11
Dec
11

Impressions: Dark Souls

I’m willing to bet at one point or another this season you’ve heard of Dark Souls or Demon Souls (the prequel to Dark Souls.)  And if you had heard about either game then chances are likely it was followed with praise or a string of profanity.  There’s been a bit of profanity involved in my experience playing Dark Souls, but at the urging of several close friends, and the unflinching diligence of my girlfriend as she  plays through the game, I’m going to continue with it.

The feeling I get while playing it is “Well.  This is certainly different.”  It’s the same feeling I have while playing sports games and fighting games, as if I don’t belong there.  I don’t exactly enjoy myself but I still appreciate the substance of the game which lies out of my reach.  I’ve seen the comparison made between Dark Souls and Super Meat Boy in as far as that they demand for you to be comfortable with failure in order to succeed.  Though Dark Souls is far more vicious in that end.  Failure isn’t something that punctuates your experience, as it does in SMB.  Failure in Dark Souls is deeper and permeates the whole experience.  It means the possible loss of hours of your time and effort.  It’s a sense of failure that trains you to sharpen your focus and double down on breaking into the game’s world.

I can definitely see the parallels between Dark Souls and earlier games where difficulty was a result simpler technology: lack of save data, limited memory, absence tutorials, etc.  It would not surprise me if this were by design, and I can appreciate that there would be demand for a modern game that challenges players in a similar manner.  I am finding myself playing it the way I would games on the NES and SNES.  Rarely did I make it a task to “complete” a game in a number of predetermined play sessions.  With Dark Souls, I will play for a while, get exhausted and wait a while (weeks, months even?) before picking it back up.  I don’t have an intention to “complete it” as much as I intend to improve at playing it.  And as with Super Meat Boy, I am comfortable with the thought that I may never actually finish it, while still enjoying the experience of playing it.

There’s no reward in Dark Souls without offering your commitment and focus to the game.  I’m not entirely sure if I buy into it yet.  Whether or not the cost of entry is too steep will hinge on how you value games.  Modern games tend to offer smoother experiences where your rewards are presented in a steady stream but tend to become exhausted after a relatively short period of time (8 to 12 hours in many instances.)  Games like Dark Souls take a great deal of effort to enjoy but chances are that you will ultimately get more mileage out of them; more bang for your buck (dozens of hours.)  I may not be to the point of “enjoying” Dark Souls yet, never the less it is encouraging to me to see it helping to broaden gaming landscape in a way that many game publishers are afraid to.  I will also attest that even though my progress is slow going, it’s been a far more affecting and dramatic game in the first few hours than the entirety of games like Gears of War 3.  Gears and like will go to great lengths to appear dramatic without actually offering anything dramatic in the experience of playing the game.  For that, I’m willing to continue putting up with the punishment of Dark Souls.

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