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Is Dark Souls Like Skyrim on Hard Mode?

Dark Souls

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately, as I seem to constantly find myself in situations where I need to explain the appeal of Dark Souls to people who only know it from its “You Will Die” reputation.

I guess facts are facts – pound for pound Dark Souls is arguably one of the most difficult games created in recent history. This isn’t because it’s misleading or unusually restrictive, like most games which are included in “extremely difficult” lists – there isn’t a super ridiculous limit on attempts or a 3 hour jumping puzzle or anything to catch you up. This is because Dark Souls is a JRPG which takes itself incredibly seriously, featuring smart and challenging enemies at all levels who respond to the way you play quickly and intelligently. Basically there is no “press a if you understand” or handholding of any kind, just top quality dungeon-crawling and area-exploring from the get go.

So how does this compare to a more popular RPG with less of a focus on difficulty like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim?

Well in terms of gameplay these games are more similar than you would think. Both are or can be played in third person, as well as both offering a lot of flexibility in terms of the types of characters you can create and the skills and weapons you can bring to bear.

One of the biggest differences, aside from the difficulty, would be that Skyrim is a lot more open world (especially navigating from zone to zone) as well as taking place in a much more populated game world. Skyrim is known for its towns, villages and sidequests – Dark Souls gives off a more solitary vibe, with less “quests” and more “random occurences”.

But if we move past these petty differences, at heart these games really are quite similar.

Let’s chart up a few points:

  • Both medieval style
  • Large boss battles
  • Focus on hand-to-hand combat or spell casting or archery
  • Large amounts of items and weapons to find
  • Dungeon crawling gameplay
  • Focus on each hand holding a different weapon or item or spell
  • Long game times (Skyrim can be anywhere between 6-200 hours, Dark Souls is around 80 depending on competency)
  • Plenty of secret areas to explore and powerful items which can be found
  • Plenty of additional plot points which can be discovered by further questing and exploration

See what I mean? Well ok, that list got a bit generic but it just goes to show you that great RPG games usually focus on a lot of the same points – it just depends on whether or not the story hooks you or the gameplay can stand up to the premise.

In any case Dark Souls probably wouldn’t be appropriate for the majority of Skyrim fans, so it might be a disservice to call it “Skyrim on Hardmode”. That being said, for anyone who finished off Skyrim and was looking for a challenge – this would be my first suggestion.

Don’t be put off by the difficulty or the elitism surrounding this title – underneath the headache-inducing gameplay lies a truly exceptional game.

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