Underneath my yellow skin

When something I love doesn’t love me back

I recently tried out Dead Cells again because why not? I loved the game and put countless hours into it; I wanted to see if my waning enthusiasm could perk up. Plus, it was going to be released soon (it’s still in Early Access), so I thought maybe there was another update. There was. What have I noticed so far? One, the name of the bosses have changed. There are four that I know of, including the final one, and here are the name changes. Spoilers and all that. The Incomplete One is now The Concierge. The Watcher is now Conjoctivius. The Assassin is The Time Keeper, which makes sense given where she is. The Hand of the King is…wait. I think this one is actually the same. Don’t quite remember as I was too busy trying to not be killed by him. The Time Keeper is still easy as cake for me as long as I have ice weapons/grenades. Conjoctivius still sucks, but I killed her the one time I fought her (though I’m still not quite sure how as I was positive she killed me), and The Hand of the King still fucking sucks.

There’s another adorable gremlin guy who lets you modify your weapons for a set amount of gold. The leveling up the weapons system has changed so that instead of leveling up certain weapons, you level up each tier of weapon that applies across the board. These are good updates, and the fact that you have to spend souls, er, cells in order to attain the tier level upgrades means that cells actually matter again.

There are different room patterns and enemy placements (it’s RNG to a certain extent, but there are certain patterns you can recognize), which was frustrating. I went the vanilla path for a few times just to get my feet under me. When I veered from that, I got killed. I gotta say, one of my frustrations about the alternate paths is that they’re so fucking difficult. I know it’s because you get better shit on the alternate paths, but better shit doesn’t matter when you’re dead. I went to the Ossuary which is an alternate path for the third section, and it wrecked my ass. It feels so RNG-dependent. If I get ice grenades or an ice bow early on, then I can do the alternate path. If I don’t, then I can’t.

I noticed a new secret in the Ramparts that I won’t be able to figure out without looking it up (similar to the one in the Promenade of the Condemned), and instead of exciting me, I just heaved a sigh and shrugged my shoulders. I know I’m not going to figure it out, and more importantly, I don’t want to figure it out. Let me make the first (but not last) comparison to Dark Souls. When I find a secret in Souls, I’m hyped and excited. Even if I can’t figure it out (which I usually can’t), it’s still a thrill. Here, it feels like a burden. “Oh, great. One more thing I have to do. Swell.” I actually felt that way in DS III during the last DLC (and during all of the DLCs for DS II), and it’s become a sign to me of when the joy has been sapped out of a game, and I’ve lost my will to live.

I played half a dozen runs or so of Dead Cells, met The Hand of the King three times, and promptly died to him every time. I got him down to half one time, but that was it. I was doing no damage to him, and while he wasn’t quite as hard as in the previous build, I didn’t feel as if I wanted to take the time to learn him. I *think* I could, but I don’t want to. Again, it’s a mark of my engagement with the game that I don’t want to for reasons I’ve mentioned before. One, it takes an hour just to get to him. Two, his HP pool is ridiculous. Three, the castle is still ridiculous.

I uninstalled it again after a few runs because I just couldn’t be stuffed again. I’ll give it another look after it releases for real, but I have a hunch I won’t be spending too much time with it. It’s like Nuclear Throne in that while I really really want to love the game, it simply won’t allow me to. I’ve hit a hard wall, and I don’t want to struggle to scale it. I’ve talked before about walls so I won’t belabor the point. However, to briefly recap, there are different levels of walls. One is the ‘I just hit this hard thing’ wall. In Dark Souls, it’s the Asylum Demon for those of us who have never played a hardcore game or very few and sucked hard during a first playthrough. The first time you see the guy, you’re like, “Aw, hell no. What the fuck am I going to do against this monstrosity?” Especially as the first time you see him, you don’t have a real weapon. Once you figure him out, though, he’s cake. He’s big and lumbering and slow. He telegraphs his movements so even I can see them a mile away. Then, you can adhere to the age-old DS advice of SMACK DAT ASS, YO!┬áThese days, if the Asylum Demon even hits me, I’m embarrassed. Not saying he doesn’t, but it shouldn’t be happening. He did kill me once the first time I met him in NG+, which I still blush to admit. But, normally, he’s no harder than a regular enemy–just a few more hits than others take.

