If you‘re an RPG fan, you‘ve likely heard the notorious reputations of The Witcher 3 and Dark Souls as two of the most challenging modern roleplaying experiences. But which of these legendary open-world adventures truly offers the more brutal and hardcore path for players?
To provide a definitive answer, we‘ll dive deep into how central mechanics like combat, death, progression, bosses, and world design contribute to the infamous difficulty of each game. You‘ll also get key recommendations on which of these classics best suits your skill level and preferences as a gamer.
At Its Hardest, The Witcher 3 Gets Extremely Demanding
While The Witcher 3 is famous for its narrative focus, at its most extreme difficulty settings this monster hunting adventure will test your skills to their very limits.
The "Death March" difficulty amps up enemy damage by a whopping 250% while also making them more aggressive. This means even basic bandits can kill you in just 2-3 hits if you aren‘t careful! Potions, combat strategy and constantly moving during fights become absolutely essential to survive.
Against deadly cyclopes, werewolves and fiends you can expect to die in just 1-2 hits on Death March. These lethal hazards force you to perfectly utilize alchemy buffs, signs, oils, parries and dodge timing to triumph. Having the wrong strategy or getting greedy with attacks will quickly result in Geralt‘s demise.
Many hardcore gamers have reported dying over 100 times throughout a Death March playthrough. Without near flawless execution of The Witcher 3‘s mechanics, you‘ll continually meet a grisly end.
Dark Souls Demands Pixel Perfect Precision
From Software‘s iconic Dark Souls series represents one of the most truly hardcore challenges in gaming history. Rather than selectable difficulty options, the game is ruthlessly demanding by design on all players equally.
The tiniest mistakes in stamina management, spacing, timing and reactions will cost you dearly as enemies ruthlessly punish the smallest errors. Common enemies that are trivialized in other RPGs can easily kill you in just a few hits if taken lightly. Enemies give no quarter, and you have to 100% focus on the task at hand to prevail.
Bosses take this ruthless difficulty to the next level. Iconic foes like Ornstein and Smough, Sister Friede or Slave Knight Gael are multi-phase battles requiring perfect reflexes over 5-10 minutes of intense combat. The vast majority of players die dozens if not hundreds of times learning boss movesets through repeated trial and error.
Letting your guard down for even a moment while exploring can also quickly spell disaster. Knowing enemy layouts, shortcuts and sniper locations takes just as much attentiveness as bosses. You must always be alert and ready for death to strike in an instant if you make a single mistake.
Losing Progress is Brutal in Both Games
Dying in either of these games means resetting the current area and losing any unused experience or currency.
In The Witcher 3, this currency takes the form of crowns and experience points toward your next character level. The good news is that you can regain all lost experience from your dead body if you return without dying again. Still, losing thousands of crowns this way can be painful.
Dark Souls takes punishment for death even further by permanently deleting all unused souls (experience) when you die. This can set you back hours if you lose a lot of souls between bonfires. Enemies also respawn endlessly, forcing you to fight your way to your bloodstain over and over.
The combination of losing souls while enemies endlessly reset makes death extra punishing. Running back to your dropped souls becomes a dangerous and often literal gamble each time as well.
Dark Souls‘ World Design is More Convoluted
Exploration is punishing in different ways as well. The Witcher 3‘s open world map makes it simple to navigate terrain logically using tools like quest markers, maps and fast travel. Objectives are clear, and traversing the world itself rarely results in death.
In contrast, Dark Souls employes a maze-like world of looping paths, shortcuts and innocuous hidden walls. Learning the intricacies of how areas connect takes a lot of time and deaths. While this cryptic world design results in immense satisfaction once mastered, it‘s far more punishing and demanding than The Witcher 3‘s open approach.
Boss Fights Represent Each Game‘s Strengths
Boss battles in both games test your skill, but at their highest difficulties require vastly different approaches. In The Witcher 3, proper oil and potion preparation combined with smart use of spells like Igni make even the toughest monsters like hybrids and high vampires manageable. With good strategy you can overcome anything given enough attempts.
Dark Souls bosses rely only on YOUR ability to properly time dodges, parries, ripostes and melee strikes. No amount of grinding can help you against iconic bosses like Knight Artorias, Fume Knight or Sister Friede. Only after dozens or hundreds of attempts will your muscle memory and reflexes develop enough to triumph solo.
So in summary, The Witcher 3 at its toughest will severely punish sloppy play but ultimately allows you to use all of Geralt‘s skills to get by. Dark Souls ONLY tests your personal reflexes and focus in a sort of trial by fire requiring absolute precision.
Replay Value Through Challenge Runs
Once mastered, fans of both games have created special replay challenges to keep experiencing the brutal difficulty in new ways:
- The Witcher 3: Mahakam Ale Only run (no heal items), Scavenger mode (losing all gear on death), Fists Only run.
- Dark Souls: Soul Level 1 run, No Hit run, No Armor run, Torch Only run.
These self-imposed challenges prove that even after beating these games on their hardest settings, players still crave more ultimate tests of skill!
Which Game Should You Play?
Now that you understand just how demanding The Witcher 3 and Dark Souls can get, here are some key recommendations on which game best suits your preferred experience:
- For adjustable difficulty, lush open exploration and story focus – The Witcher 3
- For brutal but always fair difficulty that relies on skill – Dark Souls
- For tons of build/gear customization and strategy options – The Witcher 3
- For intense, fast reflex driven melee combat – Dark Souls
- For dark high fantasy world rich with lore – Both!
Regardless of which title you pick, rest assured you‘ll face a seriously hardcore challenge that achieves peak difficulty design in the RPG genre. Just don‘t say we didn‘t warn you – these games WILL punish you over and over in the most satisfying way possible. Any accomplished gamer needs to test their skills against Geralt of Rivia and the world of Lordran/Drangleic/Lothric.
So rise up and face the challenge, brave warrior. Victory and glory await those who overcome everything these legendary titles throw at you. We‘ll see you around the next bonfire or monster camp, and remember: stay determined!