I completed a hard game for once

Posted Nov 20, 2014

Being kind of a quitter, I’m very easy to dissuade from pretty much anything and I find comfort in the fact that if life gets too hard, there’s always an easy way out called suicide. So while I’m waiting for that to inevitably happen, hard games and I have an agreement. I don’t play them, and in return they don’t make me feel like an idiot. Sometimes though, like a zoogoer jumping the fence to the lion den, I break the rules and get mauled and eaten. Figuratively speaking. Almost.

High difficulty is why I never finished Super Meat Boy. It’s why I only finished XCOM: Enemy Unknown through save scumming, and it’s why I’m surprised I managed to finish Dark Souls. Originally I was going to use this post to complain how the game was basically unplayable, but then something happened and I was actually enjoying it.

This fucking thingAlso, this fucking thing

At first, I went in blind with a melee class and got stuck in Undead Burg. Then, I started a cleric game, cheated every stat to 99 and still died at the bridge to Undead Parish. It drove me half mad. As I previously mentioned, I have trouble keeping interested in games nowadays, and an unusually high difficulty certainly doesn’t help. I hate leaving a game half finished — it should preferably be either finished or left alone from the start — but playing the same thing over and over without progressing is even worse, and that’s exactly what Dark Souls was making me do. Oh, but it’s alright, you see, you’re supposed to play it for it’s difficulty, which is a bit like saying you should visit Africa for the ebola.

I had just about had it with the game when I found the Dark Souls easy mode walkthrough by some guy calling himself the Tech Phantom. Despite the name and the intro (it gets old), his walkthrough is very in-depth and for the most part noob-friendly. The reason for making it, he says, is to demonstrate that an easier difficulty setting for Dark Souls is unnecessary, but that doesn’t really work when the entire thing hinges on taking very specific routes to get very specific items, i.e. things you’d need expert-level knowledge of the game to know is even there. And new players aren’t going to have expert-level knowledge, they’re going to flail their starting mace around and hope that whatever’s in front of them ends up dying before they do (it won’t).

I shouldn’t be too hard on the guy, though. While I would have loved to say that I completed the game through perseverance and carefully honed skills, the truth is that I have one person to thank for it, and that’s the… “Tech Phantom.”

Now that I actually finished it, I find it hard to formulate a concise opinion about it. It’s an immensely obtuse game that starts out with saying “ring two bells, one in a church and one underground, GL HF ;)” and you’re basically left to figure out for yourself which way will get you killed by a gang of skeletons and which way will get you killed by a gang of ghosts, which can be really jarring if you’re coming from any game with objective markers and extensive tutorials. I’d say this approach lends itself very well to exploration, which it does, but the consequences of going the wrong way are grave enough that exploration is only fun when you have learnt to play the game well.

All in all though, it sucked me in as soon as I was able to make steady progress, and it kept me interested for a lot longer than many other games have. The open world design is probably it’s strongest point — everything is connected in ways that’ll make you go oooh! — but there’s just so much shit you have to go through to appreciate it, and that makes it a hard sell.

Heh. Hard. Get it?