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I may have to buy this.. I already platinumed Demons Souls.
Dark Souls Murders Early Players
Sep 21, 2011 - From Software has sent max-level enemies to punish anyone playing the game before its release.
The Dark Souls Review Diary: Part 1
Read how we're getting on with Dark Souls in the run-up to review.
This is Part One of our Dark Souls review diary, where we tell you how we're getting on with the game in the run-up to review. SPOILER WARNING: minor spoilers about the early stages of the game ahead!
I already know that reviewing Dark Souls is an experience I'm never, ever going to forget. Putting in 10+ hour daily shifts on huge games isn't an alien concept to most people in my profession – but a game that's this dark, this punishing, this emotionally demanding? And – of course – a game this fist-eatingly, heart-achingly, soul-crushingly difficult? This is a whole other thing. Having spent 12 hours of the last 24 immersing myself in its world, Dark Souls is actually starting to affect my mental health.
I'd love to say that things get off to a gentle start, but they really don't. Dark Souls' first proper boss is still the hardest of any I've faced so far – partly because you are, by necessity, so underpowered when you meet him. He's called the Taurus Demon, and he's utterly hateful. You stride out onto a bridge, and he drops down from nowhere, a bull-headed, winged, aggressive satyr ten times your size, sporting a club that can end you in two hits if you get unlucky. Run away from him, he chases you. Attack him, he crushes you. Get behind him, he steps back and spikes you with metal protrusions on his legs. He is proper hard, and he lives at the top of a tower that you have to climb every time you want to face him. He is, all told, a woefully obstinate introduction to the game – and one that seems to set the tone for the rest of this mammoth, psychotic endeavour.
I can't quite explain that special gamer's psychological process that enables you to fail at something over and over and over again and still maintain the will to go on. I think you have to be a certain type of thrill-seeking masochist to even entertain the notion of a game like Dark Souls. Every death at Taurus' hands brought me closer to sheer mental exhaustion. Time after time I'd get him to within a few hits of death, then feel my hands turn to jelly as the nerves ruined my reflexes and he caught me in a one-two attack loop, dispassionately ending my life over and over again on the end of that massive club.
I slayed Taurus – after more than three hours of continuous failure – with a final, desperate swipe, a death throe, milliseconds before he crushed me beneath his club for what felt like the 600th time. As "YOU ARE DEAD" flashed up on the screen, I was ready to give up games journalism and go become a lawyer like my school careers advisor always said I should – but then, in the background, just before the screen faded to black, I saw that bull-headed bastard fall to his knees, felt the head-spinning rush of triumphant adrenaline that only games have ever given me, and I knew that Dark Souls now owned me completely. Just like Demon's Souls did before it.
Things are so difficult in Dark Souls that, after the first fifteen hours, the question I keep asking myself is "have they gone too far?" Truth is, for Demon's Souls devotees, there's *almost* no such thing as too far. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward, and the more thrilling the final victory. For anyone who hasn't played through Demon's Souls before it, though, I'm not sure that Dark Souls does enough to tease you with that thrill before dropping you straight into the deep end. You have to fight tooth and claw here right from the off.
It's also huge. In the Chain of Pain – the little email support group that a collective of Dark Souls reviewers is currently relying upon for tips and moral support, in the absence of the online community that will grow up around the game when it actually launches – one of my fellows reckons he's about a quarter of the way through the game after 60 hours. This is something that people will spend months playing.
This a very different game from Demon's Souls, with a different rhythm and structure. The bonfires change the way you play entirely, removing the option to run back to a safe haven and regroup before heading back out into the fray. And without wanting to give too much away, its tone is different too; it's darker, more distressing, and more claustrophobic despite its open-world structure. It encroaches subtly on your mental well-being.
I'll be writing more about that in the next instalment of this review diary. For now, though, we can answer at least one question: is Dark Souls harder than Demon's Souls? Well, yes – much harder – but for some reason I've not quite put my finger on yet, it's not more dispiriting.