Dark Souls: The Beat

If I had to describe the overall feel of Dark Souls in one word, that word would be “rhythmic”. This is a game with a pulse — which is perhaps ironic, considering the subject matter. Your footfalls as you run around the ruins establish a steady beat. When you break into a sprint, your stride gets longer, but your pace keeps the same rhythm. Enemy footsteps are synchronized to yours — sometimes, I think their sounds are my own until I come to a stop. Even the clang of sword-blows seems to fit the same tempo. Combat is all about finding the right timing, and having the rhythm constantly in your head helps, both to find and to remember it.

I suspect this is a big part of what makes the action so comfortable, so welcoming. Following a steady beat is something humans are good at. I’ve seen 2D platformers compared to dancing before, but there’s something similar going on here. And just as music is based on repetition, not just of beats but of higher-level patterns, so is Dark Souls. Either you’re spending a lot of time grinding for Souls, or you’re spending a lot of time trying to get through enemies that are too high-level for you because you haven’t been grinding for Souls enough, and in either case, you’re fighting the same enemies repeatedly, and running though the same scenery repeatedly to reach them. The beat has a slight hypnotic effect that makes this easier to bear. Why haven’t other grind-intensive CRPGs picked up on this?

No Comments

Leave a reply