Facing Our Demons: RPS Discuss Dark Souls, Difficulty And Death

Dark Souls III is a favourite here at RPS, but it hasn’t lit a fire in the hearts of the entire team. Recently, Alec jumped into the game, having observed the series from afar for some time, and shared his thoughts. He, Pip and Adam gathered to discuss the appeal of the series, and talked about its divergence from traditional RPG systems, the intimidation factor and the complicated nature of its much-debated difficulty.

Adam: Dark Souls III is probably going to be in my top three games of the year, despite the thousands of good games coming out this year. I’m continually surprised to see it selling quite as well as it does though, because so many people that I recommend the series to treat those recommendations as a form of sadism.

Pip: Do you curate who you recommend it to? I mean, there’s no point recommending it to me because I’ve tried the series and I just didn’t enjoy myself even when I got the hang of combat. Rang the first bell in the first game and felt done.

Adam: I do. Although people who have read my reviews of all three games in the actual Dark Souls series (still no Demons’ or Bloodborne for us PC folk, sadly) might take issue with that. A positive review is a recommendation and it’s tricky to walk that critical line between explaining precisely what the appeal of a game is while also wanting to celebrate it as a thing in and of itself. I feel similarly about Crusader Kings II, in that it’s one of my favourite games and I wish everyone could enjoy it in the same way that I do, but I have to temper that excitement and enthusiasm by recognising that – yes – these are games that some people will find frustrating and unappealing.

Obviously, I’m very pleased when people do find the fun, but I wouldn’t spend a great deal of effort trying to convince people to push on if they’re really not enjoying the experience of the game in the early stages. I thought Alec might walk away at one point last week when he started to dig into the third game and was surprised to return from a press trip and find that he was playing Dark Souls I, having broken through some barrier in III.

Pip: So, the thing I would say is that no game is for absolutely everyone, regardless of how broadly it is aimed so I just factor that into reviews anyway, But it seems to be a particular consideration when it comes to Dark Souls – do you think there’s something peculiar to that game which is hard to communicate about the appeal and who might like it?

Adam: I think a lot of it comes down to its apparent genre and the aesthetic. It’s a weird slant on the kind of fantasy worlds that populate Dungeons and Dragons and so many other RPGs, but it’s still recognisable. It’s a game where you play a knight or a wizard or a barbarian, and then you hit monsters with swords and spells until they fall over. And it’s an RPG.

Anyone who likes those things – and that’s a huge portion of the people who play PC games – might look at Dark Souls and think, “this is for me”. And it is, in many cases. But its combat system and the way that it treats death and levelling up, and even traversing the world and making choices, are so peculiar that it doesn’t fit into the genre quite as neatly as people might expect. On some levels, it’s far more abstract than a typical RPG and on others it’s far more tangible – the combat, for instance, is more like a beat ‘em up than a traditional RPG, in terms of the importance of positioning, parries and movement rather than stats and skillsets. Those things matter as well, but it’s an action game in a way that Dragon Age or Baldur’s Gate aren’t.

And that’s why people talk about ‘Souls games’ almost as a genre. It’s becoming like roguelikes – there are elements that lend themselves to other genres in a very loose way but the thing itself is very precise. In an ideal world, RPGs would be so varied that Dark Souls wouldn’t be quite so surprising; there’d be all kinds of different fantasy hack ‘n’ slashers, and it’d be one more unusual experience to add to the pile.

Pip: So with that in mind do you think it’s actually a hard game or do you think that people go in with particular expectations because of how it looks and how games which went before it worked and then those expectations don’t work out. Like, is it difficult or is it more about people having to work to overcome pre-formed gaming habits/genre conventions…?

Alec: Speaking as someone who, until just a few days ago, was convinced that there was no way this could ever be for me, it’s turned my whole concept of ‘difficult’ on its head.

It is about breaking habits and it is punishing, but it’s not punishing in a ‘here is our ridiculous hard mode with a stupid name like ‘nightmare’ and where every enemy has a gazillion hitpoints’ way. It’s about epiphany; you bang your head against the wall so many times then suddenly it gives way.

And it only has to give way once, is what I’m finding. Things suddenly fell into place, and now any other boss I find might still have me swearing but I simply don’t think “fuck this, this is impossible.” I believe I can do it. It’s about taking a step into something else, not an ongoing cruelty.

