Sunday, August 12, 2012

Revisiting an old friend and nemesis; Dark Souls, revisited

at 3:26 PM
Looks like the blog finally managed to do something good! When I booted up Dark Souls to write that last CCCR, I decided to play around for a couple minutes. I had a save that was only about ten minutes into the game which I had abandoned months ago after moving on to fresher, greener, fresher, more fertile pastures. It gave me enough of a stimulus to convince me to give the game a second shot - it's probably been nearly a year since I gave up on it. Yeah, I haven't seen this old boy for a long time... not since... the accident. But with no action RPG on my plate since I finished The Witcher 2 (though I am replaying that on Dark) and no enthralling enveloping Japanese RPGs except for the occasional Xenoblade session, there's nothing to stop me.

Let me tell you a funny little story about why I quit Dark Souls. It's a story likely familiar to anyone out there who's played the game or its predecessor, or any fucking annoying-ass piss-you-off-so-much-that-when-even-a-tiny-thing-goes-right-it-feels-awesome games. I had been playing the game for about 25 hours, had (what I thought) was a relatively decent character who had come across a lot of lucky finds, and had done it all on my own - no guides, no shortcuts found on youtube, not even the Drake Sword. So I was pretty happy with where things were going. Then I stumbled into the Depths, and things all went to hell.

Although I stumbled through some trapdoors and found myself utterly lost with no clue how to get back to a bonfire (spawn point, for those unfamiliar with the game), I was also on a huge streak and had tons of souls and humanities saved up, which I was about to use to buy some really nice gear. Then a stupid blob fell from the ceiling and I instantaneously died and was cursed. The long and short of this is that your max HP is cut in half  until you can find a cure - in a game where it's already easy to die in one or two hits, this is beyond damning. So with half HP and absolutely no clue how to find my way back to my body to recover my souls, I quickly died, losing everything permanently. That was a huge blow, but what was worse is that the game tells you by name who/where can cure the curse, but I had no fucking idea where to find either. So I'm trapped with half HP, no end to the curse in sight, and the only recourse being to go to GameFAQs. So I quit.

Anyone who's played the game knows this asshole
At that point I didn't really have any desire to start again. As I said, I had lucked into a lot of cool stuff with that character, and wasn't too excited by the notion of doing things again and having to cross my fingers. Moreover, all the joys of finally defeating X boss or clearing X area after struggling for hours would be significantly diluted by the fact that I had already done it all before. And despite what most gaming magazines and forums these days would have you believe, 25 hours is a goddamn LOT of time to sink into a game. Some of us aren't 12 or employed solely to play games. Even 10 hours isn't exactly a trivial investment of time. Anyway, realizing that this hard a game isn't going to be nearly as rewarding on a second run brings up some interesting questions about the very nature of its difficulty. Because I don't think at all the same can be said of Contra or Bit.Trip Beat or Donkey Kong Country. That's an interesting subject I'll have to come back to later.

So here I am now, returning to Dark Souls, despite lamenting the proposition last time I played. I had played a melee-type character on my first run, so I hoped switching to a sorcerer would help keep things interesting. Turns out it has, and even crazier, I'm blowing through the game as if it's not a challenge at all. I find it hard to believe it's my familiarity with the territory, and I'm not sure it can be attributed entirely to my class choice, but something is completely different this time around. In barely 6 hours, I've caught up to my first character's progress over 25. And my character is already well above his level. Simply put, I'm not dying. Many of the bosses that were nightmarishly difficult previously I've vanquished in a single bout. Only ONCE have I taken multiple lives to clear an obstacle. And hey, I've still been getting lots of cool random gear unique from the last run. Is this game far more replayable than I thought? Is it nowhere near as hard as it was cracked up to be? Well, I've now reached the Depths, where I got cursed and quit last time, so we're about to find out. This post is already tediously long, so I'll have to bid you adieu for this afternoon and hope to see you next time on Dark Souls, revisited - revisited.
Sorcerer says: welcome to Lazerbeamville

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