If you’ve ready any of my past posts, you’d know that I’ve been gaming since my early childhood, and I’ve always thought it would stay that way too. I never thought there would be a large enough reason for me to give up on something I love more than just about anything. But of course, as life goes, I started to get thoughts of doubt, thoughts of uncertainty for the future of me being a gamer and the game industry as a whole. This was around the July, 2014 that I felt hesitant to keep going, and maybe find a hobby I could enjoy more, which looking back on it, would not have worked out. 2014 is commonly known as a particularly dreadful year for gaming, and rightfully so. Games like Watch Dogs and Destiny, while still enjoyed by a number of people, failed to live up to many expectations set forth by their pre-release trailers and “gameplay” demos. Anytime I would visit my frequented gaming forums or Reddit, most of what I would see is rant threads on the indignation consumers have for triple-A game companies. Shouts of “they don’t care their customers!” or “I will never buy another product from (insert developer here) again!” went on for pages and pages. No game really truly disappointed me that year, but that’s because I wasn’t looking forward to any of these over-hyped titles anyways. The thing is, I have hyped myself up over games before and been let down…and it sucks. It’s like spending your whole day knowing you have a nice cake waiting for you at home, only coming home to realize that it’s been knocked on the dirty floor and your dog has taken a shit and piss all over it. I felt these people’s pain, and my god the pain didn’t stop. One after another, terrible game after terrible game. I couldn’t freely discuss what I was enjoying in games online without an interjection pertaining to the crumbling state gaming was in. I didn’t think it would get better and from the looks of it since then, it’s gotten maybe slightly better, but so many triple-A titles still find a way to let us down.
I was sharing these thoughts to my friend Adrean and he gave me a simple suggestion, it went something along the line of: “Try Dark Souls. If you’re gonna quit you should at least experience one of the best games the industry has to offer.” I wanted something to hold onto, so I took him up on his consideration. After configuring the fuckery that is the Dark Souls PC port (shout-out to Durante for being the hero that PC players needed), I jumped into one of, if not the most beautifully detailed worlds I’ve seen in a game. While I was exploring the fictional world of Lordran, I was feeling things I never felt playing a video game before. I was trying to rush my way through areas just to see what the next are looked like, and when I saw that it was a cave made of crystals or a lake at the bottom of a gigantic tree I would feel ecstatic. And the enemies, wow, they are grotesque but brilliant in the way they’re designed! The combat too! And the bosses, my god how can I even describe how innovative this game is?! I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. See, I have a huge fascination with this game and it’s easy for me to get overjoyed talking about it, but it wasn’t like this when I first started playing.
I started how just about every souls player started: going somewhere I shouldn’t have, dying, trying again, dying, then getting too pissed off to play any longer. I dropped the game for about a week, told my friend it was ridiculous how the developers made the
starting enemies, skeletons, too difficult and to that he just told me I was going in the wrong direction. Huh, what? No, I couldn’t have been. But of course, I was wrong. I went in the direction I was told to and it felt like a stroll in the park compared to the graveyard I was previously trying to get through, until I got to a giant boss labeled as the “Taurus Demon”. I died repeatedly, no matter what I tried I could not kill this monster that was four times my size. I complained to Adrean and all he told me was “git gud”. What a cheeky bastard, I thought. I sat down Dark Souls again and didn’t touch it for maybe 2 months, hell I didn’t touch much of any games in that time either. But alas, I had free time one day and was bored out of my wits, so I decided that y’know what? I’ll do it. I’ll “git gud”.
