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From Software

22 (probably) games that are way harder than Dark Souls

May 28 // Steven Hansen
Conversation around From Software's turgid-uttered sacred cow, the Souls series (Bloodborne, too) has such a strange fixation on difficulty, of shuddering players shivering under its hurts so good sadism. Namco Bandai fed into it with Dark Souls and Dark Souls II's marketing. I've died hundreds of times in hundreds of games. And it's very strange how people nod in agreement to the novelty of death and difficulty as if instant fail states were not one of gaming's founding blocks (to the point where some people have stupid arguments about whether things are or are not games). It reminds me of how Telltale's recent adventure games trump up "player choice" as if players haven't been choosing since positioning their Pong paddle. Ok, "narrative" choice? Umm, how about text adventures from 1981. Come on. Souls games aren't hard. I don't say that as a nose-upturned, "gotten gud" vet. They are about endurance and resilience more than sadistic, chronic difficulty. They are a challenge, but not monstrous or mean as people often make them out. Heck, I've seen someone who plays maybe one or two games a year get a platinum trophy in Demon's Souls. There's no club. Anyone can do this. They're designed to let anyone play and finish. Over on the webpage (and mobile application) Twitter, one-time Destructoid contributor Stephen Beirne (no relation!) loosed a series of posts about Souls and I am in accord. "I can't get behind the argument that Dark Souls is abusive due to its (presented sense of) difficulty. And I think this is because I find Dark Souls to be far, far less difficult than a game like, for example, Super Mario Brothers. Platforming is difficult! It's very difficult! It's not fun and it's agonizing and it's pointless and hateful." I love platformers, but this raises some great points, aside from the subjectivity of difficulty. No one's good at everything. I am bad at not having loads of sex, for example. Irish Stephen (not to be confused with Welsh Stephen) is bad at platformers. Young Steven (me) was bad at telling Kurt Russell and Patrick Swayze apart. There is a relative novelty to Souls games, though, and I think that's where some of the obsession over exaggerating the difficulty comes from (aside from general chest pounding reinforced by marketing to try and create a positive-feeling in-group). But it isn't in death. It's as a 3D action game. Late '80s, early '90s gaming was filthy with platformers. Mario, a pop culture icon up there with Michael Jordan and the wild shirtless Mark Farner, comes from New Jump City. The genre has only gotten easier, shedding quarter-gobbling design (the removal of "lives"), allowing you to skip levels after repeated death. While some folks are plum bad at 'em, we've had a lot of tries at being good at them. Compare to the 3D action game, which might not have even hit its stride until the PS2-era in the 2000s (PS1-era ones tended to be wonky and platforming-heavy), but at least didn't even exist until 3D graphics. In our young medium, the 3D action genre is younger still, (blood)born(e) of platformers and agèd over the last decade. Souls games occupy a genre that has a decent chance at being a new challenge to folks. It also operates different than genre-defining stuff like Devil May Cry or God of War, thanks in part to the RPG bits. The latter, reflex-based ilk are linear and need momentum. And so you can limp along, button mash, and be not all that good, for which they'll stratify you (chumps skirt by with C-ranks and stamina, experts carve up the world with SSS-rank endless combos). But you're still getting through, moving along. Even I meandered my way through the "hard" Devil May Cry games. And on the RPG side of the Souls mix, there's a history of having the numbers and grind fallback, limited reflex-oriented fighting. And suddenly, Souls, where the difference isn't "coast by or be good," but, more closely, "coast by or die." It rewrites the expectations of 3D, third-person action relative to genre standard bearers. All it asks you to do is get by, and so it skews the relationship to death and performance. The general experience of Devil May Cry is that sometimes you'll die. Mostly, you'll empty out rooms with the killing precision of a child flailing at a piñata. Eventually, you'll be an expert slayer. Souls changes that bell curve. Mostly you'll die. Eventually you'll get by. Rarely, you'll be a wrecking machine, an offensive weapon. It's about winning, eventually, instead of winning more and more impressively.  Souls offers other outs, too. You can go grind and level up, get more gear, buy more arrows. You can often fuck off elsewhere, to another stage, or on another path, rather than bang your head against one boss. Masochistic? When's the last time a text adventure let you type, "this is stupid, next question?" How about trying to suss a point-and-click puzzle that expects you to pry open a manhole, stretch a patch of human skin over it into a trampoline, and jump up through an open window? Souls games are designed to encourage you towards eventual success, even if it means breaks, detours, or extra hours. You don't get a gold star for killing the Flame Lurker without the ribcage exploit. You don't get a demerit for safely perching yourself with a bow and taking 100 potshots to down a far off creature. In Souls' judgment, it's all the same. What matters is you did it. I don't find that sadistic at all.
Not actually a listicle photo
Why the Souls series' hardened rep?
"Prepare to die," Dark Souls warns, flashlight under face, as if 30 years of video games hasn't already prepared me. "I'm not a masochist," people say, letting six years of Souls pass from afar, like they're looking out a tra...

