Looking for a Good Time?

Maya at Very Very Gaming made a post about Braid recently.  But let’s forget about Braid for a second.  I certainly do.  In it, Maya points out the mentality some take that for a game to take the form of High Art and deliver all the EMOTIONS! and ATMOSPHERE! and FEELINGS! that so many developers, players, and supersexy games bloggers are looking for, they shouldn’t be fun.  The games as art discussion has been around the interbutts for a good long while, and this is not a new idea.  I’ve seen it said plenty of times by plenty of people who don’t know what they’re talking about, that a game’s nature as a game precludes it from delivering all the things art is supposed to.

There are good arguments against the ‘games as art’ idea.  This one isn’t one of them.  The thought that something should be an ‘interactive experience’ rather than a ‘video game’ to deliver the artsy stuff is just as much complete bullhonky as all the ‘art is not interactive!’ arguments out there.  Maya hit it right on the head that ‘games can be both enjoyable AND deep and meaningful.’

That’s like two paragraphs to get me to the actual point of this post, but that phrase there got me thinking.  Nearly all video games out there are intended to be fun.  Some aren’t.  Like Braid.  And a few other games I’ll be talking about here.  So, does a video game have to be fun to be worth playing?

I know, I know, it’s tempting to get into the traditional definition of ‘game’ here, but honestly, the medium of video games has grown beyond that.  Video games as we have them know have grown to include as much a variety of styles and experiences as most any other medium.  Yeah, it’s plenty immature compared to most other types of creative works, but that doesn’t really mean anything as it pertains to the medium’s potential.

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And yeah, the vast majority of games are meant to be fun.  And that’s a good thing.  Even for the lofty, complicated, and plot-based game.  Red Metal had made a very good point recently that Papers, Please and Undertale were big, deep, thoughtful experiences, but they did a lot better at delivering the lofty ideals behind them because they are fun.  And there’s good reason for that.  Being entertained by something drives engagement, and through that, makes you more open to exploring the more conceptual aspects the game’s trying to deliver, and, even just working on a subconscious level, opens the door for the more intangible aspects of a game to get ingrained in you.  People have been using games as learning experiences for at least as long as I’ve been alive, and it runs off of the same concept.  Entertainment leads us to internalize things, and that’s where a lot of these game stories really thrive.

I’ve had plenty of these ‘deep’ experiences that never gained root with me because I just never enjoyed the experience enough to really get into it.  Braid’s a great example of that.  The developer put a lot of thought into the story, but I didn’t have a good time with the gameplay, so I just didn’t bother with that.  The Path is another strong example there.  That’s one of the earliest ‘art games’ I came across.  And it’s clear the developers wanted it to be a deep, thoughtful experience.  Basically, to illustrate that game, you’re one of six versions of Little Red Riding Hood, set to go to Grandma’s house.  If you just follow the path there, you get there safely and uneventfully, and the game ends without anything happening.  If you leave the path, you actually explore the forest, come across your metaphorical wolf, have a bad time, then make it to grandma’s house with your life a little more ruined.  It’s all wrapped up in themes of childhood, and growing up, and moving through bad life experiences, and is the kind of thing that’s really interesting on paper.  In practice, though, it’s a really weak experience, and that’s largely because the gameplay aspects of it are absolutely worthless, only there as filler for the few brief moments of the game where they are delivering something, bringing you neither fun nor any real experience in the interim.  And that it the weakness that absolutely ruins The Path.  If the gameplay parts of it had some actual gameplay, you may have been able to use that to bring more experience and reinforce the themes and moments they were actually going for there.

Fun is important.  Even when a game is more about the plot than the fun factor, having that entertainment there goes a long way towards carrying the rest of it through.

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And yet.  And yet.  Always an and yet. Let’s think back to the games that were all the rage before I started realizing how much I love the sound of my own voice and stopped listening to everyone else.  You remember how big everyone was going on about Spec Ops: The Line?  That game was a big emotional tour de force, that I didn’t really like, but that was more due to the content itself rather than its delivery.  Plenty of people loved it.  And its message wasn’t really harmed by its lame gameplay.  In fact, many said it was enhanced by the poor shootbanging.

