Today, I woke up for the first time in two weeks not feeling an all-encompassing sense of dread. That’s not to say I don’t still think we’re fucked (I do), but I didn’t want to repeatedly bash my head against the wall for hours on end. It helped that we were supposed to get snow today, which we are now getting. Fat, fluffy flakes falling aimlessly to the ground. I hope it sticks. I love snow more than almost anything, and seeing it everywhere makes me happy.
I avoided most of the news today. Not because I don’t care, but because I was making myself sick reading about the new presidential team. I have very political friends, and they’ve been diligent about posting the latest news. I can appreciate that, and I think it’s necessary, but it can be overwhelming to see post after post about the horrors that is Trump. I’m still having difficulty accepting that this is the new reality, but glutting on the news isn’t the way to acceptance.
Wanna know what I did instead? I did my morning routine, which calmed me a bit. Then, I started a new Dark Souls (original) playthrough, this time as a tank. Those who have read my posts about Dark Souls know that I love the games* and play them pretty much exclusively now. I’ve tried other games, including Shrouded in Sanity, which is definitely Souls-inspired, but they all pale in comparison to the Souls games. Shrouded in Sanity tries so hard to be Souls, but with a few strange control changes. The heal button is Y instead of X, which is puzzling and too foreign for my brain to grasp. Plus, the camera is manual in a way it’s not in Souls, and there’s no shield. You get a sword and pistol, much like Bloodborne, which means you have to rely on parrying and dodging, rather than blocking. I am horrible at parrying. I’m too old, and my reflexes are too shitty for that. In addition, Shrouded in Sanity is a pale imitation of a Souls game, and the whole time I was playing, all I could think was, “I’d rather be playing Souls.”
When I’m a caster, I can stay a safe distance away from the enemy and keep backpedaling from them. When I’m playing melee, I use my shield to block and count on my high poise/endurance to tank the hits. This works very well except for a certain optional boss in Dark Souls 3 who shall not be named, mainly because he doesn’t have a name. No, seriously. He’s the Nameless King, and he’s my personal nemesis. I’ve soloed every boss in that game except him, and I am struggling mightily with him. Part of the problem is that I’m maining the Greataxe, which is very short. He flies around on a dragon, so a longer weapon would be more useful. I’ve tried other weapons, but nothing is as comfortable as my Greataxe, so I’m trying to make due with it. I don’t know why I’m being so stubborn about it, but it’s a point of pride at this point.
Anyway, back to DS. Since I’ve had so much fun doing melee in DS 3, I decided to try melee in DS. Dark Souls is the best of the series, though there are many things that are frustrating about it. I started as a pyromancer because I wanted my Fireballs and pyromancy doesn’t need stats in this game. I have two attunement slots which currently are filled with my Fireballs and Soul Arrows. I don’t plan on doing anything to my magic/pyromancy, but it’s hard for me not to upgrade it constantly. I love casting so much, it pains me to keep it basic. But, I want to do a pure strength build, which means ignoring my pyromancy as far as adding attunement slots and leveling up my pyromancy glove. I might do the latter a few times because I can grind for the souls, but I can’t waste any levels on attunement slots. Two are going to have to be enough.
I breezed through the Undead Asylum without breaking a sweat. I jogged through Undead Burg while waving right and left, and then I took care of the Taurus Demon on my first try as well. More excitingly, I got the Demon’s Greataxe from the Taurus Demon, which is a rare drop. I wasn’t planning on using axes during this playthrough because I always use axes,** and I’d been using a mace to try to get away from axes. It felt weird, though, and then I got a Battle Axe drop, which was my jam all the way through my first playthrough. I know serious Souls players shun the starting weapons, but I beat the game with the Battle Axe +15 (plus my pyromancy and magic), so serious fans can suck it.
The Demon’s Greataxe is badass, but it takes 46 strength to use. I’m at 16, I think, so I have a ways to go before I can use it. I need 23 to wield it two-handed, so that’s not in the foreseeable future, either. Currently, I’m using the Claymore +2, which is a big-ass sword. I still use a shield, but I’m learning to switch between shielding and two-handing the Claymore. Where did I learn it? Fighting the Bell Gargoyles, which is the first real boss of the game. Many people hit the Gargoyles, lost time and time again, and vowed never to play again. They were the reason I almost quit the first time, and it’s only with the help of Solaire that I beat them. Before I hit the Gargoyles, I used a bow and arrows to kill the Channeler upstairs because he’s a dick and he’s surrounded by Hollows, whom he buffs until you kill him.
