Friday, May 6, 2016

Dark Souls III: Easiest Souls Game yet?

Lets get one thing out of the way right from the start: this is NOT an article about bashing Dark Souls 3.I love the game and am paying it like a madman. It is one of the best games of 2016, even with Uncharted 4 around the corner. Now that that is out of the way, let us begin ! 

So, like any avid rabid Souls-Borne fan, I have been playing Dark Souls 3 exclusively for the past few weeks and this feeling keeps creeping up again and again that this might be the easiest Souls game yet ! I keep trying to shake it off, but it resurfaces every other hour and I can't help but feel that it is an intentional change by From Software and not because I have gotten better at playing these masterpieces over time. It is not a bad thing necessarily, as people who feel intimidated by the difficulty of these games can now try the series out without feeling.....well, intimidated !

This is the most welcoming and accessible souls game out there, for sure ! So, if you have been waiting to take a plunge, read on how this is the easiest of them all to take a plunge into....and if you still find it difficult, I list a few simple ways the game provides to make it feel even easier for your pansy pleasures ^_^ !

Wake up, O Ashen one :

See, in a souls game, however much you may level yourself up, a slight misstep causes death and failure and a large health pool and beefed up weapons do make every game easy after a while, but the push-pull battle mechanics, the perfect timing of dodges to use those invincibility frames and every move of your weapon ingrained into your muscle memory have always been a defining factor in winning every 'one-on-one' or a mob fight.Umm...... Not so much in Dark Souls III !

Somewhere in DS3, I have a feeling I am having it way easier than before. My number of deaths are minuscule, paltry, unnoticeable on a Souls scale and I am getting by being careless in exploring, not measuring every step and letting curiosity take over blatantly ! My reckless decisions are hardly ever punished get the drift : though enjoying it like hell, somewhere I am finding it EASY .....that's heresy for a souls game :^P ! 

So, I sat down with my brains in my hands and decided to note down what exactly is helping me out here and letting me be a normal gamer, rather than a sulking Dark Knight. This is by no means a definitive list of features that make it easier, but I think they cover most of the gameplay aspects making it feel that way. Feel free to add more, if I have missed some completely!

Way simpler tutorial area: 

This isn't really a complaint about difficulty, as it passes very soon, but the opening area, which sets up the tone of the game, completely lacks the mystery and dread of the previous souls games.....and, well, the difficulty too. There are no confusing pathways or hidden threats or even a general sense of mystery to this environment. Nor are there any super tough enemies to run away from ! 
Yeah, its still very pretty ! 
 Bright sun-kissed-open-cheerful landscape isn't something you expect from a "Dark" souls game -_- ! Atleast, the Firelink Shrine saves the day by appearing pretty quickly and offering some mystique and hidden paths ! But yea, compared to the "Prison cell" and "Things Betwixt" of DS 1 and 2, this is the simplest, most spoonfed opening area of a Souls game lacking all fear, dread or mystique.

Bonfires are too close to each other:

 Yup, thats true. I never thought I would say such a thing, its a relief actually, but its also a problem, you see: there is no real risk of losing your souls in DS III unless you completely (very very unlikely) miss a bonfire location ! Bonfires are very frequent in this game, almost like checkpoints in other games. The dread of wandering around with thousands of souls and a sliver of a health-bar, with no more Estus to save you...haven't really felt that much in my playtime with the game. Except for one specific time where I wandered around bat crazy, not knowing what to do or where to go, I haven't really risked losing my souls for the want of a bonfire....and even in that particular case I found a shortcut within 100 meters of the bonfire ! I was just not looking hard enough.

 Early levels of the game have a bonfire every 5 mins and even later in the game, if you get a feeling  that the last enemy you fought was a tough one, you can be sure there will be a bonfire or a shortcut right around the corner. This takes away that very quintessential dread of playing a souls game and the relief one felt upon finding a bonfire......and in the process also makes the game pretty easy ! You don't really need to worry much now, just keep moving forward. You will find a bonfire waiting for you just about the time you end up using your estus flasks or even before that happens.

Pyromancy kills the crap out of everything: 

For the 30 hours I have spent inside this World of Lothric, I haven't held a shield for even a second.....which is good, great, awesome ! Finally, I can be a deadly pyromancer lighting up the enemies with glee ! ....but that also means that if you choose the pyromancer class while creating your character, like I did, then you will have a very easy time with most of the tougher enemies of the game, including doing quite a massive amount of damage to bosses without getting near them at all !
The rule of Fire !
 In fact, if you want to have it easy on yourself , I would say just go for Pyromancy right from the start.  You can change your playstyle later once you level up enough with the help of that fire in your palm ! The damage and the range of your standard fireball is pretty high right from the start and you can rely on taking out quite a lot of enemies just by using fire. The fact that most of the early game enemies are weak to fire helps a lot and bends the odds even more in your favour !

