Friday, 6 July 2012

Dark Souls - Reprise

I've gone back to Dark Souls.  This isn't really a surprise.  Ever since I bought it the game has been a constant distraction.  It's seen off plenty of honest-to-goodness blockbusters during that time; including Skyrim, Battlefield 3, something that I think had Batman in it and most recently Dragon's Dogma.  These other, inferior, games have occupied my spare time for short bursts here and there - but Dark Souls has always been waiting in the background for me to come to my senses and return to its unforgiving arms.

I've got some idea as to why that is and I've already detailed what makes the game different to so many other things on the market.  Even so, this is quite something here.  For a game to occupy that space for 9 months is unheard of.  I'm beginning to worry that this is a sign of a creeping problem, that I'm going to end up unable to leave the house - sitting here endlessly doing the run through Undead Burg until I finish it without getting hit and parrying every single opponent.  Because the game is just so deep.  There is so much to it.  It's hard to stop.

My current project is to go through the entire game without advancing in level.  This is a response, really, an attempt to re-capture that crushing difficulty which made the first play through so amazing.  It reminds me of eating chilli or something - there's a reaction to the pain.  Maybe endorphins are released, God knows what it is, but it's making me try to make this hard game even harder.  To be honest, I'd kind of forgotten how difficult it really is.  And the brilliant thing about it is that it's made me start thinking again about how I can maximise every advantage.

Because once you've finished the game once it gets (kind of) easy.  You know where stuff is and you know how the weapon improvement thing works and you can use this knowledge to make things a lot more manageable.  And not only do you know this, but so do most other people - so when you summon them they're also totally tooled up supermen and off you go merrily laying waste to enemies that were once the bane of your very lives.  Now this is fun, sure, but it's not quite the same as it was way back when.  So I started trying to recapture how it was the first time.  When I did NG+ I decided to do it only using Black Knight equipment.  Now, to be entirely honest, this is hardly a massive hindrance.  Black Knights have good armour and very big, hurty, stabby axes and swords and things; so it's all good.  The only problem I had was in the catacombs.  Down there you need Divine weapons - and I couldn't use them.  So I spent a lot of time kicking skeletons off bridges and making suicide attacks on fellas with lanterns in their beards.

Anyway, that was then.  This is now.  As a starting level character I have a pitiful amount of health.  I also (stupidly) picked a character with 9 strength.  This means I can't use any straight sword, and only one metal shield.  I am an idiot.  If any of you are thinking of following in my footsteps then DON'T PICK THE THIEF, that's all I'm going to say.  But!  This has made me think about how to overcome the (huge, slobbering) obstacles in my path and has inspired me to give the following tips to anybody who might fancy doing the same....

1.  I said this just now but... DON'T PICK THE BLOODY THIEF!!!  Pick the Knight or, even better, pick a weapon you might want to use and pick the character that can use it.
2.  Poison.  Poison.  Poison.  Lovely, useful poison.  This is your greatest friend and companion.  Three arrows will take down a Royal Sentinel (the big guys in the hall in Anor Londo.)  Two arrows will kill most other things.  Poisoned throwing knives, dung pies - whatever.  Use them and use them often.
3.  Pyromancy doesn't have any statistic requirements.  I'm just going to say that.
4.  Pick your weapons.  There is no point using anything other than fire, chaos fire or lightning.  And divine, obviously, for the catacombs.
5.  Pick your equipment carefully.  Most armour can be improved to +10, special stuff to +5 and things like the gold-hemmed set, not at all.  Bear in mind that some items can look bad to start with, but really reward you if you max them out.
6. Your maximum equip load will only ever be increased by items, so stick to light armour if you want to be mobile.

7.   A heater shield, available from the Male Undead Merchant, has the lowest strength requirement for any shield which stops 100% of physical damage. 
8.  Practice your technique.  Going toe to toe is not advisable.  Dodge.  A lot.  Parry.  Not only does it mean you don't have to spend ages dancing about, it is also monumentally cool.  You will feel like some kind of Dark Souls god.
9. Don't feel like you have to do everything.  Your aim is to beat the game.  You don't have to kill everyone to do so.
10. You will not be able to summon anybody, or be summoned, much past Undead Parish.  Save your humanity so that you can summon Solaire for Ornstein and Smough - you'll need him.

Finally, there will be times when you wonder why you are doing this.  You are doing this for the same reason that Edmund Hillary conquered Everest; so that, like him, you can say  "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off."  Assuming, of course, that you know someone called George.