Let's Revisit Dark Souls


#21

i feel the same way about soulsbourne diaries. as much as i love playing these games, i might love reading about other players experiences even more. there’s something benignly voyeuristic about it, or maybe it just provides a glimpse into other people’s headspaces, fostering a kind of narrow experiential empathy? or maybe i’m just straight up addicted to this series? dunno, but either way, once i finish reading about ds, i’m gonna go chop away at the second half of the remaster.


#22

Its really annoying but you technically can still skip it without the master key if you go to darkroot garden > secret bonfire at darkroot basin > elavator to valley of the drakes > back end of blight town > blight town lower bonfire
but its a huge pain and probably harder than fighting capra demon, also you would never get the large ember if you did this.
As for capra if you run up the latter and roll onto the ledge to your right the dogs will focus you and capra will struggle to reach you for a bit so you can use this to heal, and to kill the dogs before going after the demon.


#23

My first soulsbourne actually was dark souls 2, I got it for the ps3 and played through the first several missions with my gamer bro friend on co op in highschool, but kinda avoided it because I didnt really enjoy it or my friend. Later on in college I played dark souls 1 while staying at a partners house for a week and I fell in love with it and its still my favorite souls game just barely above bloodborne (which was the 4th of them Ive played).


#24

Oh right! Even though I recently went through it like that I forget that path is open from the other side.
I wouldn’t say it’s a huge pain, you just have to dodge and weave a couple of drakes, plus some club dudes at the start of the cave, then the first thing you find is a key to the shortcut door right outside the cave.

Also yes that Capra strategy is the method most people use, whether to isolate the dogs or to just get a brief respite to heal, it tends to work but the dogs sometimes get into some weird patterns.


#25

I didnt know you could get the key to that shortcut in blight town, I thought you had to buy the master key from domhnall after opening the gates to sens . That would have saved me a ton of time early farming slugs on my old witches ring paladin run right now hahahahahahaha


#26

This is helpful advice, but I’m honestly probably just gonna wait until I can play side-by-side with someone else, though I’ll keep this in mind. I’m not very good at the internal mapping aspect of Dark Souls either, and getting lost in that game can be pretty punishing if you happen to drop a lot of souls and then have no idea how to get back to where you’d been. I don’t really have any interest in playing through the Souls series alone when I can experience it with friends.

Also, every single map I have ever seen of areas in Dark Souls is utterly incomprehensible to me on the fly, and since the game lacks a true pause feature and I don’t have a dual-screen computer set-up, playing it on Switch and being able to look at a map is actually my best shot at finishing it if i choose to go at it alone.


#27

Thats super real. Ive somehow worked a mental map of pretty much the first 75% of the game in my head, and Im doing a cleric character to hopefully help people when i can since the servers are populated again :3


#28
My late response to the Asylum Demon bit hidden for thread-reading clarity

Although I’m late to the Asylum Demon party, I would say that the situation with that door ought to be teaching the player to explore their surroundings rather than always focusing on the immediate confrontation. People absolutely get sucked in by the marketing of this game as ‘hard’ and take this whole fight at face value and quit on that account and fair dues to them. It’s probably one of many times in analysing Dark Souls where I’ll say something like “Here’s the cool thing that I reckon this is supposed to do but here’s the reason it fails for many people” and it’s a shame that this is a situation that could have been rectified by just having some bright colours to draw the player’s eye that way.

Souls games seem to have a few pseudo-traditions that get preserved through the series. (Some would call this a design continuity and they would be right but I wanna imbue a kind of #Gamer mysticism to it.) This is actually a really cool reinterpretation of the near-unwinnable boss fight that opens Demon’s Souls insofar as it immediately demonstrates both philosophical differences and continuity between the two games. Also, the Asylum Demon itself is a literal copy-paste of that unwinnable Demon’s Souls boss fight just in case you thought this was me trying to be clever and imagine subtleties.

Continuing from that but relevant to this thread as a whole, it is kind of worth remembering that this game was being developed with a specific niche in mind. It was a niche they’d found and helped develop with Demon’s Souls. Dark Souls was expected to achieve reasonable success on the back of that, but the place it holds in game-canon is the kind of surprising success story that ends up being taken for granted when we play these games retrospectively. For a recent and arguably more dramatic example, it might be said the success of Dark Souls is similar to how only a small but dedicated niche of the gaming public was aware of PUBG until suddenly it seemed like that game was everywhere. In that vein, it is worth trying to look at the game from the position of someone totally unfamiliar as well as from the position of the zealous member of Demon’s Souls cult-following to whom this is the only game that has served their particular interests since the release of the OG DS.

