Tuesday, February 25, 2014

At long last, I've made peace with Dark Souls

If you follow me on Twitter, then you likely at least caught a glimpse of the marathon Dark Souls playthrough that I did over the course of four days, from late Wednesday night to early Sunday evening. If you missed the impassioned updates on my progress throughout the game, please come feast your eyes on all of the juicy highlights. The idea of storming through a 50-hour game over a period of four days would probably sound pathetic to anyone who isn't a gamer, but it took a hard toll on me: I spent most of my weekend feeling malnourished, my car battery died from inactivity, and I went into work yesterday with a sore left index finger. (That last bit probably sounds like an exaggeration, but it's true. I was holding the block button so fervently through my Dark Souls run that my finger is literally still in pain as I type this.)

Was it worth it? I'd say so, if only to finally shrug aside the long-standing contempt I'd held for Dark Souls since not really giving the game a fair chance in 2011. I wrote a new review, and I'd very much appreciate it if you'd read it.

It's the most conflicted review that I've written in quite some time, and also the most personal; I avoided detailing the boring stuff that you're usually supposed to cover in an informative piece, instead largely recounting my own personal journey with Dark Souls, both in-game and out of it. To my delight, I've already received some positive feedback on the review - some from those who love Dark Souls and are glad to see that I've finally come around, and some from those who gave up on the game early and were shocked that I've been "converted," so to speak. It was a fascinating and transformative experience, and I hope I was able to convey that in great detail here.

A couple of notes. Firstly, I had trouble settling on an accompanying image for the review, since most of the Dark Souls screenshots I've seen are closeups of various player characters battling with demons. I understand that the combat is the draw of the game for many people, but for me, it's the scale of the world it portrays, and I was very careful to find a screenshot that conveys the scope of Dark Souls well. The one I chose is a gorgeous view of Anor Londo, and if you think it looks lovely in screen captures, imagine how it feels to actually walk through it.

Secondly, it needs to be stated that circumstance played a major role in getting me to the end of Dark Souls. It's a game that requires you to be fully invested and "in the zone" in order to get the most out of it, and that's not going to happen if you simply pick it up for an hour or two every once in a while. As extreme as it sounds to plow through the whole thing in the span of four days, it really is the ideal way to experience Dark Souls. That's why I may just wait to hit up Dark Souls II until another such opportunity arises.

Finally, while I obviously now hold a tremendous admiration for Dark Souls, I'm still extremely critical of the game and believe it to be fundamentally flawed on certain levels. More importantly, the game just flat-out isn't for everyone, a fact that its often overly smug fanbase doesn't seem to understand at times. The game is inaccessible to a fault, and while I did grow more forgiving of Dark Souls as I pushed forward, I would never encourage someone to force that level of dedication if they weren't already 100% committed to getting the most out of the title. It's a hell of a wall to break through, but the more I think about Dark Souls, the more I understand why it's got such a rabid following.

And there it is. A long, exhausting journey comes to a close. Thanks for accompanying me!

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