Pip: Listening to friends and colleagues talk about Dark Souls, and watching Alice play it a bit (while muted because she insists on doing her soothing voice which ARGH) it strikes me that the most important skills are actually patience and observation rather than anything else. And while it’s never hooked me, it also didn’t strike me as impossible, it’s more that I prefer to get that experience of patience and observation paying off in puzzle games. That’s why I was so keen on Stephen’s Sausage Roll. It’s peculiarly similar in those ways, I think.

Adam: I’d absolutely agree that patience and observation are the skills to master. What I find interesting is that the series has built up this kind of mythological quality – it’s intimidating and it wants people to approach it with a sort of nervous anticipation. You see these enormous, grotesque creatures – and even humanoid characters that tower above you – and you expect them to have a gazillion hitpoints. There’s this lovely parallel between the aesthetic of the world, which is intimidating as HELL, and the way that the game is observed and appreciated as a thing. I love that, but I think it’s also responsible for pushing people away who get the wrong idea about how the difficulty is actually knitted through the systems.

Alec: Something that I don’t think is said often enough Dark Souls – especially when talking about ‘difficulty’ is that it’s actually very, very simple. This was why rockists got upset about our declaring it the best RPG: it throws out so much of what conventionally makes a roleplaying game or even some action games in favour of this absolute focus on the purity of combat, with a few initially opaque upgrade systems hung around it. And that means it all becomes about flow; fight, push on a bit, gain souls, spend souls, lose souls, reclaim souls, repeat. An ever-widening circle of the same few things, but you’re quietly, naturally learning locations and enemy behaviours in the process, without actually having to try to. There really isn’t much to it: it is about patience and perseverance and atmosphere.

Adam: I won’t try to argue that it has enormously complicated elements beneath that first layer but there is a point when you realise you’ve peeled it back and seen this whole skeleton underneath, with factions to join, characters’ fates to decide and NPCs to harass/help/hinder or fall victim to. That’s the more abstract layer; the combat is the way that you progress but there are complexities to your other interactions with the world that only become apparent much later. Which, again, is one of those things that isn’t going to please a lot of people, and also one of those things that some people will never discover even if they enjoy the game.

Hell, I still haven’t touched the multiplayer for more than a couple of hours this time around and there’s an entire culture growing up around that, creating their own ways to play. Alice knows more about any of that side of the game than I do though. If you’re a novice, Alec, I’m pretty sure Alice makes me look like I’m about one step ahead of you.

Alec: Haha, yes, I’m like the first boy in class to have sex who then instantly behaves as if he’s a smoking jacket-clad love expert. “Ask me anything lads. Wait, what’s a clitoris?”

Adam: “Sometimes there is more than one person involved.” “WHAAAAT?” Also, sometimes you realise that taking your armor off is really liberating.

Alec: I have barely begun, and that is exciting. Though I hope my natural inclination to bail on things that take too long doesn’t get the better of me.

Adam: Last time we spoke, you were still at the point at which you were cursing the game and seemed unsure whether you’d continue. Can you identify at point at which it clicked? Or was it a gradual appreciation?

Alec: Think I said this in my piece about DS3, but it was only when I gave up and declared my repeated failure to beat the first boss on Twitter that I was able to do it. I didn’t feel stressed and angry the next time, because I thought my time with the game was basically done, and it just seemed to unlock a certain flow.

Suddenly, I seemed able to dodge him, and keep it up – not turn into a frantic mess of furious, doomed slashing if he hit me once. I don’t entirely understand it. But it was in the act of beating that big, infini-axe bastard, of realising I could do what I had thought it impossible, that suddenly I was awash with the spirit of perseverance.

Adam: I came in way back when with Demons’ Souls and whether it’s because I wasn’t tuned into the conversations around it or whether it’s because there were fewer conversations to be had back then, I never went through any of these thought processes. I wanted to carry on because I found the world so interesting and every new creature was a new challenge as well as a creepy contribution to the lore. It fascinated me but I’d never have expected a pile of sequels, or for those sequels to become bestsellers on Steam.

