It took me several tries for Dark Souls to click. I played Demon’s Souls and thought it was fun, but fine. It didn’t blow me away. Then when I played Dark Souls for the first time I petered out around Anor Londo and set it aside in favor of Arkham City, which released around the same time. And then at some point I decided to return to it and the Ornstein & Smough boss fight just made everything fall together like Benoit Blanc solving the mysterious donut hole inside the donut. Suddenly…I got it.
I beat Dark Souls, I replayed Dark Souls, I made a character that I simply used as a summoning buddy to help people with Ornstein & Smough over and over again. Like many people, I fell in love with the Souls style of gameplay and it became one of my favorite genres. I’m not a huge high fantasy person but I love the apocalyptic dark fantasy world of Lordran. All the miserable characters (and one lovely onion knight) are just fantastic.
And I still insist that part of the reason I like Dark Souls so much is how similar its encounter philosophy is to Mega Man. Dark Souls is not more difficult than any other game – it’s all about pattern recognition and remembering enemy placement. Bosses have movesets that you just have to learn to avoid and get your hits in. (And when you beat bosses you get their souls/weapons, just like Mega Man!) Once you know where everything is and weakness the game becomes a dance of executing proper responses. Yes, quicker reflexes do help and yes you will die figuring out where the enemies are, but it’s difficulty has been overhyped and the fact that difficulty always is associated with these games is a disservice. Okay, off my Souls soapbox now.
My Strongest Memory:
The first time I beat Ornstein & Smough was exhilarating, obviously. But nothing compares to the pure emotion you feel when Sif starts limping towards the end of that fight. I feel so bad every time I have to face the Great Grey Wolf, especially if I’ve done the DLC section already and met Sif as a little pup. It’s such a great fight that stirs sympathy without any dialogue whatsoever.
Also fuck the Anor Londo archers. That section still plagues my nightmares.
Why It’s #23:
Like it or not, Dark Souls changed the face of gaming – both actual games and the discourse surrounding difficulty and accessibility. It’s a landmark accomplishment that is both wondrous and flawed. And I think that makes it one of the best games in the Soulslike genre because its design isn’t perfect. Instead, these flaws give the game character and a reason to come back to it to see what kind of nonsense you can get up to with a new build. It’s fantastic, it’s sometimes frustrating, and it’s definitely deserving of a spot near the top.
Well it’s November now, and that means it’s time for a recap of what I played in October. Much like September was spent primarily playing Spider-Man, I spent the majority of October playing Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. I posted my review of it last week and you can find it here. Since I already talked in-depth about it, I won’t be including it on my “games I played in October” list since I’d just be retracing my footsteps over topics I already discussed.
However, despite me putting 80 hours into Assassin’s Creed, I still managed to find time to play a few other games. I played a few levels of Mega Man 11 on the Switch, and that wasn’t the only side-scroller I got into. I also played Castlevania Requiem, which is the rerelease of Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night. I also spent a little bit of time in Dark Souls Remastered. Finally, I played a really interesting game called Return of the Obra Dinn and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Toby Fox’s fantastic (and free!) follow-up to Undertale – Deltarune.
I took the last week off because I unexpectedly needed a bit of a break from writing, but I’m back for a new entry! Today I’d like to talk about a game series that’s near and dear to my heart: the Souls series. The main series is, of course, the Dark Souls series – but there is also Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne, as well as games that have similar styles like Nioh and The Surge. Elements of the Souls series have popped up in all sorts of other genres due to its immense popularity and it’s been one of the more influential modern series in terms of game design.
It’s also unfortunately gotten a bit of a reputation due to a certain subset of its fans. The Souls games are often heralded as a series for “true gamers” and the internet meme of “git gud” is often closely associated with it because the so-called “difficulty” of the Souls games is what lots of people like to talk about as if that’s what draws people to the series. Souls games are almost a trial by fire in the gaming world and lots of arguments have been had over whether the series needs an easy mode or a better way to get new people into the game. And since I’m a huge fan of the series, I have opinions on the subject. So here’s what I think: