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Character Magic

Why 'Dark Souls' Got It Right

Dark Souls has managed to do things that other games haven’t been able to do. It’s a hard game. A punishing game and yet—it always manages to be fair.

But that I’ve spoke about before, now I want to talk about something that is missed by the casual player and forces fans of the franchise to do extra work.

Characters.

Characters are important in every form of media. How we relate to them can determine how much we enjoy the film—or in this case, the game.

Dark Souls does things differently and it has paid off in such a big way. Dark Souls intentionally keeps half the story away from us. Very little is given on a plater— in order for us to figure out the story and lore we have to go searching for the answers.

The Knight Artorias is a good example of this. We hear snippets of info about the man before we meet him. Most of the information comes for item descriptions that talk of his legacy. When we meet him the first time it is all too easy to overlook so many of the details. The left arm that hangs limply, the animalistic movements. The mixture of stalking us in the arena and screaming at us like a demented hell hound.

Nothing in Dark Souls is random.

The Wolf Knight is left-handed and yet item descriptions state that his left arm was broken as he picked up his shield to protect his wolf companion. The Abyss taking over his body forcing him to become more like an enraged animal but if you want certain answers and want to know more about him and the legacy that follows throughout the games- you’ll have to look outside the game.

Like most people, my favorite character is Dragon Slayer Ornstein; and is the best example of fans filling out the blanks. “Believed to be the Captain of the guards,” he made such a brief appearance in the first game and yet the fans loved the character so much it lead to a repeat appearance and fan-fiction adding to his legacy. Did we really fight him in the first game or was that just an illusion? Did we fight him in the second game of was that just someone with a darken version of his armor?

Even reaching to he third game, there is enough there to make players wonder if the Dragon Slayer had left the city of the Gods so that he could be with his old friend and turned himself into a unique dragon.

A dragon that I have to say has made me rage quite many times.

These fan theories and works of fan-fiction work so well with the games that have been put out for a very simple reason. From Software (the guys that made the games) only ever gives us half the story at best. The things that we read as fan-fiction could have very easily happened and there is almost nothing that makes us think it wouldn’t.

The casual player comes across a difficult boss and moves on. But just like the game play, the more we give into the story, the longer the investigations the more rewarding it is.

Now for the player character. In the first game we are thrown into the roll of “Chosen Undead.” Again, for the casual player that is enough. But start pulling on that thread. Who were we before? As we leave the area, when it seems there is nowhere else to go, a giant crow- a symbol of the Goddess Velka, comes to take us from the area; and if we make our way back to the area what to we find? The personal guards of the big Boss of the game, Lord Gwyn. Almost as if they were looking for us.

Playing the second game we start of looking for a cure to the cures. The opening cinematic show us a life, a woman and child—who are they to us? We don’t know—and pretty soon we have forgotten about them as we have been thrust into a world of dragons, missing kings and of course, a talking cat… yeah.

We are thrown into this world and given so many distractions it’s meant to distract us. We are meant to forget what has brought us to this strange land and just like that- we do

The third game perhaps has the best back story for the player. The last chance and bottom of the barrel to save the world. But who were we before we woke up in the grave yard?

All of the characters that we meet have to deeper connection to the main bosses in the game—without spoiling it for you, we as the player have the same deep connection, but it is never explained to us. We have to go looking for those answers in and out of the game; following the bread crumbs and trying to understand the people we meet and the people we don’t. A small game play mechanic if characters simply not coming to us when we call them for help in certain areas says a lot about our character and the choices we have made during the game—but of course, we have to go looking for those answers.

Such a dependency on character development in all other forms of media would kill the enjoyment of games, films and shows. But somehow, the developers over at From Software have managed to do it. By giving us small hints and letting the fans fill in the blanks they have cemented that they have some of the most die-hard fans of anything backing them. People that play the game and play as they are they characters they love so much. The art work that tells so much extra to the stories just make us want to play these games even more.

I said in my last piece that the Dark Souls games have managed to find a perfect balance between the ways you want to play, the difficulties, and the story. It goes so much further than that when we start to break down the characters.

The lonely giant.

The thieving rat.

The man in the loincloth with the katana that is ridiculously difficult at such an early encounter.

They all have a story and one that we are only given half of.

I’ve said before, Dark Souls is a game that gives you as much as you put in. They design levels and enemies that we may never see. They make characters that we may never see and only give us half the story. The more you put into these games, the more they give you in return.

And yes, that’s another reason why I love these games.