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Dark Souls retrospective

March 31st, 2013 by Irwin Fletcher Comments

 The room was dark and cold, the only light in the room was flickering against the wall. 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”

It would appear 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 and played it for about five hours then gave up, I went back to it a few days later but 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 let me say Dark Souls is hard, not just because every time you sit at a bonfire or save point where you level up, repair your gear or 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. You get used to this 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.
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 to so get used to it.

The reason Dark Souls is so hard is because it’s so unlike anything out there just now, few Save points, no health packs lying around and only a very limited number of Estus flasks which replenish life when sitting at a bonfire. There is no map; I can think of few if any large scale open world RPG games in which you have to remember the layout of the game, with 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 that it took you when you began.

So you’ve no map, the narrative is minimal and the NPC’s 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 the relief and pure elation will make all the horrors go away but not for very long. In that moment everything in the world becomes clear as you move 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. If you pick strength when spending those souls and you carry bigger weapons and armour, go for faith and intelligence then you will be able to unleash powerful magic destroying enemies at a distance before they have even turned around to face you. it’s your choice.

Now we need to talk about Humanity. You gain humanity throughout the game (in the form of small orbs) but it is few and far between so use it wisely. You can use Humanity to kindle bonfires making them give you more health and Estus flasks but you  also 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 yes you start out Undead and if you want to summon someone else into the game via the summon stone then you need to be fully human you’ll also need to be human for some NPC’s to speak to you and some of them will also help you out with boss characters 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 when things go right in Dark Souls, and people say Japanese gaming is dead.

I'm an LA journalist who really lives for his profession. I have also published work as Jane Doe in various mags and newspapers across the globe. I normally write articles that can cause trouble but now I write for FTN because Nerds are never angry, so I feel safe.