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Five Tips For Casual Players To Enjoy FromSoftware Games

FromSoftware games have a bit of a reputation but their bark is worse than their bite. Here's how to get stuck into one of these games.

Since 2009’s Demon’s Souls for PS3, FromSoftware has been spearheading a movement to return us to the classic days of unforgiving, hardcore NES titles. The slogan of their most iconic game Dark Souls is “Prepare to Die”, so it is hardly surprising that these games do not offer a free ride.

Considering that games are criticized more readily for being too easy than being too hard, this approach was well-received by many. The major downside, however, is a huge barrier to entry that caused many gamers to merely watch Souls games in Let’s Plays or to skip over them entirely.

But here's the truth, casual gamers: FromSoftware isn't going anywhere, and Souls games will keep being made as long as people want to play them. So you may as well accept that you are going to need to get into it sooner or later. So here are my five most important tips to help you to break into FromSoftware games.

Don't Worry About Experience Points

Whatever Miyazaki calls experience points in any one game, the consistent mechanic is that upon death, you lose them all. You have one opportunity to go and get them, or else they are lost forever. How punishing! Well, not really. Relax and take a moment to consider before you panic.

First of all, you have that one chance to retrieve them, so there is a possibility that all will be fine. Second of all, even if you do lose them altogether, what have you really lost? Time. Nothing more than the fact that you need to play a portion of the game again (just like every other video game). Assuming you are spending your experience at checkpoints (which you should be), then the only points that you can lose upon death are those that you collected by killing the enemies you encountered since your last checkpoint. So if you end up back at that checkpoint minus the experience points, then you will acquire it again en route to your bloodstain.

In fact, if you manage to reach your bloodstain, then the mechanic is simply forced grinding, which will ultimately make things easier. These games are quite long; you won’t complete them in an afternoon, so relax and be patient. Death in these games is as meaningless as in any other game.

These words hold less power than you thought

Scout Ahead

What’s this? Have I uncovered some sort of drone that can be remotely controlled to scout out the level? Not quite. Something that you may realize quite early on, and that becomes especially evident from watching speedruns, is that you can actually run right past pretty much every enemy in these games. While I would not recommend this for a number of reasons (such as the fact that it takes its own type of skill and that remaining at a low level throughout the game is not recommended for the full experience), it is still a fact that can be very useful.

If you reach a bonfire and spend all, or at least most, of your experience and don’t care about the token amount you have left, then you have absolutely nothing to lose. You can jump off that cliff as much as you want. Losing experience, as we already mentioned, is not as big a deal as the game would like you to believe. Take advantage of this newfound freedom to do some scouting. Run into higher level areas and grab the items before being killed. Find out what enemies lie around the next few corners. Essentially you can go on suicide runs with no fear whatsoever.

Cheese

This may not be very honorable, but you are fighting against a bunch of ones and zeroes, so who really cares about honor? The truth is that a lot of FromSoftware games are quite easily exploited. I don’t mean skipping large portions of the game or something else that is patchable, but rather exploiting AI patterns and the like.

Certain enemies will not leave their designated area or climb ladders, for example. It is virtually impossible to create a game that is this big and not have a fair number of problems. With practice and determination, any player of any skill level can overcome any adversary. Eventually you will find that angle that allows you to pummel your opponent in safety, and if you don’t find it yourself, it’s available on the Internet.

Cheesing offline makes you feel brave

Play Offline

One of the most terrifying aspects of these games are the fact that absolute strangers can literally step into your game uninvited and try to ruin your progress. It is stressful, and can leave a player feeling very frustrated and even violated. To many gamers, this is not only the least fun idea in gaming’s history, but also enough to completely turn them off playing.  

How can new, inexperienced and frightened players possibly get around this nightmare? Is there no way to avoid this system that metes out random and unfair punishment? Actually there is - just play offline.

Research The Lore

The cryptic nature of Miyazaki’s storytelling is one of the most recognizable features of his video games. For some people, it's one of the most difficult to swallow. While I don’t recommend spoiling the entire game for yourself in advance of playing it, if you are the sort of gamer who needs a compelling story to justify continuing a game, then get yourself some context before playing a Miyazaki game.

Look up the background lore and understand the game world up until the point where the gameplay itself begins. This will enable you to piece together the information found in-game much more easily and give you a greater feeling of purpose as you explore the unforgiving world. Wanting to understand something is a far more compelling reason to go on than wanting to murder something, and a little research will enable you to understand what you encounter and get a lot more out of the experience.

Understanding your battles will draw you into the world

When approached with these tips in mind, it will becomes apparent that FromSoftware has not created a game that is remotely as intimidating as you think it is. Some of the biggest challenges can be cheesed or avoided entirely, and the most intimidating mechanics in the game are actually completely meaningless when you think about it. Sure, the games are long and require a fair amount of trial and error, but anyone can play them and anyone can beat them. Just approach them with the right attitude. It will all be fine.

Published Jun. 14th 2015

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