Dark Souls: Year Three, or, A Glowing Recommendation and a Stern Warning

The video game Dark Souls came out on October 4th 2011. I bought it that day. The sequel, Dark Souls II, came out on March 11th, but I haven’t bought it yet. Because I still haven’t beaten Dark Souls.

Yeah, yeah. Shut up.

No worries, he's totally on your side.

No worries, he’s totally on your side.

Dark Souls is an open-world RPG, you know, like Skyrim. Except Dark Souls actively punishes you for dying while simultaneously trying its absolute hardest to butcher you.

It’s a real romp.

So why am I writing about a three-year-old game that I both hate to Hell and have yet to beat? Because goddamnit, I respect it.

And I want you to play it in hopes that you will be worse at it than I am.

The Souls franchise (the aforementioned Dark Souls I & II and the original installment, Demon’s Souls) requires the player to observe and analyze, to apply critical thinking and above all else to learn. Dumb, right? It is built to be a challenge, rather than a choreographed sequence of set pieces masquerading as “off the rails.” But where a game that is difficult just for the sake of being difficult would just infuriate me (AMIRIGHT fellas?) Souls continually impresses me with its second-to-none, honest-to-god craftsmanship.

Where your standard issue console video game is a Gibson Les Paul from Guitar Center, Dark Souls is a gorgeous, one of a kind classical guitar, crafted by the wrinkled and storied old hands of a luthier whose father and grandfather before him were luthiers and whose blood, sweat and tears run thick with song.

Oh, look. He's dead.

Oh, look. He’s dead.

The world of Dark Souls is staggering. It isn’t an expanse of map full of dozens of entrances to dozens of smaller maps each separated by a load screen, it’s a sprawling collection of gorgeous vistas, bleak catacombs and everything in between, all organically flowing into one another.

Time after time I’ve fought my way through difficult portions of the game, taken an odd turn and found myself back at a hub I’d frequented hours earlier in my playthrough. Everything in Dark Souls is connected, like a terrible, homicidal hellscape turned cyber ecosystem. And that environment is only heightened by Dark Souls unique online-play.

Players can leave messages for one another in the world. Maybe they’ll give you a sign that safety is near, or maybe they’ll tell you safety is close, but really they’ll be leading you toward an enemy way out of your league. Maybe when you come across such an enemy you’ll need some help. You can summon players into your game to assist your progress. But players can also invade your game and murder you. Luckily, you can enter their names into a book of sinners, so that other players can go murder them for murdering you. Like justice.

Dark Souls is next level. And even though I haven’t beaten it and therefore haven’t played Dark Souls II yet, I can’t recommend either game enough. You may come to loathe me for that one day, but I wholeheartedly stand by the opinion that Dark Souls is the single most finely-crafted game I have ever played. And I have played, and beaten, Jaws Unleashed.

Dark Souls is brilliant.

And I hate every godforsaken second of it.

And I can’t wait to beat it and get DSII y’all!

 

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1. How do you get through the Tomb of Giants?

2. How do you use cheat codes without forfeiting your PlayStation trophies?

3. How do you unlock trophies without actually doing what you’re supposed to do to unlock them, so that people think you’ve beaten a game when you really haven’t? I’m only asking for a friend who is playing Call of Duty on Hardened.

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