Dark Souls – Looking back
In anticipation of Dark Souls 3 coming out in a few days I have decided to look back at seven times that the first Dark Souls game blew me away. So without dicking about and in no particular order, lets get right into it.
Quick note: Spoilers (obviously).
7: Anor Londo
You have fought your way through grime in Blighttown, your body racked with poison. You cut down hordes of undead in the burg. You struggled through Sens Fortress, dodging the traps and monsters within. You slew the Iron Golem and left his corpse for the birds. It’s been a dark, harrowing journey so far. Then, after so much time, a cutscene. Flying demons descend and latch onto you, pulling you higher and higher. The great wall of Anor Londo lies ahead and you slowly climb above and suddenly, sunlight. A great light washes over you and you feel the dirt and weariness wash away. Before you, Anor Londo. City of the Gods. From decay to beauty.
Gorgeous view ahead
This moment changed the game for me. I felt revitalized, determined again. I knew I was making progress. I had clawed my way through the darkness and made it to the city of light. A new place to explore, a city seemingly untouched by the darkness. It wasn’t until later I realised it was all a lie…
6: Following Solaire’s Story
Solaire. Warrior of the Sun. When we first meet him, he bolsters our confidence and offers assistance in the coming fight. He stands by your side through some of the toughest monsters you will encounter. You stumble upon him on your path, his cheery attitude in the face of adversity the only light in your world. As your journey progress’s you discover that he is a man who gave everything he had to find something. All he wants is to find is his ‘Sun’.
What a bro.
But it’s all in vain. Towards the end of the game, you notice his change. He becomes lost, confused. Why can’t he find his sun? In a horrifying turn of events, Solaire loses his mind. A small demon with a glowing light takes him. Contorts his mind. Breaks him. When you next meet, he is all but gone. Claiming to have found his sun, he draws his weapon. You have no choice but to cut him down. His last words are of the darkness setting in. When I first put him down, it was by a riposte. As he sunk to his knee’s it nearly broke me. Praise the Sun, Solaire.
5: Ornstein and Smough
They were always going to make the list. The first time you face these warriors is the first time Dark Souls lets you know it isn’t playing around. You pass through the fog and Smough stands before you, his mighty hammer bigger then man. From above comes Ornstein, clad in gold armour. A swift leap and he lands beside the giant Smough, his spear crackling with the lightning imbued within. Then, suddenly, the battle begins. Ornstein rushes in, his spear whistling past you as you scramble away from it, taken aback by his speed. You turn, trying to keep him in view when suddenly, WHUMPF. A hammer fills the screen where you previously stood. You died.
And so it begins…
Douche and Bag
For many, this is where the game ends. Where they go ‘hollow’. Give up. But for many more, it’s where they found their mettle tested and they responded, gritting their teeth and heading into the fight again and again. This is where the game changed me. I kept at it, driving myself back to the battle. In all honesty I had stumbled my way through the game to this point, getting through by sheer stubbornness. I thought it hopeless until… it clicked. Something changed and suddenly I found myself dodging attacks without looking, moving between their attacks with grace and fury. My sword found its mark, the blade cut deep. In a furious blow, Ornstein fell. In response, Smough absorbs his ally, taking his lightning and setting his sights on my frail, battered body. I can feel his hate, his want to destroy me. Not today. Today, I will not fall. Today is the day I fight legends and win. For all his efforts, Smough finally falls. It was at this point I saw Dark Souls flinch. I had toppled their champions, alone. I had become something to be feared.
And I was only getting stronger…
4: Firelink Shrine
Home. A small word that can mean so much. Warmth, safety, comfort. At first, the Shrine is just another place you find yourself at. Soon though, it becomes a safe haven. A place to rest, calm your nerves before heading out into the unknown to face who knows what. When you make it back and that music starts you immediately feel OK. You can relax, level up and upgrade. Take stock of where you are and where you are going. As you progress you find other adventurers, other souls that find refuge here. It becomes a little community. Where they share their stories and their knowledge with you. It’s also where tragedy can strike. If certain people go there and you don’t know, the fire will go out. Suddenly the haven is broken. You can’t rest, you can’t level. Frantically you search to restore the flame here. You hunt down the man who took the soul feeding the flame and you put him down, firmly believing you are righting a wrong. His reasons for doing so don’t matter, he has attacked your home and all men should fight to protect their home.
