A Truly Incredible Experience
At first glance, most people look at Dark Souls as a challenging game, and only the most dedicated and hardcore players can beat this game. This is a trend I always hated, and this isn't how the Souls series should be viewed. Instead, it should be viewed as what a video game should strive to be. Video games have the potential to be something that nothing else can. Not only can they put you in control of a character or a world, but they can give you an experience. They can use gameplay and interactivity to make you experience the world. Good games realize that you aren't just a viewer: you're a player. And carefully, true games can be designed so that the player doesn't just witness the world around him/her, but experience it. A book can't do this. A movie can't do this. Sure, these mediums can make you empathize, but they can't make you experience. Only a game can do that. Dark Souls does this the best and it's what makes it special.
What a lot of people don't understand is that Dark Souls isn't difficult for the sake of being difficult. Its difficulty comes as a result of a deeper design philosophy. "From Software" have actively designed their game around something that only games have: a failure state. Death in video games is something we take for granted at this point. But in Dark Souls, death and failure are designed to give you that feeling of struggle and triumph. It's also used to immerse yourself in a world where death doesn't end you life, but it brings you closer and closer to giving up, but once you finally overcome your obstacles, you get that feeling of accomplishment that most other games can't do. People often say "It's too difficult," or "It doesn't explain things to you." These are complaints leveled at the Souls series regularly and they're right. Dark Souls is too difficult for some people. Dark Souls also doesn't go out of its way to explain things to you. But here's something you have to understand about Dark Souls. It's a game that doesn't "dumb down" the experience for the benefit of the so-called mass market appeal. It does its own thing, regardless of whether some people will be turned off, and in doing so, it's become something infinitely more valuable and pure.
Dark Souls also approached the concept of story in a game in a unique way. The story elements are cryptic and hidden down to the last little detail, and while you might have some idea of what happened by the end of the game, most players might just end up thinking "Why am I on fire?"
There's actually a beautiful little story behind why the Souls games were created with these cryptic, hidden stories.
I read an interview with Miyazaki. When Miyazaki, the game director, was a child, he loved reading Western fantasy. He loved the stories, the settings, and he was inspired. And so Dark Souls was created in this Western RPG format. But Miyazaki couldn't read English very well, so when he read these Western fantasy novels, he had gaps, and some parts of these books he just couldn't read. And so while he had this vision of decaying castles and brave knights, he had to use his imagination to fill the gaps. And in doing so, he created a story that was partly his own, and a story that was richer because of this fact. Sounds familiar? When we play Dark Souls, we create our own stories, just like Miyazaki did. We read item descriptions, we listen to dialogue, and from the fragments of a story, we slowly, carefully craft this vision of a world.
This is a quote from the Dark Souls Design Works book: "Miyazaki: … a certain sense of refinement, elegance and dignity are very important to me. I’ll usually tell the designers that flat-out grotesque or splatter type designs will not get past me. This has everything to do with my own personal sensibilities, and it is something that I apply to every design that I approve."
"Waragai: . . . I remember when I was drawing the Undead Dragon, I submitted a design draft that depicted a dragon swarming with maggots and other gross things. Miyazaki handed it back to me saying, “This isn’t dignified. Don’t rely on the gross factor to portray an undead dragon. Can’t you instead try to convey the deep sorrow of a magnificent beast doomed to a slow and possibly endless descent into ruin?”
This game challenges you to look deeper into every aspect of design in the game. Some people just see a rotting dragon, others will see that "deep sorrow of a magnificent beast doomed to die a slow and possibly endless decent into ruin." This quote changed my view on how games are made and things like this can truly inspire people.
I hate how a lot of people think that video games are a primitive form of entertainment and will not make you think the same way a good book or movie does. I hate the fact that when these people are introduced to video games, they view it as nothing but brainless violence. But I hope this review allows you to see through that and instead look at video games as another form of art. Thanks for reading and I hope I helped you make your choice on whether you should buy this game for your teen.