RPG Monthly: Dark Souls

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With the release of Dark Souls 3 this month, and the players delving into a new world of chaos and pain, I decided that for April’s RPG Monthly, Dark Souls deserved it’s place in the spotlight.

Everyone who knows me, knows how much I love the first Dark Souls. I know the lore, the best way to run through various builds, and have beaten it more times than I could count. But it wasn’t always that way, and the relationship between myself and Dark Souls has been a rocky one, to say the leas

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t.

I remember getting it at Christmas in 2011 (same time as Skyrim and Oblivion), after becoming interested when reading an article on it. I’d read about the difficulty, but I was a young and naive gamer at the time, and thought “Ah, how hard can it actually be?“.

I found out about 20 minutes later, when I came across the first boss, the TUTORIAL boss, The Asylum Demon. The beast was terrifying, and I knew of no easy method to defeat it (I lacked Internet access at the time, so played offline and couldn’t google any tips), and so spent an extra 30 minutes continually dying before I finally toppled the monster. This was the moment I became addicted. The feeling of relief and joy that flooded my body after beating the boss. The adrenaline pumping through my body. No other game had given me that feeling of joy and reward, and no other non-Souls game has since. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just taken my first steps into the love hate relationship that is Dark S

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ouls.

The gameplay of the game itself was easy to grasp, for the most part, and very fluid. The movement felt natural and quick, rather than heavy and slow (unless you became overencumbered), the combat was easy to pull off – the right bumper button performed a light attack, and the right trigger button performed a heavy attack, while the left bumper blocked with your shield, and the left trigger ‘parried’; Simple, right? – and the controls never caused issues got me.

With every kill you gain souls; the game’s currency that is used to level up and buy items from merchants. However, to make the game even more challenging – If you die, you’ll lose your souls and humanity (which enables you for online play), and they’ll wait on the ground where you died to be collected. But if you die before you reach them, they’re gone for good. This method of adding to the challenge of the game is executed well; drastically running from the bonfire (a respawn “checkpoint”), fighting your way through the respawn enemies in order to gain those 100,000 souls before you die again is heart-pounding and tense, and really makes the game stand out from a lot of RPGs

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lately.

I emerged from the tutorial area, and met with outstanding graphics. I was blown away by the breathtaking view from the edge of the mountain, as a large crow carried me away. The graphics and world of Dark Souls is dark, gritty and grim; dark colours plague every area, and the enemy designs are monstrous things that would haunt your dreams. But occasionally, through all the darkness and despair, there are views and sights, such as the Sun rising over the far mountains, or the first time you see Anor Londo, and you’re taken aback by how beautiful it is. Even now, over four years later, it’s still a beautiful game.

So skip forward many, MANY hours, and we’ve somehow managed to reach one of the four mandatory penultimate boss fights. And…that’s it. I cannot manage to beat it, and then I finally just quit the game, and don’t pick iimaget up again.

Skip forward again to six months (or 2 years…can’t quite remember…) later, and I decide to give it another go. I’m now able to play online, and figure I’ll create a new character and play through again. And i fell in love all over again. I eventually, after about 20+ hours, beat the game, and…I sigh with relief. No cheering, no jumping with joy. Just a sigh, and a smile. The game that had kicked me an beaten me over and over, had finally been defeated.

The story of Dark Souls is one that requires deeper thought. From Software didn’t simply tell you the story and expect you to run through the game without pondering it; they gave you a direction, a vague hint at the story, and told you to figure it out yourself. Many confuse this as Dark Souls not having a story, but don’t be fooled; the story is told through item descriptions and background research. This is a very unique way of doing so, and it’s what makes Dark Souls so special; it WANTS you to think deeper. It WANTS you to question things, and it EXPECTS you to look outside of the game and talk to other fans, and compare ideas about the story and the lore. And this causes debate; I’ve heard three different stories about why a certain Havel the Rock is locked in a basement. It’s a great way to get the fanbase invested and thinking more a

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bout the game.

Online play comes under two different forms; co-op and PvP. But it goes deeper than that; there are nine covenants that players can swear allegiance to, and each affect online play differently (bar one). The Warriors of Sunlight place their “summoning signs” on the ground, and allow other players to bring the “Sun Bros”, as named by the community, into their game to help with an area or boss. Of course, anyone with a white sign soapstone can offer to help others, but those with the Sun Bros have higher priority.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the Darkwraiths; players who force their way into another player’s game with the intent to kill them for their souls and humanity. The use of the red eye orb (although anyone can use the cracked versions, as a one use only item) allows them to invade constantly, as long as they’re human, to satiate their lust for PvP. And it really is a rush. Eventually joining the Darkwraiths, I found a new rush of adrenaline in the game; fighting other players.

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What makes PvP so fun is how unpredictable it is; everyone uses a different build, and a different playstyle. Some make use of the bleed mechanic to tear the enemies health apart. Some go full tank and smash their enemies into the ground. Others hang back and use magic, and some even mix them all up. When you invade, you don’t know what you’re about to come up against, and when it ends up being a 1v3 fight, it gets incredibly exciting.

Overall, Dark Souls offers up a challenge that many new games lack. It requires you to strategise and think on your feet, and once it sticks its claws into you, you’ll be hooked for life. If you haven’t played it yet, or haven’t played it in a while, I recommend picking it up and playing through it. Make sure that you don’t go hollow.

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