Looking over this one after some time away, I’m a little worried I didn’t quite carry the sense of activity between panels well. Any graphic novel is going to have things happen in the space between panels, that’s just how the medium works, but I don’t quite feel like one panel properly flows from the next, here. That’s something I’m having to work on, through this whole graphic-novel-based-drawing-practice-thing. Luckily, the next several action scenes have given me plenty of practice.
I’ve heard it said that the DLC is the best parts of Borderlands. And I can see why. The dev team really seemed to pick up their game when it came time for the Add-on content. More humor and character shines through, you get a lot more variety in your enemies, the battles are more intense, and the game just seems more creative in general, like they’re trying out all the concepts they were too scared, inexperienced, or schedule-crunched to add into the vanilla game. Really, taking all factors into account, I should be having more fun with the DLC than I was with the regular game. But I’m not. And that irritates me. I was having a big, unlucky bandit-shaped blast with the regular game! The DLC, on the other hand, is just something I’m kind of slogging through. What I should be enjoying the most is making me stare at my screen in anguish. And it’s all because of one simple reason. It’s because the DLC keeps making me do the exact same thing every time I start it up.
See, in Borderlands, both base game and DLC, missions will send you all over the place. You may have to collect 100 Bear Asses in one area, then go make some Soylent Green Brand Chunky Salsa in another area three loading screens away, then have to return to a third map in a completely different location in order to turn them all in. In the base game, that works out just fine, thanks to the magic of Fast Travel! You don’t have to worry about transit in between them, if that area’s already explored, you can be right there! Not so with the DLC. For whatever reason, there’s only one fast travel point per add-on, right at the beginning. You’ve got to take the long way around to do anything. Which, thanks to the amount of back and forth you go through, that enemies respawn every time you go through a loading screen, and that the simple act of loading a save takes you right back to the first area, means you spend a lot of time covering ground that’s already been tread. With bullets.
Repetition is not engaging. It’s not fun. I know I can’t speak for every player, but personally, there’s few faster ways of causing me to lose interest in a game than making me do the exact same things I just freakin’ did. In the Borderlands DLC’s case, the problem is that I every time I start a play session, I have to spend fifteen minutes to a half hour just making my way back to where I was at the end of the last session, walking in my own footprints, re-icing the guys I already killed, spending the same time I already paid last time around. By the time I get to the content I want, I’m already bored, frustrated, and pissed off with the game. Not exactly the feelings any game should want to instill.
Back when I was a cub, this kind of repetition was just a fact of life of gaming. It was how almost any game punished you for losing, by making you play the whole blasted game again. And it’s a really piss-poor way to handle it. Video games deliver in a variety of ways. Usually they’re fun and entertaining. Sometimes, they may be touching and enlightening. At other times, they may instill a feeling of triumph. But however video games find their value, it never benefits from making the player do the same thing, over, and over, and over again. There is nothing to gain from redoing a good job. The task loses some of the fun factor, becoming more and more dull every time the player has to repeat it. The story will absolutely lose its pacing and impact when the player has to go through it again. And it’s hard to feel triumph by overcoming an enemy you’ve already beaten. You will never be able to add to the experience by making the player re-cover the same ground.
Game designers have recognized this for a long, long time. It’s why Super Mario Bros. had that simple “re-start from the world you’re on” cheat I could never work out. It’s why Mega Man gave you a password every time you ended a level, whether victorious or not. It’s why the Legend of Zelda had the capacity to save. And fast forwarding through the history of gaming, it’s why check/save points, fast travel, and so many other convenience features exist in games today. As I mentioned in a recent comment over at Red Metal’s house, I think that’s one of the biggest advances the medium has made, in that games have cut down on how much it requires the player to cover the same ground. Game designers still have plenty of hiccups in implementing the philosophy, however. And it almost always hurts these games when it comes up. I’ve had an excellent time with Borderlands. The DLC should be even better. Yet I can’t load it up without having to grind my way to the content I actually want, and it’s killing the game for me.
Last time, on Drifting Through Dark Souls, we had a pretty easy time making it through this doomed city. And then we died. But we’re not going to let a silly thing like that keep us down, are we?
As always, we press on. Heading back towards the large building in which we died. At least at first. I spot something shiny on the way there. I love shinies. I jump off the path I’m on, onto a roof, and pick up some souls from the corpse. Once I’m there, I realize I have no idea how to get back onto the walkway I was on.
Luckily, there’s a path leading out from this roof. I take it, and it leads me into a decently-sized room, with a sorceress inside. I get my shield up in time to intercept the dark bolt she fires at me, then charge her down before she can ready another. The room has another path leading out of it, and a staircase downwards. I take the other path first.
I reach the end of it. There’s nothing on this path save for this note. Yet judging the symbol and lack of a rating, this was not a note left by any other player. It’s here for a reason. Somehow, I don’t think hurling a fireball is what it means. I don’t have the spell for casting light prepped, either. I take a quick look through my inventory, trying to see if I have anything that could light things up. And hey! That looks perf… oh no.
