nerd radio

Tune in live Thursday from 9pm est

Dark Souls – a game of ecstasy and agony…

November 5th, 2013 by The Gentleman Gamer Comments

The room was dark and cold, the only light in the room was flicking on the wall ahead suddenly from nowhere a wild haired bedraggled demon comes into the room howling…

“Stop shouting at that bloody game, you’ve got a child trying to sleep”

My wife does not enjoy me playing Dark Souls.

The cry of despair was not the first and it won’t be the last, Dark Souls does this to you, it turns a normal, sane, rational man into a wreck – shouting and wailing at the TV as YOU DIED appears on the screen for the umpteenth time.

I bought Dark Souls the day it came out, I played it for about five hours and gave up, I went back to it a few days later and ended up trading the game in, however a couple of months back a friend who was in love with the game persuaded me to try again and I cannot begin to tell you how relived I am I went back to it.

First off, I’d like to say Dark Souls is hard, and not just because every time you sit at a bonfire or save point where you can level up, repair your stuff and manage your inventory everything except boss characters come back to life and are just behind that door waiting to rip you to pieces with a variety of swords, axes, hammers and bombs. No, that you get used quickly and it can actually help as killing gains you Souls which you can then use to level up, making you stronger and able to wield better weaponry or more intelligent, allowing you cast more powerful spells, nothing wrong with a bit of grinding in Dark Souls, in a game this challenging you need all the help you can get and with the sheer amount of enemies you’ll face, I must have killed the archer in Dead Burg a hundred times but now I can deftly side step him and lunge in killing him in one swift move, apart from when I don’t and his three mates start stabbing me in the back, that happens all the time too, get used to it.

No, the reason Dark Souls is so hard is because it’s so unlike anything out there just now, no Save points every few yards no health packs lying around only a very limited number of Estus flasks which replenish when sitting at a bonfire, there is no map either, mini or otherwise, I can think of few, if any, large scale open-world RPG games in which you have to remember the layout of the game; that said, once you’ve memorised the routes and short cuts you can travel from one end to the other in a fraction of the time.

So you’ve no map, the narrative is minimal and the NPCs are often more puzzling than helpful but when you do something that works, when you kill a boss character, when you first summon in a friend to help you out, when you first dodge an enormous black knight and stab him through the chest, then the relief, the pure elation, will make all the horrors go away, not for very long, but for a fleeting moment everything in the world becomes clear and moves you on to your next challenge with renewed vigour and belief that you can succeed when so many others have failed.

The RPG element of the game is straightforward enough, choose your character and rank up over time, pick strength when spending those souls and you carry bigger weapons and armour, go for faith and intelligence and you can unleash powerful magic, destroying enemies at a distance before they have even turned around to face you, it’s all up to you and it’s just one of the elements which makes the game your game, play it and use your character the way you want to.

Now we need to talk about Humanity. You gain humanity throughout the game, although these small orbs of life are few and far between so use them wisely. You can use Humanity to kindle bonfires making them give you more health and Estus flasks but you need them for turning human as you start the game as one of the Undead, I hate reviews that give away the whole story which is why I’ve not mentioned it before but yeah, you start out Undead and if you want to summon someone else into the game via the summon stone then you need to be human – you’ll also need to be human for some NPCs to speak to you and some of them will also help you out with some bosses, although any help increases the health of the boss character so it’s perhaps not always advised unless of course your help happens to have just the right level of awesomeness to smash the boss in one or two hits, but then if you do that is that not a bit, well cheap? The most rewarding experiences are always when you do something yourself, help is good if you get really stuck but perseverance will get you through in the end and the sheer wave of relief that washes over you will see you through.

The Dark Souls Prepare to die edition was the PC release but has come out on the 360 and ps3 and is worth it for the DLC add on.

Dying isn’t failure in Dark Souls, giving up is failure and if you keep that in mind and remember that the game is supposed to be this difficult then you’ll be fine, I say fine, you’ll be furious but I have never, in over thirty years of gaming, felt such a sense of achievement than when things go right in Dark Souls, and people say Japanese gaming is dead…


Let us know your thoughts below, @NerdFollowing on Twitter or on Facebook

John Marshall The Gentleman Gamer. Married and a Dad and an avid video game player, whisky drinker and tweed wearer. I used to play games all the time and played in MLG Tournaments and Clan matches for years playing Halo and Call of Duty, now due to family commitments I am too rubbish at games to compete, so I don’t.