Man, it feels good to die again. On April 12, Dark Souls 3 released in the United States. Fans around the world (myself included) have been waiting for this game for the past two years and in the gaming world, this is a relatively long wait. It is the last of the series, one that spans a starting entry, a trilogy, and a spinoff of sorts, totaling five games, now six. Now that it has come to a close, I would just like to take a minute to review my experiences with these games, and how important games like the Souls series are in showing us a hidden part of our culture.
For those who don’t know, Dark Souls is a dark fantasy role-playing game, based in a European medieval style world but made by the Japanese; this is a game that loves to play tricks on players, show off crazy enemy ideas (ever seen a dragon made of 90% mouth and teeth?), and kill you. Over and over and over and over again. It is also a ton of fun.
Because of its general difficulty and punishment for death, the series has developed a reputation for a challenge to overcome for gamers. Yet the importance of the game can go much deeper even than that. As it is, the difficulty and repeatability of the old arcade games have largely vanished. There is a reason those old Pac-Man boxes made money. No one likes to lose, and so quarters flooded in to give the game another go. On home consoles, a solution was made to avoid people having to lose. Games got easier. Sure, some would have difficulty modes, but they were not required. Not so with Souls games. They start hard, and on subsequent play-throughs, they actually get harder. Consequently, the challenge of beating a Souls game without a number of deaths is one that many have learned to love.
The latest entry is no different, and I thought it would be interesting to see how we could relate the game’s sales points and success to the attitudes of modern society. The game basically sells itself using its difficulty. Sure, the new game looks good and is no slouch when it comes to time-to-beat. Yet in each Souls title, the story is hidden behind a wall of riddles and cryptic item descriptions. This method is so effective one could argue that there isn’t really that much of a story at all. It is there, though, and the game’s way of spoon-feeding the player details rewards effort. In other words, Dark Souls is a game that only rewards hard work.
I think that the growing popularity of Dark Souls, and other games like it, show that there is actually still a fighting spirit within people in general, when they are forced to do so or risk the shame of knowing they couldn’t handle a stupid video game. They will fight and die, and have the game break them down and build them back up, only to slap them in the face with a giant flaming hammer. Or impale them on a spike. Or poison them. Or curse them. Or eat them. Or throw them off of a cliff. This may not sound like any fun, but I can promise that it is, and it is infinitely more rewarding than just handing you a trophy for nothing. Now, I am off to go get myself killed. Have a good one.