So I bought darks souls for PS3 about 3 months ago. Ever since then it’s been sitting on my desk. A looming danger, like a school-yard bully just waiting for the perfect opportunity to beat me up and take my lunch money. All this time it’s been sitting there, and I hadn’t the nerve to played it.
I need to back up a bit. You have to understand that I have some weird, possibly unhealthy fascination with this game. There’s just something about it that keeps drawing me toward it. I must have watched at least half a dozen let’s play’s of it on Youtube. I’ve seen ultra skilled masters of the game, who make it look like they might be playing a Disney princess game instead of one of the most punishingly difficult games around. I’ve also seen newbies, fighting tooth and nail for every single inch of progress they make. What is it about this damn game?
I though about this a lot, and I think I have it. This game simply does not give a single fuck about the player. It doesn’t go out of it’s way to ease you into the game, doesn’t have difficulty settings, it doesn’t give you direction.
It uses unconventional controls, that force you to unlearn every convention that has been ground into players for years. Everyone knows for action games the face buttons do the important stuff like attack, jump, shoot and the like. The shoulder buttons are usually for secondary things, switch weapons or targets, lean, special abilities, that sort of thing. Not Dark souls. Now don’t get me wrong, the controls make sense, left triggers for you left hand, right triggers for your right hand, face buttons for everything else, roll, use item, switch stance. For me, that was the first biggest hurdle.
There is a sort of tutorial at the beginning of the game, it teaches you a few of the basics, how to attack, block, and dodge. It also teaches you how to die. Dying is probably the single most important aspect of the game, you will die, a lot, and it will all be your fault. There is no cheap deaths, if you die, it’s because of your lack of skill, not bad game design. I died five times in the tutorial. If you stick with it you will get better, and the sense of accomplishment is acute.
After the tutorial, you basically get plopped down right in the middle of this seamless, expansive and above all, dangerous world. So, there you are, sword in one hand, shield in the other. What do I do now? Well, you go explore. It doesn’t hold your hand, saying ok, now go here and pick up the treasure. It say, “fuck you, figure it out.” You go someplace that’s too tough for you right now? Well, then you die, but you’ve learned a little bit about the game, try a different area.
|Yes, you actually have to fight thing, and yes, it wants to kill your face.|
There is no right or wrong way to play it, but there is a LOT of ways to play it.
I’m aware that this game isn't entirely unique, the company that made this game, FROM software, released a game a few years before this one call Demon’s Soul. In many ways, Dark’s souls is a sort of spiritual successor. What blew my mind though, is that Demon’s soul isn't the first either. One of the other reasons that this game draws me in is because it reminded me of something. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then it hit me. There was a series of little know RPG’s that were released on the PS, and the PS2, years and years ago. They were the King’s Field games. They too, were ball-bustlingly hard. They too had seamless non-linear environments. They too had creepy NPC’s found in the most unlikely of places. They too most certainly didn’t give a fuck about you, the dear player. Lastly, after doing a little investigating, I found that they too were made by FROM Software.
|This is the FIRST boss in the game (not counting the tutorial boss)|
All this time, FROM software has been quietly sitting, waiting, scheming, perfecting their stellar, yet punishing game design. Getting ready to unleash the madness to the unsuspecting gaming public.
So, I finally manned up, and started to play it. It’s rare when a game can continually feed you a real sense of accomplishment. Every encounter, no matter how trivial, I treat like a boss battle. Even the lowliest critters in the game can and will kill you, but only if you let them. Keep your guard up, be wary, think clearly, be patient, and learn from your mistakes. If you do this, you will have a great time. Treat the game flippantly, try to just breeze along, the game will stab you right in the dink.