Dark Souls Isn’t Hard! Really.
Okay, let me establish something off the bat. I love Dark Souls… actually I adore it. Dark Souls has made the vast majority of games uninteresting to me. But not for the reasons people usually spout such as “oh it’s so hard” and “git gud scrub” (a regular Dark Souls meme). It’s because it plays on the part of our brain that has to deal with failure. You learn a lot about yourself.
Failure is the single best mark of human success. Yet we put so much shame on it. When we fail we blame others, it’s never our fault. When we fail we quit, we make excuses and move on thinking we can hold our heads up high as it wasn’t our fault. Well you can’t! You should hang your head in shame for making excuses and blaming others, or in this case the game.
If you fail in Dark Souls it’s your fault, completely. Every time. The game didn’t use cheap tricks to beat you, you just failed to overcome the challenge. And that’s fine! There is nothing wrong with failing. As a race we hate failure, but if everyone quit when they failed we’d still be living in caves fleeing each other like apes. You need to move past that. No one can help you, this article won’t help you. It’s just time to get over it. Society made you think like this, but do you want to be like everyone else?
You need to look at why you failed. Did you approach that boss with your soul arrow spell so you could keep distance, it worked so well all the way here right? But wait, this boss can teleport too close distance. “You died”. Guess what, you died again. What are you going to do about it? Continue to be Einstein’s definition of insane and continue with the same plan over and over again in the hopes the result will be different? Or are you going to learn your foes moves, learn its pattern and change how you approach it to achieve success?
If you want to go all Einstein then that’s fine, but don’t blame the game when you quit and call it too hard. Accept that you failed, and you cannot handle it. Or you could take the approach that mankind needs to have towards failure. See it as the ultimate learning tool. It’s time to adapt!
(Images not representative of examples in discussion)
So this boss is teleporting to you closing distance, your magic and wand just isn’t cutting it. But you watch, you learn. Soon you realize his attacks are slow, maybe you could parry it! Now you hit a new wall, parrying is about impeccable timing. 1 frame on either side of the correct moment and you miss. You’ve not tried it out or practiced it yet. “You Died”. Time to hone those skills on some enemies you fought before. However now you’re fighting in a new way, likely seeing the famous “You Died” screen again, against foes you beat so easily before.
But you’re committed now, you’re pushing through it. Soon you become a parry master. You walk back into that boss room and you gesture at the boss while slowly walking towards it.
Your hyped, in your head you’re saying “this time”. The boss teleports right at you, and raises his sword. The greatsword is dropping towards you, but you hold your nerve! You know if you Parry too soon it’ll hit. It gets closer, time slows down, it’s like you can see every individual frame in slow motion. Your time is now, you hit that L2 button. You hear the most satisfying sound in Dark Souls. It’s like a basketball hitting the court floor in a full stadium. The euphoria comes over you as you see the boss stagger. You tell yourself “don’t mess up now” you hit R1!
You drive your sword into the boss, you hear it cut through its hollow flesh. The boss wails, its health bar drops more in one strike then you’ve seen yet. You see your character stand tall while the enemy falls, you tower over it all of a sudden. It’s nothing, and you’re everything. But its back up, and it’s coming back for more. You won’t fail this time though, you’ve got this. You continue to dodge its attacks, waiting for that one attack you know you can parry so well…. here it comes! Theirs that sound again. Your heart starts racing, he’s nearly dead. One more and you’ll have it!
Your hands are shaking, you’ve taken some damage but you don’t have time to heal, he’ll hit you if you heal. You continue to wait for that moment…. it’s here again! This time it feels like you scored a half court shot, you hear the ball hit the court after its cleared the net, PARRY.. RIPOSTE!
Its over! You did it! You chug an estus in celebration and praise the sun. But wait, the music hasn’t stopped. Infact, the tone has changed, the room darkens, you feel a chill pass over you as you watch the boss evolving into something greater! All of a sudden it has two health bars. Its two foes in one. One is casting magic while the other unleashes furious flurries at you. You can’t see that parry window anymore in fact you can’t see much. It looks chaotic to you. How are you meant to learn and read any of these attacks?
Well friend, you’ve made it this far. I’m here to tell you that you can do it. Remember before when you thought you couldn’t get through the first phase of this boss? You found a way! And you can find a way again. Everything everyone does in this game is telegraphed, you just have to look for it.
When I coop with my regular Dark Souls friend we call the moves out to each other as we see them. We end up naming them, communicating them with each other as we see the tells so we can get ourselves out of danger. It’s a glorious feeling when you notice your friend is going in for the kill, but you see that big hit coming, and he doesn’t. You call it out, he rolls, he dodges and comes back with a strike of his own.
This is how you need to think when you play the game. Understand the tells, understand the moves. What can he follow that move up with? How does my distance effect the next move. Do I want to hug the inside of this guy to bait certain moves or do I need some distance? Do I need to be on the shield of the sword side? When he attacks do I close the distance, rolling into that swipe and getting his back? Or do I need to roll away. All these decisions matter. But remember if you die, it’s your fault. It’s not that NPC you summoned for helps fault, it’s because you failed. But you remember what we said at the start right? That’s okay, in fact it’s great.
I can promise you that the feeling you get when you can chop a boss down like its nothing because you’re in its head is one of the most satisfying gaming moments you’ll have.
It’s time to ask yourself a question. Are you going to quitter, or are you great at handling failure?
I know who I am, but who are you?