You remember before the Telltale formula became the Telltale formula, before all the best writers bailed off the ship, and the Walking Dead, Season 1 came out and blew everybody’s minds?  There is not a single part of that game that is actually ‘fun’.  Yet it was still the storytelling experience of the year in games.

For that matter, think back to any horror game you particularly liked.  Not action horror, because that’s going for a completely different feel, but good old classic survival horror, or spook horror, or just plain scary scary game.  Chances are, if it left that impression on you, it was never fun.  Video games do horror very, very well, possibly better than any other medium, but horror games are very rarely fun.  And that’s deliberate.  Horror video games are geared towards delivering a very specific feeling and experience.  And fun would interfere with that.  Scary video games don’t deliver the rollercoaster type scariness where you can mix that with the fun, video games, and most other spooky artistic mediums, reach into your brain and twist the mental fear out of it.  They get your mind working against itself.  If your mind is having fun, it won’t be able to settle on the fear.  Fun would be a complete distraction, a big mood killer, in this experience.

For that matter, I brought up exactly this point when I was talking about my adventures with Zelda II.  I played the game.  I beat the game.  I was so fulfilled by that.  Yet I never, ever had fun with it.  I had some similar experiences with Dark Souls.  You all watched me repeatedly wear my well-built rear end as a hat in fighting against the likes of Manus, Artorias, Ornstein and Smough, et al.  Overall, I did have fun with Dark Souls, but that fun didn’t come from running up against the same challenges and failing over and over again.  And even so, I still felt fulfilled by overcoming the challenge, although the time I spent doing that was not traditionally ‘fun’.

So where does the line fall?  What makes the Walking Dead, Season 1 a good experience, and the Path not?

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I think it’s a pretty simple dichotomy.  The games that aren’t fun, but still make it work replace the fun with something else.  The likes of the Path and, as Maya pointed out, Braid, do not.  Dark Souls fills the unfun parts of it with a lot of opportunity for that oh-so-satisfying personal skill growth.  Walking Dead used the unfun gameplay bits to keep the plot moving forward.  They get use out of the gameplay.  Games that screw up the fun and end up the worse for it don’t gain from their gameplay sections, by and large.  They end up as mostly movies making you wonder why they were even released at all.  Games that aren’t fun but are still good experiences are those that still use the interactivity to deliver something to the player in service of whatever experience they’re going for.

Does this make these games worthwhile experiences, however?  To be honest, as wise and charming and always right as I am, that is completely up to you.  You’re the one charged with making the most of your time, and if what you’re looking for is something fun, nobody can hold that against you.  Usually, when I pull out the controller, that’s what I’m looking for.  But I’ve had plenty of great times, and have grown my sphere a bit, playing through games that aren’t traditionally fun.

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Playing Against Type

Bloodborne.  Lots of people call it a good game.  And they’re right.  Some people call it a great game.  I’d agree with that.  Some people call it a masterpiece.  Those people, I start wondering if they need their heads checked.

Bloodborne has a lot going for it.  It was built on top of a great, proven engine, it has a great design, its lore is steps ahead of your average game, the combat engine pushes the player’s limits in just the right ways, and so on.  But it’s also a flawed game, and it has a lot going against it that other games I would consider true masterpieces, such as its predecessor Dark Souls, deliberately and deftly avoid.  Two big things come to mind.

The first, I’m just not very good at Bloodborne.  I don’t click with the combat style.  Which is fine.  I didn’t get to where I’d actually consider myself good at Dark Souls until Artorias kicked my face in for two hours, so I think I just need a moment like that.  And everytime I look online for help, I come across a past conversation with the type of infuriating wanker that thinks there needs to be a holy war between the haves and have-nots of Bloodborne skill.  Which, really, is not a problem with the game itself, but I get to choose what I think are masterpieces, and the skill barrier disqualifies a game until I cross it.

