The more time I spend with Dark Souls, the more I enjoy the game. Sure it’s difficult, but it’s one of those few games that’s difficult for the right reason. Save for a few battles and platforming situations where the somewhat imperfect controls got me killed, all my deaths were the result of my enemies fighting better or smarter than me.
I love the freedom I have to explore the world and the scarce non-player character input that drives the story. Were it not for the limited feeling of progression I’ve experienced leveling and developing my character, this game would be dang near perfect for me.
I feel as if the point of the game is to unravel a mystery by playing instead of being force-fed the story via cutscenes. Mixed with the feedom is a general lack of guidance about what to do next. I have a general idea about where I’m supposed to go for the next major piece in the story puzzle. But, aside from that generic understanding, I’m really just relying on my instincts and in-game experiences to determine my next move.
I’ve gone places where I clearly don’t belong as demonstrated by the ass beating the local enemies gave me. I’ve also had fun finding slick ways to beat monsters that clearly outclassed me. In short, I love that Dark souls allows me to experience its story and world at my discretion. So many games attempt to push you down the path they’ve carved out for you to follow. Dark Souls allows you to blaze your own trail.
My experience with Dark Souls has caused me to think back to one of my favorite adventure games from childhood–Castlevania 2, Simon’s Quest. Strangely enough, I’ve heard many gamers refer to Simon’s Quest as one of the worst games in the Castlevania series. Much like my experience with Dark Souls, Simon’s Quest:
-Allowed me the freedom to explore the world at my discretion
-Unraveled an interesting story using NPCs
-Provided a host of difficult enemies to overcome.
-Used Souls (in this case Hearts) as currency and made losing them the penalty for death
-Encouraged grinding for said hearts to acquire better equipment
Somehow, all of this weaved together into an experience I remember fondly. It makes me ponder the relative mediocrity that has surrounded all of the 3D Castlevania titles. None of the 3D Castlevania’s I’ve played (N64′s Castlevania and Lords of Shadow) were particularly horrible. But I can’t help but wonder how well these new-age Castlevanias would have been received had they been crafted as well as Dark Souls. I feel as if Dark Souls is allowing me to relive all the nostalgic goodness of the Castlevania’s of old.
In a way, I feel like Dark Souls is what Castlevania should have evolved into. It seems a much more proper 3D spiritual successor to a series that had such an outstanding 2D legacy.
Sidenote: I realize that Demon Souls could possibly fit this bill just as well as it’s the prequel to Dark Souls. However, I can only comment on what I’ve played. So if you feel Demon Souls is a better candidate for any of my claims, feel free to substitute it while reading.