How Dark Souls has has impacted and influenced gaming this decade

From Software
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Dark Souls was released in 2011 and changed the way we look at video games. So how has the dark fantasy RPG impacted this decade of gaming?

Dark Souls is just about as old as the decade itself, releasing in 2011 along with other big games that came out that year. The dark fantasy RPG has taken us on journeys through Lordran, Drangleic and Lothric, three unpredictable locations.

There’s no on-screen map, no real guidance, and no background music as you explore. You create a character and customize him/her to your liking, as you prepare for the battle of your virtual life.

What is it about the mysterious world of Dark Souls that impacted such a strong decade of gaming? For starters, the game’s signature difficulty changed the way we viewed RPGs, as even some of the smallest of enemies can be a challenge early on in your playthrough.

And no, there are no sliders or a difficulty selector to help ease the pain. But this helps send a powerful message to gamers that we need to “learn from our mistakes”.

When you got killed by an enemy, how did it happen? What did you learn about the enemies’ moves and how can you strategize properly to get your revenge?

This is one of the hot sauces of Dark Souls. It may be tough to play, but it helps you learn some valuable lessons.

Added to the challenge is the fact that there are so many different enemies throughout the series, each with their own size and speed. This variation is also what makes the experience fun as well, as you never know what’s lurking around the corner.

Dark Souls II in particular arguably has some of the toughest enemies in the series. On several occasions, you need to deal with squads of baddies.

And if you think hanging around with the “lesser” foes can be a pain, then wait until you say hello to the bosses. Most bosses come at you hard and fast and have relatively high health pools.

Now to be fair, not every boss is terribly difficult, but there are some that can be a true pain in the rear. Especially those fights that have multiple bosses in one like the iconic Ornstein & Smough and the Four Kings from the original Dark Souls.

The immense difficulty in the series will get your heart pounding at times, and it’s that punishing nature that makes the series memorable this decade. Luckily, despite the hardships, you can get some help through your journey and that leads to our next impactful feature.

Dark Souls does multiplayer differently from other games and this is another area where the series has stood out. The game cleverly merges the worlds of solo and co-op together.

Instead of having an entire part of the game dedicated to multiplayer, you can be summoned into other players’ stories to help them, battle enemies and bosses. Or you can do the summoning yourself.

This gives you the fun of co-op without interfering with your story tasks. It’s quite a unique view of online play that is different from many other games this decade.

Be careful though, as players can invade you at will if you didn’t defeat the area boss and if you’re in human form (instead of hollow). This can be extremely frustrating especially in a popular invading spot.

And in Dark Souls II, players can still invade you, even after the boss is defeated. So your adrenaline will be pumping throughout the experience.

Another unique aspect of online play are the messages. Throughout the series (Bloodborne included), you can leave messages for players as they go through their guideless journey.

These messages can be helpful as they can tell you where hidden items are or warn you of upcoming foes, hiding in the shadows. Be careful though, there are some folks who will create messages that will fool you such “item ahead, therefore try jumping off”.

In some rare instances, crazy messages like those may actually make sense. There have been times where you needed to do a daring jump to reach a certain item.

One thing that makes the messaging feature interesting is that you have to create one from the limited selection of words given to you. This is fun, as it gives you a chance to flex your creative muscles instead of just typing out whatever you please.

On many occasions, you will see humorous messages throughout the Dark Souls universe. One example would be; “boss ahead, therefore, tears required ahead” to imply that the upcoming boss battle will make you cry.

Messages are a small part of the series, but it’s another element that has made it stand out in online gaming this decade. And without them, you just feel like something is missing in the world of Dark Souls.

Another gem of importance in the series is its interconnected worlds. The games are not level to level or mission to mission.

You start from one point (Firelink Shrine in Souls I and III, Majula in II and Central Yharnam in Bloodborne), and choose your path, although it’s recommended to follow a particular route. There’s no loading time between areas, as you can freely traverse from area to area, similarly to an open world.

However, what’s different is that each area is almost completely different from one another. This isn’t one big world that has different spots but is still the same place. No two places are alike in Dark Souls.

One moment you’re at a castle, and the next, you’re in a majestic forest. Then, there is always the dread of making the trek back to another place to take care of a certain task or to find a certain item.

This was something that was initially a pain in the first Dark Souls but also added to its adventure. However, once you acquire the glorious Lordvessal, you warp from place to place with ease.

This leads us to one of the most unique saving points in gaming history; the bonfire. If you don’t have the Lordvessel yet, then you need to make sure to rest at your desired bonfire before making your trek,

Now, in Dark Souls II and III, you’re able to warp between bonfires from the start, without a Lordvessel. In Bloodborne, you use lanterns that take you back to the Hunter’s Dream (BB’s hub) where you choose where you want to “awaken”.

The bonfire is also used to choose your spells and level up among other things in the original game. So in the immensely hostile world of Dark Souls, the bonfire gives you some sense of comfort before continuing your perilous adventure.

Be warned though, resting at a bonfire will make enemies in an area respawn. That said, there’s a satisfying feeling when you replenish your Estus Flasks and/or spells after resting at a bonfire.

Probably the best and most relatable feeling among Souls players is when you discover a new resting spot after exploring an area and dying several times. It’s a reminder that you don’t need to go through the area you were struggling with anymore.

All in all, Dark Souls’ impact on this decade of gaming is evident. It has inspired several other games such as Nioh, Lords of the Fallen and even mobile games like Animus.

More from Opinion

The series has been so inspirational, that every time a new game comes out that’s hard to play, it immediately draws comparison to Dark Souls. Difficulty plays a critical role in video games and the series changed that this decade and did so effectively.

Its mystique and lore add to its intrigue and even after completing a playthrough, you are left with more questions than answers. And it’s tough to ponder sometimes since we’re always trying to fight a horde of enemies or trying to run away from them.

But it’s always fun to learn more about the locations, bosses and some of the NPC’s. Places like the  Anor Londo, the Painted World of Ariamis (Dark Souls I) and Byrgenworth (Bloodborne) alone have fascinating lore behind them, let alone all of the other important locations and their NPC’s.

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When Dark Souls first released in 2011, it quickly made a name for itself as a game-changer (no pun intended). It was mostly for the difficulty, but that combined with its unique blend of darkness, magic, and mystery, made it one of this decade’s most powerful games.