I’m an actual man now for once

Because today, after 4 years, I beat Dark Souls.  I think I bought it the week it came out, and it took me longer to finish it than it took FROM SOFTWARE to make Dark Souls 2 and Bloodborne.

Shameful? I don’t think so.  Dark Souls is a difficult game, but it’s a fun one.  The fun keeps you coming back for more abuse, but when you get beat down pretty bad, or get stuck, or get into a farming rut (where the stuff you are trying to farm takes a lot of practice to git gud enough to beat consistently), you may need to take a break. I took a lot of them, some months at a time.  Unlike Red Dead and Bayonetta (and a few others), I kept coming back to Dark Souls.  It really is that good.  I’ve heard complaints about the camera and the controls (and the difficulty) but frankly the controls are brilliant, the camera is just fine and the difficulty?  Let me expand on that a bit.

First, the game takes skill in two ways. First you have to learn how to fight and if DS is your first FROM game, you are going to have to learn the fighting system.  The core features is that you need to actually hit your opponent with your weapon (seems odd but watch any World of Warcraft or Diablo 3 video for the contrast) and a lot of the things that work in a normal fight work in DS, like keeping distance, feinting to draw out certain attacks, circling, parrying and blocking.  Seems easy right?  Except that your AI opponents are doing some of the same things!  All of your moves take stamina, and that’s probably the strangest thing to get used to– when you move around or get hit or attack, you use stamina.  If you block an attack that exceeds your stamina, you will get staggered– and usually fucked.  Heavy attackers, like bosses, or groups of small attackers will chew through your stamina like crazy– and you have to figure out how to deal with it, either through the movements and blocking you do, or equipment because…

Secondly DS is an item management game, just like Torchlight or Skyrim.  There are tons of items and weapon sets in the game and most can be upgraded, some to godlike heights.  You need to know what type of weapons you want to use, how to use them (this takes a lot of practice) and then learn how to upgrade them.  I ignored the item management portion until the last half of the game and I suffered for it.

Unless I get the DLC (likely) I won’t pile into DS again for a long time, so bear with me as I take a trip down memory lane for my own future enjoyment here.  This has spoilers (just a few).

Bosses that were rough

Makes people cry.
Makes people cry.

The first bosses were pretty easy, nothing too crazy there.  However, when I got to this guy and his fucking DOGS, who is just a mini-mid-boss, I had to take a break from the game for a long time.  I just could not get past him.  The combination of the dogs knocking your stamina down and the massive stamina damage that the Capra can dish out is brutal.  As this is fairly early in the game, it was teaching you a lesson about what to prepare for later and how to deal with stamina issues like this.  I ended up beating him when I was just showing Matt the game on a whim over Xmas break (probably in late 2012).

Yeah, shortly after the Capra is the Gaping Dragon, which is one of the scariest monsters in the game.  I don’t think this would be a problem now since the thing is so big– but I had a lot of problems getting him dead. I used the sun bro to help and then it was off to Blighttown…

After that, I sort of got on a roll.   Even though Havel and the Hydra and probably a bunch of bosses I can no longer remember took me a long time to beat, none of them were a huge problem.  Queelag I did pull a summon in to help, but that was just to save time really.  She was a cool enough fight to not mind and also, tits.

However, Andor Londo is where I’ve heard people say the game says “fuck you, welcome to Dark Souls!” and they’re right.  There are two notorious parts to this beautiful cityscape.  The first are some knight archers that you have to come at on ledges.  Their bows are bows used to kill DRAGONS, so you go flying when hit to, you know, your death.  This wasn’t even a boss and it made me want to eat my controller.  After that, of course, is the most difficult boss in the game, which is actually two bosses.  Smough and Ornstein.

Not too friendly
Not too friendly

These guys are total dicks, and really this is a gateway to the game since the actual ‘plot’ starts after these two guys are beaten. You figure out (sort of) what you are supposed to be doing to beat the game except for just going around different areas after the bells of awakening have been rung. I had the sunbro AND another person help me with this fight, but I knew if I got stuck there, I would not finish the game, so sucked it up and farmed humanity from the rats in the sewers to run it as a human with FRIENDS.

After these dudes, I have to say the rest of the bosses were much easier, especially with the internet helping. Except, of course, for the last one. The final boss reminded me of the Capra Demon above in that he has completely relentless attacks, does massive damage and drains the shit out of your stamina bar. And then you die again and again and again. I think I was able to get past ALL of the knights guarding him without having to use an estus flask.

Here was my item Build at the end:

  • Black Armor Set – max upgrades on everything
  • Shield of Artorias – no upgrades (you need 34 STR to use it)
  • Black Knight Great Sword – max upgrades
  • Flame Stone Plate Ring
  • Ring of Steel Protection

While the boss fights are intense and ‘big events,’ in the game, Dark Souls is so much more about the exploration and the world you get to experience. It’s basically a huge undead prison with a lot of mean people nearby that want to fuck you up.  The way the world map is set up is like some huge puzzlebox that you unfold during play, it’s quite amazing.  I even enjoyed the worst area of the game, Blight town, quite a bit despite it’s insane difficulty working (slowly) through it.  And if you ever get stuck there, remember, at the end there are TITS, so keep going.  Though the story is explicitly sparse, there are some dramatic parts and some subplots going on.  What happens to that preistess in the beginning? What happens to the first firekeeper?  Who is that knight that you talk to early on?  What is going on with SUNBRO!??  That said, with both Bloodborne and Darksouls 2 out already, I am not sad to finish DS1, since there is MORE mayhem to wade through.