Bloodborne photo
Bloodborne

Bloodborne patch 1.04 arrives with some tweaks that make the game easier


Passworded co-op is now easier to play
May 25
// Chris Carter
Ah, Bloodborne. While I'm not quite sure how it ranks overall in terms of the Souls games (I need a few more years to ponder that), there's no doubt in my mind that I'll be returning to it periodically. A steady str...
Bloodborne expansion photo
Bloodborne expansion

Sony boss confirms Bloodborne expansion, more info late this year


Cool
May 20
// Steven Hansen
Despite the successes of Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and Dark Souls 2, recent PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne sold well enough that Sony was still surprised with the results. It's not surprising, then, that the game would b...
Dark Souls II photo
Dark Souls II

From Software fixed Dark Souls II's wonky weapons


Weapon durability update released
May 07
// Jordan Devore
The PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One versions of Dark Souls II suffered from an issue that caused players' weapons to degrade faster than normal, requiring frequent repairs. In short: The rate at which weapon durability decrea...
Bloodborne map photo
Bloodborne map

This Bloodborne map sure would've helped


Curse the wretched woods
Apr 28
// Jordan Devore
First the patch for faster load times, now this fan-made map of Bloodborne -- damn, shouldn't have raced through the game like that. I'm missing out! There's always the inevitable fourth playthrough and beyond, I suppose. Thi...
Bloodborne photo
Bloodborne

That fix for Bloodborne's long load times is out now


And a new jazzed up loading screen!
Apr 23
// Chris Carter
Bloodborne is a pretty fantastic action game, but as I mentioned in my review, it had a few annoying issues at launch. My chief complaint was the long load times, accompanied by a boring black screen with the game's logo. Tod...
Bloodborne photo
Bloodborne

So that's where Bloodborne's infamous closed door leads


Well that was anticlimactic
Apr 22
// Jordan Devore
Have you been to Bloodborne's best room yet? The one filled with pottery just begging to be smashed to pieces? If you walk past the pots (after breaking them, of course) there's a curious door. You can interact with it, but ...
Dark Souls II update photo
Dark Souls II update

Dark Souls II weapon durability fix on the way


The glitch that wouldn't die
Apr 17
// Jordan Devore
In Dark Souls II, the speed with which weapons degrade is tied to the frame rate. That system wasn't an issue for those of us who played the sequel on last-generation consoles, but it has been an annoyance for PC, PS4, and Xb...
Dark Souls II photo
Dark Souls II

Dark Souls II re-release tops Japanese charts (but it's not as impressive as it sounds)


Not a whole lot going on this week
Apr 16
// Brett Makedonski
Dark Souls II's current-gen re-release Scholar of the First Sin found an opening in the Japanese sales charts and struck at an opportune moment. Most weeks, it would barely make a dent, but on this particular week, it wa...
Bloodborne merch photo
Bloodborne merch

Bags, shirts, pints: Sony selling Bloodborne merchandise


Also a fancy statue
Apr 16
// Steven Hansen
Do you like Bloodborne so much that you want to have a $20 shirt that says "Bloodborne?" Well, if that is the case, then boy howdy does Sony have something for you: a black shirt that says "Bloodborne" on it for $20. You can ...
Bloodborne loading photo
Bloodborne loading

