I have been warped. Things about me have changed. There are certain pursuits that I no longer enjoy because of other things I have been exposed to. Dark souls is the culprit of one of these things. I am, at long last, playing the capstone of the trilogy, and it is reminding me of things I once thought were fun, but no longer are.
I’ve mentioned, before my trip through Dark Souls II, and I talked a lot more about it when I was playing than I have about any video games through ought the last while. Early on I would, at the end of the day, go over in pretty excruciating detail what I had done during that day in a particular video game or the other. They were fun articles to write, but they ultimately ate into my video gaming time in each day, as opposed to now, where I just stop playing video games for three days a week to do other things.
Unlike the second game, I received the game with little to no expectation that I was going to have it, so I’d not really planned what I was going to play through as. I rarely play through series as the same type of character, as I like to experience different viewpoints and styles of playing games. I knew I didn’t want to duplicate the other two games.
In the first game I’d played a cleric, wielding a holy mace and a morning star as back up, with the heaviest plate armor and a great shield. I would wear the opponents down, out lasting them before pummeling them to death. I would outlast and out persevere even the final boss of the game.
In the second game, I played a Phalanx Fighter, with a spear and shield, taking out opponents from outside their reach with precision and Timing. It was a hard adjustment at first, but it was well worth it to experience a slightly different playstyle.
In this third game, I thought I would like to play something without a shield. Then, after I’d thought about it, I knew that I couldn’t really get away with that. I am very bad at timing in video games, and platforming gives me fits. Playing a game that essentially required me to time everything was just not going to pass. So, I picked up the thief. He has a small shield and a dagger, something I’d not tried out before. I have been missing out.
What is interesting about playing with a tiny, swift weapons is the amount of damage you can, surprisingly, mete out in a short period of time. Where once I would wait for the perfect moment to strike between attacks, now I try and get behind, or simply get up close and just slice em to bits. It is a bit different, too, with the shield, because its often used not during a combat, like it would be with both the Cleric and the Phalanx, but between runs in. I’ll shield myself from harm on the way in, sneaking around the side or to a vulnerable spot, and then I will simply let loose. My stamina bar will run down and I’ll have to get out of dodge, often by rolling. Its a strange and different combat style.
At this point in the game I don’t have enough, and honestly I don’t expect to have enough towards the endgame, stamina to take many hits. Instead, I dodge, roll, and flee as best I can, hoping that I don’t get hit on the way in or out. This specific method of playing the game has made it feel fresh and fun, though challenging and problematic from time to time. Even when it is at its most problematic though, the only thing I ever lose in the game is time, which I likely would have played the game anyway, so there aren’t real consequences for dying, learning, and continuing to die even when you lose all your souls.
Playing a bandit character has been really enjoyable, and I’m glad I’ve been able to approach the game from the same mindset, but with a different angle. Shields are important for a reason, and I’m not about to give up on them now.
So, aside from the character change, how’s the game actually been?
In Dark Souls II, I wasn’t able to really get into it for some time, until I found a ring that enabled me to have more HP all the time so I didn’t feel way behind the game. Now, this game, I feel significantly powerful, but still challenged. The bosses have been difficult, if not complicated, and have involved a number of different methods to take them down, which keeps me on my toes.
The mobs, each and every one, has the capacity to kill me if I don’t pay attention, and that is something that I’ve really enjoyed: The threat at every moment, and the care you have to take to get anything done. It is a video game that is mentally interesting as well as visually enjoyable.
This is where this game series has really changed how I enjoy video games, and how I consume them. It is currently very difficult for me to enjoy games that are completely immersed in story or visuals. Video games that catch my attention are ones that have a challenge, a complex and multifaceted puzzle that needs to be unwound and unraveled. Its a stark difference between some of the games of ages past, and even a set of games that still sit in the isles of many game stores even today.
In order to keep my attention, a game needs to be difficult, but it also has to be fair. It has to have moments of strategy, where the game doesn’t show you the solution, but allows you to see it yourself and act on it, and its boss fights need to have powerful, strong abilities that take getting used to and being able to see coming and do something about, even if it is only run to the far side of the room and pray it doesn’t kill you where you stand.
I like a game that keeps me engaged, on the edge of my seat, and wondering how I can be better at the game every time I sit down to play it. Dark souls was the first game that really did that for me, and all my other games since then have been judged, likely unfairly, on how close they are to replicating that experience, that desire to excel.