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Games That Changed Our Lives: ‘Dark Souls’ vs Difficulty

The Souls series isn’t as hard as some people say it is. It’s just smarter than the player to begin with.



The Souls series isn’t as hard as some people say it is. It’s just smarter than the player to begin with. Despite Namco-Bandai’s horrid marketing strategies when it comes to these titles, From Software has been something of a sure thing ever since early 2011. The series thrives on being challenging, but fair to all of the masochistic souls who play it, otherwise nobody would play it at all. To dispel a highly popular myth: these games aren’t the nightmare creatures some think they are, and are actually incredibly easy once you stop running for your life, and start learning the curve.

While that may seem condescending, it’s the truth. With the exception of Dark Souls II, which wasn’t designed by Miyazaki, and his team of wizards, everything From Software has created has always aimed to be taxing on a player’s skill, but not their temperament. Naturally there are certain moments within the games that aren’t within your control, such as bugs, or glitches during the weeks after release, and the series is always being patched to try make everything a level playing field – but it’s mostly fair.

It all boils down to your willingness, and aptitude as a player. At a basic level, mastering the control buttons will give you an edge over early game enemies, which will then let you move onto greater things. From that point you’re able to learn weapon move sets, what best counters what, and how to abuse certain moves when fighting. Those skills don’t even cover the inclusion of spells, or how to remain calm in the face of certain death. Across all three games (not including Dark Souls II because it’s broken) a truly great player will take their time with learning how to approach any new situation, and apply any previous knowledge to the current fight.

To say that these games are simply “hard” completes ignores the mechanics that makes them great. It’s something of a passing insult really, especially to anyone who has taken the time to actually sit down, and learn how to beat every enemy flawlessly, or parry bosses perfectly. They’re hard games to beat for sure, but they’re not the kind of games where you’re killed by something you didn’t know could even do that in the first place. A few prime comparisons between the difficulty ‘level’ can be drawn easily.

For example, in the not-so-recently released Taken King DLC for Destiny, the final boss of the main story, Crota, has a massive health pool, and continuously summons mob enemies into the arena. While he’s not a massive threat until later phases because of his boring move set, the fight itself is very hard, due in part to the amount of things being thrown at you. This difficulty isn’t created by the boss, it’s created by the fight itself, and this is atypical of poor design. If Crota was to be reworked in a Souls-esque way, then he would have a variety of sword attacks, alternating movement patterns, and tell-tale signs of attacking. These telegraphs would allow players to outwit him, while still dealing damage, rather than playing a game of run-hide-fire-reload for ten minutes.

All that being said, the Souls series wouldn’t be the same if it had a difficulty setting like most other titles do. If there was some natural way of making everything easier, then it would totally negate what the series stands for. And while it makes sense for any game to have an easier mode, for players who are new to gaming or who perhaps have a disability, Souls is designed on having a singular, constant setting of difficulty. Calls for an “easy Souls”, make sense, but don’t really belong on the same game. If you were to alter the balance that was already in place, you’d end up with a game like Dark Souls II.

Because of the misunderstanding of ‘hard over fair’, the team responsible for it ended up going along to the pandering of companies like Namco Bandai who were trying to use the difficulty as a marketing ploy. But more than that, the game was vastly unfair in some ways. Some late game enemies didn’t seem to have stamina, meaning that melee-based characters couldn’t beat them, rolling was given an agility stat that totally destroyed safety frames when trying to escape attackers, and worst of all was the reach of certain weapons: which seemed to have hit boxes larger than the moon. While that’s nowhere near a comprehensive list of issues that still plague Dark Souls II to this very day, it gives you a taste of the awful flavour it can leave in your mouth if played too much.

To summarize: the Souls series isn’t too hard, it can be beaten, and if you’re struggling so much, stop playing for a bit. There’s an entire community that is ready, and willing to help you out if you ask. It just takes learning, a little bit of luck, and maybe a few summons if you really need them.