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Preparing For My Descent into Dark Souls

On 09/18/2013 at 11:33 PM by Justin Matkowski

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      Yours truly as one Dark Souls' undead, or maybe just prior to having coffee in the morning.


Hello Everybody! It has been a little while, as I've been a bit swamped with freelance and ironing out the new The Elder Scrolls Forge feature here at PixlBit. Tonight however, I'm looking forward to the next game that I am delving into for the first time: Dark Souls. It's the perfect time of year to begin my journey through it's oppressive and haunting world - the days are growing shorter and colder, and All Hallows season is upon us. What better time to begin Dark Souls than when we are approaching that time of year when supposedly, the barriers between the realms of the living and the dead are at their thinnest? Before I begin my descent, I figured I'd share with you guys what I am most looking forward to when it comes to the Dark Souls experience.


An Immersive World To Explore

It's no secret that I love open-world games. I've logged hundreds of hours into Skyrim, spent months traveling the Capital Wasteland of Fallout 3, and spent many a night riding under the desert sky's stars in Red Dead Redemption. I love the element of exploration - that there is a living (or in Dark Souls case, undead) world just waiting for you to discover all of its secrets, trials, and rewards. To use a phrase coined by Bethesda's Todd Howard, I really dig the "Go where you want, be who you want" philosophy's approach to game design. Also, my preference for open-world games are titles that take you somewhere new and unfamiliar (which in my opinion, is far more intriguing that exploring a digital landscape that is more or less exactly like our own), so I am especially excited to unearth the gothic, haunting realms that Dark Souls has to offer.


       "You had to forget the marshmallows didn't you, asshole?"

Player-Authored Narrative

A major topic of debate in gaming right now is the correct method(s) of relaying narrative within the medium's interactive nature. Personally, I am of the belief that player-authored narrative is, and has always been, one of gaming's greatest strengths. The fact that an individual creates their own story simply by interacting with a title in their own unique way is an achievement that no other creative medium can match. Amidst today's landscape, when so many titles try to emulate film, I have a shit ton of respect for works like Dark Souls, that have enough confidence in themselves (and their audience) to give control completely over to the player to create their own epic, worthy of sharing around a campfire on a chilly Autumn night. When you combine this philosophy of player-authored stories with the fact that players can actively join other's games or transcribe a message in the environment to other travelers, you have all the makings for a player-authored masterpiece.



Vindication By Perserverance

I, like many gamers, like a challenge. I relished in conquering Kaizo World and Kaizo World 2 (two insanely hard Super Mario World mods), felt like a boss upon defeating Super Ghouls N' Ghosts, and celebrated Ryu Hayabusa's redemption when I completed the original Ninja Gaiden. Don't let me give you the wrong impression, I'm far from an elitist asshole who judges a game's merit based on its difficulty (the Kirby series is my favorite "franchise" of all time, after all), I just love when a title assists you in becoming "good" at gaming, and then offers you more challenges as your skill level progresses further. While many AAA developers today dumb down an experience so as to not "frustrate gamers", I love that FromSoftware has the balls to say "We will punish you. You will die, and you will die a lot, but you will learn. You will learn how to navigate this world and its challenges, and you will prevail."


Imaginative & Fresh Art Direction

From the second I saw the aesthetic style of Dark Souls, I was intrigued. It certainly seemed too bleak and dire to be high fantasy, but it had way more class and elegance than the all-too-often trite, blood-and-guts-soaked schlock pumped out by the AAA horror genre. The Dark Souls visual style is a brilliant concept - Japanese developers creating their own version of a pseudo-Medieval European underworld, filled with beasts and creatures that are often as strangely beautiful (and tragic) as they are deeply unsettling. If artist Hieronymus Bosch got his hands on a time-traveling Delorean and became a contemporary game designer, I think his creation would be very visually similar to Dark Souls.

So there we have it. I have to say, I haven't been this excited to get started on a game in a long time. Do any of you Dark Souls alumni (I'm looking at you, Chris Yarger!) have any prudent advice before I begin?

As always, thank you for reading!




Blake Turner Staff Writer

09/18/2013 at 11:46 PM

 Dark Souls is my favourite game of all time. If you want to know why, read this article I wrote a while back:

 Now, onto tips: Cut the tails off of every boss, they will give you weapons.

 Go up. That's the direction you need to go first or you will die horrible. The game is more metroidvania, so be weary of this. Go to the graveyard if you have very few souls so that you can get items. Also, there;s an elevator that you can't call down yet in Firelink shrine. Jump down there, and you'll come to an area with some chests that have some valuable items in them.

Don't give up. Once you get past the first real boss outside of the tutorial, things will get better. Not easier, but you'll have learnt enough to get through. Bosses are more akin to puzzles than just button mashing.

