Monday, 30 November 2015

Dark Souls

Dark Souls came out a long time ago now, and I bought it a long time ago, but I finally got around to starting it just last week. What drew me in was the fantastic exploration element. What had kept me away for a long time was that it was advertised as being very hard.

As an elderly person with responsibilities, I just can't devote the time that a new hard game would need from me. I don't really want to practice a fight for dozens of hours to get it right, I worry that my reflexes may be degrading and I won't be able to keep up. Still, Dark Souls seems like a fantastic game with a compelling-if-threadbare story, awesome environments, and really cool challenges.

The good news is, it's not that hard.

If I had a readership figure of more than a dozen then I would probably get pilloried for that. Dark Souls - and From Software - is very popular, and part of what its fans love is that the difficulty. People love the idea that you have to earn your win. It is hard, and you do have to earn it. But it isn't that hard. It isn't so hard that you should say, "Ugh, that game is not for me."

In Dark Souls when you die you lose your accumulated souls and humanity and most of the enemies between you and your chance to recover those things will respawn.

On an old arcade box game when you died you lost not only the entirety of your progress, but also real money in the real world, and possibly you also lost your turn at the machine to someone else - you might have lost your ability to play again for another week.

In old ASCII roguelikes when you die you lose the entire game world and have to start again with a completely new randomly generated scenario, even if you'd been playing that character for ten, twenty or even one hundred hours already.

In old Atari games victory was rarely even an option - it just got harder and faster until you died.

Dark Souls isn't as hard those old arcade boxes or roguelikes. It isn't as hard as high level competition in PvP games. It isn't as hard as Yogg-Saron with zero keepers, Sartharion with three drakes or heroic Arthas were with appropriate gear levels. And it isn't as hard as a relatively easy I Wanna Be The Guy fangame - the entirety of Dark Souls likely isn't as hard as some of the easier screens of I Wanna Kill the Kamilia 3.

I'm not saying Dark Souls isn't a challenge. I just get the idea that people describe a game as "hard" when what they mean is, "you will have to practice in order to win." Sure, I've died dozens of times and I'm only a fraction of the way into the game, but if that's "hard", is "normal" breezing through the game with almost no chance of failure at any turn?

I've read that Dark Souls usually takes a new player about 50-80 hours to beat for the first time and about 6-8 hours to run through if you know what you are doing. That's about 90% practice and 10% success. That seems to be on the easy side of hard to me, but hard nonetheless. I think it's being just the right level of hard that gets Dark Souls such a devoted following - well, that and the scenery.

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