Now has set in a bleak nostalgia with Fromsoft releases after a decade of reiterations on this formula. Everything is set up for people to slowly mock those older titles and their charm as something ultimately mundane. The 100s of hours of dodge roll fatigue in a post Elden Ring
world. The imitation Action RPGs that follow in its wake, everything from Titan Souls
(2015) to Nioh
(2017). The curation of 'lore acolytes' that try to piece together the world through items and how they are beginning to butt heads with the view that its fantasy pulp or just a gamified version of what Demon Souls
(2009) achieved. Everything seems set up to undo the assumed 'timelessness' of Dark Souls
in another decade or so, to say that some other such game before it is actually WAY better.
I refute this, because I think there's a degree to which I will never let this game go. Its more search-action level design is honestly great for one, you're basically running around the world to get items to unlock doors in a different spot. A exploratory linearity set up for you to break it, if you get the Master Key in Dark Souls you find out just how seamlessly interweaved most of the world is. All of the level design creates a sense of humorous perseverance, a lot of the game is just meant to make you chuckle. Sens Fortress has a bunch of Snakemen guarding the inside of it, but they are positioned in such ridiculous situation that they seem basically set up to get hit by the traps. If you start seeing the combat design in terms of 'jokes' you'll notice them a lot more. A key example of that is the undead burg, there's that section where after coming out of a room enemies fall from above basically right onto you, I mean that just feels like a slap stick comedy routine. You thought you were safe, heres some enemies from the sky! In the Undead Parish itself to you have the Channeler who buffs a bunch of those naked hollows. A truly ridiculous number of naked hollows in that space of the church. What I love about this moment is that this is the only time the Channeler ever poses a threat. I think that's just funny especially when you reminisce on your adventure in retrospect.
I think the common argument might be that this is incidental and unintended design. Like when you have to use an straight attack weapon to kill a rat in a sewer and then that rat ragdolls around, that's not meant to be funny. I mean look at the world, how dark and brooding it is, surely these moments are meant to just be a frustrating oversight...
However that can't be true. I think what people really missed in analyzing the game as a 'serious test of difficulty' is the fact that the game is having a laugh. Compare the dialogue for example in Dark Souls
with that of Demon's Souls
and you'll notice something. The characters in this one LOVE to end their discussions with a laugh
! That leaves a palpable fog of mischief throughout the entire adventure.
This is also why I love the NPCs in Dark Souls so much in comparison to the other games. Humanity here had vocal humor to it, the later games would peel back into a more brooding attitude. It's the fact that the game combines a light hearted demeanor with a brooding visual design that makes it so wonderful to me. By setting up a world in which a man in onion armor is mulling over something his entire story because both tragic and endearing. You want to root for and help Siegmeyer of Catarina because of the quixotic attitude he has, and how he seems to share his dialogue to you in a brotherly fullness even tho he seems aware he's a bit delusional he tries to fight on and that's what matters.
I think one of the reasons the 'fullness' is so effective to is because of the sound design and voice design. All of the discussions you have with the NPC's in dark souls have just enough echo and reverb to make them feel ethereal without trying to clobber you. The call your attention and invoke a sense of security, like your conversation is happening within a bubble. The sound design in general is fucking excellent to, like sound design is a predominant amount of videogame satisfaction to me, so when I open up my inventory and am greeted with skeletal xylophone noises bumping around in the menu it makes the feel like it's imprinted in my mind. Who can forget the iconic sound of when you Enter a new area
.There is quite seriously not a single bad sound in all of Dark Souls
These reasons are ultimately painfully simple, but honestly it gives an overall effect of Dark Souls being a warm hug and fireside laugh, creviced by the end of the earth. In my view it's completely special for this. I think even if I eventually turn on the rest of the Souls games over time as I've been doing, Dark Souls will never be like that for me. They nailed it in this one and as such its worth playing and playing again. Dark Souls glows in a sad spot of my soul before I came out and was miserable. Dark Souls was my comfort game from when I was unhappy with the world and it will continue to be for years to come. I genuinely love this game and no amount of cultural miasma around it will change it for me. There is obviously a world you can learn and figure about here, but that's not why I love it, I was charmed by this game from day 1. It kept me amused and smiling, and I never want to forget that games can do this without sacrificing their aesthetic semblances. In particular, I don't want people to forget that either. Don't suck the jokes out by taking them so serious, lest you go hollow to.