“You Died” has been stricken across my screen over the past two weeks enough that I’m worried it will soon be burnt in to the monitor. At one point, I made a challenge to myself that I would do 21 push-ups every time I died before continuing. Unfortunately, I had to call that one off as I was two deaths away from either chiseled pecs or an aneurysm. After buying Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition more than a year ago as part of a Steam sale for the low, low price of $7.50, I quickly gave up, lost interest, and tossed it aside. Recently, in light of Bloodborne, another badass title by the developers of Dark Souls, being released to high praise on PS4, I decided that I would give it one more valiant attempt. Today, I am happy to say that I am hooked. The game is great, and I’m learning to become familiar with all of the nuances that make a “skilled” Dark Souls player, whatever that means. That is not the point of my writing, however. Earlier, as I was trying to break down what has me addicted, and what scared me away previously, I was inspired to put it in words. To put it bluntly, and maybe a little poorly: I find the game boring.
Now, boring is an odd term to use here, but I couldn’t think of much else. I decided to look into what boring actually means, and it describes the way I’m feeling fairly well. Now, the reason that I
use boring even though it doesn’t fully co-align with my thoughts is that it is the most simple blanket term that encapsulates all of the other words that match up; some of the synonyms being: Tedious, repetitive, unrelieved, and, to an extent, uneventful. (I know, I know. I’ll get to that one later.)
Tedious and repetitive kind of go hand in hand here. I find myself running into situations where I spend hours focused on only one objective. (Those damn curses.) Is this necessarily a bad thing? Probably not, but it tends to make it a little more difficult to stay on the edge of my seat and keep me coming back for more. Countering that, however, is the immense gratification that comes when one of those objectives is finally completed. That is the key to my addiction so far. Something about being beat up, thrown around, and crapped on makes success like a drug. Will this high last me all the way through the game this time around? I sincerely hope so, but only time will tell. I absolutely despise giving up on something that I’ve been working toward, but rivaling that resentment is the feeling of trying incredibly hard to get where I want to be and being repeatedly shown that I’m not learning a damn thing.
Unrelieved is a truly unarguable feature of the Dark Souls title. The moment you think you’ve made a huge accomplishment by bringing down a horrendous foe, you walk through the next door only to be cut down by some chump. And then he cuts you down again. And again. One after another, new challenges arise and show me clearly that I’m a damn fool for being in these parts. Again, is being unrelieved a bad thing? I’d lean toward saying no, but it is still a contributor to being boring by nature. There are other synonyms that don’t mesh well with Dark Souls, including monotonous, unvaried, and especially unimaginative. However, I would say that boring still fits my thoughts on the game.
Finally, we get to the extraordinarily controversial one, even in my own thoughts: Uneventful. Now, let me kick this one off by saying that there are some incredibly eventful moments in this game as far as action, sights, and themes. Some of the bosses that I have come across already are spectacular to behold, and I still think to myself about the epic design that went into them. Dozens of “Praise the Sun!” messages are left for me by other players around the world in order to make me look out and remember to find the beauty in such an unforgiving environment. Running into NPCs occasionally reminds me that many of these undead that I am fighting were once humans, and that I am halfway to being just one of them as well. It really is shocking to consider that these places were built by human hands but are now desolate due to this evil that it is my job to defeat.
However, my decision to label Dark Souls uneventful is strictly related to the story-line. Right at the beginning of the game, I was greeted by an epic crash-course history lesson on the world that I was entering. It was flashy, intense, and a little spooky. I was pulled right in. Since then, I have been left essentially to my own devices and a few ditsy NPCs to help me understand what is surrounding me. Is the game story driven? I would have to say no, but it is certainly driven. The driving force is having a primary objective, and that objective is to kill what is in front of you. The driving force is sheer, unadulterated challenge to bring down whatever comes next. Does it fit into the plot? Absolutely. My personal problem, though, is that I’m so scarcely reminded of what it is I’m supposed to be doing that it sort of becomes a medieval fantasy ass-whooping simulator, and I’m not the one simulating the ass-whooping.
Personally, of course, I like to occasionally have the story spoon-fed to my fat lazy face. Dark Souls’ sory comes at great effort, and sometimes not at all for long periods at a time. This is the primary factor to me giving up in the past, I’ve decided. Normally, when I pick up a book, hit play on the next episode of House of Cards, or start up the old PS4, I’m looking to hop back into the story I’ve left behind in order to find out what will happen next. In Dark Souls, this is not the case. I boot up Dark Souls to see if I can beat down that bastard that’s been beating me down for the past three hours. But what happens when that three hours becomes five hours? I am not used to failing like this, so I tend to break out Battlefield and stomp scrubs with the two hours I have to play games rather than being punished for my bad decision making with seemingly no story to progress. This is why I find Dark Souls “boring.”
Now, obviously this opinion is a work in progress, but this is how I have rationalized the way I feel about a game that I am currently infatuated with. Even though I am having all sorts of fun overcoming adversity and slaying beasts, I don’t really feel the sensation of needing to know what’s next. This opinion is going to be hotly protested I’m sure, but I am absolutely open for discussion. Since I am not near the end of the game yet, I’d appreciate the withholding of spoilers in said discussion if it takes place. I look forward to eating all these words and changing my mind in the future.
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