Lately I’ve joined the “Elite” – players who finished “Dark Souls“. It took me around 70-80 hours, which have probably been the best tens of hours spent gaming during past few years. Why has it?
Warning: some minor spoilers ahead, so if you’re alergic to them, be careful.
No. 1: atmosphere.
I don’t recall any other game, where the atmosphere would soak out of every corner, every texture in a way it does here. From the beginning, when you awaken in an Undead Asylum and you find out, that you won’t be seeing much of your hero’s face, the one that you spent so much time polishing during character creation. Add to it sight of inmates drowned in madness. After getting out of the prison by defeating a one huge guarding demon and opening the exit gate appears quite depressing sight. Instead of freedom all you can see is a bottomless pit. The only reasonable thing that comes to mind is jumping off the ledge and ending it all. What happens however is a huge bird takes you to Lordran, where you continue your quest. All around you there are harbingers of a dying world. Creatures, once human, attack all who pass through. Most buildings are just piles of stones or turned to ash. Only deserted Anor Londo preserved its shape and greatness, thanks to its inaccessibility. It’s hard not to immerse yourself in a game, which shows the world in such remarkable details.
No. 2: challenge.
Most of todays games lead player by hand. A huge compass on top of the screen, quest journal telling you who to speak to or what to give to whom. It’s a little harder in “Dark Souls”. Hints left on the ground by developers limit themselves to helping you figure out what do buttons do. How to use this knowledge is up to you. Of course there is an option of leaving hints for players by players. However, since most of them are just “Jump” placed on a ledge, they’re usually of no use.
Developers managed to do one important thing. You can read all you want on the internet, Wiki, ask for help on forums, and you’re still going to have trouble beating the game. Skill and thinking are what matters. Blind fate is further in line. I mostly die when I feel too confident. “My opponent is weak,, I’ll just finnish him off”. After watching a sad screen with “You Died” in capital letters I’d return to face the same opponent, just now I’d been armed with knowledge – the most powerful ally in battle for Lordran’s fate. The game is dificult, but in the right way. Makes you think on every decision and punishes recklessness.
No. 3: open gameplay
I don’t mean that since the beginning you may go to places you shouldn’t go on your current experience level, but rather you can play however you want to. Do you like slow, but strong tanking warriors? Here you go. Or do you prefer using dodging and a quick weapons? Sure can do. Maybe magic is your thing? You’re welcome. Any combinations of the above are possible. There is no one right set of armor and weapons. Invading and being invaded I’ve never come upon two players with simmilar equipment. One might use a lash, other swings a massive hammer, and someone else is running around with a swiss-army knife. Any of these options allows you to kill the final boss and beat the game. Players using fists alone prove it day by day.
No. 4: Multiplayer
Playing with other players isn’t merely an option in menu. It’s part of lore, just as combat or exploration. To fight someone you have to use an item, go to the right place or wait until someone invades your world. Also there are Covenants allowing you to invade others or bask in “jolly cooperation”. Some great stuff there, prolonging the endgame.
No. 5: replayability (yes, I know it’s not even a word).
After beating “Dark Souls” you begin anew, with previously gathered experience and most of your items. Foes however have become stronger and more resistant. The game hasn’t become easier. If you had a problem with getting through Sen’s Fortress, you can also get stuck in there this time. There’s always something new to discover, see or do.
“Dark Souls” spoiled me. It’s hard for me to run another game and have so much fun playing it. Restraints in those other productions have become unbearable. Invisible walls, easy boss fights and regular foes, being no more than bumps on my road to victory. Whatever I start, I promptly return to From Software’s creation. I bite my nails impatiently waiting for part 2 of the masterpiece.
Any player, casual or pro, should try challenging “Dark Souls” It’s not as scary as it seems. Sure, it’s not easy, but its difficulty doesn’t come from inhumanly strong opponents and their almost unlimited health bar, but from putting the player before challenges that require some forefought and chosing right tools for the job.
Whoever has played, knows. Whoever hasn’t… why are you still reading this? Buy, install, play. Now!