Dark Souls is not just a difficult video game. Once you embrace the challenge, the patience and skill required to survive simply become instinctual.
This forlorn fantasy has more to offer than tough enemies and engaging combat, for Dark Souls is, without a doubt, one of the most magical and awe inspiring games I have ever played. It is filled with surprises, wonderment and a situation that literally made me say “Oh my god”.
So, just because I love making lists, I’ve compiled the Top 5 Best Moments In Dark Souls.
Obviously this is all opinion, so if you think I missed something you enjoyed, please let me know in the comments below. I’m sure we’d all like to hear what others thought of this masterpiece.
But, before I begin I would like to mention that I’ve also created a Top 5 Worst Moments In Dark Souls list, as shocking as that is to believe. So if you want to check that out just click here.
Anyway, let’s explore the greatness of Dark Souls.
5. Smashing The Rock
After getting ripped apart by skeletons at the graveyard in Firelink Shrine or being too scared to go to New Londo Ruins, you quickly narrow your path down to one.
Undead Burg is a relatively easy area to traverse, if you know exactly what to do. But so far, you haven’t really gotten the sense of how powerful some enemies can be.
Clad in thick grey armour; Havel The Rock makes his presence very clear with his massive Dragon Tooth hammer, which crushes straight through your defenses and slams you to the ground, instantly killing you in one hit.
This bulky warrior guards an enticing door that acts as a shortcut from Undead Burg to Darkroot Basin, so you better pray to Astora (Whoever that is) that you’re strong and capable enough to take him on when you unlock it from the other side.
Havel’s attacks are so ferocious and great that he is possibly the ONLY enemy in Dark Souls where it is extremely recommended to NOT BLOCK HIS ATTACKS WITH YOUR SHIELD, since his strikes will smash through anything you put between your frail undead form and his ridiculously powerful hammer. You must stay far enough away to dodge his slamming attacks while using a weapon with long reach to chip away at his health. Not a single misstep on your part can be made here and eventually (hopefully) you’ll have taken him down, rewarding you with a sense of retrospective triumph, as well as the rather useful Havel’s Ring.
The Master Key makes his appearance even more harrowing since you can face him before fighting the massive Taurus Demon and getting blasted with fire by the Hellkite Dragon. You will not survive.
Havel The Rock is one of the first enemies that must be tackled later to defeat. This introduces you to how impeccable the level design is and gives an incentive for travelling to previously semi-explored areas, just in case you missed something. Just through location alone, Havel makes the world of Lordran feel twice as big.
4. Destroying Solaire’s Dream
I’m sure the more informed readers may be surprised as to why I have placed such an arbitrary event into the list, let alone number four, and let alone again why it’s lower than the infamous Havel.
Dark Souls has a very lifeless feel to it. This consistently fills the game with an aura of despair and isolation, made even more so by the human characters, who all act with a disturbing sense of cold delight and standoffishness (Oh wow, I didn’t even know that was a word). Solaire is no different, yet is arguably the character that treats you with the most dignity and kindness.
His personal objective is very apparent. He wants to find his Sun. I’m still not sure what exactly that means, but his development through the game doesn’t really require it to make sense. Like essentially everything in Dark Souls; being vague actually works in its favour to forge an immersive and magical land.
You first meet Solaire at the top of Undead Burg, staring up at the ‘Sun’. His hearty greeting and humble persona will make any player instantly gravitate towards him. And since you see him after defeating a Taurus Demon, his appearance is during a time when you feel rather relaxed and in the mood for a friendly chat. He then appears in a few places during your travels including Anor Londo, Demon Ruins and Lost Izalith, the second of which shows him distraught over not having found his Sun, apparently, and his actions in Lost Izalith is why this is number four on the list.
Past a very powerful Titanite Demon is a long hallway, ending in a collection of Sunlight Maggots and an insane Solaire. Sunlight Maggots are shaped like a cartoonish sun, having curved spikes poking out of their bodies while giving off rays of light. And one of them has attached itself to Solaire’s head, like a crown.
Solaire begins attacking you while gleefully talking about how glad he is that he found his ‘Sun’. You have no choice but to end his delusion and put him out of his misery.