Alec: Going back to what Pip was saying about puzzle games, I think there’s absolutely a crossover both in philosophy and in terms of what your brain does if you determine that you will continue. I had this with The Witness (which I haven’t finished): there were a couple of early puzzles that just drove me spare, had me convinced that there wasn’t a way into this game, then suddenly I worked them out and the whole world seemed open to me, psychologically speaking.

As in DS3, I felt that I could do it rather than that I was being presented with cruelly insurmountable obstacles, and that made me excited to continue, as opposed to nervous and angry about hitting another roadblock. And, as with Dark Souls, before I actually played the Witness I was absolutely convinced that I could not enjoy it.

Adam: Weirdly, and I’ve mentioned this before, I found The Talos Principle really easy to get to grips with but the puzzles in The Witness completely baffle me. I can watch solutions on YouTube and still not understand why a thing worked.

If only I could hit the puzzle-grids with a claymore.

Do you feel that jumping in at DS3 has been satisfying, or do you want to go back and start from the beginning? I’d recommend starting with 1 and possibly skipping 2 (even though it’s a very good game, particularly in Scholar of the First Sin edition) and heading straight to 3. The first one informs this new one in lots of interesting ways.

Alec: Yeah, my DS3 campaign is benched while I (very slowly) play 1 in my (very limited) free time. I want to know it and know it well first, both so I can talk more authoritatively about the series and so that I can see how 3 builds upon it, or fails to. Plus RPS Chum Keza MacDonald – co-author of You Died: The Dark Souls Companion, donchaknow – was telling me that mid/later bosses in DS3 do turn into nightmare punishment bastards for the kind of fast, slashy character I’ve been going for, whereas apparently 1 has more leeway there. I’m not ready to be a big, slow kinda guy yet.

Adam: Dark Souls III is one of the most interesting sequels I’ve ever played, but to say why might plant me in spoiler territory. It’s a fascinating approach to the problem of doing the same thing over and over again though, which is entirely fitting given that the whole series is sort of about the problem of doing things over and over again. Live, die, repeat and all that. It is, in a way that appeals to me so much that it’s embarrassing, an apparent commentary on the mechanics as well as the lore.

That’s why it’s the best sequel to the best RPG of all time.

Alec: Another reason I went back to 1 instead of continuing with 3 is that I was sniffily talking to Keza about the lore, and how I felt the rapturous dissections of what it all means you see all over the internet were just people trying to inteljustify hundreds of hours spent twatting things with a sword to themselves.

While she’s rather more J-game-reverent than I am generally, I decided to take her seriously. I was previously thinking it’s basically like WoW, where people get really, really into the fiction because they want to feel that fighting the same dungeon boss a thousand times over actually meant something, but that ‘mythic’ word came up, that it’s more like the opaque, strange, lyrical journey of Beowulf than the dull info-splurge of The Silmarillion, and that interests me more. I want to see if there’s something to it, that it can feel like a true legend and not just a horrible fan wiki.

Adam: It’s a fantasy story without exposition and for that I will always love it. You’re like an archaeologist, piecing together fragments of a world that has fallen over.

Alec: I think I’m going to fall over now, if that’s OK. Up too late in the Undead Burgs, I was.

Adam: That’s fine. The most generous thing about Dark Souls – and people don’t give it enough credit for its generosity – is that it’ll always pick you up and throw you back into the fight.

For more Dark Souls thoughts, check out our boss guide, fashion guide and review, as well as the lovely links scattered through this article.


  1. Jokerme says:

    I recommended Souls series to a friend of mine continuously throughout the years. He is a good gamer, he is open minded when it comes to trying different genres too, but when it came to Dark Souls he was being really stubborn.

    His first reaction for DS1 was “it looks like shit.” A few months later he was talking about how he read controls on PC were terrible and the game was running terrible. Some time later his excuse was game had no interesting environments, it was “full of caves and stuff.”

    When DS2 came out, he was still going with “it doesn’t look good,” also environment were not “detailed enough.” He is an amateur game developer, so he pays attention to these things. These comments were making me crazy of course.

    His new criticism was “sword fighting doesn’t look fun.” Next it was “dodging is all you do” and next “it looked boring to play in a medieval setting.”

    Before DS3 came out I was constantly talking about it apparently. He was getting annoyed and calling me a fanboy. Expectedly though, it had an effect on him and he started checking out the screenshots and trailers. Those things apparently broke through his tick skin and he started saying things like “it doesn’t look too bad.”

