Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is the lesser-loved of the games in the Dark Souls lineage, but that didn’t stop speedrunner Distortion2 from breaking the world record in the All Bosses category last night in 2:23:43.
Speedruns are always a complicated act of plate spinning. On one hand, a runner has to know the game they’re running fairly well. They need to have a general knowledge of how the game works, where the enemies are, what items are best for what situation, and a cavalcade of other pieces of information. On the other hand, they also need to have at least a minor mastery in how to perform game actions. You need to know where to jump from, where to roll, and how much health you can lose before things get dicey. If any of those plates fall, then the run is over, and the runner has to restart. But when it’s done well, it’s hard to take your eyes off it.
In his 2:23:43 run of Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin run, Distortion2 shows how good he is at keeping all of those plates in the air. He also curses quite a bit, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to educate your child about the power of speedruns.
For a video that’s nearly two and a half hours long, the speedrun is surprisingly watchable. I have a soft spot in my heart for Dark Souls II, and there’s something really interesting about a player blitzing through its sad, decaying world with an eye for killing everything in it and talking about exactly 0% of the story. Distortion2 slays the melancholic Ancient Dragon without a second thought, and he absolutely bolts through the hyper-deadly Shrine of Amana. It’s astounding to see how efficiently he’s able to follow and execute on the route.
The run for Scholar of the First Sin is slightly different than the vanilla Dark Souls 2 route, mostly because of those different enemy placements and the fact that Scholar requires the player to pick up keys to DLC areas (in contrast to vanilla, which puts them into your inventory automatically). Scholar is also a real time attack run, which means that actual play time is tracked for the run. Dark Souls II and Scholar are different in this way from other games in the Dark Souls franchise which tend to be timed using an in-game timer.
As if those differences weren’t enough, the All Bosses run is more than an hour longer than the current world record for Any %, meaning that an attempt at taking out each and every boss creature in Scholar is a huge time commitment compared to the more pared-down run that’s gunning purely for completion.
There are a fair number of panic moments in Distortion2’s run which kept me engaged with concerns over how he was going to make it happen. A bad death in the middle of the run made it all look a little dicey, and a self-inflicted time-saving death toward the end gave me pause. At one point, at around the half hour mark, Distortion2 gave a little holler about how scared he was, and I thought “Yeah, I know this feeling!” Because no matter how technical and accomplished a runner is, they’re still human, and these runs feel like very human accomplishments with all of their mistakes and triumphs.
During the run, Distortion2 repeatedly remarks that he’s not interested in running Scholar of the First Sin after he gets the record, so it seems unlikely that he’s going to crack the record again any time soon unless he’s toppled from the first place position. Speedrunners might want to limber up their Scholar of the First Sin muscles.