Yikes that’s getting a bit long-winded. Point is - there’s a lot of different positions from which to offer insight, but the ways in which that insight is useful might be different.

Both when I first played DS and now when I’m replaying it through the remaster that Black Knight in Undead Burg has dropped their Sword for me, and damn, that is a sword (a great sword, distinct from the BK greatsword). There’s a lot to that one knight in armour tho.

For one, there’s a ring in a chest IIRC that you can access if you defeat them. The ring is one of the many rings in Dark Souls that read like they have a useful effect but in actuality are fairly negligible. I feel like all of these early encounters are very specifically important insofar as they’re trying to teach the player how to think in the way that makes the game ‘click’.

It doesn’t feel like a stretch to say that by having a negligible ring as the boon for overcoming the challenge they’re teaching you that some of the optional challenges in the game are more for the satisfaction of overcoming them than anything else. I guess this is true, but I don’t quite like it. It works for the experienced player, but not for the new player. For one thing, you don’t have any way of actually knowing how much more useful the rings you’ll find later in the game are. Definitely, I found it enjoyable to deal with that miniboss (on my first playthrough by loading up on firebombs and staying just out of sword’s reach, on second play by having online play companions give me a hand), although I suspect that most people don’t bother trying to kill it after it wrecks them on their first couple of attempts. It is just as valid to say that the negligible reward is a way of teaching players to move on from arbitrary fights they might not yet have the gear/technique/stats to win. I think it’s important that both approaches are useful ways to approach Dark Souls, but unskippable boss fights like the Taurus Demon immediately after definitely make the game less enjoyable for someone still finding their feet. So too does the fact that the game does not effectively communicate what content is skippable. I suspect this point will come up several times in this thread. It kind of already has just in people helping each other out above.

The ring itself (Defence bonus when health is low) maybe teaches the player something about which stats to effectively ignore? Levelling up Resistance a bunch is the kind of mistake I can see myself making if Dark Souls had been my first rodeo (it wasn’t). I think at very least most players will eventually realise that this defence bonus doesn’t actually achieve anything when given that your health is that low the defence bonus is unlikely to be enough to prevent death when the next blow lands. Frankly, I feel like this is the kind of thing that gets this game a reputation for cruelty, and also demonstrates how this game “isn’t really as hard as everyone says” once you’re thinking the way you’re “supposed” to.

I’d love to see someone make a post about the Taurus Demon boss fight.


#29

A couple of years ago on another forum, a user challenged themselves to draw a map from memory of Dark Souls 1, focusing on the Undead Burg. While I love the way the Burg implies a lived-in world (houses with tables, shelves, pots and pans), the level design is what really sticks out to me. Kicking down the ladder after the Taurus Demon is an incredible experience because it makes clear that you’re moving through a contiguous space. It’s around that time that I started to really pay attention to horizons, structures and areas that initially looked like just background noise. A lot of games do the “see that mountain? you can go to it” promise, but it’s less that Dark Souls feels expansive and more that it feels like moving through a piece of clockwork machinery that makes the space really compelling to me.

Here’s the link to that forum user’s drawing of the Burg from memory, if you’re interested.


#30

That’s quite a well done from memory map, it’s pretty much spot on besides some discrepancy on the aqueduct tunnel stairs to undead burg and missing the lower part leading up the path on top of the aqueduct.
Needless to say I think it only proves that Dark Souls gives you an innate understanding of the areas you traverse, whereas if you were to give me that task with any area in most ubi/bethesda style open world games I’d be drawing a blank, it’d just a bunch if icons on a flat map.


#31

hopefully this’ll be my longest entry cuz its lookin a little rambly. sorry.

i’ve not really been reading this thread beyond my initial griping about the PC remaster not working, and i’ve already had a fair amount of it spoiled. like, not too much, but spoiled in the way that you let yourself spoil games you dont plan on ever playing yourself. but! i got a used 360 copy, so i’m in!

reading about the Undead Burg, seems to be that its where the game takes its gloves off, making you learn the game on its own terms. but that didn’t happen for me. everything before the Taurus Demon came down to luck, going verryyyyy slowly to draw enemies out one at a time. for the Demon itself, i used that tower jump trick from a guide. i regret that now, but not bc of a Real Gamer’s Don’t Use Guides ego thing. instead, i regret it for how totally unprepared i was for the Undead Parish.

i got over the bridge okay. the little trick with the latter gave me goosebumps, such clever level design. it wasn’t until that terrible, terrible alleyway with the terrible armored hog, followed by the basement with oh god so many hollows, followed by the narrow walkway with the big scary armor skeleton, that i really started to, slowly, over several days, rethink how i was playing.

