Unfortunately, I’ve already sent Dark Souls back to GameFly. I could tell within the first ten hours it was a title that would require much more time than I could give it in a rental. So for now, it’s being pushed off. But I wanted to cover one last topic about the game to get all my final thoughts out. Specifically, the fact that it seemed like I was playing a different game compared to everyone else.
Back in the days of retro gaming, any title that had some sort of exploration element generally had a challenge to it, specifically because it was difficult to tell exactly what you’re supposed to do. In Dark Souls’ case, you can easily find your way forward within the game as long as you’re smart about what foes you attempt to engage. But at the end of the day, I was left relatively confused as to what I was doing and how to approach situations.
Talking to co-worker of mine on TheSpeedGamers made me realize how much I didn’t know about the game. At times, it felt like I was listening to him talk about an entirely different game. He would reference things that I had some knowledge of but the title never explained, while expecting me to make use of it. We’d talk about what I did and how he’d approach these situations. Even with hearing about tactics or items, it felt like I was getting half the story as, when put into practice, it never seemed to work out just as explained.
I can’t recall where at the moment, but I’m pretty sure during development one of the developers at From Software said that they were going for that classic NES gaming feel where talking to other players was recommended, if not required, to really tackle the game head-on without a strategy guide. Whether or not that’s a good thing is kind of hard to say. It really depends on how accepting you are of the fact that, going into Dark Souls without any prior knowledge, you’ll be lost as heck. Go back to the original The Legend of Zelda, which is considered a classic, and you’ll find that same experience awaiting you.
Personally, I do think encouraging conversations about the game creates a feeling of community around the title. Worse case scenario, if you’re determined to beat the game, there’s a strategy guide out there to guide you on your way.
A quick closing comment on Dark Souls in general. I didn’t think the game was necessarily bad, just at times a bit unfair to the point of frustration. Killing a player without giving them the tools to defend themselves is just bad design meant to simply just, for the lack of a better world, troll the player. Difficulty in the past was largely used to extend the experience. While there’s definitely a healthy balance of difficulty and progress, Dark Souls seems to push the balance over. Sure, the player messages are meant to help. But if you don’t have any messages at the time regarding a situation, the frustrating death bears upon you.