Feature Article

The First 20 Deaths of Dark Souls 2

Dead ringer.

A game which proudly warned you that you should "prepare to die," Dark Souls charged away from the increasing accessibility of modern triple-A games. With few tutorials to guide you and not a single hand to hold, you were thrust helpless into the unforgiving world of Lordran, where death was the only teacher.

Dark Souls II's new director, Tomohiro Shibuya, stated that the sequel would be more "accessible" and "streamlined," which had me worried what role death would play. Would I still learn from every fatal failure? Would those who have rung the bells of Lordran feel that sweet sense of challenge? After playing from the very start of the sequel, my fears were quelled, and a more familiar fear of death set in. Once again, you should prepare to die. Here, then, are my first 20 deaths, for most of which I was clearly not prepared.

The opening cinematic introduces me to my character, an unarmed wanderer suffering from a "hollow" zombifying curse, after which the game drops me in a grassy field in the heart of the world of Drangleic. I don't remember seeing grass this tall in Dark Souls, I think to myself, as I take a few steps forward and am immediately swarmed by hunchbacked goblins rushing at me from the thickets.

Death #1: Eaten alive, unarmed, within 15 seconds of taking my first steps.
What I learned: Running away is still a legitimate tactic.

Respawning, I sprint through the grassy field to a small house inhabited by three old women in red robes. It's here that I choose the warrior class and can customise my appearance. In Dark Souls' typical cryptic dialogue, the old women give me parting advice that amounts to, "You're cursed, sucks to be you. Also, you're going to die a lot, so have fun with that. Bye!"

Heading out the house's back door, I light the first of Dark Souls II's bonfires--checkpoints that save the game, but also respawn every enemy in the area. One of the new mechanics introduced in this sequel is the ability to light and carry a torch from any bonfire. Taking the place of a shield in your equipped items, a torch provides crucial visibility in pitch-black areas, whilst also scaring some enemies if waved menacingly in their direction. It's as reassuring as telling an arachnophobe that a spider is more scared of him than he is of it.

But the area I come out into is completely free of darkness. This new hub world is bathed in the warm glow of the sun. Against the beautiful shoreline vista are actual houses. The fact that these abodes look like liveable spaces is new to me. This doesn't feel like a Dark Souls area at all. I want cold, unfeeling stone, mouldy catacombs, and an overwhelming sense of dread. This place looks nice.

Engraved into a rock is a real-time global death tally for every player in this preview build. It sits at just over 18,000. A sense of dread begins creeping back. I take a winding path away from the hub world into a small, circular cavern. A lower platform in the middle, with an item pickup clearly visible, is surrounded by running water. A message left on the ground by another player that reads "Try jumping!" spurs me on. I jump. At the apex, it's clear I'm not going to make it. I fall and am swept away by the rushing current.

Death #2: Drowned, because Dark Souls II players still be trolling.
What I learned: Trust no one.

I later return to the cavern to touch a bloodstain on the ground, which reveals a ghost of another nameless player falling to the same fate. At least I'm not alone in my gullibility.

The cavern leads me into a lush, green forest bisected by a tranquil running stream. This is even nicer than the hub world, I think--just in time for a squad of undead soldiers to remind me that this is a paradise lost. Dark Souls II's combat mechanics are almost identical to those of its predecessor, so I'm immediately able to block, parry, and strike with confidence. One minor change involves the kick being altered to resemble more of an elbow strike; it still functions as a push and a guard break, but the animation doesn't feel as satisfying. After running past a couple of other undead soldiers, I climb halfway up a ladder and, assuming I'm safe, turn to ask the PR rep a question about the combat mechanics. Halfway through the rep's response, I turn back to discover a zombie has climbed up the ladder after me and stabbed me in the butt.

Death #3: Skewered in the rear.
What I learned: Zombies can climb ladders.

I respawn, cut my way through the undead, and climb the whole way up the ladder this time, where I'm immediately trampled by a large stone man.

Death #4: Flattened by a rock monster.
What I learned: Rock beats sword.

Deaths #5, #6, #7, #8, #9: As above.
What I learned: "Aaaarrrrgh!"

