Enter the Dark Souls

You’re thrown into the merciless world where everything has pretty much gone to hell. The lights have gone out, surroundings are so convincingly dirty and detailed that very realizations of it’s sinister past (as well as the present) sends the shivers down the spine. It’s the place where  you don’t belong and everyone see you as an intruder, something to be removed or used for their deceptive plans. It is the game that, just like it’s setting; punishes the mistakes, actions are permanent and fall is common. It is a strange, challenging and unforgiving game. So what does it makes so appealing? Well… On the one hand it’s just that. Gamers have been waited for ages to finally play something truly challenging for a change, but on the other hand it is also very rich (both in mechanics and content), detailed, mystical and rewarding game in the end that you will remember long after playing it.

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It has the story so hidden and complex beyond the surface that you’re finding yourself literally solving it like a piece of a puzzle by reading from various clues, item descriptions and all other things that it seems  impossible to put together, at least at the start. However, the main thing that makes the Dark Souls so special is it’s incredibly deep, detailed and addictive gameplay. It has unique mechanics that allow great use of numerous stats and items as well as environment and some moves that become awesome when you get them right, but also can be your ultimate downfall if you get them wrong. One wrong step and you could fall, one bad timing and even the weakest foe could take an advantage and finish you with ultimate series of combos while you’re exposed to attacks. In Dark Souls you can never go in some area with the mindset of: “I don’t care how I fight, I’ll clean this area easily.” That is how most failures occur, and the very first serious situation is teaching you, making sure you will make the right moves or face the game over screen.

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I still remember that very first time I looked at the light of day after escaping from the creepy dungeons at the start of the game and fire up the first bonfire only to have a look at huge door ahead, and hearing, no, feeling the tremors on the ground and sounds of something huge walking around somewhere beyond those doors. Still, there is was no other way so I opened it only to look at the empty hall, rusty and decayed …but definitely not abandoned. I saw the writing on the floor of stone, and as soon as I’ve seen it say “Get away!” – it happened. Something colossal fell on the ground in front of me, crushing stones and hard glass all around me. The fall was so impactful It took me a good second to realize I’m still alive. In the wake of sheer panic i looked on the side and noticed an open corridor leading back into the darkness of an asylum. “Oh, what the hell!” – I quickly jumped and rolled in front of the ramming sweep that cleared the floor heavily behind me. Suddenly the doors shut, but I’ve just realized that it wasn’t something that fell crushing down on me, but someone… After some time of skulking around the haunting corridors and fighting the desperate hollows I got some gear that gave me the fighting chance but it also guided me to the inevitable:  Yes, I escaped, but sooner than later will I discover that my escape was an illusion, and that there is no other way out than to beat that colossal demonic thing somehow, someway, or face the certain and inevitable death, but atleast I gotta try.

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That whole battle scene was nothing short of epic. My hands were shaking of excitement as I’ve jumped of the ledge with the sword descending through the air, it’s blade facing the red demonic eyes, and yes! I’ve did strike the first blow but then I was on the same level,desperately trying to block the rageous attack, rolling away to recover my health,  gasping for air and rolling back into the fire under the slow plunging hammer sweep hoping that it won’t catch me while I’m thrusting my sword towards his black heart. Suddenly all the noise just stopped and the white particles went floating in the air and vanishing into oblivion, along with the demon that haunted me.

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But silence did not last, and the earth started to tremble once again. “Get the hell out!” – I thought, and ran through the door until I saw the writing that said “Good job! Go straight ahead.” Following the path I’ve reached the end of the cliff – suddenly the huge raven emerged spreading its wings with black feathers flying around me and griping me with its sharp claws, but I did not care: “Take me anywhere, I’m done with this place.”

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The fact that I’ve survived that very first encounter and have beaten that huge demon make the whole experience even more impressive. “Wow, I can’t believe I made it!” – I thought. It was the hard training but it was just what I needed. Because that way, I knew; later on I could try to repeat the same success only to fail 10 times over. Because it was that serious and it needed to be taken serious. That is the Dark Souls for starters. Sure, you may pull your hairs out here and there, lose a bunch of souls and get to some points of no return, but it is a learning process that will make you better next time. This way when you beat something, or better yet, when you beat something on the very first try (like I did in the first area of the game) it is 10x more rewarding (even literally, you may get special items etc.). No matter if you are level 10 or 100, it is a game that constantly keeps you on your toes and it is all worth it, because in the end – You, the player, are the one who made it despite all odds, and what in other games you see as an epic cutscene or the dreaded quick-time event (God of War for example) here you have it as a pure gameplay, made by your own, sharp but hardly learned skill. For any serious gamer, that is a dream come true.

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It also reminded me why I play some games on highest difficulties. Why I cannot say with right that I have been through hell and back in Doom 3 if I haven’t finished it on Nightmare or atleast Veteran difficulty, or why am I a Unreal Tournament champion if I haven’t beat it on Masterful or atleast Skilled difficulty. How could I be called the savior of the humanity If I couldn’t beat the Serious Sam on the Serious difficulty. Sure, I could go on and on with the examples but this post is about Dark Souls after all. Today, we really lack those kinds of experiences and it’s just additional reason how big the impact is that Dark Souls brought into the gaming world today. It makes me even more critical and angry at some games because they’re not better when they clearly could be, but because of it’s influence, hopefully, we may yet see better gaming experiences in the future. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have another colossal giant to beat.

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