I Played Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin, And Found It Very Hard To Stop

I Played Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin, And Found It Very Hard To Stop

What the hell is it about Dark Souls that makes it so goddamn compelling.

That’s the word, isn’t it? ‘Compelling’. I thought about this over the weekend. A family member had a PC hooked up on his TV, we were planning to mess around with multiplayer games. Mount Your Friends, Nidhogg — stuff like that. But as soon as I saw Dark Souls installed on the machine, I knew it would have to wait.

He had an New Game +. An inventory filled with fully upgraded weapons. He couldn’t remember exactly, but was sure he had beaten the Gargoyles and was working his way down to the Capra Demon. It had been a while. How could I resist?

I’m not normally ‘that guy’. I’m hyper sensitive about stepping on people’s toes, or boring people, or playing single-player games whilst others are present. But this was Dark Souls. I spent the next hour making my way down to the Capra Demon, fighting him over and over and over again while non-Dark Souls people watched, wondering what the hell was going on. ‘Why/how is this fun?’ This is the question I’m sure they were asking themselves.

Point being: it is really, really difficult to stop playing Dark Souls, and it’s almost impossible to fight the urge when it comes.

I was thinking about this when I arrived to check out Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin.

Here’s what I thought: I thought Dark Souls II was different. I thought I had less of an attachment to that place, to Dranglaic. I thought the attraction of Dark Souls might have been Lordran, the space itself — the lived-in, inter-connected areas I had traversed so many times. I wondered if the rhythm of that traversal, the familiar feeling of moving through that environment, was what made Dark Souls so unique. I know Lordran so well. I’m familiar with every square inch. The nature of Dark Souls II and Dranglaic was such that I never really became comfortable with its world in quite the same way.

I never returned to Dark Souls II after finishing it. Not even for the DLC. At the time I was just Dark Soulsed out, having played through the original in preparation for the sequel. 100 hours of playing the same series without a break will do that to you. I was satisfied to just leave it at that.

Or so I thought.

I headed to Namco Bandai’s Australia office to check out Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin because, why the hell not? I’m a big fan of Dark Souls.

Here’s what I’d forgotten: the curse that Dark Souls so often refers to in its games; it’s actually a metaphor for the powerful compulsion that overcomes its players the second they begin playing. At least it feels like a metaphor. Dark Souls works its magic expertly. It took the game two minutes to transform me from regular functioning human being to shuffling hollow. Blindly moving from encounter to encounter, indulging in that meditative combat rhythm.



Man, it feels so good to be back.

That’s what smokers say when they take their first drag months after trying to quit.

Both Dark Souls and Dark Souls II continue to astonish me. When trying to explain why both games are so rewarding we often describe the difficulty, or that refusal to treat players with kid gloves. If we’re feeling sophisticated we might make reference to the consistency of it, the fact that it’s tough but fair. We might reference the design, the universe. If we’re talking Dark Souls, we might discuss the afore-mentioned inter-connected world that loops around itself so wonderfully.

But we never talk about that stripped back, basic as-all-hell rhythm. The weight of our feet beating at the ground. The way it feels to just push the bumper button and have that swing feel chunky, to feel that resistance. We never talk about it because we don’t necessarily understand how potent it is, we don’t necessarily recognise the chemicals working filtering through our brains. Jesus Christ it feels good just to play Dark Souls. I don’t really know how or why, it simple is. We are human beings and we are burdened with strange compulsions and habits.

Dark Souls is both a compulsion and a habit.

And that is why I found it extremely difficult to stop playing Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin once I started. Not because of the additional DLC, not because of the increased resolution or the frame-rate. In fact, I’m still not 100% sure precisely why I found it so difficult to stop. I just wanted to keep playing. Because that’s Dark Souls and that’s what it feels like to play Dark Souls.


  • Maaaaaan, so long to waiiiit… I booked this in as my birthday present as soon as I heard about it. It’s been long enough since finishing Souls 1 that I am super keen for this.

    EDIT: Where “so long” is April 2, if my memory serves correctly (and I’m pretty sure it does!)

    • Reading this article actually made me realise that I’m really excited for this game, more than I have been for anything in a long time. Not sure I can articulate why (which is kind of the point of the article, really). I think it’s something to do with the deep immersion that comes from constantly facing seemingly unfair but ultimately surmountable challenges, in a intelligently designed and masterfully realised world?

  • it’s actually a metaphor for the powerful compulsion that overcomes its players the second they begin playing. At least it feels like a metaphor.

    God damn I love Dark Souls. That comment above reminded me of this (only slightly related, but funny): http://xkcd.com/667/

  • Sooo… the game is addictive? I got the platinum in Demons Souls but haven’t touched Dark Souls yet. I’m thinking of getting around to it before Scholar of the First Sin comes out on PS4. By the way, Mark, what platform did you play on at Bamco?

      • Oh, I dunno. I went straight from Demon to Dark, and that didn’t suck. And then, later on, I played almost 30 more hours of Dark Souls just prior to the launch of Dark Souls 2, just to warm up.

    • Double sad face !!!

      But if I’m honest I hope they have patched out all the cheese and hope they have gone to town on the enemy replacement locations etc., id like it to feel like a brand new challenge !!

      Oh and that challenge is most definitely accepted !

