Dark Souls

The original Dark Souls was my least favorite game in the venerable Souls series by a pretty wide margin. The reasons are numerous, but in a nutshell I just wanted to be done with it by the time I got to Gwyn. I was so aggravated that I skipped the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, which is regarded by many as the high point of the entire series. Being as obsessively completionist as I am about these games, I have to go back and take care of it before Dark Souls 3’s final expansion is released. I turned to GameCritics’ resident Dark Souls apologist Mike Suskie for guidance and counsel. The beginning of our correspondence is below, with more updates to come as I progress through the game. Enjoy!


From: Richard Naik

Hey Mike,

I thought I would never come back to the original Dark Souls. When I played it on PS3 two years ago I was displeased (right after playing Demon’s Souls for the first time) and Dark Souls 2 was so much more of a pleasant experience that I figured I could just leave it behind. However, I never went through the DLC for Dark Souls, and now that the PC version has dumped Games for Windows Live I’ve decided to use this to to wash the taste of Ashes of Ariendel out of my mouth before the second Dark Souls 3 DLC comes out.

The very first thing I’ve noticed? DSFix makes this game look *amazing*. I had to fight with the mod a little bit to get to to run properly (a part of PC gaming I do not miss) but now it’s running at a super smooth 60fps and looking great. The thrill of seeing something off in the skybox and knowing I’ll get to go there eventually is so much more impactful when the environments are this visually stunning. From what I understand this is how the game was originally supposed to look, but they had to downgrade it due to limitations on the PS3/360. In any case, major kudos to Durante for putting so much into this mod.

The thing I miss the most from the other games is the ability to warp to bonfires right from the start-having to walk back to merchants and whatnot is not at all fun. I’m sure there’s an argument to be made regarding the lack of warping fitting in with the game’s theme of hardship and sacrifice, and if you asked me five or six years ago I might even agree with that argument. Now? Give me my damn warps.

Was this the first game in the series that you played? I thought it was but I wanted to make sure. Anyways, I’m just about to head to the Capra Demon, and right now I’m debating if I want to go through the intended path or start to sequence break with the Master Key. I really want to go though every area and get as many things as I can, but that means……*shudder*…….Blighttown.

— Richard

From: Mike Suskie

Hey Richard,

I actually played and finished Demon’s Souls around the time it was released, but it was Dark Souls that finally won me over on the idea. It took an abnormally long time for me to get comfortable with the series’ combat, so for a while, the battles seemed unfairly difficult and the victories felt hollow. But even before I found my groove with the combat, it was the world design of the first Dark Souls that gave me a true sense of reward. I’m a pretty big Castlevania fan, and Dark Souls is, to me, the best 3D realization of that formula to date. My desire to return to this world and dig deeper into its lore forced me, at last, to learn the ins and outs of how to play this damn series.

So that’s why I hold the first Dark Souls as my favorite, which puts me at odds with you and Brad, both of whom, I believe, would rank it as the worst game in the series. I’ll be curious to see if you enjoy it more now that it’s running properly. Dark Souls is famously one of the worst PC ports in existence, but once you install DSFix, it’s suddenly the definitive version of the game. Even Blighttown, you’ll find, is pretty stable. One thing I’ll caution you about is that cranking the framerate up to 60fps in DSFix, for reasons I can’t fathom, reduces your jump distance. So maybe dial it back down on the rare occasions when you need to make a particularly perilous leap.

You can actually skip most of Blighttown and all of the Depths if you take the elevator down from the Valley of Drakes, but I’d honestly encourage you to give the intended path another shot. On subsequent playthroughs, I’ve found Blighttown much less overwhelming now that I’m better at the game and know to, say, equip gear with high poison resistance. It’ll also be running at a decent framerate this time, and the improved resolution may help you appreciate the level’s rather amazing skybox. There’s a terrific sense of scale as you descend. It’s up to you, but I still willingly do Blighttown in full on replays even though I know how to skip straight to the bottom.

Out of curiosity, are you chasing any of the NPC quests this time? They’re so convoluted that you really can’t follow them without a guide, and I’d never recommend doing that on the first run since it’s best to play these games unspoiled, but now that you’ve seen the campaign once, it might be fun to peel another layer back.

Anyway, as the site’s resident Dark Souls 1 apologist, I hope you get more out of the game this time, and I especially hope the DLC lives up to the hype. It’s personally my favorite stretch of any Souls game. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on that.

— Mike

From: Richard Naik

Mike,

As of right now my ranking is DS3 > DS2 > Bloodborne > DeS > DS1. DS3 is ultimately at the top for me because while it’s definitely a Greatest Hits album (as GameCritics loyalist Pedro so aptly put it) rather than anything particularly bold, I very much appreciate how polished it is. It retains the challenge the series is known for while lowering the bullshit factor nearly to zero. Coincidentally, my ranking goes in order from least to most bullshit.

