I’ve been doing fresh playthroughs of games thus far for Goddamn Mondays, but this week, we’re playing a game that I started, and almost immediately hit a wall on. I expect I’ll be beating my head against that wall for the rest of this article, so, enjoy. Dark Souls, comin’ atcha.
For having played over three hours, my progress is mildly pathetic- I’ve cleared the tutorial, and fought my way the game’s first real boss… and lost to him more than a dozen times. It’s been nearly a year since I last picked this game up. But hey! Nothing quite like smashing yourself against an immovable object until you start to bleed, right? Let’s get this train wreck started.
Ah, yes… the Undead Burg. An elaborate series of stone buildings and walkways overflowing with soulless monsters. Up until the boss, I know this area like the back of my hand. After all, every time the son of a bitch kills me, I have to go through it all over again. I’m wearing full armor, I’ve got a sword and shield, and I’m ready to rock. I step outside the safe area, and immediately lift my shield. A moment later, a crossbow bolt tinks harmlessly off of it. Two enemies- both emaciated Hollow Soldiers, skinny undead flesh and bone. One has a crossbow, the other a sword. They are no challenge at all. I dispatch of them with my blade just in time for a third to show up and fall as well. Good start. I’m not too rusty. Not that this is an appropriate test of that anyway. Bastards are basically pinatas, coughing up experience points for free.
I start at the bonfire, of course- one of the game’s preset respawn points. Any time you die, you are booted back to your last bonfire. I head across a narrow walkway towards a small room. Enemies overhead hurl flaming bottles at me, but as long as I keep moving, the brainless attackers will always hit behind me harmlessly. Waiting for me in the room are three more enemies- one of them has a shield. Wait for them to attack, block it, then flip out on them. All dead. No issues.
Outside and up the stairs… four more minions. One of them hits me in the face with a flaming bottle. Son of a bitch! Cut them all down, but ow, man. I really didn’t wanna take a hit this early on. Then again, it’s just health. The problem is the Taurus Demon, and he gives no shits about your health bar. So I guess this isn’t a big deal.
So, come to think of it, why are these guys even attacking me? I mean, yes, they are undead… but I am too, right? That’s the story? I was a hero trying to save the land, and I fucking failed, but I’m still trying? I’m just saying, if they are willing to attack other undead, how come they’re not attacking each other? Well, I guess I’m not gonna get any answers. This game ain’t too big on exposition.
Head forward, there are three guys with shields. I have to draw them off one at a time- if you try to fight multiple shield guys at once, they just take turns attacking and you never get an opening. Cut em down. There’s a message from another player right where they were standing before, let’s go see what it is. “Gorgeous View.” I gaze off the wall of the castle, into the golden sunset cascading through the narrow valley between two cliffs. You know, this is rather pretty. Quite peaceful, reall- ow! While I was enjoying nature some dick stabbed me in the back! Kill him, heal up, keep moving. I guess there’s no time to sightsee.
Still, asshole. I was having a good time for a sec there.
Head forward a bit, and I’m confronted by a mist wall. Now I’m starting to get stressed. Because beyond this veil of fog, lies the problem. I take a deep breath, and step through. I am standing on top of a castle wall. To my back, there is a ladder, with two archers up top- I climb it and dispose of them easily. They are not the problem. The problem is what will happen if I try to walk across this seemingly-empty castle wall. I take a breath, and do so.
When the massive minotaur, easily ten times my size, jumps down and lands in front of me, I immediately turn and bolt. This thing has killed me a dozen times. But this time, I have an idea. I’m pretty sure it won’t work. But hey, ya gotta try, right? Definition of insanity, and so forth. I dash to the ladder, and climb to the top. As I expected, the monster takes a swing at me as I’m climbing… and misses? Okay, didn’t see that coming. Hmm. Reach the top. Is this really gonna work? I leap off at the beast, and slash.
MASSIVE damage. Holy crap. That was more than half his life bar. I can do this! We dance around, he clips me, I clip him a few times, and finally, I know I’ve got him. I rush forward, switch my sword to two-handed, and strike. He falls heavily, and then melts into nothing. He’s… dead. I’ve won.
I faced the thing that has stopped me from progressing in this game for more than a year, and won on my first try. If I was the only one in this house, I would roar with triumph, but since I’m not my victory is rather more restrained.
I advance further, and after a ways, I come to a long bridge. I stare at it, empty and inviting. It seems even scarier than that wall to me, in this moment. I just know something is going to assault me the moment I set foot on it. Well, nothing for it, here we go…
DRAGON FUCK FUCK FUCK
You know, I played some Demon’s Souls back in the day as well. It rather similarly kicked my ass, and I ultimately gave up on it. It did leave me with memories of some interesting moments, however.
One such moment involved a bridge guarded by a dragon, very much like the one above. I guess the Souls series is very fond of its bridges and dragons. The difference here, however, is that instead of sitting at the end of the bridge, this dragon would, at timed intervals, swoop and coat the entire bridge with instant-death fire.
As there was a safe zone halfway across the bridge, the challenge was clear- time your desperate sprint for safety to perfectly avoid the dragon’s flames. My problem was one of encumbrance- as a knight in heavy armor, my character was not built for nor capable of any real speed. The window of opportunity was tight, and it simply proved too tight for my crusader.
I tried a few things- distracting the dragon, running with no weapon, alternate paths, and such. No luck. Then it occurred to me (for I do not recall the game ever attempting to explain) that perhaps encumbrance was based not on equipment carried, but equipment worn. I’d tried removing my shield, but its weight was a pittance compared to the full suit of plate armor I was wearing.
I took off a few pieces of armor in a safe place, and moved around a little. I did seem to be moving faster… I took the rest off, and lo, I was like a lightning bolt. When I held sprint, that lady booked it. So I threw my armor back on, fought my way to the dragonbridge, and then stripped, and ran like a bat outta hell.
Demon’s Souls does allow you to see other player in certain circumstances, and I can only hope no one saw my lady knight, stripped down to her bra and panties, dashing across that bridge like a madwoman. After a moment, however, embarrassment gave way to joy- I was going to make it. This was definitely not what the developers had in mind, but all the same, I was racing the dragon, and I was going to win.
My moment of jubilee was cut short rather literally upon reaching the safe spot, when a blue-eyed demon shoved a sword clean through my now-unprotected stomach. Ah well. Que sera, sera.
Next week, we’ll be back with more Dark Souls! I’m really taking a shine to that game.