With the impending release of Dark Souls 3 around the corner, it hurts me to see Quantum Break absolutely dominating my Youtube adverts. After 2 incredible iterations of the Dark Souls series and the rising popularity of From Software’s work in their PS4 exclusive (Bloodbourne), I expected more hype. What I can’t decide is whether I actually want this game to go completely mainstream, or whether I’d prefer to selfishly guard it like a forbidden treasure. Is it like anything ‘Indie’? Is the magic related to its niche themes and audience? In this blog post I will make a grudging attempt to advertise Dark Souls 3, and what better way to do this than to talk about the Original Dark Souls! For me the game that started it all…
Terms and Conditions
Parties who will find ‘Dark Souls’ a profitable and fortuitous experience must adhere to 2 of the 3 following conditions:
- You like 3rd person action RPGs/like atmospheric medieval settings.’
- You like gaming alone, or with someone spectating.
- You have time and no small amount of patience for the trials ahead
The game is hard however you choose to play it, but it’s never impossible and that’s what makes the difficulty so tantalising. The feeling of euphoria/relief after you’ve killed a particularly troublesome boss is like nothing else you will experience gaming. It’s like completing a level on Angry Birds you’ve been stuck on for months, but multiply that by 10, oh and you can multiply the difficulty while you’re at it!
Sense of Accomplishment:
Forget the sense of achievement after 50 hours completing the game – just getting past certain sections (for me the Catacombs – those skeleton wheels…), or enemies provides this. The learning curve may be steep but education has never been so punishingly addictive. Never have I laughed so much at my own inadequateness, just to be sent all the way back to the last bonfire (save point).
I love a good map as much as the next Geography graduate, but in RPG games they can get so damn full. I’ve been playing Dragon Age, and it’s an incredible game, but it doesn’t half swamp you with quests. It’s almost debilitating; like seeing how much paperwork you have to do and despairing. In Dark Souls this is all hidden from you. No map, and no quest log, which means the emphasis is on exploration for once. Like games of old, you learn the areas by going through them and uncovering secrets which aren’t marked as waypoints on a generic map. The level design is incredible, with each area completely interconnected with the others via shortcuts. This makes the world seem much more accessible, with no need to fast travel. If you do struggle though, there are many wiki’s online with player made maps!
The multiplayer is optional, at any time you can opt to play offline, but you’d be missing out. The community is subtly integrated into your game via notes on the floor giving helpful and unhelpful hints in equal measure. The are also bloodstains which, if activated, show you the death of the player whose blood is spattered across the ground. On top of these passive interactions there is an underlying threat of invasion. Cracked Red Eye Orbs allow you to invade, or get invaded by other players if you are human (upon dying you become an undead). The risk is greater in specific infamous PvP areas, but it adds an extra layer of delicious tension to the game.
Sense of Fear and Futility:
You will die a lot, but don’t expect to get blasé about it, because dying means you lose all of your souls (the currency), and puts you right back to the last bonfire. Get enough souls and you can buy items, upgrades and level yourself up – souls are EVERYTHING. Also enemies respawn every time you go back to a bonfire, so the road is never easy. The more souls you get, and the closer to the boss you travel the higher the risk. This is helped along by the hulking, hard hitting enemies, somber visual themes and deeply atmospheric sound track. The world itself, whilst being fantastically designed, is hauntingly beautiful (or a 7th gen console game), and keeps you in awe whilst you tackle situations of worsening odds.
The gameplay is paced perfectly. Not as fast as many modern games but this only iterates the care and caution that must be applied, and it caters for many different playing styles. Don heavy plate armour and a tower shield and let your defense do the talking, or strip off and go into battle with a great sword, rolling about to avoid the suddenly all-too-fast enemy combos. Enemies do unexpected things and are clever, which forces you not just to learn the predictable moves, but to plan for those underhand stabs that can easily send you back 20 minutes or more.
Loot and Items:
Weapons are balanced well and are all completely unique, not just in looks but in their move sets. This means that each weapon can be tailored to a slightly varied play style, and it is enjoyable finding which one works for you. Rings are difficult to find and are powerful, each having a different function with some being essential in certain situations. Loot is scarse, and everything is valuable for survival even if the function of many items is unclear at first (you wait til the New Londo Ruins!). Estus flasks are your most valuable item, they are healing potions which can only be topped up at bonfires, but at least they are an infinite resource because you will be downing them like WKDs at an 18th birthday party.
I don’t think I’ve sold the game particularly well, but it is something you can only really understand when you’ve tried it. The original Dark Souls will be backwards compatible on the Xbox One, and you can probably pick it up for less than a tenner. So if you haven’t even tried this one yet, where have you been and what are you waiting for?