Underneath my yellow skin

My love/hate relationship with Dead Cells and other ‘hard’ games: Part two


my favorite npc!
My mutatation buddy is done for the day.

I wrote last week that I was coming up to the final wall with Dead Cells, and now I have hit it. I speculated it would be the Castle, and I was correct. More specifically, the final boss, The Hand of the King. He’s a pain in my ass, and I have not beaten him once. At my most OP, I had something like -75% damage taken, ice grenades (which, by the way, are pretty useless against him because of his fucking shield that he can pull out in a second), damage up the wazoo, a nice and fat health bar, etc., and…I got him down to a quarter maybe a fifth of his life left before he killed me. I don’t think I could have stacked myself any better, and I still couldn’t beat him. I tried a completely different load-out the next time I fought him (turret, damage boost, no ice), going all-damage, and got my ass handed to me.

It’s not fun to walk into the Throne Room and know I’m about to get my ass beat. Even walking through the Castle is a chore because of the hordes of enemies with beefy HP pools. Plus, you have to fight *spoilers* two out of three elite enemies in order to get the keys to go to the Throne Room, and every time they hit you, you get infected with some kind of poison. If you get hit five times, you instantly die. *sigh* I need my ice skills for the elites and other enemies of this area, but I have to hope that I can get something else from the shops for the final boss fight.

I’ve also reached the point where cells aren’t worth anything to me. I  know that the game changes radically once you beat the final boss (have gleaned that from the forums), and cells maybe aren’t as needed then. However, as I’ve stated, I have yet to beat the final boss, so I don’t have access to all this new content. There are a few blueprints I haven’t gotten yet, but they’re all dependent on being dropped at a very low rate (unless you use the Hunter’s Grenade, which guarantees you can extract the blueprint, but only after you fight the elite version, and it takes one skill slot), so grinding them is difficult. The ones I need are all in later dungeons, and there’s one dungeon in which losing a skill slot is unacceptable. My point about the cells is that I can play an entire run which is roughly an hour and not get anything for it. Part of the fun in a rogue-like is unlocking skills and getting new shit. Once that isn’t in play, the excitement factor zooms to zero.

Right before I uninstalled the game, I realized that the loop wasn’t fun any longer. I could breeze through the regular path to the first boss and one area beyond with no problems. I could go alternate paths and get better stuff, but then get my shit pushed in by the Watcher. Although, I’m getting much better at that boss. Then, I can go to the Graveyard, which I’ve only gone through a half dozen times, or to the Slumbering Sanctuary, which has a neat concept, but ultimately isn’t that interesting. I’ve mentioned before that I hate the Clock Tower, though with all ice skills, it’s much easier, and fuck the Forgotten Sepulchre.

time for killin'.
Have a nice nap?

By the time I reach the Castle, I’m pretty done. Also, knowing what’s coming up wipes out all interest for me. I’ve been stubborn and haven’t looked up the best ways to kill him, but I know the answer, anyway: GIT GUD. I’m sure there’s an optimal build, but it’s simply that my reactions suck against him. Which seems silly because I can still handle The Assassin with ease, and she’s much faster. The Hand of the King is much more frenetic, though. And there are two spiked pits, one on either end, and he shoves me into them all the goddamn time. And, as I said before, having to play the whole goddamn game to get to him again, only to die thirty seconds into the fight (OK, I can last a minute or two now), is a pisser. It would be as if I had to run through the entire Archdragon Peak every time you wanted to fight the Nameless King. It’s worse, actually! It’d be liking running through the entire The Ringed City DLC just for the privilege of facing off against Midir.

Look. I know the game is meant to be hard. I know that the hardcore Dead Cells fans are probably running through this without leveling up and with base weapons and skills, merrily slewing everything in their way. I’m a Souls fan. I get that mentality, but it’s not for me. I don’t play the Souls games because they’re hard–that’s almost incidental to me. It’s what they bring to the table otherwise (exploring, intricate level designs, weighty combat, dazzling magicks/pyromancy) that make them compelling. I’m currently playing SotFS (DS II ‘remastered’) with a specific mission in mind. There are two bosses I haven’t beaten solo in the game, which is a thorn in my side because I’ve beaten all the bosses solo in all the base Soulsborne games*.

