Dark Souls II is a great game, but this kind of difficulty is not for everyone.
I called Dark Souls II a "harsh mistress" the other day, and I continue to be struck by how much playing this notoriously difficult game is like being in a tempestuous relationship.
Sometimes when I am playing I feel totally in control. These are the times when I am taking down big enemies with ease, dealing out damage without suffering a scratch myself, and I dare to think, "Hey, I'm getting good at this!" It is usually when this cockiness is setting in that Dark Souls suddenly flips me onto my back and drives a knee into my solar plexis.
This is a game that punishes arrogance and carelessness mercilessly. As I wrote earlier in the week, a lowly grunt that you've killed without a problem a dozen times before may suddenly catch you by surprise, and you find yourself staring at those red letters, "YOU DIED", shimmering on your screen, wondering how the hell you managed to be killed by one of the weakest enemies in the game.
I don't usually like really tough games. As in most things in my life, I like balance in my video games. I like to be challenged and tested, but I'm not generally one for doing the same thing over and over, failing time and again. I like my checkpoints close together and my objectives clear. Beating my head against a wall is not my idea of a good time.
Every now and then, though, I will get hooked on a tougher than usual game, and I will push through to the end with single-minded determination. Rayman Jungle Run and Rayman Fiesta Run are two that spring to mind: on one of the final levels in Fiesta Run I lost count of my retries around 40 or so.
What makes all the difference to me is knowing that a game is difficult by design, and it has been made to be beatable. When a game is too hard simply because the people who made it were terrible at balancing the challenge level, or never tested thoroughly enough, or designed a terrible control scheme then that's just frustrating. Knowing that your death in a game is the result of your own mistake, while frustrating, can also make it more tolerable.
Even so, I play games to have fun. When a game feels too much like work, then I'll stop enjoying myself and my urge to play will evaporate. I think this is why I could never get into 2D fighting games, like Tekken or Mortal Kombat: memorising and practising combat moves for hours just doesn't seem like an enjoyable use for my time, but it's the only way to get good at those games.
Over to you, dear readers. Do you like a tough game? What are some of your favourites? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
- James "DexX" Dominguez
Screen Play is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez