Yes. Yes, I did.
So, for the record, I made it a full 24 hours between finishing Demon’s Souls and buying Dark Souls from Steam. I had grandiose plans to wait for a sale, but it turned out that I really, really needed some more of the same sort of game.
Technically I could have started a NG+ game of Demon’s Souls, which is “the same game, just 70% harder”, but I’m not sure I have the mental fortitude for that.
Anyway. Dark Souls turned out to be a rather longer game than Demon’s Souls, and quite a bit more obtuse in points. The hub structure of Demon’s Souls didn’t always make it clear WHICH world to go to next, but it made your starting points pretty obvious. Dark Souls likes to hide paths from the player, which is a bit frustrating until you start learning how the zones slot together.
The canonical example – and it’s done with such obvious intent that it’s hard to take too much umbrage at it – is the paths out of Dark Souls’ hub zone. One of the exits is initially unavailable (it’s an elevator that needs to be repaired, and you need to get to the other end of the shaft to do so), two other exits are hidden by topology, and the remaining exit is a very obvious path that leads you into a graveyard.
Taking that path will get you killed in a hurry, because the undead in the graveyard are nasty sorts indeed. They’re not invincible, and I was even able to win a couple of fights, but they are there to show you that the obvious path isn’t always the right one and to teach you that if you’re dying repeatedly you’re probably somewhere you shouldn’t be just yet.
Learning how to get from point A to B without dying is one of the small ways the game rewards you. Much like Demon’s Souls, there’s a constant feedback loop of incremental self-improvement that is profoundly satisfying, and that’s what I wanted more of after finishing the older game.
So. Now for the really controversial statement:
Dark Souls really isn’t that hard. I mean, it’s pitched as the Most Manly Game Ever by its fans, who can be incredibly helpful one moment and only slightly more obsessive than Vegan Amway Salesmen Who’ve Recently Discovered Crossfit the next, but it’s really just a game that rewards patience and experimentation. It’s also a game that demands community interaction, and you will NOT get far without having a bookmark to the associated wiki, if only to occasionally check whether you are dying repeatedly because you don’t understand how a boss fight works or if you’re dying repeatedly because you know how the dance is supposed to go but you’re getting the steps wrong.
I never had a controller clenching moment like the ones I got while playing Ninja Gaiden, for example, or Gunvalkyrie. Those are games that demand a high degree of manual dexterity and the ability to pull off complex inputs, and they usually have One Proper Way to kill any given opponent. Dark Souls gives you a ton of tools and sometimes selecting the right one for a challenge is the hardest part.
So anyway, I’ll probably be picking up Dark Souls II in the near future, and if THAT goes well… well, the third and final game in the series is already out, so there’s no Half-Life-esque risk of getting invested in something and having it go nowhere.
When I come back to you, a broken man, feel free to point out the bit where I downplayed the series’ difficulty and laugh.