Friday, December 5, 2014

First Impressions: Dark Souls - Prepare to Die Edition (PC)

So there is this game that I have heard a lot of talk about for the past year or two and last year when I saw it on sale through one Steam sale or another, I thought I would pick it up.  The idea of playing in a fantasy world with massive bosses that would be pretty difficult seemed appealing.  There was also something about a dark atmosphere and/or setting that peaked my interest as well.  Dark Souls is this game.  Dark Souls II was also brought up in a recent episode of Extra Credits, which I think the real inspiration to give this game a go came from.

Sometime last week after Conklederp had finished playing Skyrim for the night, I thought I'd start up Dark Souls as my mouse was on the other side of the room and when I first booted up the game a few months back, I knew that it would be a game that I would have to play with a controller; just take a look at the keyboard configurations required:


I felt like I was looking at keyboard set up for a flight simulator (I'm looking at you DCS World).  Just the fact that there were separate keyboard commands for the camera movement was one of the key factors for me playing the game with the controller.  Because of Goldeneye 007, I knew that I could not personally move around a camera/field of vision with buttons, the controls had to either be a mouse or a joystick.  I am simply not that coordinated.

Once I got to this stage, it was time to create a character.  Jump to me now playing my fourth character (female knight for those who want to know), and I now feel like I did something wrong in the item picking stage.  I chose the "Tiny Being's Ring" as the description said that it would increase HP slowly over time, which I read to be that your HP regenerates.  As it turns out, "Tiny Being's Ring" only increases your existing HP by 5%.  Maybe I should have chosen an item that better suited towards being a knight?  The Internets are apparently telling me that the Master Key is the item to go with for almost every class (except the Thief, which it comes equipped with).  Blarg.

Presently I am about three and-a-half hours into the game and I could not really tell you the storyline.  There is an intro cinematic that went into the an origin story of some god-like figures and their war against the dragons (who are made of rock/stone) with the help of one scaleless dragon.  The game starts with your character waking up/coming to after being tossed in a dungeon cell.  And you are already dead.  Apparently being dead is something that remains constant during the game and I do not just mean that you die a lot, which also does happen quite frequently.  You do have the ability to make yourself whole or human (ie: not dead, I think), but the reason to do that is to be "taken over" by other people playing online, or so that you can team up with other people who are also playing online, I am not really sure on either point as nothing was mentioned in-game about this.

What this all boils down to, is that I do not get this game.  Yes, it is a beautifully created game with some wonderful vistas and the architecture of the structures is massive and imposing.  If it was not that I was dying/being killed every 20 minutes, I would probably be having more fun.  Additionally, dying would not be that big of an issue if all the souls collected from killing hollows (aka: enemies) were not "lost" after you are killed, but that seems to be a core aspect of the game.  Granted, those souls could be picked back up if you make it back to the spot where you died to retrieve them, but all the enemies have also respawned.  The enemies always respawn any time you rest/heal at a bonfire (which also acts as a checkpoint).  

Screen cap during my third character who was a male warrior; not the female knight I keep referring to.

At this point, I want to progress with the game, but I feel that I am just too weak to venture out far enough so that I am not killing the same 10 enemies over and over.  Grinding required?  Three hours with this one character, seven hours overall and again, I do not understand this game.  I find it very frustrating venturing out into this demonized world only far enough to kill a handful of enemies before having to trudge all the way back to the closest bonfire, save and then deal with the exact same enemies all over again.

I also apparently do not understand ranged combat in this game.  From what I have experienced, in order to fire your ranged weapon (knives, crossbow, long bow), you have to lock on to your target, but you are unable to lock onto enemies who the game considers to be too far away.  Which defeats the purpose of having a bow, at least in my opinion.  Enemies on the other hand will chuck firebombs (clay jars filled with oil that are set on fire) indefinitely at you because of course they do.

Hand-to-hand combat is also something that I have an issue with.  Each character has a standard and powerful attack.  Each class (at least between the warrior and the knight) has different animations for their attacks, but it is the same every time.  I found this out while doing a strong attack with the knight.  The knight's strong attack is a lunge forward while swinging the sword across the horizon from back to front.  Every time.  Whereas the warrior lunges with his sword in a lunging motion.  I found this very worrisome considering that a fair portion of the combat takes place around cliffs, precipices and rooftops.  And you can very easily fall off while being surrounded in a cloud of flame thrown from a pyromancer and being attacked by some measly grunt and all you are trying to do is kill said pyromancer and in the course of the game catching up with the last time you pressed the attack button, the young knight plummets off the rooftop to die some hundred feet below.

