Underneath my yellow skin

The perfect game for me, er date?

In Friday’s post, I wrote many, many words about how I defined myself and how it applied to dating. It was purportedly about gaming, but I spent most of the post focusing on dating. Now, on a day when I’m supposed to be talking about personal issues, I’m going to focus mostly on gaming. Why? Because it’s funny to me.

In the last post, I left it off by describing how death in Dark Souls made me learn this game back and forth. Let’s take the Undead Burg because it’s the first real place you explore after the Northern Undead Asylum. You’re dropped at the Firelink Shrine by a big black bird, and there are three ways you can go. One, across the way by the skellies in the graveyard. Two, down by the mute Fire Keeper, then down again, to New Londo and the ghosts who don’t take damage (unless a certain condition is met). Three, up the stairs where there are more skellies, but manageable one.

One small gripe. Some people ‘in the community’ say it’s obvious that you’re supposed to go the third route because the other two are so hard. My retort to that the one thing everybody knows about the game is that it’s brutally hard. How the hell are you supposed to discern ‘too hard’ with adequately hard? Especially if you’ve never played that kind of game before.

Anyway, here’s the Undead Burg run. Go up the stairs from Firelink Shrine. There will be a boney to greet you. Then one jumps down as another chucks firebombs at you. There is an armored one further down the way, but I ignore him for now. After dispensing with boney number two, I go up the second set of stairs to take care of another boney, then firebomber, then two more bonies.

Then up another short flight of stairs, grab the shiny at the far end of the land, return to the middle and step into the sewer/aqueduct. Kill the rat, then go up the stairs. There will be a boney rushing to welcome you, and then another further back. Turn the corner, and there’s a third boney with a firebomb while a fourth boney is hiding in the room to your left. There is a fog gate to the white, and there is a place you can roll off that’s hidden by barrels a little bit back. Rolling through the barrels drops you to a lower ground where there are hollows hanging out. They are the lowest of the lows, but they can be lethal in groups. They are literally hanging of the bridge, and they can take you by surprise.

I could do this for the whole map of Undead Burg. I am currently playing Dark Souls III for comfort, and even though I haven’t played it in several months (like half a year, I think?), I still remember every twist and turn. Yesterday, I beat two bosses, the Deacons of the Deep and the Abyss Watchers (both with the help of NPCs), and it’s amazing how quickly I zipped through the areas prior to the bosses. They are both grueling, and I can’t tell you how many times I died when I went through them the first time. Mostly because I don’t remember, but it was a lot. This time, however, I did not die once. In fact, there’s an NPC storyline in which you have to die a set number of times in order for you to finish the storyline. There is a certain point in the game you have to do it by otherwise you lose the opportunity. In my current run as in the time before it, I had to deliberately throw myself off a ledge several times in order to fulfill the conditions.

Why do I like this game so much and the Souls series in general? One, fantasy. I adore fantasy, and it does atmosphere so well. Two, it’s really well designed. In the first game especially, but all Miyazaki games have this trait, if you can see it, you can get to it. The first game was a masterpiece in layout, and while the third wasn’t quite as overall coherent, it still had its moments of ‘I’ve been there’ triumph. Three, there is no other feeling in gaming that equals the high from beating a Souls boss. Or rather, a FromSoft boss. There just isn’t. Putting in blood, sweat, and tears for five or six hours on one boss, thinking I will never beat it, only to finally overcome the hurdle is unlike anything else.

Dark Souls is one of the first ‘hardcore’ games I’ve ever played, and it’s spoiled me for 90% of other games. It was brutal and nearly broke me, but once I revisited it and played the others, something clicked. I used to play hack-n-slash games like Torchlight and Diablo III, but I have a hard time playing them now. After I played Dark Souls III, I tried to play Grim Dawn which is very slavishly similar to Diablo III. I just couldn’t do it. I did finally play Skyrim, which I enjoyed for the first 75 hours, then absolutely hated*, but it’s not known for its combat–which is why I was able to mostly enjoy it.

This is one of the problems with Souls-likes. The closer they get to an actual Souls game, the more dissatisfied I get. If it’s just vaguely like Souls, then I’m ok with it. But if it’s close to Souls, then why the hell am I not playing Souls? It just makes me sad that there will be no more Souls games. Ever. It’s why I was fine with The Surge (plus really low expectations), but grew more and more impatient with The Surge 2 as I played it. The only Souls-like that was really like Souls, so much so  it was more a clone than an homage, and that’s Salt and Sanctuary. I played it through almost two full times, and I had a good time, but I immediately forgot it after it was done. It was a 2D Souls, and it was not memorable at all.

If I’m not playing a Souls-like, then it’s open season on what I will or won’t like. It’s anyone’s guess, and while I can usually know ahead of time if I won’t like a game, I can’t always tell if I will. When I think of all my favorite games, if they’re not Souls, then it’s more about the story and the feelings the game elicits in me for indie narratives. In rogue-like, it’s the loop and how compelled I am to continue it. That’s hard to define, however, as I don’t have any concrete qualifications that they have to follow. I have some general traits I like and dislike about the genre, but it’s hard to say what makes a game click with me or not.

Which ties in neatly with my difficulty in dating. I do it on hard mode because I distrust easy, even when I know that’s not good for me. I know in general what I want in my romantic/dating life, but I’m not sure as to the  specifics of the persons. I know I’m more apt to put a negative spin than a positive one, and that’s true to me in general.

Right now, I’m in between games, and I’m feeling a little lost. I’m playing Dark Souls III as a filler, but I’m eager to sink my teeth into something meaty. I’m trying to psych myself up to play Disco Elysium again (which I have not written about yet), but it’s really hard. It’s like Dark Souls difficult in the beginning (not in technique, but in feeling), and I’m not sure I want to spend hours feeling like shit. I’m failing all my skill checks, made to feel as if there are no good dialogue options, and the money system is so goddamn stingy. I have 1.70 real (the monetary system in the game), and I need 130 by the night or I’m going to be homeless. I have a hunch it’s posed in this way so you can’t ‘win’ the mission, but it feels terrible.

I understand that they want you to feel like you hit rock bottom or rather start at rock bottom, but I struggle with depression in real life. I don’t really want to deal with it to this level in a game. Dark Souls is set in a bleak world, yes, and it’s grueling and difficult, yes, but there is hope. There is a glimmer as you plod along. Though, to be fair, I may be looking at the past through my current lens of emotions around the series. But even though I adore the graphics, grim atmosphere, music, world-building, and character-building in Disco Elysium, I’m just not sure I’m up for the unrelenting feeling of being complete shit that it elicits.

On paper, Disco E is perfect for me. It’s everything I want in a game, and yet. I haven’t touched it in a week, and I’m not sure when I will play it again. I really wish I could just embrace it, but that apparently isn’t going to happen.





*This is completely my fault. I tried to cram absolutely everything into one playthrough, which is not the right way to play it.

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