Learning About struggles from Dark Souls

A little introduction to the brutal world of repeatedly being slain down, brushing it off and getting up again.

The Souls series are games known for their difficulty. FromSoftware didn’t design it this way for you to rip your hair out every time you ridiculously get kicked off a ledge by a giant skeleton, but for you to learn strategies, learn how to survive and learn what works best with how you want to play the game.

While the first Souls games are teaching you how you need to adapt your strategy, equipment and your way of playing in order to beat the enemies (and to just survive in general), their victorian style, beast-hunter game, Bloodborne from 2015, teaches you how to play much more aggressively, not to just stand back and let the world sweep you over (by forcing you to a dual wielded fighting style, contrary to a sword and shield fighting style). All of these games however, features a particular curve and pattern of difficulty.

You start off, barely with any knowledge of the world or what your goal is and you start progressing. Your first boss is usually not far away and you get a pretty clear idea that this game is gonna knock you on your feet countless of times, over and over again. When you die, you have to elbow your way through the same enemies again in order to recover what you lost, and sometimes you find that even just a regular peasant will brutally stab you to death if you just make a little mistake. In which case you lose the progress you made and you are left with 0 souls in your “purse”, losing what you originally were going to use to get stronger or buy stronger weapons with. At least you have a pretty clear view of what you want to achieve.

Progressing a bit further in the first level, things seems to get even more difficult as you face different types of enemies, some more annoying than others. You still run around looking for an ultimate weapon that will give you confidence and strength to get revenge at the game, and be the ultimate hero the world within seeks. At this point your options are seemingly limited and you perhaps feel frustrated. You consider putting the game away, just for a while (to do something more accomplishable). But you try one more time, bulldozing your way through the enemies, learning their moves, dodging their slashes and you manage to take them down more gracefully than the last time. You reach the area boss at last, and you tell yourself that it’s going down, sooner or later. You dodge a few of its slams and slashes but ultimately he sits himself on you. And you die.

However, you do feel that you’re getting the hang of his moves and his strategy. You try one more time, this time just dashing through the enemies, ignoring them all, because you’re set on beating the final boss. The petty little mob enemies can’t reach you anyways. In there, fighting the big boss. Eventually you start to feel more safe together with the boss, rather than outside of the foggy gate. With that safety, and feeling of finally overcoming your fear caused by its repulsive and scary look, you manage to take him down after a few more tries. You gain an immensely large sum of souls and you can level up your character multiple times, growing stronger, faster or more skillful. Whatever you want. You now have more options. You can buy better tools and better armor, to absorb the attacks of the enemy.

You are now being thrown in a completely new level by a flying demon imp. New enemies, different moves and attacks against you. You are stronger but the game doesn’t get any easier. Enemies level up along with you so you constantly have to keep an eye out and keep tuning your strategy. Some enemies even attack you in ways your armor cannot protect you. And you get hurt in different ways you’ve never been hurt in. You get poisoned, blood loss, petrified (literally) so now you have to start thinking about building up different kinds of resistances. To use tools and armor tailored to the different places you are going.

But you get through it, with a combination of patience, repetition and learning. (But also with finding kick ass tools to help you). You even find friends to help you on your way, which teaches you tricks and sells you better stuff. You are now a bad assed, resistant and armored warrior. Bosses are still whipping your butt but you know how to take them down and you have more choices. Eventually you reach the final boss. The creature who started all this. The one you have to put an end to, aka. your nemesis. You find it being a harsh combination of all kinds of difficulties you’ve met and paddled through. All you have to do is to remember everything you’ve realized and learned. What people have told you, about succeeding and not breaking down. Trusting yourself and self confidence and all that. And then add some more courage, more effort and more concentration. The stuff that’s been added from all your surplus winnings.

When the final boss is defeated, you get a choice. A choice you haven’t really thought about all this time because you’ve been busy trying to survive and progress. Or maybe the choice was all you were ever focused on? I don’t know, it depends on your own story.

Nevertheless, the struggle goes for everyone.

Needless to say, the struggles we all fight in real life cannot be compared to a game, as they usually appear disguised. Struggles surrounds you in a fog, with your feet off the ground, leaving you easily frustrated and tired, losing a grasp of what you thought you’d be able to handle. You once had a clear view of what you wanted and what you had to do when things would start to get tough, but everything seems to change whenever the time actually comes.

What I personally am going to try now, is to visualize my struggles as bosses. Foul, deformed and ugly looking creatures with vicious mobs protecting it. With weaknesses and predictive moves, and the opportunity to try over and over and over again.

Thank you for reading my first humble, little spill of thoughts.