Dark Souls has been sitting in my backlog for a while, so when the group I played Skies of Arcadia alongside picked Dark Souls as their next game, I replaced my PS3 copy with Dark Souls Remastered and prepared to die a lot.
I picked the Switch version, and I’m glad I did, because I ended up absolutely addicted to it.
Because of its reputation, I was a bit nervous going into Dark Souls. I usually play games on Normal or even Easy, and I don’t consider myself to be good at hard games. I wanted to like Dark Souls, but I knew there was a chance I might just have to put it down and say it isn’t for me.
But while Dark Souls is hard, it’s the sort of difficulty I could work with. I didn’t have to worry about having lighting-fast reflexes or great precision. As long as I was patient and kept trying, I could proceed.
Death became part of the experience. In most games, dying feels like a failure, something that isn’t supposed to happen. In Dark Souls, I just came to expect it as part of the process. This all meant that even when I was dying over and over, I never wanted to quit. I spent three days fighting the same boss, but I always felt like I was so close surely the next battle would be a success.
That’s a big part of what made it so addicting. I kept wanting to go back to the game to see if I could get a little bit further or overcome the next obstacle or finally beat that boss.
Many times, I decided to take a break to play something else, only to pick Dark Souls back up a few minutes later.
Let’s move on from talking about death and get into a few specifics. I favor heavily story-driven games, with a few genre exceptions such as survival horror and 3D platformers. Dark Souls… is not really story-driven, but it has a ton of lore you can learn about through item descriptions and from talking to NPCs.
The world is pretty interesting, and the scattered NPC conversations were enough for me to become attached to some of the characters. Everyone seems a little bit off, with most characters creepily laughing at the end of conversations, but that fit right in with the bleak state of the world. It has a great sense of atmosphere, and some parts struck me pretty emotionally despite the lack of long cutscenes and overt storytelling.
(It also has a mad scientist dragon, so the story gets bonus points for him alone.)
Another thing that worried me going into Dark Souls was that people describe it as open world. I’m not the biggest fan of opens worlds. But Dark Souls isn’t open world in the traditional sense. It has a clear sense of progression, just with multiple paths you can follow. I approached it a lot like when I played the original Dragon Quest: if I was dying a bit too much in one area, I knew I should try a different path instead.
Dark Souls also stands out as possibly the only game with breakable weapons where it didn’t annoy me. A broken weapon can always be repaired, and it was a simple matter to check my weapon’s status and spend a few souls to repair it if necessary.
By the time I finished, I had put almost 99 hours into my playthrough, and it didn’t feel like it had been that long at all. I loved the world and its design, the strange and sad characters I met along the way, and pretty much everything except a few frustrating areas. I know I missed a lot of secrets, but that’s fine. I like it when a game has secrets to discover.
(Except for the unnecessarily obscure way of starting the DLC content. That was just a bit too out of the way for what was originally DLC, especially since I had to reload an area to do it instead of exploring it naturally.)
So despite being wary of Dark Souls Remastered at the start, I ended up falling in love with its addicting game design. I’ve taken a break for other games so I don’t burn myself out on the formula, but I’m looking forward to starting my next FromSoftware game.
How do you feel about Dark Souls? What do you think makes its gameplay so addicting? Let me know in the comments.---
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