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The first time I saw this logo, I was elated. The second time I saw it, I never wanted to see it again.
I’ve been a day 1 Souls player from the very beginning. On October 6, 2009 I walked down to the local game store, bought Demon’s Souls, and the trajectory for my gaming tastes were determined for the next 8 years. However, it may not have been this way, if it weren’t for the massive changes that happened to Dark Souls.
When Dark Souls first released, I hated it. While I felt Demon’s Souls was fair in its difficulty and progression, Dark Souls felt like it was specifically designed to be unfair and waste people’s time (might I add that being unfair and being difficult are not the same thing). Now, looking back, having played through the game several dozen times, I imagine that I wouldn’t have much trouble with the game at 1.0 anymore. I know all its ins and outs, where all the weapons are, all the boss weaknesses, and how to get anywhere I want from the very start of the game. I’ve come to hold its world and boss design as some of the best I’ve ever played. But especially for a first playthrough, it really wasn’t enjoyable.
- The soul currency was unbelievably sparse, making levelups a once every area sort of affair
- Blighttown’s sub 10 fps performance, making the most frustrating area in the game essentially unplayable. (To be fair, it’s still garbage on consoles, I’m just used to it on PC now, at solid 60 via DSfix)
- Humanity was something that you just couldn’t get a hold of. You want more than 5 estus? Tough shit, nothing dropped humanity, and you weren’t given 3 at the start of the game like you are now, but I’ll get into that a bit later.
- Curse stacked, so if you were unfortunate enough to get cursed multiple times (I was), you were screwed. Kinda like how Dark Souls 2 takes a sliver of health away every death, except every time it was 50% of the total HP you had.
- Holding a bow in your offhand allowed for it to backstab players, which was a guaranteed ohko, along with several other glitches that used the Dragon Head Stone. (These were fixed in 1.06)
- Enemy aggro ranges were insane, so getting ganged up on beyond what happened in even Dark Souls 2 was likely.
I beat it at patch 1.0, but it was a huge chore, and I never wanted to play it again afterwards.
Then patch 1.05 happened.
Patch 1.05 was a huge patch. However, its significance may be lost on some Japanese players, who got patch 1.04 prior. Patch 1.05 was a more significant patch in North America and Europe, since it was a cumulative patch with the 1.04 patch that Japan received exclusively, which made a bunch of good changes, many of which are the most notable changes in 1.05, actually. They did overdo a few changes that were reverted a bit in the Artorias of the Abyss patch, but nothing was changed back to pre-1.05. But anyways, this patch is what brought me back into Dark Souls, and thanks to it I never left. I’m going to go through things by category, trying to keep specific changes grouped together. I’ll also talk about some honorable mentions from patch 1.06, which helped the game a lot as well near the end.
See these guys? Imagine all of them trying to kill you at once, all the time.
Enemy Aggro Ranges
As I said earlier, aggro ranges were insane in Dark Souls when it first launched. On top of that and Humanity being rarer than black opal, people were destined to go through Lost Izalith the bad way. There are enemies in Lost Izalith called “Bounding Demon of Izalith”, and prior to 1.05, they existed to make your life hell. Nowadays, they are entirely avoidable, and really, don’t post much of a threat to anyone going through the area at all.
However, pre patch, their aggro range was enormous, so they were all coming after you, all the time, and you essentially had to outrun them to a high point where they couldn’t hit you, or die. Thankfully they can hit each other, so that thinned out the herd a bit, but jeez, Izalith was horrible thanks to them. This sort of thing happened a lot, if there was a group of enemies, chances are they were all going after you all at once. Aggro range was reduced across the board in this patch, so all enemies were made a bit more manageable in terms of when they can see you and how far they’ll chase you, but the biggest influence was in Izalith, and turned arguably the worst area in the game into still the worst area in the game, but for a different reason. (CoughBedofChaoscough)
You want souls? Well you won’t get them from bosses.
Enemy stats and souls
Enemies in general were made a lot easier, many of which received reduced health pools, and lower damage dealt to the player. Several other enemies had poise reduced, so it was easier for players to stun them out of attacks. A big change was the amount of souls received from enemies. Across the board the amount of souls dropped was increased by at least a factor of 2. That alone would have made the game a lot more manageable, but on top of that the amount of souls that some bosses dropped was changed as well.
