily the good guy in any of this.

      I don’t need to be heroic when I play a game. Of course, this could come back to our differing opinions on Kratos. lol

      As for needing a Wiki, though, I never used one and I managed to beat the game. There’s a whole lot of stuff I just had to figure out on my own as I played through it. I think I may have asked like two or three questions on GameFAQs and that was it for help. Didn’t know until after I beat the game that it was a bad idea to use the souls I got from bosses to level up.

      #29 2 years ago
    30. YoungZer0

      @29: Only discovered that half-way through so I guess I was lucky. Right before the end I made sure to visit and do all the things I could. Never bothered to replay the game.

      #30 2 years ago
    31. Telepathic.Geometry

      @25: You don’t need to actually join most of the covenants, only discover them. I’m hoping that they straighten out the covenants in Dark Souls II…

      #31 2 years ago
    32. redwood

      @29 yup.. that’s true.. the “not telling” part is a bitch honestly. I actually didn’t got THAT much stuck at SnO nearly as long as I got stuck at the bell demons(nearly threw away the game cause of those fuckers) and I also didn’t summon any help cause of my internet connection and you need to be human to summon solaire, which i could only use a couple of times…soooo… fart back at ya? I dunno how this works :P

      anyway yeah the wiki IS an issue the game needs to tell you more.

      #32 2 years ago
    33. manamana

      Congratulations Dave! O&S got me laying down the gamepad several times. I must say this game really shines with it’s gamedesign and I can not think of anything else that got me so hooked and immersed and yet at the same time didn’t let me sleep while following me into my dreams literally. I have high hopes for DS2.

      #33 2 years ago
    34. Talkar

      Little late to the party, but i too just finished Dark Souls!
      For me the toughest boss was The Bed of Chaos. Ornstein & Smough i managed to kill on my fourth try, and Gwyn i managed to beat on my 6th try.
      I think the only reason i didn’t die way more to Gwyn was because ever since the start of the game, i’ve been practicing parries whenever i felt i had enough spare estus flasks.
      But damn is it satisfying to finally have beaten this game! ^^

      #34 2 years ago
    35. Jackbauer293

      Very late to the party but at 3am this morning – having owned the game since launch – I managed to complete it.
      I completed it as a level 74 character so maybe that’s why I struggled with it taking me 80 hours to complete beginning to end – though likely a few hours were added Having left the game on while having a break from the frustration!
      Completely get what you mean with regard to endurance – I was at only about 24 with vitality at 30 and strength at 31. I also didn’t wear upgraded armour throughout the game, just mixing it up whenever I felt the need.
      Probably the most satisfaction I’ve ever had from a game, even though I was on the verge of never going back to it a few times.
      I’m not a skilled games player full stop but I hate ‘grinding’ – hence my relatively low level on completing the game. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken the time to reach a higher level, might have saved a few hours frustration.

      #35 1 year ago

    Comments are now closed on this article.

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