Dark Souls Play Diary – Part 1

 Subscribing to GameFly, I fill my query with basically every new game coming out, just so I can stay on top and get exposed to some newer titles, since my personal preference skew to random titles old or new. After an extreme lack of interest in Demon’s Souls, I didn’t intend on getting Dark Souls. But as with every other new game coming out that isn’t Madden, it was on my GameFly list. Sure enough, GameFly opted to send it to me. With zero expectation, I figured It could go either way.

My initial impressions – Not so good.  From what I’ve heard, Demon’s Souls is all about dying. I wouldn’t doubt them since that seems to be what Dark Souls is all about. Death during combat is inevitable and it requires you to rethink strategies, or even what path you take to get somewhere. There’s some tedium as, every time you die all the enemies respawn, but it just gives you more of a reason to not lose any of your precious health.

Where death is just flat out annoying in Dark Souls is the random “O hai, you’re dead,” deaths. Within the first fifteen minute of the game you are semi-teleported or something onto a platform. Before you even have to to survey your surroundings to determine what to do next, an enemy below the platform destroys it and you die. Good job, go back and replay the level basically. Of course, the next time you approach you know to get off the platform. But the first time you encounter this, there’s no way you’d think to jump off the platform almost immediately. Especially early in the game when you aren’t familiar with how deadly fall damage is.

One cheap death was annoying, but within the course another two hours of me playing, there were multiples of these. Flaming barrels rolling down stairs with no time for reaction, random high level enemies that you can’t judge until you hit them or they hit you, and then fairly hidden elements to the environment, like a ladder in a small corner behind a brick wall you’re supposed to find while a giant boar creature attacks you and enemies hail arrows on you.

The idea here is you’re supposed to read notes that players leave online to warn you about events. Unfortunately, if no one has left a note, you walk right into these events. In many cases I’d die, come back and there’s a note after I had died to whatever had killed me. Without those warnings, you’re basically punished for no reason beyond the fact that you’re actually progressing in the game. It’s like an extreme form of backtracking. I’ve heard people compare the death system to the Mega Man series, but the difference in pacing changes what is, in Mega Man, a quick climb back to the top into  a long painful and tedious journey that you have to take every single time the game decides it’s your time to die.

Either way, I’ll keep playing for now.  I’ll talk about other elements of the game in future entries. I just mainly wanted to get out one of the more pressing issues.

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