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Dark and difficult

Published: 05th September 2012 12:52 PM  |   Last Updated: 05th September 2012 12:52 PM   |  A+A-

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I usually think online petitions are a waste of time. Just adding your name to a pile of digital signatures comes off feeling lazy. What kind of a protest is that? Where are the picket signs and the Molotov cocktails?

The Dark Souls saga, however, might give me pause to reconsider. The scoop is that when tales of the game’s brutal difficulty came all the way from console country to the grim, frostbitten lands of PC gaming, the denizens got restless and decided that this was the kind of title they wanted in their realms, and promptly collected signatures for a petition to bring the game to Windows.

For once, a movement of this nature actually gained some traction, and From Software ultimately agreed to the demands. They stated right away that they weren’t experienced at porting to PC, and while they planned to throw in some additional content, they weren’t going to bother optimising it to take advantage of more powerful hardware. Most gamers were willing to let that slide, though quite a few took exception to the game’s usage of the ridiculous Games For Windows Live protocol. GFWL, if you’re not yet aware, is a ‘service’ that valiantly tries to protect a game from being played by a user right after it’s installed. I haven’t seen anything else that it actually does. Apparently, the framework is similar to the Xbox Live service, which is what the developers used to code the multiplayer for the game on the Xbox, so using GFWL was said to be a time-saving measure. Sigh.

Anyway, let’s get to the actual game. The aptly named Dark Souls: Prepare to Die edition has hit the PC, so what kind of experience does it offer?

Well, as you can tell by the name, it’s not for the weak of heart — this is a game that batters you from the get-go, a game where you could easily die even in the tutorial, a game where the weakest enemy could end up killing you if you’re not careful, a game that forces you to master your strengths and search for your enemies’ weaknesses if you want to have any chance of progressing.

It’s not just the gameplay that is brutal — the entire ethos of the game has been fashioned around the idea of driving home the player character’s mortality. Usually in games, death is, at most, a minor irritant, and just requires you to tap a key to reload the last save and continue. Dark Souls doesn’t play it that soft — there’s only one save game available, and it updates after every important player action or game event. Mess up in a particular area? Forget about trying to play it again for better results, you’re going to have to continue as you are.

That’s not all. The player earns souls from fallen enemies, which are used as currency for upgrading his character, but the upgrades can only be made while resting at bonfires around the game map. If you die while carrying souls, you drop all of them on the spot, and you have to navigate back to your corpse to collect them, else they’re lost forever. Also, while bonfires replenish your health, they also respawn most of the surrounding monsters at full health as well, which makes using the bonfire a tactical decision. Do you use the respawn system to farm for souls, or do you try press on and make it to the next bonfire?

Ultimately, Dark Souls is an experience like few other modern games, and despite the sadistic difficulty, the bare-bones port, and the frustrating inclusion of GFWL, it’s still a whetstone of choice for PC gamers to sharpen their skills.



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