As I mentioned back a while ago, I
picked up, have borrowed a copy of Dark Souls II from a friend, and I’ve finally gotten to play more than an hour at a time.
I have to be honest: My first few hours were extremely aggravating. Having the amazing capacity to follow the hardest route to any location has its downfalls, and games like Dark Souls can really compound them and make my life very, very hard.
Beware! There are Spoilers beyond this point!
Even worse, I have a mind like Iron. It takes forever to learn anything, but once there, it is etched forever. This was fantastic in the first Dark Souls game, but is detrimental in this iteration.
I’m just going to start of saying that I was really, really frustrated with this game. I had invested a not insignificant amount of time into it and I wasn’t really getting anywhere. I’d made my way through the Forest of Fallen Giants, slaying The Last Giant with the help of Mild-Mannered Pate in a single try. I then continued to carve my way up to the ledge where the Pursuer rests. This fight gave me no end of trouble, and it caused me to use almost every one of my Human Effigies. From here, I was taken to the Lost Bastille. This place was challenging, but short. I ended up at a fog gate where I was fighting three bosses at once, the Ruin Sentinels. This boss battle was proving to be challenging, and I made my way back over to Heide’s Tower of Flame. Here is where I got stuck fighting a big, old knight wielding a Greatsword.
The problems here, I gathered, were not with the game, which seemed OK, but with my style of playing games. I’m not what one would call a complicated gamer. I’m unable to fathom the complexities of most fighting games, and I’m just not one to see to much into depth. I do, as has been mentioned by me a thousand thousand times, have tons of patience. This has allowed me to conquer games that require a lot of skill simply by brute forcing my brain and forcing it to learn over the course of a long haul. I have logged over a hundred hours in New Vegas, Fallout 3, Heroes of Might and Magic VI, Skyrim, and even Dark Souls. Each of these games I’ve had great fun with, bashing my head against the wall.
I figure a game out by trial and error, or maybe even via Sherlock Holmes method: when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. I Try everything until its proven impossible, and then I move on to the next. This can cause some serious number of deaths, but that has never bothered me in a video game.
Until Dark Souls II. This game is ultra sadistic, and punishes you for dying. You loose a little bit of your maximum health each time you die until you hit 50%. At that point, the game feels its punished you enough, and good luck trying to get further in the game. The only way to overcome this, at least this early in the game, is to use one of the Human Effigies mentioned earlier, which are fairly uncommon.
This lead me to a singularly infuriating conclusion: You either have to know the fight ahead of time – Which I don’t do as I enjoy playing games blind or you have to be so powerful that the fight isn’t a fair fight – which would also defeat the purpose of a challenging game. For me, the exploration and the experimentation is what really makes a game fun.
And, to cap it all off, I was stuck. I couldn’t make it past the Greatswordsman, and I couldn’t beat the Ruin Sentinels. I was out of human effigies for trying, and I had no where left to explore. I was done. there was nothing more to the game for me, as my preferred method of playing games was dead. The frustration was compounded when I kept remembering the good frustration I had felt at Dark Souls. The challenge of each fight. Knowing that each enemy was conquerable given enough luck and time. That was not going to be the case in this game, and i was morose.
So, I spoke – possibly even yelled at – a friend of mine who’s played a lot more of the game than I had. I was ready to give the game up, and it was making me angry. He had a few solid points when I told him what was going on, that I thought were worth considering. The big one, though, that changed my entire viewpoint, was to think of your health bar as a bonus. Now, going through the game with 50% life was the expected. Going in at greater life was just an added buffer because you were good enough to retain it.
I liked this concept because it put the game into a completely different perspective. It allowed me to die, and to stay at the low end of the HP spectrum without feeling that I was going to die to whatever looked at me sideways, and that that state was the default that the game was built around.
And man did it turn my play around. Last night I picked up the controller again and got to it. After just a few tries, I had taken down greatsword guy. Simply moments later, I had another one in the dirt. I cleared my way through the tower and, having cleaned up, was confronted with two fog gates, both with orange soapstone indicating a boss behind it. During the clearing, I managed to pick up a very special Ring of Binding. This single powerful ring makes all my arguments about gameplay invalid, as it reduces the amount of total HP lost each death, and bumps up the minimum hit points your allowed to have from 50% up to 80%. I am now free to murder about the countryside! Right, back to two bosses. I chose the tower boss, and was greeted with a giant, hulking mass called the Dragon Rider.
I was in good enough spirits and skill this day to drop him after a single try. Behind him was a tower that I entered filled with more of the giant knights I had fought earlier, both with shields and with greatswords. I took them down without problem, exploring the tower. I eventually found a ladder that led me to No-Man’s Wharf, which is a town filled with raiders that do a ton of damage, if you let them get close enough. Thankfully, my trusty Winged Spear +5 keeps them at bay, and most times I can handily dispatch them. It also has some terrifying Deep One like creatures that are afraid of fire, but are otherwise monsters from hell. They do a ton of damage and inflict the ever-popular Bleed effect on you if you get hit enough. After three deaths and as many trips back to my body to regain my souls, I pulled a lever and summoned what I have deemed is the Flying Dutchman. The ghost-lit decks has a few raiders, but I put them down easily, making it all the way to the hold, where another fog-gate, and if the orange messages are to be believed another boss, awaited. I made my way in and ended up facing the Flexile Sentry, an insane Siamese-twin type beast with a single pair of legs, but two torsos’ back to back. One set wields scimitars, and the other spiked iron clubs that deal bleed. I died to him twice before calling it a night around 1am.
I had bumbled, fumbled and tried to get it to work, and eventually, through a new mind set and an awesome new Item, I’m able to enjoy the game again and think that anything is possible with enough head-smashing and durability.
Now, I’m gonna stop writing and go play more of the game!