I ran to the boss, avoided any enemies I could and as soon as the boss appeared, he crushed me. “Okay…that was rough, but I won’t let it stop me”, I thought. I tried at least ten times before I finally managed to trump the cruel Taurus Demon. The one thing I did different on my last go was I plunged off a tower to do extra damage to it, a tactic I should have realized much earlier. But I finally did it, and it only took 3 months! Although this is by far one of the game’s easiest bosses, I still see it as one of my greatest victories in gaming just
because of the time it took me to do it. Dark Souls does have a small tutorial in the beginning, but this was the real tutorial to me. My triumph over the Taurus Demon made me feel like I had a firm grasp on all the games core mechanics. I was able to take advantage of my surroundings as well as manage all my stats well enough to best the boss. At about this time I realized I was playing something like I never had before, a game that uses limited interaction with the player to help them grow on their own and figure things out on their own. This is what I wanted! So many games will hold your hand through every process nowadays and this was a well-welcomed change of pace in my mind.
At this point I knew that this game had unforgiving enemies and intelligent game design, which was perfect, but it only got better from there. As you go on you’ll meet new characters, all with their own darkly mysterious, yet strangely inviting personalities. NPCs are usually optional to interact with, but I suggest interacting with them as much as you can as they add a new layer to the obscure and dark narrative. They will usually appear in the last places you’d expect them and will almost certainly leave you wondering how they got there because you busted your ass trying to even make it through the starting area.
Speaking of the different areas in Dark Souls, I have to say that they’re all brilliant (except for maybe Lost Izalith but I’ll leave that for you to discover). Every area you come across has a unique personality to it, and usually doesn’t fall into the stereotypical norms for video game locales such as the “underwater” level or the “sky” level. Although the atmosphere of Dark Souls is bleak and almost dead, the world itself feels like it’s a living entity. Many areas are found to be connected by shortcuts or hidden paths helping you traverse wherever you need to with relative ease. Shortcuts never come free though, there’s always a form of tribulation you must overcome to receive your pay off. World design is definitely one of the game’s strongest points, it kept me wondering what other destinations would look like in Lordran.
Broadly across video games if a game is using the third person camera and your character has a sword, it’s a hack and slash game. This is what I assumed of Dark Souls before I played it and in fact it’s quite the opposite. You will want to wait for the right moment to attack instead of spamming the X button like a mad man. Combat is refined and has even been considered relatively realistic in terms of tactics by some people. Stats play a large role in whether or not you can effectively wield a weapon. Notice that I say effectively, because you can wield any weapon you want, but if you don’t have a large strength stat you’ll tickle an enemy more than hurt them when you swing your large hunk of rock
labeled as a sword at them. Stats are just as important as your personal skill, but they will determine what you can and can’t do. What’s so great about the this system is that it’s moderately in depth and can require a bit of thinking when you’re trying to curate one of the many play styles you can use, but also is very easy to pick up. One of the downsides I notice with Dark Souls‘s combat and stat system is that I compare every other game’s respective systems to it and they never seem to match up to the same quality. Sorry, this is more of an issue with other games I should say, aND more a strong point of Dark Souls and its position in the gaming world. I found myself doing that with just about every aspect of other games as well. Nothing matches the satisfaction you receive from having a three minute brawl wherein you have chipped down your enemies health while managing to perfectly avoid all their attacks. Still to this day I have not experienced more intuitive combat in a game except for maybe the latest sequel to Dark Souls .
Finishing my first playthrough was incredible. The trek I took through Lordran felt immense; it was grandiose in scale and packed with memorable moments. The beauty of Dark Souls is that it is fresh and imaginative. It brings a brand new experience to gamers who have never tried any in the series and I persoanlly hold the feeling it gave me akin to the first time I played video games as a child. Needless to say, Dark Souls gave me hope to keep gaming. I wasn’t looking pessimistically at the games industry as I did before, I was now realizing that there are still great developers out there that are capable of making great games. Demon’s Souls was created by the same developing team and they just had announced a new title in a gothic setting named Bloodborne. I was ecstatic and couldn’t get enough. Dark Souls changed the way I perceive gaming, almost in the way that one can be influenced by fine arts. Even though Dark Souls may not be for everyone, I would definitely recommend it to everyone I know for it’s sheer brilliance and innovation that gaming desperately needed.