    Long story short, he has been playing DS3 since day one, at least four hours a day. He is playing some NG+ and constantly bugging me with how he killed some boss, found a new item etc.

    The point is Dark Souls games don’t have a good repetition. This guy new all about it, he watched lots of videos of the games for years, but they had no effect. He played DS3 for a few hours and now he is a die hard fan.

    “Prepare to Die” is not a good phrase to tack on your game. “Prepare to be amazed/engrossed” is more like it.

    • SlimShanks says:

      I have a friend like this, although he hasn’t played the damn games yet. It seems like a lot of people have to find ways to dismiss things that they feel are out of their reach, to avoid FOMO (fear of missing out).
      In the case of Dark Souls, I think people are afraid of failure, but are annoyed that so many others are having great fun. Then they latch onto any negative thing they can find about the game to justify their point of view.
      Ultimately, playing up the hardcore aspect of the games only inflames this, and it is a shame, but people also need to get over their FOMO and stop the hate. It would be nice if I could talk about a game I really like without getting into arguments.

      • Jokerme says:

        And when they actually play the game they can see that there is no failure. If you spend your souls as you gain them, there is almost zero penalty in DS. Going back to a checkpoint is hardly a setback as gameplay is so much fun and fights are always a blast. Also that’s the point anyway. You play Dark Souls to find new things, explore all areas and most importantly to how fun swinging your shiny sword.

        • Andy_Panthro says:

          The gameplay is generally fun, apart from places like Blighttown, toxic blowdarts, basilisks and curses, and those goddamn bonewheel skeletons!

          • Smoof says:

            Even those are fun! I was recently beating my head against some Basilisks in DS3 for a day or two, when suddenly I realized the “easy” way to get beyond them.

            Not to mention, it’s so satisfying to take out those skeleton wheel bastards. I feel fucking triumphant when I’ve got their tricks down and can negate them through my own clever play.

      • X_kot says:

        Not to make excuses for others, but my personal reason for not playing DS is because my reflexes and timing in 3D games is dreadful. 2D stuff, not a problem: love games like Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon. But my brain cannot interpret 3D animations to my hands fast enough to react. Same goes for FPS.

        The world of DS looks gorgeous, though, and I might give it a go if I can get some kind of godmode cheat and just stroll through the land.

        • C0llic says:

          It’s not as tough as you may think. The only really high skill stuff in terms of timing is parrying, but you can play just easily with some prudent dodging and keeping your shield up. Lack of patience is what usually gets you killed in a Dark Souls game. And if you aren’t full of grim determination to beat a boss on your own, you can find help for that too.

          • Andy_Panthro says:

            There are plenty of situations where having your shield up and trying to just block your way through slowly just isn’t going to end well, especially on bosses and certain enemy types.

            I also found it hard to find help for certain bosses when playing last year, perhaps because there aren’t a lot of people playing it these days (unlike in Dark Souls 3, which has tons of helpful people at the moment).

        • stairmasternem says:

          Fan boy of the series from day one, also horrible with reflexes. Dark Souls 1 and 2 aren’t very horrible to poor reflexes when it comes to basic level enemies, but the bosses can be bad. That’s why summons are there though. If you can get one to two summoned players, those can go pretty well also. Just a warning though, summoned help in Souls 1 seems to be much rarer.

          Dark Souls 3 really made normal enemies dangerous though. IF you do want a go at the games, I would probably give the first two Dark Souls entries a try before the third. I’ve got two games of learning in me and my reflexes still aren’t great to reacting to enemies in 3.

          • Poldovico says:

            A bit of timing stuff was changed in 3, mainly to do with parrying. It doesn’t feel like it should be different, but it actually is ever so slightly, which might throw you off your game.
            Also, the fact that Poise is borked desn’t help.

          • Rumpelstiltskin says:

            As we already know from the Sunday papers, the poise thing is not a bug, it’s an auteur design decision to make the game more challenging. It only looks like a bug, because the devs didn’t want to openly ditch an established feature of the series, and also wanted to punish lazy players who thought poise was still in and relied on heavy armour. Which really is a pretty clever ruse.

