Apparently Dark Souls 2 has a “story.” But I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. At the beginning, some old ladies spew some nonsense about things that I’ll never remember and NPCs along the way are mostly cryptic. Sure, a quick Google search reminds me that my character is cursed and is looking for a cure. But I still don’t really care, which begs the question: why not?
The quick answer is that Dark Souls 2’s mechanics are solid and addicting enough to pull you through the game without emotional attachments to characters or a desire to see what happens at the end. Classics like Tetris and Pac Man and even modern hits like Geometry Wars or Minecraft prove story isn’t essential to a great game. We play them because we have fun with them.
This is contrary to a game like To The Moon, which features an utterly heartbreaking story, some brilliant characters and virtually no gameplay. A less extreme example is BioShock Infinite, a shooter with passable gameplay, which happened to win my 2013 Game of the Year based solely on its story and setting. Eric may bring up the Last of Us here as another shining example of story propelling a game to brilliance.
Which makes me wonder, what would Dark Souls 2 (already a great game mechanically) be like if its story was more prominent, grounded and less mysterious? What if there was no story and you achieved victory simply by defeating all the bosses in the order the game’s developers laid out? Would it be the same game?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.