Pathways/022 — The final ramble

Dark Souls 2 is the second best game in the series, it's almost an unworthy successor, like someone held a coup.
Have you played Dark Souls? I sure have! It’s definitely a video game.

It isn’t that the fanbase is toxic (it isn’t) nor that the game is too hard (it isn’t) nor that the game is obtuse (maybe), but people are often quick to ignore the Souls franchise due to the evangelical nature of its players. The same could be said of Sonic fans, or grand strategy nerds, or even devout car simulation fans. The fanaticism added to a bad experience can lead to high bounce-off.

I always install Baldur’s Gate 2 on new PCs, but I have no actual interest in returning to the game. I bailed on it over two decades ago at the point where it gives the player freedom, and have routinely retreated at the same point. While in truth, I doubt I will ever want to complete BG2, I install it almost as a safeguard, in case it ever gets so bad that I’ll have to play a CRPG for a hundred hours. I don’t know if Minsk is the hamster or not, but I know many people who do.

It’s not a bad game — in fact, it’s very much a great game — but I’ve formed expectations based on over two decades of retellings. It’s been ported and updated in ways that make it relatively playable nowadays, something that up until a few years ago couldn’t be said for Grim Fandango, a game that wasn’t optimised for computers over ten years after release.

I read the PC Zone short review of Grim Fandango whenever I’d scroll to their ‘bests’ section. I own the game, but have yet to play it — it’s a weird mix of a fear of missing out and a fear it doesn’t hold up. For years I’ve wanted to play the game, and I’ve only ever heard two bad thing said about it; the tank controls and one of the puzzles was obtuse. But still I have this idealised version in my head that is the three screenshots: Manny in a hallway, the big orange thing in mechanics’ gear and the two of them in a car.

I’m not booting up Grim Fandango. Thimbleweed Park is a great reminder of what I found challenging and fun about adventure games.

I haven’t played many 4X games. I know how cool they can be; I spent many days progressing the tech tree in Civilisation in order to still have knights at a later point in the techtree, but the sheer wonder and breadth said genre has grown to terrifies me, without even acknowledging the time, power and concentration needed to run said games. I want to play a Zach Gage (spelltower/sage solitaire/typeshift) or Asher Vollmer(Threes) 4X — something that, upon researching, is apparently in the works.

This is either very late in Dark Souls 3, or at the beginning of Dark Souls 3, the series has repeat layouts in a way that feels more like architecture passed through the ages than copy paste design.

Our tastes grow, and over time we get more specificity in what we enjoy and what we are willing to

enjoy. If left to your own devices (shakes head), you can end up a genre hermit, someone who only really enjoys certain genres for the immersive structure rather than the surprise and emergent gameplay that is core to certain genres.

Game reviews and discussion tend to influence game purchasing habits, but more often than not, the informed person will reiterate their highlights and why said game might be recommended. Most, if not all of us, have recommended something based on someone else’s statement, in which we state in our own words why we think it’s a good fit, rather than directing the person to the original writing/discussion

I was sold and unsold on many games by the same people that I’ve sold and unsold on games. I once managed to get someone to try Fallout 3, just by explaining to the prospective player that I thought they would like it based on their love of Fable and its RPG mechanics, — and I’d buy it off them if they didn’t. They devoured it. It led to them purchasing Skyrim and they currently play a lot of Neverwinter in between rounds of PUBG.

I’ve completed the main game of Skyrim once, but completed the intro about 20 times, I recommend the a new beginning mod, so you don’t have to see these idiots yell about dragons.

Comparing Fallout 3 to Fable is a weird one, but it’s important to note that said person had only ever played a single RPG=style game and was raving for a game that was like that series, but a bit more like their favourites of the time: Dead Rising and Gears of War. The Elder Scrolls IV didn’t have enough guns to sell them on it, and a reliance that the colour palette of Gears was really good led to an offhand comment about Fallout 3’s drab wasteland.

To this day, I think they have some form of undiagnosed reverse colour blindness, as the next day they wouldn’t stop talking how nice it looked on their HDTV, something I’m yet to understand. Was it the draw distances or the possibilities? Needless to say, I didn’t have to tell them about Skyrim and Fallout New Vegas and 4. Mass Effect and Alpha Protocol sunk like bricks, until Mass Effect 2 came around.

I only got into Dark Souls after messaging a friend who was playing it to ask their opinion on it. They sold me on it at that point. I asked a relative about the game, who repeated some of the similar points and issues that wouldn’t affect me. I’d later learn said relative was stuck at the beginning of the game. The best experiences I’ve had with the Souls games is guiding other players — it’s truly the best when it’s not a solo endeavour, both in multiplayer and in person.

Dark Souls 3 has the best locations in the series, the atmosphere is incredible, each realm in the game feels whole.

Forcing someone to sit down and play something they aren’t into isn’t going to sell them on the experience, no matter how close it is to the thing they enjoy. Sometimes that push is more than enough to push them away. To this day, despite greatly enjoying fighting games, I’ve never gotten on with Blazblue, Skullgirls, Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Darkstalkers. Something about them is just so off from what I enjoy, whilst often just having one extra or missing ingredient.

I don’t think I’m ever going to enjoy a grand strategy game, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take some enjoyment out of somebody’s love for the genre. I’ll stop recommending you to play Dark Souls, unless you actively want to talk it through.

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