    • aepervius says:

      I played demon soul and dark soul 1 , and the fighting system is not for me. Usually by the time I see the danger I am unable to press quickly enough the dodge or block. Really the same reason why I stopped playing FPS really, my hands cramps and that’s probably the reason why I am more of a fan of turn based or pause based rpg , puzzle game and strategy where my own dexterity has no import whatsoever. The environment and bosses look pretty though so I don’t understand the complaints.

    • Rumpelstiltskin says:

      “The point is Dark Souls games don’t have a good repetition.”

      So true. There’s plenty of repetition, but it’s pretty bad and annoying in its unnecessarity.

      • Jokerme says:

        Welp, I can’t fix my mistakes on RPS. This place is Dark Souls of gaming websites.

  2. SlimShanks says:

    I wonder if we can ever have enough Dark Souls articles? Naaah… That said, it would be more appropriate if these articles could be left as soapstone messages on my floor rather than on the internet but oh well.
    It’s a shame that too much accessibility would ruin the Souls formula, because I wish all gamers could enjoy this series like I do, and not have to miss out.

    • csbear says:

      The DS series (including Bloodborne) has become pretty mainstream for sure. It is amazing considering how it came from a somewhat niche background. Well, considering DS3 could be the last of the series, Miyazaki closed out with a great game. In fact, it is arguable that if DS3 was the first one to come out, minds would have been blown even more. I have not finished yet, but I am starting to believe that DS3 is Dark Souls perfected. And I never thought the first game could be outdone. Let’s see what I think when I finish the game.

      Just like Alec initially, Dark Souls is a game for me that just shouldn’t click. I guess at my ripe age I prefer the turn-based RPGs and less of the actiony ones. On top of that, the repetitive nature of the game and its hardcore boss fights is another aspect which would typically scare me. However, I just can’t stop playing due to the ambiance Miyazaki conveys and the rush I get when beating each boss, no matter how much I want to skip it. Although not a graphical tour de force like Witcher 3, DS is quite beautiful in its dark ways.

  3. klo3 says:

    So glad Dks clicked for you Alec.

    The way you describe calmness and flow is spot on, and the advice Adam is giving on starting with DkS is sound advice indeed!

    Of the friends I’ve thought the souls games would work for, none has yet tried them but the revelation you described is something I wished them to experience.

  4. zind says:

    DS3 was frustrating for a while, then fun for a while, then boring for long enough that I stopped.

    While it was fun, the gaming experience that I found it most relatable to was Hotline Miami. I have been thinking about buying the Prima guide or something to try it again – the exploration was what eventually wore on me, and I got too obsessed with making sure I was going the ‘right’ way while also not missing anything that I ended up running the same parts of the wall so many times I just wasn’t having fun anymore.

    The people I talked to about it either left it at “git gud” or the slightly more charitable “well that’s part of the fun and challenge, I don’t want to spoil it for you” and the most concrete advice I got was “make sure you don’t miss [thing I hadn’t found yet]” which only intensified my issues.

    Still though, I’m enjoying these posts – makes me feel like one day I might actually be able to understand the appeal, and even enjoy them for myself.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I’m playing Dark Souls 3 on PS4, mainly because I have a friend who can help me out with any of the tricky parts and bosses (although often there are other phantoms available). Without his help, I’d probably not bother. I kinda stalled in Dark Souls 1 on PC because my skill level isn’t quite good enough, and there just weren’t enough friendly phantoms out there to help with tricky boss fights.

  5. Laurentius says:

    Tried first Ds, was unplayable on m+k. I didn’t bother with next instalments as it seems it is game designd fo gamepads and I lack this perihperial but probably it’s for a good as these games seem to be not my cup of tea anyaway (repeatedly dying is probably last thing i crave from video games).

    • Urthman says:

      I’ve beaten DS1 with mouse and keyboard and it almost feels like cheating. Having so much better control of the camera feels like an enormous advantage, it’s much easier to watch out for surprises, keep focused on enemies, and switch from one enemy to another.

    • popej says:

      It’s a lot better with DSMfix ( link to pages.cs.wisc.edu ) but yeah, it is designed largely with gamepads in mind. Dark souls 2 and 3 are much much better out of the box with m+k though.

