Player Agency Gone Wild, Or, Why You Should Play Dark Souls (And Why You Probably Shouldn't?)

Posted by dudeglove (7684 posts) -

Given Vinny's recent and (depending on time of viewing this blog) ongoing quasi-Endurance Run-esque Load Our Last Souls series of vids wherein he picks up where he left off from playing Dark Souls, which can basically be summarized with this bombcast extract...

...I feel as though it's time I should explain to any of you reading why Dark Souls is - at least for me - one of the best games I've ever played. To do so I will be primarily focusing on the user-generated content coming from the community From Software spawned. By that I mostly mean posting a bunch of YouTube videos with a few hundred words thrown in to appease the mods.

But... but... why write any of this? Because, well, Dark Souls is one of those rare titles that has somehow extended beyond a singular experience. The world that was crafted, which you can read about in great detail from the horse's mouth, courtesy of GB user @7force who went to a good deal of effort to translate from Japanese the Dark Souls Design Works Translation (which you can absolutely start reading here on the site!) - a frank group interview with several of the creative leads wherein they go into extensive detail about the characters/environment/mechanics and reveal a lot of stuff you might not necessarily see or hear from "bigger" titles (by that I mean the Call of Duties and Grand Theft Autos of this world).

What From Software had generated was something genuinely engaging, and the knock-on effect of this has resulted in an entire sub-culture emerging, populated by weird and wonderful individuals devoted to - at one end of the spectrum - either unraveling the mystery of Lordran and its medieval Valhalla setting...

...or - at the other - breaking the fourth wall and fucking with other players.

Before reading any further, I highly suggest playing Dark Souls! Even though the Internet hammered away at it, resulting in 99.9% of the secrets being discovered and every element analyzed to several undeaths, there's still satisfaction to be had from the game. On face value, Dark Souls is ostensibly an adventure game with Dungeons & Dragons leanings. You are the Chosen Undead, whose task is to save the world. There are swords to swing, and demons and dragons to be slain in fantastical settings, but there is so much more. You've heard that it's a punishing game, and it is -

Poor Vinny :(

- but you learn from your mistakes and genuine satisfaction is derived from overcoming the various obstacles the game literally throws at you. In its latest incarnation on the PC, it can be bolstered (via DSFix and other mods) to look and play absolutely brilliantly in comparison to its console cousins.

Secondly, it might not be clear to some reading what's meant by the title of "Player Agency Gone Wild". What I mean by "player agency" is essentially the level of influence (or "agency") someone playing a game has on the game itself, and to an extent whether the game (or any other player involved) reacts accordingly. I fully realize that's a vague definition, and agency manifests itself in all sorts of ways, not to mention the fact that it varies from game to game. Some might describe it in other terms as "player choice" - no, that doesn't mean Mass Effect dialog option wheels - in the sense that a game with good agency will allow the player to approach and overcome certain scenarios in a variety of ways. Bear in mind not every game needs huge levels of agency either, it's more that the greater point surrounding it is whether or not a game has its foot firmly on the player's throat, limiting their every action and bottlenecking you down a critical path.

It's an extremely tricky balance, because shattering the illusion of agency is all too easy to do, and there are plenty of other staffers out there far more capable of debating the topic. To me, Dark Souls provides the player with what I would describe as the "right amount" of agency. At an extremely simple level, there is more than one way to get through the game, and the tools for doing so are almost always within reach - the rest is up to the skill of the player to find those tools and use them accordingly. For instance, you might feel slighted by the game for being brutally kicked off into a dark abyss by a giant skeleton like Vinny did, but you later realize that he's only got himself to blame for thinking he could simply waltz through.

Thirdly, it should be noted that, yes, some of this might verge into spoiler territory, but the things I've chosen hopefully won't ruin the entire experience. The list is by no means exhaustive either. Take it, perhaps, as an alternative introduction to those beginner threads. I'm not telling you how to play the game (no, you don't need the drake sword, seriously), I'm telling you why others have and continue to, and why you should (and perhaps probably shouldn't?). Dark Souls stands up as a glorious shining example that - holy crap - the real "worth" of video games doesn't lie in bullshit reactionary remarks to criticism like "Oh, it increases the brain's learning capacity" or nonsense about hand-eye coordination. Noooo... Dark Souls has been a font of inspiration for many to come together, to dig deeper, to create, and - in more than one case - to act like a gigantic douche. And I'm here to present you with proof.

