A New Type of Adventure
“Ahh, you think you’re different? That you can handle it?
Yes, I remember that feeling. For I was the same.”
When you think of action/adventure RPGs (AARPG) what comes to you mind? You have certain types of classes: knights, mages, Templars, thief, etc. You have a grand story that takes more than 30 hours to complete. A plethora of side missions that reveal more about the lore of the world you are inhabiting. Worlds that are normally filled with places that you enjoying traversing knowing that whatever lies ahead will be a fun and you are not worried about what enemy types are there because your party is ready for anything. Which brings us to the most important part of grand AARPG’s (looking at you Dragon Age) a colorful cast of NPCs at your side to make up for you class weakness so that way you always have the right skills for the right mission.
By now we have all heard about how hard games developed by FromSoftware are and that unless you are a masochist you will never beat them. I for one don’t agree with this statement. I think we need to look at it from a different lens to understand why these games, Demon Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne are considered AARPGs but might share more similarities to the horror genre.
Imagine a world that you know nothing about, you awaken knowing nothing about your past or how you got here, the only thing you know is you name. The very first person you meet isn’t some friendly, strong, leveled up NPC to help you get through the beginning level, instead it’s a human who is beyond saving banging his sword against a wall. You can’t interact with him he is there showing you how unbearable this place is and perhaps a chilling vision of your future. As you traverse this world for a little while you finally meet a human who can speak and just when you think you might have found an ally he dies. Death is not only something that is a consequence for lacking skill, but rather it is part of your life because you can never truly die. When you die you come back life over and over and over again slowly losing a bit of yourself each time till the point you turn hollow which means you no longer have any say in what your characters does, he becomes a shell of his former self and can never be human again. This is your curse.
In this world you have no allies to banter with, to help you get up a ledge or to heal you when you are on the verge of dying. Having no partners beside you creates this atmosphere of utter despair knowing that if you die it’s not because you teammate got in your way or didn’t heal you at the right time. No every mistake you make is on you and you know it. And that will drive you insane. Then there are the enemies that seem to have only one goal in their life; to have your soul. Not only are they abundant but every time you are brought back to life so are they causing you to relive the over and over again. And let me tell you there are no low level rats in this game (well there are rats but they will poison you in two bites leading you to a quick death early on) to help you get used to combat and gain easy experience. No instead there are demons who are made up of human bodies that will beat you to a pulp if you don’t time your rolls just right. There are skeletons who can swing their swords in a fury that will kill you if you get caught, and there are ghost that you cannot hit but they can hit you. These are not places you can just stroll through and just mash X or A, no these are places that fill you with dread every time you turn a corner because you haven’t the faintest idea what might be waiting there. Every area you discover is filled with death, every boss you encounter is guarantees death, and every time you see a person who looks normal I can promise you will eventually lead to death. As of 10pm central time June 17, 1015 the global death count of Dark Souls 2 was 42,779,470.
There is no joy in this land, no quest about a helping mother reunite with her son. There is no cut scene of your team saying good job or getting praise from the king about the dragon you just killed. No the only reward you get is knowing that you don’t have to die again to this creature that has slayed countless warriors before you which you can see because, as if fighting these demented creatures wasn’t enough you can see blood stains on the floor from the victims it has claimed. Now that is truly an unsettling sight to see before you go into a fight.
Now there are other people in this world and you can see them…kind of. There appear as ghost and you can only catch a glimpse of them for about 5 seconds. This brings feelings of joy knowing you are not in this alone, that there’re others in this tormented world with you but it also brings sadness because they leave just as suddenly as they appeared and you are left alone in this beautifully terrifying world. Every once in a while though you are able to summon help from players across the land but who they are and how good they are you will never know. You can get a knight who knows the boss moves set or you can get a kid who rushes right into the boss’s fist causing you to get even angrier. But the worst part about people in this game is that you can be invaded by actual people and let me be the first one to tell you it’s bullshit. Not only do they choose areas near enemies to invade since enemies will not attack them but will attack you, they also choose the area closes to boss encounters. These are sick people who want to make you time in this universe even more dreadful.
This is the world of Dark Souls. This is not your typical AARPG this is a game that will make you scared, make you anxious about what is around the corner, or make you feel incredibly alone and sorrowful in a way that most horror games can’t even compare.
If you look at these games as a typical AARPG and think you can learn a few skills, get the best sword and armor in the game and just rely on an AI teammate to take care of the rest then you will be sadly mistaken. You will become angry when are killed by the tutorial boss because you have a broken sword that only does 5 points of damage while one hit from him takes half your health. Now if you look at it from a horror perspective knowing that nowhere is safe, almost no human is safe and that around every corner will be some new and terrifying way of ending your life…well then you will find a phenomenal story, genius enemy designs and some of the best bosses in games of this generation. You don’t need to be crazy or a masochist to enjoy these games you just need to have the right mindset.