Thursday, 12 April 2012

How Dark Souls Makes Me Feel Insignificant (and why that's a good thing)

Well I've got a bit more free time than usual so I thought I'd bust out my copy of Dark Souls and see if I could make any more progress with it. If you don't know anything about this action RPG then the only two things that you need to know for starters are that the game is unforgiving in its difficulty at times and it makes a point of this by having the words 'Prepare to Die' written on the back of the box it comes in. Sure enough, it's enough to make any battle hardened gamer feel like a bit noobish at some point. But that is merely but one way in which this game can make one feel insignificant as they play through.

Not for the light hearted unless you play it on the nonexistent Hello Kitty Mode 
   Unlike many other RPG's on this scale, nobody could give a rat's ass about your character. You aren't part of some ancient bloodline, nor do you have a special destiny. I'm about 25 hours into this game and by now I'd have expected every NPC going to be telling me that I'm 'the chosen hero' who hath come to 'rid the world of a great evil' and all that. In Dark Souls you are but one in a faceless crowd of cursed Undead, doomed to be reborn as a hollowed version of yourself no matter how many times you die or are killed. The story goes that if you cannot find a way to break the curse you will eventually lose all sanity and become fully Hollow. A harsh reminder of that comes very early on as you pass a completely broken mess of those who have suffered that very fate.

This could be you... just give up!

So now the game establishes that I have no special treatment coming my way, I start making my way through the game's massive worlds. Every environment makes you feel so very small indeed. The giant sun-soaked cathedrals, the unnecessarily large elevators, hell even the sewers of this world are so big that your oft-defeated corpse wouldn't register as a fully formed poop were it not warped away to a nearby bonfire. Even the enemies are generally towering over you and anything smaller than you tends to gang up on you anyway so not only are you unimportant but you are also a billy no mates too. Great.

See all that majesty in the middle distance? It's not for you. It wants you (un)dead
But after all is said and done, this is an RPG that it is possible to beat so there's all the usual levelling up and improving your weaponry knobbery to be getting on with. The game makes no unnecessary fanfare about it though. You get enough souls on you and make it to a bonfire and you can choose which stat to increase. No flashy 'LEVEL UP!' screens and all the cutesy tomfoolery you'd find in Pokemon and Mario and Luigi. No pretentious 'Crystarium' or 'Sphere Grid' to make it all kitsch and groovy. Just a black screen full of numbers. It's as if the game is saying 'Oh you levelled up did you? Well isn't that just wonderful, good for you pal'. The most praise you will get from this game is a message after beating a boss which says 'Victory Achieved' which is a small reward considering how many times you will read 'You Died' in the same font. By all means get a copy of Dark Souls, but don't expect it to make you feel good about yourself. Maybe that's a good thing. In this age of regular mid-game achievements and over enthusiastic NPC's that worship your every minor success like a god, maybe I need something like Dark Souls to make me feel like I've actually earned a slice of that praise.