How Dark Souls cured my depression | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 08, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 08, 2018

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How Dark Souls cured my depression

Dark Souls needs no introduction but for those who do need it, it's a third person action RPG game developed by From Software, published by Bandai Namco and it is tough as nails. But I didn't know that when I decided to “borrow” my brother's Xbox 360 three winters ago, nor did I know how much of an impact this single game would have on me.

Once all the cut-scenes played out and I was out of the character creation screen, I found my already dead looking character locked away in a jail cell. Like most games, Dark Souls walked me through the basic mechanics and I realised that this game was just a more combat-oriented Morrowind except it looked worse. At this point I thought to myself, sure the game was dark but the enemies just stood around like they were afraid. Soon enough I found what they were afraid of – The Asylum Demon. Despite wielding a broken straight sword, I decided to go in thinking that killing it was the logical progression of the game. There was no way I could be wrong now, could I?

The next thirty minutes were not pretty. It wasn't the countless number of deaths which felt shameful – it was the humiliation tied to the realisation that, there was no way I was ever going to kill this fatty with a weapon which clearly had the word BROKEN in its name. So after overcoming my ego, I decided to stray off to the corridor on the left and explore the rest of the area (there was a better weapon two staircases left of the boss arena). With a new weapon and renewed confidence, I went back for the Demon. This time however, I expunged it back to the depths of hell the demon ought to have stayed in. This victory granted me access outside the asylum, but I had achieved something far greater than just defeating one baddie – I had taken my first step towards curing my depression.

Hung from the talons of a crow, I rode my way to Firelink Shrine free of charge. By then I had accepted that yes, this game is difficult but would that stop me from making uninformed and rash decisions? “No.” said my inner demons as I ventured off into unknown territories, only to be slaughtered by skellies. My unassuming mind had once again fallen prey to this game's technique of double bluffing. I was getting angrier and angrier with each failed attempt till I snapped – I couldn't take it anymore. How could a game be this sadistic and this cruel? I just wanted to see what was in the cave beyond the horde of skeletons. But then why was it that everything in this game felt so personal, so sincere? I couldn't even get away with attacking the NPCs without having them chase me down as if there was a bounty on my head. And it wasn't like I was going upwards either. No, that would mean that I would get bombed and thrown off a cliff by a bunch of ganking foot soldiers. Death. Death was everywhere and all I felt like doing was ripping out my own hair. Where does it end?

There must have been some way I could make it through this first area, right? Beyond the skeletons, ghosts and foot soldiers laid something, and I had to know what that something was. Why would the enemies be so aggressive and so relentless if that something on the other side wasn't special? But I digress, I had school work I was behind on, I had a life worth attending to. Was going forward a good bargain? It was 3 A.M. on a cold winter night and I figured at that moment that yes, it was a bargain worth accepting given the fact that the weekends were coming up.

Slowly but surely I had made it up to the Taurus Demon, the second boss of this godforsaken video game. With each death tearing me apart and each swing of the mallet axing away my hopes and dreams. Each knockdown, pushing me closer and closer towards the cesspool made up of a mesh of my own arrogance and hatred towards this game. I was growing indifferent, unable to learn at this point. All the things I had learnt on this short journey, like the concept of spacing, rolling, waiting for enemies to whiff, were all at the cost of my self-belief. Sadness had taken its toll and the Taurus Demon was the gatekeeper collecting my dues. I needed to either accept and move forward, or accept, move on and write bad reviews of this game.

But every undead has its day and on one fine day I did it. Well technically the big guy fell off the bridge but I accepted it. I chose to move forward and from that point on, Dark Souls felt more intuitive. I accepted Dark Souls for what it was and nothing felt quite like it – the mystic and rustic charm of its dated aesthetics, the slow and clunky rolls, and the thud of each swing of the sword. Everything about this game felt real, unlike any other video game. The stories surrounding the characters circling Lordran felt all too familiar as well, from warriors who grieve over the path they never dared to take, abandoned knights left to die in the glory of their old selves, warriors in search of a guiding light towards a fortune untold. This 180 degree shift of my feelings regarding this game started to feel unnerving but my curiosity had been piqued, and by the time I had made it to Anor Londo, the lore surrounding characters like Solaire, Kingseeker Frampt, Knight Lautrec and Black Iron Tarkus had reeled me in tight. I can't even began to explain how amazing it felt to conquer Ornstein and Smough nor can I explain how awful it felt to put down puppy Sif and his master Artorias.

The last half of the game was short and it wasn't long before till I parried the final boss Gwyn one last time. I had finally done it, I had beaten Dark Souls.

It took me some time to get used to the mechanics and to maintain my composure, but in the end it was worth the struggle. Truth be told, I doubt if Dark Souls needed any more praising in its current lifespan given how its difficulty, tight mechanics, enriching lore and story are common knowledge to most gamers. But I felt obligated to write about it given the impact the game had on me, that too during a very awkward time of my life.

Asif Ayon's favorite color is a particular shade of ash but he tells everyone that his favorite color is blue. The alliteration in his name bothers him a lot too. To inquire more about what else keeps him up at night, hit him up at asifayon@live.com

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