Introduction: In Depth Interpretation

Before we delve into complete nonsense, it might be worth noting that VaatiVidya only started his channel after the PC version was released and in less than a year he's already hit more than 100k subs. Of course, he's not the only user involved with "lore" videos (there are others such as EpicNameBro heavily involved in generating content concerning the story of Dark Souls), but I rather enjoy Vaati's take on the fiction - scant as it is - more than the others. Maybe it's the level of production; maybe I just like the sound of his voice. One thing he delves into is the cut content of Dark Souls and through crafty use of mods allowing him control of camera angles and what not, weaves short machinimas out of things that never even made it into the final version.

And yes, if that's not enough for you, of course there are others who have simply posted videos trawling through the game files scraggling for every bit of content possible. Obviously.

Part 1: "Playing" The Game...

Somehow, Dark Souls has turned out to be a surprisingly popular game to stream via Twitch. The video above, part of Lobos Jr.'s "S&M Challenge" run (no, really, the rules are leather armor and whips only), shows off in the space of about 20 seconds what happens to probably every single person who's ever played this game at some point. Lobos has played this game so many ways. He has even played the game blindfolded

Pinwheel can't catch a break, ever, it seems.

Part 2: ...Then Breaking What You Thought Were The Rules

After a while of playing Dark Souls, you might get to a point where to you start to see time-saving short cuts here and there. And then you come across someone like Xskulled, who figures out the true limits of what can and can't be done in this game, then puts on a set of dumb equipment and starts leaping all over the place.

Or on a less showy note, vageta311 went to the trouble of perfectly demonstrating how to sequence-break your way through several points in the game.

So far these are just examples of players investigating the game's environment, we haven't even factored in other human beings yet.

Part 3: Fuck Environment, Let's PvP

One of the best features of Dark Souls is its multiplayer. Player vs Player comes in two basic forms. At one end you can be summoned and help a player defeat a boss. At the other end is invading someone else's world to prevent them from doing so, such as RedRosie invading Sen's Fortress with an obscenely large weapon and getting the jump on people in an already trying environment. It's cruel, really.

And pretty much anything in between goes. For example, players will intentionally act as fight club "hosts" and let invading red "phantoms" duel one another for everyone's amusement.

And yes, there are countless character builds that go way beyond simply wearing the same armor as one of the NPCs like Solaire. Honestly, what did you think would happen if you gave people like GrimDisaster the opportunity to play dress up as Greek Spartans? Pfft.

Then there are those rare few builds that have spawned a host of memes - the most famous of which is probably OnlyAfro's "GiantDad", which has become infamous as a sort of cookie-cutter PvP griefer build that regularly appears in other videos:

Again, all of what you've seen so far is the sort of basic thing that happens when you give filthy players the ability to do so, and we're not even at the best/worst part yet.

Part 4: Fuck PvP, Let's Use The Environment

So you want to PvP, sort of, but don't want to fight directly? Maybe it's time to put that Undead Rapport pyromancy spell to good use for once and turn the tide against invading phantoms who thought they had the upper hand?

Or maybe you're like Hugh G. Reaction and want to mod the PC version to make your character look like Sonic the Hedgehog and use the actual environment itself?

Forget dark magic; beware the elevators of Oolacile.

Part 5: Fuck It, Let's Do Both And Pretend To Actually Be The Game?

So perhaps you've sank hundreds of hours into the game, exhausted everything you get out of being summoned and dueling other players, what else is there for you to do? It seems pretty obvious that you should just become part of the game itself and pretend to either be an NPC in your own world...

...or invade other player's world's dressed up as certain NPCs and roleplay as them.

It's trolling, essentially, but it's a form of trolling that I can get behind. Or maybe you want to reenact a boss fight, except you don't have the equipment to do so? How's about a ganker's bootleg version of Ornstein & Smough in the forest instead?

Part 6: No Fuck AllThat, Let's Play Our Own Game Within A Game

Wait, you've really exhausted everything there is to do. Right? But you still want to play the game. So you think, fuck it, let's make up your own rules altogether. Enter PvP bingo, spearheaded by streaming players such as OroboroTheNinja.

This is typical of what you might sometimes hear as "artificial difficulty" in regards to Dark Souls. Basically it means that players have gone through the game so much that - as you can see from the bingo sheet - they will actively create their own arbitrary challenges and/or limit themselves because, well, Dark Souls, I guess? Surely we've ran out of ways to play the game, right?

Parte Siete: ¡Has Muerto!

Nope.

Conclusion: "Why Are You Doing This?"