Snappier Bloodborne load times coming this month


As well as a fix for 'abnormal game behavior'
Apr 14
// Jordan Devore
How much time have we spent staring at that damned Bloodborne logo during the game's long loading screens? Actually, I'm not so sure I want to know. With save files totaling 50+ hours of play, my number would be gross. From S...
Bloodborne photo
Bloodborne

Bloodborne sells over one million, Sony has announced


It deserves it
Apr 14
// Chris Carter
With the tough-as-nails approach, cryptic story, and ethereal aesthetic, Souls games are a tough sell. But the quality of each game (and the talent of director Hidetaka Miyazaki) shines through, and Bloodborne is th...
Bloodborne demake photo
Bloodborne demake

I'd play this Bloodborne demake


The continuing adventures of Eileen the Crow
Apr 13
// Jordan Devore
The first time I saw Eileen the Crow, I was startled and almost attacked her on the spot. That would've gone badly. She's a powerful hunter -- easily one of the coolest in Yharnam -- and turning against her even late into th...
Bloodborne photo
Bloodborne

Save our souls by rating notes 'fine' in Bloodborne


That's why you always rate a note
Apr 09
// Jordan Devore
[Spoilers for one of the main bosses in Bloodborne.] The next time you see a note left by another player in Bloodborne, consider rating it "fine" even if it's not all that insightful. As shown in this clip from Chief023, you...
Bloodborne photo
Bloodborne

Official Bloodborne Soundtrack available to pre-order, releases April 21


"Rom only knows what I'd be without you..."
Apr 08
// Stephen Turner
I'm terrible at Dark Souls, and I'm too broken to play Bloodborne, but at least I can always appreciate the amazing score as the phrase "You Died, Ya' Feckin' Ejit!" seeps into view for the trillionth time. Thankfully, for mu...

What is your favorite Souls series boss?

