Interlude; Dark Souls 2

As promised, the Backlog Killer blog has been on blackout for a while because of Dark Souls 2, which I picked up for PS3 on release day. Being a married guy who has to share the television, I haven’t been able to play as much as I want and have not even finished the game yet. That’s OK, though. I just wanted to stop in and say a few words about Dark Souls 2, what I like about it, and a few recommendations for you.

Dark Souls 2?

Dark Souls 2 is a direct sequel to 2011’s Dark Souls which is an indirect sequel to 2009’s Demon’sSouls. The Souls series of games are action RPGs in which you play one character who must kill enemies to collect souls which are in turn used to make yourself stronger by leveling up your statistics and improving your equipment. The one wrinkle is that the game does not allow active saving which gives it a roguelike feeling. Instead, upon death, the player is transported back to the last checkpoint with all enemies being resurrected and all gathered souls being lost. The player does have one chance to make it back to where he or she died to collect the lost souls, but another death results in a total loss.

This brutal punishment requires careful play, mastery of controls, and a deep knowledge of geography and enemy placement to succeed. Not only is traversing the world difficult, but most areas are capped with an insanely hard boss fight which allows progress to the next area.

[Yahtzee didn't care for Demon's Souls to much at the time...]

My Souls History

I love the Souls games. After buying and completing Demon’s Souls the first time, I was hooked. The series harkens back to a time when games did not hold player’s hands and were very difficult requiring an advancement of skills to progress rather than simply making the player feel empowered by giving them a boost. The game is out to wreck you and it will, until you get revenge. The game has a malevolent feeling where the player is an actual enemy to its existence. Unlike games that want the player to feel powerful, the Souls games want the player to die. Many give up, but those who are willing to keep working will succeed and feel more successful than most other games on the market these days.

It almost reminds me of Nethack, which is not so much a malevolent game, but an aloof one. The game doesn’t care whether the player lives or dies. It just IS and will not make any concessions or acts of spiteful aggression against the player. Demon’s/Dark Souls (2) will take some measures against the player, but none that an even moderately skilled person would call unfair.

[Me completing Nethack for the first time.]

I also enjoy Souls’s attitude toward cooperative play which moves away from the always connected voice chat bluster of most modern games and takes a more contemplative stance. The game is, in itself, a single player game in that there is no ‘Multiplayer’ option on the title screen. However, players may enter into the multiplayer experience by either laying down or using “summoning signs” that invite other players into your world to help with any difficult situations or bosses that may be encountered. Do not relax, though, as spiteful players may also invade your world in certain cases after which you must defend your hoard of souls lest they be lost after death and you sent back to the last checkpoint. Also, voice interaction between players is strictly not allowed, as in not supported (until Dark Souls 2 which requires you to have an item to turn it on). I love this because it not only keeps twelve year olds from calling me questionable names, but also backs up the game lore in which spirits can pass between dimensions within the game world. All interaction is performed through gestures such as pointing, waving, and cheering.

I also love the tone and stories of the games which are both bleak and unique, but I do not want to spoil anything for other players. I whole heartedly recommend the game to just about anyone who enjoys some action in their RPGs and is looking for a challenge. I have completed Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls several times and am about 25 hours into Dark Souls 2. I’m not sure how much time is left, but I estimate I’m about halfway to two-thirds of the way through and am already planning on my next character build, but I will not be playing as non-stop as I am now.

[Dark Souls 2 launch trailer.]

Thank you for your patience.

I thank you for your patients before I start S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat, but it’s just a very exciting time for me. I rarely get excited about any modern games and it is nice to feel that way once in a while. Have you played Dark Souls 2 yet? Any tips for builds or good stories? Let me know, I love talking about it.

For any Dark Souls fans out there, I would also like to recommend the Bonfireside Chat podcast hosted by friends of the blog Gary Butterfield and Kole Ross. The two host a biweekly podcast in which they discuss each of the Souls games, area by area, in great detail. They have just begun their Dark Souls 2 season which you can listen along to, of you can go back and listen to the entire catalogue of the original Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls, as well as some other media that influenced the game.

Thank you again and see you soon.

--Backlog Killer