As long time readers of this web site know, Dark Souls started out as a modest cult hit on the PS3, and the Xbox 360 and later spawned a small industry of Youtube uploaders and Twitch streamers once it hit Windows. Over the years I have painstakingly documented my relationship with this video game over and over and over again. I also played all the games from FromSoft after Dark Souls and enjoyed them all, probably to a degree not all that healthy for an old man gamer. But, I never got Dark Souls on a modern platform.
For the last few years I have occasionally pondered buying a Windows PC just to have an install of the PC version of Dark Souls so that I did not have to trot out my decrepit Xbox 360 or PS3 to do the occasional run through the bosses. Laziness always won out though, as almost nothing in life is worse than setting up Windows again, and I never set up the box.
As often happens in my life, my slothfulness was rewarded this spring as FromSoft brought out a port of the beloved game to the PS4 (and other platforms), so now I can play Dark Souls on modern hardware, at modern higher resolution, and higher frame rates without the pain and suffering of setting up Windows to do it.
So, back to Firelink we go:
So anyway, how is this newest version of Dark Souls? As if you even need to ask.
The Big Picture
Answer: Life is good.
A lot of haters on the Intertubes spent a lot of time complaining about how FromSoft had the audacity to charge money for some shit that the PC modders had already provided “for free”. As is usually the case with these people, they are misguided at best and in reality they are closer to psychotically delusional. This port is great. Let us summarize:
Plays just like the Dark Souls we all know and love, warts and all, but at 1080p (or 4K) and 60fps. Making a game look better without changing the play mechanics is probably harder than it seems. It’s certainly the case that it’s not always as successful as this.
Does not have any of the weird 60fps physics bugs that the PC mods do.
Better (though still janky) multiplayer. The main thing here is using the matchmaking and server system from the newer games for co-op and PVP. The password-based friend summoning works as well as any FromSoft system has ever worked, which is to say that if that co-op is your bag it’s barely good enough to make it worth your time. Still, we’ve slowly been dragging my old buddy peterb through the game against his will, so there is that. More on PVP later.
Some nice new graphical flourishes, though nothing major. Just a few things made more obvious and nice to look at.
You get to take advantage of the perks of the modern platform, like automatic video recording!
If you have spent any time playing Dark Souls at all, this new version will fit as seamlessly into your brain as your most comfortable pair of old shoes. Or [insert your favorite bad analogy here]. They did apparently fix a lot of the queued-action menu glitches that people exploited for things like item duping, weapon move swapping and illegal buffing. But I was never good enough to do any of that anyway so I don’t care.
I have done about five runs through the game since it came out (setting up PVP characters is not for the faint of heart) and have no complaints, except that for some reason I can never hit the fucking tail on the Gargoyles.
A few random PVE notes.
I still can’t fight Gwyndolin.
Kalameet Tail Cut Hype. Thanks LobosJr.
Also thanks to LobosJr, I learned to have the courage to RTSR (Red Tearstone Ring) some fights.
I tried four times to do the Onion Bro quest and only succeeded twice. It only works for me if I backup my save file first.
I also fought Manus with the RTSR, but had some trouble with the setup there.
Finally, I learned how to fight Gwyn with parries like everyone else does it.
The trick is to only parry the two hand swing or the followup to the one hand swing. You can’t parry the initial one hand swing, which I guess I just never noticed before. But if you block it with a high stability shield and immediately parry again you almost always win. The video only shows the easy parries (the jump attack and the two handed swing).
Some day maybe I’ll try and do speed or challenge runs… but probably not:
Suck Like Me All Over Again
Having written the definitive treatise on how to suck at Dark Souls PVP I of course had to see if all of the techniques that I had worked so hard to learn still worked.
The good news: they still work. I’m still bad. What I’ve never learned how to do is manipulate good players so that I can hit them, especially if they are using fast weapons. Eventually I just get lost and backstabbed or chipped to death or whatever. I have tried to get better at this, but it’s really not much use.
In my head I fight like this every single time:
But in reality this happens most of the time:
Or at best
The first new character I ran through the game was a standard “quality” build, meaning 40 Strength and 40 Dexterity and able to use all the weapons. No casting.
Unfortunately without any casting what happens when you invade is this:
So then I thought, “maybe I will do a build to try and fight the ganks”.
The most famous build for fighting ganks is the “Brandon build” or the “Oroboro HateMail build”. You can watch this YouTube video about it:
Basically you pump Dex and enough Faith to buff the falchion and then you destroy people with R1-spam.
Except it’s not actually that easy. In order for this build to work you have to
Be able to get the buff off.
Have an incredible intuition for manipulating your spacing relative to 3 or 4 opponents and timing your R1-spam so as not to get parried.
OK now you can go to town and murder some nerds.
I had modest success with my own a version of this build:
But I made two mistakes. First, I put too many points into Strength for good PVE weapons and to get enough HP and stamina I ended up at level 140 or so, which is too high. This makes the fights even harder. Second, I am not good enough to fight the three or four enemies at once that you get if you invade in Oolacile, which is the main red PVP hot spot in the Remaster. I still had some fun, and once in a while managed to escape the spawn kills, and pondered if there were another way.
