I feel like if I had beaten Dark Souls a few years ago it would seem like a bigger bragging right than it is now. People have played and study this game for years now and there are videos and guides that help new players get through some of the most daunting trials. It now feels like once you beat it, you are handed a merit badge to show off to the other scouts who are busy earning other difficult badges that you are behind on. While that is what one part of my brain is saying, the other part of it is partying like its New Year’s Eve in 1999. I am very proud of myself for beating this game on my own (unlike Bloodborne where I played the majority with a friend). It is not the type of game that I would go out on my own to play, but the lore and culture around it hooked me in and now I’ve fallen in the abyss. Through practice, studying, and good ‘ole trial and error, I defeated Lord Gwyn and ushered in a new age where the next miserable soul would repeat the process. So allow me rest by the bonfire and reflect on this journey that took me (looks at game data…) two years to get through.
Long ago, dragons ruled the world…I think. That all changed when man discovered fire and all of its benefits; like containing souls to kill dragons….I think. Out of this fire, four lords were chosen. Nito, the first person to die I think, the Witch of Izalith and her normal daughters, Gwyn ,the Rock, Johnson, and some other guy. Together with Seath the slug dragon, they vanquished the dragons and established a golden era of fire…I think. Things were going great for a while, but no one told the lords that fire needs fuel to burn. The Witch of Izalith tried to use her flames to create a new one, but created chaos and demons instead. Gwyn sacrificed his life to keep the original flames going, and from there the world got even more chaotic. Those born with the darksign are considered undead and will fail to die until they lose their minds and become hollows…I think. Prophecy states that a chosen undead will leave the Undead Asylum and embark on a journey to rekindle the flame and restore the golden age of fire, or let it die like a badass and usher in the age of darkness…I think.
Act Like The Undead
My journey through Dark Souls was not without pain, torture, learning, adapting, and overcoming hardships. On the surface level, the mood and reputation of Dark Souls is to intimidate and highlight this bleak world that has misfortune around every corner. There is nothing that makes you feel safe at any moment except for the warmth of the bonfire. I find it strange that the one thing that has great power and the catalyst that started all of this is also your source of comfort. Nothing feels as satisfying as getting through hard areas only to discover a bonfire. Though it all, the challenge beforehand seemed daunting just to get there, but once you reach a save point, you start to feel safe and understand your terrain a bit. If there is one thing that I appreciate about the bonfire system is that they are never right next to the next boss or sometimes close to the next best thing. Bonfires can symbolize that you are close to something, but still need to get through something in order to reach it. For example, the bonfire closes to Quelaag has a swamp, big dudes who throw boulders at you if you get too close, and some egg sack creeps before you get to the boos room. When you first make the trek, you may look for an easy way to minimize the poison damage you get from the swamp, what big guys you can take out in your way, and beat the eggy guys before Quelaag. Soon you start to realize that trying to find the “easy” route may be the longest route since you will most likely limit your supplies before the boss fight. Eventually (depending on how many times it takes for you to beat the boss), you start to realize that if you run and avoid combat when needed, you can just as easily reach the boss room while conserving your resources. The game finds ways for you to abandon your cautious nature and take risks to yield better results. Overthinking things and hesitating will get you killed in most circumstances.
For my playthrough, I mostly stuck to a one-handed sword with a shield for defense. My character, Yeetes Yotes, was not the bravest of warriors at the start of the game, but throughout the journey she turned into a badass soul slayer. I mostly relied on my shield in areas unfamiliar to me and I wanted to keep my guard up for unexpected fuckery. Once I got familiar with areas, it turned into a use-only-when-needed item since dodge rolling is much more effective. To this day, I do not know what a good pose stat is and at this point I’m too afraid to ask. Since dodge rolling was my jam, I opted for light-weight armor that wasn’t good for defense, but made me hella light and sting like a Japanese hornet. For offense, I started off with a falcon, but quickly obtained the Drake Sword and fell in love. Eventually, I picked up a Black Knight Sword and despite how heavy it was, I quickly boosted up my stats to make this my main weapon for the rest of the game. During this time, I discovered the value of two-handing a weapon and start making most fights into a joke. One swing from me in two-handed mode who dispatch an enemy with one hit, and bosses took little from when I was solely one-handing. The only thing that I wish I took more advantage of during my first playthrough was using sorcery, pyromancy, and miracles. Using magic makes the game much easier in my opinion from playing some of Dark Souls 2 & 3. Regardless, playing the game with only the guns on your arms and a bow for long-range attacks is more than doable.
Yeetus Yotus journey came with great feelings of joy and a lot of frustration. From the early days of the Undead Parish to Anor Londo, each area has its trials that feel good for passing. I view each area as it’s own little puzzle that needs to be solved in order to find the great rewards of either a bonfire or really good item. Sen’s Fortress of Happy Fun Times felt like one of the most daunting trials to get through; and then once you get past it the later levels just laugh in its face. I dread one day returning to Anor Londo have have to deal with scaling the roof while two Black Knights shoot their giant arrows at you. I wanted to give up in the Giant’s Tomb since everything is so dark, but once I found the Sunlight Maggot, it became business as usual. Everyone likes to complain about Blighttown, but once you know your way it is one of the less intimidating places in the game (just annoying). The place that I was most frighten about was the Demon Realm and Lost Izalith since the first thing I saw in the Demon Realm were an army of Capra Demons. I wanted to nope out of that, but after I got passed the first two I found a shortcut that led me straight to a bonfire. From there, the rest of the Demon Realm and Lost Izalith was just an exploration tour to find the Bed of Chaos. I think by the time you are hunting down the Lord Souls, your fears and anguish of Dark Souls starts to wain to the point you are familiar with how the game works.