Or hadn’t beaten. One is The Pursuer. He has been my nemesis, and while I’ve beaten him in all his alternate places except the roof where the eagle first drops him, I had yet to beat him solo when he’s a proper boss. During this playthrough, I beat The Last Giant, and then said, “I’ll do The Pursuer later.” I studiously ignored him until I had finished most of the Bastille, and then I said, “I might as well give it a try.” I had a Battle Axe +4 or 5, six or seven gulps of my Estus Flask, Pyromancy, the Knight Set, and the Watchdragon Parma. First time, I went into the fight with my Mace +3, and I was surprised how easy the fight was. I nearly got him, but I healed at an unwise time. I went back, forgot to switch to my mace, and demolished him with my battle axe. I barely even broke a sweat! It was rather anticlimactic, but it still felt good. I had to laugh at my younger self for struggling so mightily with him.

The other boss I haven’t beaten solo is….Smelter Demon. Oh, I know, you were probably expecting Throne Watcher and Throne Defender or Looking Glass Knight or maybe good old King Vendrick, but Smelter Demon? Look, what can I say? Big dudes who hit hard are my nemeses. And, yes, I know King Vendrick follows this formula, but he’s a one-trick pony, really. Once you learn his patterns, all you gotta do is hug that ass, yo. With the Smelter Demon, he’s erratic, plus, you take fire damage just by standing next to him in his second phase. I will say that beating King Vendrick solo was one of my proudest moments. It was during my first playthrough as a pyro, which means my battle axe was shite, I had low-ish health, stamina, adaptability, and anything not magicks/pyromancy-related. I was getting pretty much one-shot by him if he touched me at all, so I did something I’ve never done before. I got naked so I could roll faster, ditched my shield because it was useless, and I battle axed the hell out of him. It took forever, but I did it, and I felt so proud.

bye-bye, the pursuer.
Victory is mine!

I keep coming back to the Souls games time and time again. When I’m in between games, I gravitate back towards the Souls series, and I’ve thought long and hard about why that is. I’ll get back to that in a second, but let me finish my thought on Dead Cells and why I quit it. While I don’t play games because they’re hard, I do tend to be drawn to games that have been described as hard. I started out with Torchlight, Diablo III, and Borderlands (original and 2), and then I played Dark Souls. After that, I tried to return to hack-and-slash games and just couldn’t do it. The games I enjoyed were more in the vein of Binding of Isaac: Rebirth;Dark Souls II; Cook, Serve, Delicious; and Nuclear Throne.

The last game is similar to Dead Cells in how I played it. I gobbled up Nuclear Throne as it was in Early Access, and I was obsessed with it. It was so much fun, but I rarely made it to the Throne. Of course, I promptly died the first time I reached the Throne, and it was after a forty minute run or so. When I finally beat the Throne, I was elated, and I actually beat the Throne part two, but then I ate it on the loop. That’s when I started falling off the game, and when the devs started focusing on making the loop more fun, that’s when I knew the game wasn’t for me. Same with Dead Cells. I came into it later than I did with Nuclear Throne, so I didn’t have to go through all the iterations. I’m assuming it’s close to being done, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I know there’s more interesting things after you beat The Hand of the King, but I don’t have the desire to keep grinding until I kill him.

It’s a shame because I like the game, and it’s a very good game. I was addicted to it and put in close to a hundred hours (like I said, I’m not very good at it). I know this game is not for me, and it makes me sad. Same with Nuclear Throne. Same with Hollow Knight. I don’t mean this to say that the games should have easy modes or should be less difficult solely for my benefit; I’m just mourning the fact that I can’t get the most out of them. It’s also frustrating because I need games that are challenging, complex, and, yes, difficult apparently. Wait. Let me clarify. I don’t always need that. One of my favorite games so far this year was Night in the Woods, which was complex in an emotional way, but not as far as gameplay.

One game I really liked before playing Dark Souls was Path of Exile. I had a little kiwi following me around because I was an early supporter, and I really liked playing as the Witch (of course). I went back to it a year or two later, and I really couldn’t get into it. It’s still a great game, but it just didn’t interest me. I think the Soulsborne series has ruined me for other games, and I’m not quite sure what to do with it.

Funnily enough, the game that is grabbing my attention right now is…God of War. Now, I’ve never played any of the God of War games, but, man this one looks OFF. THE. HOOK. That war axe, though! Leviathan. I am all. over. that! I’m a bit weirded out by how into the new God of War I am, but I *do* have a PS4 now….Also, Christopher Judge is the voice of Kratos now, and he did mo-cap for it as well. And, he is YUMMY. So, yeah, I’m all about God of War–just as soon as it goes on sale.





*Standard except for Demon’s Souls BECAUSE IT’S NOT ON PS4 OR PC.

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