As I experience some difficulty getting past this stone man, I'm told that certain enemies will only respawn near each bonfire a certain number of times, which the PR rep estimates to be about 15. However, you'll need to actually kill them rather than simply respawn at the bonfire for this counter to increase. The developers made this change to stop you from grinding; with no enemies to gather souls from to then spend on levelling up, you are eventually forced to venture into dangerous, unknown territory. This also makes repeated runs to a boss encounter less frustrating. The knowledge is reassuring as I finally sprint past the stone man and down a dark corridor to safety, whereupon I turn a corner and am skewered by a zombie wielding a claymore as large as his own body.

Death #10: An impressive puncture wound.
What I learned: Approach corners with caution.

My second attempt at taking down this claymore-wielding undead fared much better. Rather than roll away from his massive weapon's equally massive range, I parry his first strike. Parries in Dark Souls used to afford the opportunity for an immediate critical damage riposte, but the mechanic has slightly changed in the sequel. Now, enemies will fall to the ground after being parried, giving you the opportunity to stand above them and perform a downward finishing strike. This leaves you far more vulnerable than the previous game's riposte, because the animation is longer and more deliberate. I learn this as I'm recovering from my first successful parry-finisher combo, but my elation lasts a mere second as I am suddenly hit by a fire bomb from a zombie at the top of the stairs beyond.

Death #11: Incinerated by incendiary grenade.
What I learned: Don't stop to admire a finishing move.

Deaths #12, #13, #14, #15, #16: As above.
What I learned: The true meaning of despair.

With each death permanently decreasing my maximum available health and turning my skin more pallid upon respawning, I burn a rare consumable item at a bonfire called an effigy to return to human form and have my health bar fully restored. This new approach to the health bar means every life in Dark Souls II is tense, even if you aren't carrying a bounty of souls to the safety of a bonfire.

Finally busting my way past the grenadier, I come upon the next bonfire as well as a merchant who sells me a key to a blacksmith's forge back in the hub world. Because Dark Souls II's bonfires now allow you to freely fast travel between each of them from the start of the game, I warp to the hub and spend my remaining souls on a better broadsword. This fast travel is one example of the sequel's careful attempts at streamlining the Dark Souls experience.

Warping back to the merchant, I descend a ladder into a stone mine and encounter a skeleton wielding a halberd. Taken by surprise, I block his rapid swings, but doing so quickly consumes my stamina, and I have no choice but to roll away. Off a ledge. Into a plume of flames a hundred feet below.

Death #17: Falling into a flame geyser.
What I learned: Stay away from ledges.

I return the favour on my return trip by elbow-striking the halberd zombie off the very same ledge I fell from. Continuing down the mine, I see a source of light in the distance and sprint down the dark corridor toward it--failing to notice the undead soldier waking up behind me.

Death #18: Stabbed in the back.
What I learned: If it looks dead, you should still double-check.

Armed with the knowledge of the dormant zombie's whereabouts, I return and position myself behind him to score a critical damage backstab as he's in the middle of his awakening animation. The backstab move in Dark Souls II is functionally similar to that of its predecessor, but its animation has changed from a single strike to a series of smaller blows about the neck and back.

With the soldier dispatched, I walk toward the light and find myself outside, admiring a breathtaking view of massive, ancient tree branches bursting through the parapets of a stone castle. After exactly six seconds of standing still to take it all in, a dozen arrows plant themselves in my chest and I fall to my knees.

Death #19: Collapsed lung.
What I learned: Never stop to admire the view.

My time with Dark Souls II nearly up, I return to the hub world and examine the global death tally. It has risen by over 1,600 in the time I was playing. The hub's warm sun, cosy houses, and waves lapping gently at the shore--none of these are indicative of the game's tone. This is simply Dark Souls II's way of providing you a single moment of respite. I put down the controller, turn to the PR rep, and prepare to suffer my final end as I request assistance.

Death #20: Died of embarrassment from having to ask the PR rep for help.
What I learned: Dark Souls is back.

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345 comments
simon1812
simon1812

hmmm no PS4 eh? they obviously dont want me to buy their game then.


