Since before the release of Skyrim I had been craving to play a video game with depth, with systems, with a certain quality that would both challenge me, allow me to craft my own character, and not leave me wanting. Skyrim did just that for long long time, more than one hundred hours worth of time. But yet that game finally worked it's way out of my system and I was left again with something akin to RPG blood lust. And not any RPG could do either. I wanted something deep and engaging that would snatch hours away from me at any given moment and leave me battered, bruised, and happy. Basically I wanted a game to beat me to a pulp and make me happy for it.
In that time plenty of challengers rose up to fight the good fight and plenty of them were well worth my time. FTL was chief among them. After dabbling in Oblivion (a game I need to restart and play through) I wanted a game that didn't necessarily require a time commitment. With the RPG elements I wanted and the difficulty level I craved FTL is a nice game to just have for a few hours when you want to play a game but might be unable to commit to a full on RPG. I still need to unlock more ships and I've spotted a few mods that give custom ships from various science fiction sources, so it's a great game that feeds the addiction but just doesn't cure it.
Then, on a whim, I purchased Dark Souls. Recently it had been on sale for something around $20 after sitting at $35 or $40 for the longest time (just like Forza 4 >.<). I thought this my time to strike, to try out this divisive game that I'll admit, intimidated me to no end. Without knowing exactly what that game is you're left with the impression of sheer difficulty that harkens back to games for the NES or worse, the arcade which are only trying to get more quarters out of you. Finally, after weeks of debating, I had a fresh 20 dollar bill in my pocket and spotted a $17 used version at Gamestop. Spontaneity overtook me and I was already at home popping the game in.
Dark souls isn't a game for a "casual" gamer. You already know if you want to try Dark Souls out or not. No demo, no few hours with the game, can really leave you with an accurate impression of what that game is. It's a game you must spend a weekend with before finally feeling positive or negative about it. It's frustrating, annoying, requires large amounts of your attention, and worst of all can be very cheap. Most sessions with Dark Souls feel like I've accomplished nothing, or worse that I've regressed. My first invasion, wherein someone can come into your world and hunt you down, the played attempted to kite me towards a larger and tougher enemy which I had already stumbled upon and died. He wouldn't stop. Eventually he killed me, both having more experience and simply griefing me until I just didn't care anymore. I lost 4,000 souls (a currency and upgrade mechanic for the game) and after dying attempting to recover them (which loses them forever) I shut my game off and didn't come back for a day.
Endlessly frustrating doesn't being to describe that feeling. I felt like those 12 year olds who yell "hax!" whenever you kill them. I was honestly cheated and game didn't actively discourage, in fact the game set it all up, as if the game wanted me to lose all my hard work and set me back to square one. Which is why, 4 hours later, when I beat the boss of that area, and moved onward to a fresh part of the map I felt amazing. I walked around my house exclaiming to my roommates about my victory and about a game they only had a limited interest in. Later on after beating the next boss I interrupted my roommates phone simply to say that "I did it".
It's a delicate balance between shoving your face in death and failure and rewarding you shortly afterward. The game hates you, doesn't want you to win, and builds itself up to be something you despise. Which is why when you beat it, playing within its tight rule set and parameters you feel all the better. I beat you at your own game and there is nothing you can do about it. It's like the game had been bullying me for years and one day I come to learn it's just been hired at the company I run. I don't want revenge, I just want the game to know that I had won.
Of course with Dark Souls every victory is met ten minutes later with another series of strong enemies leading up to a seemingly unstoppable powerful boss. Checks and balances I guess. I haven't scratched the surface of Dark Souls and can't tell if I'm hopelessly addicted or one cheap death away from breaking the disc in half, or both. But Dark Souls is an accomplishment. It exists, it's popular, and it made money. All in a world that values slightly iterative sequels and the most popular of games are almost always shooters and sports sims. Maybe secretly we're all just masochists.