      I keep meaning to try m+k because I reckon it’d be really enjoyable with bows/crossbows but I haven’t really got round to it.

  6. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Dark Souls is undoubtedly hard, but I think it’s clear that the difficulty isn’t intended to be the end-all be-all of the games, at least those made by Miyazaki. For one thing, he’s said as much in interviews. For another, you can look at the games themselves. Bloodborne and Dark Souls III both have poison swamp areas, but nothing on par with Blighttown. There’s nothing in those games like the ghosts that can only be killed while you’re cursed, a status effect that itself has become less devastating. There are no one-off rolling balls like that one that’s there to throw you off on your first approach to the Taurus Demon. The upgrade system is dramatically simplified. The list goes on and on.

    Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the summoning system, which has been made easy to the point that you can use passwords to play with whoever you’d like. You can play almost the entire game co-op, though you have to do every area two to three times (once for each player), which just means both players get more souls. Even offline players still have access to NPC summons, though DSIII is currently a bit lacking in this compared to Bloodborne, which provides one or more summons for virtually every boss.

    So while the difficulty cannot be ignored, I think it’s very important to note that the game really isn’t trying to be impossible and bear that in mind when recommending it to a new player.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      I also noticed boss locations in DS3 are reachable in small time from a bonfire except maybe Vordt unlike say Seath where you had to pass the entire crystal cave and the damned molluscs at the end.

  7. Anthile says:

    The difficulty of Dark Souls has always been more of a marketing thing than anything else. In many ways it functions like any other classic RPG: you get your head kicked in early on but you steadily get more powerful and breeze through the endgame. I don’t think it’s that much more difficult than, say, Gothic. The difference is that Dark Souls is considerably more punishing and doesn’t allow you to savescum.
    I played through Dragon’s Dogma’s hard mode when it came out and for the first ten or twenty levels or so any attack would kill you from full health in a single hit, including bumping into ambient creatures. Dark Souls is nothing like that, it doesn’t even have a nominal hard mode or anything like that.
    It’s easy to make a hard game, just crank up the numbers but it’s even harder to make such a game enjoyable. There is a clear intent and purpose behind Dark Souls’ difficulty.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Yeah like in Diablo 3 which isn’t a skill-based game to begin with the release inferno difficulty was according to popular legend designed like this (quoted)
      “Internally, we had this super hardcore test group – we’ve got a lot of hardcore players at Blizzard – that tested Inferno, and we got it to the point where they thought it was challenging enough,” Blizzard’s Jay Wilson told IGN.
      “Then we doubled it. Because we knew, no matter how good we are, our players are gonna be better. We focussed on making that as difficult as we could make it.”

      Yeah just double life and damage – developement finished.

  8. Melody says:

    Link dropping is basically the only thing I do in the comments these days, but Adam’s piece started quite the conversation among game critics (Chris Franklin/Errant Signal, Matt Lees, Cameron Kunzelman, Stephen Beirne, Joe Koller). And I think it’s been an interesting conversation.

    I’ll link to this one, not only because it’s my favourite and I agree with it, but because it contains all the links and a useful summary to the discussion as a whole.
    link to normallyrascal.com

    And also this one, which came after Beirne’s piece.
    link to medium.com

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I’m definitely pro-easy mode, and DkS3 is an odd beast in that I find the game slightly faster and more difficult than the first one (I’m about 50% through 1+3), but after you get to firelink shrine you can basically co-op the entire game.

      The main problem with using co-op as the easy mode is that it becomes more difficult as the game gets older and there become fewer and fewer people playing.

      • Emeraude says:

        It’s interesting, because while I certainly agree about the faster – took me a few hours to get fingers to adapt to the new faster pace of the game, coming off DS1 right off the bat – I find the game a lot easier, and more importantly, a lot less oppressive – which is a quality I really enjoy about DS games so far.

        I’m doing a no level-up Deprived run so far, which I don’t think I could have done with the other two in the series.
        Part of it of course is that I know most of the systems in play by now. Another, though, I think, is that the game does a lot of work empowering you in more or less subtle ways.

        You’re not really feeling like a desperate undead nobody in DS3. You’re some kind of Epic hero rising from the grave.