PVP

I did fight about 20-30 people in PVP.  Most of the fights were due to the Forest Covenant ring which summons you back to the forest when people show up there to kill them.  I was probably invaded 5-8 times and won only a couple of those invasions. Most of the time there was a fire blast and I was killed in those situations.  In the Forest, it was a bit more even but I still didn’t do great. I ran a SUPER tank build and a lot of times I would swing my sword and the other guy would not be expecting to get hit stunned and then would be lying down shortly after. I found the mutiplayer mechanisms, both invasions and helping people out to be extremely innovative and excellent. If you want to get invaded or help someone, you can, if not, it’s a single player game when you want it to be.

In the end, Dark Souls is a modern classic whose popularity keeps growing and growing for good reason, why would people play PVP in WOW or Guild Wars when they can PVP in Dark Souls?  And even if you experience just a part of it, say up to the Gaping Dragon at least, you will have experienced one of the best video games ever made.

Savage Sword of Solomon Kane (and Bloodborne)

SolomonKane2-L

Finished the collection of Howard’s Solomon Kane stories and holy crap, I wish he had done another 10-15 of these. The stories are incredibly visceral and intense and while a bit more focused on Africa than I would have liked, there are some good pirate stories in there too. While Conan’s stories are also amazing, Solomon Kane is a lot more relatable since the stories take place in the early modern period and not an imagined pre-history.  I feel like his story arc was not completed by Howard, and that’s sad.  The final story in the book is just a fragment, but still worth reading.  The version (Savage Sword) has excellent illustrations throughout as well.

And speaking of early modern… Bloodborne by the Dark Souls peoples (From Software) looks to scratch the exact itch not having more Solomon Kane stories caused.

 

Farewell to Dark Souls (#1 at least)

With Dark Souls 2 out in a few days, players are lamenting the end of Dark Souls 1 as the video above is probably just the first of many tributes. Now this is strange because it’s a single player game primarily? Correct, however there is a massive multiplayer component to the game that some people may never experience (with the exception of the computer invasions that mimic when another player invades). Since many people will be immediately switching to Dark Souls 2, they have to say goodbye to their characters and such, so it’s truly bitter sweet since the new game has already been reviewed and found AWESOME.

What caught me on this video is that it references the dragon archers I mentioned in an earlier post. The money shot is at 2:12.

Dark Souls almost broke me!

I get so little time to play games and Dark Souls is one that you really have to take seriously, especially when it’s trying to emotionally maim you at every turn.  The last few days I have been stuck in one single area and yesterday I almost threw in the towel on the game for good.

The situation is that you have to fight through some fairly tough enemies only to have to then walk up a series of ledges while under fire from some archers who have GIANT dragon killing arrows that will knock you off the ledge if you get hit (whether you block or not). You are forced to run between them so while one is shooting you from the front, another is shooting you in the back.  Then you must engage one of them in close combat without falling off the ledge.  All told, I think I tried this 50 times before making it through.  At try 45 I was like–fuck this game forever.   My last ‘stuck’ point was the first Capra Daemon which is understandable for me since it’s a boss and all. Those are SUPPOSED to be difficult.  This is just… some area in the game.   Praise the fucking Sun I got through it and on to what I’ve heard is the most difficult boss fight in the game…

People have even made artwork of this area...
People have even made artwork of this area…

Stuff (mostly Dark Souls)

So last night I continued the Dark Souls addiction and beat the GAPING DRAGON which is one of the scariest mofo’s in the game (so far)– an absolute fucking triumph of monster design by any measure. I had my bonfire Kindled (10 health potions), I’m in human form (not for long!) and I had upgraded my armor as much as I can possibly afford at the moment (all the shit around the first bell church drop titanite BTW), I bought 2 Uncurse stones in case I ran afoul of the cursing frog things on the way to the boss, AND to cover my ass, I spent my 10K souls I had lying around on leveling up (you do not need to level up much in the game from what I’ve read) so if I get killed my soul-pile will be small.  I also switched out my chain leggings for some leather pants so I can move quicker.  With some of the bosses you can’t block their attacks effectively so there’s no reason to go in there armoured up.  It took me three tries to beat him.  The first one I just got sloppy and got killed, the second one I was running away from his acid spill attack and fell off a cliff (embarrassing) and  for the last one I had help from another human player instead of one of the CPU phantoms you can grab (only available when human, not hollowed).

It’s taken me a long while to get this far and I think this is the point where you get into the meat of the game.

That said, there are other things going on!

First, there will be an ipad blood bowl game! Cyanide is continuing their BB license usage and coming out with an iPad version of blood bowl this year called Blood Bowl Star Coach. Looks more top down than the current PC version, but still has 3d Models. Should be a blast, though I don’t get ANY iPad time normally at home, I may have to steal it away from the crying children for this.

Dogs

Second, Mouth let me know that while Confrontation is DEAD (and AT-43 for that matter, sniff), the spirit survives  at Cyanide with their acquired license from now defunct Rackham.  While the Confrontation game wasn’t too good, Dogs of War looks like a game where you have a perpetual warband of monstrosities and they gain experience over time– much like Mordheim, Necromunda, Chaos Warbands from the old Realm of Chaos Books.  Looking like something to watch.  Ironically it was the Dogs of War expansion to Confrontation 3 that made me not want to play C3 any more…

Torchlight 2: I still haven’t finished ELITE mode with my Berserker which is sad (but it’s really, really hard on Act 3) but in the news recently is that Runic is still pursuing the MAC version of the game– but there is no timeline and no release date.  While I love the game and it is superior in every way to Diablo 3 (except the sound which in D3 is amazing) if I pre-purchased it on MAC I would be pretty fucking cheesed off by now (matt).