When you bring up the Dark Souls franchise to any gamer familiar with the series, chances are a look of pain will envelop their face as they deliver a stern, foreboding warning — not unlike the old Chinese dude at the beginning of Gremlins.

Dark Souls is nothing to be trifled with.

You see, this is a series that thrives on misery; its main goal is to punish gamers into submission with an impenetrable difficulty level and intricate controls that only the hardest of hardcore fans ever master.

So as someone who is fairly well-versed in all things spirit-shattering, I was excited to take my first stab at the franchise when I demoed Dark Souls III at an event sponsored by Bandai Namco in Midtown Manhattan.

Obviously, Dark Souls is a franchise built for only the most veteran – or, frankly, masochistic – of gamers, so getting thrown headfirst into a demo of the 2016 installment with nothing but a brief tutorial screen in front of me was like pitting a Popsicle against a blowtorch. But that's the nature of the business we call video game journalism — so I grasped the controller, gave myself a brief pep talk and dove into Namco's latest sword-and-shield epic with every intention of becoming the stuff of Internet legend by owning Dark Souls III on my debut playthrough.

And on my first try, I didn't even last a minute…

The demo opened on a dilapidated castle, awash in a sickly rust color, where my character – a knight of some prestige, I'm guessing – was forced to do battle with all manner of savage beast, like skeletal dogs, the undead, a temperamental dragon and my own sweaty hands as they attempted to navigate the gothic labyrinth of death and humiliation.

I made it down the first flight of stairs, no problem – it's all about small victories in Dark Souls, after all – but things quickly unraveled from there. Once in the first open courtyard, I was immediately besieged by an army of ghouls, as I stood flailing my sword with all the grace of a spastic Errol Flynn. The "mash all of the attack buttons at once and hope for the best" strategy didn't quite cut it, and my first experience with death soon followed.

My next attempt went a little better; I had at least made it through the first wave of enemies before I was struck down by a nasty bit of sword-wielding business that sprung out of a wooden box I mistakenly broke open. So yeah, even the boxes in Dark Souls are out for your blood.

The stench of failure was palpable – in greater Bergen County, New Jersey, it's known as eau de Serafino – and it permeated the room full of fellow journalists and Bandai Namco PR folk. My third attempt was a slight improvement on the second, but this time it ended when a lone dragon decided to cremate everything on screen. I didn't even get to see the dragon; just shadow and flames.

Here's the thing about all that death, though: it becomes addictive. While this is standard Dark Souls knowledge for longtime fans, I soon found myself obsessed with dying over and over again in the game, because then I knew exactly what to avoid next time.

Ghoul popped out of a box and killed me? Next time, I was sure to perfectly time an attack to kill it with one shot when it emerged. Dragon fries me from behind? I hopped off the ledge right before I reached that point again, so ol' Smaug only crisped up the villains on the bridge.

I started to enjoy the punishment Dark Souls was handing out, because it made me a stronger, smarter gamer. Each death illuminated new nooks and crannies of the level design and pointed out glaring flaws in my strategy. Sometimes, going in head-on worked out beautifully; other times, it was better to retreat behind a villain and stab them in the back. This strategy worked best for me, likely because my spirit animal is the noble weasel.

My continuous deaths, despite garnering some smirks and side-eyes from the peanut gallery behind me, should come as a relief to fans of the series: Dark Souls III isn't catering to the Cub Scouts of the video game world, like myself. It's a game filled with failure, embarrassment, frustration and self-loathing — in other words, everything that made this series so beloved in the first place.

Newbies shouldn't be scared off by the enormity of the franchise, though. When speaking with Bandai Namco's senior public relations specialist, Nick O'Leary, he explained how the Dark Souls community actually embraces those new to this unforgiving world.

"The community is very encouraging," O'Leary said. "So people on the forums say, 'This is my first time through a Souls game, wish me luck!' and everyone's like 'Good luck! You're gonna love it!'"

So novices shouldn't worry about mockery from the vets, because everyone's been in that position before and welcomes newcomers to this addictive brand of misery. It's not just a game; it's a test of your very will.

To put it in layman's terms: Dark Souls is the Tough Mudder of gaming. When the dust clears and the last enemy is struck down, you'll be broken, covered in sweat, bathed in defeat, lit on fire and never more proud of yourself.

But in some corners of the Internet, there was concern that Dark Souls III would take too many tips from Bloodborne, which is another game done by Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki. Thus, Dark Souls could lose the very foundation of what makes it such a fan favorite. O'Leary put those fears to rest too.

"There's not too many overarching gameplay design choices in there [from Bloodborne]," O'Leary reassured me. "It's still a Dark Souls game. You still have the sword and shield, and you're best off using the sword and shield or else you're gonna get messed up."

When I was at the E3 hands-off demo for Dark Souls III, even the game's designer couldn't help but die multiple times, so what chance does someone like me have against the endless waves of enemies and killer boxes? Well, O'Leary had some advice for people like myself.

"My biggest piece of advice would be to take your time," O'Leary explained. "The number one reason why I die in Dark Souls is because I rush into things without thinking, or I have one hit left on a boss and I'm just mashing that button instead of going back like I would and taking my time. So yeah, take your time and keep your shield up."

Wise words from a man representing a game that thrives on crushing your will. Before I left the event, I picked up the controller again for one last journey into the heart of Dark Souls.

And again, I lasted less than a minute and was left to spend the entire bus ride home thinking about a new strategy for next time.

Dark Souls III is due out in 2016 on XBOX One, PS4 and PC.

Be sure to follow T-Lounge on Twitter and visit our Facebook page.    

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.