Even for Dark Souls Blighttown is a nightmare – and yet there’s a lot to love in the foetid swamp and teetering hovels.
Dark Souls brought hardcore action RPGs into the big time, but not everyone made it to the end of this first saga. Some of you gave up at the first enemy. Many of you never made it past the first boss. And then there was the mass exodus at Blighttown.
Blighttown is nowhere near the most difficult environment in Dark Souls, but it’s right up there among the most hated. Everything in it wants to poison you, or give you toxic status. Enemies attack at range, or lumber close to knock you from platforms. Almost every fall is fatal. It’s ugly as sin, and dark as the inside of a rock.
Despite all that and is near-universal reputation as one of the most frustrating areas in the whole extended Dark Souls family, YouTuber Hamish Black has produced a thoughtful rundown of the area’s virtues on his channel Writing on Games.
In the video above, you’ll hear Hamish talk through how Blight Town turns the conventions of ascent and reward literally upside down, making Blighttown a subversion of design techniques used widely in video games and even elsewhere in Dark Souls itself. He also argues that the lack of big pay off at the end of Blighttown serves to hammer home the messages embedded in its environment.
If you’re a Dark Souls fan who has only ever thought of Blighttown in terms of your own frustration playing through it, this video might give you something to think about. I don’t know if you’ll come away agreeing that Blighttown is good design, but it’s certainly interesting design.