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I Seriously Cannot Shut Up About Dark Souls

The title says it all. Dark Souls. DARK SOULS. I can't stop talking about this game. I can't stop thinking about this game. Even when I'm not talking about it, I'm thinking about it, so it's kind of like I have an internal monologue going on, you know? So really, I'm still talking about it, just to myself.

I try to broach the topic with my tired Dtoid buddies, who by now are ready to slit my throat or perform an impromptu laryngectomy. I have to keep myself in check; I'm dangerously close to losing all my friends to this obsession. Believe it or not, I actually miss all you guys. I feel like I've been living in a cave for weeks. A dark cave with giant skeletons around every corner. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...

I started playing it on the day it came out: Oct 6, I believe. Or was it 4? Anyway, I have barely played anything else at all since then. Rage arrived in the mail a few days later. It sits unopened on my side-table. Battlefield 3 came a couple weeks back. The soldier on the cover is weeping from neglect, and all my friends think I'm stupid for not having tried it. Maybe I am? I'm stupid for Dark Souls, like a bad love song.

One hundred five hours in. That's where I am. I play slowly, so I haven't really accomplished much, all things considered. I think Magnalon said he finished it in like 40 hours while exploring everything. That's just disgusting. But I play slowly, and I remind myself constantly that this is not a game I'm good at. I wouldn't even claim I understand it well. The phrase that I tell myself and others (there's that pesky talking again) is that the game and I have an understanding: it gets to wreck my day from time to time in exchange for some hours of even-keeled adventuring.

I've been trying to put my finger on it: why does this game appeal to me so much? I usually like twitchy, skill based games. Platformers, dual stick shmups, that kind of thing. This game is none of them. I guess it's an action-RPG. I have trouble explaining the sort of game it is to people. I'll say, "well, it's kind of an action RPG adventure game, I guess...?" (question-mark inflection at the end) It reminds me of the box of any game from the 90s: "action adventure". Remember that stuff?

I play cautiously. I walk around with my guard up almost all the time. I creep forward slowly, use my camera excessively to look around corners, and turtle up all the time. I mean, I'm getting better bit by bit. I now backstab anything that has even a gross approximation of a "back".

I actually spend a huge amount of time just looking around. The game is so gorgeous it makes my eyes weep uncontrollably. You know, like a scene from a sad movie or touching your eyes after handling habañeros. Sometimes I'm actually looking to see something, but other times I'm really just enjoying the "Gorgeous view".

I downvote every single one of those worthless messages, by the way. "Gorgeous View". "I did it!". "I can't take this..." "Need humanity." "Despair ahead." When I'm on the edge of my seat wondering if something's about to roll up out of nowhere and break my legs, I don't need your useless blathering distracting me, you know? I consistently upvote good messages, of course.

Speaking of gorgeous, by the way, I have to say that Darkroot Garden (and Basin) is possibly the most beautiful area I've ever seen in any game. They so perfectly captured my vision of the "enchanted forest" that it's like someone invaded my head with a video camera. I think of my dude wandering through these woods, approached all of a sudden by someone moving quietly through the trees, and it sends shivers down my spine.

But if Law ever interviewed me again, I think I have an answer I'm satisfied with for "favorite scene in a game". When you get grabbed just after Sen's Fortress and carried up, as you crest the wall (the wall! that thing is in the intro and has been looming over you the entire game, but you kind of forget about it!) and look out over Anor Londo, I felt like one of those dudes in a wind tunnel where the wind is blowing their cheeks back all crazily. I felt like I was blasted by this completely unexpected sight.

All of a sudden there's this whole other world that's just over the wall. I'm assailed by questions: why is there even a wall? Are they hiding from the outside, or keeping the riffraff out? Why is it so clean and un-...destroyed in here? Why is the palette so warm, whereas the rest of the world is clearly miring in mud and ruin? And all this aside from the gorgeous sun-basked vista of these castles and spires and towers. You know, I usually forget parts of games, but that one scene, just two minutes--if that--is branded on the retina my mind's eye.