The big one that comes to mind was the Bell Gargoyles. Patch 1.0 they dropped a measly 500 souls, which even prior to the changes wouldn’t be enough for a single levelup for a character, like ever. This was changed to a whopping 10,000 souls, a proper reward for a necessary (and fairly challenging for the point it is) boss. Ghosts, Skeletons, mosquitos and slimes also drop souls now, which wasn’t the case prior, making properly going through areas like the Catacombs and Tomb of Giants absolutely horrendous. Bosses dropping items like Humanity and Homeward bones didn’t hurt either, just a small thing that made exploring the world a bit easier and less tedious.
What the FUCK is a humanity?
Now, onto the topic of Humanity. Humanity is an important item and mechanic in Dark Souls. Humanity is how you become human, it’s how you kindle bonfires, it increases item drop rates, it’s a full heal in a pinch, and prior to 1.05 it was nearly impossible to get. When the game released, the drop rate for Humanity was 10. This drop rate was increased to 210 in patch 1.05. Now, I know it’s really hard to contextualize these numbers, as they don’t really mean anything on their own, but getting exact drop rates prior to the patch is really hard (largely because the drop rates were so low.) But, for instance, with a max item discovery on the most recent patch, getting a humanity drop from a rat is about 12%. The only real way to get Humanity reliably was to grind areas for hours before going to a boss, since killing a set amount of enemies in an area will give a single humanity. This happens a few times, but grinding isn’t fun, grinding is never fun, progress is. In order to get more healing for a boss, you needed to grind an area so much that it stopped being fun.
Patch 1.05 also increased the amount of item discovery that humanity gave, so even if you somehow managed to get 10, you weren’t getting a huge item discovery buff from it. The biggest changes to the availability of Humanity came in patch 1.06, where 3 humanities were placed at Firelink Shrine for people to pick up, and the Artorias of the Abyss DLC has the cave of humanity sprites which all have a large chance of dropping Humanity.
Curse is still a big detriment to newer players, but it isn’t that much trouble for veterans anymore.
There were a few changes made to the player’s stats and combat mechanics as well, and while not as enormous of changes as some others, still made a big difference in the long run. Equipment burden was increase across all classes, by 6-10 points (which at early levels is massive), and the lock-on range was increased as well. Not being able to be cursed multiple times was nice, but I can’t say for sure that this was in patch 1.05. The removal of curse stacking happened at some point, but it wasn’t in any patch notes. However, since the majority of the patches before or after were rather small, I’m going to assume that this change either happened in 1.05 or 1.06.
Here’s another bunch of big changes, not on specific pieces of equipment, since these were the days before From cared about balancing weapons for PVP, (Praise be to Dark Souls 2 patches) but there were a few. For instance, medium shield stability was significantly nerfed to make greatshields more viable, as prior to this there was really no reason to use greatshields; they weren’t any more stable, didn’t absorb much more damage, and were far harder to justify with the low equipment capacity of early Dark Souls. The Silver Knight Sword also lost its lightning effect, but gained the ability to be enchanted. Okay, sure, whatever.
The big changes came to weapon upgrading, aside from fire and lightning upgrades, which received a very slight nerf (2% at +9 and +4 respectively) most other upgrade paths got big buffs to damage scaling. Normal, crystal and dragon got 5-20% buffs, reaching the 20% change at different levels, magic and divine got 10-20% buffs, enchanted and occult got 15-20%, and raw got a 10% boost at all levels. This all means that almost all weapons got significant damage boosts, about 20% more damage fully upgraded than they were prepatch. Add in the lower HP of some enemies, and things start going down a lot quicker. A few weapons got some attribute scaling changes, but a lot of these changes haven’t been recorded since nobody cares enough to play Dark Souls prepatch anymore.