At what point was it exactly that you found your groove with the combat? For me it didn’t really come until the Sunken King DLC in Dark Souls 2 when I used a magic-enhanced greatsword to take down Elana. That boss gave me fits for almost two weeks trying to do it as a pure caster, so I finally just beefed myself up and used a heavier weapon. I felt like I “got” the series at that point, especially since I spent 95% of Demon’s Souls cheesing it with magic and wound up abusing pyromancy in Dark Souls. It’s been the gaming equivalent of tortilla chips and salsa for me ever since.Regarding the NPC quests, I am playing with a guide this time trying to do as much of them as I can. I want to do Seigward’s quest in particular since I messed that one up pretty early on in my original playthrough. Also, I didn’t let Laurtec out this time, so it completely blew my mind when he still appeared at Firelink. The game does in fact intend for that to happen, but I had no idea so it was a legitimate WTF moment. Kicking him off the ledge was pretty satisfying after he screwed me over by killing the Firekeeper the first time around.

Anyway, back to the present: the Capra Demon. My goodness is this a horribly designed boss. The room essentially being a closet with a bunch of things that obscure your vision is bad enough, but having the fight be almost totally dependent on how nice the dogs decide to be really makes me wonder how that got past playtesting. The first two tries the dogs rushed me constantly and trapped me by that damn tree to where I couldn’t move, whereas the third they were more passive and Capra himself was cake after that, especially after dealing with the Bloodborne bosses and their 7-8 hit combos.

I think this fight and Blighttown are what color most of my negative opinion on Dark Souls. Not only were they incredibly aggravating, but they’re stacked near the beginning of the game as to make things as unnecessarily frustrating as possible. The negative first impression just stuck with me after that. Lost Izalith is definitely bad too, but it’s mostly just boring rather than frustrating. Still, hopefully the better stability will make things better this time around.

I’m heading to the Depths soon. Gaping Dragon ahoy.

Richard

P.S. After beating the Capra Demon I lost all the souls from him (about three levels worth at this point) trying to run back across the bridge instead of being smart using a homeward bone. A fool and his fortune I guess.

Richard Naik

Richard Naik

Born and raised in St. Louis, MO, Richard received his first console (the NES) at the age of six, and from that point on games have been an integral part of his life, whether it's been frittering summers away with the likes of Mario, Mega Man, and the Zerg or partaking in marathon sessions of Halo, Team Fortress 2 or Left 4 Dead. After being a longtime reader of GameCritics, Richard joined the staff in March of 2009, and over the years Richard grew into the more prominent role of part-time podcast host.

In 2016, he spearheaded a complete rebuild of the GameCritics.com website, earning him the title of Chief Engineer.

His gaming interests are fairly eclectic, ranging from 2D platformers to old-school-style adventure games to RPGs to first-person shooters. So in other words, he’ll play pretty much anything.
Richard Naik

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Li-Ion
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Li-Ion

I am not sure why you rank part three that high. My personal ranking would go: 1 Bloodborne 2 Dark Souls 3 Demon’s Souls 4 Dark Souls 2 5 Dark Souls 3 While the third game looks the most polished, l found it a rather hollow experience. Too many callbacks that didn’t work, no improvement to key issues that are there since the beginning of the series and introduction of new problems. Worst offender probably being the fact that poise was canned and doesn’t do anything. That made heavy armor and big weapons near worthless and there is no reason… Read more »

Pedro
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Pedro

Part three may have had its issues but I enjoyed it immensely. Truth be told I haven’t fully decided on either 3 or Bloodborne yet as I haven’t been back to them after beating the final boss. No ng+ in either so far. I will say that Bloodborne had its bad moments too – the level leading to the shadows of yharnam was the dullest level in any of the games, the chalice dungeons, the Rom and Micolash fights etc. However a list of ‘best’ games rather than my favourites might go: 1. Demons 2. First half of Dark 3.… Read more »

Li-Ion
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Li-Ion

@Pedro: I haven’t played the DLC for Dark Souls 3 yet. This is how little I’m engaged in it. While I was still on board with Dark 2, and it’s DLC is arguably the best part of it. In Dark 1 and Bloodborne I was playing the DLC on day one. In Dark 3 I can’t force myself to play it at all. I miss the physicality of the combat that you had in Dark 1 or 2. Heavy weapons had impact, heavy armor had tangible effects. In Dark 3 you can easily roll in full plate from the very… Read more »

Pedro
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Pedro

Richard, I regret to inform you that I have initiated legal proceedings in Japan to rename the second game Dungeon Slog 2 and for it to be rebranded and positioned in a more appropriate game series. Unfortunately this means you will have to exclude it from your lists from this point forward. I think my list goes Demons -> Dark 1 -> Dark 3 -> Bloodborne You’ve hit the nail on the head with that Capra fight, it really is bs of the highest order. I think Demons was the only one that had no bullshit quotient, all the boss… Read more »

sleeve
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sleeve

Dark Souls is by a long margin my favorite of the series. I’m currently playing Bloodborne and I like that one quite a bit, enough to say that it’s my second favorite of the series. I’ve never played Demon Souls. My personal ranking goes DS > Bloodborne > = DS3 > DS2. Dark Souls 2 gets so much wrong with the DS formula that I find it quite tedious and unpleasant to play, though I will concede that I greatly enjoyed the Fume Knight boss fight (I might even rate it among my top 3 SoulsBorne bosses). I think if… Read more »