Dark Souls 2 – Day 1: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Life, well actually un-life, is tough in Dark Souls 2. It starts with nothing and pretty much stays the course or heads downwards. There is no up. It’s been one full day of toil in this brutal adventure from developer From Software and all I’ve gained is one thing: nothing.

Technically, that’s not true. I’ve gained a few things, like a diseased color, for instance. My crusader is greener than Kermit, deader than dirt. Its shriveled skin looks uglier than the abominations roaming the open expanses of this realm at this point. That’s me up there.

It’s a sign that what I could once call my own has vanished. This remainder is but a shell. Naturally, this makes me a much lesser champion in the field.

That’s also the main issue in this first endeavor: Keeping one’s humanity is impossible. That “Prepare to die” slogan thing isn’t used for no reason.

So, with that in mind, why even toil towards the fleeting aspect of humanity at all? Sure, it’s a boost in combat, but it’s toying with players, as that slight advantage makes defeat seem so much bigger once it’s gone.

I’ve also yet to discover the who what and where of Dark Souls 2, since there is no explanation. Even the help text is esoteric, which is definitely pushing it. As such, I don’t really know what my goal is, except to die, again and again.

With that comes endless repetition. Not just that, but also map recognition. I know the areas I’m in like the back of my hand.

On area one, there’s a soldier across the bend, then a shielded one waiting atop the stairs and three in the dome, with one having a kill-all mace. There used to be an extra mace, but that’s not there anymore. I’m not complaining.

It’s come so far, I’ve also found a way to not even fight the first one. Luring that brute to the narrow pass, then rolling out of the way lets the attack animation send it to the abyss.

It’s said that Dark Souls 2 is a game of learning. That’s certainly partially true. Every trial I’ve passed is now one I know. It doesn’t help me on the road ahead, but it beats the passage already trodden into my skull.

How commendable is that really towards the game? Shouldn’t things bring you insight for later on instead?

There is some of that as well, but the majority of collected tricks are for events already passed. Indeed, that’s how they were passed in the first place. It seems counterproductive.

That one area stops with a berserk axe-wielder chopping my entire health bar in one blow. It’s not exactly possible to go there anymore. It’s time for a change.

dark souls2 5

Dark Souls 2 is open-ended, to a degree. Its environments are huge and stretch far into the distance, kind of like a foreboding sign of the chores ahead. “Chores” is the proper term here. There is not one vermin-infested den that looks like it will be entertaining to visit.

From atop a branching castle wall, the ruins below murmur something barely audible. Sometimes it’s a monster, sometimes it’s the chilling wind stabbing past. Mostly though, it’s a monster.

Again I wonder, however: Who is really the monster? I look much worse for wear with my sickening green shade and these things are just minding their own until I enter. Maybe I’m the aggressor of Dark Souls 2. If so, I’m a poor threat.

In the other area, there’s a resting soul. Once more, it stays passive until I disturb it from its slumber. Each time I do, I pay the ultimate price. I’ve done that on every road I’ve walked now.

Since going green, I’ve reached the biggest barrier of my first journey into this realm. Dying causes something called “hollowing” and needs a special, rare item to recover. If that’s not the case, each additional death strikes away a little more health from the possible total amount.

Therefore, at the end of day one, my health bar is a nub. This is the point where continuing seems futile. Each death brings me closer to more dying.

More so than just the “normal” brutal challenge in the game, this stripping is my downfall. Every enemy pretty much instantly kills me upon any contact. That’s absolute madness, like an increasingly more rigid bullet hell.

dark souls 2

Many will think different and even raise one cop-out after the other of the supposed state of this adventure or my alleged inability, but Dark Souls 2 is not a good game. That one particular kink in the system just doesn’t allow it to be, as it makes progress nigh impossible without masochistic resilience.

Things boil down to muscle memory plus luck, nothing more. Sometimes the spear misses; sometimes it stabs you in that exact position. A roll of the dice is about as skillfully implemented.

This reeks of that “badge of honor” thing snobs are quick to congratulate themselves on in games, ever since Battletoads came out and the first snotty brat said they’d beat it in one go. Ok, even so, that would be the exception to the rule; it doesn’t excuse its flaws.

Before things get too heated, it bears mentioning that it certainly isn’t a bad game either. Toiling hasn’t left that bad of a first impression.

Here are some things to get excited about in Dark Souls 2: It’s gigantic in scope and invites heroes in with its many wiling ways of gorgeous sceneries. It cleverly sets up these elaborate designs that urge adventurers to think before acting.

Then, it kills all. There are many ways to die, whether it’s in a corridor with a crushing trap, a colossus with a giant sword or just a mob of adept spearmen.

Choose your destiny. Prepare to die.

By Daav Valentaten

Daav has been playing games since Atari was a thing and still likes games that look old, but also new stuff. There's no allegiance to platforms or genres; anything big and small can make a good game. This gives him a ton of perspectives to write about.

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Around The Network
    • ZzZ85

      Reviewer not qualified to review this game.

    • TroliusMaximus

      Scrub is that scrub does, Forest.

    • Jack Chameleo

      …or you die twice.

      • Kalis

        No matter how many times you die the maximum penalty is 50%. Which is the same penalty that Demon’s Souls had

    • Jack Chameleo

      it really is, though.

    • Jack Chameleo

      As a person who got through the first one and loved it only after killing the monster that had killed me 20 times before–by persistence alone–what this reviewer is saying is true. There is little to no skill required to beat this game, only luck of the draw for any not-quite-suicidal approach.

      • Smith

        Luck is only required if you suck. If you’re actually competent with the gameplay and learn enemy attacks, the game isn’t impossibly hard as you and the reviewer make it out to be. Above all, since it’s an RPG, creating the right character build and leveling up your weapons and armor helps too. Go defeat the Taurus demon after leveling up to LV 50 with a Black knight greatsword to see how it’s really all about levels.

