After finishing our most recent playthrough of the Demon’s Souls remake on the PlayStation 5, we were still hankering for more of that Souls-like bliss. You know, the type of bliss where you question whether or not failing so much is actually fun, but are then reaffirmed when you stomp the ever lovin’ heck out of the b-hole boss that was giving you so much trouble in the past. I’m looking at you, Armored Spider!
So, the question we needed to answer at that point was which of the many Soulsborne games did we want to jump into? We’ve played Dark Souls 1 and 2 a whole bunch, so those were off the table, and Sekiro was a bit too much of a departure from the dragons, magic, and grody walls of Boletaria for our taste. There was Elden Ring, but with just finishing that 100+ hour test of our wits a few months ago, we weren’t quite ready to spin that up again just yet. Which left us with two options – Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne. Both of which we’ve only ever touched once each, and despite loving them, haven’t booted them back up for a second playthrough in what I’m guessing is 5+ years.
I’m sure you can figure out which we ultimately chose based on the title of this write up, its thumbnail, and the pictures you’ve just seen before you got here, but the decision came easy. Bloodborne is cool and all, what with it’s Eldritch horror-esque aesthetics and lore, and it’s visceral spin on the Souls-like combat, but what we really wanted was more of that dark fantasy goodness that Dark Souls has become known for. Plus, we couldn’t get enough of running across bridges while trying to dodge the deadly fire breath of a VERY aggressive dragon. So, we chose Dark Souls 3.
Now, you may or may not know, but one of the hardest things in any Soulsborne game isn’t fighting horrifying and powerful bosses, but instead is creating your character and then choosing your class. Ultimately helping you in deciding what type of build you would like to strive for while playing the game. So, if you wanted to say, build a sorcerer that slings deadly spells with the utmost efficiency, then starting with a character class that has a high intelligence stat is probably a good idea. Which is exactly what we did when we played Demon’s Souls. In Dark Souls 3 however, we wanted to go the exact opposite route and make the tankiest, most hard hitting character we could. The type that can wear Havel’s armor set, as well as the Dragon’s Tooth greatsword with equipment load to spare, and you know, still have a spritely dodge roll at the end of the day. Oh and one that would give us a slight chuckle when enemy attacks glance off us as if they were a slight breeze.
Typically, when trying to build such a character, you would choose something like a Warrior, or Knight, or any other class that has high stats in strength and endurance. Since that’s where you’ll be spending most of your points each level up. We however, wanted to try something different to challenge ourselves, or at least give us an experience that would feel fresh when running through the game after all of these years. And to do that, we decided on using the Deprived class as our starting point. One that starts at Soul Level 1, and whose stats all start at 10. Making it a character that would be perfect no matter which direction you wanted to take it. Want a tanky character? You can do that. Want to focus on long ranged combat with bows? You can do that too! The only real downside, is that you start off with basically nothing. No armor, a few 2×4 boards glued together, and a large wooden stick. Basically naked save a few well placed scraps of material we probably stole from a nearby corpse.
So what did that boil down to? Well, it meant that the beginning of the game was much more challenging. Enemies hit you harder, you hit enemies a lot less hard, and getting good at dodging was the difference between living and dying since your hodgepodge wooden board shield basically did nothing, especially when facing off against a boss. And in Dark Souls 3, you face off against a boss in the first 10 minutes, an unskippable one at that, so you better learn quickly.
A few deaths later, and after getting our footing, we were able to make progress as we typically do. But we also came to a realization. Not only did the Deprived class change how we approached the game in the beginning, due to our relative frailty, but it also changed the vibe of the game. I mean, it’s still a dark and brooding world where everything, and I mean everything, is deadly, but when you start with nothing it feels that much more intense. It also makes finding each new piece of loot that much more valuable and exciting, since it could mean the difference between success and failure for an upcoming encounter. Whereas if you started with a class that already had those things, and didn’t need to struggle to survive, you’d probably take it for granted and move on. It made the experience that much more immersive, and it made me feel like I was really a part of this grand adventure.
Of course, as we got further into the game, and as we started to specialize our build, this became much less prominent. Loot became much less important unless it specifically helped us in our end goal, and by hour 10 I once again came to a realization. It didn’t really matter what class we started as because with enough time and effort we were still able to achieve our tanky goals of beating down bosses as if they were nothing. Nonetheless, I’m glad we experimented with the Deprived class. It made the beginning hours of the game that much more thrilling, and it gave me a greater appreciation for the progress we made. It also reinforced the notion for me, that the Souls games are a delicate balance of challenges, risk taking, and rewards. Rewards that anyone can reap, given enough time, practice, and maybe a little level grinding, regardless of your playstyle. What I’ll take away from it though, is that I had too much fun starting as a Deprived, and I need to re-experience that in the other games.
Are you a fan of Dark Souls or any of the other Soulsborne games? I’d love to hear about your experiences, your favorite builds, and how you like to play them!