[Dark Souls] Final Day
I beat the final boss of Dark Souls on Saturday.
I’m so, so glad it’s all over.
According to my save file, I spent just shy of 58 hours playing Dark Souls. At no point during that duration did I ever really feel “comfortable.” That is presumably by design. Each new area has new enemies to encounter, bullshit traps to get Gotcha!’d, and just a general sense of subtle malice. If you make it far in exploration but then die, you respawn at a Bonfire and all enemies between you and your corpse respawn. If you make it far and find a new Bonfire, you have to make the choice to sit at it and respawn all enemies or continue onward but risk respawning much further away. None of the bosses had Bonfires near them, so you either had to run like crazy past guardian mobs or hack your way back and hope you could retrieve your corpse to make the otherwise lost souls worth it.
Oh and many Bonfires are just straight-up hidden, because fuck you.
Another fun aspect of the game was the simple fact that I never really found a weapon I liked, and this led me into wasting hours and hours farming for shit I never really ended up using. I used the Uchigatana for a large portion of the game, but it continued to get weaker to enemies over time. Eventually I got lucky with a Black Knight Sword (BKS) drop, which immediately became my go-to weapon for the mid-game. Unfortunately, I hated it the entire time. The Uchigatana moveset allowed for a quick strike to interrupt/kill charging enemies, and the power attack was a longish-range poke. Meanwhile the BKS had a slow regular swing, and a power poke attack that triggered after like 5 seconds of vulnerability. But, what the BKS offered was raw damage, and killing enemies in 1-2 attacks was much more useful overall than 4-5 attacks.
My final weapon ended up being the Gargoyle’s Halberd. It has good range, a relatively quick attack, and its attacks in general don’t cost much Stamina. The unfortunate aspect was the fact that I ended up leveling Strength all the way to 40 in an attempt to give all the dozens of other weapons – including the super heavy ones – a fair shake. Unfortunately, there is a point at which an unupgraded weapon is useless no matter how much baseline attack it brings, and thus you can fall into the trap (as I did) of farming and farming to upgrade weapons that you end up saying No Thanks to.
The combat system in general and most bosses specifically are full of outrageous jank, IMO. Having a shield up 24/7 is how I approached most of the game as I found dodge-rolling to almost be entirely useless. Everything I have read indicates you get i-frames by rolling, but those only seem to exist insofar as your character is at half-height during the roll and the attack may be directed higher. For example, if you dodge-roll backwards but the enemy is doing a poke, you get hit. If you dodge-roll right but the enemy is doing a side-swipe, you get hit. Sometimes you can dodge-roll between an enemy’s legs, but sometimes they shuffle two pixels to the left and you just roll into their feet. Sometimes you can just strafe out of the way of attacks, and other times the attacks will auto-swivel your way.
Perhaps this is all a “Git Gud” scenario. I mean, I beat the game, so… maybe not. In any case, I’m not sure “Git Gud” slaps as hard when we’re talking about QWOP-levels of jank.
Having said all of that, the world of Dark Souls was incredible. More specifically, the level design. You don’t get the sense of how interconnected each area is to one another at first, but by about midgame everything starts fitting together in extremely clever ways. You have probably seen a cave loop around back to its entrance a thousand times in other games, but Dark Souls has a degree of coherence that feels wholly unique. The game is also full of shortcuts that allows you to acquire powerful items much earlier in the game if you have the knowledge to do so. The average player is never going to be able to take advantage of that, but I appreciate the willingness of the developers to not throw up arbitrary barriers in a lot of places.
Overall, I am glad that I played Dark Souls even if it was not the most enjoyable experience. Seeing where things began (Demon Souls notwithstanding) gives you a greater appreciation for where things have gone in the meantime. Plus, it is an extremely boldly-designed game that took risks to stay true to the designers’ intentions, and I respect the moxie.
I do already own Dark Souls 2, but I think I’m going to take a break from the tension and play other things for a while. Perhaps something in which I don’t have to worry about instantly dying all the time.
[Dark Souls] Day 4ish
I rang the first bell.
The lesson learned with Dark Souls isn’t that the game is unfair, it is just amoral. It doesn’t care.
You fight one boss when heading to the bell, and then another one shows up halfway through the fight. During one attempt, the bosses flew through the air, landed on opposite sides of me, and both breathed fire in a cone attack – I was stunlocked into a fiery death. I just had to laugh. If this were a “proper” game, I would say that the boss design was terrible or punishingly difficult. And it is punishingly difficult. But on my next attempt, I somehow managed to get inbetween the legs of the first boss when the 2nd was summoned, and I… just kept wailing on him. Not sure if the boss was stunlocked by me or if it was some combination of the slope and/or me riding its crotch, but it just died without dealing any damage. Dispatching the 2nd boss was easy after that.
Way earlier in the level, there’s an intimidating armored boar. I don’t know its moveset because once I realized it would chase me down some stairs but not into the corridor at the bottom of the stairs, I just aggroed it, then stabbed it in the porkchops when it turned around. At no point was I in danger of taking damage.
In any other game, that would be an “exploit.” In Dark Souls, it’s just business.
The main complaint I have with Dark Souls though are the Bonfires. Not having one immediately before boss fights is whatever. Having Bonfires for the zone be behind fake walls is another thing altogether. Up to this point, Dark Souls has done a good job at organically teaching you mechanics. The hidden Bonfire in Darkroot Gardens though is just dumb. I could understand perhaps if the Bonfire was visible from the other side, e.g. you see it when returning from that area, but nope.
These days, I no longer have hang-ups surrounding looking shit up. Specifically, Bonfire locations, especially whenever I’m deep in a new zone and/or after killing a boss. Going in blind is kind of a big portion of the “fun” of these games, but… nah. Dying with the equivalent of two levels in my backpack and having to traverse an entire zone of mobs that can kill you real quick if you’re not meticulous is not my idea of fun. If progress was not lost, or perhaps if I had barely any souls at the time, I would be considerably more caviler.
Looking up anything is a slippery slope though, and I have slid further down than intended a few times already. Sometimes though, it’s difficult to feel too guilty. Basilisks, for example. I fell down a trapdoor in the Depths that puts you in the middle of like three of them, and I managed to take them out. If I hadn’t known about the Curse though, then I might have stayed in the fog too long and died an ignoble death while continuing to pay for it in the respawn.
Nevertheless, I am still having fun. So on it goes.