Jurassic Dark Souls II: The Lost Month


So… I completed Dark Souls. I gave it another try (read about that here) and I really got into it for a while. Totally immersed, I obsessed over weapon stats, item buffs and even which armour set looked the coolest.

Not this one.
Not this one.

When I wasn’t playing the game or reading its wikis, I was watching pewdiepie‘s hilarious Let’s Play videos or listening to the genuinely fascinating ruminations on the game’s lore provided by the homely Bonfireside Chat podcast. I ate, slept and breathed Dark Souls for three weeks.

I don’t know where my toys are, but I can’t see them in my pram.

So you’d think I must love the game, right? That, now that it’s finished, all the frustration at Dark Souls‘ famous difficulty will have faded away leaving in its wake only a warm appreciation of the hard challenge I’ve surmounted?

Wrong. I like the game even less now than I did when I was in the thick of it, swearing at it and questioning its parentage.

"I died? Oh did I Dark Souls? Did I? Thank you so much for pointing that out, you festering gimboidal son of a toad."
“I died? Oh did I Dark Souls? Did I? Thank you so much for pointing that out, you festering gimboidal son of a toad.”

What really took the shine off of Dark Souls in the end wasn’t how tough and unforgiving the bosses and combat can be. I like that stuff. Its slim margin for success is rewarding minute-to-minute and that is no small game-making achievement.

However, the thing that is not rewarding in the slightest is the scant disregard the game has for your free time. It’s one thing traversing a difficult level to eventually face an unforgiving boss that requires 5-10 minutes of pure concentration with no mistakes to best, and quite another to force you to traverse that level each time you want to re-attempt the boss.

Half Life 2, genuinely one of the greatest games of the last ten years (or not), has tough sections. There are a couple of encounters in that game where you have to take down Combine gunships whilst surrounded by ground forces, and those sections were rough the first time through. I remember one in particular took me 6 or 7 tries but, crucially, beating it probably only took me about 20 minutes in total. There are similar levels of challenge and beyond in Dark Souls, but almost without exception they require you to backtrack for 10 minutes or so for each attempt.

Making your game hard is one thing, but that’s going too far for me. For the handful of bosses that I needed to attempt 5-10 times before finally getting the timings right, I used a little save file trick (that I came up with all on my own) so that upon failing I could load a save from just outside the boss room.

I'm not saying I'm as good at computers as Alan Turing, but I am saying that I bet he doesn't know what an Enchanted Spear +5 even is.
I’m not saying I’m as good at computers as Alan Turing, but I am saying that I bet he doesn’t know what an Enchanted Spear +5 even is.

I suppose that the second I was driven to that save file work-around, the spell was broken. I was clearly no longer enjoying the game on its own merits. I refused to jump again and again over hurdles that I’d already cleared, and my choice was to either give up, or find a way to enjoy the remainder of the game on my own terms. The sheen had washed away from Dark Souls, and I’d fallen out of love.

Don’t get me wrong. There are elements of the game that I look back on fondly. Although the delivery of the plot and the nature of the world is delivered in a way that apologists would regard as cleverly opaque but the rest of us might tend to classify as needlessly impenetrable, Lordran is undeniably beautifully realised in an aesthetic sense. The combat initially seems simple, but hides a rewarding nuance, with the staccato block, attack, dodge, attack rhythm rarely grating. Also, the environment is regularly smartly used to add variety to battles – even the weakest enemies pose a stiff test when blocking a narrow bridge or ledge.

Ultimately though, I’ve had enough Dark Souls for now I think. The sequel is out 14th March; if you’d have offered it to me a month ago I’d have bitten your hand off. Now though, I’m not sure it’ll be worth the bother.

I don't know where my toys are, but I can't see them in my pram.
I don’t know where my toys are, but I can’t see them in my pram.



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3 responses to “Jurassic Dark Souls II: The Lost Month”

  1. Mark Paterson avatar

    Sounds like you obsessed over it as much as I did for a time. Shame you didn’t come away with a good feeling in the end though. How are you feeling about Dark Souls II so far? I notice you’ve been playing it. 😉

    1. Simon avatar

      I’m loving Dark Souls 2. I think I’d gotten so mired in Lordran that it feels great playing with the same mechanics in an entirely new world, that I know nothing about. Souls games, I think, are about going on an adventure more than anything else. That sense of adventure was lost during my time with Dark Souls, but the magic is still there in the sequel.

      1. Mark Paterson avatar

        Glad to hear it! I’ve enjoyed discovering everything for myself – a lot of Dark Souls I researched before playing but I’ve gone into this totally blind.

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