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With the release of Dark Souls III slated for tomorrow, Richard Cobbett has taken the opportunity to talk about why he hasn't been able to get into the series before and the particular insularity inherent to some genres. Here's an excerpt:
I couldn't see what would make me want to spend hours picking it apart, instead of just giving up and opening a wiki. It didn't help that everyone I spoke to had long-since bought into the series' grammar and vocabulary to the point that not finding something coherent simply meant missing the point. It's a common problem for many genres, of course. Why can't you solve that adventure game puzzle with £10 and a trip to the hardware store? Because we accept that the nature of the genre is doing what you can with what you have. Why do RPG shopkeepers buy whole suits of armour for 1G but sell health potions for 20G? Because as goofy as it is, the already broken economy of these games would get ridiculous.
In exchange, we're allowed to carry enough armour to kit out an entire platoon and keep fighting at peak health down to 1HP, before suddenly losing all will to live and just keeling over. Learning the grammar and vocab is part of many games, but it's particularly key when they come from different cultural backgrounds. Japanese RPGs play by very different rules to traditional Western ones, just as German strategy games tend to have and I'm putting this politely a distinct style and approach to things. (Less politely: the tendency to get more anal than a rectal thermometer.)
Learning the grammatical rules does tend to lead to problems when games and series' run on though. By the time of Dark Souls III, the fourth (fifth if you want to include Bloodborne) Souls game, so much of the meaning and value of the lessons learned calls back to previous entries, and it's hard for fans to remember a time before they understood the basic rules.
MMOs suffer from this a lot, with the word '˜noob' less used as a description than an insult. Dark Souls 3 definitely does. I've been amused watching my Twitter feed to see that people who have put hundreds of hours into the series, often going back to Demon Souls or even King's Field, have been playing the new one and being a bit disappointed to find it less of a challenge than the previous ones. No shit! I don't know how hard or twisted it would have to be to avoid that, but I suspect it would take a first boss who can only be defeated by chessboxing and a final foe with exactly one pixel of vulnerable flesh. Covered in impenetrable armour.