        What the reviewer is saying can hardly be “true” when thousands of people have shown it’s the game’s mechanics which make the game hard or not but even with a low-level character, it’s possible to beat all the bosses and enemies in the game by use of skill (as people have shown with playthroughs where they don’t even level up on YouTube). The reviewer doesn’t know what he’s talking about and should get better at the game before reviewing it.

        I wouldn’t want him to play Ninja Gaiden on its hardest difficulty or any of its difficulties for that matter. That’s really a hard game as are many of the Castlevania games.

        I’m guessing you’re one of those people who plays games on their lowest difficulty settings because what you’ve said about the game being based on luck is laughable. I’m not even a “pro” or die-hard fanatic of the game but the most times I died in the game was over 50 times and that was in my first play-through, significantly less than the number of times I died in Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania 1 or any Halo game on Legendary difficulty.

      • Siriuss Blackk

        it’s true that persistence is a key factor in gaining enjoyment from a souls game, because it’s really freaking difficult when you’re just starting out

        “when you’re just starting out” is a keyword, because after about 300-400 hours of gameplay, i decided to bust out a cheatengine. not to give myself infinite health, but to give myself exactly 1 hp, which meant that even so much as being touched by an enemy would kill me, i even added in a mod that changed the behavior of enemies, making them much more agressive

        i managed to play through the ENTIRE game this way, and a LOT faster even than my first playthrough

        after this run i started trying to do a speedrun through the game, and managed to complete the main game in a mere 8 hours
        my second attempt at a speedrun, i learned a lot from my mistakes on the first try, and i completed it in only 3.5 hours

        by the way, this was only my 5th ever full playthrough dark souls

        i think this shows pretty clearly that luck isn’t really a factor in whether you win or lose
        in fact, i’d go so far as to say that each and every time you die, it’s your fault, unless you count PVP, of course, and even then, it’s more likely due to network lag than unbalanced gameplay, but it’s this mentality that drives dark souls players (me at least) to improve their playstyle,

        for example:
        learning the timing on parries didn’t seem important, until i figured out that it’s a good way of clearing out groups of enemies, if only because you’re invincible during the animation.
        learning how important roll speed is didn’t seem important, and i mostly used a super-tanky armor set in order to reduce incoming damage, until i figured out that, depending on your roll speed, you are fully invincible during certain frames of the animation, after which i decided that a light armor set was a lot more useful for me, and improved my survivability more than any heavy armor set could

        enemies will ALWAYS show you well ahead of time EXACTLY what they’re going to do, so you will always be able to avoid, and even punish every action an enemy does. and every enemy of the same type will do so in the exact same way, and will always be in the exact same position as last time you passed through the area

        the last factor the reviewer didn’t account for, since he never reached, let alone beat one of the boss battles, is the thing that REALLY gets players hooked on dark souls

        imagine taking an hour to reach the first boss battle, since you’re inexperienced, and die even to very basic enemies over and over again because of your limited experience in how they move
        then imagine taking several hours to beat said boss battle, and since you have to run the same stretch over and over again, the regular enemies become trivial, to the point where you might even decide that ignoring them works just as well, and is probably safer, yet the boss still beats the crap out of you in seconds
        slowly you start to learn how the boss moves
        *if he pulls his weapon to the left, i should move forward, and he won’t hit me while i can hit him*
        *if he raises his weapon up i should get behind him or his AOE attack will hit me*
        *if he starts flying, i should get away or he’ll land on my head*
        slowly you start chipping away more and more of the bosses health bar, until finally

        you beat him
        for a moment you’re surprised
        *wait, did i win?*
        the words *you defeated* show up on screen
        replacing the usual *you died*

        the feeling you have at this moment, is one that only few games can give you, the souls series being among those few games

    • Daavpuke

      Effigies are finite in nature, sadly. And death comes cheap, I don’t think anyone will deny me that.

    • Skull Kidd

      Well, you clearly haven’t played a Souls game before, not properly, and you obviously didn’t spend much time with this one. The particularly dumb thing that stuck out to me was that you learn how to deal with the past but not the future, in the game. I mean, seriously? Every enemy can be easily beaten in a variety of different ways, and most areas are populated mainly with the same handful of enemies. All you have to do is take the time to actually learn how to fight the enemies individually and they become second nature to defeat on face value, even in groups. All you have to do is be patient, keep your shield up and learn how to move properly. This is Dark Souls.

      • Daavpuke

        The issue with all similar rhetoric that starts this way.

    • kidsafari

      Dark souls 2 is not a good game? You have been playing games since Atari, but you have been playing all the wrong times. Maybe it’s time you retire yourself to the old folks home. Where just like in the games you like, people will hold your hand and direct you how to survive in life.

      • Jack Chameleo

        right, and you didn’t need ANY help figuring out what to do or where to go in Dark Souls? You’re such a jerkoff…

        • Smith

          No, I didn’t. The only jerkoff here is you. Go back to Skyrim.

    • Chris Grigg

      So did you only spend one day with DS2? If so, it seems extremely unfair to review it without giving it more time.

      I remember playing the first one and feeling nothing but despair for the first few days. I died repeatedly for hours the first time until I realized I was going in the completely wrong direction. Its atmosphere and the exciting world kept me going, though, and I slowly improved to a point where I didn’t die much at all and I was free to adventure cautiously. Everyone I’ve spoken with who gave it some time felt the same way. You have to change your playing style from the way you handle normal adventure games. Shield up, creep around corners, take your time with enemies. It rewards patience and you actually do improve.