Dark Souls' Understated Online System is a True Step Forward
On the face of it, the new game Dark Souls seems to have an approach to online gaming that for many will seem limited, dated and maybe even a little backward thinking.
Those young gamers who have been weaned on the online offerings of both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have been collectively balking at what Dark Souls is offering.
No voice chat, no playing with friends, PvP gameplay that is seemingly random and a co-op mode that only allows you to take on bosses together at certain point, if you meet certain conditions, if other players are actually in the area that also meet complex conditions, and all this only ever with complete strangers.
Modern gamers are used to playing through the entirety of Gears of War with a real life buddy, going toe-to-toe with dozens of players in the latest Call of Duty or even a cast of thousands of players in World of Warcraft, all with online capabilities designed to make finding, chatting and befriending other players as easy and seamless as possible.
Yet, they may be missing the point. Dark Souls may be obtuse, complicated and limited in its online modes, but its offering is not only understated and uplifting, it is sublime.
To understand the online portion, you have to understand the game. Dark Souls is a struggle. You inch through the darkness alone, with death around every corner, a rich but lonely quest against an overtly aggressive and merciless batch of creatures.
However, there are moments of light in this harsh land, moments provided by other people, anonymous strangers. Messages left around the levels by other players give helpful hints and also humorous camaraderie. 'Grief Ahead', indeed.
You also catch glimpses of other players, busy in their own games, white shadows that remind you that, although you are on your own, there are others sharing your experience, in that level, against those horrible enemies, at that exact same time.
Respite is given by bonfires, temporary oasis' against the onslaught, and here you can see other players sitting around the fire, again reminding you that you are not alone, reinforcing the sense of relief at finding the one area of safety. You can even provide fellow warriors gathered there with a little extra health by kindling the fire.Continued on the next page