The great thing about playing Dark Souls games is that when you go back to them, you can apply everything you’ve learned to it. Since I ran through my melee playthrough of DS 3 with a bow and arrows, I discovered how much easier it makes crowd situations because I can pick them off one by one from afar. With my caster, I could hit the Channeler with my magic, but as he’s a magic caster himself, it didn’t do much damage. He was too far away to hit with pyromancy (you need the lock-on), so I usually had to deal with him upstairs. Anyway, once I got rid of him, the Hollows were much easier to deal with. Then, the Gargoyles. I hadn’t beaten them solo before, so I decided I had to do it for my honor. I did fairly well my first time, especially in comparison to the first time I fought them ever, but I died. I tried going without a shield and two-handing, but that didn’t go so well for me. I need my shield. I need to block. Even with a big fuck-all sword. The third time, I got caught in the crossfire, but I never felt like it was out of my control. The fourth time, I went up there, and I had no fear in my heart. I started with my shield out, but after I rolled, I put it away and two-handed. I made pretty short work of the first gargoyle, and then it was easy-peasy with only one left. Oh! I chopped the tail off the first gargoyle during one of my failed attempts, so I now have the Gargoyle Tail Axe. Yes, another axe, but a dex one. I need a 2 more points in dex to use it, which I might do, but I really want to hold strong to being a strength character.
It’s amazing how much easier this game is than the first time I played it. I’ve died to mobs of Hollows and bad geometry more than anything else.***It’s been a breeze, although I will say that I’ve skipped the harder mini-bosses thus far.**** I waltzed my way through Lower Undead Burg, taking care of the assassins with ease, and, dare I say it, panache. Then, it was one of the most infuriating bosses according to many–the Capra Demon. He’s not so bad in and of himself, but he has two rabid dogs who will stun-lock you, which allows him to bam you with his two really large machetes. His arena is also about the size of a postage stamp, with the only saving grace being stairs that you can rush up and a platform you can use to your advantage. Anyway, I found him relatively easy as a pyromancer, but much less so as a cleric. There are no NPC summons for this boss, and I’ve never seen summoning signs. I took a deep breath, walked in, and immediately got attacked by the dogs (as is their wont). I took it, escaped the Capra Demon’s attack, and ran up the stairs. I took care of him in one try, and I was pretty pleased with myself.
I’d like to reiterate that I find playing as a melee character easier than being a caster. I keep hearing that magic/casting is OP and cheesy and easy mode, and it’s simply not true. As a melee character, I have so much poise and endurance, I almost don’t know what to do with myself. I can take so many hits and not be staggered; it’s amazing as I’m used to taking one hit and being staggered. In addition, using a shield means you have to watch your stamina extra closely. Plus, I don’t put as many levels into vigor (health) when I’m a caster, so there’s that detriment, too. I know I sound like a broken record, but it really bugs me that people who’ve never been casters speak so disparagingly about it. I will say that there is a great satisfaction in smacking enemies in the face and making them sit down with one wallop. The Souls games are made to be played as a melee character, and it’s easy to tell once I’ve actually played as a melee character that this is the preferred method of playing.
Side note: I’ve never played as a dex character, and I’m not sure it’s something I’d enjoy. You really need to be able to dodge with precision as a dex character, and dodging is not in my wheelhouse.
I stopped after beating the Capra Demon, though I could have played for hours longer if I let myself. Playing the original Souls game reminds me of why I love these games so much. The combat, which was once so awkward, is now second nature to me, and running through the original game is glorious. I love seeing how easily I can mow through areas and bosses. What was once insurmountable is now simple, and I love being able to strut through the areas and thumb my noses at the enemy. Dark Souls is hard, but once you know it, it’s not impossible.
Is it irresponsible of me to shun the news and escape in video games? I’d say yes if I was doing it all the time. However, one afternoon? No. It’s a much needed break. I am no good to anyone if I’m constantly on the edge of a nervous breakdown, which is what I’d say to you all. Take breaks when you need them. Shun the news for periods of time. I know I say it often, but self-care is important. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. And, we’re going to have to do a lot of supporting others in this new regime. So, read a book. Drink some tea. Take a walk. Have sex. Take a long bath. The world will still be there once you’re done–and it needs you at your best.
*Some would say I’m addicted to them.
**The pyromancer starts with the Hand Axe.
***Except maybe the Bell Gargoyles.
****Two black knights and Havel the Rock.