What do you value over everything else when it comes to video games? For me it’s story, every time. I don’t care if it’s an old game or if the graphics are just bad, or if the gameplay is a little clunky, or if it’s too long or short of a game. If it has an original and/or compelling story, there’s a good chance I’ll like it quite a bit.
Recently I’ve been quite into the fantasy/dark fantasy genre, specifically Dark Souls. Through my experiences with the Souls series, I’ve realized that it’s not only the content of the story that I enjoy, but how it is told and presented to the player. In many games, the story is basically told to you straightforward, without making the player do a whole lot of work to discover the story. There may be puzzles or little notes that you find to delve deeper into the story, but it is rare to find a game that just says “Go.” That’s essentially what the Dark Souls series does to the player. You begin the first game with a cutscene that means quite a lot if you are familiar with the series’ lore already, but is quite overwhelming to the novice player. The player is then given a simple instruction to ring two bells and then gets tossed in the (kinda) right direction. Now this might just seem like a bad game and, based on the evidence I’ve given, that wouldn’t be a terrible first impression. I promise that’s not the case.
Dark Souls found a way to have a vastly complex world and lore, with interesting characters and history; and the game doesn’t hand any of that information to you. You have to go out and throw yourself at seemingly impossible levels until you master them or quit. And bit by bit, the more you explore and the more characters you meet, the more of the story you uncover. FromSoftware took a gamble with this style of storytelling (which they started with in Demon’s Souls, the spiritual predecessor to Dark Souls). If you put in the work to find the story and learn what all is going on, Dark Souls will be one of the most satisfying gaming experiences you have. Because it’s not just about what the story is, it;s about how you tell it.