Demons & Dark Souls emphasise duality, and so here is a less grumpy take on Dark Souls to counteract my negative take on my first fifteen hours playing the game.
What does this game get right? What am I enjoying? Why am I still playing?
First up, let’s look at aesthetic design. When you usually start a game, your initial gear is pretty bland and cheap-looking. However my thief class character’s starting equipment looks pretty good, so that’s a good sign. Its got a ninja vibe to it, dark subdued colours, Assassin’s Creed-ish hood. I’m feeling positive that the equipment will look better than Demons Souls which was hit and miss.
The weapons so far seem identical to the previous game though. I’m rocking a scimitar for handling anyone foolish enough to not wear armour (so far zombie guards and giant rats) and also a spear for dealing with armour-wearing and thick-skinned monsters.
What has an important factor in why this game is so addictive is that the feeling of contact between weapon and enemy is substantial. The movement and speed feels meaty. I want to say authentic, but I have no idea what a correct sword thrust looks like, let alone a sword thrust into a brick wall. It looks good though, and there’s no better feeling than countering a strike with your shield and following up with a spear-thrust.
Dark Souls is essentially a game that asks you to spend hundreds of hours grinding, which seems insane, but that is what you’re doing every time you die and reset a level’s worth of baddies by visiting a bonfire for rest or upgrading purposes. For the most part it doesn’t feel like grinding, but once you find yourself in an area with enemies who don’t dole out enough souls, that’s when the sinking sensation that often accompanies grinding rears its head.
Once I get to that point, I make it a note to find tougher enemies before I get bored. Boredom is the number one enemy of gamers. Grinding opens the gate to boredom, which is why Dark Souls is such a special game, that it can make you play for hundreds of hours killing the same type of enemies over and over again for souls.
Back to aesthetic design, the world depicted doesn’t seem too different from Demons Souls, though I’ve only spent my time in Undead Burg and Undead Parish, which are both similar to the first castle level of Demons Souls. I’m hoping there’s more outlandish landscapes in store for me.
What prompted me to even write this more positive take on the game was beating a boss with the help of an anonymous online player. Demons & Dark Souls are the only games I’ve played while signed into PSN. Usually I’m signed out, as I’m of the opinion that playing a single player game that way results in less connection-related lag. But with this game, being signed in is the way to go. It’s a weird amalgamation of single and multi player. Seeing helpful or troll-ish comments scrawled on the ground does three things:
c) makes you feel less lonely while traversing dour corridors populated by horrible monsters. Makes you feel part of a community who are all going through the same grief as you.
Before being able to beat this boss, I decided to scrawl a message on the ground myself and be summoned into another player’s game to help him dispatch the boss. By doing so I got a humanity point. Using it, I turned myself into a human, and then summoned an online player myself.
Both of us working in tandem to beat the boss is a great feeling, and a great way to progress through a difficult game without resorting to running to Youtube to see how everyone else did it.
My only issue with the co-op system so far is that I’ve had non-friendly people invade my game while I was human and I’ve been unable to land a single hit on them, my spear thrusts have simply gone through them. Not sure why that is. They could be using a spell, but some struggles have lasted a minute and I’m not sure a spell that powerful would last that long…
Anyway. So I’m ploughing onwards through Dark Souls, with the help of a walkthrough which both disgusts me and makes me disgusted with From Software for making me resort to such a lame thing. But without it I would have little to no idea what to do or how to make use of many of the game’s features. I skim the walkthrough whenever I’m completely lost, to let me know the general direction of where to go next, and ensure I don’t miss out on something as essential as giving an obscure item to an obscure mute character who can give me an essential ability.
I do this simply because if I didn’t then I’d spend the next 12 months playing this game discovering how to do things the game is not capable of explaining by itself. Because life’s too short and I have a backlog.
EDIT: Actually, after 20 hours and reaching level 26, I couldn’t take the incoherence any more and moved onto other games.
Gave up on #DarkSouls. Boggles my mind how it was released & how its been received. Without Google it’s an incoherent mess.
— Cihan Narin (@Cihan_Narin) March 3, 2013