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Thursday, February 18, 2016

YOU DIED - A Dark Souls Rant


DARK SOULS - A.K.A. FUCK YOU I HATE THE FUCKING WORLD!!!

Please do not mistake that caption as my overall opinion of this fine game. That is just a phrase I've repeatedly screamed whilst playing Dark Souls. I've heard a lot of people talk about this series as one of the best action role-playing game series to ever grace the gaming world, and I will absolutely agree with every single one of them.

Yes, it is mostly an RPG. You know that I hate RPGs with a fiery passion so hot that Hades himself would sweat profusely, but maybe I haven't really discussed in detail as to why I loathe them so intricately. I like RPGs, as long as the rewards for grinding for levels for excruciatingly long periods of time are worth it. I like a good immersive story, with memorable characters and locations. As long as there is a good payout for the shit I have to go through, I will like it.

What I do not like, is having to do mundane side quests or rather, deal with design choices that I do not agree with. I'm going to look back at Morrowind again and its first person perspective of what is essentially a tabletop RPG. To me, that is two things that do not fucking mix. Part of having the first person perspective is the immersion; I want to feel like I'm swinging a giant sword I could never possibly hope to wield in real life, or cast ludicrously powerful spells as if I was like fucking Merlin himself, or something. I'm not saying its a bad game at all. I just like my combat to be satisfying, and at least give me some feeling of control and dare I say it, FUN. Especially if it is one of the most prominent parts of the game...

Pretty much.
And after all, we do play games for fun right? To be immersed in the game world whether it is because of the gameplay, the story, or even the graphics themselves. Or am I completely fucking wrong? I'm going to go ahead and say NO, and FUCK YOU.

I complained that Morrowind was hard. Final Fantasy 1-3 on the NES is hard too. Those are all RPGs... sooooooooooo why am I here praising one of the hardest ones ever made? Well, I have a few reasons for that.

1 - DARK SOULS IS UNFORGIVING, BUT STILL FAIR.

Yeah, it really is. This is a game that, much like my previous post on Ninja Gaiden, requires a lot of skill to really win. You will need to learn how to block or parry the many and I say MANY attacks that will be dished out to you. There's no fucking stat requirement to dodge attacks. Sure there is POISE, but that is a stat you have complete control over, both in your leveling and equipment, and it isn't even really needed to be successful. Also, depending on your class build, you can go through the game without it and still have a marvelous time.

For example, I have a Ninja. It's based on the thief class. He's very fast and doesn't carry a lot of equipment, just enough to get the job done. He will die fast against strong enemies, but makes up for that by having high elemental and magic resistances. You could easily topple him if I try to block attacks with my shield. However, that whole being fast thing is where I rest my case, because all enemies have attack patterns and strategies, and Dark Souls happens to fair well towards skillful players who know how to roll out of harm's way.

Dying results in losing all the souls you have acquired, and souls are used for fucking pretty much everything, from upgrading weapons, buying weapons and items, and leveling your goddamn character. When you die, a green aura is left where you perished. Should you make the trek there and deal with newly respawned enemies and traps and survive, you can re-acquire them. If you die, they are gone forever. You could essentially grind for hours and hours of your precious life, only to have it taken away in a few minutes.

However, even if you do die, VERY RARELY do you feel like it was the game's fault. Yes it does have a lot of questionable areas with even more questionable design choices (the fucking Dragonslayer archers in Anor Londo) but when you overcome the challenge, the reward is well worth it.

WELL WORTH IT
Dark Souls makes every encounter feel like a worthy battle, and this is especially true with bosses. There are a lot of bosses in Dark Souls, and each require quite a bit of pattern recognition and here's that word again: skill. They all have strategies that need to be utilized to take them down. It wasn't long ago that I was getting my ass handed to me by Ceaseless Discharge in the Demon Ruins, only to figure out that you can just make this behemoth fall to his death quite easily, sparing an otherwise grueling battle. Other bosses are not as easily taken down. The Capra Demon comes to mind...

Yes, you have to trek a lot. Yes, you will die many times and traverse through the same locations a million times, but once you finally get past a boss or a particularly frustrating dungeon segment is when the overwhelming feeling of joy sweeps you over, and you can throw up a giant middle finger to the past nuances and say FUCK YOU, I DID IT. You will be revisiting locations so much that you will know enemy locations and how they each attack, and how to bait them one by one or by then maybe you can just slaughter them all at once. You will feel like a king, and it's like all of a sudden, that one area that gave you countless hours of pure torture is now a place you walk through leisurely, picking fucking flowers and whistling along.

JUST.... FUCKING..... HRRRNNGGGGG!!!!!!!!!
2 - DARK SOULS IS FUCKING GORGEOUS TO LOOK AT.

While the game is a little older now, that doesn't take away from how fucking awe-inspiring it is. Atmospherically, this game is one of the best. It sucks you into the world of Lordran, to the point that "HMMM... MAYBE GODS DID EXIST HERE!"

"Isn't it a bit early in the morning to be talking about Gothic architecture?"
Yes, that was a Conker's Bad Fur Day quote, but look at that screenshot. That's Anor Londo, literally a place for Gods in the world of Dark Souls, and you get to go there. Personally, I myself like Blight Town the best, but just look at the landscape and fucking massive scope of this place! The sun piercing through the clouds, shining gold over a once prominent locale where GODS lived. I love the architecture, and the enemies in this area. Not to mention you get a great item that lets you warp between bonfires which saves a lot of time from walking everywhere! Fuckin' A!

