Today I made a bold decision to attempt Dark Souls 3 and this is my story.
I consider myself a versatile gamer, finding some enjoyment in every genre. Sports, RPG’s, Shooters; you name them, chances are I’ve played them. There was always that one elusive game which managed to evade me or perhaps, I was evading it. Dark Souls was applauded by many for its unfaltering difficulty in an age where entire games can sometimes feel like tutorials. As I perused YouTube for footage of the game, my feed was flooded with rage quitters. I watched on in horror as countless souls were screaming, crying and torturing themselves. Why would they subject themselves to this treatment? I have been a culprit of breaking a few controllers in the past, especially when the last gasp goal is conceded in FIFA. Why would I inflict this misery upon myself willingly?
As sequels and spinoffs emerged, I tried in vain to avoid the series but with Dark Souls 3, being applauded as the best (and hardest) entry in the series, I could avoid it no longer. I would not allow myself to be the hypocrite I despise when others tell me their opinions on games without experiencing it for themselves. After feeling as though I had made a deal with Mephistopheles, I returned home with my copy of the title. After quick sessions of Yoga to calm my inner spirit and a few ceremoniously placed scented candles, I took the plunge.
My first hurdle. An update needed to be installed, normally I would become enraged but this would be wasted on such a trivial cause. Over-zealously I agreed and counted as the percentage increased at a snail pace. Already my low threshold patience was being tested. 45 minutes later, Dark Souls 3 had installed and the fun/torture would begin.
A screaming chorus erupted into my headphones, beautiful yet haunting at the same time. It seemed louder than I thought my headphones could emit but I found myself unable to lower the volume as the button was not responding on my controller. An omen?
I proceeded and after waiting as the game stated it was ‘retrieving latest calibration’ for a couple of anger inducing moments, I skipped the procedure and began a new game. At least I tried to. The game was frozen. My screen simply displayed a user agreement. Was this a test? Is this why Dark Souls 3 was unforgivably punishing? Turns out, after resetting my console a couple of times, I had to use the D-Pad as opposed to the analog stick. My first tough encounter and I had succeeded, I felt pride. Was this the euphoria that Souls fans had proclaimed when defeating a particularly difficult boss?
Finally, the game began and I was treated to a stunning CGI intro, yet I had no idea what was occurring. Flames, ruins, skeletons and more flames. Even the narrator seemed as though she was being convoluted as she did her best impression of Yoda, speaking in riddles. After being none the wiser to what exactly Dark Souls was about, I soon came to the stark realization, I had no grasp of what Dark Souls really was. As I began my character creation, which is common place in my much-loved RPG genre, I was stumped. What was the best method? Magic, Brawn or one class which simply had a loin cloth covering his gentleman parts? After taking a logically safe choice as a warrior and covering my hero is a tub full of fake tan, my orange protagonist was ready.
As I literally climbed out of my own grave, I finally had control of my character. This felt… well normal. I dodge rolled my way forward and in front of me, an illuminated claw mark on the ground radiated in bright red. I approached it cautiously, expecting the worse yet, on the contrary, it gave me a helpful hint. No tutorial eh? A few more hints later and I saw my first foe. A formidable skeleton with a hooded cloak staring at me menacingly. I braced for a tough battle. I recited the tips I had amassed thus far, “dodge, shield, attack. Dodge, shield attack”. The nerves got the better of me and instead of dodge I attacked… and killed the enemy.
I looked around the room in disbelief. Is that what all of the fuss was about? This game is easy! Do not sing your praises so soon I hear you cry! Well, my success did not end there. These pathetic hooded skeletons (as I now referred to them in my newly confident mood) fell just as easily as the first. As I harvested their souls, read even more tutorials, I had cleared the immediate area of any danger.
I came to a split pathway and turned right towards, yet another insightful clue. This one, however, was different to the rest. It simply said, “turn back”. As I turned around and saw nothing more than the wasteland I had already conquered, I dismissed it as a hint I must have missed prior and brushed the advice aside.
Waddling through some shallow water, I entered a clearing and in the distance, I gazed upon a bright light. Diamonds. I had hit the jackpot. My bravery to ignore the hint had led me towards treasure. Lesser beings would have cowered at the message, but the brave orange soul I was, knew Dark Souls 3 was attempting to psyche me out. If there was a button to click my heels, I would have pressed it, multiple times as I proceeded towards my reward.
Then the diamonds began to move. Not in a majestic, come and collect me manner, more an “I’m going to impale these crystals into your torso” manner. A huge, glittering hedgehog rolled my way. Instinctively, I kept my distance. The diamond hedgehog as I affectionately called him, circled me like a bloodthirsty shark. All of a sudden, towers of crystals erupted from the floor and I barely dodge rolled out of the way. Chance would have it; conveniently I found myself inches from the beast’s rear end. I unleashed a barrage of attacks and watched, to my surprise, as the monsters health bar began to deplete. This was it. Perhaps I was a natural? I had subconsciously avoided the Dark Souls series because I knew it would not have been a challenge. As a justified amount of arrogance filled my head, my hedgehog friend turned and killed me… instantly.
I returned to the start of the game, feeling cheated but eager to return and break those pointy crystals from its back. I ran forward and to my surprise, my old skeleton friends had returned. Catching me off guard, they blindsided me, and once more I found myself at death’s door. It then dawned on me that everything I had achieved was lost. I had no souls, all of the enemies I had slain had returned and I had nothing to show for thirty minutes of playtime. This was what Dark Souls 3 was and I felt my soul die a little.
I will return.
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An Englishman living in Australia. I edit and provide video/written reviews for all of the latest games.