When the first Dark Souls came out I remember everyone hyping it up. Online forums were buzzing about it and its difficulty. Real life friends were teasing me, “It’s so hard. You probably won’t get past the first boss.” I ended up borrowing a copy from a friend. About half way through I stopped playing. Not because it was “too hard”, but I found it extremely clunky and “cheap” in its mechanics. I never returned to it and had zero interest in playing the sequels. So when Josh tells me he’s been playing Dark Souls 3 and we are taking direct inspiration from it I kind of cringed. He told me to play it, as there were many sounds he kept referencing in the game. He knew I would never buy it, let alone play it, so he bought me a copy and had it sent to my house. Every day after I would awaken to the same message:
“Did you beat Dark Souls 3 yet?”
Finally I gave in and loaded it up. Not without letting Josh know how I felt though – and let me tell you, I can be a whiny bitch to Josh. Half way through this one, though, and I had nothing but great things to say. Once a day I’d gush to Josh about some minor detail that most people wouldn’t even pick up. The gameplay was smooth. Everything fit just perfect. The presentation is amazing.
I play games with headphones on – for a few reasons. 1. I want to hear everything. 2. I NEED to hear everything. I can’t see very well, so playing games for me comes down to a lot of audio cues. Example: A friend and I were playing League. We were against a Thresh. Every time he’d throw out his hook I could easily side step and it would miss. She was amazed and asked how. I told her right before the hook animation starts, for a split second, you can hear the “chains” of his hook. Once I hear the chains I move. Dark Souls 3 is full of those tiny details.
Did you know 99% of the enemies in Dark souls 3 have different sounds? Ambient sounds. The praying Hollows at the start have a wheeze. The lantern ones scream. The hooded ones with knives have short throaty SFX. Almost every single enemy sounds completely different, even if they’re in the same “family” of enemies. I can close my eyes and tell you exactly which is which. In game, it’s super useful because you hear the enemies often before even seeing them. But it doesn’t stop there. It continues with weapon SFX, animations, reverb choice, and everything else.
Two of my favorite fights are The Abyss Watchers and The Dancer. Both very different fights, but the attention to detail in their sounds and animations is amazing.
The Abyss Watchers are quick, but wield giant swords. You can completely tell when every combo is done because at the end they look exhausted. To add to that, the impact sounds of weapons are stressed more than them “moving through air”. So you watch them do their combo, fly in the air, slash, slash, and then CLANG. The sword hits the ground (or you, get good scrub). That huge clang is such a great tattle tale sign that “Okay, he’s done with that combo. I can get some hits off safely now.” Even if you don’t consciously pick up on it, your brain is thinking it in the background and has already made a note of it.
The Dancer, on the other hand, is more subtle and beautiful. Large sweeping motions, to convey her size and elegance. Huge reverbs on her footsteps to convey her size, and the size of the arena. Watching her animations is literally like watching a dancer. From her attacks to her movements. The sounds they chose for her are very whispy and airy. Her movement and attack sounds are breath and whisper like. There’s such a rhythm to her sounds (and that entire fight really). The rhythm of her attacks and sounds matches perfectly with the slow moving music playing in the background. Listen to the tempo of her spinning attack. Whoosh…whoosh…whoosh. You can sway your body with the rhythm of the sound. Of course when she’s pissed off she resorts to more forceful attacks. The CLANG of her swords smashing into the ground is present again to let you know that she’s exhausted herself with the combo and it’s safe to attack a few times.
When Josh said he wanted to be influenced by Dark Souls 3, this is what he meant. Not the meme of “lol so hard, this is the dark souls of indie games”. But the extreme detail in the sounds, the environments, the movements and animations. All those tiny details that really do make Dark Souls 3 one of the best “polished presentation” games I’ve ever played. After my first play through I actually went and played it a few more times. Once on NG+, and a few times as other classes. Just to hear everything all over again and make more mental notes of how things were done and presented.
Will we be able to pull it off with our next game? Who knows. But that’s what we are trying to recreate.