While “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” won my Game of the Year in 2011, there was another role-playing game I passed up that year for simply being too difficult. A game that was so unforgiving and tense, it has been dubbed one of the most difficult games of this console cycle. That game is “Dark Souls” developed by From Software and published by Namco Bandai.
I patiently waited for the price to decrease. I didn’t want to spend the full $60 on a game and stop playing, because I wouldn’t have been able to complete it. So I studied it and learned from the failures of others as I watched several different walkthroughs on YouTube. The preparation I did before playing “Dark Souls” was staggering and had not done for any other game before it. The game enticed me not with its difficulty, but with its unique dark fantasy art design and deep, rich hidden story. As a screenwriter in training, “Dark Souls” shows the player, rather than telling in cut scenes, a deep world that is ripe for exploration and discovery.
Then came the day where I owned “Dark Souls,” and it was unlike any other game I have ever played. Much like “XCOM: Enemy Unknown,” “Dark Souls” punishes foolish mistakes and hasty actions. One minute you’ll feel powerful slaying the weaker soldiers, and then you will come upon one of the many unique fights that “Dark Souls” has to offer. Even if I painted the most vivid picture of a dragon split in half with thousands of rows of teeth down the center or a half-woman/half spider that vomits lava, the image still wouldn’t register in your brain. “Seeing is believing” as the old adage goes.
And then it dawned on me that “Dark Souls” in its entirety was an epic metaphor of life and its hardships. “Dark Souls” does not explain to the player how to do anything outside of the basic controls. The game does not tell you how to use magic, use miracles, level up, parry enemy attacks and counter them. The game doesn’t even tell you where to go or how to start your journey. The journey comes at the expense of the player’s own failures and mistakes. “Dark Souls’” PC release came with the subtitle – “Prepare to Die.” And you will die, over and over and over. But there in lies the genius.
“Dark Souls” only punishes you for quitting the game. If you persist and continue to learn from each fiasco, then you are rewarded with more of the gorgeous world to explore or more of the rich lore to be unveiled. Thus if you quit life or choose the easy way out, you’re only undermining your own experience and the wondrous things that life has to offer. There will be difficult fights but only through persistence and tenacity do we see ourselves achieving more than just victory. We will see ourselves grow and learn from each mistake we make as the road twists and turns to the inevitable end.
“Dark Souls” teaches patience and steadiness and in this comes clarity. Clarity comes with failure after failure. And failure comes at the cost of thoughtlessness and rash actions because when you try to speed through life, you’re only doing a disservice to yourself.
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