And then you embrace the darkest soul of all. Now before watching the final video, I want you to know that it is flat-out my favorite clip of all, because it symbolizes everything right about Dark Souls. I'm not sure I can fully parse into words what I mean by "right", but this last vid is, like, some sort of singularity. Behold the true power Dark Souls has on players.

What we think of initially as just another basic low-level invasion of the Undead Parish in a matter of seconds becomes something altogether different. We see the invader abusing what happens to the character animation when you hold two bows without arrows and alternating between R2/RT and L2/LT. We see hosts and white phantoms flailing against a naked bald invader who poses absolutely no threat, yet is somehow more annoying than anything else the game could ever throw at them. "Why are you doing this?" messages one player to the invader feebly. Is it even worth answering?

The invading Darkwraith phantom stalks one of his prey, already weary of his behavior, throughout the level, continuing the mocking dance and impeding their attempts to open up the portcullis. And then we see the greatest moment of all - the truest moment of agency this game affords the player on the host's part. What the final host chooses to do is no longer be party to any of this and willingly throws himself off a ledge. He no longer wishes to play according to the invader's rules, and crystallizes this by taking his own life, ending the Darkwraith's ability to terrorize his game. All to the tune of some obnoxious European electro-house music.

In all my years playing games, it's rare to come across such moments. Thanks for reading.

#1 Posted by shinjin977 (748 posts) -

Nice post. I will add to that by saying, the Soul's series is the greatest achievement coming out of the ps3/360 generation and I will be surprise if this series does not leave a mark on gaming in the years to come. It has become my favorite games of all time along side Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, persona 3 and Nier.

#2 Posted by TobbRobb (4579 posts) -

I have nothing to add other than...

Yep.

#3 Posted by CptBedlam (4449 posts) -

I haven't read all of it yet, but fantastic OP so far. Bookmarked.

Nice post. I will add to that by saying, the Soul's series is the greatest achievement coming out of the ps3/360 generation and I will be surprise if this series does not leave a mark on gaming in the years to come. It has become my favorite games of all time along side Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, persona 3 and Nier.

It already left its mark. See all the games that are aping its MPinSP concept in various ways, for example. Or developers reflecting on difficulty of their games again, like CliffyB declaring that even his own games have become too easy and citing Dark Souls as a positive example.

Dark Souls is definitely one of the most influential games of this generation.

#4 Edited by SomeJerk (3138 posts) -

This is fantabulous. I have only Karmic Justice to add. (file under PvP, Metagaming, Hardcore)

#5 Posted by Paarthurnax (22 posts) -

Wow, I didn't know there was a following like this. I only have been playing dark souls just recently, so I'm really behind with everything dark souls.

#6 Edited by golguin (3842 posts) -

For sure it's one of the top games of all time and now you constantly hear people use Dark Souls as a point of reference when describing some game mechanic. I had already seen most of the videos you posted, but the only thing I would add are some of the famous animation videos.

#7 Posted by Humanity (8801 posts) -

@cptbedlam: I think the actual issue here is accessibility rather than ease of play. Dark Souls isn't in of itself a tremendously difficult game, but it requires a certain amount of dedication and perseverance from the player that isn't really found in most games today. We all come to expect checkpoints, regenerating health and game mechanics being explained to us. Thats neither a good thing or a bad thing in my opinion as balance is always key and you simply couldn't have every game play like the Souls series. In a way it's ironic that players praise Dark Souls for not having the very same elements that if removed from other titles would receive a negative backlash. If you simply added checkpoints to Dark Souls, or a bonfire right before every boss fog, the game would instantly play very differently and lose out on a lot of the difficulty. Still it is a very innovative series and an oddity. I'm actually curious if it was the YouTube revolution that raised Dark Souls to such heights of fandom or was it the multi platform release that helped widen awareness. Probably a mixture of both.

#8 Edited by probablytuna (3533 posts) -
@humanity said:

Dark Souls isn't in of itself a tremendously difficult game, but it requires a certain amount of dedication and perseverance from the player that isn't really found in most games today. We all come to expect checkpoints, regenerating health and game mechanics being explained to us.

Which makes it strange that they went out of their way to explain how the curse status works and what you need to to do to remove it the first time you encounter it. I think that was the only status that had an on-screen tip displayed when I died from the curse.

#9 Posted by dudeglove (7684 posts) -

Wow, I didn't know there was a following like this.

(click to enlarge)

#10 Posted by RobotSquad (213 posts) -

I was really excited to play Dark Souls. Got it as a birthday present to myself this year. But after 10 hours of playing, I just do not get it. At all.

