So pleased

Posted by adrian on July 16th, 2016

I am stupidly pleased with myself, no I’ve not got a new job or a new car or won the lottery. I’ve finished a video game and what’s so pleasing about that you ask? The video game I just finished is Dark Souls.

I’m 47 this year, I have a mortgage and a job and family and all the other things that 47 year old’s tend to have yet I’ve not been this pleased with anything for a long time. I’m a really keen gamer, I’m not a great gamer though, I finish games by sheer, dogged determination or by lowering the difficulty level dependant on how salty I am with the game. So even starting a game like Dark Souls is a bit of a step into the unknown. I started playing it because I love watching people play it, Dark Souls is how I’ve found some of my favourite streamers on Twitch and so there’s always the temptation to give it a go. I’ve been giving it a go on and off for about two years with a PC version that I must have purchased rashly during a Steam Sale.

A couple of things, 30 fps and low res graphics put me off from the start but it wasn’t until I was watching CohhCarnage playing with DSFIX and high res textures that I came back to the game and started in on it properly. Even then I was afraid and confused. The game is so obtuse in it’s mechanics to make even trying to play it for any length of time a bit of a chore. At some point though I managed to get my head around a couple of the key mechanics and once I understood these I really started to get into it, until my first boss fight that is.

Dark Souls odd mechanics that I couldn’t understand:

  • All monsters (well nearly all) respawn when you rest to recover your health at a bonfire
  • You can’t pick up health anywhere along the way, you get what you start out with at a bonfire until you either go back or find a new bonfire, of course causing the weird mechanic above to kick in
  • There’s a lot of loot – mostly rubbish
  • Souls, collect those souls, if you die run back to pick them up, you need them for everything!

It turns out though that the mechanics have a purpose which I found when I finally battled through to my first boss. I could not fight it at all, my weak sword was doing damage but not enough and because I’m not skilled enough I couldn’t stay the course long enough to wear it down before I ran out of health. This is what the mechanics are for. Rest at bonfire, slay respawned enemies and collect souls, rinse and repeat until you have enough souls to level up. Rinse and repeat again until you have extra strength or HP or whatever to defeat the boss.

It also turns out that there is a lot of exploration to do, if you can get past the tough combat situations to clear the way to allow exploration. Dark Souls is very much an RPG, there are levels, skills, weapon stats and exploration all very much reminiscent of an RPG. I think this realisation was what made me accept the game and play it in a different way rather than thinking it was a 3rd person hack and slash action game.

And so here I am at the final boss, I’m scared, I know this is going to be tough, tough for my character and tough for me emotionally. I know I am going to die a lot, this is part of the game but never easy to deal with even if it is an accepted mechanic. I’ve slogged down this ashen path past five Knights at least fifty times, sometimes I don’t even make it into the boss arena past the famous fog door. I know I am getting the measure of the boss now though, I’ve tried a few different strategies but eventually I have fallen back on the one I’ve used throughout the game, block, dodge, nip in for a strike and then back off. The final boss has a long reach though so the strategy is not the best. It makes the fight so long which means I have to manage stamina, HP and Estus with equal regard.

And yes, yes I finally do it, the last swing of my Black Knight Halberd connects with the Lord of Cinder and he’s down.

I am literally shaking with exhaustion, relief and a little sadness, I’m not sure what to do next, maybe Dark Souls II?

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My Dark Souls character after defeating the Lord of Cinder

 

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