From Software’s Dark Souls punishes people like no other title. The action-role-playing game makes players fight for everything they acquire and then takes all those resources away the minute they screw up. Through struggle, frustration, and death, gamers will learn to appreciate the game’s primary asset — not only for its monetary value but its value as a learning tool.
Souls serve as both currency and experience points for building character stats, so players have to spend them wisely. In typical RPG fashion, souls are acquired by killing enemies.
Except killing enemies isn’t easy. Dark Souls is notoriously difficult. Players will, and are expected to, die often. Dying doesn’t end the experience. It just warps characters back to the last bonfire they visited while respawning enemies and a few other things. Yet when characters die, they lose all of their souls.
Jobs, banks, and passive revenue streams are nowhere to be found in Lordran, the adventure’s setting. All souls must be fought for and subsequently defended. Those who don’t want to risk losing them upon death will have to spend them on items or stats. This adds to the title's dark, oppressive atmosphere.
Dark Souls doesn’t have invisible walls to prevent players from entering an area that should only be accessed later in the quest. Souls can only be reclaimed if one safely makes it to the spot where he or she was last killed.
Those who unknowingly wander into an area meant for stronger characters will find this difficult. They might just have to accept their losses. This concept can also serve as a taunt or challenge for the determined to try to get their money back. The feeling achieved for successfully reclaiming their souls will be worth more than the monetary value itself.
Players will learn to fear moving into unknown territory because they will always have something to lose. If it’s not currency, then it’s humanity. Humanity is one of Lordran’s rare commodities. It is a tangible item that enables characters to revert from the default undead ("hollow") state to human form.
Human characters have more perks, the largest of which is the ability to summon friendly non-playable characters and other players to help take down bosses. Humans can also use more humanity to increase the drop rate on rare items. Unfortunately, Dark Souls never takes the pressure off. Even with its perks, human form isn’t without its own risks.
Hostile players can invade human characters' games as phantoms. Some of the game’s covenants, or guilds, grant rewards for killing other characters by invading their experiences. Anyone who’s played any title online knows that gamers will not turn down the opportunity to attack others for rewards. Human characters have to remain cautious of both enemies and phantom invaders.
Defeated humans lose their souls and respawn in hollow form. They’ll have to spend more humanity to become human again. Humanity can’t be reclaimed nor purchased in large quantities, so players will typically have to kill enemies until it’s dropped.
Dark Souls’ currency does so much more than typical game money does. It directly influences how players will progress through the game and teaches them how to actually approach the journey. And it makes them worry about how to use their souls or humanity.
Should they save souls for powerful equipment and risk losing everything? Or should they become human and recruit friends for a tough area while risking invasion from phantoms? Appropriately utilizing resources becomes a large part of the game itself.
Newcomers will be disheartened the first time they lose 3,000 souls — half an hour’s worth of grinding gone in a few of sword slashes. Frustration will undoubtedly set in. Then these individuals will learn to be cautious. They’ll learn where to grind and how to approach certain enemies. They’ll learn how to play Dark Souls. By the time they make it to the end of the game and lose 20,000 souls at a time, they’ll know what it takes to earn them back.
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