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The second factor, I have to blame on the game.  Bloodborne’s gameplay has several mechanisms that just work counter to each other.  Bits of the design philosophy that conflict.  The most prominent is that Bloodborne requires grinding.  Specifically, it punishes you with grinding.  Your health items and one of your key defensive tools are consumable.  You use them, and they’re gone, even if you screw up and get all your progress you had used them towards erased.  Enough failed runs, and you’ll have to spend an hour’s time just farming enemies in order to build your supplies back up for another go ‘round.

Which would be a black mark on its own.  But what makes it even worse here is that Bloodborne is built around trial and error gameplay.  You are expected, almost required, to fail.  Because that’s how you grow.  Enemies are built to be too much for you at first.  Even at second.  Maybe up to fifth or beyond.  It doesn’t matter.  They only put you down so that you can get up again.  They hurt you so you get better.  As you fail, you learn their timings, you try new strategies, you find yourself moving where they’re weak, and by the time you’ve triumphed, you have had internalized who and what they are, through your repeated trials in overcoming them.

It’s glorious.  It’s one of the things that make so much of From Software’s recent output so great.  But it’s made so, so much weaker by the fact that you are punished for it.  The game requires you to learn from failure in order to succeed, but if you fail, it will take away from your experience.  The game abuses you for playing as it intends.

Thing is, having some mechanics push in one direction and other mechanics pushing you back is totally common thing in games.  In fact, to some extent, games are built on it.  The later Persona games created their whole time management gameplay by matching their mechanics encouraging you to take as much outside-dungeon activity as possible with mechanics limiting the amount you got to do.  Resident Evil 4 was all about deftly navigating hordes of enemies as you cut them down, yet would constantly limit your ability to do so by locking you into a vehicle or situation that restricted your movement.  Fire Emblem is focused on utilizing the near complete availability of information to build completely safe and defensive strategies, yet still left the unpredictable elements of critical hits and enemy reinforcements in there.  And they’re all great games.  In fact, the counter-productive elements add to the experience.  So why is it that it works here, but not in Bloodborne?

A lot of it lies in the nature of how these counterproductive elements are used.  In all those good examples?  The interworkings were set in place to provide limits.  To place challenges to overcome.  Games require rules and boundaries, and those elements were how the designers set those in place.  They gave you something to work around.  Providing new gameplay, even if, the way I explained it, it seems they should take away.

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Bloodborne’s grinding requirements?  Along with stuff like Dark Cloud’s fragile freakin’ weapons when the game requires you to be grinding them down?  Like Skies of Arcadia promoting exploration when the game has a monstrous random encounter rate?  Like Final Fantasy 2 requiring you to enter doors, yet more often than not sticking you in a stupid monster closet whenever you did so?  Those are all mechanisms of punishment.

Failure needs to have consequence, or so goes a common set of game design knowledge.  Thing is, games don’t exist in meatspace.  They can’t reach out of the screen and slap you when you screw up.  Yet.  I call dibs on the patent.  In fact, game designers don’t have a whole lot of torque over players in the real world.  So, for punishment, they use one of the few things they do have power over.  They punish you by wasting your time.  They remove the progress or resources you’ve already bought with your time.  Or, as in Bloodborne’s case, they make you spend more time before you get to the stuff you want to play.

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It’s not a good system.  Wasting your time is one of the biggest sins a game can commit.  There’s a reason why gaming has largely been moving away from this method of punishment, or, at least, limiting its impact, as the medium has developed.  And yet, we still see it pop up.  And it’s never to the game’s favor.  The sparse placement of checkpoints and the long walks after failure was one of the few black spots on an otherwise gleaming game in Dark Souls, and that, combined with the time required to grind up to recover from your losses, is one of the biggest weights dragging Bloodborne down.

It does lead to a more old-school feel, which is what I believe the Soul series is going for, but unfortunately, it does so without adding to the experience.  It’s better than a lot of other applications, such as the Do It Again, Stupid style gameplay I’ve been running into all over the PS2 era lately.  But I do feel that this is misused.

