Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Goodbye, Dark Souls

I have been a Dark Souls fanatic for a long time. I will never claim to be a “pro” gamer, nor will I suggest that the games are always easy for me. 

Each Souls game, in my opinion, is a 10/10. I love every game in the series. I am not any kind of video game critic, but I know I enjoy the games, and that’s all that matters to me. Here is my personal ranking for the series; keep in mind, I am ranking the games according to which one I LIKE better, not which game is better overall. I can’t decide that. It’s like comparing the most beautiful human being in the universe from 2008 the universe's most beautiful person in 2025. 

Dark Souls (This was the first game in the series I played, and I have very vivid memories of my first experience with the Souls games. This one has more sentimental value than anything, because it taught me how to play these games, lol). 

Demon’s Souls (the environments are still relatively interesting, and the light/dark system is very cool). 

Bloodborne (I think this is the true “successor” to the Dark Souls franchise).

Dark Souls III (I love the game, but at the end of the day, it felt like an expansion pack. The environments were probably my least favorite in all the series, with a couple exceptions. After playing Bloodborne, I felt like FROM could do more interesting things with DS III… and I expected a better ending without relying on DLC). 

Dark Souls II (I put a lot of hours into it. Like, a million). 

Dark Souls: Scholar of the First Sin (it wasn’t necessary, but I still played the hell out of it. I only rank it last because I had already experienced DS2… even though Scholar is a remix with better graphics, this is where it belongs, for me). 

The amount of philosophical depth that is incorporated into the Dark Souls lore is staggering. I think the most important aspect of the game is the ability to play it a second time with a better version of your character—with an increase in difficulty.

I approach the Dark Souls games as if I am taking care of business. There is a strong life-metaphor involved; I don’t know how much further I have to go until I find myself against some epic conclusion that allows for me to make the ultimate choice; at the end of each game, you have the power to choose whether or not the world lives in a state of eternal darkness, or the violent cycle of life—which ends in death—continues. Essentially, this is the choice between Chaos and Law, Yin and Yang; I feel like I am up against an apocalyptic nightmare from fantasy author Michael Moorcock.

Of course, I could be completely wrong, which is great! There is so much community support for these games,and there are a lot of folks who play Dark Souls for hours to uncover the game-world's mysteries.

I thrive on the mystery, and the seemingly purposeless linearity. Dark Souls is an idea that thrives on throwing you into a situation that has one inevitable outcome; its end.

As I explored Dark Souls III, I was too busy surviving to truly enjoy it. I made mistakes after doing several things correctly, and sometimes, I was victorious through dumb luck. But I truly don’t get enough out of the experience until I play the game a second time; you have to admire and appreciate the layers of art and complexity. 

Since the third game in the series offers environments, characters, and items that veteran players have seen before, we can suggest this third game does not contain many fresh ideas. The Dark Souls universe seems like a fantasy version of The Matrix, and a mirror of the repetition that we constantly complain about when we say that something has been replicated, rebooted, or remade. Our characters may have traveled to Anor Lond before (kind of like walking to your nearest 7-11), but every time we go, there is a chance that we may do something terribly bad and hurt ourselves. Sometimes, we go through the motions; swing the sword, roll, dodge (or check cell phone, chew fingernails), and sometimes we approach our challenge a little differently; sometimes change brings a shot of confidence, but more often than not, we are a bit anxious. 

Sometimes, we make a desperate grab for an item that we can see on a distant ledge, or maybe the item is guarded by a trap or a powerful enemy. Sometimes, we just accidentally roll off the damn cliff.

Dark Souls III is all-too familiar, and it seems to be a tribute to the entire concept. An artist should have the freedom to explore new ground, and I am glad this is the final game in the franchise (if the rumors are true. I am certainly not a video game journalist). I am sad to see it go, but hopefully, there will be plenty of imitators who will attempt to fill the void, as FROM Software create another dynamic, powerful vision for video gaming’s future.

If any series of games could be the proper descendant of the original NES games that kept our families up late at night (Super Mario Bros. 3 without warp whistles), Dark Souls has inherited the flame, and now that torch shall pass. Super Mario games evolved, and I think the creative minds behind the Dark Souls franchise can create something just as groundbreaking. 

Thank you, FROM, for giving me a chance to fight The Nameless King in my nightmares, over and over again.