Release: Out Now
Do you remember Rick Dangerous? He was Core Design’s attempt at an Indiana Jones rip off, a 16bit Era platformer where you raided Tombs, killed indigenous people and stole thier shit, and was probably the inspiration for Core’s most famous creation, Lara Croft’s tits. But this is a Dark Souls Review, so why the fuck am i talking about Rick Dangerous?
I recently fired up Rick Dangerous while under one of those moments of nostalgia that compels me to play shitty 16bit games so i can remember my childhood and escape the crushing monotony of adult life. The first thing that happens in Rick Dangerous is you get crushed by a giant rolling boulder. Out of nowhere. Seriously, you move to the right and this boulder just rolls out and kills you. If youre not prepared for it you’d die instantly. Then there’s the sections where the game fully expects you to either posess some sort of Ghost Whisperer psychic abilities, or die several times trying to figure out what the hell you’re supposed to do before you can move on. You walk into a room and for no fucking reason at all i can think of other than fuck you, you have to walk to a certain point on the floor that will trigger a moving block (that will kill you if it touches you), then walk to another part of the room that will move the block to another area, while avoiding one hit kill spikes (no health bars here kids) and the entire fucking game is like this. And you get SIX fucking lives to do it in. And six bullets.
Rick Dangerous was fucking hardcore.
And then i realised why Dark Souls had grabbed me the way it did. It awoke the gamer in me that had been dormant since bastard hard games like Rick Dangerous were the norm, rather than the abberation.
Games this generation, for the most part, are crushingly easy. Most games idea of difficulty is just ‘throw another wave of enemies at the player’, or ‘make a really fucking crap boss fight’, as seen in practically every single game released since 2005. And it’s difficulty spikes like that in otherwise relatively easy games that stick out like a sore dick. Remeber the ‘all dat juice’ section from Gears 1? Or how the most talked about thing in Deus EX:HR seems to be how absolutely fucking hateful the 2 or 3 boss fights are? This is what happens you design a game that’s so easy a narcoleptic infant could probably breeze through it, but then realise youve got to pad out the lenght a bit by throwing in an arbitrary boss fight or choke point so you can tick a box that says CAMPAIGN LENGTH: 10 HOURS.
Dark Souls laughs at General RAAM. Dark souls crank phone calls the bosses in DX:HR. All of them. Dark Souls took a shit in the toilet cistern of CoD 4’s Mile High Club on Veteran. After eating a curry.
Dark Souls is HARD. From start to fucking finish. And it’s a breath of fresh (decaying) air. Because while its hard, its never cheap. And it’s never afraid to treat you like an intelligent human being. Games for the most part nowadays seem to think that 90% of players dont like to be challenged, or are just plain fucking stupid. Hence the rise of what i like to call, the idiot walk. That first half hour of a game where youre given such helpful hints as SHOOT BULLETS OUT OF YOUR GUN, or DONT TAKE COVER BEHIND EXPLODING CRATES every 2 seconds. Or the game wrestles control of the camera from you to force you to look at what it deems to be an exciting scene. Jesus Christ, last night, for my sins, i played Modern Warfare 3’s campaign. I got an Achievement for TURNING ON THE FUCKING GAME. How is that an achievement?? Do you think im so brain dead i actually have trouble putting a disc in a console and pressing the fucking on button? I’ve been able to do that for years now!
Dark Souls is a game of true achievements. Of actual, real, accomplishment. And it manages this in the best way possible, by making you feel completely powerless for the majority of the time you play. It smacks you down at every turn, laughing at your attempts to beat it. Feeble enemies like the hollow spearman can and will wreck your shit. Bigger enemies like the Balder Knights will have you fumbling your controller like a teenager fumbling at a Bra strap, your hands a sweaty writhing mass of sausage-like ineptitude, powerless to stop him from skewering you with his Rapier. But when you do finally beat that boss who was beating you in seconds every time, or when you survive your first ever invasion, and when you finally saunter up to that fucking Balder Knight bastard and backstab him, you better fucking believe that feels like a genuine accomplishment.
You start the game absolutely helpless. Your only weapon, a broken sword hilt. How can i beat this massive fat arsed Boss demon with only a pointy stick, you cry. You cant. He’s going to fucking flatten you. But by the time you get yorself a real weapon, and maybe spend a few souls to level up, you’ll have a fighting chance. But only just.
Victory is never, ever assured in Dark Souls. I’ve lost track by now of the amount of times i’ve thought i’d easily walk through a boss fight, or a previous area, only to find myself respawning at my nearest bonfire because i completely underestimated a seemingly puny enemy who bit my fucking face off cause i was so busy acting smug and thinking i was a badass. But it’s this difficulty that provides the real sense of Achievement. Almost every single boss (bar Pinwheel, who was so easy i thought maybe hed been drafted in from a different game to make up the numbers), left me thinking ‘this is fucking impossible. I can’t beat this guy’, after taking another ass pounding from them. But its the way you memorise attack patterns, modify your equipment and tactics to suit every boss or area, that will make you feel like an absolute fucking champion when you finally do come back, and shove your boot right up Seath’s Scaleless Arsehole.
When you do finally beat that boss who had been plaguing you for hours, or even days, it feels like From software have jsut thrown you a champagne and hookers party, unlike the aforementioned ‘achievement’ for just starting the damn game, which felt more like a condescending pat on the head and a ‘aww isn’t he special’ kind of congratulation.
Dark Souls is also a game that genuinely makes you think. And not in a ‘should i choose option A and kill my teammates or option B and save them, oh what a moral dilemma’ kind of way. It makes you think constantly about how you should be playing it. Should i upgrade this weapon, or that one? Spend souls to upgrade my armour or spend the souls levelling up? Kill that suspicious NPC or let him live? What armour is best for this situation? Go to Anor Londo or Lost Izalith? Or just shoot myself in the head right now?
It’s an honest to god relief to find a game this late in the console generation that hasn’t decided it needed to be more user friendly, or easier, or more casual to shift some extra units. Games like Dark Souls come along once a generation, or twice if you were lucky enough to play Demons Souls too. If you want to play a game that respects your intelligence, and isnt afraid to actually challenge you (no Activision, putting the disc in my drive wasnt a fucking challenge or an achievement, you cunts), Dark Souls is the game you’re waiting for. It’s not perfect, it improves on Demons in some areas, yet does things worse in others, it’ll make the casual gamer that had been growing inside you like a tumor thanks to how fucking easy everything is nowadays rage so hard you’ll be throwing your controller like it was a Wiimote. And it will absolutely kick your ass. But you’ll feel like an actual gamer again, the kind of player who just accepted that death was a natural part of gaming, something to be conquered, not something developers should be afraid to add into a game in case some casual pussies cry their little eyes out because they died one time.