Allow me to take you back a few years and about 450 hours to the day that one of my friends finally convinced me to play the first Dark Souls. I still remember one of my very first impressions of the game--”It’s like Skyrim, but linear and with zombies”--to put it frankly, I didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. I felt that the gameplay seemed kind of dull and boring, the many death screens probably didn’t help either.
But then my very first character made it to the Anor Londo level and from then on everything changed. “Wow, look at all these cool armors, weapons and rings that all have different stats and purposes!”-- I’d finally discovered the depth of the Dark Souls progression system and soon after the multiplayer which allowed me to show off my character to the rest of the player base--a player base that was very limited due to the second game’s prior release. But that didn’t stop me from sinking 200 plus hours over multiple different characters into the game. I finally beat the game once Scholar of the First Sin was released and immediately went on to continue the cycle of multiple characters, Fashion Souls, and most importantly multiplayer in the second iteration until eventually beating the game just prior to starting the third.
So what is so appealing about Dark Souls multiplayer and why do I believe it’s so bloody brilliant? In order to understand this, let’s look at how multiplayer is handled in other games with single player.
The current status quo for games with single player elements is to include multiplayer outside of the single player experience. A perfect example of this are first person shooters with annual or biennial releases--your Battlefields, Halos and Call of Duties. In all of these games, the multiplayer elements are separate from the single player elements, the two do not intermix, one does not affect the other. Single player Coop is of course the exception in this case for games like Halo of course.
But shooters aren’t the only examples where this occurs. Games like GTA V, Doom, Farcry 4 and Civilization 5 either have their multiplayer separate from the singleplayer or, in the case of Farcry 4 and Civilization 5, features included in the single player are removed for the sake of multiplayer. Farcry 4 removes missions in the coop mode and Civilization 4 streamlines NPC AIs in multiplayer. And this doesn’t even include games that are strictly singleplayer or multiplayer. The fact of the matter is: No other games out there blend their singleplayer and multiplayer elements as well as the Souls series of games.
Before I go on, I need to explain how the multiplayer in Dark Souls works. Don’t worry, it’s simple and I’ll keep it short. Basically, one player writes a sign on the ground in any part of their world and when another player is in that same location, they are able to see the first player’s sign. From there, they may summon that player into their world to either PVP or PVE depending on the type of sign placed. Invasion’s are the second type of multiplayer element, this is exactly like the PVP aspect of the first except for one small catch, a character is able to directly enter a world of a random host without their permission.
The amazing thing is that all of a character’s gear and equipment transfers over to the host’s world--The player is able to express themselves and use the character they painstakingly built in single player to either aid or harm the progress of the host and then they are rewarded for their efforts in their instance of the game, not the other player’s.
The other great thing is that this entire multiplayer process is part of the lore of the Dark Souls universe. Along with that, all items needed to gain access to multiplayer are found as you progress throughout the game. There’s no need to exit to the main menu and join a multiplayer lobby, find a server or connect to your friends--it just works. Your immersion remains unbroken, and the multiplayer and single player elements are merged into one entity, the multiplayer is part of this single player. Pure genius!
On top of that, the gear and RPG elements in Dark Souls allow for many different play styles and possible builds so no matter the player, they’re sure to find something that fits their playstyle. Be it a greatsword wielding tank or lightly armored ninja, there’s something for everyone and players that know the game well can optimize their builds as to not spend extra character levels.
Speaking of levels, the metas in Dark Souls are also worth talking about. Because characters constantly grow in power and effectiveness as they progress through the game, internal matchmaking pairs characters of similar levels together. This leads to having many different PVP metas in the game. Low level PVP plays differently from high level pvp and anywhere in between so if a player is having trouble with higher level PVP, they can always respec and play with players at lower levels or create new character, if they’re into that sort of thing.
But just because the singleplayer and multiplayer are integrated together so well doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues with certain aspects of the multiplayer. Up until Dark Souls 3 there were no dedicated servers for multiplayer and all multiplayer was handled with peer to peer connections. While this was not an issue in PVE, PVP play was seriously harmed by this as the issues with player synchronization were difficult to bare in many situations.
The other issue is with the balance of the equipment in the game. Certain weapons are just better to use for PVP than others. In all three games, straight swords are one of the most competitive weapons for PVP so there is no reason to use anything else for anyone that has their heart set on beating the most players. These weapons also require minimal stats to use and are viable on most builds.
Yet even with these negative issues I can still make a full circle with my argument back to the amazing integration of the multiplayer in these games. Aside from a few random invasions that will happen throughout a playthrough, one is not required to participate in the multiplayer. What’s more, the singleplayer gameplay experience doesn’t degrade should a player decide to do so.
Although the multiplayer in Dark Souls has some problems with PVP, there are many qualities that redeem it. From the incredible depth and complexity of leveling and character building to its uncompromising implementation with the single player, the multiplayer in Dark Souls seeks to not just check another box on the list of game development features, but also to make those features work and complement the rest of the game. So while the multiplayer in Dark Souls isn’t perfect, it’s integration is--something that cannot be said for just about any other game on the market.
Thank you all for watching. Let us know what do you think about the implementation of multiplayer in Dark Souls or other titles in the comments below. Remember to like this video if you enjoyed it and consider subscribing to the AI Cave channel if you haven’t already.
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