From the very first undead you will kill, to the very demanding optional bosses, every death in the Souls games that you will suffer will be at your hands. This sentence sums it all. Dark Souls games are not hard games.
Before pitchforks are raised and I am burned at the stake, I beseech you to hear me out. The Dark Souls franchise is known all over the gaming community as a “hard game”. In gaming forums, new players to the Souls games are to be seen asking if it is a difficult a game as people say it is and the unanimous answer they get is that it is a brutally hard game. Google “hard games” and the Souls games will be in everyone’s list.
Everyone’s list but mine that is. I believe that the Souls games are not hard games, rather, but challenging games. There is a fine difference between hard and challenging and this is where most games fail. It is hard in definition too, to differentiate between hard and challenging. How do you decide something is challenging but not hard?
A hard game is a game that will punish you simply because it can. The AI mechanics will be cheap and your progression will rely solely on the whimsy of the game. Your opponents will gain unbelievable skill, mostly beyond human levels. Progression on these games is purely a matter of luck and chance. Your skills while building up your odds will only matter ever so slightly. Even after mastering a hard game and beating it, the chances of you making it through another playthrough will still be a thing of luck.
A challenging game is a game that tests your mettle, a game that demands that you sit up and take notice. A challenging game will ask only of your patience, your resolve and your ability to adapt. If you learn from your mistakes and master your opponents, then you will gain an advantage and progression is almost guaranteed. Progression on challenging games is purely up to how well you learn from your mistakes. Subsequent playthroughs, while still not a walk in the park, will be infinitely easier.
The Souls games are the most balanced games I have ever played. The world does not level up as you do, but at the same time, it never gets easier. In other games, when you reach end game, if you go back to the beginning areas, you’ll pulverize everything. Even in games that have a Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment that makes the world around your RPG character harder as he levels up, life is always easier when you’re more leveled up. Fallouts Legendary creatures are not as menacing when you hit higher levels.
Not so with Dark Souls. Everything can and will kill you. Despite this, you can go to the very end game with your starting characters levels and beat everything right up to the end boss. This is because Dark Souls does not rely on cheap tactics to beat you. It does not use cheap tricks like infinite stamina or health and unbreakable armor. Dark Souls tackles you as you come. Every enemy expects you to take them seriously.
As I said before: every time you die in dark souls, the fault is yours and yours alone (bar bad hitboxes and this is due to limitations in gaming software progress). The game will punish you for laziness, ineptitude and impatience. There are no cheap tactics from the games AI, every cretin and undead will jump you as fairly as an undead can.
The Souls games are unforgiving as very encompassing. There is no right way to tackle the games, no best equipment and no set path. The versatility that comes with this means that you can always forge a style that is best suited to your play style. It’s a simplicity in itself that makes sure that everyone comes out a winner.
This franchise will test your technique by throwing different opponents at you. How you react to an enemy ten times bigger than you should be different from how you crowd control hordes of enemy soldiers your size. As you progress, you learn different methods of approach, as you die, you learn from your mistakes and the game grows easier.
If you take on Dark Souls with patience and the seriousness that it asks of you, you will realize that the Souls games are not hard, but a challenge. What do you think? Are the Dark Souls games hard or not? Let us know in the comments section below.