Having made it pretty far into Dark Souls, I now feel confident saying what I feel about it.
Beware, unmarked spoilers.
I'm fairly sure all of you have heard of Dark Souls, and it's supposedly high difficulty. Well, that's not exaggarated. It truly is a gruesome trek. But - and that's what makes this game into a masterpiece - the difficulty is not just there for its own sake. It is not just a challenge. Everything in the game (even the clunky in-game menu controls!) ultimately underlines the heavy, bleak atmosphere that permeates the entire adventure. And it is this atmosphere that sets Dark Souls apart from everything available right now.
After an intro movie, the contents of which you will likely have forgotten by the time it would be relevant story-wise, you wake up in a cell. Unarmed. Naked. Disfigured.
Fast forward. I arrived in a place called "Firelink Shrine". A bunch of demolished buildings, the earth strewn with corpses. And, next to a burnt-out bonfire, a single human being. He laughs at me for even trying to change something.
As I explored the world, dying countless, pointless deaths, Firelink Shrine became kind of a home for me. People you found and rescued would inevitably end up there - never enough to make it lively, but somehow it always felt like... the largest concentration of hope in the entire world. I passed through it so many times...
Sen's Fortress. The first real test for anyone playing this game. Maybe twenty or thirty hours into the experience. It is soul-crushing. Utterly, completely mind-numbing. And then you arrive at the top of the fortress, and are faced with a huge, ferric humanoid, an encounter that will likely end with another untimely demise.
It is not before one knows the fortress by heart that one can ultimately conquer it. I spend so many hours walking through and dying in it, that I had time to build up a kind of familiarity. And the moment the Iron Golem fell, I felt like I owned the entire world. Now, surely, nothing could stop me anymore. The reason why I was here - to reach the mythic city of Anor Londo, home to a race of Giants - had completely slipped my mind by then.
Moments later, though, a winged creature grabs me and takes me on a tour, over the mountains behind which Anor Londo lies. And I am there. As I look into the distance, massive buildings fill my sight. Before me lies a large stairway. I realized that I see no immediate way back.
You know what? I probably have never felt so homesick, not in a game at least. The knowledge that my way back to Firelink Shrine was cut off was unrivalled in how depressing it was. I was in a completely foreign place, small, vulnerable, insignificant... lonely.
And this is only one example, of one aspect.
Despite having an essentially open world, Dark Souls manages to build this constant, perfect rollercoaster of highs, lows, very lows and extreme lows. And it never seems to end. Yet in all this depressing hopelessness, it instills a kind of spiteful motivation in me, one that compels me to return every time I give up, and continue fighting.
Dark Souls is the essence of win.
Edited 10 years ago