On August 24th, the next installment in the D. Souls series of games comes out – Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition.
Dying is something you do plenty of in Dark Souls. It doesn’t really matter what’s going on, but death is always close. Maybe, not even for you – just ask Lautrec and your first Fire Keeper.
At any rate, Dark Souls players are well-seasoned when it comes to dying. A wrong turn off a ledge, a bad parry, any bad decision in general, and frustrated sloppiness all result in the same thing – death. You die a lot in Dark Souls.
Which is why the name might be apt after all. This edition of the game is unique in that it is for the PC, and not for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 like the original Dark Souls before it. There’s a whole new market of players that Dark Souls is now coming to, and some of them might not be familiar with what Dark Souls is really all about. This article is going to help some of the PC Players get brought up to speed on what they can expect from the next edition of Dark Souls.
Death… death everywhere
Allow me to reiterate – you die a lot in Dark Souls. No exceptions. The game is designed to test your mettle constantly. Seldom do you run into a challenge that you can scoff at after the deed is done, and instead you’re frowning – a bittersweet, fleeting victory attained. You’ve already died a dozen times getting through to the next bonfire, and you know that in the light of the flame, you have respite, but only there. The next stage of your journey features stronger enemies than the ones you had to fight to get to that point, and it never gets easier.
Bonfires are akin to restoration points, and in some ways, a “save”, although the game saves your progress automatically most places you go. But as you’re going through each area killing enemies and picking up loot, you gain “Dark Souls” that you use for absolutely everything. They act as both currency and experience points, so you are constantly choosing to spend your resources on better armor, upgrades, items, and arrows, or levels, which you gain by increasing different stats independently. Merchants are scattered throughout the seamless world to exchange your Souls for objects, while at bonfires you use your Souls to level up.
Bonfires are also the location where you regain your “Estus Flasks”, which are essentially potions that restore your health. You only get a few of them and you can only restore your Estus at a bonfire, so bonfires are highly valued. As I stated earlier each area gets progressively more difficult, and it’s required that you level up accordingly to match up with the challenges you are faced with, which usually include stronger enemies, bosses, and traps which might require you to invest in a stat you aren’t prepared or planning to. If you do this at the expense of upgrading your weapons and armor, though, you’ll find that raw stats alone aren’t enough to take on some later enemies.
A world of your influence
Your decisions having an impact on how the game plays out for you is not limited to the choices you have to make between using resources on items or levels, either. There are several NPCs you interact with throughout the game, and, if you’re so inclined, you can kill them where they stand. Make no mistake though – as soon as you begin to fight them, they will become hostile and no resetting or powering down of the game will change the fact that these guys are out to get you. Once friendly NPCs can turn into hated enemies if they take a blow to the head, and if you reload a game near a bonfire shared with a new enemy, he’ll follow through on the beef and do his best to kill you.
Merchants, knights, and even gods are capable of being killed, but they can also help you. Some NPCs, if you help them with their tasks and talk to them enough, will join you in battle against certain bosses and can provide you with good items and armor if you help finish their quest line. Of course, you can kill them and loot everything they’ve got – sometimes, they’ll be items you can’t get otherwise – but helping an NPC is sometimes its own reward. When you’re stuck in the Hell that is the world of Dark Souls, you’ll become attached to these characters by virtue of them being the only sane individuals strong enough to walk through the death-ridden undead cities and dungeons with you. I couldn’t bring myself to kill some NPCs, but for a few like Lautrec, who I mentioned earlier. He’s the bad sort.
The world you influence and the power you have over your gear and stats encourages you to play the game again after you’ve beaten it. My first playthrough was an assassin who saw a lot of people die because he wasn’t prepared to protect them, while my second character was a grunt with heavy armor who slew the bad guys where he stood and saw the game be completed to fruition, with most quest lines finished and the good ending attained. I don’t expect Prepare to Die Edition to be any different, so, new players, when you boot up your PC version of the game, just be aware that every decision has consequences. Not necessarily negative or positive ones all the time, but ones that you can only find out about by seeing them happen. Use the next playthrough to right those wrongs, if you’re so inclined, and the rewards will be yours – new items with new abilities, new dialogue, and maybe even some help for the next boss.
But I’ve already died so much…
There’s one more small detail I may have left out until now. When you die, your souls are left in a small haze that lingers in the area of your previous death, and you have to restart from the last bonfire you stayed at. If you die again on your way back to retrieve your souls, they’re gone forever. The World of Dark Souls isn’t the sort that permits frustration – stay calm, recollect yourself and get the souls back, or you’ll have to find a way to compensate for the lost stats and items you need souls to buy.
On the plus side, sometimes you die and your souls are stuck further in the dungeon, but you can get more souls than you had initially by retracing your steps successfully and collecting souls from fallen monsters and certain items on your way back.
Gameplay aside, the game has an amazing story that only ever gives you just enough to know what’s happening. You start the game knowing that a huge war took place between Gwyn, Lord of Sunlight and the Dragons, which the latter lost terribly, in part due to the betrayal by one of their own, Seath the Scaleless, and also due to a few additional forces which you become “acquainted” with later in the game.
But your purpose in this world of darkness and death is left for you to figure out. All you know is that certain people are branded with “The Cursed Darksign” and that they are designated to make pilgrimage to the land of the Undead. Is that where you start the game? Is that where you’re trying to go? Were you really branded with the Darksign? And what is the Land of the Undead? Who is Gwyn? There are a ton of questions that are never answered simply. It takes an in-depth reading of your surroundings and NPC dialogue, and a couple playthroughs to get an idea of what is really happening.
If you’re interested in learning more about Dark Souls lore though, check out this video series. The creator, EpicNameBro, does a great job explaining the World and also extrapolating on it.
So, What’s New?
For Dark Souls players who can’t wait for the new content to reach consoles, do you remember Artorias? This game is all about him and what he did to help shape the world of Dark Souls. How is it that he was able to traverse the Abyss? What about his Greatsword? The expansion should be able to provide you with subtle hints and cues, and maybe a little more direct knowledge for you to fully flesh-out your understanding of the World of Dark Souls.
Otherwise, the game will be replete with new everything – weapons, bosses, monsters, the whole works. And it sounds like it’s an additional 10 hours of content (Dark Souls takes about ~40 hours to beat). Whether the regular gameplay tethers directly to the expansion to provide a seamless transition for new gamers on the PC is unknown, but the fact is, it is there, and I am one of the players who is yearning desperately for some more Dark Souls to cut my teeth on.
The opportunity comes August 24th, so be prepared. Hope to see some of you online!