Welcome to The Backlog, where I’ll play old games that I’ve missed. Enjoy reading about this scrub getting game overs repeatedly as I complain about archaic game design or something like that. This time, I’ll be talking about Hidetaka Miyazaki’s 2011 masterpiece, Dark Souls.
Ever since it was announced for the Nintendo Switch, I was both excited and scared to take on the challenge of Dark Souls. This is one of those games where its reputation definitely precedes it, for better or worse. The game is brutally unforgiving, where the smallest mistake punishes you.
Heck, even the marketing of the original PC version capitalized on this, it’s called the Prepare to Die Edition. Walk into an area unprepared, or worse, get cocky with low-level grunts, and you’ll be greeted with your nth YOU DIED screen in no time.
Don’t even get me started on the numerous videos about Dark Souls on YouTube. Take a glance at the comments section, and you’ll see people talking about how the combat skills displayed in the video are horrible, as if you just become instantly good at a video game.
Hugs (and Puppies) for Newbies
This air of elitism around Souls has partly kept me from trying it out. Sure, beating Dark Souls is not an easy task. But if being good at a video game is a thing that makes you feel superior over other people who have priorities in life other than gaming, there’s something wrong with you, buddy.
I am happy to report, however, that I know a few veterans who have done nothing but to encourage me. We have a group chat which I cheekily named the Dark Souls Support Group. The veterans protect me from spoilers, and give me and other newbies tips on how to get past that fucking group of rats.
As my veteran friend Brian puts it – Dark Souls is already punishing enough, so why sneer at the newbies flailing through their first time when you can offer a hug instead?
Getting Lost And Loving It
A while back, I wrote about how the version of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was hostile and everyone wants to kill you. In that game, I died. A lot. And I loved it. It immersed me so much that I even ended up playing one twelve-hour stretch without realizing it. After I finished BoTW, I played a lot of games, trying to recapture the feeling of immersion that it gave me. Only Dark Souls was able to provide that exact same feeling.
The world of Lordran is so obtuse that I feel like I have no choice but to dive deeper and learn everything about it. Every corner yields yet another ambush. It’s satisfying to backtrack and make quick work of certain enemies that, a few hours ago, have killed me repeatedly. But I can’t become complacent. Just when I feel like I finally got the hang of the game, I progress to a new area and discover new enemies that renders all the hours of muscle memory I’ve built up useless. Or the elation of killing a boss quickly fades away because there are no nearby bonfires and the game throws a curveball at you.
You get the feeling that the developers just want to mess with you, and you have to be on your toes all the time, or you’ll lose all of the progress that you’ve painstakingly worked hard for.
Exploring on the Go
And as much as other people would scoff at the idea of playing it on a handheld, the Nintendo Switch version makes so much sense. Sure it doesn’t boast the 60 FPS framerate or the gorgeous new textures and lighting effects in 4K, but I’m fine with that.
Life is kicking my ass at the moment – I’m happy to find otherwise unproductive time like commuting or just merely milling about in the mall turning into a chance to boot up this game and collect souls. One big drawback on playing offline, however, is that I won’t be able to call on other players to help me out when I’ve died to a boss the 27th time.
Getting Better all the Time
I haven’t gotten far into the game yet. I’ve killed three bosses so far, and that third boss required help from other players that I’ve summoned. I finally figured out what the hell a fat roll is, and I get why people are playing the game naked. I’m getting murdered by a bunch of enemies whose attack patterns I’ve yet to figure out. I have yet to experience the joys and/or tragedy of fighting off invaders.
But every time I get frustrated, ready to give up, I remember the first time I wandered into the areas I’m currently backtracking and clearing out multiple times, and how I got my ass handed to me the first few times. Right now I’m steeling myself so I can go down that ladder and face off another group of enemies and take on the area’s boss. And die again. And again. And learn and get better at it.
And that’s the whole point of Dark Souls, really: we get thrown into this dark and bleak world where everything is out to kill us, and we have to rely on our wits – and our friends/random online strangers – to build up our skills if we ever hope to survive this world. I’m going to fail over and over, but getting up and conquering previously terrible areas is part of the thrill. I’m ready for more.
What did you think of Dark Souls? Do you like playing it on the go with the Nintendo Switch, or do you prefer playing it on your beefy Playstation 4 Pro or PC setup? Do you agree with my Dark Souls Remastered review? Let’s talk about it in comments below.