So how would I overcome this without changing this feature of the gameplay?  Try and make more use of it to add to it.  Bloodborne’s a bit more straight-lined than Dark Souls, but mayhaps this would lead to an opportunity to expand upon the rails.  Have one area give you a certain type of resource as a common drop, another area give you another, both needed to get through.  So, if you’re having a lot of difficulty with one place, the game guides you towards the section that carries the resource you’re lacking, so you still make progress there, while taking a break so you can get back to your trouble spot with a fresh mindset.

Then again, that doesn’t really fit in with the philosophy of the souls series.  But then again, neither does making endless runs through areas you’ve already got down pat just to get yourself back to a state where you can try the area that’s giving you trouble once more.  In any case, the counter elements should be posed more as limitations or as obstacles to be overcome, rather than as punishments, in order to lead to greater gameplay.  If Bloodborne implemented a more complex system of resource management, or a better way of recovering your supplies than mindless repetition, this may be a good fit.  As is, it only hurts the game, and it’s largely because of the way it’s posed rather than anything else.

The Bloodborne Mumbles

I’ve been playing and publicly humiliating myself at Dark Souls for years.  I finally got myself through that.  You might think I need a break from that, but nope, apparently not.  After a scant few weeks away, I started playing Bloodborne, and stepping back into that engine, that design philosophy, that world of challenge… well, it felt good.  It felt right.  So much so that, after spewing so many words at Dark Souls, it just feels like there’d be something wrong with the world if I didn’t do the same for Bloodborne.  No Let’s Play here, because I don’t know how to get screens off my PS4 I want to play this one for myself, but I’d still like to get my first sessions’ thoughts down about the game.

Let’s make this happen.

  • First things first, the Otaku Judge and I’ve been in each other’s spheres for a good long while now. So when I finished up my Dark Souls run, he suggested Bloodborne to me, thinking I would like it, unaware that I had already picked it up and it was already on its way through the black magic and the mail.    And hey!  He was right!  I do like it.  Great minds thinking alike and all that.
  • Dark Souls was a very hard game to stay unspoiled from. I ran into things by accident.  Knowing I’d eventually be interested in playing it, I’ve been a lot more careful with Bloodborne.  This will be about as pure an experience as I can get here.  Very little spoilers for me.
  • We plug the game in and… not off to a great start. I’m really starting to get tired of always being asked to download and install a patch every time I buy a new game.  I get this thing, I want to play it.  I don’t want to spend my limited gaming time with this new piece of art I’ve been looking forward to just slapping some files together.    Screw that.  I don’t get to play online because of it, but whatever.  I’ll just try it out later.

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  • Dark Souls’ opening was full of lore and backstory. High concept fantasy stuff.  Bloodborne’s is a lot different.  The big thing they’re delivering is unanswered questions.  Hinting at the lore to come.  I’m a paleblood, whatever that is, and I’m here for blood ministration.  Going by the dictionary, that’s ‘the provision of assistance or care’.  To my blood.  I’m here for a transfusion with some of Yharnam’s super cool pimp blood, then contracts are mentioned, then character creation screen.
  • You get a lot of options with character creation. As is my wont, I spend a lot of time here.  I’m really attracted to the options you get with the skin color.  I briefly consider popping the Incredible Hulk in there, but since girls aren’t watching and I don’t have to show off, I go with something a lot more basic.  I end up with a willowy muse, who just happens to be very, very blue.
  • Demon Souls let me have my characters face, but didn’t have a lot to play with in creating it. Dark Souls was less limited, but in one memory I actually find really funny, totally played me by making my character completely skinless.  Kind of wondering if Bloodborne will end up jerking me around the same way.  I’m hoping they will, actually.
  • I originally intended to base my starting class on which one had the sexiest hat. Unfortunately, none of the classes change your equipment layout.
  • So, the embarrassingly long amount of time I’ve spent fine-tuning my appearance is over, back to the intro. I pass out, creepy wheelchair doctor disappears, here comes a werewolf made of blood.  Just like a Tuesday morning for me.  Werewolf burns for no reason, then from around the bed I’m strapped to, here pop a whole lot of creepy baby Ghoulies.