Magic also received some slight changes this patch. These changes were largely for PVP and co-op play, for instance resonance signs are viewable for the first time in this patch, so if you are using miracles like Bountiful Sunlight, you can finally see if you’re going to receive extra HP recovery from it, or extra damage from Emit Force and Wrath of the Gods. Vow of Silence’s range was increased, as a way to try to make spellcasters a bit less powerful, Iron Flesh was nerfed a bit, and Tranquil Walk of Peace along with other slowing abilities’ durations were reduced to about 10 seconds. That was a big one, in PVP and PVE (Darkroot Garden anyone?) getting hit with that was a death sentence, since you couldn’t run away, you couldn’t dodge, and your attack range was reduced. It also added 100% encumbrance prior to this patch instead of 50%, so even if you had nothing on you, you still couldn’t do anything at all.
The other big change to magic was to sorceries. All sorcery spell damage was increased in this patch, aside from Homing Soul Mass and Crystal Homing Soul Mass. These spells were nerfed slightly. I personally think that magic is easymode in Dark Souls 1 as it is, and while I don’t think that these changes were why this is, I certainly think that sorceries didn’t need any buffs, at least taking into account everything else that had to change this patch.
The pyromancy glove was also nerfed slightly from 270 to 230, but that isn’t very interesting since pyromancy is still really powerful.
Aye siwmae, made a bad decision? We can get you a master key.
Run out of transient curses prior to 1.05? Well good luck, since no merchant sells an infinite amount of them in the whole game. So have fun being chased by a hoard of ghosts that aren’t restricted by geometry and can’t be killed. Domnhall of Zena starts selling the master key for the first time in this patch, so if you made the bad decision of not taking it as your starting gift, at least you can grab it once he moves to Firelink Shrine. This was also the patch that really let people upgrade their weapons, with all the souls they were now allowed to get. Andre didn’t really get much in terms of stock, but the Giant Blacksmith started selling titanite shards, large titanite shards, and twinkling titanite.
You want to be a Sunbro? Well you can’t, since you’ll never get to 50 faith, not without at least NG+.
Covenants are a big part of the Dark Souls franchise’s online play, and they did a good job in this game to keep them unique and useful, but being the first game with them, there were a few wrinkles to iron out. Aside from increasing drop rates for covenant items, there was only one change to the covenant system in this patch. If you wanted to be a part of the Dark Souls series’ most iconic covenant, the Warriors of Sunlight, you needed to have 50(!) faith to join. This patch mercifully reduced that requirement to 25, which made being able to partake in jolly co-operation with people in NG more likely (as a Sunbro obviously), since you didn’t need to be a NG+ level character to join. (Might I remind you how incredibly hard it was to level up before this patch as well?)
It’s freakin’ Artorias, what more can I say?
Honorable Mentions of 1.06
1.06 launched nearly a year after 1.05, (seriously, the game went a whole year without a patch prior to AotA.) Now, there isn’t much more to say about this patch, since it’s the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, and it’s amazing. Artorias of the Abyss is an incredible expansion and it includes the objectively best boss in the series, Knight Artorias (Kalameet is pretty cool too), as well as a load of new areas, weapons, and spells. They fixed the Dragon Head Stone glitches, which were responsible for a lot of different things, like the bow backstab oneshots, and being able to use souls for eternity to get to level 711 super quick (i.e. only a couple hours). All roll speeds were buffed, parrying while blocking is now possible (You had to have you shield down to parry prior) and the bottomless box glitch was fixed as well, so no more level 1 griefers with lategame equipment (at least it was made a lot harder to do). Finally, some enemies had their HP buffed, since they were a bit overnerfed in 1.05.
Dark Souls came a long way in a few short patches. The game we know today and the game that launched back in 2011 are completely different beasts. It started out as a game that frustrated at every point, and somehow, From was able to see how all these things were wrong, and fixed them. Dark Souls was originally a game that I wasn’t wanting to ever play again, to the point that I actively dissuaded some of my friends who also loved Demon’s Souls from buying it. However, these changes made a huge difference. It ended up being arguably my game of the decade, a game that I feel should be revered and respected like Ocarina of Time or Super Mario World. Artorias of the Abyss definitely helps it, too. That DLC really solidifies how great the game is. It really goes to show how much good can be done with just a little patching. I just hope that no one ever has to play that game unpatched again.