PS


I not buying this on PC, I find this kind of games rather uncomfortable to play on a PC.

urma0202
urma0202

Can't wait.  I haven't been this excited for for a game in the past 6 months.  Loved demon souls and dark souls.  Passed both games several times with different character types. Hopefully this game lives up to the hype.  :D

QB_da_Ghost_187
QB_da_Ghost_187

i also love the instant bond made between players i helped two players beat the last boss of the expansion (not the dragon in the riverbed but i did help adventurers with him as well) before i beat him and you know what both those player i helped stayed around to help me ive stood in font of anor londo waitin to help players either a. get into the castle or b. help beat orstein and smough to show my appreication to the community who helped me days earlier love this game love fumbling in the pitch blackness love having to kill undead with holy weapons less they rise again love the difficulty dont dumb it down to sell a few more copies for the love of gad NNNNNOOOOOO dont sell out your integrity and honour and what you belive in for  a bunch of lazy whiners and the root of all evil $$$

QB_da_Ghost_187
QB_da_Ghost_187

oh and my lightning grass knight shield love that thing

QB_da_Ghost_187
QB_da_Ghost_187

i am far from scared just disappointed i beat dark souls  on my new game + offline ...the whole thing no gliching or cheap tricks no mage class just me my elite armour , velik robes and black night sword i have a level 147  one @ 118 and 93 spent probably 300+ hours easy on souls think of the reefer money spent with all those hours of gaming  being able to fast travel anywhere right from the beginning sucks B&!!$ ive played demon souls and what i liked better about darks souls was the open seemless world ala metroid compared to a hub structure i mean you open up a short cut through the catheral before the first bell. people are fing lazy and it makes me sick  being able to respec is also BS unless it cost half a mil in souls i remember hitting an npc and having to pay 65,000 just to make amends so it better be ridiculously expensive to respec i dont care how many time you die and from what im not you its been made to be more accessible and inviting to the masses .... horrible horrible desicions i make fun of all my friends for not having the patience to beat the intro of dark souls people have been spoon fed for too long and look whats happened     side note playin the hell outta pixel dungeon its a fun distraction so good

everson_rm
everson_rm

Ow man, this demo will be avaliable to PSN or LIVE?

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

*Last Screenshot* That view...


All things aside, I hope no-one is scared away by these death stories. I must reiterate for those who have yet to experience the awesomeness of this series that the first Dark Souls was a challenging but FAIR (and I must emphasize the word fair) game that is perfectly beatable, so long as you don't button mash like a mindless zombie and expect it to get you through.


It's a game that requires skill and patience, but it's also one that rewards both those virtues gratuitously.

TheKokopelli
TheKokopelli

One of the few games that I'll admit to have been made it's bitch and yet I kept returning for more.  I may have to use my floating holiday for it's release.

biglee424
biglee424

CAAANNNTTT WAIIITTTT !! MEEEE GUSSTAAA PLAAAYYYY THISSSSS

kindlewithcare
kindlewithcare

Just purchased a PS3 and I cannot wait to play this game. Just watched all of VaatiVidya's videos on it and it is going to be more fun than I can handle.


kappaloot
kappaloot

Good news. I don't like the ability to warp between bonfires from the start.

Woodstock504
Woodstock504

Damn... kind of a Spoiler Bomb..lol    I'll pass til afterward.

huddie
huddie

What!?  Not for next gen ?!  NOOOO!  Does anyone know if this is coming to Xbox One later ?

CatPuncher
CatPuncher

Reassuring preview, thanks. Any thoughts on the online store pre-order bonuses? On PS3, at least, it offers "early access" to four weapon sets.. my initial reaction was concern.. though I'm hoping they are just superficially different versions of regular items... you know, to keep the game balanced etc.

k0k066
k0k066

amazing article, never palyed ds 1 now I will try this one for sure!!!

ClevernameX
ClevernameX

Dying to play this game, can't wait to be dying playing this game.

moe050
moe050

These horror stories are hilarious though! lol.

"If it looks dead, you should still double-check."

diskotheque
diskotheque

These deaths sound like they're from inexperience... someone who hasn't played Demon's Souls or Dark Souls (or better yet beaten both of them). If you've played these games before you probably won't have anywhere near as much trouble... and if you haven't then you probably don't like these types of games and won't be getting this anyway.

