If you frequent any videogame website, there's a high chance you will have read about a game released this year by the name of Dark Souls. That it is quite passionately talked about should come as no surprise, really -- there's a hell of a lot of content on offer for players to discover, and it houses a fascinating fictional world full of tantalizing lore and exotic locations.
The save game feature in Dark Souls is an unusual beast that might be best perceived as two distinct but similar operations. Like most games these days, it offers both an autosave feature and a save feature in the options menu. In order to understand why each aspect is particularly interesting in the way it serves the player and affects the game, you have to consider Dark Souls’ overall structure.
With Dark Souls, you have a hack-and-slash dungeon crawl -- the player is tasked with exploring maze-like environments while engaging in combat against all sorts of deadly monsters, the objective being to collect treasure and reach the ends of the various 'dungeons.' Any given area has you beginning at a checkpoint in the shape of a bonfire. As you advance through the area, you unlock shortcuts and activate new checkpoints to ease your progress. These are vital in that they often allow the player to bypass now-extraneous routes, saving time and energy that can instead be used to further explore the bowels of the world.
Light Spoilers Ahead
Seeing that shortcuts and checkpoints are few and far between and given how transient the player’s pool of souls generally is, traversing the environments in Dark Souls can be quite an arduous endeavor. This rather punishing system is enforced by an ever-vigilant autosave feature. Whenever you slay an enemy, collect souls, pick up an item, die, and so on, the game quickly and automatically overwrites your only save file. There’s no loading up a save file from five minutes ago because you slipped off a ledge and lost 20,000 souls; try and you will only load up your character respawning at the last checkpoint, shamefaced and empty-pocketed.
On top of having a rather prominent autosave feature, Dark Souls also sports an in-game option to save your progress while quitting to the title screen. This performs all the same functions as autosaving alongside one additional benefit: it is determined by the player. At first this might not seem like an important enough detail to note. In truth, however, it provides the player with a mechanic that can be utilized to punctuate his or her game session at a whim.
Not that the save features of Dark Souls are in any way unwelcomed. As someone who played most of Dark Souls’ predecessor, Demon’s Souls, under the mistaken belief that the game could only be safely saved at a checkpoint, the fact that you can save your progress at any given time is something of a godsend. For one reason or another, my time with Demon’s Souls was one largely governed by how long it takes to get from one checkpoint to another. Knowing now that I could have loaded the game up at any point and put it down whenever I wanted or needed to gives me a tremendous appreciation for the 'increased' accessibility, as well as making me feel quite silly.
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