I have always been intrigued by the Dark Souls series from FromSoftware. When the first game was originally released in 2011, I had heard of it but, paid it no mind. A challenge like this didn’t seem like something I could handle or even enjoy.
Fast forward to March of 2014, I was at my local Gamestop for a midnight game release. I was finally picking up my own Xbox one, with Titanfall. Launching the same day was the sequel to dark souls. They set up a demo of Dark Souls 2 while we waited for the clock to hit midnight. A young boy who was there with his mother, stepped up to the TV and started to play the game.
As I watched the kid play he was dodging and slaying some pretty impressive and large enemies. I quizzed him on aspects of the game; what the bars meant, how the controls worked and so on. He then goes on to tell me that even if you hit your weapon on wall or something not an enemy, you can damage it. That seemed crazy to me at the time. I still wasn’t sold on this game series.
The Undead starts his journey
Later that year in June, Xbox released the original dark souls as one of their free Games for Gold. So naturally I downloaded it and finally decided it was time to give this game a try. Especially if it was for free. Like all Undead, I died and fought my way out of the starting area in the Undead Asylum. Upon arriving at the main hub area of the game, that is where things went wrong.
I looted the hidden chests and shiny items. I talked to all the NPCs. That lead me to the graveyard of skeletons. My sword did little damage and I was quickly killed. After my respawn, I went back, and died. Again, again and again. So after beating my head against the wall on these enemies, I got the hint and decided to try another path.
I headed down the elevator to the New Londo Ruins into the dark. I soon ran into a whole bunch of ghosts that I couldn’t even damage. Dead yet again. A few more attempts and I was feeling defeated again. I threw down the controller in disgust and stopped playing for the night.
The next day at work, I was talking to a coworker about my struggles with how sharp the difficulty jumped from the starting area to the next step. He said “Seriously dude, why didn’t you go UP to the Undead Burg? There was a huge staircase on the side of the mountain.”
I was dumbstruck, had I really missed something so easy? Later I got home from work and reluctantly started playing Dark Souls again. Surely enough, there it was. The damned stairs upwards to the Undead Burg. If I would have listened to the Crestfallen Knight, who told me to go up to ring the bell. If i would’ve looked upward to see the looming city and giant church above Firelink Shrine.
I climbed the stairs shamefully. The enemies were light years easier. From then on I knew I was taking the true critical path forward.
I took that as a humbling lesson. I had let games get too complacent in holding my hand when it came to objectives. Maps and objective markers had robbed me of the thrill of exploration and the need to listen to directions given from NPCs. From that moment on I would take the time and learn from what information is given to me. To this day I still struggle but I know that if I hit a wall to backtrack for details.
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