Keep the Controller and Tell me More
I have come to the conclusion that I'd much rather read about Dark Souls than actually play it. There is something about From Software's dark and unforgiving action-role player that inspires an unrivalled eloquence among gamers and generates enthusiasm that is (almost) contagious. A year after release and I continue to stumble upon new and passionate prose dedicated to all things Dark Souls. These articles chip away at my resolve and almost make me regret my violent shelving of DS earlier this year (I was pretty angry at the time!). They make it all sound so wonderful, these gluttons for punishment, the darkness so inviting, the initial frustrations ultimately rewarding and its fairness beyond reproach. To look upon Anor Londo is to be enlightened, or so they say, and to endure its trials is to revel in a game type that is all but extinct.
Part of me wants to give it one more try, but I know that it will end in tears (funeral tears, not wedding). Perhaps I have been spoiled by the instant gratification of Uncharted and Call of Warfighter, but I just don't have the patience for them Souls, be they Demon or Dark. I reserve the right not to learn from my mistakes and to consider the one-hit-kill a cheap mechanic, no matter the form it takes. I know that with each death I should be making mental notes of weaknesses and potential techniques, but I'm too busy cursing the beast that slew me and thinking about the steps I must retrace before having another crack.
The darkness draws me in, but I soon tire of walking the rotten boards of Blight Town and skulking through the forest, finding myself pining for a light switch and a bazooka. Still, I cannot fault the enthusiasm of the Dark Souls faithful, even if I might question the brilliance of the game they so adore. I love eves dropping on their tales of battle and delving into their interpretations of a game that has yet to reveal all its secrets, allowing myself to be drawn back to an experience that I know I don’t enjoy. I stuck with Dark Souls for the best part of ten hours, by which time the frustration far outweighed any sense of achievement and I was ready to shove Sen’s fortress up his booby-trap-loving arse. However, my first-hand experience of Dark Souls has not lessened my appreciation of it, and I will continue to seek out articles from doting writers, so that I may marvel at the devotion of gamers far more patient than I.
I consider Monster Hunter to be cut from the same cloth. Thanks to a steep learning curve and a nuanced combat system that requires a significant time investment, Monster Hunter is an acquired taste; despite my best efforts, its charms continue to allude me. Like Dark Souls, it demands patience and, ideally, a knowledgeable teacher to explain why it's not a good idea to hunt a Plesioth on a Tuesday. These realities mean that, for me at least, the prospect of playing Monster Hunter is far more appealing than actually pressing buttons.
Although it has never really taken off outside of Japan, Monster Hunter boasts a passionate and patient Western fan base, one that continues to exalt the virtues of their favourite game. They have their own communities, run websites and host podcasts, fuelled by expensive imports and kanji dictionaries. Theirs is a club you'd love to join and their exuberance has contributed to my purchasing multiple MH games over the years. Despite my better judgement, I'm greatly anticipating 2013's 3DS and Wii U instalments, anxious to see if these are the games that will break Monster Hunter in the West and if they are to be the entries that will convince me that Mon Hun should be more than just a second hand experience.
And then there's Halo. Of all the series that I have been content to follow from afar, Halo is the biggest and shootiest. When I bought my 360 in early 2009, I did so with the intention of catching up with Master Chief, as I picked up copies of Halo 1-3. To my disappointment, I found three shooters with a visual style, narrative and characters that did absolutely nothing for me. The gameplay was solid enough - my lack of a Live subscription precluded me from sampling Halo's bread and butter multiplayer - but I soon realised that I was trying far too hard to enjoy it and admitted defeat. Unlike Dark Souls and Monster Hunter, I no longer entertain the notion of getting involved, but am happy instead to live vicariously through every other gamer with an internet connection and a 360. I enjoyed following the early announcements for Halo 4, was entertained by the build-up, read the reviews and took note of the consumer reaction, but I always knew that I would skip the actual game, Doritos and all.
Are there any games or series that you have been content to admire from afar?