      • Things like the Cardinal Tower shortcut and the double-club stunlocking have also been taken out. I’m not sure I agree with the latter, as that seems more like clever theorycrafting than cheese. But yeah I can totally see the Dragonrider 😛 hehe

        • Hey hey, it’s my favourite Dark Souls player. I expect some crazy shenanigans from you, like finishing this naked whilst balancing an egg on your forehead and reciting War and Peace. 😛

        • Yeah I can see why they would get rid of the Dragon Rider glitch, the cardinal tower shortcut doesn’t really make sense (unless its just the ability to open it from inside the room with the bonfire) as once you go through that area its just a waste of time to go back through again (but it is DS so I can see them doing that). The speed runners are gonna be pissed that they took the double club stunlock out though ! (never used it myself except to try it out)

          I sense a new cheese might already be in the works by the sound of it !!!

          also I just realised who I am in a convo with… love ya work mate.

  • I don’t understand why people like Dark Souls 2 so much…
    I loved the original Dark Souls, it is truly an outstanding game, but everything that made it such a great game is sorely lacking in the sequel, I found.
    The entire time I spent playing Dark Souls 2, I couldn’t help but compare it to Dark Souls, and it came up short in every regard.
    I dunno, I just could not enjoy or get drawn into Dark Souls 2 like I could with the original.

    • are you kiddin’ me?.. this is the first discussion of dark souls 2 that has something positive to say.. everywhere else makes the same complaints you do; can you join them?..

  • Mark why do you keep writing articles about games I don’t like!? Between your love of Destiny and Dark Souls, I’m finding it hard to take you seriously.

    I kid of course.

    In my defence, I have tried both Demon Souls and Destiny. Didn’t really like them, but I do find it interesting how people find Demon Souls and Dark Souls so… addictive. If anyone asked me which game do I just not like despite how much other people love it, it’s one that comes quite quickly to mind.

    As much as I’ve read that fans adore it’s brutal honesty and it’s difficulty, I just couldn’t bear to spend my time feeling like I was deliberately shoving my face into a meat grinder, all in the hope of just beating a system.

    Kind of sounds like my criticism of Destiny actually…

    Ah, I see now where you’re going with this Serrels… I can see the next Destiny post already.

    Clever… very clever.

    • My common response to this is that I didn’t really like Dark Souls at first, either. It took me three separate attempts to get in to it, but I persisted because I could recognise that I *should* like it. It finally required my brother sitting down with me to guide me through some common problems and add some helpful hints. Then it clicked, I was hooked, and played nothing else for the next two months.

      So if you think you should like it, maybe find somebody to help you out a bit, or watch some Let’s Plays or something? If not, well, I guess there’s plenty of other games out there to play.

      • Haha, you guess?

        *mutters* These Dark Souls fans, all up on their high horses all the time.

        Seriously though, I just don’t think it’s a game for me. I love well designed games, but the brutality and the lack of a learning curve just feels like too much of a wall to push through, and the potential pay off that I could see just wasn’t all that interesting.

    • I don’t like Destiny – but I love Dark Souls.

      Destiny, with its random loot drops feels like a poor man’s Borderlands with far less interesting guns and story

      Dark Souls has grinding – but its with purpose – because every piece of loot has it’s place and use you can shape your own way through the game much more effectively than a random system

  • In some ways, I’m even more excited for this next-gen Dark Souls 2 than I am for Bloodborne. I can’t decide which to get first!

    • I truly hope Bloodborne blows everything out of the water, Dark Souls 2 was great but as other people pointed out it lacked in certain areas which the other Souls games excelled at. I’m hoping Hidetaka was able to watch what DS2 did right and bring back everything the Souls game before it did perfectly and hit the whole thing out of the park. But that may just be my inner hype train which has long be charging headlong towards the station.

  • I found that after finishing Dark Souls 2, I wasn’t “Dark Souls’d out”… I just prefered the first. Since then, I still jump into Dark Souls 1 occasionally to play around a bit – the world in which it’s set feels better to me.

    You say:

    The nature of Dark Souls II and Dranglaic was such that I never really became comfortable with its world in quite the same way.

    Is there anything about SotFS that changes this?

  • I owned ds1 3 separate times. I hated it Everytime i played it. It took my grandpas death to realize its one of the best games ever made. I said i would play it on my channel for the hardest man i knew. ds1 being the hardest game i knew about. It took me hours to get passed those gargoyles. But when i did, that was the turning point for me. You basically have to suffer so much that when you pass it, it’s the greatess feeling ever.

  • Now this makes me sad that I’m getting the Bloodborne CE but I won’t be able to play it.
    I don’t own a PS4

  • Can’t wait! Looking forward to the expanded lore… just kinda dreading the re-jigging. I finished the base game just before the DLC came out, and the DLC crushed me – it was so much harder than the base game; everything hit like a truck. I really hope that idea hasn’t been forwarded to the rest of the base game in the new version…

  • I spent 10 hours straight trying to beat the boss on the wharf level.
    I still cant do it!


  • *Ticks Serrels can’t go 3 months without writing a Dark Souls article off the Kotaku bingo sheet…

    And we love him for it 🙂

    <3 Dark Souls… bring on Bloodborne!

  • There really is no other way to describe the rush that it gives u with the difficulty crushing u as you rise to the occasion

  • Sorry, but there is nothing special about dark souls especially dark souls 2. This story itself is flawed because anyone who has played the PC version of DS2 knows how broken it is without using outside mods and keybinds to fix the game.

    Secondly demon and DS1 were true to their creation hard well designed games that you could tell people took time and care to create.

    Along that lines DS2 was a pile of shit, enemies given copy pasted move sets that make no logical sense in a game based around difficult 1v1 combat, overall the game felt terrible to play compared to previous entries.

    There are multiple hour long Souls series comparisons on youtube that detail exactly what the community and real fans of the entire souls series feel and know to be true.

    I am hopeful for the upcomming bloodborn and will buy it, but DS2 was absolute garbage in every aspect compared to previous souls entries and I will judge bloodborn equally as harsh if it follows the same trend.

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