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  • Okay seriously, I don’t like these guys. Don’t want to look at them.
  • Oh hell they’re touching my face!
  • Okay, that was horrifying and I’ll never be clean again. I’m free now, though.  Let’s play with the controls.
  • Okay, that is totally just Dark Souls. I can’t block, and my dual wielding button is moved, but otherwise, right at home.  The path I’m on leads me to a werewolf.  Let’s test my knowledge of this out.
  • Considering I’m unarmed and doing 12 damage a shot, I’m actually doing quite well. The werewolf can’t touch me.  At least at first.  But one difference from Dark Souls, when you’re locked on, your dodge is a quickstep rather than a roll.  The timings a bit different.  While it’s clear from the first time I used it that there’s some invincibility frames in there, I don’t know where they are, exactly.  After smacking him like twenty times with my bare fists, I get caught, and that’s the end of that.
  • That seems to have been the intended path, though. That makes me even more frustrated at that loss.  I bet I’d have gotten something super sweet if I had managed to get past that first werewolf.  In any case, upon death, I’m transported to the Hunter’s Dream, which seems to be the hubworld for everything else.  Big flashbacks to Demon Souls here, but unlike that time, it wasn’t something super sick wicked that killed me.

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  • Weapon time, though! I almost gave up on them, given that the Ghoulies have touched all these weapons and they’re super icky, but I’m not into that much abuse.    I know very little about how Bloodborne differs from Dark Souls, mechanically, but I do know that it requires a more aggressive playstyle, focuses on counters over guards, and has you fight groups of enemies a lot more often.  In light of that, I opt for the faster weapons over the stronger ones.  Figure mobility is more key here.  On top of that, this gives me the option to beat down werewolves with a cane, like the gentleman I was always meant to be.  Sweet.
  • Fast forwarding a bit, the first bits of lore you get about the game you find from talking to jerks hiding in their houses. And they’re always jerks.  Anyways, that’s some great use of light.  There are lots of doors, given that you’re fighting your way through city streets, but all the ones that will talk to you have a lit lantern next to them, or light peeking underneath, or some other use of lighting that just draws your eye to them.  Clever, and it feels really natural.
  • So, yeah, lore. The city of Yharnam is pretty screwed thanks to ‘the Hunt.’  I am a ‘Hunter’ and it’s up to me and ilk to slay ‘beasts’ such as those werewolves and all the other jerk townsfolk I’ve been smacking around.  Also, I’m an ‘Outsider’ and that means everyone ‘hates’ me even though I’m somehow supposed to make everything better and they can all go ‘die horribly in a fire’.
  • A few werewolves have been crucified and set on fire. Not necessarily in that order.  So far, I’ve mostly been smacking around a bunch of townsfolk who’ve gotten a little too bigheaded, rather than the beasts everyone’s talking about.  I wonder if this is going to end up being me just going mad and slaughtering everyone, my insanity driving me to think I’m some great liberator as I’m doing so?  The pieces all fit.

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  • The Dark Souls engine was never great at having you fight groups. The camera’s too close and controlling it uses the same thumb as your vital dodge button, your defenses are pretty uni-directional, and the margin of error is way too slim.  Bloodborne keeps some of those problem, but fixes others, so overall, it is a bit better suited.  Namely, your dodge roll/quickstep is faster than it used to be and actually has some invincibility frames, so you can weave through multiple attacks a bit better, and, I don’t know if every weapon has this, but the alternate blade-whip mode of my cane was great for keeping groups of enemies at bay.  I still had to employ a good bit of my old Dark Souls scumbag tactics to get through, but I’m comfortable with that.  Positioning is very important, taking control of choke points or at the very least getting everyone to come at you from all directions, but so far, the levels seem designed to give you ample opportunity for that.

Continue reading

The End of Dark Souls

Last time, on Aether Plays Dark Souls… you know what?  Forget about last time.  Forget about all those last times.  Except don’t really, because those last times were great and they make the world so much better, but maybe forget them a little bit, because it’s all about what we have ahead of us now.

