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By Caty McCarthy 3
Truth be told, the supposed tough-as-nails nature of the Souls series is mostly an admittedly brilliant PR ploy. Sure, From Software's RPGs definitely pose a real challenge, but they also offer plenty of ways to push through their most difficult moments.
Still, there are those times when the whole "prepare to die" thing feels less like a marketing motto and more like a fact of life. For Souls veterans, these are our war stories--exciting tales of harrowing adventure where we escape death's door by a hair's breadth. Obviously, your mileage may vary; one person's Gaping Dragon is another's Capra Demon--and if you understand what that means, you're reading the right article.
Screw Ornstein and Smough--they may make for a tough boss fight, but no duo has given Souls players more trouble than Anor Londo's ordinary set of archers. Of course, it doesn't help that they're perched in the worst possible place: at the end of a long, narrow walkway, with a bottomless drop on both sides. Even if you rush the one on the right, there's still the very likely chance that the other archer will nail you from behind and send you plummeting into oblivion. And when you die, you get to enjoy a long and boring minute of hoofing it back to where you last bit the dust, in the hopes that won't happen again. In the history of Souls, it's hard to think of another instance of so much pain crammed into such a brief encounter.
Demon's Souls features the first instance of what's become a From Software tradition: Dropping a second boss into your lap, right in the middle of an ongoing boss fight. Now, Maneater isn't particularly brutal in terms of Souls bosses, but the environment that contains this fight is an absolute nightmare. Simply put, there's not a whole lot of room to maneuver, and one mistimed dodge can send you off a ledge and back to the last checkpoint--something that's very easy to do once Maneater #2 enters the fray. The good news? If you have 200 arrows and a lot of time, you can plink away at his health through the fog gate and sidestep this boss fight entirely. But is there any honor in that? (That's a trick question--Souls plays dirty, and so should you.)
To be fair, Dark Souls 2's Shrine of Amana has a pretty cool gameplay conceit: It emphasizes using cover, seeing as the gauntlet of mages on the path ahead never let up with the projectile attacks. If you're playing a melee-focused build, though, this area can be a real nightmare, since you have to get up close and personal to take down your enemies--leaving you open to attacks from all sides. In a series that typically lets players roll with the play style they prefer, you're pretty much toast in this area unless you have some sort of long-range spell or weapon. Say it with me now: Thanks, Amana.
When Demon's Souls veterans heard newcomers to the series grumbling about Dark Souls' Blight Town, they could only laugh. Sure, this area can be pretty tricky, but it also features a "back door" of sorts that lets you skip all the misery and make a beeline right for the boss. This definitely isn't the case with Demon's Souls poison-themed area, and while its introduction isn't so intimidating, the levels that follow are absolutely grueling. The Valley of Defilement tasks players with slogging through a vast sea of poison, offering few safe places--with many of them being occupied by massive trolls who can typically kill characters with just a few attacks. If you've successfully made it through The Valley of Defilement, congrats: You've successfully conquered one of the most frustrating sections of a Souls game.
Dark Souls' Bed of Chaos works as a sort of "puzzle" along the lines of Demon's Soul's Dragon God--this encounter is all about figuring out how to hurt the boss. In theory, this boss fight presents an interesting challenge, but the execution is lacking, to say the least. What seems like a simple task--chop the branches on both sides, then drop in a hole to kill the real enemy--can become sheer torture, mostly because the Bed of Chaos has a penchant for opening up holes in the ground and effortlessly knocking you into them. While you can strategize as much as you want, taking out the Bed of Chaos feels entirely reliant on luck--which really clashes with the spirit of the Souls series.
Vicar Amelia can be a huge roadblock to Bloodborne players. Thanks to her location, it's possible to fight Amelia as your second boss, but that's absolutely not recommended. Her variety of powerful attacks and healing abilities may still be tricky later down the road, but if you try to take on this boss the moment you discover her, you might walk away from Bloodborne thinking it's downright impossible. Other bosses may be stronger, or faster, but Amelia presents a huge difficulty spike many players bash their heads against before realizing they can always come back later.
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