Apr 07 // Chris Carter
Chris Carter: Ornstein & Smough I'm already a sucker for humanoid encounters already, so a dance with two of the most fearsome warriors in all of Lordran is pretty much a perfect situation for me. It helps that they were sufficiently tenacious in taking me down, leading to the source of most of my deaths in all of Dark Souls. It wasn't just the fight that was memorable though. Forging on to Anor Londo for the first time and seeing the stark contrast of brightly lit skies was breathtaking, and felt like a brief respite from the challenging areas that lied ahead. Stephen Turner: Capra Demon The Capra Demon scared the shit out of me. Then I realised he had a problem with stairs. He didn't seem too scary after that. Also, Moonlight Butterfly because I made the ghost witch with the big hat do all the hard work while I cowered in the corner. Honestly, I gave up after the Gaping Dragon and stopped at the gates of Blighttown. Never went any further than that. I heard there was a lot of poisoning going around and it was a bit rundown, so I imagined it looked exactly like Swansea. Occams: Gravelord Nito Talk about doing more with less?!  Just a writhing ball of skeletons wearing darkness like a cloak.  And it's arm ending in that wicked scythe. For such a simple design, it conveys a lovely sense of dread and power. From Software could have made Nito some undead Lord and gone the ornate route.  Instead, they focused on making it a primal force of nature.  For me, this elevates Nito to one of the most memorable designs in a series rife with amazing bosses. Mike Martin: The Asylum Demon Meeting him for the first time set the tone of the game and showed you what you were in for. His size, his design and his moves all seemed to be designed to intimidate. It's not a hard a fight at all, but it really sucked me into the world. From the moment he crashed down from his chicken-like flight, swinging his hammer, destroying pillars I knew this was a game I was going to be absorbed and challenged by. Best tutorial ever. Ben Davis: Tower Knight I think the Tower Knight from Demon's Souls will always be my favorite Souls boss, although a few other bosses from the later games, like Sif and the Looking Glass Knight, come pretty close. The Tower Knight was the second Souls boss I ever fought, and it's all thanks to him that I fell in love with Demon's and the series in general. The Tower Knight beat me to a pulp so many times that I didn't want to play the game anymore, but everything about the battle (aside from the losing) was so awesome that I couldn't stop thinking about it. The music, the sheer scale of the giant knight, the knowledge that I could die in an instant if I made even the slightest mistake...something about all of this made me feel like this was a game I needed to beat, a game I would love if I was ever able to master it. And so I came back and finally beat the Tower Knight, and promptly fell in love with Demon's Souls. Nic Rowen: Black Dragon Kalameet There are more imaginative bosses (Smough and Ornstein), ones with better atmosphere (Nito, Gwyn), and better soundtracks (Seath), but Kalameet is the one and only dragon I've ever fought in a videogame that actually felt like fighting a dragon. After watching Kalameet douse the entire battlefield in black flame, snatch an adventurers life away with a quick swipe of his tail, or pound through a knight's tower shield with relentless tearing claws, who could ever go back to the listless, floaty dragons of Skyrim or even the immobile Dragon God of Demon Souls? Jordan Devore: Gwyn, Lord of Cinder As you push through the fog gate leading into Gwyn's ash-covered domain, he's off in the distance, waiting patiently. It's all come down to this. Somber music fades in and the Lord of Cinder charges at you, culminating in a massive leap with his fiery sword aimed at your chest. After fighting and slaying so many huge bosses that looked scary at first glance but ended up being clumsy or easy to read, Gwyn intimidates. He's not much bigger than you, but he's swift and persistent. For me, the hardest part of this duel wasn't timing individual blocks, or rolls, or sword strikes during vulnerable moments -- it was remaining calm throughout the entire fight. And when I finally did kill Gwyn many attempts later, any satisfaction I felt was quickly replaced by another feeling: guilt. From Software somehow made me feel guilty for killing the final boss. Kyle MacGregor: Tower Knight The encounter with the Tower Knight is far and away the most indelible moment I've experienced in a From Software game. Just crossing paths with the hulking warrior means charging across a bridge patrolled by a giant fire-breathing dragon and a small army of men armed to the teeth with crossbows and other instruments of death. And it gets no easier upon reaching the end of the line. The Tower Knight is an utterly massive, imposing figure. He stands two stories tall, greeting players with a stomp of his colossal solleret and impenetrable tower shield. Behind him a clown-like man chuckles, as dozens of crossbowmen flank the player from the surrounding ramparts. The battle figures to be a short one where the player either ends up riddled with crossbow bolts or flattened under the behemoth's boot. Then the music kicks in. It's an eerie chant accompanied by unsettling horns and strings that heightens the mood. It's harrowing. Death seems all but certain. More so than the Phalanx before it, the Tower Knight sets the tone of what players can expect out of Demon's Souls and the rest of the series. This doesn't feel like a fair fight. Not in the slightest. But if you keep your wits about you and are persistent you'll eventually triumph. It's an incredible challenge, but a totally surmountable one. And that victory is all the sweeter for your hardships.
Favorite Souls bosses photo
It's hard to pick just one
Yesterday, we talked about From Software Director Hidetaka Miyazaki's favorite boss fight from the Souls series. Interestingly enough it was the Old Monk from Demon's Souls, an encounter that blurred the l...

One crucial tip for locating the new boss in Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin

Apr 07 // Chris Carter
Spoilers: The Dark Souls II re-release features a new character and boss, Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin. In order to face him as an encounter, you must have defeated Vendrick before you fight Nashandra, who can be considered the former "final boss" of the base game's story. If you don't kill Vendrick first, you won't get to see the new boss -- period. You'll have to replay the game to find Aldia. I actually made it all the way through and expected to face him, only to find out that I did it wrong. Alternatively, you can use a bonfire ascetic to restore the checkpoint [credit to community member Stairmasternem. Just tried this out and can verify. You will, however, have to fight the Throne Watcher & Defender again, as well as Nashandra and Aldia one after another. Due to the effects of the ascetic they are harder, so it's not recommended]. Killing Vendrick is much easier if you acquire any number of Giant Souls, four of which can be readily found in the world, and one of which needs to be obtained from from the Ancient Dragon, one of the toughest fights in the game. My advice? If you can't kill the dragon just get four -- Vendrick's attacks are easy enough to dodge.
Dark Souls II tip photo
Don't miss it
It goes without saying that there are minor spoilers involved (mainly just names that don't have any context) for Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin herein. This tip is mostly for returning players who want to experience the new content -- I don't want people to miss out on it for making a simple mistake.