  9. _Nocturnal says:

    I’ve got one word for everyone having trouble getting into Dark Souls:


    You find a cool one, you put it on the background and the game suddenly opens up to you. You won’t miss anything – there’s next to no dialogue and music. And you won’t care if you get killed and have to play through the same area again, because you’re listening to a cool podcast. It’s the perfect solution!

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I would do this, only I can’t concentrate on the game and concentrate on what’s being said on a podcast. Music is fine, but if I actually want to hear what someone is talking about it’s no good at all. That said, it’s fine if I’m grinding for souls, because then I’m going to be in an area that I’m confident about and with enemies I have dealt with before.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      Actually I’d probably recommend watching a few youtube videos, that’s how I finally decided to jump in. I went with Extra Credits: link to youtube.com but I’d also recommend Crate & Crowbar: link to youtube.com

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      I’d rather have some slow doom or gothic music in the background which fits the melancholic athmosphere. Although the ingame music score is neat.

    • ffordesoon says:

      I support this suggestion wholeheartedly.

  10. WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

    “This was why rockists got upset about our declaring it the best RPG: it throws out so much of what conventionally makes a roleplaying game or even some action games in favour of this absolute focus on the purity of combat, with a few initially opaque upgrade systems hung around it.”

    Let me deputise for Wizardry in his absence: this above quote is a bit like saying “This was why motorists got upset about our declaring it the best car: it throws out so much of what conventionally makes a car or even some buses in favour of this absolute focus on wings, jet engines, elevators and a rudder”.

    Now, all sorts of facile definitions of Role Playing Game get trotted out these days by the memerati, most usually the hackneyed “but you PLAY a ROLE, DUH”, but back in the day the whole point of an RPG was that the player’s mechanical skill with the controls of the game was not relevant to the game being played, and instead a stat check would be applied to see if the action being performed could be done. Hence, there was no wall-jumping or spread control in Fallout 1, as there was a stat for dexterity and a stat for guns. You can’t just say that Dark Souls throws people off by being a test of mechanical skill rather than stat checks, because it is precisely that that renders it not an RPG. It’s a Character Action Game, a perfectly good label that everyone agrees on and describes the genre to a tee.

    I’m sure that lots of replies to this comment will be adamant that times of changed and nowadays Battlefield Hardline totally counts as an RPG or whatever, but frankly I (and Wizardry, lord love him) have always disagreed on this and always will. Open your heart to The Codex, my children, and you will become The Codex.

    • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

      That should of course say “times HAVE changed”, but I keep forgetting that the edit button went the way of the Dodo.

    • baozi says:

      This. At best it’s an Action-RPG, that is, an action game with RPG elements.

  11. qrter says:



    Just.. no.

  12. Unsheep says:

    It’s not about “facing your demons” though. To claim people are afraid of challenge simply because they don’t want to play Dark Souls is just silly.

    People like ‘different kinds’ of challenge; solving puzzles, mastering a flight simulator, surviving as long as possible in a survival game, outsmarting enemies in a strategy game and so on.

    Not everybody likes playing flight simulators, yet that doesn’t mean they are “afraid of facing their demons”. It simply means they are not interested in these kind of games and don’t enjoy playing them.

    We accept this rudimentary logic when it comes to other games, yet somehow the myth has built up around Dark Souls that people who don’t want to play these games are somehow “afraid of failure”, as EpicNameBro puts it.

    Motivational elements are crucial in games, it makes people stick to a game and finish it. This too varies between people. For some people the storyline is the strongest motivational factor, for others it’s exploration and so on. The fact remains that Dark Souls does not have strong enough motivational elements to suit everybody, no game has that.

    People don’t question a person who lacks the motivation to finish a puzzle game or racing simulator, instead they make assumptions based on their own preferences;’well of-course you couldn’t finish it, puzzles games are…’.

    Yet again with Dark Souls, people constantly question why others don’t feel motivated to play the games anymore, they question the validity of their disinterest and boredom.

    Such is the cult around Dark Souls that it has become unspeakable for anyone to genuinely not enjoy these games: ‘of-course you will like it, you just haven’t played it long enough’ is the only explanation their brains can think of.

    It has become far too silly to expect everyone to enjoy a Dark Souls game, it carries the assumption that there is something wrong with those who don’t want to play them or don’t enjoy them.