in hindsight, playing a Wanderer for my 1st time seems to have been a mistake. my thinking was that i know nothing about this place, so it would make sense for my character that she wouldn’t know anything, not being from Lordran (is it a country? fife? continent?). so, Wanderer. i dunno.

but i’m learning that their fragility and speed requires knowing yourself, and watching/ predicting enemies, in a way i wasn’t prepared for. i think Undead Parish has so far taught similar lessons to what y’all have described, though. just a bit… late.

me being broken, in 3 parts

The Bull Corridor
i already knew about the Asylum Demon. it took the Armored Tusk wrecking me several times to really get that sometimes you really just can’t take on an enemy at the time. by the time i got through the Bull Corridor, i was mostly relying on parrying and turtling. tip toe around the archers, wait for the shield & lance Hollows to show an opening, take advantage of parrying invincibility to close distances.

The Hollows
i had to rethink that after the like, 5? Hollows that rushed me in that cramped room. but, i got smarter about knowing my own attacks and movements. in the hallway, the shortsword fast attacks hit the wall, made inert. in the clearing, its so easy to get overwhelmed and caught in a combo.

The Moderately Big Boy
honestly, the takeaway here was mostly just “try not to panic.” i kept trying to parry that Balder Knight, convinced i couldn’t win a normal fight. once i missed the parry enough, i noticed its armor weighed it down, and i could take advantage of my speed. after many, many hours, i broke through, and made it to the next Bonfire.


#32

Here’s a small thing about the armored tusk boar that I missed on my first playthrough. On the bridge above the boar with the two hollow soldier archers, there’s a corpse with some alluring skulls on it. You can throw one of those skulls to lure the boar either below the bridge so you can drop attack it (there’s even a custom animation for this!), or lure it into running into one of the burning corpse piles and burning itself to death. My first time through, I was so overwhelmed by everything that I didn’t even consider using the alluring skull, but many of the items in DS can be really helpful and can give you an advantage against hard enemies.

I think this alluring skull placement is meant to teach players that lesson, but it’s one of the less elegant bits of teaching-thorugh-level-design because many players won’t look at the item description and realize what the skulls do until later on when they feel more safe.


#33

I think there’s so much of the Undead Burg (and the Asylum) that is really like a bunch of puzzles. Taurus Demon, Capra Demon imo, this lesson re the boars. I recently found the Sunlight Altar I think for the first time. What I mean is that these big scary monsters have these ways of beating them (or bypassing them in the wyvern’s case) that is orders of magnitude easier than trying to just slash them to death. For the Capra Demon, you could try to just one on one fight the Demon once the dogs are out of the way, or you could use the staircase and, more specifically, the tiny area the Demon can’t follow you to, to bait it into following you, attacking, and falling down over and over so you can get a falling strike on it. Capra Demon isn’t easy, those damn dogs are a major hassle, but I think all the bosses until the Gargoyles have these particular mechanics to taking them down that are tied into being observant of your environment.

While that door in the Asylum Demon boss area is really well hidden, and could be too hidden, the lesson of paying attention to and exploring these boss areas is something that is reiterated through the next few bosses. It’s something that comes back around a ton - there’s lots of boss areas with hidden(ish) objects or areas. Sometimes you can just find a way easier piece of land to fight on, but other times, there’s things you have to interact with to beat a boss. That need to be observant, I think, is taught pretty well by the boss areas early on.


#34

I thought I’d feel bad coming into this thread to talk about how I came to not like Dark Souls very much since so many people love it and appreciate it deeply, but since we’re breaking down the game in detail like this I kinda feel okay offering my perspective.

I’ve got 220 hours in Dark Souls. I know the Undead Burg in particular like the back of my hand. I kept having the problem that I’d beat Ornstien and Smough, fool around in some of the other unlocked areas for a bit, and then realize I wasn’t having fun, didn’t feel engaged, wasn’t even frustrated. I was just bored. So I’d say “Must be my build, or that the way I’m roleplaying this character isn’t working out, or I need to try a different play style,” and then I’d start the game over, since you can’t respec. That’s what a lot of those 220 hours were for me.

Needless to say, I got intimately acquainted with the Undead Burg as I so frequently scrapped saves to start anew and figure out what I was missing about the moment-to-moment gameplay. Maybe ultra greatswords would be fun for me. Even without that experience, there were things that bugged me about it on my very first character, mainly wrt how others had talked about the game. I’d heard a lot about immersion, I’d heard a lot about the decaying beauty of Dark Souls. And with those expectations in mind, I really came to hate Undead Burg. There’s furniture around, sure. But it is nakedly a videogame level. It reminded me of 3rd person action games on the PS2. There is no way to maintain an illusion that any of these hollowed out losers who my weapons seem to go through like butter ever lived in this place, or that anyone ever did. The architecture is complete nonsense. And it was ugly, and drab. Gray stone on gray stone on gray stone. None of that is inherently bad, but I was disappointed that the feeling of place in this world people had described completely eluded me. No amount of the physicality of the map, of trudging from one area to the next, was going to ground me in this world. The hand of the level designers is out there, naked and flopping around, in the corridors, in the traps, in the enemy placement.