Demon's Souls photo
Demon's Souls

Bloodborne creator's favorite Souls boss is from Demon's Souls


Old Monk look at your life, I'm a lot like you were
Apr 06
// Steven Hansen
The increasingly impressive From Software president, Demon's Souls and Bloodborne creator Hidetaka Miyazaki, has told Official PlayStation Magazine UK (via PSU) which Souls series boss is his favorite, going back to what a lo...
Bloodborne photo
Not even gravity can stop him
This guy. This guy right here. It was late at night and I was already on edge in one of Bloodborne's unnerving Chalice Dungeons. I had hoped to quickly find the lever so I could proceed to the boss, get my ass kicked a few t...

Easy mode bug photo
Easy mode bug

Bloodborne bug basically activates easy mode


You can do it too, you big baby
Apr 03
// Steven Hansen
Did you seem to have an easier time with certain Bloodborne bosses than other people? Well, unless you are real good/Chris Carter, this might just be because you have too much time on your hands. Reddit user meatballz is repo...
Insane Bloodborne run photo
Insane Bloodborne run

Guy 'gits gud,' beats Bloodborne without leveling


No guns, either
Apr 03
// Jordan Devore
YouTube user BOYvsVIDEOGAME decided to beat Bloodborne without leveling up or using a gun, and he's done it. Somehow -- with a lot of patience and practice, I'd imagine -- he's done it. He went with the Waste of Skin origin f...
Favorite Souls game photo
Favorite Souls game

What is your favorite Souls game?


Demon's, Dark, Dark II, or Bloodborne
Apr 02
// Chris Carter
Between the recent release of Bloodborne and Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, I've completed five playthroughs between them. It's a perfect time as there aren't a lot of huge releases currently, and I'll rarely, if ever, see the release of two Souls games at basically the same time. So that got me thinking, what's your favorite?

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin's enhancements are minor, but I ended up beating it again

Apr 02 // Chris Carter
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (PC, PS3, PS4 [tested], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: From SoftwarePublisher: Namco BandaiReleased: April 2, 2014 (EU), April 7, 2014 (US)MSRP: $19.99-$49.99 (PC, see below), $39.99 (PS3, Xbox 360), $59.99 (PS4, Xbox One) Scholar of the First Sin is basically a packaged version of Dark Souls II with all three DLCs, and a few other extras -- some of which are coming to older platforms with a free update. Oh, and Bandai Namco is also selling the Scholar disc on said older platforms to add more SKUs into the mix, and don't even get me started on the PC release. Still, I'll do my best to explain everything as I go so you aren't completely lost. After starting up Scholar on PS4, the first big change was immediately apparent after entering the first few zones -- the remixed placement of enemies. While casual fans may not notice this at all, I saw a few notable switcheroos, and they're generally for the best. The starting area won't have as many tougher enemies for instance, but the zone immediately following that will pay it back. Don't think it's inherently easier though, as it feels roughly the same, just with better pacing. It's not enough to get excited about but it makes for a better experience. Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin, is probably the other huge addition, a new NPC that pops up every now and then and can culminate in a boss fight if certain requirements are met. His character model not only fits the world but looks formidable, and the insertion of Aldia is fairly seamless into the core story, providing a bit more background on your main quest. Like the remixed placements he isn't anything to write home about, but he basically serves as a fourth DLC, albeit without a new zone. [embed]289666:57956:0[/embed] Other Scholar-specific additions on PC (DirectX 11), PS4, and Xbox One include a higher online player pool, and an upgrade to 1080p and 60 frames per second. The game is still noticeably dated, but the environments and backgrounds (see 3:00 here) are still as breathtaking as ever. On a more gameplay-related note, the frame rate was consistent, and it's so buttery smooth that it just feels perfect -- every attack is deliberate with no delay, even with tons of enemies on-screen. All action games should strive to be 60fps, period. All my tests were done with the PS4 version of the game, and I'm told the Xbox One edition is identical (if I can get a copy to confirm this I will). It's important to note though that nearly all of the non-graphical updates are coming to the previous-generation (360, PS3) in the form of a free update. But the way the PC version is being handled is as confusing as all hell. On PC, you can opt for the DX9 or DX11 version. There's a tiered pricing model that starts at $40 for the base DX9 game, or $50 for DX11. If you own the original and/or all the DLC you can get discounts ranging from $10 to $30. They even have separate Steam pages. So what's the difference? The DX11 versions mirror Scholar on the PS4 and Xbox One, essentially offering a separate instance of the game with prettier style and enhanced online player pool -- prior generation and DX9 users will not get that bonus bit. Still confused? Re-read these past few paragraphs until it sinks in. If you're coming off of Bloodborne and want more Souls, grabbing Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin would be a great idea. The fact that all three add-ons are included ($25 in total with the Season Pass, hosting the Sunken, Old, and Ivory DLCs) is the icing on the cake. For everyone else, Scholar can barely be considered a remake or remaster of any kind, and you're best served just downloading the free update on the copy you already own. Any goodwill Scholar earns is mostly based off of the core game, but either way you slice it, playing it in some form is recommended. Thankfully, those older copies still exist, and will likely go down in price if you aren't willing to pay Bandai Namco's premium.
Dark Souls II: SE photo
Don't double dip
Love 'em or hate 'em, this is the generation of remakes. It seems as if remasters of the previous generation pop up more frequently than actual new games, but if said remasters actually end up funding new games rather than th...

