Back in September, I decided to play the PS3 version of Dark Souls, since I’d never played the console versions and kind of wanted to see just how bad Blighttown really was.
It’s bad. Woo boy is it ever. I think it drops to single-digit frame rates in places, and I have a deep respect for anyone who toughed that out back in the day.
Then I kind of just kept on playing and wound up beating it in a hair under 15 hours, which was almost exactly a quarter of the time I’d taken to beat the game on my first playthrough a couple of years ago. I’m not going to challenge any speed running records, but I felt good about that.
…it got me thinking, though. What would a Dark Souls run look like if I focused on an efficient path through all of the bosses and gear and so forth? I mean, with the caveat that saving Solaire from going insane was 100% non-negotiable.
It was a fun mental exercise, anyway… and then came the Switch port of the game and suddenly the urge to take it from mental exercise to practice was too strong to resist.
Advance warning: The rest of this post is going to make absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn’t played the first Dark Souls at least once or twice.
Before I get into that, however, I am really impressed with the way the game translated to the portable system. Visually, this is a no-compromises version, shrunk down to a 7 inch screen. I didn’t try it in TV mode, but I expect it looks the same, just at 1080P instead of 720P.
The lighting in Anor Londo is one of my favorite things about the first Dark Souls.
The one drawback of the small screen was that it DID make the Ornstein and Smough fight even harder than normal. I kept wiffing dodges that I should have made easily, and I got roadblocked there for far longer than I expected. I did make it harder on myself by killing Smough first, of course – I don’t know Super Ornstein’s move set very well, but I really wanted his armor set for curse resist in the Seath fight.
The other boss fight that gave me unexpected difficulty was Gravelord Nito, though that at least only took three tries. This is my fifth time through Dark Souls, and the first time I’ve actually died in the Nito fight. He was hitting me with some attacks I don’t think I’ve ever seen before AND I was getting a crazy amount of aggro from his adds. Very embarrassing.
One small blessing, however, was that Bed of Chaos didn’t take many attempts. It’s usually a really annoying fight, but this time was just in and out before I even had time to start cursing.
Oh, and everyone’s favorite archer duo? The first time I faced off against them, it was an arduous process of hiding behind a pillar and occasionally poking my head out and getting one arrow fired at them and about a dozen fired in return.
I could have done that a little better if I hadn’t dorked up the roll, but… well, I’m content.
I also had some weird targeting issues in the Duke’s Archive. I don’t remember ever having lock-on issues there before, but there were times when I would try to target an enemy that I was nearly touching and I’d get a camera reset instead. I had a few deaths in there that I absolutely should not have had.
Still, setting a couple of frustrating moments aside, I think I did a pretty good job with both my mental exercise and with executing on it:
Under 11 hours!
And yes, my valiant undead warrior, vanquisher of lords and linker of the first flame was named “Becky” because one of my pet quirks with the Souls games is that my characters must all have names that conjure up the dizziest of ditzy girls. Previous characters have included Tiffany, Conqueror of Worlds.
So, quick overview. I started a Cleric with the Master key gift. I immediately picked up Astora’s Straight Sword and the Zweihander, and those took me through the entire game enchanted to +5 and +14 respectively.
Did I say +14? This was off the very first Darkwraith I killed, and I got a SECOND slab only a few kills later. Some days, the RNG gods are kind.
I also picked up the Grass Crest Shield, which I used for everything except for the trip down to Quelaag. For that, I used the Spider Shield. I took the Grass Crest Shield up to +5 just to use up some spare titanite shards.
Armor sets used: Elite Knight’s Armor, Ornstein’s Armor, Havel’s Armor for a couple of fights when I just decided to tank things in the face. I didn’t upgrade any of these.
I did all of the mandatory bosses and a few optional ones – Capra Demon, Centipede Demon, Firesage – but I skipped the Taurus Demon, Moonlight Butterfly, the whole Painted World, Dark Sun Gwyndolin and the Gaping Dragon. I went back to the Asylum for the Rusted Iron Ring but didn’t bother to kill the Stray Demon while I was there. Boring fight anyway.
Now, playing this way obviously misses HUGE chunks of the game. As I mentioned, I didn’t even fight the Taurus demon, and the entirety of Sen’s Fortress was sort of a barely-memorable blur. This would be the absolute worst way to play a game for the first time.
But, it was pretty fun for the fifth. 🙂