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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Why Dark Souls? The Effect A Single Game Series Has Had on the Industry

As I await Dark Souls 3's launch with both anticipation and anger from the fact the game has been out for a whole two weeks in one part of the world for no sensible reason, I find myself doing whatever I can to pass the time. My greatest time sink so far has been, of course, video games. They're technically endless if you pick the right game, infinitely re-playable and different every single time due to the fact you now have an understanding of the game you didn't have before. When I started playing Stardew Valley, I had no idea you could actually marry people and didn't even touch the caves. That all changed when I made a new save file, picked the character I wanted to marry and started looking up on the official Wikia for extra tips.
My first experience with Dark Souls was not great. Coming from years of games telling me, "You're the best!" and handing me all of the best stuff spoiled me in just about every sense. Basically, Dark Souls was one of the most original games I had ever played. The story was pushed to the side in favor of the gameplay which was designed to make you feel as powerless as possible, a community either bent on crushing you simply because its fun or desperately trying to make sense of the plot with duplicitous characters that would make an 80's action movie blush. Jarring really doesn't give it enough credit. But I stuck through it and got to the next game, ultimately giving me a better appreciation for all games as a whole.
But what about the entire industry? How really does a single game affect the whole medium of games? Recently there have been quite a few Soul's like/inspired games either released or planned for future release. Hyper Light Drifter, Titan Souls, Salt and Sanctuary, and Necropolis just to name a few. Each game borrows a bit from Dark Souls in some fashion. Usually in difficulty, sometimes in story while others borrow various themes and elements that Dark Souls is known for. If I had to guess, I think that people are kind of disenfranchised by gaming all together in some ways. The market is over saturated with games we once thought were novel or just simply really cool. First person shooters weren't super common when I was growing up, but now you get about five every year. MOBAs were a pretty new concept when League of Legends first entered the scene, now I have to carefully scan every article about a game to make sure it isn't a MOBA and then be annoyed when I find out it is. Sorry, I just do not like the genre at all.  Dark Souls is different. In fact it might have even pioneered a new genre of tough but fair games with bleak worlds.
Alright, I may be stretching a bit here. Tough games were the norm back in the day. But they had to be. Memory limitations were a necessity. The games had to be tough so you would take time beating them. Remove the difficulty and you were left with about an hour, at best, for a game. Once we got more memory, difficulty could be a thing of the past. Sure you had the option for Easy to Hard modes in games, but that's not exactly the same.I think Dark Souls is the culmination of all of that. Past and present ideals merging to create a new breed of game but even better. From Soft is meticulous in making their games as intricate as possible. Each enemy is placed with care, every item drop has a story, every NPC and special enemy is in a place with a hidden purpose, story is hidden behind things you can pick up to the words people say and even the landscapes you traverse through. It would be like if that new gun you unlocked had it's own backstory or if the map you played on held some key role to the game as a whole. Where a game like Call of Duty may do it's best to hammer in it's B movie script to force a feeling in you Dark Souls has littered it's story everywhere and neither forces nor asks you to care about it. To you, Lucatiel must have just been a warrior wandering the land. Patches the Hyena is just a guy who really likes to laugh. Every Firekeeper is just a woman with a soft soothing voice. Every boss and enemy is simply an obstacle to be traversed... and you aren't wrong for thinking that. The game gives you the option to care or not care. Even the online component gives you some depth. That's not just some nameless NPC come to kill you. That's an actual person who's maliciously hunting you down simply for an item and money.

I could probably keep going on but I won't. Dark Souls is releasing on the 12th and I'd say you owe it to yourself to at least watch a few videos on YouTube. From Software has said that this will be the last Dark Souls game ever, which I feel is a shame. Might as well sit here and watch the pretty ashes with everyone else.

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