I’ve been on a Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls kick for the last couple of weeks, so it’s time to talk about their interesting difficulty again.
YouTube user VaatiVidya has a playlist devoted entirely to Dark Souls lore. The videos are all taken from the in-game engine and cutscenes and talk about the game’s backstory.
The videos are useful because the publisher of both Souls games, From Software, has engaged in a noble endeavor with these two games to not force feed a terrible narrative to the player through poorly acted and choreographed cutscenes. Rather, all of the backstory in the game is drawn from the brief opening sequence, item descriptions, and the locations where you found those items. A small example:
Early in the game, the player may happen upon a key called the “Watchtower Basement Key”. A casual player, namely me, will just try to open doors with it until it works. Eventually, it will open a door in the Undead Burg, which leads to a basement where an enemy knight bashes your head in with his great big club.
In contrast to this bumbling approach to gameplay, if you’re using the information given to you by the game and you read the description of the key, you would see this:
“Key to the basement of the watchtower in the Undead Burg.
The basement of the watchtower forms a stone cell. There are rumors of a hero turned Hollow who was locked away by a dear friend. For his own good, of course.”
The key not only tells you where to use it, but it also tells you a bit about the person behind it. The fact that someone locked him inside that crappy basement explains why he hit me with that club. The text even has a bit of sympathy for the knight, which might push the player to try to find out more about him.
It’s an excellent example of the way the story in this game works: items tell you their function, give a little commentary about their origins, and then invite you to look around a little more for yourself.
This is a creative narrative style, but it can also be confusing, and that’s where VaatiVidya’s lore videos come in. They put everything together for you with an Australian accent for that extra narrative weight. I’d like to focus on one in particular today, and that’s “Velka and the Crow”. You should watch it, because otherwise, this next bit might be confusing:
To summarize, there’s a crow that takes the player from the tutorial area (Northern Undead Asylum) to the main game area (Lordran). The video speculates about why there’s a big crow and what he’s doing, and ties it back to a goddess named Velka who is something of a rogue deity out to punish the sinners of the world. The crow is a servant of Velka and is commanded to ferry the chosen undead (player character) to Lordran to kill the sinners there. If the chosen undead dies at the hands of the sinners, the undead will be resurrected to strike at the sinners again and again.
This is a Prometheus getting his guts ripped out for eternity type of interpretation, and if it’s what the designers intended, I wish they would have pursued it further than having it be part of the game’s inconclusive lore.
In my ideal version of Dark Souls, there’s a second mode you can play called “Servant of Velka” wherein boss enemies become a little bit weaker if you damage them and then they kill you. Perhaps if you reduce the bosses health by 50%, they have 2% less health the next time you try to kill them or they can’t do one of the attacks they could the first time you fought them. I realize there are a few problems with this, namely that it would drastically decrease the difficulty of the game overall and I don’t know how regular enemies would be handled. Maybe enemies you kill would permanently die so that there are only a set amount of souls to be had in the game?
There are numerous other gameplay problems that would have to be worked out, but the point is, I’m not sure how it would work, but something like this would add some extra narrative weight to the chosen undead’s actions without taking away any of the story’s moral ambiguity. It would also draw people into the game who were turned off because of its difficulty. The ability to be resurrected would feel much more like an ability this way, rather than feeling like you just died again, and that could go a long way towards getting new people to pick it up.
What do you all think? Would this be a good idea? Is there some other way you might like Dark Souls to change? If Dark Souls was changed at all, would you be an angry Internet person? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks to VaatiVidya and carson-drew-it.com for letting me use their fantastic media! People like them are helping to make the video game community better, and for that they deserve your support! Links to their sites are below.
VaatiVidya’s YouTube channel – Tons of well thought out Dark Souls content and analysis. One quality video a week!
carson-drew-it.com – Delightful drawings of Dark Souls characters and other less bleak things.