Second level of wall is the possible game ender. Let’s stick to DS for my examples. In this case, it’s the Bell Gargoyles. They are what nearly ended my time with Dark Souls prematurely. They are the third boss (second proper), and they are the first time you face two bosses for the price of one*. It’s early in the game, which means you don’t have a great weapon, and you’re not that much leveled up. In addition, you have a boss who has both melee and range attacks, and they’re much nimbler than the first two bosses (who are similar to each other). I clearly remember bashing my head against this boss time and time again, getting more discouraged each time. I couldn’t beat them, no matter how hard I tried–and, oh, I tried so hard. I had one humanity left, so I decided I’d call on Solaire one last time, and if we didn’t do it, I was done with the game.

I was prepared to die one last time. I was resigned to ending my time in Lordran. I walked through that white fog, and, we killed them (obviously). I had never felt such an elation in my very short gaming life, and my hands were shaking once I was done. Side note: I hate fans who whine about how you’re not a real Souls player if you summon for a boss. Now, I will say I’ve noticed that my own belief is that you should at least try the boss once solo before summoning, but I fully admit that’s just my own bias. In addition, I like to beat each boss in the game solo at least once, even if it doesn’t end up happening on my first try. However, if the two choices are quitting the game forever because you can’t beat a boss solo and summoning to kill a boss in order to continue playing the game, then the latter is much preferable.

Had I not swallowed my pride and summoned Solaire (and beaten the Bell Gargoyles), I would not be a FromSoft fangrrl today. This was a wall that could have been the end of my time with Dark Souls games. Instead, it was a really high hurdle that I eventually overcame. It’s the same with Biggie & Small (see, I told you I’d get to them). They killed me between 60 and 70 times, and I did try Solaire on them a few times, but he usually died before reaching SuperSmough stage, leaving me to fight SuperBiggie with more health. Yeah, no. I preferred to do it on my own, especially since I was really getting into the solo the bosses mentality. I reached the point of, “I’m done with this game.” I was going to try the boss one more time, and if I didn’t kill them, I was done. This was after I had taken a year off from the game because I reached the ‘enough’ point in my prior playthrough after a bullshit death fighting the Gaping Dragon. I put on “The Pina Colada Song” on repeat, put my lightning spear in my left hand so I could lightning spear/furysword SuperSmough, and I beat the goddamn boss.

What is the difference between a temporary hindrance and a wall? Persistence sometimes as in the case here. Insight in others. When I was playing Hollow Knight, I knew there would come a point where I would have to stop. I’m rubbish at platformers, and I mean pure rubbish. So, I knew I wouldn’t be able to play all of Hollow Knight, but I really, really, really loved the looks of the game and the protagonist. When I reached the point of breaking (fairly early on, I might add, and partially because the lack of mapping. I have spatial difficulties, which makes my love of FromSoft games even more inexplicable), I sadly and regretfully put down my controller forever. I knew if I was having that much trouble in the beginning, I would not make it even a quarter way through.

It’s the same with NT and Dead Cells. Well, not exactly the same, but similar. In the case of NT, my problem was that it took so much out of me to make it to the Loop, and I never made it past one. All the new content was being geared for the Loop, so I felt really left out. I wasn’t mad at the devs, I hasten to add. I just knew the game wasn’t for me. This was in Early Access, and I checked out the game once it was released. Still loved it. Still wasn’t for me. I feel the same with Dead Cells. I want to love it so much, but I just can’t. All the little things that irritate me have become teeth-grindingly annoying, and my love has waned. It’s like when you’ve been with someone so long, their tittering laugh that was slightly charming at first makes you want to throw up by the umpteenth time you’ve heard it.

I’ll probably check out Dead Cells when it’s released in August, but I doubt I’ll play it much. I’ve just realized it’s not a game for me, no matter how much I want to love it. On the flip side, I’ve heard many a muttering that Dark Souls Remastered isn’t worth it if you already have it on the PC because all of the fixes are what mods have been doing. If you’ve played the original on PC with dsfix, well, there’s just not much improvement. There are some tweaks to the PvP, but I don’t give a shit about that. However, it’s Dark Souls. It’s more people playing it (probably), and it’s me not having anything else to play at the moment. Am I going to buy it? Hell, yeah. It’s only twenty bucks! Which, for me, is quite out of character. I’m a tightwad when it comes to games, and I will wait years so I can pay five bucks for a twenty bucks game. For FromSoft, though? Twenty bucks is ‘only’, and I’m ordering their next game for full price–I may even pre-order it! This is my life, boys and girls; I might as well accept it.



*There’s a later, much more famous example of this, and we’ll get to them in a bit.


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