Soundaholic92
Soundaholic92

Just because you can't button smash your way out of every situation doesn't mean the game is difficult or meant for masochists :|. This is a pretty fair game, and every time you die it's most likely your fault (unless you're in Blighttown, fuck Blighttown)

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

I'm about to buy Dark Souls 1 and play it for the first time, any simple non-spoiler tips for a beginner..?  I'm thinking skill building tips (TIPS, not a full stat building order or anything) as I have no idea how the skills system works and I'd rather not accidentally gimp my character...

heraSK
heraSK

@QB_da_Ghost_187  good, now please go and learn how to use punctuation. reading your comment was as hard as playing first game. 

huddie
huddie

Ok. Settle down nerds. Most people understand and accept the use of the term 'next gen' to distinguish new consoles from previous versions when previous versions are still in common use. Also, the term is irrelevant for PCs as they 'evolve' gradually, not in generation leaps. 

fatee
fatee moderator moderator

@huddie  It *IS* for "next gen" as it's listed for PC.

peterdavid12345
peterdavid12345

@k0k066  hahahah. You're really need to prepare for it XD because this game is not for everyone :) But everyone should tried it out.

Very addicted imo :D

TheKokopelli
TheKokopelli

@moe050  I laughed at it too.  Learned that with Doom 3, and later Dead Space.

Joben420
Joben420

@diskotheque


Wow haha these dudes pounced on you even though you're completely right.  Yes, even veterans who have played hundreds of hours of Demon's and Dark Souls will make mistakes, fall off a cliff, etc.  But the 20 deaths in this article DO sound like they came from inexperience.  


I mean come on people be honest with yourselves...humanoid enemies were able to climb ladders in Dark Souls, there have always been enemies that appeared dead but would attack you when you get close, and there are TWO separate occasions where he says he dies 5 times in a row from combat situations (getting killed by a rock guy, getting hit by fire-bomb throwers, which btw, were in Dark Souls as well).


So seriously, don't act like this guy is so blatantly wrong.  He has every right and lots of evidence to say that it sounds like inexperience.

bastian97
bastian97

@diskotheque  I disagree, I've beaten Dark Souls twice and Demon's Souls once, i still have trouble sometimes and make silly mistakes.

ragnarockw
ragnarockw

@Soundaholic92 blight town was easy and stress free but that dam fortress yeh hated those dam pendulum's. On second thought I still remember those forever spawning little f£$kers in blight town till they did the update that is.

Samslayer
Samslayer

I agree the difficulty is thoroughly placed upon the player. If you learn the mechanics and take your time the game becomes rewardingly easy! Now read that the correct way. Rewarding as in it is so great to carefully take down a nasty baddy piece by piece!

The game is probably the most satisfying game I've played. There are so few exploits, and if you die it very seldom is the game's fault (camera every once in a while). So take ownership in your deaths and have a great time!

Enforcer246
Enforcer246

@Soundaholic92 And that's the difference between difficult, but fun games and games that are so difficult that they become "unfun".

moe050
moe050

@Soundaholic92 word. people who play smart and take their time fare MUCH BETTER than those who do not. I've played and beat demon and dark souls once each, both times are a lowly vulnerable thief. the difficulty is overstated imo... but it IS (rightfully) unforgiving. aside from certain areas where the terrain makes things harder, and the occasional glitch.... i find the game to be EXTREMELY fair and doable.

the reason true gamers like games like this is because it challenges them in ways that other games have abandoned in this soft as baby **** world where everyone is has their hands held unnecessarily. which also means it respects your intelligence.

Joben420
Joben420

@nl_skipper  


Lol ok as a self-proclaimed Demon's/Dark Souls vet, it's not really a great idea to just run in blindly.  You'll die a LOT more than you need to.


My advice is take a look at the Dark Souls wiki; it's fantastic.  Definitely don't have to pick a pre-ordained build from there, but just read up on some things and have a general idea of how building a character works, and if you want to be a magic build, dexterity build, or strength build, and get a general idea of what kind of weapons you will want to use and upgrade.  As with nearly every RPG, having a competent build is a big part of being successful.


For your first run through the game, I strongly suggest a magic build.  Magic is very strong against pretty much everything from the start of the game, and if you have the Artorias of the Abyss DLC it's even better and a viable method of attack in PvP.  Also, as you'll see on the wiki, you can create an "Enchanted" type weapon for all of your traditional hack and slash combat desires.