#11 Posted by Humanity (8801 posts) -

@probablytuna: think that was added in a patch as I certainly don't remember any such text popping up when I played it on 360 at launch.

#12 Posted by Tennmuerti (7998 posts) -

Oh man this is a treasure trove of entertainment. Thank you for compiling these and the descriptions :)

Made it up to the PvP bingo today, definitely gonna finish watching all of these a bit later!

#13 Posted by ProfessorK (816 posts) -

Bless you sir. I feel this game has become something much bigger than it ever was intended to be and is definitely one of if not the most influential series this gen.

That said OnlyAfro is gdlk.

#14 Edited by Colourful_Hippie (4330 posts) -

Nah, I'm good.

#15 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -

You're my hero. Still not gonna play the Darkest of Souls though.

#16 Posted by Sinusoidal (1285 posts) -

I busted a fucking gut at that last video! I'm still laughing uncontrollably.

#17 Posted by planetfunksquad (401 posts) -

I want to love Dark Souls but the gameplay is so shite. Make Bayonetta Souls and we'll talk.

#18 Posted by dudeglove (7684 posts) -

@golguin said:

For sure it's one of the top games of all time and now you constantly hear people use Dark Souls as a point of reference when describing some game mechanic. I had already seen most of the videos you posted, but the only thing I would add are some of the famous animation videos.

The ones I've seen tend to be little ugh, but you're right - there are some good ones out there, although they're only amusing to those who "get" the joke.

But my main post was more to show off to the uninitiated the kind of nonsense that wouldn't require too much explanation. Another personal favorite is Red Rosie's "Undercover Sun-Wraith" where she does the complete opposite of what someone in a SunBro ought to.

Yet, again, it would require a fair few paragraphs explaining the irony.

#19 Edited by golguin (3842 posts) -

@golguin said:

For sure it's one of the top games of all time and now you constantly hear people use Dark Souls as a point of reference when describing some game mechanic. I had already seen most of the videos you posted, but the only thing I would add are some of the famous animation videos.

The ones I've seen tend to be little ugh, but you're right - there are some good ones out there, although they're only amusing to those who "get" the joke.

But my main post was more to show off to the uninitiated the kind of nonsense that wouldn't require too much explanation. Another personal favorite is Red Rosie's "Undercover Sun-Wraith" where she does the complete opposite of what someone in a SunBro ought to.

Yet, again, it would require a fair few paragraphs explaining the irony.

These are the animation videos that I had in mind. The thing about them is that they capture the spirit of the game and the ways that you can totally abuse the systems. When the game mechanics smacks you down you try to find ways to one up them.

It's true that it's best seen after you have played the game itself, but some of the best humor comes from a shared context. Dark Souls excels at shared experiences even though the minor details can vary greatly. Just mention "those archers" and everyone knows exactly what you're talking about and has their own stories to share about that part.

#20 Posted by seveword (141 posts) -

I liked this game. I really liked this game. I died, and died, and died, and I still liked this game. I beat it, multiple times, and I really liked this game.

Then I realized that I didn't really like this game.

The amount of commitment, to every single nuance of gameplay, story, environment, and atmosphere, is something that I'll never be able to muster. I simply can't PLAY the game. Sure, I can play the game. But I can't bring myself to care like some people do, and for that, I can never play it again. I would like to. The magic that I felt on my first playthrough is something that has rarely been matched in my decades-long life of gaming. Once I looked up a single, small tidbit of information online and realized how much of this game actually existed, however, I instantly lost all care or appreciation of the game and everything it embodies. It took my magic that I felt and strangled it before it really existed.

I'll never play this game again.

#21 Edited by The_Ruiner (1008 posts) -

So I just beat Smauge and Ornstein... but i beat Ornstein first...so I'm stuck with fat guy/man boobs armor... the cruelest trick the game has ever played...

#22 Posted by dudeglove (7684 posts) -

I want to love Dark Souls but the gameplay is so shite. Make Bayonetta Souls and we'll talk.

As someone who played a shitload of Bayonetta, I think you might be surprised at how much the PvP community has dug into the mechanics concerning combat in Dark Souls. Invincibility frames? Yup. Weapon switch cancelling? Yup. Wild variation in loadouts and builds? Absolutely. What Dark Souls lacks in terms of Bayonetta's bombastic spectacle, it makes up for in... umm... I'm not quite sure what the word for it is, but there's a surprising level of creativity among the user base.

