Here we are once again, standing on the precipice of masochism, waiting patiently to be beaten to a bloody pulp as if the abuse is as essential to us as breath. It will be nice to be somewhere new. It won’t hurt as much as before. We’ve matured. We can be together now. Those first few moments of reunion are awkward. We are ungainly together, but we fall into the steps again. It fits. And as we slowly begin moving in unison once more, like the ruts that old furnishing makes in carpet, it all makes sense. The world is enormous, grand, and bursting with light. The sights and smells make us yearn for the warm nostalgia of a childhood home. Love is real.
Suddenly, the ground beneath us cracks and writhes with sinister glints of orange and red. The clouds gather and rumble as blood rains from the sky and drenches our clothes. In the panic, I reach for your hand, but I scream and reel backward. In your place, a seven-eyed dragon the size of a mountain shoots into the sky, shrieking with violent, flaming, rage. “Why?” I ask. The dragon raises his curled fist into the air and punches me in the face. YOU DIED.
To say it plainly, the experience of playing a Souls game is emotionally draining. The cliff-side vistas beguile you with their beauty, and then enemies punt you off the ledge. On Tuesday, Dark Souls 3 will be released in North America, and the many that have found pleasure in the push and pull of the Souls games’ dangerous mechanics are waiting to have their itch scratched again. The path of a game like his is familiar to many, and its stages are often the same, but we can’t wait to experience it one more time.
The tutorial areas of Souls games are usually characterized by unavoidable death, and this leads to an instilled sense of caution in those who have played before. The challenges are new, but the rules are simple: Death awaits all who enter.
As soon the first boss in defeated and the gates that open into the world are opened, caution is thrown to the wind. "This game is designed to be beaten after all! There's nothing to be scared of. I'm experienced!" You could never be more wrong.
As your quest to restart the cycle of the chosen undead begins, the enemies fall like flies. You've done this before, you know how to read the animations. You are powerful, you are smarter than the game. The code drizzles in front of your eyelids as you parry and thrust your sword deep into the chest of a flaming ghost with a morning star. You shout, "I AM THE GOD OF DARK SOULS AND NOTHING SHALL STAND IN MY WAY!"
Of the thousand you've taken so far, you falter on one false step. As you roll straight into an oncoming attack, time slows. You take the moment to reflect and how far you've made it in life. What have I accomplished? Have I really lived?If only I had been a better person, called my parents more often, told my wife I loved her... !@$*&%, I HAD 100,000 SOULS! AAUUGHGHGHH!
You must start over and everything is now dangerous to you again. Even the most insignificant of enemies has the ability to take advantage of your psychological brokenness. Slowly, you regain your confidence. Your friends encourage you and pat your back as they hold back silent laughter at your recent rage. They don't understand your pain, but you'll show them. Get back up, it's time to go back there and finish what you started. You plow through the next boss. You snicker and smirk at the prowess of your fighting abilities. Time to get back in the saddle.
6. Hubris, Part Deux
As far back as you can remember, a blade has not grazed your armor. With every step, you slash and strike with grace. Your poise is unmatched. The enemies that once towered over you fall lifelessly back into the chasms from whence they came. Your mark is left on the face of every entity that dares to cross your path. You are unbreakable, the world bows beneath your blade. There is nothing that can silence you, and as you channel all the energy within you for the final fight, you shout in unrelenting pride, "I AM UNSTOPPABLE, A WALL OF OBSIDIAN BRICK WHICH NO KILN CAN MELT. I AM MIGHTIER THAN THE SKY AND STRONGER THAN THE POWERS OF THE UNIVERSE. I CANNOT BE KILLED!"
Your body lies in shambles at the bottom of a ravine. Broken bones wrack your body with inconceivable pain. The world grows dark, and as you take your last breath, you remember your journey and wonder what life would be like if you had taken a different path. You could've been a mage and lived a simple existence casting healing spells for the church. That blacksmith you passed in your first hour of gameplay seemed like he had a good life. Maybe he had a family, children, a house by the ocean. Hopefully, the next life will be a kinder one.
Better luck next time. Maybe Dark Souls 4 will have an 'easy mode.'