For we are at our moment.  This is it.  This is that moment upon which the fate of the world will fall.

How long has it been?  How many deaths, both mine and others’?  How many tears, conquests, falls and rises?  How many friends have I gained and lost?  How many times have I truly proven myself the best chosen one?

And all around me, how many other people on their own adventures, dealing with their own plague of the darksign, making their own quests?

Tonight, that all ends.  When dawn comes again, if it ever does, the world will be changed.

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But a man can’t change the world unprepared.  I have some things to do.  First step, make use of the rite of kindling and build Firelink’s bonfire as high as it can go, filling my estus flask to bursting in the meantime.

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Second step, use the soul of the darkmoon knightess to make my estus even stronger.  It’s not the best way to honor her death, and I feel I owe her more than this, but you know what?  She tried to kill me.  I don’t care.

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Third step, head up to Frampt and cut him in his big stupid lying…

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I mean, try to cut him, but fall down the giant gaping hole in front of him instead.  Boy, do I feel stupid.

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There’s some magic there, to cushion my fall.  Who left it there, I don’t know.  But for once, I don’t get hurt.  I could get used to that.

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And here I am.  That which I’d been seeking to open on this whole ‘murder everyone’ fool’s mission. Continue reading

The Count of Dark Souls

Little known cultural fact.  Ever since the darksign started blighting people in Lordran, and death stopped being a thing, we’ve developed a fun little game.  Basically what you do is you get a partner, and you see who can be more dead.  I lose.  All the time.  For example, I played it with Nito last time on Dooty Doot Dark Souls, and I lost hardcore.  Nito ended up so much deader than me.

But now we’ve got all the Lord Souls!  So we can do the Best Chosen One thing and save the world, right?  Man, I bet you can’t wait!  We’ve been running this series like two years now, and finally, we’re ready to go and bring it!  The end is in sight!

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut I’ve got some business to take care of first.  See, we had picked up the Darkmoon Séance Ring in the Catacombs.  You recall what I mentioned from the ring’s description?  That it claimed the Dark Sun Gwyndolin was the last remaining deity in Anor Londo?  And how we got set on this whole crazy kill everybody for their souls deal by the supposed Goddess Gwynevere, right there?

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Somebody’s lying to me.

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AND I DON’T LIKE THAT!

I speak with her.  She just repeats her tired spiel.  Urging me to go and be the Best Chosen One I already am, and just listen to Big Snake Dungmouth.  I’m not having it.  The ring says you’re not here, yet here you are.  I want to get to the bottom of this.  By force.

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I swing.  My blade doesn’t reach her.  No reaction.

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I hurl a fireball into her gut.  It explodes against her.  No reaction.

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I draw my bow, and send an arrow up her nose.  No…

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Well. Continue reading

Too Much for Dark Souls

Last time, on Dead Dudes and Dark Souls, we’re not saying who, but somebody messed with the wrong chosen one.  Luckily, I’m pretty quick to forgive and forget.  So what do you say we just forget about him right where he is, and take this show onwards.

So, to the left of the pit I dropped what’s-his-name down, I spy a fog gate in the distance.  I head a little bit towards it, at least until I spy some eyes gleaming in the darkness.  I come a bit closer, and the figure behind the eyes comes into view.

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Looks like a man.  Moves like a beast.  Was this the form he took in life, or did whatever necromancy that brought him back to live force him into this?  Whatever the case, he’s faster than the garden variety giant skeletons.  He hammers his skull against my shield, then darts off to the side.  I follow after him, and cut him one.  First blood is mine.  Well, it would be, but, you know…

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The skeleton rains a few blows against my shield in rapid succession.  This seems to tire it out, and when it stops, I’m ready with my answer.  The battle is mine.

But I don’t progress.  Rather, I remember where I was when I came out of the pit below me.  There was a path leading the other way from there.  And there was someone shooting arrows at me from that path.  Maybe it’s something worth checking out.  I head back that way.  Progress be damned.

