Posted on February 3, 2018
Nothing warms my soul quite like Dark Souls:
Every time I decide to start another playthrough of Dark Souls I have to watch the opening cinematic. The imagery, music, and voice over that are used fit together in such a way that gives the player a clear understanding of the world they are about to experience. It is also the only portion of continuous narrative information that the player will not have to seek out and piece together themselves throughout the entire game. All other bits of world-building narrative information will have to be obtained from conversations held with non-player characters (NPCs) and reading item descriptions.
While there is a general sequence of events that would be ideal to follow, the game does not tell the player what that sequence is. Neither does it limit the player to one specific order to follow. Dark Souls takes full advantage of spatial storytelling as discussed in the Jenkins article because it relies almost entirely on the player’s motivation to explore and persevere in the face of extreme adversity. If the player does not interact with every room, check for false walls in different areas, or talk to NPCs they come across they are potentially missing out on important items or bonfires that give them a chance to level up.
When other games are branded as being difficult they will without a doubt be compared to Dark Souls. While there is some validity to the comparisons – the learning curve in Dark Souls is a lot steeper than most, and there aren’t many games that punish you for attacking an enemy one too many times – I feel like most individuals will misunderstand the developer’s intentions. Dark Souls is not difficult simply for the sake of being difficult.
In the world that Dark Souls creates there are certain individuals who have the Undead Curse (as the name implies, if they die they are simply reanimated) and are marked with the Darksign.
Unfortunately for the Undead, they slowly begin to lose their sanity as time goes on and they can eventually become Hollow (complete loss of purpose and sanity). To most Undead, it is the worst imaginable fate to have and they actively try to avoid going Hollow. The game is intentionally difficult to see if the player truly is the “Chosen Undead”. If it is too difficult and the player gives up, we can consider them to have “gone hollow” and unfit to fulfill the prophecy.