Every area in Dark Souls is unique, and so well designed. The art direction is spot on. Places like the Catacombs and Depths feel tight, claustrophobic, and down right eerie, while areas like Darkroot Garden and the Painted World of Ariamis feel lush and open. Sen's Fortress and Blight Town are full of traps and tricky walkways. The contrast between say, going from Anor Londo to Sen's Fortress is staggering. It's quite refreshing to see the openness and overall bright tone of Anor Londo after struggling through Sen's Fortress. You can almost feel the fatigue of breathing in its dark-engulfed hallways.

And then we have our actual player models, which are fully realized with various weapons and armors. Wear some raggedy poor excuse for clothes, or go full black iron plated armor. Dual katanas? Sure, one in each hand, or one two-handed. Or maybe you want to wield a giant axe that you don't have enough strength for... watch it drag on the ground and encumber your movement. Every weapon has its own move set, and these are reflected in the player animations, which in turn gives more feeling. For fucks sake, I can't ever foresee that in any Elder Scrolls game. Not once was I swinging a sword around in Skyrim or Oblivion (and definitely not Morrowind...) and feeling like it had a sense of weight to it. It gets even better when you upgrade weapons and figure out how each one scales damage wise. Now it's like, "Woah. My greatsword is heavy and kind of slow to wield, but holy FUCK does it do some damage!" Maybe you want that sword to do lightning damage. Have a blacksmith modify it and watch it shock the living hell out of your foes. Each modifier you imbue or upgrade you purchase is reflected on the item. It's a great touch.

Also, the enemies are all varied and look pretty bad ass as well, especially memorable bosses like Dragonslayer Ornstein and Smough and Great Wolf Sif... who wields a giant fucking sword in his mouth. Sure you have your generic skeletons and rats and zombie-like enemies, but more unique enemies like black knights and crystal golems are cool to look at, and even more frightening to fight, especially when paired with the locales they reside in. It's just an orgasm to the eyes.

No, there is no picture for that.

3 - DARK SOULS HAS A TON OF REPLAY VALUE.

I bought the Prepare To Die Edition for $20 at Gamestop, and I couldn't be any happier. All the DLC and bug fixes in one disc. In fact, I've put probably well over 100 hours into Dark Souls, and I just found out that there are roughly four more areas I haven't even been to yet. That's only for my Thief class character too! I haven't mentioned that there are a few more class choices.

Its been hinted multiple times that I enjoy a more melee approach. To me, there's way more satisfaction to parrying an enemy attack, and then retaliating with a sword to the chest for a one hit kill. I'm not really one for spamming magic attacks. Yet, Dark Souls has a few classes for exactly that. I've found games like Skyrim to be lacking in one aspect while being strong in another, for example, the magic. Magic in Skyrim blows. Sure, it looks cool as hell to launch fireballs but it's not really as effective or nearly as satisfying as an axe or a good ol' trusty sword. Dark Souls mostly succeeds in this regard.

For starters, MOST magic in the game has a use, and regardless of choosing to go strictly melee, you will still want SOME of the spells in the game. Magic Weapon for example, is a great spell for any class, since it lets you deal magic damage with any weapon you wield. Dark Souls has a good number of spells and miracles to use. They are dependent on certain stats, but quite frankly you can put a few points into those for ANY class and now you have a knight who can shoot fireballs, or an archer who can heal nearby allies and turn invisible. Sure, you will be better off just picking the Sorcerer class if you go full magic, but there isn't much penalty for mixing it up, and that's a good thing.

Being non-linear in nature, Dark Souls also does nothing to aid you in where to go. It's based on exploration on your OWN terms. I can remember making it to the bottom of Blight Town and never exploring it fully because it's such a hap hazardous area, but it holds one of the best swords and armor sets in the game. There's little things too like hidden areas and activating mechanisms to open shortcuts to new areas, or back to older ones for a little more leniency. Also, the game is not over once you beat it...

 
Once you beat the game, you can start a New Game Plus. New Game Plus increases the difficulty in an already difficult game, and lets you start with all your upgrades, stat upgrades, and extends your level cap! New Game Plus goes until you hit New Game Plus 7, and I'm willing to bet the difficulty spikes really fucking high too, but that just means more challenge to play with. It's like "Okay, you're pretty godly. Now let's see how godly you really are this time around!"

It's great. I love hard games, and this is like the cream of the crop here.

"IS THIS GUY DONE YET?"

Yeah, I think so. There's a lot to explain about the game, but I've listed the important ones. I've stated before how a game like Morrowind made me feel helpless and how much it sucked, but here I am gloating about Dark Souls, which tries its best to fuck you over. For me, Dark Souls gives a bigger and better pay off for my suffering. It doesn't have a captivating story by any means, but it has some damn good lore, driven by even better gameplay and graphics. It isn't a tabletop RPG in disguise, and it doesn't ever stop being hard as fucking nails, but that's the great thing about it. Dark Souls makes no false promises to its difficulty. The bosses are gigantic, leading to a sense of wonderment and the occasional "HOW THE FUCK WHERE DO I EVEN BEGIN?" Even the messages you run across in the game world that players leave are subtle hints. Some are deceiving, but thats also the great thing. You have real people trying to trick you as well. Dark Souls is truly a game that rewards the player for overcoming everything it throws at you.

I picked it up for a measly $20. You can probably get its precursor Demon Souls for the same price. Either way, both are great games to start at if you want to get into the series. One day, I will talk about Dark Souls II and my lack of enjoyment for it, but that will be another post for another day! I just wanted to talk about this first game, and why I love it so much, even if it embodies a lot of qualities I absolutely hate.

Hurt me more please. Fucking archers...



7 comments:

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