At the end of the day, as some players have complained (such as the aforementioned vageta311) Dark Souls isn't Street Fighter IV and shouldn't really be treated as such, and would probably suffer for it if it went down that route. The attitude that one game should should satisfy everyone is also a flawed idea. The elements are there, sure, and yes they're far from perfect. Should that detract from the overall experience? Maybe it depends on what you are expecting going into the game, or maybe you should accept the game for what it is and try to tease certain things out of it through experimentation? I don't think there's a "correct" answer.

As an aside, Dark Souls lacks the complete and utter bullshit instadeath quick time events Bayonetta couldn't seem to rid itself of. The number of times I saw the game over screen for certain bosses (such as after firing the bullet time lipstick and punching the whatchamacallit into the sun in the finale) was far more than would be deemed reasonably acceptable. Bayonetta damn near ruined its combat system by throwing in the most hamfisted QTEs in existence, and some were complete garbage, such as the jump from the falling clock tower that I swear to god I could never get the timing down for, either because of input lag or whatever, despite eventually beating the game on every single difficulty. As someone who's played both, it's less easy to cheese certain encounters than Bayonetta, and the sense of reward from overcoming Dark Souls tougher enemies felt much better.

Here is a video of someone invading newbies following the Steam sale with the sole goal of whipping other players.

#23 Edited by planetfunksquad (401 posts) -

@dudeglove: I was kind of joking when I made that comment. What I mean is that Dark Souls is just too sloow for me and it doesn't flow well enough. I realise it's intentionally designed that way and changing that would be asking for a different game, but that's exactly what I want Dark Souls to be; something else.

And yeah, those QTE's are the worst. In a game like Bayonetta which is super complex in the combat department, having something just fuck you over for mistiming a button press is ridiculous.

#24 Posted by Bollard (5245 posts) -

Amazing blog post, thank you!

#25 Posted by Grizmack (11 posts) -

Terrific post. I am one of the many for which Dark Souls is just too much. I love the idea of it, love watching videos of it, and even love the thought of playing it. The problem for me is once I'm actually in the game, I get so damn stressed out that I can't play for much more than a half hour at a time. I've made it a decent way in (SL 63 or so, just entering New Londo Ruins for the first time), but always have a hard time picking it up again.

#26 Posted by eroticfishcake (7782 posts) -

@dudeglove: Little late on this but great write up. I've written a lot about Dark Souls but nothing on the actual playing and experience part of it. But yeah, I just flat out agree with you on the whole subculture that has emerged from this game which is super interesting given the fact that it's neither an MMORPG or your standard multiplayer game where storytelling doesn't quite work in a large, competitive space. So to have people create weird builds or some narrative within the world is something you rarely get from other games, if ever and that's just talking about the external stuff outside of the game's own narrative, which is quite different from other games in terms of it's execution and writing.

You could argue a lot of the design decisions in Dark Souls are bad but it's the way that it works with those mechanics into the story context whilst making it part of the experience is pretty genius. To change anything about them would make it not Dark Souls at all, making it fall by the way side along with the other homogeneous titles. So yeah, it's no surprise that it's my personal favourite game of all time and I think the best this console generation has to offer.

Also anyone who voted for Mass Effect 2 over this is crazy. I rarely ever say this but if you think ME2 is better than Dark Souls...you're wrong. >:(

(Not to say ME2 is bad, far from it but it has some dreadful problems with it.)

#27 Edited by dudeglove (7684 posts) -

@eroticfishcake:

To sort of add a postscript to that whole GotG conversation, I wasn't against Mass Effect 2 being in the running. Having played both games, I have to say I did genuinely enjoy the spectacle of Mass Effect 2. Yet in regards to leaving what I would consider a meaningful footprint of sorts... not really.

The corridor shooting galleries didn't really advance the third person manshoot formula in any meaningful way, the AI was kind of ass, the class system was sort of broken (seriously, why go anything other than soldier especially on insane difficulty?) and the combat issues weren't solved completely until ME3 (and that game went just swimmingly).

But... the presentation of Mass Effect 2 was glorious and the game had a real sense of "scale" to the galaxy (despite the omission of the rover side mission stuff that had been dropped from ME1), the same way Dark Souls teases with its own architecture, item descriptions, and conclusions that can be drawn from every single aspect of the world. The voice acting and characterization of Mass Effect 2 were solid (for a video game at least), and cemented my own opinion that - despite being an obnoxious cunt IRL - Seth Green's role as Joker was brilliantly done. Despite all the criticism thrown at it, Mass Effect 2 demonstrated that games are still very capable of producing an engaging universe that can draw people in, acutely witnessed by the heartwarming article over at gameranx "My Mother, Commander Shepard".