Bloodborne farming photo
I get by with a little help from my pigs
Depending on how far you are into Bloodborne, you've probably come to realize that this late-game area, accessible using the "Mergo's Loft: Middle" warp from the Hunter's Dream, is one of the best spots to quickly earn Blood...

Miyazaki interview photo
Miyazaki interview

Ico showed Bloodborne's Hidetaka Miyazaki the 'possibilities of the medium'


Demon's Souls creator on his meteoric rise to From Software president
Apr 01
// Steven Hansen
Simon Parkin got a rare interview with From Software president, Demon's Souls and Bloodborne creator Hidetaka Miyazaki and it is fascinating stuff, charting Miyazaki's dramatic career change at age 29 (and equally dramatic 80...
Bloodborne speedrun photo
Bloodborne speedrun

Bloodborne beaten in under 40 minutes


6 hours in and I haven't beaten a boss
Apr 01
// Jed Whitaker
Oginam has beaten Bloodborne with an in-game time of 36 minutes and 59 seconds, currently the world record for an any percentage completion. As with most speedruns, multiple game-breaking glitches are used to achieve this sh...
Bloodborne patch photo
Bloodborne patch

Bloodborne's game-breaking glitch patched


Long load times remain untouched
Mar 31
// Jordan Devore
Last week, Chris told us about a game-breaking glitch in Bloodborne that made it so an item called the Lunarium Key, which is needed to reach a main-story boss, wouldn't appear. The issue has been fixed, so you can play co-op...
Bloodborne PvP photo
Bloodborne PvP

One simple trick to help you kill Bloodborne invaders


Gravity
Mar 30
// Kyle MacGregor
Getting invaded sucks. Chances are, you're going to die. There's a reason you're being invaded. The other player is confident in their ability to slaughter you. They are probably nigh impervious to damage and carrying some s...
Dark Souls II Upgrade photo
Dark Souls II Upgrade

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin upgrade and pricing systems detailed


While somewhat complicated, there's a good deal here for some
Mar 30
// Rob Morrow
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is scheduled to launch on Steam this Wednesday, April 1 with current and last-gen counterparts becoming available the following Tuesday, April 7. From Software has described the reissue...
Bloodborne bundle photo
Bloodborne bundle

Amazon's giving away Bloodborne with new PS4s


Now that's a deal
Mar 30
// Brett Makedonski
It's not exactly a new concept for Amazon to bundle the hot game of the week with consoles. That's been happening for a while with the likes of Grand Theft Auto V and Dying Light being two of the more recent example...






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