I’m not a huge fan of dying in videogames. I like the side of gaming that makes you feel powerful, invincible and unbeatable. I like being able to blast my way through games, experience the story and lay waste to the enemy hordes without worrying that I’m seconds away from an inglorious demise.
And now I’ve got to play Dark Souls. This multiplatform sequel to the PS3 exclusive Demon’s Souls makes a mockery of gamers like me. They’ve taken the now-famous difficulty level of Demon’s Souls and turned it up to eleven. Every time Namco Bandai mention Dark Souls, it’s with a smug reference to how often the game is going to make you its bitch. The game’s tagline is even “Prepare to Die”. This is going to be hard work for a big soft wuss of a gamer like me.[drop]With all of that in mind, and the purported length of the game to take into account too, I thought that a traditional review would be moot. It would take me weeks to work through enough of the game to offer an opinion and so much would be based on how I cope with the multiple ways I’m murdered. So this is not a review. This is an account of my experience with the game. There will be more like this as I make my way further into the game and hopefully you will be able to determine, from my accounts of my own experiences, whether this is a game for you. If not, at least you get to laugh at how frequently I die.
So let’s begin.
I watched the immersive cinematic intro and caught up on the back story. It’s reasonably typical fantasy stuff, with dragons and The Undead making appearances. The intro looks beautiful. Kudos to the artists and animators on that. After I’m caught up with events, I’m put into the character create mode. I called my Wanderer Bob (there are loads of classes and skills to select). I almost chose a Knight but I thought that all that shiny armour might attract too much attention.
The character create mode, ironically, is one of the most intuitively simple that I’ve used. Rather than thrusting page after page of menus and slider bars at you, it has a series of fields and a number of options to fill out before you’re done. It’s all very painless and serves to get your past this necessary distraction swiftly and on to the meat of the game.
You wake up in a prison cell at an asylum. It’s dark. Every little noise warns of imminent death. Luckily, the first twenty minutes or so of the game serve as a kind of tutorial and there isn’t really anything too deadly. Unless you count the huge Asylum Demon that you encounter after a couple of throwaway enemies get you used to swinging your sword. Luckily, your only task is to evade this club-wielding monster and make it out to safety.[drop2]You’re lead through a castle courtyard and around some tumbledown steps while learning that lighting and resting at bonfires replenishes your health and picking up more useful weapons and a shield.
After a few more tutorial tips, which seem to be scrawled on the floor in blood, you find yourself back in the room with the Asylum Demon. This is where my first death happened. And my second. By the third time I approached it, I was smart enough to backtrack to the last bonfire and replenish my health. Unfortunately, bonfires also revive enemies so I had to fight through the skeletal enemies again on my way to the Asylum Demon. That’s when I experienced my third death. At least I managed to get the Demon’s health down to around a third before I died this time.
At the time of writing, I’m heading back to the Asylum Demon with a full compliment or nourishing Estus Flasks and a full health bar. There are a couple of minor enemies to dispatch on the way so I’m hoping to get past them with a minimum of fuss and then I intend trying to get behind the beast to hit it while staying out of reach of his massive club.
Wish me luck.