Briefly: I've got some pretty sweet weapons now. Cast aside is the lowly Drake Sword. Now my usual set that I switch amongst includes a Black Knight Sword+5, a Lightning Man-Serpent Greatsword+4 (would be +5 but dunno if I want to commit a slab to it, yanno?), a Divine Iaito+8 (need a few more white chunks to get it up to +10), and a Quelaag Furysword+5. Whatever. Enough about stats.

This game is big. Demon's Souls was something like 14 areas in total, counting the only-boss areas as only half an area each. But they were all self-contained. You could do a "run" through an area and know what's up. In Dark Souls you go and go and go, and where the heck am I now? It announces where the areas switch, but it's seamless in a way that Demon's Souls really wasn't.

The areas stretch out wide across the land and deep into the ground, like long branches of a tree that grew unpruned. Sometimes they stop at the end. Sometimes. But usually they fork off or interconnect. It's confusing and unpredictable, like a world should be. I love what they did with it. Plus, their interconnections and shortcuts are maddeningly smart. This game sets a record for me in terms of oh-HERE's-where-I-am! moments.

And of course, they kept close that same world consistency that I loved so much in Demon's Souls. I remember looking up from Blighttown at one point and thinking: these people--all this stuff--literally sits in the crappy, plague-ridden swamps in the armpit of the Undead Burg. That, up there in the distance above me that I'm looking at right now, is the Undead Burg. I was freaking just there 15 minutes ago. And that makes sense, because I traveled down through The Depths under it to get here. Those moments are a big part of why I can't pry myself away from this.

After beating a boss, I've been finding pleasure in playing co-op with (gasp!) randoms. At this point I'm usually giddy with a sense of accomplishment (Smough and Ornstein solo, killing Smough first, anybody?) and want to share the joy with others. So I'll backtrack to the closest bonfire, put down my summon sign, and browse on my laptop while I wait.

It's really fun helping people, and the vast majority of them are really quite civil. We'll go beat the boss or someone will get careless and die, but afterwards I make it a point to shoot them a message thanking them for a good round. It's Dark Souls, so we can't say these things, and the deliberate, ponderous act of sending a message feels like it puts some weight behind it. Am I alone in this?

But let me warn you: if you suck at this game (as I do), be a little careful with the co-op. I am convinced that on one occasion a person lured me into the world on the pretext of co-op, but stood idly by while someone else immediately backstabbed me as I spawned. I have three pieces of advice for you.

Firstly, while your person is in the act of spawning in the host's world, rotate the camera and make sure you're alone. Secondly, be aware that if someone has already invaded the host's world, you don't get alerted to that. Thirdly, if someone does invade, don't be like this monster of a guy; stick with your buddies, so you can get out alive.

Actually, when I said I browse on my laptop while I wait, that's only half true. I've actually started contributing bits and pieces to the Dark Souls wiki. It feels good to give a little something back. As I say in my bio, I'm not really too knowledgeable or skilled at the game, but I'm a fiend with a text editor, and my proofreading has been known to cause acid burns.

Unfortunately for yall, this is probably not the last you've heard from me about this game. Maybe I'll even end up writing something coherent...
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About knutafone of us since 6:45 PM on 03.01.2010

I'm a dad in my thirties.
I work for MS on the Xbox, making features and fixing bugs.
I have a cat and two dogs.
I sometimes make Twitter bots: 1, 2, 3

Groundhog Day: Wave After Wave, This Is My Ocean
Obscurity: Nobody has ever heard of Lemmings

Currently playing
Stephen's Sausage Roll

Dark Souls
Geometry Wars 2
Burnout Paradise
Rayman (original, Origins, Legends)
Tetris Attack
Metroid Prime series
Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3
Descent 1-3
English Country Tune
The Witness

Other places you might find me:
Twitch.tv livestream (PC indie games and Dark Souls)
knutaf on YouTube
@_knutaf on Twitter
Occasionally, I am part of a podcast
I watch a fair bit of anime.
I sometimes listen to music.
Xbox LIVE:knutaf
PSN ID:knutaf
Steam ID:knutaf


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