Way back in 2012, when Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition first showed up on the Steam marketplace, I felt the same mix of trepidation and excitement that I’m sure many other gamers felt. My excitement over the game’s unique setting, sprawling network of explorable areas, and multitude of RPG staples was tempered by my knowledge that it was also a Souls game which meant its most defining trait was its horrendously brutal difficulty. In fact, I was so torn between taking the plunge and just buying it or simply moving on to other games that I wrote a whole post about it on my personal blog (my curiosity eventually won out and the game now sits comfortably nestled in my Steam library). As you can imagine, I’ve been faced with a similar conflict of interest these past few days ever since From Software released its newest game: Bloodborne. This time however, I have the added insight of my experience playing Dark Souls and the lessons I learned in the process.
Now, first off, I have a confession to make: I never beat Dark Souls. I made some admirable progress during the first few months after I initially bought it, struggling and scrapping my way down to Blighttown (one of the most infamously challenging locations in the game) before I finally got fed up one too many times and uninstalled the game. I would revisit the game on a whim every now and then over the course of the following few months but would often just give up again as soon as I ran into a particularly nasty encounter (of which there are several in Blighttown). Then, many months later, on a particularly strong whim that was spurred by the recent release of Dark Souls II, I finally pushed through Blighttown’s horrors and somehow managed to take down the area’s boss, the dreaded witch Quelaag, on my first attempt (dumb luck and a summoned NPC teammate helped a lot).
After the victory over Quelaag, I decided to put down Dark Souls for good (or so I thought). I had achieved a major victory after months of hitting a metaphorical wall. I knew the game was far from over, that there were many other areas to conquer and bosses to defeat, but I didn’t care. I had bested not only Quelaag but also the overwhelming sense of frustration and failure that had haunted me ever since I first met my end at the hands of Blighttown’s denizens. I had tested myself and, finally, at long last, I had not been found wanting. I had won.
Since Bloodborne’s release I’ve been going through a very similar routine as I did back when Dark Souls came out. I’ve been scouring the internet for articles relating to Bloodborne, not just reviews but also opinion pieces, walkthroughs (non-spoiler ones of course), and even Let’s Play videos. I’m simultaneously looking for articles that will push me over the edge and convince me to buy and play the game as well as articles that will convince me to stay as far away as I can and save myself both money and aggravation. Unfortunately, I have been equally successful on both fronts (for every article like this one I seem to find another like this one) which hasn’t exactly helped me to get over my indecisiveness. The good news to come out of all this internet scouring and internal debating is that I did manage to reach a decision of sorts and it was all thanks to the very indecisiveness I faced many moons ago: I need to finish Dark Souls before I even think of braving Bloodborne’s horrors.
In an odd sort of way it makes total sense. Why should I attempt yet another insanely (though potentially rewarding) journey if I couldn’t even finish the one I embarked upon just over three years ago? Granted I have read about how Bloodborne is apparently shorter and has a smoother late-game difficulty curve than the Souls games before it but I’m not foolish enough to believe that it will frustrate me any less than Dark Souls did. If I want to be the sort of player that is able to appreciate the lessons that From Software’s games are trying to teach me, I need to know for certain that I can see the difficult paths they place me on through to the end. So it is with that thought in my mind that I have installed Dark Souls onto my computer once again, picked up where I left off after my thrilling battle with Quelaag, and set off towards what I hope is a journey that won’t end until I see the credits roll.
I know the outcome isn’t certain. It’s very likely that I’ll encounter a boss or a puzzle or some other dastardly obstacle Dark Souls throws at me and I’ll grow frustrated. I’ll want to quit, to call it off, to give up like I did several times before. But, much as it is when you’re venturing through the dangerous halls that populate the environments of Dark Souls or Bloodborne or virtually any other game developed by From Software, there’s a certain elation to be found within that uncertainty. Souls veterans may find it odd reading about the many struggles I have faced just trying to conquer a single Souls game but I have always been the kind of person that tries to appreciate the journey as much as the destination, no matter what form that journey takes. Fear of the unknown is something which has almost always kept me from testing myself against the Souls series (and now Bloodborne) but I’m ready to face that fear once again and, hopefully, defeat it once and for all.