Every month I get to see the movie, television, and video game franchises that we’ll be featuring in upcoming crates, and I am almost always excited at the prospect of getting the awesome stuff myself (I subscribe to three of our crates, after all…), but also because I have the great privilege of getting to write and talk about many of those incredible franchises.
In the past few months, I’ve touched on some of my favorite games – The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and many more. With this month’s Loot Gaming HUNT theme being revealed, I get the chance to write about another one of my favorite games: Dark Souls!
From Software, the amazing developer behind the Dark Souls franchise has created a pretty incredible formula for their Souls series – spanning from Demon Souls, the three Dark Souls titles, and Bloodborne. That formula is relatively simple: Tremendously difficult gameplay with no hand-holding combined with stunning visuals, easy-to-learn-but-difficult-to-master mechanics, and some of the most impressive and hard-to-beat bosses ever seen in gaming. What these games also bring to the table, though, is some really deep lore and story (if you dig deep enough to find it), and at the end of the day you’re left with one of the most exhausting, yet fulfilling, gaming experiences you can find. While I understand that these games aren’t for everyone, From Software continues to impress me with each and every new game they create. But for me, the greatest will always be Dark Souls – it improved upon what it’s spiritual predecessor Demon Souls established and amped it up to 11. Visually and mechanically the games have improved since Dark Souls was first released in 2011, but in my opinion, DS1 is the best of the bunch. Why you may ask? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here are the four reasons Dark Souls is one of my favorite games, and why I put it on a short list of one of the most influential games ever made.
Dark Souls is the perfect example of overcoming adversity in games. Dark Souls is insanely difficult, it really is. I remember picking it up and reading the back cover of the jewel case, and in big bold letters it said: “PREPARE TO DIE”. And let me tell you, I was absolutely not prepared for it. I fancied myself a pretty skilled and accomplished gamer at the time, and yet I was almost ready to put the game down and never play it again after the introductory section of the game sufficiently whooped my butt. But then I kept at it, learned a little more about the pace of the game, selected some weapons and armor that better suited my playstyle, and I slowly made progress. Now, I still died (a LOT), but while each and every new location, new monster, new boss posed some really difficult challenges, it was never truly unfair – there was always a way to get around a certain move, or a certain clustering of bad guys, or whatever the case may be. Sure, sometimes it took a ridiculous amount of time to figure something out, but if you stuck with it you always did. When I finally downed the last boss, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a feeling of relief and fulfillment from completing a game, and in my opinion that is the greatest strength of every From Software game: When you beat one of their games, especially if it’s on a New Game Plus playthrough, you will truly feel like you beat the odds, overcame all adversity, and accomplished something really special when you get to see those final credits roll.
There is no right or wrong way to play Dark Souls. Now, we’ve covered that this game is challenging, but I think one of the reasons that the challenge is so much fun to tackle, even on your 10th playthrough, is because you have such a plethora of options when it comes to how to play: Do you focus on being evasive, dodging around the battlefield landing quick blows against your foes? Or do you don the heaviest and most protective armor around, grab yourself a sword and shield, and approach each encounter slowly and methodically? Or do you forgo brute force and melee weapons altogether and cast dazzling spells to defeat your enemies from afar? Or, hell… Why not a combination of all those playstyles? The chess game you get to play with Dark Souls is such a huge part of the allure for me – I love building the perfect character, with the perfect build, and approaching the game differently every time I play. I’ve beaten the game over 10 times now, and I’ve done it in basically 10 completely different ways, and that highlights another one of the game’s great strengths: Regardless of how you want to play, there’s probably a way that you can embrace to effectively take on the challenge.
Dark Souls features some of the most impressive, and memorable, boss fights you may ever see. When you talk about challenging games, you, of course, have to talk about the boss fights. And while simply exploring Lordran can defeat you over and over again (seriously, some of the basic enemies feel like bosses by themselves), you really start to see the challenge once you run into some of the games big baddies. Some of the fights are somewhat straightforward and relatively easy to figure out, like the Taurus Demon which is fought on a somewhat narrow bridge and can be defeated with relative ease once you climb a nearby tower and take advantage of the height advantage. Some of the fights seem easy, but really end up giving you some trouble, like the Capra Demon, whose giant swords can make short work of you in the very small arena he’s fought in, plus some hellhounds added for good measure. The challenges you experience when facing these bosses is one thing, but the variety and flavor of the bosses are amazing as well – demons, ghouls, dragons, and so much more. And depending on your playstyle, some fights may be harder than others: I will never forget when my buddy told me how easy he had it fighting Ornstein and Smough, but when I faced him, well… I’m not proud of it, but let’s just say I took my frustration of being stuck on those jerks for HOURS out on my innocent PlayStation controller… BUT, when I did finally beat those two armored goons, I don’t think I’ve ever stood up and shouted more triumphantly after beating a boss in my entire life – and again, there lies one of the coolest parts of Dark Souls: Beating that seemingly impossible boss is one of the coolest, and memorable, gaming experiences you can have.
The world of Dark Souls is truly breathtaking. Lordran, and its sprawling, interconnected world is one of the most beautiful and intense gaming locations I’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring. The music, the art design, the overall atmosphere of the entire game was, in a word, breathtaking – and in my opinion, it still is, even seven years later. You have the comfort and safety of the Firelink Shrine to go back to after a difficult boss, the labyrinthian and forever-frustrating Blighttown, the haunting New Lond Ruins, the captivating and absolutely stunning Anor Londo, and so much more. There really aren’t many gaming worlds I’ve journeyed through that I have enjoyed more (well, enjoy is a strong word when referencing Blighttown…) than what Dark Souls had to offer. But, it’s more than just the locations themselves that make DS1 so breathtaking – it’s the people that are waiting to be met, and the lore that’s waiting to be discovered. To many, the story for Dark Souls leaves much to be desired, but to those folks I say: “Well, you just weren’t looking hard enough!”. The story isn’t read out to you in dialogue boxes along the way, there is no narrator to guide you through your adventure. Instead, you have to piece the story together through encounters (some of them very hard to find) with various characters and locations and books and items along the way. Only after you’ve exhausted all of your conversations with people, discovered everyone that is there to be discovered, and pieced together all the clues to what in the actual hell is going on in this world, will you really be able to experience this moving adventure. And this is where Dark Souls final major strength lies: You get out of Dark Souls what you put into Dark Souls. The full experience in this game, both from a gameplay and story point of view, is hard to fully flesh out – but if you do, trust me, it is VERY worth it.
Well there you have it! My four major reasons the original Dark Souls is one of the greatest games ever made. And if you have never experienced the game, or are looking to revisit Lordran, then now is a great time to get interested! Not only can you look forward to the Dark Souls remaster coming up in May, but you can also get your hands on some awesome Dark Souls Loot in April’s HUNT Loot Gaming Crate, which features items from Monster Hunter World, Batman: Arkham, Far Cry 5, and Dark Souls!