Add to that the frequent bonfires to refill your FP, it means you almost always have fireballs at your disposal and can kite enemies from far, safe and away from their hit zones ! This made me so lazy in the beginning of the game that I didn't even bother to learn all the moves of my trusty I had a even more trusty fireball at my disposal :^)

Ember Ember everywhere: 

So lets say you are not a pyromancer and you do not have keen eyes to spot those Bonfires everywhere, worry not fellow knight, there is still this little mechanic which provides a huge help throughout the game: its called Ember !
Ember grants a longer health bar !
On the surface, Ember is pretty much what humanity was in the previous game, albeit a few differences. Consuming Ember provides one with a HUGE  health bar, like a temporary level boost, which is a complete and massive life saver. It is like having a boost of say 5 extra levels until your next death. It means more mistakes are forgiven and one can be more sure of reaching the next bonfire.
Ember grants a loooooooooong health bar ! :O
 It also entails the ability to summon other players for co op in your game to help you out. As was with Humanity, you lose your embered state when you die. All of this sounds familiar to Souls players, but there is a difference in DS3. You see Ember, unlike humanity, is not rare to fact, it is everywhere ! So much so, that it is pretty much possible to play the whole game in embered state !  
This changes everything. Once I realised that Ember wasn't rare at all, I started consuming ember each time I died just to get that super boost to my health bar and with that humongous a health bar , one doesn't feel much need to be scared, now does one !
Long health bars means selfie times even during Boss Fights :P !

....and even if you run out of embers, do not fret, cos the hand-maiden in the shrine will sell you some embers for a paltry amount of souls ! The number of embers she sells is limited but frankly, between bosses, random drops and the Handmaiden selling them, I doubt you will ever run out of embers, making the game that much easier again !

Embers light up the co op:

 ....and Ember again ! Once you have consumed ember, you can summon other players for co-op in your game and the co op turns the tide in this game. With a party of three, you can roll through areas faster than a fighter jet on nitrous ! So, if you feel you do not have the nerves of steel to go through this game alone, fret not, just summon two more people via there summon signs and have a blast, like you would in any game ! Its a ton of fun !
Knight Fight !

All this is great and super fun to do, but the fact that you have enough ember to play co op all the time can steamroll through the game all the time ! If Ember was a bit rarer, it would have been a strategic decision to use it only at the right time, but in my game I have always had a dozen to spare. So, I find myself going for co-op as much as possible....its the cheapest, easiest and most harmless way of making the game easier. There is nothing that three Ashen ones cannot handle together :^)!

Free souls for all :

Just like summoning others into your game, you can also join others' games to help them out in their world......and the game rewards you for it. The biggest fear of losing all your souls upon dying is the defining factor of all souls games, but that fear is removed for you if you help out others via co-op. So, what that means is that no matter what clumsy way you die in while helping someone, you will always come back with all your souls intact to level yourself up !

Its basically a free levelling up tool at your disposal, a rare aspect of a souls game which has NO PENALTY at all ! So, like any normal gamer, if you still feel that this game is hard, just go for fun co-op sessions in others games, bring back souls and level up your character really high before tackling your own demons ! and did I mention it requires no Ember or any other consumable at all? Which means you can do it as much as you want ! Voila, easy mode unlocked !

Secret of Dancer of the Boreal Valley:

Finally, there is way to get almost 50,000 souls very early in the game by defeating a very late game boss with the help of an NPC summon. It can level you up almost 11-12 times in a go granting you a huge advantage over the game. Though it is executed like a glitch, the game's lore suggests that it s not a glitch but an intentional event added into the game by From Software. The fact that they are not patching it either confirms that it is part of the many secrets inside the game.

This "secret" is best described in this video by "Naamtar", who discovered it and shared with all. It is very easy to pull off, but needs to be done very early in the game. Watch this video for a complete rundown:

With those 50k souls in your kitty, you will pretty over levelled for the next area and you can keep the momentum going from there on making the whole journey just a tad bit easier.

There you have it ! 

With the in game mechanics regarding Bonfires and Embers making it easier than before, you can make it even easier and newb-friendly by using pyromancy, getting help from co-operators and levelling up by helping others and using the Boreal secret.

These options are intentional game design choices made by From Software and the game can easily feel like the easiest Souls game, if you use them well. If you are a seasoned fan of the series, you may not like some of the changes made by From Software and for that , I say, except for the frequent bonfires, its all optional and can be avoided for a hardcore play experience.

But if you were always intrigued by the series and had never dared to take the plunge due to the percieved high difficulty these games offer, feel free to jump in now as Dark Souls 3 is the most accessible of them all and yet retains the quality, mystery, addictiveness and charm that makes a Souls-Borne game absolutely unique ! Join in and let it suck your life away :^) !

......and if you see an Orange summon sign, summon the phantom, we might just kick some ash together ! (pun intended ^_^)

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