While I’m not feeling my best (and in this case, have no idea what the hell is going on with me), I like to return to my comfort gaming. For me, there are a few games that reach that level. It’s not necessarily ‘easy’ games, either, as they are all games I struggled with when I first played them. But, they’re games I’ve played so much, I have a groove on when I get in the zone. I blame it all on Dark Souls being one of the first ‘hardcore’ games I’ve played. It broke me, remade me, then broke me again. I hated it with all my heart by the time I was done with it (having played the whole game plus DLC), and I was relieved to see the backside of it. Then, Dark Souls II was released, and, damn it, my interest was piqued. I wasn’t going to jump right in because I was cheap and never bought games full price. While I was gunning up for it to go on sale, I decided that the best way to prep for it was to play the first game again. Why? I don’t know. Time eases the pain or some such. I was and am a masochist. I don’t know what it is. I also don’t know why I finished the game the first time as I HATED it by the time I went to *spoiler, I guess, for a 9-year-old game* take on Gwyn, the final boss.
Honestly, I was done with the game after beating Biggie & Small. That took so much out of me, although for the longest time, it was the highlight of my gaming career. The fact that I died to them sixty to seventy times and then finally, finally, beat them on my own. I felt like a GOD, and you couldn’t say shit to me for, oh, three minutes. Until I probably promptly got killed in the next new area. That’s how these games work. With one hand, Miyazaki giveth, and with the other, he slaps you across the face repeatedly and as hard as he can.
You want to know what took the place of defeating Biggie & Small as my proudest gaming moment? Two things happened in Sekiro that tested my mettle and found me almost wanting. And by things, I mean bosses, of course, because those are the linchpins of the game. We can talk about the gorgeous environments and the interconnectivity all we want, but we all know that the pinnacle of the games is when you walk through the white fog and face that boss. Or don’t walk through the white fog in some cases, which is trollery at its finest.
Genichiro was the first boss to make me question why the fuck I was playing Sekiro and maybe I was out of my league. Ian likes to say that I get that way with every big boss in a Souls game, and he’s right, but there’s something different about Genichiro. You get a tease of him because he’s the tutorial boss against whom you are supposed to die. You *can* beat him, which I did in NG+, but that was when I had all my gear. The three times I’ve faced him in NG, well, let’s just say he got the best of me. I will say I did much better the second and third time than the first, but I still didn’t even manage to get one of his life pips.
Coming across him up on the Ashina Castle roof was epic, and it was the hard check that every FromSoft game has. It’s the boss that takes your measure and sees if you have what it takes to finish the rest of the game. Some games journalists say if you can take Genichiro, then you can take any of the bosses later in the game. I don’t think that’s true, but I’m truly mediocre at the game. I’m decent at Souls games by now, but Sekiro took everything I had to give and then some. I reached the third phase of Genichiro for the first time after being ecstatic thinking I beat him, and then he immediately grabbed me and killed me.
I was done. I was so done. I was past being done. I had just spent three or four hours bashing my brain against him, and I was so elated! Watching Genichiro strip off his armor and stagger to his feet, talking about how he would do anything for Ashina, and my heart sinking to the bottom of my feet. After he killed me, I slammed down my controller and messaged Ian as to how I was so done with the game. I couldn’t kill this boss, and I sucked in general. He sent me back a soothing message. Later, much later, I came within one hit of killing Genichiro, got greedy because I had no heals, and he killed me. At that point, I wasn’t mad–I knew I had him, and I was determined. Sometime during this process, I messaged Ian about how hard he was, and he said, “I know you’re going to beat this boss.” I was like, “You do??? I don’t!”
He’s right in general that I always reach a point of ‘I can’t’ with the hardcheck bosses in FromSoft games. So far, I have managed to fight past that point, but I’ve noticed a ramp up in difficulty in bosses starting with the DLC for Dark Souls II onward. I’ve said that I feel like FromSoft has bought into its own hype too much and leans too hard on making the bosses EPIC and SUPER DIFFICULT. Not all of them, but enough that it’s starting to be really unpleasant for me. I summoned for three of the five bosses in the DLC of Bloodborne, and I did the same for most the bosses in the DLCs of Dark Souls III. I went back and eventually beat all the bosses in the DLCs of DS III solo, but not BB. I’m afraid that FromSoft games are moving out of my reach, and I’m wary that the next game might be my last. To put it bluntly, the games keep getting more difficult while my skills remain the same.
My current measure of badassery in beating bosses is the final boss of Sekiro, Isshin, the Sword Saint. I still get a feeling of awe and reverence whenever I think about him, and I still can’t explain the combined euphoria/relief/whatever else when I finally beat him. I probably died less to him than I did to Genichiro, but it was by far more grueling because he has four phases–including the initial one as Genichiro. The fight is brilliant and epic, and I’ve written about it endlessly. I was so close to stopping the game without beating this boss because I had nothing left to prove. Who would ever know? Me. That’s who. And I was not going out like that. I’m watching the YouTube vid of Eurogamer streaming Sekiro, part deux, and in the first livestream, Zoe said she’d never played any FromSoft game because she was impatient and didn’t like dying. Aoife has played all the FromSoft games and beaten them all except Sekiro (hasn’t beaten it), and she said that she’s not good at them, but she’s stubborn. I relate so hard to that. It’s my sheer stubbornness that has gotten me through these games.
Side Note: It gives me a ridiculous amount of pleasure to smile smugly when someone declares that you have to parry in Sekiro in order to beat the game. No, no, you don’t have to parry in order to beat the game. Yes, it makes the game so much easier, but it’s not necessary. I did deflect from time to time, but I never did it consistently or with intention.
Side Note II: Demon of Hatred was a really unforgiving boss in Sekiro, but I don’t have the same feeling about beating him as I did for Genichiro or Isshin. Why? I’m not sure, exactly, but I think because he wasn’t an interesting boss. He’s basically the Cleric Beast or Laurence tuned up to a hundred, and I found him way more tedious than I did interesting.
Side Note to Side Note II: I played Dark Souls III last night, and I got summons for all the bosses I fought. It’s so cool that people are still playing the game, and I love jolly cooperation. Nameless King was one of them, and, man, he wasn’t shit after fighting Isshin. Granted, I had help, but he was so slow and not at all intimidating after butting heads with Isshin for six hours. I want to go back to BB and see if I can beat Ludwig, Laurence, and the Orphan of Kos solo. I probably won’t as I hate playing on the PS4, but I’m definitely tempted.
I wanted to play Dark Souls II last night, but I didn’t have it installed. So I did that this morning. I have all the FromSoft games installed on my laptop right now. SSD for life! I want to play more Sekiro, but it’s just so freaking hard–even when it’s not hard, it’s hard. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it does in my brain. Even when I’m cruising through the game, there’s a feeling of weightiness that I can’t shake. I was in my NG+ game the other day and just grinding XP in Ashina Castle, um, dusk? The second time you return to the castle. I want to get all the skills, but that’s roughly 15 more skill points. Where I am at in the game, it’s a shit-ton of grinding. I would get more XP in the last area, but I don’t like that area. Or if I beat the boss of that area and then return to Ashina Castle for the third time, but I don’t feel up to doing that, either.
That’s the problem when I’m not at the top of my game. I want to play FromSoft games (always), but even though it’s comfort gaming, I still need to be in a certain mindset to play them.Last night, I was in that mood, and I finished DS III for the umpteenth time. Which means the DLCs. Which means, sigh. I mean, I don’t have to do the DLCs, but I will, of course.
This turned out to be all about FromSoft games, which is fine with me. I’ll write more about my other comfort games later. Maybe.