Dark Souls and the Shame of Wiping the Slate Clean

This handsome fellow was one of my joyous greeters, and one of the easier bosses. Photo Courtesy of From Software.

By Alexander Leach

So I have been playing Dark Souls lately — offline due to my inability to hook my PS3 into my modem (spatial concerns) — and I have to say that I’m enjoying it, even if I do lose a lot of stuff at times.

Which brings me to my anecdote.

In-game, I was just traipsing along, fighting and dying against scores of red-eyed undead, creepy rotting rats, evil frogs, and the most warped dragons I’ve seen in a while. In the Depths, I met one of the last of those – a long, six-legged crocodile the size of an 18-wheeler (and, in an example that makes you wonder about the progression of draconic evolution, a giant fanged maw where the chest should be). Cue the ten or so deaths against this behemoth, losing my ghostly NPC ally after the first death (and not realizing I had to be human rather than undead to summon him again), and finally slaying him with a claymore I had stolen from another dragon before it torched me outside of a church. I gain the most souls I’ve ever gotten – about 25,000 – and am feeling quite good.

And then I open the door to Blighttown, my next stop, and die to a bunch of little guys with poison darts.

And then again on the way back, to a giant leper-thing.

So that’s the souls gone. Easy come, easy go, right? It’s the game and you can always farm more souls. Except that when I tried that, I wound up with with some frogs turning me to stone and permanently halving my health (twice, as it happened again on the way to my bloodstain.) The only method of curing the curse was to play 4,000 souls to some guy in a clock tower – not a hard travel, but a bit hard to get the scratch when you’re at a quarter health.

So I did the one thing that is utterly forbidden – I restarted the game as a new pyromancer.

It seems like a copout, yes. And it is – Dark Souls is a game where you’re supposed to overcome your losses, learning from your battles and surviving. There are some things that you never lose – levels gained, treasure, accumulated spells and upgrades – and these alone can get you through the later fights. It’s a game that rewards using your consumables.

And yet, there’s a limit.

There’s a point where the effort needed and the risk outweigh the reward. For me, in a game where it’s about learning how enemies fight, and how to best counter them, sometimes its okay to start over. Especially when you’ve made several mistakes – misinterpreting how Fire Keeper souls work, some stats (although that doesn’t seem too critical.)

And when I restarted, I beat the first two bosses in one try, and the dragon on the bridge died for no reason, giving me his bounty of souls.

Like Binding of Isaac, there’s an element of luck to even Dark Souls. Restarting the game has worked out fine for now.

Though call me again after the frog things.

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