    Last but not least. The Souls games did not invent ‘the challenging game’. Might & Magic VI on Normal difficulty is just as punishing, if not more. In fact the vast majority of older games are more difficult than the Souls games, including FromSoft’s own King’s Field games on the PS2. So if anything the Souls games have only re-popularized the challenge offered by older games.

    • popej says:

      But they are ‘that’ good.


    • Arglebargle says:

      ‘Bang your head against a wall’ gameplay is not my preference. It appears as a hairshirt game to me. Not my preference as an RPG, since the character has your reflexes instead of the character’s.

      Too much console style design as well.

      DS just ticks too many negative boxes for me, even if they are positive boxes for other gamers. Perfectly happy for other folks to love it though: Not everyone has to like the same stuff.

  13. emertonom says:

    I bounced off Dark Souls at just about the same point as Pip. I killed those stupid gargoyles, rang the bell, and soon I kept dying in this garden-y area and I just got fed up.

    Mostly it’s that the bosses do so much damage that the battles don’t permit more than one or two mistakes–and that means you don’t have much chance to watch and learn their patterns, so you don’t know what “not a mistake” is. And then you have to fight through the level again, every time, exactly the same. You’re expected to learn through experimentation, but experimentation is discouraged. There are bosses you can beat by exploiting glitches in their behavior or the environment, and this feels like it’s more or less encouraged, because the alternative is this extremely punishing loop of dying and learning very little.

    I know people love it, but I just can’t enjoy it. A game like VVVVVVV or Mega Man Zero is hard, but not punishing. Those I like. Dark souls just doesn’t feel good to me.

    • Ragnar says:

      I agree with everything you just said. Dark Souls borrows the WoW raid design – clear a bunch of trash mobs to get to the boss, die to the boss, have to clear the trash mobs again for another attempt. Dark Souls’ trash mobs are just a lot more lethal, and could kill you on the way to the boss, thus costing you your souls and even more time.

      Yes, each time you do so, you’re able to do it a little faster. And it does make you fear death, and reinforce that you’re in a hostile world. But it seems designed more to pad out play time than anything else. Dark Souls is not respective of your time.

      The bosses are the main event, but you spend far more time getting to the bosses than you do actually fighting them. I think it’s because if they had placed checkpoints before the bosses, Dark Souls would be a 10 hour game instead of a 50 hour epic.

  14. Chillicothe says:

    “It is about breaking habits and it is punishing, but it’s not punishing in a ‘here is our ridiculous hard mode with a stupid name like ‘nightmare’ and where every enemy has a gazillion hitpoints’ way. It’s about epiphany; you bang your head against the wall so many times then suddenly it gives way.

    And it only has to give way once, is what I’m finding. Things suddenly fell into place, and now any other boss I find might still have me swearing but I simply don’t think “fuck this, this is impossible.” I believe I can do it. It’s about taking a step into something else, not an ongoing cruelty.”

    I’m saving this for later, but at this point, I don’t think I’ll use it for its usual use.

  15. Robomonk says:

    There’s a person who has played it all: Demon Souls, Darks Souls and Bloodborne – racking up hundreds and hundreds of hours with multiple play-through (new game pluses). He’s done different challenges too: speed runs, naked runs, broken sword runs and no heal runs. He even installed increased difficulty mod for Dark Souls. He’s tried to write down his theories on the lores as well.

    Several things he doesn’t get about parts of the community is the aggressive “get good” attitude and also needing to play the game as it is to full appreciate it. At the same time, he doesn’t believe in the idea of wanting to convince people that the way he feels will be same for others if only they persevere with it.

    Strangely, he thinks that the game could have various modes (mostly for offline). He describes it as Tourist Mode (or Walking Sim), where people can admire what is created, read the items, talk to NPCs, but they won’t be able to fight or be killed. Would people experience the whole game? He admits it clearly that they won’t, but that’s fine, because their experience has no impact on him.

    He compares it travelling in real life. A person can go to France and not eat the local food and just see the scenery. They’ll still get to experience parts of it.

    As for me, after getting killed fifty plus times by the tutorial boss, I decided to go in naked and by some freak chance, I got through. Then I put the controller down and wasn’t able to use the keyboard the next day.

  16. zsd says:

    Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. Alec loved Dark Souls.