 If you need any hints on the game (I've beat it like 4 times) feel free to ask me!

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

09/18/2013 at 11:57 PM

Just read your article, Blake, and holy shit I am even more excited to play this now! Awesome write-up with an awesome message, man.

Thanks for the tips! I will definitely heed your advice - it's actually something that I find really incredible about the community around Dark Souls, because due to the game's lack of hand-holding (thank god!) players offer eachother tips on where to go and what to do. I don't know if gaming has seen community interaction based around sharing knowledge this prevalent since the original Legend of Zelda.

Thanks again, Blake! I will certainly be hitting you up for some advice in the near future!

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

09/19/2013 at 12:12 AM

P.S. I just gave a first time listen to Maudlin of the Well (the song was The Ferryman) while reading your article, and I have a sneaking suspicion this band matches the vibe of Souls really, really well.

Blake Turner Staff Writer

09/19/2013 at 12:22 AM

 Listening to my favourite band while preparing to play my favourite game? Wow. If you want a Maudlin of the Well song suggestion, I'd say try "Birth Pains of Astral Projection. It's one of my favourites.

  Thanks btw! Yeah, the community surrounding dark souls is awesome! Seriously, hope you love the game and have a great time with it!

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

09/19/2013 at 12:52 AM

I will definitely check it out! That song was pretty awesome - very unorthodox (in a really good way) sounding metal band. Thanks again dude!


09/19/2013 at 12:17 AM

Dark Souls is one of my if not all time favorite game and heres a tip go to darkroot and you will see a cleric and a few other guys thats strong and grind here for some very very good amount of souls and if you have a hard time beating them you can get close to the edge and most of the time they will run off the ledge and kill themselves it is a easy way to level up quickly im at level 108 and still getting beat around this game is great but very tough and good luck.

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

09/19/2013 at 12:51 AM

Thanks for the tip Rodney! I seriously love how everyone has this knowledge that they stumbled upon through a playthrough, and they share that. I am going to keep a little book with the advice people have given next to me while I play, so I don't forget all this stuff!

Thanks again man!


09/19/2013 at 02:54 AM

"We will punish you. You will die, and you will die a lot, but you will learn. You will learn how to navigate this world and its challenges, and you will prevail."

This should be the opening words by the lead singer of a metal band like Behemoth just before they pummel you with their opening chords while a giant screen behind them shows Dark Souls videos. Grrrrrr!!!

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

09/19/2013 at 08:35 PM

Hell Yes!!


09/20/2013 at 02:19 AM

The imagined scene of this has been running through my head all day. I want to be in that audience, or the singer delivering the words to the faithful headbangers.

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

09/20/2013 at 11:16 AM

Also makes me think of the "Death be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, thou art no so" John Donne quote, which also happens to be an opener for a Children of Bodom song.


09/20/2013 at 03:54 PM

Neato. I used to study that John Donne. 

Chris Yarger Community Manager

09/19/2013 at 06:33 AM

The best advice I can give you is to learn the mechanics as quickly as possible. I'm not talking about dodging and riposting either, I'm referring to how scaling works and what the individual stats (Poise, Stability, etc.) mean. This game has an amazing amount of depth, and the more you know the more prevailing you will become within the game.

Also, learn from your mistakes. This is the greatest aspect of the game and will easily become your undoing unless you're ready and willing to learn from each and every death. Every enemy is seemingly placed with purpose, whether hidden away in the shadows or high above and throwing fire bombs down on you, so be prepared for everything and anything.

And above all else; my greatest point of advice in which I give to everyone who is just starting this game is to always keep your shield up. Even if you're just walking down an open hallway you've never been to before and you don't see any enemies, always traverse with your shield up! You never know when a stray arrow will come!

If you ever need advice in regards to an area or you need to know how a stat works, just send me a message and I'll help you out to the best of my ability.

Good luck and enjoy. It's quite the adventure  Smile

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

09/19/2013 at 08:37 PM

I knew I could count on you Chris, with you being our resident Dark Souls guru. I will definitely take you advice to heart. Thanks again, man, and I have the sneaking suspicion I will definitely be messaging you lol. I haven't been this excited to start on a new game since Skyrim Laughing


09/22/2013 at 07:25 AM

Best of luck to you! I tried playing Demon's Souls earlier this year and had a rather rough time of it. Since then I've gotten some good advice about it from veteran players and hope to try it again soon. I do like the bleak world of those games.

Justin Matkowski Staff Alumnus

09/22/2013 at 11:34 PM

Thank you! The art style definitely drew me in - there's something about it that is really beautiful, you can tell the art directors really worked to create a sense of cohesion while still offering a lot of variety. Some of the great folks here have already offered some great advice that I will certainly heed! If you pick Demon's Souls back up, let me know what you think of it!

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