Most important combat tip: Don't panic, and don't hesitate.  When you've got the opportunity you have to attack.  You don't slay all those badass mofos by turtling behind your shield!      



biglee424
biglee424

@nl_skipper  Playing Dark Souls 1 will be the best decision you made in your life ! Enjoy mate

megarumo
megarumo

@nl_skipper  Pyromancy (read being a Pyromancer) can make the start a bit easier/more comfortable and is fun to play. If you feel too overwhelmed by the start (I'm looking at you capra demon), perhaps look up a short beginner's items guide on youtube - there are a few items that can be reached quite easily and early and are really helpful (firekeeper soul in New Londo, a spear, elite knight armor, a good shield, don't get the lame dragonsword!). Also don't be ashamed too look up how to deal with the capra demon. I'd say the Capra demon is the most unfair and annoying part of the whole game if you are new to the game.

Regarding the build. Weapons "scale" with different attributes (or with none at all). It's usually a good idea to choose one of those scaling attributes (strength, dex, faith, int) and stick to it - don't put many souls in the other. For the start you probably want too focus heavily on vitality and endurance (increases how heavy armor you can carry). Never increase resistence!
And I don't recall that the type of your roll is explained in-game. <25% equip load gives you the fast roll, <50% the mid roll, and above that the slow/fat roll.

Be very careful to not hit the smith!!! :)

Have fun!

CatPuncher
CatPuncher

@nl_skipper  the game is substantially easier if you inflate your health bar (via VIT stat). Magic can make the game easier too, but not significantly so - it's more of a strength when fighting certain enemies/bosses that are vulnerable to it. I would recommend the same as Tygravius does below - find a weapon that suits you and progress cautiously.

TheLeftHandDoom
TheLeftHandDoom

@nl_skipper for your first playthrough, you should probably focus on intelligence and make a magic build.  Magic sucks in PvP, but it crushes bosses in PvE.

famekiller
famekiller

@nl_skipper my only tip is don't give up. you may want to smash the controller within the first 100 hrs, and it may pay to have a couple spare ones (and maybe another TV too) but once you have a decent build the game becomes easier, actually that's a lie but it certainly opens up to total awesomeness. JUST DON'T GIVE UP!

Soundaholic92
Soundaholic92

@nl_skipper  just do the first run blindly, without reading any guides or walkthroughs, you'll have a good understanding of how the game mechanics work afterwards

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

Well I played it last night for about an hour and a half and I gotta say I really like it so far.  It's hard yes, but I absolutely feel like it's entirely my fault when I've been killed so far, much more than being beat by cheap tactics or overly hard enemies.  I was screwing around though and I attacked this human guy who was beside the first bonfire after the intro area (the guy who tells you about the 2 bells that need to be rung).. now he keeps attacking me everytime I respawn and he's too tough to kill lol so I think I'll just start a new game again... not a big deal since I can probably now do in 20 minutes what took me over an hour.


I really like the combat mechanics though... if The Witcher 3 or that upcoming Deliverance RPG actually has a combat system similar to this game then I'll be so happy!  Really seems to be based heavily on skills and technique and position much more than stats or special powers or what have you.
I don't think I'll make a magic heavy character, but it seems like having some magical abilities would be a benefit.. though I'm not yet sure how magic and attunments work, I'll prob figure it out.

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

@Soundaholic92  Yea it really sounds like that's the way to go, but I'm kind of  in a spot where I'm only playing this because I've heard so much about it, not so much because I think it's the game for me...  so I feel like I'll just get irritated and give up if I totally screw up my build.  


On the other hand though this might be a game that really draws me in so I wouldn't want to ruin that first-time experience,  ah decisions!

ragnarockw
ragnarockw

@nl_skipper you can go to this guy in the church and have your sin absolved but only after you beat the first boss and ring the bell.


Tygravius
Tygravius

@nl_skipper @Soundaholic92Read item descriptions. Pay attention to "drops" for farming items. There's no "best" weapon. Find a weapon that is comfortable to YOU. The movesets, combos, etc. and upgrade, upgrade, upgrade. Take deep breaths and enjoy the experience! It will humble you. Don't give up! The accomplishments of progressing are glorious. Cheers:)
......it's pretty much free now or damn close, so you can't get mad for paying $60 to die LOL