Then I saw this video:
This piqued my interest because the while the Brandon build uses Wrath of the Gods (from now on: WOG) as some extra spice or a finishing move, this Yukas guy was using it as his main way to deal death. And compared to melee attacks it has two distinct advantages:
Its area of effect is great.
I had to try this out. My version of this build is 40 Dex and 50 Faith. To get there I sacrifice a bit of HP and stamina, and I managed to keep the level close to 120. The hardest part of making this build was doing a character that used only Dex for damage. Killing those NG+ bosses was tedious. But I managed to get there. It would have been even harder for me to make the “classic” Yukas-style build with low Dex and Divine/Occult weapons. Those DLC bosses eat that shit for lunch.
Anyway, around level 100 I finally reached the Oolacile Township in NG+ which is where I normally do my invading. I was doing so-so with the build, but was not discouraged because it was not yet in its final form. Then this happened:
It’s not every day that the guy whose build you are aping invades you with a lower level version of the same idea. In the video I get a few lucky running attacks in (he should have murdered me with a parry about half way through) and I dodge his WOG by accident. Then inexplicably my WOG lands and I win. Unbelievable! I should have retired right then.
I used the last 20 or 30 levels mostly pumping HP and endurance and as I got to the final form of the character it all came together. When you get the right group of players who are either can’t or don’t dodge the WOGs, you can be a veritable angel of death. Even the worst TWOP spawn killers will fall to your wrath if they miss by just a little bit.
And, if you manage to get off the Power Within as well, the real fun begins:
With the Power Within damage boost you can do upwards of 1200HP in one go on a counter hit. It’s glorious.
The Yukas-style build maximizes miracle damage in four main ways:
Crown of Dusk
Ring of the Sun’s First Born
If you want you can also use the Red Tearstone Ring, but I’m not there. I’m considering it though because:
The downsides are:
I suck with Katanas.
Relatively low HP and Endurance. So no heavy weapons.
This build trades poise for miracle damage. Normally I would use the Wolf Ring to stack poise so I don’t get stun locked by accident when I stupidly trade hits. Now I would not have that luxury since that ring is replaced with the Ring of the Sun’s First Born for the damage boost. This is important because it makes me lose a lot more in 1v1.
To mitigate (1) I pushed the character to level 135 with some Strength to allow me to use my beloved Halberd. The final version of the build is here. Even with only 20 Strength the Halberd’s pokes are just strong enough to give me a better chance in those long melee fights. I also used a lucky slab to make a +15 Balder Side Sword, which is a good change of pace from the katanas. I’m better with the pokes and the wide swings than with the fast slashes. I don’t know why.
I now lose most of my 1v1 fights to either backstabs or getting stun locked to death. Oh the shame.
It’s just that easy.
To sum up, this build has changed my relationship with the gankers. Now I win enough of those invasions to not mind them so much. And, if you can dodge my WOGs and kill me anyway, more power to you. I’m never gonna be good enough to melee a 4-1 to death. I’m no Yukas (or Oroboro, or Peeve).
If you do beat me, and you will, you should not feel so good about yourself. I’m not really that good so you will not have achieved much. You certainly should not feel good enough about your self to trash talk me with those obnoxious emotes. So I will finally bring this to an end with my personal list of “rules” for correct and proper PVP behavior in Dark Souls. You should feel no obligation to follow these rules at all, but it’s how I tend to roll.
Don’t heal as a Red (or Blue) in 1v1 invasions. It’s tacky. Who cares if you lose the fight? You get infinite chances. The host is spending humanity to give you a place to fight without subjecting you to a gank squad. You should appreciate that. Of course if they heal first all bets are off.
If you spawn kill me with TWOP and three helpers with great swords, don’t Point Down, or Well What Is It, or worst of all, Look Skyward. You spawn killed a single Red in a 4 on 1. You have nothing to be proud of.
Don’t send out those trash-talk emotes unless your opponent did it to you first. I sometimes break this rule, but only when I’m not in a complete state of shock from having won the fight in the first place. Trash talking after 1v1 fights is also tacky. Like healing.
Don’t spend your whole life fishing Hornet Ring backstabs. It’s boring and most people are just letting you have them to not have to fight you anymore.
The Invisible Soul Mass bug is annoying and if you exploit it you are a bad person and if I don’t get murdered by it you have my word that I will WOG spam you until you die … or I run out of WOGs and you kill me.
If you invade in the Township into a 1v1 just fight straight up at the top of the level. This is how the level was intended to work. If you scamper down into the level to hide with the other enemies I will just disconnect or suicide. Life is too short to fight boring fights.
I try not to murder poor groups of two or three just trying to make it through the level. But let’s be real. I’m level 135. If I’ve invaded you and you have friends, you are probably ganking people.
OK that’s all I got. Check out the other boring videos that I put on youtube. And no, I will never stream on twitch. Ever.