Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition - 15/20 hours

I think I hate this game.

Though, to be fair, I'm pretty sure it hates me more.

My evidence for this theory is the twenty-three times I died trying to fight the Capra Demon. That, in itself, would not be so bad - I'm positive that I've faced worse in certain levels of Mario Galaxy, and Super Meat Boy laughs at a mere 24 tries to beat a boss, but what makes Dark Souls a special kind of hell is that unlike those games, it punishes you for failure.

Whenever you die, you lose your accumulated experience and start back at your last visited bonfire. So, not only did I die repeatedly to the Capra Demon, I was also forced, after every defeat, to make the three minute walk back to his lair. It's like an unskippable cutscene that kills you 5% of the time (it was not a glorious death, either - I'm not 100% sure of the controls apparently, because sometimes my character's post-block counterattack is followed up by a backflip and I'm not sure why - it always aggravates me when it happens, too, because it invariably ruins my attack combo, and in certain circumstances launches me backwards over a cliff).

But the true reason I think Dark Souls hates me is because of the circumstances of the fight itself. They seemed calculated to deliberately fuck with me, the player, by taking the things I've learned in other fights and ensuring that if I tried them, they would get me killed. For example, unlike every other boss fight I'd previously faced, the Capra Demon was in a narrow alcove. Which means that, in order to dodge its attack, I had to target a thin gap between the enemy in the wall. Fair enough. But then the game put an attack dog in exactly the space I'd dodge into. So, I'd roll into an enemy and get stopped right next to the demon. If I attacked the dog, the demon would demolish me. If I tried to roll away, it wouldn't work, and the demon and the dog would demolish me. If I tried to block, the demon and the dog would wear down my stamina and then they'd demolish me.

The first time I got the dodge timing exactly right, I managed to get onto the staircase behind the demon, and then the second attack dog appeared out of nowhere and killed me. Dodging that would carry me back into the demon and the other dog and . . .

The trick, it turned out, was to follow a very precise path, not worry too much about defense, chug a potion at the top of the stairs, and then hope that the demon's unblockable instant death attack did not trigger. Then I'd take out the dogs and kite the demon in the limited space of the battlefield. As long as it didn't do too many super attacks in a row and I maintained absolutely flawless concentration, I could be the enemy.

Needless to say, most of the time, that didn't happen. I fought the Capra Demon 23 times, and I'd say that only 3-4 times did I actually manage to get to the point where I could go on the offense. The rest of the time, the battle lasted less than a minute. And then I'd have to spend twice that time walking back.

Combined with other, minor inconveniences, like the lack of a pause, the mandatory Games for Windows Live registration, the near-constant autosave meaning that if I accidentally attack an npc (because, say, a sorcerer I'd just rescued was standing near some destructible barrels), I'd have to go through with the murder even though I didn't want to (he wound up having a pretty sweet ring, but I'm sure that if he'd lived, he might have sold me some great spells), and I'm convinced that Dark Souls has it in for me, personally.

Maybe I deserve it, for my hubris. I thought I could handle any game, but Dark Souls exists in order to prove that there are things greater than me in this world, and I am, in fact, only a small player on a much grander stage.

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