Precinct1313’s All Time Favourite Video-Games: Dark Souls
I have been a gamer for over thirty years, which means that I have not only seen the respective technology of said medium grow and become more complex over this time, but also the inherent gameplay, graphics and storylines become more intricate and mature. The one thing that really defines games of the earlier generations for me, such as Sega’s Megadrive (Genesis) and Nintendo’s SNES, weren’t the less complicated pixel form graphics but the relative difficulty of the actual games themselves, modern games in contrast to these 80’s classics are ridiculously easy… then Dark Souls happened.
Dark Souls was released by Japanese video-game creators “From Software” making it’s debut in 2011 and is an action role-playing game set in the perilous lands of Lordran. It is technically the second game in the souls series, a spiritual successor to From’s former “Demon Souls.”
“Prepare To Die” are the ominous words that greet you on Dark Souls box art, and it’s no lie, you will die again, and again… and again! Now if you’re thinking to yourself at this moment “well that doesn’t sound like fun”, I say au contraire my fellow gaming buddies, it’s this difficulty that makes the game the gem it is. A real sense of achievement and progress is gained from defeating that ‘impossible’ boss character that took you fifteen tries to take down, learning their strategies and just purely surviving make for a really satisfying sense of accomplishment when you finally do fell the big beastie.
Difficulty aside, the world and lore of Dark Souls is rather fascinating but unlike many role-playing games does very little through direct exposition to the player bar the initial introductory story cut scene. Dark Souls lore is embedded in it’s characters, architecture and items, all the vital knowledge and exegesis can be derived from multiple conversations with the NPC’s (even then, the ambiguity of their replies requires you to really dig even deeper) or the description that accompanies the various weaponry and items you acquire as you adventure (read: barely survive!) through the treacherous lands of Lordran.
In fact the story is so well hidden that you could be excused for thinking that the creators had decided not to add one, yet, if you’re willing to dig really deep you will find one of the most cerebral and emotional tales that gaming has ever wrought. But if plot holds no interest for you and you only really want to venture into these perilous lands for the combat, then that’s fine, because the fighting system in Souls is glorious.
Dark Souls combat really is it’s defining feature – weighty, precise and intricate. Though it can initially feel a somewhat shallow fighting system, it slowly forms into quite possibly one of the greatest combat engines to ever grace an RPG. Of course the weaponry open to the Soul’s titular hero begins with the player’s choice of class, do you prefer to enter this dangerous land as a steel clad Knight or a leather bound assassin, maybe sorcery is more your thing, whichever role you choose there is an expansive amount of weaponry, armour, spells and shields (which are your absolute best friends in Souls) available to your chosen avatar.
Of course all the lore, combat and cool armour is for naught if there aren’t any memorable antagonists to pit your courageous hero against, and the adversaries in Souls are some of the largest and most unforgiving any persistent Paladin has ever faced. from the humble undead to the terrifying half arachnid-half witch Queelag, the foes you face down are some of the most relenting and remorseless you will have ever encountered.
The Boss characters are relentless in their pursuit of your demise, from the aforementioned Queelag, through gilded knights Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough, your gaming skills will be tested to their utmost limits, but each and every time (many times!) you will learn a little bit more of their inherent weaknesses and pattern, giving you more confidence in their demise with each successive visit to their lair.
There was also an extremely popular online duelling mode where the Dark Souls aficianados could test their mettle and levelled avatar against others, though this rarely interested me personally, but I did enjoy the ability of being able to call in one of my Dark Souls brethren to join in jolly co-op and hopefully down a boss or two (or at least share in my torment!)
The game itself has so much depth, intrinsic lore, customisation and complexity that this review could easily become an epic of encyclopedic proportion, so I will just say this: Do you adore – video-games, fantasy, bloody huge swords, intricate storytelling and are a bit of a masochist at heart? then you’ll fall in love with the world of Dark Souls, just be Prepared To Die… again, and again, and again, and again………..