Category Archives: Dark Souls

Manage Your Anger

Chuck has three apples. If Chuck needs half a cheese wheel to defeat the Nameless King, then where did Jesus hide the prune juice? All these are very valid questions pertaining  to Dark Souls but more importantly, they represent resources that a player can manage to ensure the greatest reward. Although, in Dark Souls, the best outcome is probably just survival and to escape from the endless humiliation of the “You Died” screen.


In Dark Souls, the player is given three resources to manage during combat, it consists of health, stamina, and mana. While both health and mana are both depletable the stamina bar recharges with time, but when the stamina bar does deplete the player goes into a pathetic limping state of  being that couldn’t dodge the broadside of a moving tortoise. Dark Souls balances ease of combat with punishable restrictions that discourage reckless spamming of the attack button. As I posted in my last piece, Dark souls series are all about timing and smart decisions. Screw up and pay the price. However, it doesn’t mean the game doesn’t give the player the necessary tool to finish the job at hand. Health is depletable but items to restore health is abundant. They balance this mechanic by making the items also depletable until the player reaches a checkpoint, enemies hit hard, and the player starts the game with very limited health recovery items. This teaches the player the necessary skills to survive but forcing them to be cautious and gaining the tools to avoid, or diminish, the damage taken. FromSoftware goes even a step further because the health recovery items can be recharged the game doesn’t want to reduce the challenge so all the enemies you’ve slain are revived with the exceptions of bosses.

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Blue Flask restores mana. Orange Flask restores health.

Balancing the tools given to the player and the gameplay makes Dark Souls a true experience that not only challenges but stay fair in its mechanics. Furthermore, the game realizes if the whole game consists of swinging your weapon of choice, it would be both boring and a waste of their fantasy genre tag. Therefore, with the addition of the mana bar, the game can introduce a whole other set of tools for the player to incorporate into their own personal playstyles. Once again, FromSoftware balances the player’s actions by limiting their usage of special abilities in a certain amount of time frame before they require a mana recovery item. Like the health items, though, the mana recovery item is also rechargeable. Mana restricts melee orientated players on using their weapon’s special ability and creates an opening for enemies from the relentless assault of the magic orientated players.

Dark Souls has a system in place that required the players to manage their resources wisely or face the heavily punishing consequences. Of course, managing the increasing levels of frustration from losing over and over again can be considered a game mechanic, but it is more likely the player just needs to stop and take a break. Go smoke a cigarette or something. You’ve been cursing for hours now and I think your neighbors are calling the cops because of their pretty sure that you’re beating your wife and you know how the last time a police officer showed up at your doors when you beat Dark Souls 1. Anyways, see you all next post.

Signing off,

John

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By the Skin of Your Rotten Teeth

Chances are high that before the invention of toothbrushes the mass majority of the human population had teeth like swiss cheese and breath like moldy cheese. I can not even begin the imagine rancid hell that is the breath of every boss monster that resides in the dungeons that have been around since the dawn of time. Now imagine dying then reviving from your grave countless times but each time you lose a little more of your humanity/sanity, and your teeth comes just a little bit more rotten. God, the Dark Souls’ universe must just smell like the worst parts of the collective butt sweats of every living being in the entire universe combined. But I digress.

Perfect timing. It is a measure of how long a player should wait before executing the right movements/actions to gain the best outcome for a dire situation. When your mother screams at you for not cleaning your room, the perfect timing would be to wait until your father comes home so that your mother’s mood alleviates before you start mouthing off. Chances are lower that your mother would lay the smack down on you for speaking out with your father around. Dark Souls is similar in that sense but with fewer uncountable variables that might change the situation. When a boss does a move set then a player, after experiencing it, should understand where it will move, swing, or grab next. These actions are premade therefore should not deviate from their original patterns. Grab. Dodge. Swing. Parry. Move. Attack. Simple, right?


The secret behind a well-crafted challenge in a game oriented around close encounter combat, like Dark Souls, is timing or more accurately the amount of room for error that is allowed for each player’s actions. Dark Souls takes these concepts to the max. Every action requires a nearly perfect reaction. Otherwise, the player would soon find themselves face first in the dirt. While the boss made cream cheese out of the player’s health bar. Creating these perfect scenarios requires the game to have hitboxes, areas where the game acknowledges the entity has been struck or not, where executing the perfect action grants the perfect reaction. These might leave little to no room for player error but Dark Souls is a game that wants its player base to learn. To breakthrough from their current skill level. Some interpret this as heartless or difficulty for the sake of hardship, but true satisfaction only peaks its glorious face from overcoming trials once thought impossible.


Timing is everything in Dark Souls. Unforgiving but fair. (Sometimes the game screws up but that is simply another story to tell your friends about) No other game does this better than Dark Souls. It dares to push the boundaries of how much a player seeks overwhelming challenges for a taste of that rush reserved solely for heroin addicts. Excuse me, I will not go attempt to experience the cheap thrills of Dark Souls once again.

Signing off,

John

Nameless, Pantless, Soulless


From the clue given last week, it should be no surprise at this point that my primary game for the following weeks will be about Dark Souls, the pinnacle of balancing difficulty with gameplay, and the dissection of where the game does right or wrong.

If you had the courtesy to watch the video linked about, it might have dawned on you that it does not represent Dark Souls the game at all. It barely resembles it. So, then what is Dark Souls?

In a nutshell, Dark Souls is the journey of a chosen individual call upon to slay powerful god-like entities for their delicious, delicious souls. Developed by the sadistic studio, FromSoftware, the game features a multitude of weapons ranging from kitchen knives to huge broadswords the size of Dwayne the Rock Johnson himself.  Each weapon type has its own stance, move sets, and secondary ability that help define the weapons’ individuality. If this blog wasn’t dedicated to the discussion of game mechanics, I could literally write about the Dark Soul’s lore for hours on end. However, this doesn’t mean the game itself does not offer a massive amount of perspective on how a good challenge can birth a whole new genre of games all by itself.

I will not digress any longer in this post so I can save the majority of the content in the next post. Before I stop, I do want to clarify that the singleplayer and multiplayer aspect of Dark Souls will be exclusive to their respective areas, so the problems I find in balance in Singleplayer does not necessarily transfer over to the multiplayer.

Signing off,

John