Beating Dark Souls the hard way

This post is for anyone who has ever thought something like “I can’t play Dark Souls, it’s too hard”, or “there’s no way I can ‘git gud’ at these games” or “Dark Souls takes patience and skill”. There’s some truth to this, but I’m here to prove that you are good enough to beat it.

If I can do it, the way I did it, then you can do it to…

I think it’s safe to say that I never achieved ‘git gud’ status for this game. I never parried (never even tried to). I’d roll, but my success was incredibly limited. I never created an ultimate build or found that overpowered weapon that would change the game. Yet, I made it through, and by the end I was doing so with only a handful of tries at the boss battles.

How did I do it. I made myself a character with a bucket of strength and stamina, set myself with tank-like armour and shield, upgraded the healing flasks as high as I could, and waded into each fight like a dim-witted thug.

I was recorded some of my fights because a friend of mine gave up playing, and didn’t quite believe I was making it through. It’s a fair assumption on their part; I’ve never touted myself as any kind of super-skilled gamer. They had tried every skilful, dodging, pinwheeling thing they could to win, and had given up at the boss fights prior to this one.

I beat Manus here, on my fifth go. Argued by most as the hardest (if not top 3 hardest) of the bosses in the game, and I beat him. Not really a brag though, because how I beat him is hardly the most impressive sight:

Apologies for the sound of my controller rumbling on the table I was playing at 🙂

I roll from time to time, mostly successful. I slam healing potions so hard and fast you can practically hear the character crunching glass shards. When and AOE attack is imminent, I just stand there and take it as I guzzle Estus Flasks, because I learnt that the amount I could heal was more than what I lost from the hit, and trying to avoid it would always fail and the next hit would kill me.

No finesse, no proficiency, just brute force and luck.

I beat the previous bosses even quicker. Kalameet, the fire spewing dragon took 3 goes. I forgot to hit record on the fight with Artorias because it only took two goes. Both times it was the same as the Manus fight. Stomp around in heavy armour, shield the hit or violently chug potions as I’m being assaulted. Over-levelled for every fight too.

And you can do it too. No need to master parrying or ponder over the character setup. No real skill required. Just up the health and armour, find a nice heavy sword and go in swinging.

You can, but should you?

Of course, I should also add that you shouldn’t play these games lightly. I played this game a few times in its early days and gave up a few bosses in each time. I played this game because it always bugged me that I never finished. Once I found my stride, and that skill doesn’t matter nearly as much as suggested, I got through it.

But did I actually enjoy it? Hard to say. Each win felt good, and each boss brought down was a release of tension that had me happy/angry-dancing in my seat, but Dark Souls does not feel good when you are playing it. It’s a constant stress kind of fun, and whilst the gameplay is solid, its clunky and heavy and buggy. The fact that so many bosses can be ‘cheesed’ speaks volumes to me. I never tried to break the game to win, but I could have, and I’m sure that I won several bouts because something went wrong with the AI, hit boxes, scenery clipping… and so on.

This was my last interaction with the game. The last boss. Not really the top of any ranking, but still a notorious threat. I didn’t intend for the game to break. But it did [spoilers, obviously]:

I know I didn’t do this on purpose, because I looked around on Wikis afterwards to see if this had happened before and couldn’t find a duplicate. And that was that, game completed

So if you want to go into Dark Souls but fear its difficulty. Get stuck in. If you don’t mind trial and error, and you have some patience for a slog of a combat style you can beat this game by brute force alone.

But know that part of the reason why the game is hard is that the gameplay is sluggish and clumsy. The world’s monster pinwheel around you with giddy, limber, acrobatics, but you can only tumble until tiredness kicks in.

I might beat Dark Souls 2 in the future, maybe. Maybe Elden Ring one day, maybe. But honestly, saying that I finally beat the first game is enough. Chapter closed. I don’t feel excited by the ‘challenge’ of the rest of the franchise.

Glad I did it though. And did it my way. The clumsly, slap-dash, should-not-have-worked way.

Thank You For Reading

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Author: Rufus Scott

I am a long term Gamer, a full-time History Teacher and a part-time geek. I enjoy writing about the positive aspects of gaming, especially when it comes to education. My posts are sometimes nostalgic, occasionally irrelevant, largely meant to provoke further discussion. I'll sometimes punctuate these whimsical ramblings with a random comment on gaming and/or teaching.

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