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December 28th, 2012, 11:44

Enough about the difficulty.

You people who think the challenge is the game, that the difficulty is what makes Dark Souls good, you don't give the game enough credit.

I like the game despite its difficulty. So, what's so good about it? What made me play it well over 100 hours (138 hours to be exact - just checked) even though I hated dying and having to repeat the same fights over and over?

Well, for one thing, the combat is very satisfying. Which is a good thing, because there is so much of it. It's often wonderfully slow, deliberate and heavy. You really feel the weight of the weapons. I spent a lot of time wielding larege, unwieldy weapons that my character didn't have enough strength to use effectively. That's no way to play if you just want to beat the game, I know. But that's how I often play games - inventing my own difficulty, rather than having the game dictate it.

Those of you who enjoy the difficulty seem to assume that a sucky gamer like me would prefer simpler "klick on a monster to attack it" gameplay, but that's not the case at all. I love the combat as is. I want to be involved in every swing, I just wish my character could take a few more hits before dying.

But foremost I love tha atmosphere. And to me, atmosphere is everything. (As everything in a game contributes to the atmosphere.) It's so heavy and mysterious. I love the look of the combat too, which is just as important as the combat mechanics. The design is wonderfully restrained, without the ridiculously flashy fireworks and visual effects plaguing most other games.

I'm an explorer kind of gamer. I like to enter a mysterious world, interact with it and discover things about it. There are rather few NPCs in Dark Souls, but they are wonderfully designed. The Crestfallen Warrior is my favourite. He reminds me of Xan, the depressed mage in Baldur's Gate. There is something very sad and poetic about these characters. A bit like Planescape Torment, really. There should be more characters like these in games.

The world of Dark Souls is not very large, but it's well designed. And I like how clues and information is sparse and scattered, making you guess and wonder. Not unlike the worlds of Myst and Riven.

My favourite part of the game is the painted world of Aramis. It was a real joy to discover it, hidden away in a magical painting as it is. That's the kind of thing that makes exploring worth while. The place is forlorn, snowridden and beautiful. This also happened to be the section of the game where my skill best matched the difficulty, so I didn't have to spend more time there than I actually wanted to.

All of the game is not that well designed. I pretty much hated the outdoors of Anor Londo, for instance. You have to traverse large, rather empty distances each time you die, which you do very often on those roofs. And the architecture makes no sense.

But on the whole, Dark Souls is poetry. And I agree that the cahallenge is part of the poetry too. It really is. My point is that the challenge should be suited to the player's ability, in order not to destroy the poetry. Because if you feel that the game is too difficult, then it is too difficult for you.
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