As many of you know, I’m obsessed with Dark Souls. The lore, the design, the combat, everything. And having sunk over five hundred hours into it, I foolishly assumed I’d be able to cruise through without dying. After all, I’d been invited to play the E3 demo build of the game (two sizeable portions of the game, the second culminating in a boss fight).
Ahh, the arrogance.
I mean, seriously. At what point during my hundreds of hours did I not get the message? From Software want to see you suffer. In fact, that’s exactly what players want, need and deserve from a good Souls experience. When the Prepare to Die DLC came out, every horrifying new surprise gave me a genuine rush. I WANTED to get spanked into the dirt. Forget Fifty Shades of Grey; Dark Souls is the ultimate sub/dom experience. Only, you know. With less nakey.
The demo kicks off with class selection; you get to pick one of four tricked-out characters: Warrior, Sorcerer, Temple Knight and Dual Swordsman, all in their own highly distinctive armour sets. We weren’t given access to the character screen, which means we couldn’t look at stats, inventory or spell/item descriptions, so I had to guess at what stuff did. At this stage, we don’t know what the character creation process will be like come next March when the full game comes out, but I’m guessing we’ll get to make distinct characters. I hope.
Forget Fifty Shades of Grey; Dark Souls is the ultimate sub/dom experience. Only, you know. With less nakey.
I played through the entire demo with all four classes. Temple Knight was basically a sunbro in gorgeous heavy armour; huge mink cape, amazing armour design, and a shield/halberd combo. He could whip out some pretty brilliant lightning/healing spells, but was a bit slow for my liking. I had no end of difficulty mastering the new dual-wielding mechanics of the dual swordsman, and the warrior (the guy you see in all the trailers and posters and whatnot) was your standard sword-and-board meat shield, with a bow thrown in there to spice things up. The sorcerer was my favourite, though. Again, I suspect what the developers did was take a cross-section of playstyles, weapons and mechanics, and create four characters to display it all in a clean, easy manner while they kept working on the game.
The two areas I traversed — a fiery, dank dungeon with an unsettling outdoor section, and an area startlingly reminiscent of the Priscilla portion of Anor Londo – were cramped. By which I mean they felt more like Demon Souls than Dark Souls; tight corridors, low lighting, a surplus of rubble.
The demo also sent me into a diabolical series of unlit rooms which I had to pass through to reach a bonfire, and overestimating the cruelty of From Software, I began to inch through with my shield raised, and the volume cranked up to maximum. After ten arduous minutes and some seriously stressful but deft swordplay, I emerged outside. After I eventually died (for the first time), I approached the beginning of the darkness again, and saw a torch. Pressing ‘X’, my character seized the flaming brand, and I walked into the darkness. Which wasn’t dark anymore. The ‘either hold a shield in complete darkness or hold a torch and be totally defenceless’ conundrum is one that I’d encountered before in the Tomb of the Giants, but never before have I felt so confused and flattered by my own staggering dumbassery.
The final boss, a silvery giant bearing a mirror, was clearly programmed to have vastly more health and stats than normal. I watched several critics and employees at Namco Bandai chip away at its prodigious health pool, and I began to realise that From Software really, really didn’t want anyone calling this game easy.
To that end, they took a boss probably on par with Smough (on his own, that is) and ratcheted up the difficulty to an ungodly level to stave off accusations of making the game too simple and ‘accessible’. Well, based on what I played (over and over), it isn’t easy. And it feels inherently Dark Souls. Until I sink my teeth into the lore, the plot and the character creation process I won’t know for certain, but right now… it feels good.
By which I mean it feels like I just got my teeth kicked in.
Be excited, people.