Not many character has this kind of progression. You really get the idea that Solaire is on a journey that he deems very personally important, which makes it surprisingly disquieting when you see his journey come to such a dreadful end. Not many characters make you care about them like Solaire does, so his final battle with you easily puts this moment at number four. He has a sunny disposition…sorry…I just wanted to add that.
3. Down Boy!
I love this. I just love it.
This boss’s arena is rather expensive to gain access to. It’s rare and rather unwise to be carrying around 20,000 Souls during any moment in Dark Souls, no matter how experienced you are. But, you’ll need to buy the Crest Of Artorias to open the doors to Artorias’s tomb in Darkroot Garden to complete the game. Welcoming you to the number three moment.
You cautiously step into a huge circular field with a large tombstone in the centre. Honestly, I initially thought the tombstone was a large stone giant that would serve as the boss of this area, the true battle in Artorias’s tomb is much more ridiculous. And awesome.
A massive grey wolf meets you at the tomb before leaping towards a gargantuan sword and preparing to attack.
On my first Dark Souls play through, this giant sword-wielding wolf slashed me to pieces about 13 times before I finally put him down, yet my frustration was overwhelmed by my passion and vigor to be victorious. I had so much respect for this boss. It never fights unfairly and its attacks are clearly telegraphed. I was never cheated. I just had to try harder.
Great Grey Wolf Sif is second only to the Iron Golem as a boss whose attacking patterns actually make some god damn sense. It’s a wolf that fights with a sword, so its movements are a succession of quick slashes and strikes with the heavy weapon. And since it’s a seemingly dumb animal, you can understand why it wouldn’t fight you in any intelligent way. Compare that to Ornstein and Smough, who are supposed to be champion dragon slayers but attack like an overconfident fencer and an angry baby.
But all of that isn’t enough to put this pooch at such a respectable place as the number three spot. No, Great Grey Wolf Sif, is number three for two very distinct reasons.
this giant sword-wielding wolf slashed me to pieces about 13 times before I finally put him down
Firstly, his boss theme is one of my personal favourite tracks from any game, ever. Similar to the Moonlight Butterfly, Great Grey Wolf Sif’s theme isn’t a bombastic collection of brass and drums, but a soothing and melancholy series of strings, woodwinds and vocals. It gives the encounter with this giant wolf seem less preposterous and more beautiful, supernatural and even bitter-sweet. It also makes the second reason why this is number three even more prominent.
When it’s down to a small amount of health, the almighty Great Grey Wolf Sif starts to limp.
Remember when I said that Dark Souls had a ‘situation that literally made me say “Oh my god”.’? Well, this is that one situation.
One thing that really bugs me about all the bosses, and even many of the standard enemies, is that none of them react or particularly care that they’re getting poked in the feet by a tiny undead person. Great Grey Wolf Sif may be the only exception to that, if only for a short time at the end. With a miniscule amount of health left and barely any strength; this large wolf wearily scrapes it’s sword against the grass and stumbles slightly after each swing.
Every attempt I made to take this wolf down, every time I had to sprint through the forest to escape the enemies and get to his arena, all of that annoyance washed away from my mind and I suddenly didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to defeat this boss. A boss having this kind of detailed reaction instantly makes it feel so much more real and alive, instead of a simple health bar represented by a big fat programmed avatar.
Nothing in any game I have ever played compares to that moment. It’s a truly unforgettable experience for me and one of my overall favourite moments from Dark Souls. But, it’s still not number one.
2. Tentacles In The Lake
There is no way I couldn’t have this on here.
Undead Asylum, Firelink Shrine, Undead Burg and Undead Parish never really had instances of complete and utter awe. The Asylum Demon was a surprise, and I guess seeing the Hellkite Dragon fly out of nowhere and land on the Undead Burg bridge was pretty spectacular. However, it wasn’t until taking a sharp turn right in Darkroot Garden, carefully navigating down Darkroot Basin’s thin grassy walkway and looking through some fog-filled trees when Dark Souls really hit me as a truly magical experience.
Gazing through the mist I could just barely see a collection of writhing tentacles. Since I have a mild interest in mythology; I knew exactly what that was, and I was overjoyed.
