Lovable rogues.

“I am bewitched with the rogue’s company. If the rascal have not given me medicines to make me love him, I’ll be hanged.”

GG


While not strictly a roguelike, Demon’s Souls represents an evolved form of unforgiving dungeon crawl. The game and it’s sequel Dark Souls have received critical praise while also managing to pull in rather good sales numbers. More that just catching onto some strands of the cultural zeitgeist, these games have managed to propel themselves into the conversation. You know, the one about what video games are…

So what does Demon’s Souls reveal to me about the nature of video games? The most intriguing to me is the possibility that there is a push by gamers against easy-mode gaming in single player experiences. And the revelation is that to do so we don’t have to return to the difficult for difficulty’s sake era of quarter robbing video games. Instead we have a new frontier of challenge. A tightly controlled and most importantly an always fair set of game mechanics.**

But why?

It’s not that players here are rejecting a narrative-based game experience, Demon’s Souls tells a good story well. It knows when to be vague, when to refer back to itself, and when to keep quiet and let the mood do the talking. The drive to complete a narrative experience is part and parcel of enjoying this game. But it is within the ludic game experience that Demon’s Souls shines. And it is the tipping of the scales back towards gameplay, towards tightly controlled mechanics, comprehensive design etc… and away from the Dragon Age / Oblivion conversation game within a game.

And again, this is not a return to the old ways. As stated above the narrative of Demon’s Souls is captivating in its minimal kind of way. I suppose this avoidance of the old narrative hiccups in Japanese role playing games be attributed to the increased skill of localization teams. But there is also a softer touch here. The voice over talent is excellent. The ambient sound and effects are amazing.

Maybe Demon’s Souls has found that balance best characterized by that ol’ saying: ‘Iron hand in a Velvet Glove’. In fact, I can’t think of a better expression given the way Napoleon defined it: ‘Soft of speech and manner, yet with an inflexible vigour of command…’

**In an altogether different dimension Super Meat Boy proves to be another such sign of the times.

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