Undead Burg is where I learned, also, that the physicality of the combat was not going to be there for me. Something else I’d heard have so many praise about the game for years (I played Dark Souls for the first time in 2015,) just did not register for me at all. I’d heard about combat having a weight to it, in its animations, in its enemies, and the first time I noticed every single enemy had the same canned death animation for 80% of the weapons in the game, that my character mostly didn’t react at all when they hit something (save stagger animations on some weapons,) I was very let down.

These two problems were omnipresent in the game for me, from beginning to end, on every single character, they never ever went away. It’s one of the things I had to carry around with me all those 220 hours that makes thinking about Dark Souls leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Obviously those aren’t my only problems with the game and are a matter of expectations in a lot of ways. I’ve got some more fundamental things I don’t like about it but I’ll save those for now.


#35

After playing 4 playthroughs of Dark Souls 2, 3 playthroughs of Dark Souls 3 and 2.5 playthroughs of Bloodborne I decided to finally play Dark Souls 1 when the remaster came out. I got through it 1.5 times so I think I’ve made up my mind on it.

It’s good. It’s my least favourite, though. I also don’t really like being nitpicky about beloved games to people who like them so just as a heads-up I’m going to be pretty negative with my thoughts since most of the stuff I like about DS1 I like about the series in general.

I liked it at first. It gave me Metroid Prime vibes from the world design. The feeling of getting lost in the world was really great, and I ended up doing some sequence breaking which felt fun (I made it through the Catacombs pre-blighttown), and the one-two punch of Sen’s Fortress and Anor Londo were when I felt the most positive about the game.

The backtracking, though. Getting to the blacksmith takes forever. Sure there’s a “shortcut” through Firelink, but while you’re going through Firelink, up the elevator, through the chapel and over that long bridge through the forest, you fight two weak undead guys. Apart from that quick fight that you’ve done a dozen times before it’s just dead time. Once the interconnections of the world wore off on me it just felt like a game that didn’t respect my time.

I also felt that different playstyles didn’t seem to be nearly as viable as just being a strong person with a shield. I normally enjoy being a spellcaster with a big sword and no shield, but the shield felt pretty necessary in this game so I ended up just giving in. I was a STR/FTH hybrid but like I said I ended up getting to the Tomb of the Giants early and got the Rite of Kindling. Now all of a sudden I could have 20 charges of my estus which made my healing magic kind of useless. I also didn’t find any offensive faith spells until very late in the game so I was pretty unhappy with my build.

Also, the bosses. I do not like most of the bosses in this game. They’re mostly big boys that I just ended up circling around to chop them in the butt. Worked like a charm most times. Other bosses (Gargoyles, Ceaseless Discharge, The Demons) were just worse versions of bosses I had fought in DS2. Quelaag was the only boss that I preferred to it’s Dark Souls 2 counterpart.

I had heard that DS1 had the best story, but I much prefer DS2’s darker tone. And while DS1’s world design is cool because it’s interconnected, I prefer DS2’s dreamlike world design both in terms with it’s relationship to the story and practicality.

Finally, the bullshit: The Bed of Chaos sucks and can fuck off. The Anor Londo archers are very bad and I hate them. The Tomb of the Giants is not fun. Pinwheel was easier than a lot of the basic enemies leading up to him, even when I fought him early. Quality-wise the game seems to take a nosedive after you get the Lordvessel

I’m glad I played it, but I can’t imagine wanting to replay it over DS2, DS3 or Bloodborne. Each of those games have their pros and cons, but DS1’s pros seem mostly conceptual and not things I’d like to experience a second time, especially since varied builds seem less viable than in the others.


#36

If you have any interest at all in trying another builld, go for sorcery - dump points into intelligence, attunement, maybe some dex. Level HP until it’s around 600. I had a lot of fun doing that. I haven’t played my sorcerer past anor londo, but even so it was fun to mess with.

I’ve played the game a similar amount as you - finally beat it when the remaster came out and have done like half a second play through. I really don’t know if I can stomach the tomb of the giants a second time. It was so nightmarish. The interconnected nature of the game kind of made it feel meditative to me. I almost never fight those dudes on the way to from firelink to the blacksmith. Just run and think about stuff. But hey, that’s me, i get that you don’t want to backtrack and want it to keep your time in mind.