SPiMH – How I Became a Dark Soul

Preface: I initially wrote this post over a year ago on the old blog, which we lost due to server issues.  :<  The entire Souls’ series now holds a special place in my heart, hence the SPiMH tag.  I’ll add some commentary on the later games I’ve played at the bottom!

I don’t have the mass quantities of free time I had in my teens. The thought of sinking 100 hours into a game is almost unthinkable. And even if I could, would any game hold my interest for that long? I haven’t touched a Final Fantasy since 10, I burned out of WoW after the Burning Crusade expansion, and you know what? I tried playing the latest Pokemon X and Y series, but I lost interest after the first few hours.  As far as I knew I was all RPGed out.

Recently I’ve been playing two different categories of games:

  • Indie games: Typically they are shorter and only try to do one thing really well (instead of half-assing 20 different gameplay features).
  • Co-op games: There’s something really satisfying about working together against obstacles.  There’s something even more satisfying about working together against obstacles while intoxicated.

Not that I’m exclusively locked in to those types, but I highly doubted anything else would be able to drag my attention away for so long.  I recall lazily checking the XBL free games last June and seeing Dark Souls up for offer.

“Oh, that’s that game Brian likes.  I guess I could give it a shot.  I think its supposed to be really hard.  Wonder if I’ll even make it through the first hour.”

And then I started playing: “Whoa, a combat system were you ACTUALLY have to block?”  “Nope, nope, fuck this, too annoying.”  “Actually I think I can make it through this one part now…” “NOPE NOPE FUCK THIS TOO ANNOYING.”  “Well actually now that I think about it if I can just…”


Ornstein and Smough: the cause of near disc-microwaving.

Ornstein and Smough: the cause of near disc-microwaving.

And therein lies the secret.  The game is so well balanced that any amount of failure is countered by the extremely consistent and natural learning curve.  After every time I died I thought, “Well I got a little further that time.” (Though Ornstein and Smough gave me microwaving thoughts again).  So despite the fact that I’ve put 80 hours into the game so far, it (almost) doesn’t feel like it because nothing feels like a chore.  There is nothing in the category of what I would call “typical RPG quests”: collect X number of items (ok there are some of these but they are from beating bosses, and not always in a particular order), grind for X amount of time to make it to Y (there is ALWAYS strategy that doesn’t involve leveling), wander around the world-map for god knows how long (in fact there is no world map, just a series of semi-open unlockable areas each with a unique style).  There is also no forced 1st person persona.  You look how you want, you play how you want.  Want to kill all the NPCs?  Go for it, its not going to affect the ending.  Not to mention the level/costume/weapon designs are all super gorgeous, AND the interesting way in which other people playing the game can interact with you.

Alright, I’ve brown nosed the game enough.  I’ll just say that if you are sick of the squaresoft formula like I was, I highly recommend picking it up.  I still have a few hours left before I’m through, plus I’ve got the prequel and sequel to play.  So that’s like what…another 100-200 hours?  Sheesh.

Since this post was written, I’ve tried Demon’s Souls, beat DS2, and am currently plowing through Bloodborne.  Some quick commentary on each one:

Demon’s Souls: I only put a few hours into this before losing interest.  It wasn’t a bad game, but I think I was spoiled with how much of a refinement DS1 was over it.

Dark Souls 2 – SotFS: Heather got me this as an anniversary gift!  Yay fancy PS4 graphics!  Man, this game is even more punishing that DS1.  It feels like there’s much more of a reliance on summoning people/NPCs to help you through.  Navigating through the world and figuring out where you’re supposed to go seems less intuitive than in DS1.  Overall it’s still a bunch of fun, but stop invading me Forlorn!

No Man's Wharf - the cause of near disc microwaving during DS2.

No Man’s Wharf – the cause of near disc microwaving during DS2.

Bloodborne:  The lack of emphasis on defense and quicker pace of combat makes this seem more like a traditional hack and slash than the DS series.  It’s still brutal though, just in a slightly different way.  The layout of the world is a definite improvement over DS2.  I’m sure I’ll have more comments (and possibly a full blog post) after I beat the game.

Special Place in my Heart is a random feature here at Zhobot where, when the need strikes us, we write about something video game-related or otherwise that holds a geeky place in our weird little hearts.

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