Credit to DRAGONizm on Pixiv
3: The Feeling of Accomplishment
This is kind of hard to put into words. It’s even harder to explain to people who haven’t played Dark Souls. It’s something you experience as you fight your way through the game. And I really mean fight. You don’t play Dark Souls, you battle it. It will fight you tooth and claw but it can be beaten. That’s where this number comes in. After fighting a boss for so long, after dying again and again, dying and letting hope fade, you do it. The enemy falls before you and you get that message.
And this feeling of achievement washes over you, all tension flooding out of your body as you savour your victory. You did it. You know that there is only more to come and it will only get harder but for now, in this moment, you don’t care. Because you won.
2: The DLC
Like, all of it. It stepped it up a gear right from the start. Enemies were faster, more aggressive, more cunning. They grouped up, always seemed to have one extra attack to their combo than you were ready for and really made you rethink your strategy. Then came the bosses. Easily my favourite bunch of bastards to take on. Kalameet, a dragon so tough you have to ask an NPC to shoot him down before you can stand a chance against him.
Artorias, the Abysswalker. He was going to get a part all to himself when I first sat down to write this. I love his story, his strength, his honour. The fact that he gave everything to try and stop the abyss spreading. Then you have to end him. Fighting him is incredible, even though he’s not at full strength he really gives you his all. He’s faster and more aggressive than anything you have come across before. His death scream is awesome. He’s awesome.
He’s a dog person
Then, after you have trudged through the abyss itself, you face Manus. With attacks that leave you literally nowhere to go and the reach to hit you from anywhere, he sent me back to the bonfire countless times before I learnt his move set. If you find the secret wall beforehand you can even summon Sif to fight beside you, fulfilling lots of peoples dreams. The DLC really added to an already great game and really showed how it should be done. Bravo.
The Lord Souls are yours. Nothing else stands in your way. The final doors open and you stride through, brushing shoulders with the ghosts of the past. Before you is the Kiln. Burnt beyond recognition, your steps kicking up ash as you finally make the approach to the end. Everything you have done has led to this point. You know who waits, you know what must be done. Hours before, Black Knights would make you hesitate. Now they only make your eyes narrow. They, the last guard, attempt to stop you but are brushed aside. You are beyond them. You cross the narrow bridge, sending a knight tumbling into the unknown and descend the final stairs to your destiny. You are the Chosen Undead and you will face him. The Lord of Cinder. The last hurdle. The final push. You hesitate at the fog gate, gearing yourself up. What remains of the man on the other side? Enough wondering, its time to find out. You walk through the final fog.
And… music. Soft, sad. This isn’t what you expected.
A hunched figure stands up and turns. Then the truth comes. The true power of this being has faded in time. Before you is an old man, tired, driven to the point of exhaustion. He has given so much to the fire that all that he has left is a flicker of his former self. He has acknowledged your presence, knew you would come. Knew that this was always the way it would end. But he is the Lord of Cinder and there is still strength in those bones. His great sword bursts into flame and, with all that he has, he comes at you. His speed is alarming. If this is him at his weakest you worry what he would have been like in his prime. He will make sure you are worthy. Every clash of steel, every thud of a hit being scored rings through you. The battle is swift and the end comes quickly. The Lord of Cinder, Gwyn, is no more. Now, silence. You look across the battleground and see it. The final bonfire. On the other side, the fog gate. There is nothing else to do but decide on how it all ends…
Dark Souls changed video games for me. It came at a time of gaming where things were getting a little… samey. Maps that showed you exactly where to go because god forbid you want to explore the world given to you. Game’s that made things easy in case you got stuck and stopped playing. It gave us a game that didn’t spoon feed us a story, it didn’t hold our hand. It gave us a world and said ‘Go forth’.
And… in just a few days… we will go forth. For what is possibly the final time.
I had a lot of fun writing this. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Want to weigh in on your top moments? Let me know either here or on twitter @zer0humanity86