Ah, it's been a long time coming, hasn't it? I almost don't even know where to begin. How could I? I'm finally about to review the one game that's been haunting me for the past two years. If you've read the introduction to my big impressions thread, which I had to lock prematurely, you know that I have a rocky history with this game and
Playing Dark Souls
in 2016 is a minefield. The fact is, so many players have already beaten Dark Souls
and made it their bitch five years ago. As a result, being so late to the party comes with its issues. No one seems to remember their first time playing, where they kept losing and losing. They forget that the only reason they're so skilled now
is because they went through so much shit in the past, and they got better. Unfortunately, this breeds a toxic, elitist mentality, where some players will mock and deride newcomers for not being as good as they are on their first playthrough
, and god forbid
you ever say anything negative about the game, or even suggest
that the game might be flawed in some way.
Really, that's the root of my dislike for the Dark Souls
community. I find it toxic in so many ways, but that right there is what always got my goat the most, and because of that, I let the community taint my perception of the game itself.
I had never actually gave it an honest try before.
Lately, I've been playing a lot of games that I've never bothered playing in my childhood. As anyone could tell you, I'm a hard contrarian--anything that's popular, I tend to shy away from it at best, or actively stand against it at worst. My general philosophy is this: People don't have very good taste in general, so why should I waste my time with games that the majority
Fortunately, this philosophy has changed a bit. Last year, I played through three AAA first-person shooter games that I had previously shunned: Half-Life 2
(which I ended up loving), Halo: CE
(which I didn't like so much), and Fallout 3
(which I enjoyed thoroughly). The responses to these playthroughs and subsequent reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and I'm happy that I have something of an audience of people who are willing to read what I have to say about video games. It's kinda cool.
Oops, I'm rambling a bit. Basically, after I played three big FPS games, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to work with something from a different genre entirely, and Dark Souls
fit the bill perfectly. Not only would I get to try out something "different;" I would finally be able to receive a bit of closure from the game, as well as the community. Essentially, this is part review, part reconciliation.
Of course, I should begin with an overview. Dark Souls
is a game that has become something of a juggernaut--especially
on the Internet. You know a game is big on the Internet if it has a slew of ebin memes to its name. Apart from that, however, the game is known for its high degree of challenge. Some people have described it as "the hardest game ever." A dubious claim, to be truthful. Having completed the game myself, I can't say that I found the game terribly "difficult,"
per se. The game is cold and unforgiving, sure, but the interesting thing about it--and this is what makes the game so addicting for a lot of people--is that the challenge comes not from any level of unfairness with the game itself, but purely from the player's own incompetence.
Let me explain: You have options at your disposal, and you have to make the most of them. The way the game is designed, there's no way to lose, unless you make a mistake.
Once you get the patterns down, making your way through the game is trivial--and if you fail, it's entirely on you. The oft-repeated mantra, "Get good," comes heavily into play here. Admittedly, it may take much more time than some would be willing to expend in order to "get good," and that's understandable--but the simple fact is, the game is tough, but fair.
So, having said that, let's dive into the more intricate details of the game itself.
1. The Premise
Actually, let's go into this game's production a little bit, shall we?
Though Dark Souls
has been freely available on Windows for as long as I can remember, there still remains this common misconception among players that the game was created by Microsoft in 1990. Indeed, while it's true that the Dark Souls
we all know and love was popularized
by the Windows version that we're all familiar with, the game itself actually dates back to the 1960s—That's right, it sat among the very earliest of computerized video games, like Spacewar!
No one individual (as far as I've been able to gather) has been identified as the original designer of Dark Souls
, but the game actually predates Microsoft itself. Wrap your head around that.
eventually adopted by Microsoft, of course, some time in the late '80s. It was released in 1990, as part of what was called the Microsoft Entertainment Pack
—a collection of simple card games like Cruel
, and even a watered-down version of Tetris
, among other things. Dark Souls
remains the most popular of these games--the only one (except Tetris
, perhaps) that has had any sort of legacy.
The premise of the game is simple: Clear the grid without tripping any of its hidden mines.
On the surface, it may seem
threadbare, and almost too simple, but as many Dark Souls
fans will tell you, the lore of this game is absolutely rich. Every facet of the game is explained, and everything ties together nice and fluidly. Discovering this lore for yourself is part of the magic.2. The Gameplay
Okay, this is where it gets really
You might be asking, "How are you supposed to know which tiles have mines in them?" If you're asking this question, you were likely just like me. When I was a kid, I tried Dark Souls
out on my computer a couple times, but I didn't quite get it. I had no idea what the numbers meant, and I just kept dying, over and over again. Never did it occur to me to simply teach myself what the numbers meant until just recently, and after I learned about how simple of a mechanic it really was, I instantly
It's easy: When you first open the grid, you can click on any one of the tiles. A randomized portion of the grid surrounding the area that you clicked will open up, and reveal a series of seemingly random numbers. The numbers are NOT random, however--far from it. The purpose of the numbers is to give you a hint of where the hidden mines are located.
