This post may contain spoilers for the upcoming Dark Souls.
I don’t handle fear well in video games.
Horror films, I love those. The dead rising from the grave or people getting possessed by demons — it’s impossible to scare me with a movie.
Horror games, on the other hand, scare the hell out of me. I got through five minutes of Silent Hill 2. I quit playing Resident Evil after the undead hounds busted through the window while I was walking down the hallway. I played Dead Space with a full walkthrough and still had trouble making myself enter a room where I knew a Necromorph lurked.
As soon as the control of the story is put in my hands, I turn into a terrified wreck. This is a problem because Dark Souls releases next week. It’s not even a horror game, so to speak, but I’m more terrified of playing this game than I have been of any other.
I don't care how much the price has dropped, I'm not exactly dying to play the sequel.
I’ve never played Demon’s Souls. I would have, but I haven’t owned a PlayStation system since the original incarnation. I’ve never seen it played at a friend’s house or even watched clips of it on YouTube. The only things that I’ve heard about the game amount to hearsay.
I can’t help but read the stories people had about this infamous title. Some people praise it as transcendent for a difficulty unheard of in modern gaming. Others, not without a degree of reasonability, have vowed never to play it again lest they deprive themselves of all humanity. I’ve resigned myself to never being able to experience these triumphs or having to put myself through such punishment. It’s relieving, in a way. Demon’s Souls is apparently some serious business.
Of course, From Software has to bring the upcoming Dark Souls to my platform of choice, the Xbox 360. After a short period of internal debate, I preordered this game and began to conduct some research. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to be found. One of the previews I read noted that the developers don’t usually conduct interviews as they prefer to let the games speak for themselves.
Still, I was able to glean somewhat useful bits of information from what I read. Dark Souls is not a direct sequel to Demon’s Souls; rather, it is a spiritual successor. So while the mechanics and general concepts of the first remain — such as absurd difficulty and trolling other players by invading their games — the stories are unconnected. This makes it perfect for rookies like me looking to jump in on this harrowing experience.
Was that huge wolf holding a giant sword between his teeth?!
Still, I’m completely unsure of what to expect from this Dark Souls. As a gamer, I’m really only familiar with western role-playing games, and they’re usually shooter hybrids. I’m perfectly at home in the irradiated wastelands of Fallout, or the ancient, magical Tamriel from Elder Scrolls. I’ve saved our galaxy from certain destruction a half dozen times in Mass Effect.
I’m used to the structure of those games. Talk to people and receive quests wherein I fetch items and kill people in order to gain experience to level up. Lather, rinse, and repeat. When it comes to difficulty, I’m used to having my hand held. There’s usually no nuance when it comes to difficulty modes. Either a game is far too easy to complete or unfairly impossible. That’s why I find the prospect of Dark Souls so intriguing. The difficulty curve is supposedly fair, and it doesn’t seem burdened by the traditional fetch-and-kill quest lines.
Usually I try to stay away from videos that showcase gameplay as I don’t want to spoil too much of the experience when the game finally arrives. Occasionally, I succumb to temptation…we all do. But when I finally broke the seal on my personal Dark Souls embargo, I didn’t feel any guilt.
From what I’ve heard, this game is going to be more of an investment than anything I’ve played before. I didn’t feel shameful in the slightest for watching three minutes here and there of boss fights. In fact, it’s been intimidating. A lot of the players in these demos have been downright terrible.
During one such video, I immediately questioned the motivation behind casting a fireball at an enormous dragon who's already spewing flames, especially when the player can’t even aim the spell proficiently. I even came within an inch of questioning the so-called difficulty of the game. If these are the same people writing articles about how tough this game is, can it really be that bad?
At least I'm not one of those suckers who tried to play the game early.
Then I saw a video where a player walks out onto the roof of a church, and suddenly one of the gargoyles comes to life and starts attempting to impale him on a giant axe while swinging his stone tail…which is also a giant axe. The player seemed skilled enough to win, but as soon as he had the demon down to half of its health bar, another of its brethren came to life. This one happened to spit fire.
My faith, and fear, in the difficulty of this game was instantly restored. I’m not hopeless, though. In fact, I’m kind of looking forward to testing my skills. If I have to think and play strategically to win and can truly learn from my mistakes, this should be quite the unique experience.
Still, I can’t help but wonder at how I’ll push myself through this game without screaming every time some undead knight lunges at me in a dark corridor. I mean, what kind of game punishes early players by invading their games and killing them relentlessly in place of an old fashioned ban?
I wonder what my own level of dedication will be. In yet another video, I watched a player facing off against the tutorial-level boss, some horrifyingly fat, winged monstrosity called the Asylum Demon. Without any weapons and without running away like the tutorial suggests, he beat the damn thing…with his bare fists.
I think I’ll be happy just to finish the game.