Ed. Note: I am going to assume the reader has a base knowledge of the Dark Souls series because I don’t want to repeat what I’ve said before about the games. I have written several posts about the series, some published, some not. You can search my archives if you’re interested in my previous posts. This is the third (and probably final) game in the trilogy*, and I want to get right to the heart of it. In addition, there will be spoilers. I can’t talk about the game without them. If you haven’t played the game yet and don’t want to be spoiled before you do (like me), then I’d suggest you skip this post–as much as it pains me to say it.
Dark Souls has ruined me for video games. There’s nothing I can play that lives up to it–the original, though I’m in the camp that believes the second game was a good, if not great, game as well. I’ve tried two Souls-like games**, Lords of the Fallen, known as clunky Souls, and DarkMaus, almost a clone rather than a homage, and both wear their Souls inspiration firmly on their sleeves. I tried; I really did. But as I played the wannabes, all I could think was, “I’d rather be playing Dark Souls.” In the end, that’s what I did–put away the other games and re-played Dark Souls and Dark Souls II. I have to confess that the first time I played the original game, I was sick of it by the time I beat it. The legendary Ornstein & Smough boss fight is less than halfway through the game, and it’s really the pinnacle of it. This is probably the fight that has claimed more Souls victims than any other place in the game. Every Souls fan can remember the first time she faced this duo, having beaten a shit-ton of obstacles just to have the privilege of this moment. I played the game well after its release, so I already knew about them, but that didn’t mitigate how awesome it was when I walked through the fog door and their intro cutscene played. “Oh, shit, son! This is the real deal now.” I don’t like to get tips before I meet a boss, so I had no idea how they fought–well, I quickly learned.
I died to these two between sixty and seventy times. No, that’s not a misprint–I died to them a lot. More to the point, for the first forty or fifty deaths, I didn’t feel as if I could beat them. By death sixty, I was mentally defeated. I had been battling these two for a solid week, and they had gotten the best of me every fucking time. I clearly remember the fateful moment when I decided I would give it one last shot and then I would quit the game for good. It was two in the morning, and I had died to them several times earlier in the day. I put on The Pina Colada Song on repeat to keep myself loose, and I walked through the fog door one last time. I did everything differently than I had up until that point, and I finally, finally beat Ornstein & Smough. The jubilation I felt upon seeing Smough disappear into dust has yet to be matched in a video game setting, and I let out a stream of curses in exultation. The rest of the game after that couldn’t match the intensity of that fight,*** and I was more than happy to put the game in the finished column and be done with it. Or so I thought. Then, the sequel came out, and I kept my eye on it. I didn’t buy it when it first came out because I was still recovering from the first one, but I did pick up the complete edition of the sequel with all three DLC when it was on sale for ridiculously cheap. Since I knew I would probably play it at some point, I avoided all spoilers. I did learn, however, that many people were disappointed with the sequel. So much so, FromSoft, the developers, did a remastering of it. That’s the version I played when I finally got around to it, and as I said, it was a good game, more playable in many ways than the original.