Posts Tagged ‘Challenge


Extended Impressions: Dark Souls

In case it wasn't obvious.

Another day, another way to die in Dark Souls.  This game has grown on me considerably since the last time I had written about it.  I still can’t say that I totally buy into the hype I’ve seen for Dark Souls online but I keep coming back to it even in spite of battles with the likes of the Capra Demon or Ornstein & Smough.  What’s becoming more apparent the more I play (I’m sure my girlfriend originally made note of this) is that Dark Souls is like Squaresoft’s Vagrant Story.  Both are games that offer an intricate combat system that places you, alone, in an unforgiving realm that is both ruined and beautiful.  What makes both games unforgiving though is how little insight they give into their gameplay mechanics.  There’s no avoiding death in these games, but it’s not because they are exceptionally challenging, they are just exceedingly difficult to learn how to play effectively.

These are games that have a high price of admission while offering:

  • Combat mechanics that you can spend dozens of hours exploring and mastering.
  • Impressively daunting boss monsters.
  • Dungeons fraught with danger and opportunity.
  • Understated stories that invites you to dig deeper.
  • An overstated sense of confusion and frustration.
I think Dark Souls will continue to endear itself to me (but not before inspiring a series of curses a mile long) and I’ve got a feeling that by the time I finally get around to playing Skyrim I will be a little disappointed when it treats me more nicely.


In Passing: Ultimecia’s Castle

Yep. A castle with wings.

I’ve managed to thoroughly exploit Final Fantasy VIII’s junction system this time around and found myself tearing through levels 40-100 without realizing it.  Any challenge in the game evaporated when I first had the opportunity to generate ridiculous amounts of magic that I could junction to my character’s stats with the game’s crafting system.  After acquiring the game’s airship/spaceship my investment in the game also evaporated.  Now that I’ve reached FFVIII’s final dungeon, Ultimecia’s Castle, things have gotten a little more interesting again.  At the beginning of the dungeon the player is restricted from using all battle commands except attack, from using items in the field, or even saving.  To top it all off you must also divide your resources between two parties.  Only after defeating boss monsters is the player able to regain their abilities one at a time. Even at level 100 this scenario can prove to be difficult.  It’s similar playing through one of the Mega Man games: determining which bosses are vulnerable to your current abilities and which bosses hold the abilities you need in order to progress.  It’s something that I wish had been done more throughout the rest of the game, instead of simply expecting the player to constantly maximize character stats.


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.


Weekly Links for November 6th

If Laguna, Kiros, and Ward had been modeled after Larry, Curly, and Moe, then I think people would remember Final Fantasy VIII more fondly today.


They did not leave me feeling empty, because they are not empty. Back in 2005, a certain film critic wrote that the point of art is to “make ourselves more cultured, civilized, and empathetic.” Playing Ueda’s games has precisely these effects.
It’s easy to buy a book. … It’s not so easy to get a new video game. No, getting a game is a process. It lasts as long as a pregnancy and offers almost as many hassles.

What I’ve Been Playing

  • Dark Souls
    Raisins, I promise to do my best to be patient in this game and learn how to actually play it, and not just go around randomly whacking friendlies on the head.
  • Final Fantasy VIII
    Final Fantasy VIII is an absurd game, but I still love it.
  • Soulcalibur IV
    I’m slowly being won over by this series.  And stuff like this makes me like it even more.

Bonus Video


It’s over, Dr. Fetus. You win.

Are you ready to do whatever is necessary to compelte Super Meat Boy?
I give up.  I’m not even going to try to beat the last level anymore. I might be able to do it eventually if I put enough time into it, and if I weren’t a baby. But I’ve got other games I want to play, and I’m afraid that in trying to force myself to complete that last level, I will just grow to hate the game (see image above.)  The question has become: do I ruin my fun with a game for the sake of completion, or do I give up and say it was fun while it lasted?  But after I put it like that, the answer felt obvious.  Why should I drive the game straight into the ground if I’ve already had enough fun.

Most of the games I played (and loved) when I was younger I never actually finished, and I never particularly felt like I was missing out on something. I’ve never actually completed Super Mario Bros., but I don’t hold that against it.  I reached a point where I couldn’t progress any further in Little Nemo: Dream Master, but I still love that game to death.  And during my first go around in Final Fantasy VI (spoiler alert) I just quit after your party fails to save the world, you wake up isolate on an island, the only other inhabitant dies, and your character attempts to kill herself out of despair(End Spoilers) It was an exceptionally depressing twist after investing 20+ hours, though it was an acceptable way for the game to end in my mind, and that’s how I left it for a number of years.

I can only speculate that the compulsion to beat every game you play came about as the gaming community emerged online in the last decade.  No one wants to admit to being the gaming noob that had met his/her match, only to then have somebody else come along and gloat about their leet gaming skillz.  And now, most games cater to that mindset, leaving no gamer behind.  Flavor is sacrificed for inoffensiveness, or flexible difficulty.  I don’t want to come off sounding like every game should brutalize the audience, but I prefer Super Meat Boy’s aggressive style over a more muted, yet smooth experience.  You shouldn’t have to finish a game for it to have been worth playing at all.

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