What You Should Know: Dark Souls

What You Should Know: Dark Souls

Dark Souls has carved it's own little niche out of the gaming community ever since its release a few weeks ago.  Since then there have been a myriad of people talking about Dark Souls and whether or not to play it.  Dark Souls is an interesting game, one that most people should definitively try regardless of skill level.  However, this isn't an article to persuade you to buy Dark Souls. Instead this will help remove the fog that seems to surround the game and hopefully help people understand just what Dark Souls is and why some people consider it so amazing.  A lot of Dark Souls should be discovered by the player, such as the online mechanic or certain surprises, this article will attempt to go over some mechanics that are confusing and not always understood by newcomers. Here's hoping this helps.

Dark Souls is Not Unjustifiably Hard (It's Different)

When you die in Dark Souls, and it is nearly impossible not to, you lose your souls and your humanity.  Souls are used as cash and as XP so losing all of them means having to do a corpse run to regain those valuable darlings.  However, if you die on the way to your body, and that's another near certainty, you will lose those souls for good.  Humanity is just as important as it is the bridge between you and other players.  Using humanity properly can lead to easier boss battles and insanely tense PVP.  Losing all of this because you weren't careful can be immensely frustrating.  That's why most people consider Dark Souls to be a "hard" game.

Dark Souls gets a bad reputation for being a game that is insanely hard and unforgiving.  This reputation is certainly seen when you are coming into the game cold but over time the truth is revealed.  Dark Souls does something that makes many gamers uncomfortable due to modern gaming, it doesn't hold your hand.  Most games have tutorials and tips that will help gamers immediately understand what needs to be done and when.  Games have become streamlined to the point that most games have waypoint indicators, whether physical or audible, that translate to the player the location of the next objective.  Dark Souls doesn't have that feature, instead you are often tossed into an area and not told which way is the right way.  Some would argue that in such a situation there is not right way but in Dark Souls you will quickly realize that there is only one path to follow that will not end in complete annihilation.

This gameplay element freaks a lot of people out when Dark Souls is played for the first time.  The game isn't telling you to go here and do this, instead it's letting you figure out which way is feasible and which way is deadly.  This is a bit tricky when the added feature of Dark Souls' combat is thrown in.  When it comes to enemies in Dark Souls the saying goes "if you can hurt it you can kill it".  Even if the enemy is able to kill you with a single blow you will be able to take it down so long as you can do one damage to it.  Sometimes this requires patience and skill other times it requires exploiting enemies, a controversial subject in Dark Souls.

For Every Enemy There is a Tactic

Some enemies in Dark Souls are tremendous.  Sure, some are tall and beefy but others are the size of two city blocks and then some.  Needless to say these enemies will destroy you very easily if you let your guard down.  But there is always more than one way to approach a situation.  There are usually several ways to approach any battle in Dark Souls; melee, range, magic, and the equally effective tactic of exploitation.

Many players wonder if it is really exploiting the game since often times it seems like it's the only way to defeat a particularly difficult enemy.  The Ceaseless Discharge is one of the most infamous cases in Dark Souls where exploitation seems almost necessary.  The enemy is big, ugly, and has a hilarious name.  With one swipe it can end immediately send you on a corpse run.  But, as many have figured out, if you run all the way back to the start of the boss area the creature will fall into a bottomless pit and die.  Is this unfair? Perhaps, but if you were faced with a ten story lava monster would you care how you killed it? I didn't think so.

Death is Helpful not Hurtful

Animations in Dark Souls are prioritized in such a way that swinging or blocking at the wrong time can have tremendous consequences.  Enemies will dodge and parry leaving you open for a fatal flurry of blows.  This requires players to learn the moves of enemies and anticipate what is about to come before it even happens.  Think of it as running into a level blind, dying a few times to learn the layout, then returning and crushing everything in your path.

As mentioned above death in Dark Souls can be a blessing.  Death can allow players to learn from their mistakes and realize what needs to be done on the next run through.  If you accidentally run into an area filled with baddies and you can't fight your way out don't sweat it.  You'll die and respawn at the last bonfire you used ready for that part.  It's a learning process and it helps the game feel like it's not cheating you but teaching you instead.

Bonfires are Helpful

Bonfires play an integral part in Dark Souls, they restock your health potion supply and respawn all enemies besides bosses.  At first glance this seems like some awful trick, it's great that you get your health potions back but every enemy is back as well? Come on! Honestly, it's not that big of a deal.  In fact bonfires are typically used to help players level up and gain souls during times of need.  If the part your up to is too difficult it is most likely because you are too weak.  If that's the case simply go to the nearest bonfire and bask in the glory of enemies who are there for your murderous tendencies and greedy pockets.

Grinding isn't enjoyable, often times it is the bane of many players existence, but it becomes less boring when each fight can kill you.  When every enemy can murder you it feels less like grinding and more like gaining actual experience as to how the game works and how the combat evolves.  Don't be afraid to use a bonfire if you need to, it can only help.

Guides are Great but Discovery is Greater

Dark Souls is the type of game that makes many gamers immediately reach for a wiki or a walkthrough.  Players want to have the experience that Dark Souls can offer but they don't want to deal with the surprises and craziness that abound the game.  That is why the best advice for people who want to play Dark Souls but want to use a guide is this: play the game twice.  The first run through should  be guide-less and blind.

Maybe you'll know a thing or two because of articles like this but for the most part the experience will be fresh, unique, and a bit overwhelming.  If and when the moment comes that you just can't take the craziness anymore don't be ashamed to start a new character up and use a guide.  Everyone will have that "moment" in Dark Souls whether you kill a NPC that is vital to the game and will never respawn, lose a ridiculous amount of souls, or lose a fight when the enemy only had one hit left.  There is too much unique content that Dark Souls offers and mucking it up with a guide would be a shame.  If you really want to give the game a shot, and I really think everyone should, go into it and get ready to have it teach you with an iron fist...an iron fist that is coming at your jaw without warning to take your head off. Enjoy!