Yet as I've explained in this blog, either intentionally or not, Dark Souls has offered and generated so much more. Is either game particularly "original"? Not really. Mass Effect is ostensibly Joseph Campbell's hero's journey mixed with Star Wars space opera (almost literally in the latter with Mordin Solus' occasional singing).

Dark Souls borrows similar aspects, obviously (after all, why mess with a formula that works?), except that rather than space it is really just a glorious mesh of well-established D&D tropes. Where the difference in both games lies for me is that Dark Souls succeeds admirably in doing what no other media outside of games can. Triple-A studios like Rockstar would seemingly rather have you playing through their series of knock-off Scarface reenactments or the shootouts from Michael Mann's Heat or spaghetti western Grand Theft Horse - but that's not where games should focus their efforts at all! Books, films, and TV are mostly a one-way interaction between producer and consumer. Video games are capable of breaking down that barrier and engaging the player in a two-way process.

Like I said in the introduction, the real worth of video games does NOT lie in perfectly-executed scripting - that's the domain of film-making - nor is it the often-mentioned horseshit about "improving reaction times and learning capacity" twaddle.

Think of it this way: how many communities have sprung up around video games (hint: you're looking at one)? How many random strangers have you met in any online game, or as a result of playing any game, only then to find yourself wandering down that obscure rabbit hole into a chat room full of like-minded slightly crazy people cheering on a mildly-overweight Italian-American die about 20 times fighting one boss? How many foreigners have learned English as a result of playing games? How many westerners have sought out games produced in other countries and enabled a cult following that might never have been the original intention of the developers? How much fucking money has that fat piece of shit Notch made from Minecraft? Games have the ability to produce and/or encourage this elusive social-creative element that's really quite hard to nail down, but once it sticks - boy is it a force that can be used for all sorts of craziness both good and bad.

When it comes to this topic, I can't help but recall Cliff Bleszinski's quote from the E3 2013 bombcast with Jonathan Blow & co. I'm paraphrasing him slightly, but he mentioned that one of his proudest moments from the Gears franchise was people telling him "Yo, bro, I met my wife playing Gears online!". With the new generation of consoles and the generations of people coming with it, it's highly likely you're gonna see WAY more of that in the next five to ten years, and that's genuinely super exciting.

I'm not sure whether From Software truly foresaw this level of interaction between the players and their game, but the important thing is that the means are there in Dark Souls - as shown in all those dumb youtube videos I posted .

For those reasons and more are why Dark Souls is - for me at least - a testament to how far games have come, and a sign of things to come. It might not be the pinnacle of gaming, but it's an extremely important milestone, and that's why it's my Game of the Generation.

[TL;DR? ME2 good, Dark Souls better.]

#28 Posted by dudeglove (7684 posts) -

In the spirit of the season and Dark Souls, something new showed up in my youtube video suggestion the other week. It turns out two (relatively well known and aforementioned in the OP) streamers - falchion-wielding stunlocker OroboroTheNinja and parry king PeevePeeverson - have teamed up for a NG+7, aggression-modded, perma-gravelorded cooperative playthrough of Dark Souls (at soul level 125), and it is truly something special. As of time of writing, they've done four episodes and made it through Sen's Fortress.

http://www.youtube.com/user/oroandpeeve/videos

[If you don't know what any of those terms mean, NG+7 is the seventh time playing a game where enemies are at their strongest. Although the game can be completed multiple times ad infinitum, enemy damage and health caps out after YOU DEFEATED Gwyn the seventh time. The aggression mod is a PC-only mod where enemy AI is altered to basically make every single enemy home in on your character. Perma-gravelorded is another mod that adds extra tough black phantom NPCs to your world as if you were gravelorded by another player, but unlike normal gravelording it's permanent. In other words, they're playing the game as hard as they possibly can, and enemy AI routines are all messed up because of the mods. "Pure Black" is a reference to a Demon's Souls mechanic, where if a level's "world tendency" was pure black, the enemies were at their strongest.]

My personal favourite is episode 3 when they decide to take on Blighttown. It's not certain if they'll go beyond Ornstein & Smough, as most novelty LPs of this sort tend to only go as far as the lord vessel, but what they've posted so far is gold. Happy Holidays, and Merry Soulsmas.

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