Soul Salvation

Originally Published: 16 October 2011

At this year’s Eurogamer Expo I made a beeline straight for the most soul-destroying, enthusiasm-crushing game I could think of. I did this every day I was there and I started off with a healthy dose of dying on my arse.

Dark Souls.

And I loved it. I loved it a lot.

But it wasn’t always like that.

When I first picked up Demon’s Souls I bought it purely with the words “I’m sure I’ve heard good things about this game” rattling around in my head. I got the Black Phantom Edition which came with an art book (pretty and all that, but I can pretty much take it or leave it when it comes to concept art) and a strategy guide.

This got my hackles up a bit. I’ve never understood the need to buy a strategy guide when you buy a game. You’ve just spent anything up to forty British pounds on a game. Why, oh why, would you want to then buy a book that told you how to beat the game? Later on, sure – go for it – but when you buy the game new? I’ll come round and set fire to your forty quid if you want? You don’t need to buy a book to do that. Although you do need a full risk assessment, fire marshals and the St John Ambulance on stand-by.

Anyway, I got Demon’s Souls home. I played it. I didn’t understand it. At all. And I died. A lot. I hate dying. It’s normally accompanied by me swearing and bemoaning the fact that I’ll have to do that bit again. So I played Demon’s Souls.

And I hated it. I hated it a lot.

People had raved about this game, like it was the second coming or something. Like by putting the disc in my PS3, a light would radiate from my house and people would pray in the direction of it. But I didn’t get it. Demon’s Souls, right then, was to gaming what Ricky Gervais is to comedy. It was like the Emperor’s New Clothes and I was the boy who’d dared to go, “But sire, you’re all naked and your bits are flapping around, and it’s upsetting the chickens.”

So I stopped playing it. The overly-wide box mocked me from the shelf. “Ha,” it said to me. “Ha ha ha! I am overly wide, thus taking up the space of three games, which means your TV unit will look untidy sooner. Ha ha ha!” And things of that nature.

So, it sat there, unplayed and unloved and it would have sat there to this day but the fates saw fit to intervene. Thanks to several days off work, ill, with something that involved the adjective “explosive”, I began Demon’s Souls again.

And this time I got it. I understood it. I understood that if I died it was, primarily my fault. I’d blundered in somewhere I shouldn’t, I’d rushed ahead without checking my footing, I’d attacked from the front when, sometimes, it pays to approach from the rear. I also learnt to play it offline because all those messages that other players have left, the ones that say “I need help, please rate this message” proper get on your tits. The more I played, the more I loved it. Maybe it was just the evacuated bowels talking, but this game was awesome.

So, Dark Souls. It’s more of the same. But harder. Which makes it more awesome.

In spades.