Preparing to Die: A Dark Souls Diary Pt 2

So here we are again. As previously stated, this is not a review of Dark Souls. I think it would take weeks to play enough of the game to offer a valid opinion. This is simply an account of my early experiences with it. Hopefully it will help you to gauge how enjoyable you would find the game but if you’re in any doubt I can say that Dark Souls is a great RPG, with a number of frustrating attributes. Most of those attributes are intentional though, this isn’t a case of the game being bad, more that the developers intentionally want to annoy you. It’s part of the charm.

[drop]My initial thought was that I could write up a little diary, accounting for each period between deaths. Unfortunately, deaths come more often than victories and writing a diary that way would have meant posting a dozen single-line stories a day. To say that Dark Souls likes to kill you is an understatement.

The last Dark Souls diary I wrote ended with me heading back to take on the Asylum Demon for the fourth time. I can report that I finally beat the monster on my seventh attempt. Once, I even got killed by the skeletal enemies on the way to the big demon. This is when I learned that you can recover your lost power. When you die, there is a ghostly glow left behind. When you return to that spot, you hit a button and get back all your collected souls. The game didn’t tell me this, I had to explore the glow for myself. That’s the other key thing to remember about Dark Souls: it doesn’t like you.

Dark Souls keeps its secrets. It doesn’t give you a lot to go on, never explaining its core mechanics, principals or what the hell things are. You’re expected to just explore, work it out and get on with things. The press kit we received didn’t come with a manual so this might all be included in the in-box literature but I have a feeling that Dark Souls would think you’re less of a gamer if you have to resort to reading instructions. There are messages scrawled in blood on the floor but those are really quite cursory hints that do nothing to indicate the intricacies of the game.

This absolute lack of handholding is simultaneously the most infuriating aspect of Dark Souls and one of its most endearing qualities. At the heart of this action RPG is a complex and compelling system of loot and levelling but it isn’t explained. You’re dropped in the game world and expected to figure things out for yourself. At least you will have plenty of opportunity as you repeatedly retrace your footsteps between deaths.

[drop2]I’ve made it out of the asylum now, I talked to a few humans and got a couple of new features at the bonfires that restore my health. I can now level up at them, which I did immediately in order to get more health. I can also “kindle” at them. I have no idea what that means yet because Dark Souls is keeping it a secret until I’m deemed worthy of the information or I work it out for myself.

At least I’m not dying as often now. I’ve got a larger compliment of Estus flasks (which replenish my health) and I’ve started to get the hang of the blocking and striking combat mechanics. I wish I could remember to back out of the non-pausing start menu though, combat doesn’t work while I’m in there but movement does (combat buttons navigate the menu). I tend to run around for a minute or two with the menu still open before realising that I might need to swing my sword.

At the time of writing, I’ve just entered a new settlement. The stock enemies here are a little bit tougher and I’ve just seen a dragon. I’m about three hours into the game, having explored the asylum quite a bit before leaving, and I don’t feel like I’ve even scratched the surface yet.



  1. Apologies if you mentioned already, are you playing on Ps3 or Xbox? Slow down, tearing issues, framerates? If on Xbox, have you been able to private chat?

    • Xbox 360 but I haven’t tried private chat yet. I think I read a headline elsewhere that said it didn’t work though. I could be wrong.
      No noticeable slow down or tearing issues yet but it is early stages. It actually looks quite good in places and the environments are quite large and free-roaming, to a point.

  2. Really good read. Rookie error not knowing that you need to collect your lost souls after you die. The red messages are also left by other players I believe. Really can’t wait until Friday when I get my hands on this.

    • Same for me OK, if there’s anything similar to the co-op in Demon’s Souls then I’d be up for it at some point, if you are :)

      • Don’t know whether to preorder it now or buy it in store :P i will defo be up for coop in the future.

      • also then you can see how good someone with the demons souls plat is ;) just kidding…

  3. Good read, I shied away from Demon’s Souls but might see if I can get it, then make up my mind for this.

    • Demon’s Souls is a proper Marmite game.
      The old skool difficulty has put a lot of people off the game as it refuses to conform to today’s (seemingly obligatory) namby pamby hand holding.

      It’s hard, frustrating at times but never unfair and extremely rewarding when you do conquer a foe that has repeatedly kicked ur ass. It can be picked up for peanuts these days and I think everyone should at least try it once.

      Safe to say, I love it, easily my fave game this Gen.
      Roll on Friday :D

      • The reasons you put make me really want to try it, but the very same reasons make me think i’ll hate it.. A borrow or demo would do wonders..

  4. I couldn’t resist, reading this has pysched me up for some punishing gameplay so I just pre ordered it!

  5. I imagine that Peter will be getting drunk a lot whilst playing this. ;)

    I wonder when he will ragequit it? In fact, i think i will pick up Demon souls at some point. :)

  6. Massive Demons souls fan,very disappointed with this due to the tech issues,i returned the ps3 version i bought yesterday believing it to somehow have been a shoddy port,murky blacks,missing shadows and bad aliasing etc,i was kindve shocked after Demons Souls looked so good at the time.
    Assuming it was down to the fact that Sony Japan weren’t publishing this one i picked up the 360 version today.The frame drops are godawful when entering open areas (did manage to get further on the 360 due to no hope of changing platform again).I’ll do a bit of digging on the net but anyone expecting Demons souls styled lighting and shadows will be sorely miffed here,add that to frame drops that will get you killed and you have some serious immersion breakers between you and what this game offers at core.
    Try and get to watch a non endorsed gameplay vid before you buy,about 10 minutes should do.

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