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I bought Dark Souls when it first came to PC in the form of the Prepare To Die Edition in 2012. I fully intended to play it, but I never did. I suspect this was because I found it intimidating. The press about it made it sound like a fascinating and compelling game, but also a game that is very difficult and obtuse, not to mention huge and all-consuming. There were heaps of praise, sure, but also those who claimed its difficulty was punishing rather than fun. And the horrid behavior of hardcore fans who respond to any criticism of the game (or, indeed, requests for advice from struggling players) with derisive shouts of “git gud”, positioning themselves as gatekeepers who insist their way is the only way to play. A particularly awful example of toxic game culture. Worse, I read about Dark Souls’ online components, which let players “invade” other players’ games, implying I might be minding my own business only to have one of these “git gud” assholes show up and kill my character, like the worst possible griefer.

And yet… Dark Souls sounded fascinating. It launched its own sub-genre of “soulslikes“, not just from original developers FromSoftware but from numerous imitators. None received as much acclaim as FromSoftware’s own successors, of course, be they Dark Souls’ direct sequels, the gothic flavored Bloodborne, samurai tale Sekiro, or last year’s smash hit Elden Ring. There’s no denying that Dark Souls had a huge impact on games as a whole, and I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. So, at long last, I have played Dark Souls, in the form of Dark Souls Remastered since it’s easier to run these days. I now know that all the praise Dark Souls has received is well-earned: it is indeed compelling and fascinating. It’s also not quite what I expected.