Column: My Favourite Games Part II: Dark Souls

darksouls
Let me get this out-of-the-way right now: I really fucking hate Dark Souls. That said…

Dark Souls is an absolutely fantastic lesson in sadism. The game is punishingly hard, has clunky controls (but perhaps ‘imaginative’ is the better word) and is masterful at the subtle story telling lacking in modern entertainment. Virtually nothing is outright stated in the game, and only by piecing together hints in the environment and reading optional weapon and item descriptions can you fully appreciate the hell you will inevitably find yourself in.

One of my favourite moments came about as I was wandering through a huge city, chortling to myself that the game looked silly because it appeared I was walking through a city made for giants. And then it hit me… the city was made for giants. I was literally an ant in this area. Nothing to really drive the point home how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. Then, of course, you meet the owners of this lovely abode…

Oh, yes, you will die. A lot. So much, in fact, that the official tag line of the game is ‘prepare to die’, and that was also the name of the special edition version. The ‘Prepare To Die’ Edition. This game is not messing around, when even a cannon-fodder enemy like a skeleton will stomp you flat if you are not paying attention. Learning your enemies’ movements, attack patterns and even learning to exploit some of the gameplay mechanics themselves is key to survival. That’s not even getting into the other players that can invade your world and show just how crap you really are at the game, which has often happened to me.

Released in 2011, Dark Souls was the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, the 2009 Sony exclusive also known for it’s very difficult but very rewarding combat. The player assumes the role of an undead, breaking out of the asylum in order to fulfill an ancient prophecy about the world ending. I think. As I said, it’s not always entirely clear what is going. The game will require a bit of trial and error. For example, if you think the skeletons you have run into are strong to a bullshit degree, then perhaps you are going the wrong way. Every are of the game is connected to each other, through at least one passage way, and another one or two may open up as you progress through the story.

I first played Dark Souls in 2013, and though I was quite late to the party, so to speak, I instantly fell in love with the horrendous difficulty, leading to the immense satisfaction from defeating the challenges thrown my way. Even still, playing the game with full armour and godlike weapons, I still get the same thrill from managing to defeat a tough enemy, especially when another player invades your game (WHICH CAN HAPPEN AT ANY TIME! Sort of.) If you are ‘alive’, that is, have not died recently and chosen to be considered ‘alive’, other ‘alive’ players can choose to invade your game with the sole purpose of hunting you down and ruining the good mod you might be in. Though these days there are some douchebags, it is still standard to use a quick gesture before a battle, such as a wave or better still, a bow. There is no official pre-fight ritual, so don’t be surprised if you get blown to pieces by a firestorm spell as you are bowing in respect. Yes, that has also happened to me.

Though this entire post may come across as disingenuous, or even sarcastic, I cannot stress enough how good Dark Souls is. The douchebag online players, the sometimes unfair hitboxes on enemies and even the at-times confusing geography are all part of what makes Dark Souls such a joy to play. I really hate Dark Souls, but I think you will all enjoy hating it with me.

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