A Hydra?! A Hydra in Dark Souls!? I didn’t see it coming. Before that point, I was under the impression that Dark Souls was not only trying to create its own pseudo-mythology but also employ generic fantasy enemies like zombies and dragons to crudely fill up its lore. The Hydra destroyed that thought and increased the potential of Lordran to an infinite length.
Its sheer size is enough for me to love it but it’s the comparison to other creatures that makes it such a spectacle. I can only think of four other enemies that match the Hydra’s proportions, but all of them either had their presence lessened by being introduced with a cinematic, or serve more as a distant obstacle than a tangible object. The exception to those is The Bed Of Chaos but if you’ve read my Top 5 Worst Moments In Dark Souls article, you’ll know how I feel about that.
But here, you can run straight past the trees, get into the lake’s shallow water and witness just how enormous the creature is.
Now, the Hydra may have come close to being number one on this list if it wasn’t for the fact that it fights you in a confusingly disappointing way.
Just like 90% of the randomly violent things in Dark Souls, the Hydra attacks in a nonsensical and counter-productive way.
While running towards the lake, the Hydra is able to shoot out globules of water which never ceases to look ludicrous and obnoxious. When you get close enough to the water, it begins to attack you with all nine heads. You’d think that would make fighting it monumentally intense, by needing to fend off multiple attacks at once. No. Just like 90% of the randomly violent things in Dark Souls, the Hydra attacks in a nonsensical and counter-productive way. All it does is sporadically lunge its heads at you, which results in them spreading out around you, frequently missing you and leaving them open to get sliced off while they’re buried in the ground like nine frightened ostriches.
This is arguably the enemy with the most pathetic attack in the whole game. Even Slimes in Depths could be a surprise by falling on top of you.
But, I’m not really counting the fight. More the sight and atmosphere it brings. Its presence alone is easily the number one reason why Dark Souls feel so magical. At least for me.
1. Let’s All Go To The Beach
Here we are. Number one. The best, greatest and most amazing moment in Dark Souls, and that’s saying a lot.
As I mentioned before; the swamp area of Blighttown isn’t a place you’ll want to spend much time in. But if you don’t do some exploring down there, you’ll miss something spectacular.
On the far left of the grungy area there is an enormous tree with a branch acting as a path into its trunk. Inside you will find a corpse with a Plank Shield; a fairly useless shield, but can parry quickly. So…congratulations.
HOWEVER, this tree holds more than you think. Hitting the left ‘wall’ causes it to vanish, revealing a chest holding Twin Humanities; a useful item, especially for Kindling Bonfires. So…congratulations.
HOWEVER AGAIN, strangely, the wall located behind this chest can also be struck, showing a path leading down to not only a handy Bonfire, but the inside of a massive hollow tree cleverly called: The Great Hollow.
This area is filled with clusters of branches that allow you to walk down the centre of the tree, past poisonous frog things and a few shockingly powerful mushroom people. After going further down, through its layers, you finally come to a small opening which leads you to…
Arguably the lowest point of the entire world; Ash Lake is immeasurable in scope and is undoubtedly the most alien and unfamiliar area of the game. It’s the only place where you’ll find sand and, what I would call the greatest image in Dark Souls; countless amounts of trees in the background that are essentially holding up the sky. Blighttown and especially Lost Izalith contain huge trees and branches burst out and twist around their terrain, which suggests that Ash Lake may possibly be the very centre of this entire world.
As soon as you exit The Great Hollow you are greeted with an atmospheric music track. There are only several places in Lordran that contain background music, which gives them a great sense of importance. Ash Lake’s track compliments the sheer size of the area with long bellowing vocals which make you truly feel like you’ve stumbled upon something incredible and ancient.
And that’s why I chose this as number one. Not just because it’s such an amazing sight, or that the music is effective, or even the fact that there’s a big black Hydra that stalks you as you sprint across the narrow strip of sand, ending with a dragon that opens its wings like a bat. It’s because you have to go looking for it.
Ash Lake is completely optional. Anyone could play Dark Souls millions of times and never find it. It doesn’t require you be an exceptional fighter or problem solver. You just need to go searching for something magnificent, and in this case, you find it.
Oh, by the way, if you want to see why Dark Souls sucks click here!