You can also fall/die in large pools of water where your bloodstain will not show up, because fucking Dark Souls.  Also it makes sense that a bloodstain would not be floating on a body of water.

If you could not tell, I am not sure if I will continue with this game.  I know there will be (are) people who will say that the game is not about story, that it is a hack-and-slash that is supposed to be difficult and that you have to play at least 10 hours before the game starts getting good.  Maybe I am just getting old when feel that I do not have 10 hours to spend on a game to figure out if I like it or not.


P.S.  And in the point between writing this article and its posting, I have created two additional characters, a male pyromancer and a female sorcerer to get a feel for the magick based characters and see if I enjoy the game even more.  Týr knows why I keep giving this game a chance.  Maybe it does have it hooks in me and I just don't know it yet.


  1. Once you get to the main world, as I'm guessing you have because you mention cliffs, there are three places you can go. Only one is really survivable if you're new to the game. That seems to throw people off a bit. They try and try to go one way when that's just not the way they should be going. I found the Undead Burg easiest (up the cliffside walkway).

    The animations depend on the weapon, not the character class, so if you can get a different sort of melee weapon you might have an easier time. If you're locked-on, then you should never accidentally pass by an enemy and fall off a cliff, but using heavy attacks in that situation is still risky.

    You don't have to lock on for ranged combat, but it does make things easier. I was generally a melee-focused character, though.

    Maybe you encountered a bug, but bloodstains generally show up where you were a few seconds earlier, so if you fall off a cliff and die then the bloodstain should be back at the top.

    As far as progressing, I'd say the most important thing is to learn how to use a shield and/or dodge effectively. The combat against minor enemies is not really that hard if you lock on and only attack when the enemy gives you an opening. They shouldn't be able to touch you if you aren't greedy and use a sort of strike-and-retreat approach (or counter-attack). You probably should not lock onto bosses for melee, though.

  2. Thanks TheOtherGuest.

    Presently, with my sorcerer, I am grinding in Undead Burg and not really feeling that I am up for fighting the Tarus Demon just yet and I figured out that I definitely need to work on my dodging/rolling to avoid attacks.

    For ranged combat, I did try to eyeball my shots with both a shortbow and cross bow, but without a crosshair of some kind, I felt that I was just wasting ammunition that I would have to replace with souls later; hence picking the sorcerer who has a rechargeable source of projectiles.

    I too was surprised when the blood stain didn't show up after dying from falling off the wooded walkway on the lake. I returned to the area and didn't see it anywhere so I figured that it doesn't appear when you die in water. It was annoying having just lost 3000+ souls when I probably should have leveled up earlier.

    Things are looking up though playing as the sorcerer now that I know about kindling bon fires and taking my time overall.

    1. You know, I've actually never fought the Taurus Demon the "real" way. There's a really, really easy way to fight him where, if done properly, you shouldn't even be in danger of being hit.

      I only used the bow in one specific spot, where I could take my time with no enemies around. I don't think the game was really made with bow users in mind.

      The first time I played, I found the Undead Burg a really good place to grind for levels. A much better spot, though, is not too far past the Taurus Demon in the Undead Parish area. There are at least six enemies that give something like 900 souls each and are surprisingly easy to take down. They're also right near a bonfire.

  3. I was able to take out the Tarus Demon this morning while only taking one hit and that was because I accidentally dove forward instead of backwards; I just continually shot at him with the magic missile spell.

    Currently meandering around Undead Parish trying to find a bonfire, but I really think I'm starting to like this game. At least I'm not dying as frequently as I have been in Elder Scrolls: Arena.

    1. Good job. Glad you're enjoying it.

      Yeah, it's funny how a lot of people think of Dark Souls as an incredibly difficult game. Apart from one boss and one area that felt a bit random, I found the game pretty reasonable in terms of difficulty. It punishes you for impatience, but it's not really any harder than a lot of other games and the enemies generally telegraph their attacks far in advance.