I am not a brave man. Horror movies leave me quaking in fear. The witching hour fills me with profound dread. And every night I insist on sleeping with the lights on, swaddled in blankets and propped up in an armchair facing my front door. And though I may slumber, my finger rests on the trigger of a loaded rifle, ready to defend myself from fearsome beasts and sinister intruders until rosy-fingered dawn comes to my rescue each morning.
So when I fire up Dark Souls 3 (opens in new tab) for the first time, I’m immediately intimidated. The opening area, the Cemetery of Ash, is home to withered creatures clad in moth-worn robes, and while they look more like confused geriatrics than fearsome fighters, I’m not taking any chances. My character (a warrior by the name of Binbags) enters the scene, swinging his mighty axe to fell codger after codger.
I’ve heard that Dark Souls 3 opens with a surprisingly difficult boss battle, and that’s where I’m headed. Hands trembling, I approach Iudex Gundyr, pause for a moment to titter at his silly name, and then pull the Coiled Sword from his chest to begin the fight. Ninety seconds later, I’ve dispatched the weedy Gundyr on my first attempt.
That was all a bit anticlimactic really, so I decide to amp up the challenge. This time, at the character creation screen, I choose the ‘deprived’ class, and gaze despairingly at the wimpy form of Binbags 2. My proud warrior has been replaced with an emaciated weirdo wielding a primitive shield and wooden cudgel. Instead of sturdy armour, he is clad in a grimy loincloth.
And as if to add insult to injury, the deprived class starts the game at level 1 – for the sake of comparison, my warrior was a mighty level 7. The differences immediately become clear when I move to engage my first robe-geezer. Whereas my beefy warrior could carve up these hoary creeps with flowing combo attacks with his , Binbags 2 just artlessly wails on the blighters, leaving me painfully open to enemy counterattacks between each and every swing.
I advance carefully, making sure to stop for a rest at every bonfire between here and Gundyr to refill my stock of restorative Estus flasks. Then, I take a deep breath and head into the titan’s foul lair. The bout that follows would probably be best described as panicked. Binbags 2 rolls nimbly between Gundyr’s halberd strikes, harrying the beast only when the opportunity arises. When the dust settles, Binbags 2 stands over his vanquished foe. I am once again victorious.
Clearly, the problem here is that I’m too good at Dark Souls, so I quickly head back to the title screen, create another Deprived character, and step back into the fray as Binbags 3.0. This time, I decide that I won’t use a single bonfire. Instead, I’ll clear the opening area, then head straight for the big bad and take down Gundyr with only a stock of three measly Estus to fall back on when I take damage.
Clearly, the problem here is that I’m too good at Dark Souls
By now, I know the Cemetery of Ash like the back of my grubby, deprived hand, but I’m still a bit of a nervous Nellie. After all, a single lapse in concentration could have severe consequences here. Predictably enough, disaster soon strikes – a crazed octogenarian gets the better of me, landing a flurry of strikes before I can regain my composure and cut him down. I nervously eye my diminished health bar, and agonise over whether to chug at an Estus or risk a one-hit kill from Gundyr. I decide to take a chance, and stride towards battle with all the confidence of an 11-year-old at a job interview.
The ensuing battle is a painfully tense roll-fest, but Binbags 3.0 proves worthy of the challenge, emerging victorious after three minutes of jittery juking. Truly, this is a new golden age for me; an age of staggering competence. Who knew that could happen?
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe here (opens in new tab).