For example: Once you click the grid, you notice that there is a red "3," with exactly three remaining blue tiles adjacent to it. The "3" indicates that all three of those tiles contain a hidden mine.
What do you do from there, you ask? Well, the object of the game is to avoid clicking on these mines. On any given grid, there is a finite number of mines, so once you have identified the location of every mine on the grid, you win the game. Fortunately, the designers gave us a method to mark each tile that contains a mine. By right-clicking any tile, you can place a flag there. This will help you keep track of all the mines you've identified in your journey. Once a tile is flagged, you won't be able to reveal what's under it, unless you remove the flag. This is a measure to prevent you from accidentally tripping on a mine that you just found.
If you right-click a tile twice, you'll replace the flag with a question mark. This can help with deductive reasoning, which I'll go into later.
Not all numbers will correspond to the number of remaining tiles left adjacent to it. Most of the time, in fact, you'll come across tiles that are marked with a "1" or a "2," but they have three or four blue tiles adjacent to them. So, how are you supposed know which tiles to look under?
This is where deductive reasoning comes in. You have to use your brain a little bit. The question mark you can place by double right-clicking can aide you, but generally speaking, you won't need it a whole lot. The trick is to find spots that obviously
contain mines--like a "1" where there's only one adjacent tile left--and try to see how that flagged mine interacts with the tiles surrounding it. If the mine you just flagged is interconnected with another tile of the same number, you can rest assured that clicking the tiles around it will be safe.
Here, we have an interesting situation. The "1" tile directly under the "3" tile indicates rather pointedly that there is a mine on its top-left adjacency, so it is flagged. This means that the remaining three tiles for the "3" tile must contain at least two more mines, but we don't know which ones.
Through deductive reasoning, however, we can try to work it out. Take a look at the "1" tile directly to the right of the "3." There are only two blue tiles, and no mines have been revealed in that tile's area yet, so that must mean that one
of those two tiles must contain just one mine.
Therefore, we can deduce that the top-left adjacency from the "3" tile contains a mine.
Why, you ask? Well, like we just established--the "1" to the east of "3" only has one mine surrounding it, so that MUST mean that two of the other mines are located west of the "3." If it were in any other spot, it would not make mathematical sense. The numbers do not lie.
This is what I mean when I say Dark Souls
is tough, but fair. The game is only as difficult as the player makes it out to be. If you're not a fan of spacial reasoning, or math, Dark Souls
may not be the game for you. Personally, I find the thrill of the challenge very gratifying. There's nothing like working out a tight snag when you thought you were completely doomed to fail. It makes you feel clever, if only for a moment.
There's also a high degree of tension involved. When you're in the middle of a good grid, the LAST thing you want to hear is that little explosion of a mine, and when it happens, you'll have a damn-near heart attack. Honestly, this game has made me sweat before. There's just something about it that makes every click in the late-game a nail-biter. You could fuck up at any time--maybe you flagged the wrong tile, or maybe you misread the number. It's a fucking trip.
The game isn't perfect
, however. Occasionally, you'll find yourself in 50/50 situations, where there are two tiles left, and only one of them contains a mine, and there's no way to logically deduct where it will be. Sometimes that happens, and you just have to grin and bear it. Fortunately, it happens less on the higher difficulty settings.
Sometimes, beating the game is enough to satisfy anyone, but you also have the option of beating the game as fast as possible. There is a timer on the lower left. It doesn't do anything but keep track of how long it's taking you to work out a solution--giving you a bit of incentive to beat your personal best time.3. The Options
The game has three difficulty settings: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Beginner is a very small grid with a very low number of mines, and advanced is what I'd call the standard game: A 16 x 30 grid with 99 mines.
Honestly, if you're not playing on this setting, you're a filthy casual and you should go home.
If the standard isn't challenging enough for you, Dark Souls
does give you the option of making a custom grid. You can stretch the grid anywhere, from the itty-bitty 9 x 9, to the colossal 24 x 30. You can even change the number of mines you have to dodge (the maximum being 668).
FUCK. I was SO close.
The amount freedom this game gives you is insane. There's even an option to change the mines into pretty flowers that play soft music when you trip them instead of violently exploding.
You know, if you're... a pussy like that.
4. OverallDark Souls
Truly, there's something here for everybody.
is one of the most addicting, clever, and satisfying games I've ever played. I'm so glad that I actually sat down and mastered it. Before, I was committing such a disservice to myself by not even giving it a fair shot, but with determination, vigor, and support from you guys, I finally managed to not only conquer it, but thoroughly enjoy it as well.
I'd recommend this game to anybody.
Play Dark Souls
Best game evur.