Experience From Unexpected Places
Boss battles are their own puzzles to figure out as well. Unless it is your first time fighting a specific boss (or you’re a quick learner), you will spend the first few attempts just trying to figure out the boss’ move set and patterns. Once you do that, you find the best way to punish them for underestimating you for the tenth or twentieth time. Since some bosses share similar traits (big and swing around), you can start to utilize some strategy from an earlier fight. Some bosses just outright tell you that “I have a gimmick and you need to figure that out!” The Four Kings comes to mind since they each come out at specific times. So instead of hesitating during the first king, you are encourage to beat each king before the next one joins in. It is one of the only “timed” bosses that you face, and it makes you change from a slow, observant fighter to a fast, hitting one. Besides Ornstein and Smough who you have to fight at the same time, there was only one boss that really gave me the most trouble; Gwyn himself. I’m guessing Ornstein and Smough were learning points for this fight (since they are the only humanoid bosses you fight), but Gwyn doesn’t mess around and his fight takes a while to understand. At this point I was looking at guides on how to beat some bosses, but the guides on how to beat Gwyn didn’t work with my style. I hadn’t been parrying at this point so that strategy was out the window. I wasn’t used to wearing heavy armor or had the magic to fortify myself; so that didn’t work either. Ultimately I abandoned all the guides I saw and opted to do things my way. Honestly, my playstyle from a different game gave me the ultimate victory.
It’s a good thing I played all that Monster Hunter before this game! In Monster Hunter, you are encouraged to stay engaged with your hunt at all times and defense all depends on your playstyle. My default style is using a Great Sword and mostly relying on dodge rolling to evade attacks. So why not adapt that mindset to the Gwyn fight? My Black Knight Sword sorta functioned like the Great Sword from Monster Hunter, and using my instance to dodge roll at the right moment was natural to me. To mimic my dodge roll feel like in Monster Hunter, I equipped my lightest armor that still offered some protection. So then my strategy turned into have shield equipped for extra insurance if my dodge was off, switch to two-handed mode for my attacks, and hide behind a rock (my new bff). Once I started engaging him in this manner, his patterns became more noticeable like monsters I would fight. After a few attempts with this new mindset, I defeated him and victory was mine. Monster Hunter and Dark Souls are two very different games, but it was neat discovering the skills I mastered in one game led to my victory in another. I will have to see if other skills from different games can have the same effect.
The Heavy Hitters
I do have some complaints about my journey that will probably vary player to player. At first, I didn’t really care about the speed of the game. My problem with it probably has to do with playing other games in the series first before this one. Dark Souls 3 was technically my first game in the series and there is definitely a different flow to the former. Bloodborne was the first game in the series that I finished and that demanded a lot of movement and fast actions. Compared to those games, it was hard for me to reset my brain a bit to accommodate to this game. After a while, I grew into the control style of Dark Souls and work with my limitations instead of wanting more.
Another minor complaint I have is how lost you can get sometimes. There were certain points where I had no idea where to go next and the game almost makes you figure that out on your own. I panicked a little when I got the lordvessel and was told to gather the lord souls, but wasn’t told where to start. The game was pretty linear up to that point, and once you get there the game suddenly opens up for you to tackle the rest of the game however you want. I thought there was an certain order the game would think that you would take, but no it’s like a Mega Man game at that point. I know a map system would defeat the purpose of exploration, but that would have helped a bit when planning out my course.
I guess the only other thing I can complain about is PvP. I do not care for PvP in these games and I feel it adds unnecessary stress when you are minding your own business and some dickhead just comes and kills you. It’s for this reason that I hardly ever restored my humanity and played most of the game undead. Could I just simply played offline and restricted my matchmaking? Yes of course, but before I knew I could do that the added stress had already sunk in. It is fun when you find people that want to help you and watch them tear ass through things they’ve done countless times.
Until the Next Journey
I like Dark Souls. Never did I feel like the victories felt undeserved since the challenge felt great to overcome. I will get around to playing a New Game + playthrough at some point since I do want to get the other ending to the game. I do also have the PC and Switch version of the game (courtesy to a friend who wanted to play co-op), so maybe I will create a different character on each and do some experimentation. It’s hard to tell where I would personally rank this game with the others, but I would definitely say below Bloodborne since I really enjoyed that game. For now, the tale of Yeetes Yotus comes to a close here, and soon/one of these days a new adventurer will embark on another journey through Hell and the Abyss.
My Stats From Finishing Dark Souls Remastered:
1 Full Playthorugh
Game Started: February 23, 2019
Game Ended: November 28, 2021
Total Playtime: (I don’t know since the game doesn’t keep track of that)
Number of Deaths: Ha
Achievements Unlocked: 18/41 (44%)
Proudest Moment: Beating Ornstein and Smough