The Sunlight Maggot. That same thing Solaire was wearing when he went mad.
Man. Do I want to do this? Judging from the spells Dusk and Elizabeth had, Oolacile was big on, or at least had prominent lines of, illusion magic. I could totally see them hiding something here that could only be revealed by shining light on it. Maybe something important. You don’t hide your garbage with the arcane powers of the soul, after all. But if this is what snapped Solaire, I don’t know if I want to deal with it. I don’t even know why I’ve been carrying the maggot around in the first place. The whole thought of it disgusts me.
But maybe there’s something shiny.
As soon as I put the maggot on, a section of the wall disappears, revealing a chest in the corner of the room. I don’t feel any more hollow for wearing the maggot. Maybe this was just a symptom, rather than the cause for Solaire’s madness. Or maybe I’m hollow enough already. I try not to think about it. Rather, I take off the maggot as soon as the opening appears, then scramble inside for the chest. There’s only one thing inside, an amulet showing a familiar symbol.
Artorias’s pendant, and ancient treasure from the glory days of Anor Londo, said to be able to repel the Abyss. Perhaps he left it here hoping it’d prevent the Abyss from completely consuming Oolacile? If so, it’s not doing a very good job. Important indeed. And shiny. In any case, it’s clear this sector is done. What hasn’t already fallen to the Abyss has been overtaken by the bloatheads, with every living thing here either dying or joining the enemy forces. For that matter, I hadn’t seen a single sane person since I left Ciaran. I slip it into my pouch. I think I’ll be able to put it to better use shoving it straight into Manus’s heart than it’ll see being left here.
Last time, on Dueling Swords, Dark Souls, we slew a legend! Then found out we were fated to do the same work for which that lazy bum had been posthumously taking all the credit for. Sucks to be us.
I’d go on the whole screw destiny kick here, but really, if Artorias doesn’t do it, and we don’t do it, then Lordran’s pretty much screwed. I’m pretty sure it’s this Abyss that completely wiped Oolacile off the map back in my time, and if it’s not checked here, there might not even be a Lordran for me to run around and be the Best Chosen One in. Besides, I haven’t rescued Dusk yet. And I want to try rescuing a princess just once. I think a hero of my stature needs that behind them.
I head back to the Sanctuary to heal up, then return to the arena in which I fought Artorias. There’s someone there. A woman. Here in the place of that Epic Battle of the Ages. It looks like she’s placing a memorial to how awesome our fight was. She must be a fan of mine. I walk up to her, and start telling her all about my awesome fight with Artorias. She turns, and…
Oh! Ohhh. She was… close with him. In mourning. And here I am, running my mouth. I hang my head, then hand her Artorias’s soul. I’m sure I could use it to make something awesome, but Artorias, at least, the man he was before the Abyss took him, deserves something better. Let her have the soul for his little shrine.
In return, she gives me her weapons. The Dark Silver Tracer and the Gold Tracer, a pair of short swords. She seems to understand the condition Artorias was in, and doesn’t hold a grudge against me for killing him. I look over the weapons, and realization comes to me. That is the Lord’s Blade Ciaran! Another of the Four Great Knights. Her blades require a fighting style that does not match mine in the least, but I suspect her giving these to me is more for her sake than anything else. She does not need these anymore.
I leave her to grieve in peace, and head up the stairs at the other end of the chamber.
That path leads me to a large, open area with a few staircases branching off. I take one, and find myself on a balcony outside, overlooking the Royal Wood. I follow it around, and it leads me to this locked door set into a tower. I can hear movement inside, but the door’s locked, and I have no way to enter.
I collect some souls from up here, head back down, and take the other exit.
A hallway to the side leads to the Battle of Stoicism Gazebo. Like someone was throwing darts at a dictionary. Basically an area for people looking for a fight online, because apparently Dark Souls’ random invasion mechanic doesn’t give you enough opportunity for that. It does give you some unique duel and deathmatch options, but I don’t really get much out of playing against people I don’t even know, so I don’t have a whole lot of interest in this type of multiplayer.
Instead, I take the staircase down, and find myself near a bonfire in a whole new section of the city.
I’m don’t carry much pride in New Eden. I know it’s a flawed work. My visual arts skills aren’t exactly of professional quality, I’m writing in a medium I’m extremely inexperienced in, and as a whole, New Eden is far from the greatest graphic novel ever. But you know what? That doesn’t matter. I just enjoy making it, and I’m finding that I enjoy posting it. There’s only a few people following along with this series, but that’s okay. In spite of my initial reticence to actually make any of my work public, It just feels good to have this out there, no matter how many eyes are on it. It’s something that I’m putting out there mostly for myself.
And hey, if you’re reading this, thanks for checking this stuff out.