Dark Souls 3 doesn’t need easy mode – it already has one

By Brenna Hillier, Thursday, 28 April 2016 07:54 GMT

Should Dark Souls 3 be made accessible, so everyone can enjoy it? Dude: it already is.

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Dark Souls 3 is a challenging game, and that’s something of a shock to the system. After years of games polished to uniform smoothness, slick surfaces offering no traction as scripted events gently play themselves, to find yourself struggling with a story campaign is confronting.

There are shitheads all over the Internet who will tell you Dark Souls isn’t actually hard and you just need to Git Gud. Despite all the masochistic preening of Bandai Namco’s marketing throwing yourself at the game in self-flagellation is – not actually that fun.

Not everybody does struggle, of course. Those who master the balletic action combat of high level players – dodging with perfect timing, parrying and riposting, always landing backstabs – can sail through the game’s PvE content with ease and then throw themselves into humbling each other in PvP. They’ll often complain that everything but PvP is just too easy.

Good for them! They’re very skilled, either through natural talents or long practice. It’s wonderful that they can enjoy the game that way, diving into the constantly shifting meta to find the best combinations of attributes and equipments to increase their deadly grace. I applaud and salute them.

Now back to everyone else, which includes me. I’m not great at action games, and my inability to stay calm in any circumstances (I once had a panic attack at a yoga retreat) means I will probably never achieve the kind of zen flow you need to roll magnificently through even the nastiest of attacks at exactly the right time. Since every attack in a Dark Souls game (and Bloodborne and Demon’s Souls) is meaningful, getting hit, and not quite managing to hit back at the right time, makes combat stressful and deaths frequent.

There are shitheads all over the Internet who will tell you Dark Souls isn’t actually hard and you just need to Git Gud. Practicing until you can survive a particular enemy’s attacks is certainly one way to meet the challenge head on, but despite all the masochistic preening of Bandai Namco’s marketing and whatever invasion troll is messaging you to gloat at your discomfiture (and dismemberment), throwing yourself at the game in self-flagellation is – not actually that fun?

This launch trailer is full of spoilers but if you’re on the fence it may just lure you in.

For many of us, it’s not a matter of being wussy, or not being patient, or giving up too easily. It’s not that we don’t understand how good it feels to achieve something we’ve fought for, despite years of video games giving us trophies for successfully watching the opening cinematic.

It’s just that, given our limited leisure time, busy lifestyles and acknowledged limitations, the thought of spending 20, 50, 100 hours building muscle memory while dying over and over again is unappealing. We want to relax; we want to have fun; we want to feel good on our downtime, not be punished for not (or maybe no longer) having cat-like reflexes.

You want to experience this. But – ugh. You triumph once, and then the game immediately gets so, so much harder. Why would you persist with this? You don’t have to. Don’t. Stop it.

And yet: Dark Souls and its pals are really worth the effort. The lightly-sketched fantasy worlds are fascinatingly unlike others you’ve visited before. The environments are humbling in their beauty, majesty and (frequently) terror. The monster designs are so terrific that the dramatic (one time!) opening cutscene before a boss encounter may make your hair rise. The lore, communicated with a gentlest of touches and generated largely by your imagination in the gaps between dangling potential hooks, inspires frothing enthusiasm in a way discs full of diary pages and audio logs never could.

You want to experience this. Of course you do! You’re not immune to hype. But – ugh. You die and over and over on your way to the boss. You die over and over at the boss. You triumph once, and then the game immediately gets so, so much harder. Why would you persist with this?

You don’t have to. Don’t. Stop it. Stop letting grunts eat you up while you parry a split second too late. Stop rolling directly into attacks over and over again. Stop looking up expert advice and tricking yourself out with a great sword or twin blades or whatever else the Git Gud crowd is favouring. Just stop.

The Japanese launch trailer also contains spoilers, is also awesome.

Instead: get your little sister or your kid or your next door neighbour to beat the tutorial boss. After that, you may give up duelling forever. Get yourself a lovely big shield with 100% physical damage resistance and hold it up so that even when you fluff a dodge you don’t get hurt badly. Get yourself a bow and snipe anything stupid enough to let you (practically everything).

Cheese your way through every dungeon crawl (I will hold your hand the entire way, my darling; I really will). Dark Souls 3 makes it all so, so much more manageable with shorter journeys between bonfires, easily grokked equipment upgrades that won’t punish you for experimenting and generous resource drops.

When you get to a boss, call the Git Gud crowd; it’s their time to shine, it’s what they’re for. Run around activating every summon sign you see until something – two somethings! – arrives. Let those twitch-reflex players with endgame builds and the timing of angles come smash your scary foes. Do an emote to say “thank you”.

After that? Trot off to the next area with a smile on your lips, a song in your heart, and the knowledge that you almost never need to fight a blessed thing if you understand the wonderful gift From Software gave us with Dark Souls 3: it fixed its net code so you can co-op reliably. It gave us easy mode.

Don’t let anybody tell you you’re doing it wrong. You saw a problem and you found a solution. Challenge overcome.

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