Two people were shooting at me, in fact.  Giant arrows come out of the darkness, right towards my skull, as I round that corner.  I move out of the way of them.  They’re flying oddly slowly, here.

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I follow the path along, and up, and scale a ladder.  I catch the first archer at a landing at the top of it.  His ally tries to divert me.  Too bad.

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Climbing up the ladder leaves me pretty helpless, though.  I take an arrow to the back in the process.

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There’s a giant skeleton waiting in the hallway at the top.  Yeah, whatever.

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Another one waits on my way down the hallway.  I didn’t bother remembering how I beat these guys.  I just did.

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At the end of that hallway, I take the ladder down and pick up a few eyes of death off a corpse there.  Again, that’s multiplayer stuff, not very useful to me.  Further on, I find a dead end with a few souls for the taking.  Get a nice view of the arena I fought the Pinwheel in, for what it’s worth.  On the way back, I find a place to drop off the cliff and get some more souls.  Continue reading

The Light in the Dark Souls

Last time, on Running out of Titles for Dark Souls we followed up on beating possibly the hardest enemy I’ve ever faced, Manus, by taking on the easiest boss in the game, Pinwheel.  Felt a bit like shifting without a clutch.  After overcoming that challenge way back in Oolacile, is there anything left in Lordran that can stretch us?  Well, what do you say we find out?

After emerging from Pinwheel’s lair, I find myself surrounded by a deep darkness, the likes of which we’ve not seen before.  The only light I can see comes from those prism stones littered among the path, and the occasional message expressing dismay.  “I can’t take this…”  “Need hope.” “Despair.”  Looks like the other chosen ones have been beaten down by this place.  I may have gotten myself into something, here.

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I follow the prism stones along until I find out where I am.  The Tomb of the Giants.  I’ve heard of this place.  Not anything good about it.

Red Metal had left me some advice last time, for this situation.  Following it means doing something I find really distasteful, but… well, I have to keep moving forward.

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The Sunlight Maggot.  It lead my friend, Solaire, to his doom.  With luck, it might save me from mine.

Oh man, nobody’s going to be able to recognize me without that gargoyle helmet.  It’s like I’m wearing a whole new face.  It does emit light, however.  And light’s what I need.  I’m not about to dive into an enemy-strewn underground cavern without being able to see.  Especially not when I can see the glow of some eyes just a bit away.

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It illuminates this skull, directly to my left.  Guess they weren’t kidding with the name of this place.  I smash it just in case.  I’ve no inclination to give respect to the dead when I’ve died so much more.  There’s a bit of light coming from the lava in the area beyond.  Not enough to illuminate this place, of course.  I think I recognize that, though.  Am I looking at the Demon Ruins there?

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The glowing eyes I saw earlier belonged to this giant skeleton.  I’m a little disappointed.  I’d fought one of these already, a long, long time ago, back in the graveyard by Firelink Shrine.  I had a divine weapon then.  I never changed my equipment after fighting Pinwheel.  This could be trouble.

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The giant skeleton places one hand behind his blade and slams it down.  I slip to the side of his strike, and cut into him twice.  This straightens him up, and then he falls apart.  I wait for him to reform, ready to switch over to the Silver Knight Spear.  I watch his bones closely, ready to enter my inventory the moment they start quivering closer together.  I keep waiting.  And waiting.  The moment never comes.  I didn’t kill him with a divine weapon, but I still killed him for good.  Huh.  Were these guys powered by some different necromancy?  Did killing Pinwheel earlier cut off the skeleton’s regeneration ability, somehow?  Was it that I smashed the giant, non-animated skeleton earlier?  No idea.  But I like the results.

The path leads downwards, curving back and forth.  It takes me past another giant skeleton.  A dead one.  Well, you know what I mean.  I smash it for good measure.  The next curve puts me in front of another enemy giant skeleton.  It cuts down at me.  I block it, knocking it back, then cut into it twice.  Like the last one, it doesn’t recover.

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There’s a corpse trapped in the ribcage of another giant behind him.  I pick up some souls from the corpse, the take a moment to wonder how exactly it got there.

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