Each year, countless games are released to the gaming masses. Most go unnoticed; some sell well. A handful even manage to achieve widespread popularity and near universal acclaim. Then there are the legends, the games that get so big that they leave a permanent mark on the industry. Super Mario Bros. made platformers a thing; Call of Duty prompted two decades of military shooters; Halo showed everyone the power of online multiplayer, and Dark Souls showed everyone how much fun a tough-as-nails experience could be. In many ways, Dark Souls is absolutely one of the touchstone games of the past two hardware generations, something every “gamer” should play at least once…and I’ve never gotten around to trying it.
I’ve been interested in the Souls-borne games since almost the very beginning. I listened to friends go on and on about it. I watched videos on YouTube going over the fights and watched many more poking fun at practically every aspect of it. I watched friends troll (and get trolled by) other players in Dark Souls III, and I read discussion threads ranting about the bosses in Bloodborne. Despite all that though, I never actually played any of the games besides just a couple hours of Bloodborne. The interest was there, but the impetus just wasn’t.
It’s made writing and/or talking about comparable games somewhat difficult, because there is a big difference between watching a game and actually playing it. You simply can’t understand the gameplay experience without doing it yourself. The same goes for engaging with the story and lore of a game like Dark Souls. You can read about it, study it and even eventually “know” quite a lot about it. However, knowing the story is not the same as experiencing its unfolding for yourself. There is absolutely a divide there, and it absolutely does separate players and those who’ve only experienced it vicariously through other media.
Recently, I’ve found myself regretting not playing these games for myself. I feel like I missed out on something, and that the time to get in and understand has passed. I could’ve played the remasters and such, but even then it felt like it was too late. The games are now old, and there’s no nostalgia factor to support them for me in the current gaming era. Maybe this is just an excuse meant to avoid a notoriously difficult series, but it is a barrier nonetheless. This is especially true now that gaming in and of itself is not as satisfying as it once was.
I thought I’d made peace with this situation, but the impending release of Elden Ring has gotten me thinking about it yet again. It’s sure to be an impactful game, and it’s also looking like it’ll carry on its predecessors’ punishingly difficult tradition. A big part of me would rather not bother and continue leaving the series be despite all of these feelings; it would certainly be the easier thing to do.
Yet, perhaps it’s time to finally get off the sidelines when it comes to FromSoftware titles. Perhaps it’s time to just dive-in headfirst and learn just what it is to play one of these games and overcome the challenge. This time, I think I’d very much like to know Elden Ring rather than just knowing about it, you know? I think…I think I’d like to finally understand why this series has had, and continues to have, such a massive impact. I guess we’ll see.
Where do you stand with the Souls-borne games? Are you fully invested? Have you passively played them? Were you a bystander like me? Are you going to try Elden Ring?
Image from the Elden Ring website