There are various aspects of life that we come to expect to see, or hear whenever we wake up to a brand new day. The Sun rises. The water is wet. And Dark Souls is hard.
From the brilliant and potentially sadistic minds over from FromSoftware, their most ironic franchise has been both a blessing and the bane for millions of gamers worldwide. No matter who you are, Dark Souls will have likely left some sort of impression on you one way or another.
If you ask me, I think Dark Souls stands as a monumental achievement that redefined FromSoftware’s approach to their creations and will serve as a major blueprint for several other original titles as well as spawning two sequels. It’s only bogged down by its slightly weaker second half in comparison to the meretriciously crafted level design present in the game’s early to mid stages. However with taking it’s deep combat system, environmental storytelling, and it’s brutal, but fair difficulty, Dark Souls holds a special place in my heart.
But my god, can this game be hard.
The main defying reason for this is that both the game’s worlds and enemies are more than ready to dispose of any player that ill-prepared and taken off-guard by the game’s devious surprises. Enemies hit hard. There are traps around the corner. Mistakes can be punished severely. These factors can certainly motivate someone to turn the game off and play something else.
At the same time for those willing to persevere, the game can just be as forgiving as it is hard. Enemies do have set attack patterns and animations that are 100% learnable. What is and isn’t a trap can be made obvious with a little observation. Even better, the game gives the player total freedom in how they want to customize their build through the various armor sets, weapons, and magical spells players can pick up throughout the world. Being able to master these mechanics and conquering the challenges that laid before you is nothing short of gratifying.
But I’m not here to talk about what makes Dark Souls so good. I’m here to rant about the various times this series tempted me to throw my controller through the TV screen. Because as calm as I may be 95% of the time, there are always those moments that can raise my blood pressure to dangerous levels. This isn’t a ranking per se, but the times Dark Souls truly lives up to its reputation.
Fighting a Black Knight when you’re just starting out.
When starting a new game for the first time, you’ll believe that Dark Souls will at least ease the player into it’s diffcuitly by starting simple before throwing the hard stuff at them.
The Black Knights are you remind you of what type of game you’ll playing.
Spread throughout the game are some of its hardest enemies. They’re extremely aggressive and can deal huge damage to a player, which is bad because they won’t have much health with they first start out. If you plan to fight these guys, learning when to block and parry is a must, otherwise you’re going to be in for a bloodbath. Fighting them through conventional means will truly show how out how weak you are as whatever damage you do will be the equivalent of pinching their skin while they got a big shiny sword they would love for you to get familiar with.
For those with prior experiences, Black Knights will serve as a tough, but a workable obstacle. Fighting them for the first time, however? Prepare yourself.
Havel the Rock
He’s an armored tank armed with a club made from a tooth of a dragon that can one-shot you. Oh, and you fight him within the game’s first few hours.
The Capra Demon
Hey, remember when I said that Dark Souls is brutal but fair. Well, that still is true…most of the time. As much as I praise this game for being such a fun challenge, there are those times when even I have to call foul. And the Capra Demon is one of this game’s most infamous examples. Allow me to explain.
An early-game boss, the Capra Demon pits you in an extremely small corridor with him and two dogs ready to tear you into pieces. If can’t get out of the way of their attack within the first 15 seconds, then congrats you lose. If you can’t kill the dogs in time before the Demon tries to hit you again, say goodbye to victory. Ironically despite being the star of this portion of the game, the Capra Demon is rather straightforward despite how much damage he can deal. It’s the small arena and those savage mutts that really give people trouble. And what makes this fight feel cheap in comparison to the game’s more well-designed boss fights.
Ever wanted to a fight an enemy that when it kills you, halves your health in half for the game unless you figure out how to reverse it?
No? Well, that’s a shame because this exists. Found within the Depths and the Great Hallow, Balisks make for a rather deceitful foe. Behind their big-eyed goofy appearance, lies a cold-blooded monster that can potentially make or break a playthrough. Attacking the player through spraying a cloud that causes a curse, getting caught with too much of this stuff will not only kill the poor victim but as stated earlier will reduce their health bar by half. There are ways to cure it but will require the player to go out of their way to do so and fight other dangers
Thus any encounter with Balisks must be treated with extreme caution. I’ll be lucky enough to not be cursed by these fiends, but the chances are never zero.
Do you like traveling across very thin platforms hundreds of feet in the air and knowing that the slightest mistake will lead you to end up in a closed casket?
Are you a fan of poisonous substances that you inevitably have to endure just to progress the level?
Can you handle walking at a snail’s pace while inside a huge lake that will also poison you?
If you answer yes to any of this, then congrats. I have the level for you.
Blightown is arguably the most infamous level of the entire game. Take everything I’ve just said and combine it into a slimy nauseating package. For a game as notoriously difficult as Dark Souls, many people will agree that this level takes things up a notch. Be it the enemies that can either poison or set you on fire, to the tricky platforming, you might be seen as a god among men if you play this level for the first time without a single fatality.
Personally, the most awful part of this level for me is the blowdart snipers that can give you the toxin status, which drains your health faster than the regular poison effect. They barely have any defense or health as a trade-off, but there is a reason the game doesn’t respawn them when killed. Often hiding from a distance and taking shots whenever the poor innocent target is in sight, these little devils make for some of the most annoying foes in the entire game.
Believe it or not, this entire topic gave me a lot to go over. And because this is getting a bit long as is, I’m going to split it into a two-parter. For anyone who plays Dark Souls, let me know what moments have given you the most amount of trauma. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll hop to part 2 when it comes out.