What Draws Us To Adventures Like Dark Souls II?
In a world where easier, casual games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds explode, in an industry where very often, the fastest and dumbest rakes in big sales, it's intriguing to see the huge success of a franchise like Dark Souls.
But what is it about these games that appeals to so many?
I've decided it's not merely the challenge. It's not just about a bunch of aging hardcore gamers nostalgic for a time when video games were actually hard. And it's not really about masochism, either. No, it's about the experience, which is drastically changed due to the inherent difficulty. It's the world in which we participate; it's not that we're frustrated at our inability to kill everything in sight. It's not that we want to throw the controller at the screen because a tiny pig-like creature just killed us. It's something much more than that.
The experience of which I speak may be unique to the Demon's Souls/Dark Souls franchise. I'm not saying you can't find exceedingly challenging games elsewhere, nor am I saying you can't find games that offer hugely in-depth and absorbing quests. What I'm saying is that I'm not sure you can find many titles that provide the player with both in great abundance. It's the combination of these features that we find intoxicating. The bottom line is that for many, having such a distinct lack of power is empowering, if that makes any sense at all.
It's not my cup of tea, but I can definitely understand and appreciate it. I didn't think Dark Souls II was worthy of a 9, but only because of some technical issues, including a poor frame rate. That score has nothing whatsoever to do with the game's unparalleled ability to suck in gamers and keep 'em there. Plus, when you factor in the dynamic nature of a multiplayer experience blended seamlessly with a single-player sensation, you've got an absolute winner. We come back for more, not because we're suckers for punishment, but because we're suckers for well-earned rewards.
That's really the long and short of it, I think.
3/14/2014 Ben Dutka