Great moments in PC gaming: When Dark Souls finally ‘clicks’
I picked up Dark Souls at the urging of friends convinced it was some eldritch god’s gift to PC gaming. And folks, I hated it. By Seath’s scaleless posterior, I really hated it. Never made it past Undead Burg, as I would repeatedly get my entire ass handed to me by the Taurus Demon and scream in frustration as I had to clear the couple dozen skeletons and zombies between the bonfire save point and his arena over and over again. It felt like some kind of gothic RPG version of Groundhog Day.
Then, about six months later, I returned to Lordran. I was still hearing how great this game was all the time and that I hadn’t given it a fair shot. I cracked my knuckles. I narrowed my eyes. I took a deep breath and reloaded my old save
And folks, I hated it. By Gwyn’s magnificent beard, I truly hated it. It was just as frustrating, repetitive, and unfulfilling as I remembered. I finally uninstalled and informed my ‘Soulsbros’ this series simply wasn’t for me, and they should stop trying to change my mind.
Another half a year passed and for some reason I got a little itch that made me want to boot up Dark Souls again. I’d bought it a full year ago and never progressed passed the first real boss. Was I really going to let that horned bastard walk away with the satisfaction of having bested me forever?
I’m not sure what was different about my third attempt, but something finally clicked. The run from the bonfire suddenly wasn’t existential torture. I found a flow. It was like I was executing a dance with blade and shield. I knew all of these enemies, where they stood, how they moved, and when they would attack. I took them apart gracefully again and again without taking a hit, as if I could see into the future. And finally, finally, I had ‘the run’ in which I managed to just barely vanquish the Taurus Demon. I paused on the bridge for a moment. There was a whole terrifying, mysterious world ahead of me to discover. And I dove in.
I went from playing out of a sense of obligation to truly loving Dark Souls when I faced the Gaping Dragon in the depths of the Undead Burg sewers. I went into his watery arena not knowing what to expect. Every boss up to that point had been a painful learning experience of dying and trying again until I came out victorious. But this enormous, many-fanged beast, intimidating as he was, never got the satisfaction of seeing my corpse. I got into some kind of zone and dodged all of his attacks reactively with intense precision. I quickly picked up on when and where I could slash at him with my battle axe to avoid taking damage. And amazingly, after several tense minutes, I took him down in one attempt.
If I’d looked in a mirror my eyes would have been glowing white like a powered-up anime character. At that point, everything fell into place. I finally got Dark Souls, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Across the various remasters and re-releases, I’ve played over 200 hours of the first game.
To all my friends who kept pestering me: Thank you. You were right. At least I came around eventually.