I wanted to write a review on Dark Souls recently, and I was 6 paragraphs in when I realised I was writing about points and bosses in the game that were epic in size or jaw-dropping in some way, and I found that I had written about pretty much all of the game, what I should be writing about is the effect that Dark Souls had on me, and the lessons that it has taught me that have been transferrable to my real life.
Since being in lockdown in the UK and then, unfortunately, losing my job I found myself like a ship on the ocean, lost with no bearing and without hope, and with a LOT of free time, so I decided to challenge myself and decided to play Dark Souls, one of the most infamously difficult games.
As I set off on this journey to defeat what I considered a Titan of a game, I thought that it would be akin to David and Goliath, me being an average skilled gamer taking on something that would take all of my skill and years of practice to take down, it was I’ll admit one hell of a fight and it was a constant uphill struggle but what surprised me the most was how beautiful I found the game. From the moment you are dropped into the Firelink Shrine the world that surrounds you is one part awe-inspiring and one part terrifying, you find yourself surrounded by towering edifices and impossible chasms, and as you explore each area it is unique in the appearance and the feeling that I felt when going through it, from the high peaks and beautiful architecture of Anor Londo down the grim and dark depths of Blighttown, each area has it’s own feeling to it even though there are danger and death around every corner I found myself admiring the world design and beauty of it all.
The one amazing part of the design of Dark Souls is the fog-doors, it’s a very simple idea but whenever you come across one it will give you a sense of hesitation and fear of the unknown, when passing through one your view is obscured and anything could be on the other side, mostly it is used as a doorway to a boss and uses it as a set-piece to reveal them, and what unique bosses there are. My first boss fight experience was against the Stray Demon, a Mammoth sized opponent made completely of pain and suffering (and probably feeds on my tears), the game throws you into this fight with no armor or weapons and leaves it up to you to realise that you need to be better equipped for this fight, unfortunately, I’m a slow learner so it took a couple of times to make this realisation and finally ducked out the fight to find better equipment.
The next most memorable boss was the Gaping Dragon, to describe it as horrifying to encounter would be an understatement, you first see a small dragon head peaking above a pit and as it rises over the crest you soon see that it is a goliath, a dragon with row upon row of teeth surrounding a vertical gaping maw going from its neck down to its waist, the design on this boss is incredible and so intimidating to confront for the first time.
There are huge amounts of lore in the dark souls series, it’s actually quite incredible but the really unique part about it is that it doesn’t spoon-feed you the narrative, you have to dig it up yourself like you are a medieval reporter digging up a story, the only real place you find new information about the characters and areas in the game are from the items you collect, especially the souls that are collected from each boss you defeat, they will give you small tidbits of information and it is up to you to organise that information to find out more lore of the land, unfortunately, although very innovating it does leave quite a few people who won’t have read these bits of information confused as to what is going on. I did find myself a few times wondering as to where to go and especially why am I doing these things, but it leaves it up to the player to find this out themselves.
This has been one of the most unique games I’ve played in years and it’s actually strange how much overlap the lessons I learned to have helped me in my real life (obviously not how to slay a demon though), for example, I have realised that in-game if I died it wasn’t a game over screen like in most games it was a please try again, you can do it this time, it’s encouragement and that has carried over to my real life if something doesn’t go well it’s not the end, I concentrate on what I did wrong and change it to improve myself every time, life is an uphill battle and it’s only when realising that you will notice that adversity breeds improvement.
Another thing that I have learned while playing the Dark Souls games is that there is always beauty in everything, it’s just a matter of looking for it, even while in the darkest places (physically and mentally) if you search hard enough you will find light and beauty.