*SPOILERS* I’ve beaten Dark Souls II, and I am going to talk about it.
So, That out of the way.
I’ve finally done it. 99 hour of Dark Souls I followed immediately by 81 hours of Dark souls II. 180 hours of Dark Souls, I have finally completed both games. It was a long grueling trip, and I have left a thousand thousand corpses in my wake. I enjoyed the first one much, much more than the second, but they were both very solid games that tickled my fantasy RPG fancy. As my original video game love, it is the genre I have the most fondness for, and the greatest desire to play. However, like its novel counterpart, the fantasy book, I have played so many that they all kinda seem to blend together if they don’t have some remarkable standout traits.
The Dark souls games do many things very, very well. They are extremely challenging, though the first much more than the second. They also evoke the grinding single player games of the late 80’s and early 90’s, with no pause, very little tutorial, and no map. They are also among the most addicting games I’ve played, drawing you deeper and deeper into the game with each successive challenging boss or new enemy that needs to be learned in order to fight it.
What it does wrong, however, is just as notable. The weapon and armor upgrade system is obscure and, ultimately worthless, because you either stick with the weapon you’ve invested in or you look up the best weapon and go right for it. I find this extremely egregious as its part and parcel with the fantasy RPG line. You want to upgrade your gear and get new stuff. Sadly, I don’t think I wore but two sets of armor and used more than three weapons.
Its also grindy, maybe too much so. There are certain areas where even I was tired and bored with the grind, and just ran past the enemy. This was especially true in the Dragon Shrine. It had gotten to the point that playing the game was much less fun than trying to just get to the end.
Finally, the story is.. not really there. There is a lot to look at and find, but you have to really want it. I started looking at the lore videos after I beat the game, and I came away with a much greater appreciation of what was happening, why it happened, and what it meant. I felt that those story and plot points should have been much more front and center during the game. This lead to a fairly large let down at the end of the game, when I felt very little satisfaction, and a lot more relief at beating it. I could now move on!
Honestly, though, I think its the fact that I am a pre-web gamer. I don’t like using the internet to play my game, and find most of the enjoyment in a video game in the exploration and discovery of new things. One of the reasons I can’t play a game more than once. Dark Souls has that sense of enjoyment once you figure out how to beat a boss or a mob, but doesn’t really maintain it. Well, at least not through 180 hours. I probably should have taken a break between…
So. The final boss was the Queen of Dranglic, Nashandra. Because I fought the Watcher and Defender of the Throne, I missed one of the coolest things in the game, which kinda sucks. I also wouldn’t have even noticed if my friend hadn’t informed me. Unlike every other boss in the game, she comes through the fog gate to fight you. You’re her end boss. Very cool.
However, She looks nothing like anything I have ever seen, and honestly I couldn’t even describe her if I tried. Here. The internet has pictures.
I enjoyed this fight because it used an effect that none of the other bosses used prior: Curse. Not only do curses cause you actual damage, they also act as a death in terms of your hollowing. Getting cursed twice and then being killed is like being killed three times in terms of your max HP loss. You also fight her on a platform which makes maneuvering around her curses extremely hard. If the fight was on a standard floor, I’d have been able to kite her wherever I needed.
I had a few seconds once I entered battle, so I popped a stamina bars worth of arrows into her face, just for good measure. This is something I learned after the first few fights, and would give me an edge towards the end. This extra time is due to her summoning four curse-portals, for lack of a better term. These portals are stationary, and grant curse accumulation within a set range of themselves, which is fairly broad.
I would then try and get close enough to her to bait out one of her two ranged attacks: a sweeping curse-beam, and a direct line curse-beam. Both of these do significant damage and accumulate curse. Thankfully, I guessed it was dark damage after a few times getting blasted off the earth, put on a dark resistance set and started making progress. If she used the sweeping attack, I would have to strafe around her and try to get out of the way, probably invoking a curse or three and taking some damage. If it was a straight line, one of two things happened. I either got out of the way, whipped my bow (or spear, depending on distance to her) out and dropped a few shots into here, or I didn’t get out of the way, stacked a huge amount of curse and took massive damage from the back to back hits it tags you with thanks to its stun mechanic. . Thankfully the dark resist set prevented me from dying outright to it once I decided to wear it.
After a little while, her curse portals would drop, and I’d be able to get into melee with her. This was my ultimate goal, as my spear was doing 3x the amount of damage my stupid bow was doing. Sometimes, I could bait her out of the confines of her curse pillars and get some free shots on her, but it was rare. Once I engaged in melee, she had a fairly predictable moveset, with only some three attacks, If I remember correctly. I was very regularly able to strafe around behind her and stab her while between her legs. Sometimes, I would even be positioned correctly to avoid her swinging scythe while in front of her, and those would be fun times.
After a short time, she would summon her curse pillars back, which took a few seconds and allowed me to stab her, again, before I had to take off and try and bait out ranged attacks.
It didn’t always work, though, and it took me a number of tries. That was the basic theory I took to fighting her, and when I took her down it was because I managed to not get shot by a direct line attack and shoot her to death with a bow instead. It was just patience and getting the right events to line up. Sometimes, she would summon a second set of curse pillars before the first ones were gone, and sometimes she’d just charge straight at me to engage me with her scythe while surrounded by curses. In those instances I had to disengage and flee, hoping that I didn’t die to a curse on the way through. Most of the time it would work.
So, finished with a grueling game(s) that took over a year to finish, I was ready to put down the controller and start something else.
Then I got an Xbox 1 on Black Friday.
and then I remembered I had never beat Valykyria Chronicles, and that I needed to do that. So I booted it back up. Man, Snipers are so much fun in that game.
Now, I’m going to either assemble one of the thousand models I have had arrive this evening, or play Valkyria Chronicles. Oh, and prepare to try and kill my players tomorrow in D&D!