Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: dark souls

Elden Ring and going in raw

I talked about spoilers yesterday and today I want to talk about something similar–looking things up in a wiki. I tried to play the first Dark Souls by myself, but gave in roughly halfway into playing it, probably to find out where I needed to go next. The turning point was, as it often is, Ornstein and Smough. I could not beat them no matter how hard I tried.

So I looked up what I should do and followed the guidelines, such as making sure my weapon was upgraded as high as it could go. I was using the Furysword, so that took special upgrade material. I looked at what they were weak to and what tactics I should employ. I also found out that you could get the Rite of Kindling by beating Pinwheel in the Catacomb, which would give me 20 heals. So I left Anor Londo, went back to Firelink Shrine (all the way, painfully, down through Sen’s Fortress), and I made my way to Pinwheel.

It was painful getting to him. But Pinwheel himself is a cakewalk with buffed up Pyro. I made my way back to Anor Londo and kindled Solaire’s bonfire to 20 Estus Flasks. That helped a great deal in the fight, and I would never have figured it out on my own.

When I hit the DLC, I started using the wikis for everything because it was so fucking hard. Well, the Sanctuary Guardian wasn’t that hard, but everything after it was. The enemies smacked me like a Mack Truck, and every new area was grueling. The bosses were over-the-top hard, and I nearly lost my mind in Oolacile.

I start every game with the intention of not reading wikis, but something pushes me to it. In the third Dark Souls game, it was when I cured the Dark Sigil by having the Firekeeper take it from me. It was a new mechanic, so I had to try it, right? Well, that made Yuria mad at me and she disappeared from my playthrough forever. As I was doing a dark magic run, I was furious. I thought she was the vendor for dark magic, which, turned out not to be the case. She doesn’t sell anything fundamental and is only needed for one certain ending (my favorite ending).

Still. I was furious and I contemplated starting over. I didn’t want to do that, though, so I unhappily accepted my fate and went on with the game. It really soured my experience, even though I knew it was part of the FromSoft brand. Byzantine NPC questlines that can be easily fucked up, I mean. Of course, I bounced back and finished the playthrough (and dozens more), but it taught me that you can’t have a pure playthrough and do all the questlines at the same time.

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That inimical Dark Souls feeling

Dark Souls. That’s it. That’s the whole post. I’m kidding, of course. I have more to say and today, it’s about the feeling I get when I play a Dark Souls* game. There’s the wonder of exploration, the incredulity at how much content there is just casually laid out in a way that makes it difficult to find. I say casually, but it’s very deliberate. There is nothing about their design that is left to chance. I was playing Elden Ring last night because of course I was, and I was looking for a specific item. I had been through the area where it was supposed to be (second legacy dungeon) and beaten both the bosses. In other words, I had reached the end of the dungeon (school) without finding the item. I looked it up online and found out that in a certain part of this area, I had to look back UNDER where I had gone to open a shortcut. Then, I had to jump over a railing to access the rooftops. THEN I had to go through a window and drop down to get the item. Then I could drop down and do the rest of the upper area of the school. I mean….

I like to think I’m thorough, but I never would have found that on my own. I have spatial issues that make it difficult for me to consider everything around me. I tend to get locked into one path and then not looking elsewhere. I have no compunction about Googling this kind of thing because even if I  was the most thorough person ever, I’m still going to miss stuff. One games journalist likes to pride himself on finding everything in the From games, and he did not find Patches in Dark Souls III on his review playthrough. No shade because it’s difficult to find him, but the point is that finding everything is nearly impossible. A YouTuber described trying to find a hidden area in the second DLC of Dark Souls III.  You have to go into the nearby swamp as a humanity and then s-l-o-w-l-y meander your way back into the nearby building (by the big nasty bug unless you kill it first), by the bonfire, and through the unlocked door. Then, you have to approach the wall where there is a saying on it and a ladder will drop. The YouTuber said it took him ten hours to figure it out because he didn’t have a, well, him to show him the way.

In embarking on getting this item, I didn’t realize how big the area was in which it was contained. I just thought it would be a simple little run and a quick nab–not that there was a whole new place to explore. I had thought this dungeon was short compared to the first one, but it’s just that I hadn’t found the new spaces. I don’t think to look up or down, which is on me. Again, it makes me glad that there is a robust community and that I can look stuff up. Is it cheating? Nah. Like I said, it’s nearly impossible to find everything in the games. Another example is Ash Lake in the original Dark Souls. You have to climb down a huge tree to get to it, which is hidden behind TWO illusory walls–in Blighttown.

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Accessibility in gaming

FromSoft revealed more about Elden Ring at the Taipei Game Show. More gameplay footage and an interview with Yashiro Kitao, a producer with FromSoft. He talked about quite a bit, including that the game should take 30 hours for the main storyline. That bit made me laugh out loud because that’s ridiculous. I feel like he was just throwing a number out to appease the fans (this was a question asked by a fan) and giving a number that was as minimal as possible. It’s meaningless, really, in a open world game because very few people just inhaled the main storyline without doing the side quests. That’s the whole point of the open world! To explore and wander, not carrying about the main story.

One interesting thing in the interview was that Yashiro Kitao kept emphasizing that FromSoft didn’t want players to stress out so they added things to ease that stress. It’s interesting because they’ve never shown any interest in adjusting difficulty before. Sexiro was the last game they released and that was hard as nails. I felt railroaded into playing a certain way, which I did not appreciate. One of the things I love about Dark Souls games is that I can make my character any way I want her. Granted, I’m always a strengthcaster these days, but I could be a dex build or a pure faith build if I want. In Sexiro, I could only be, well, Sekiro. It was a pure action game with no leveling up. That’s not exactly true. You could level up, but not in any one category. You had to get four prayer beads from beating mini-bosses and then you level up your…I want to say strength nope. It adds 10% to Vitality and Posture. It’s the memories from beating proper bosses that adds to your strength. Or something like that.

I used to say that if Bloodborne was on PC, I would play it more.  That’s true. I love the gothic aesthetic, moody, brooding, and dripping with atmosphere. But, I did not enjoy the combat as much as in the Dark Souls series because I have terrible reactions and you can’t use a shield in BB. Again, one of the things I love about the Dark Souls games is that I can customize myself however I want. It’s highly versatile as opposed to BB and Sekiro. Sekiro is extremely restrictive whereas BB is somewhere in the middle. It’s not as proscriptive as Sekiro, but it’s certainly not as wide-open as Dark Souls.

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I did it my (bad) way!

I love FromSoft games, but they don’t love me back. Ian and I have an ongoing argument about whether FromSoft games are for me or not. He says I’m the target audience. Someone who likes the game, but isn’t great at them. I maintain that it’s the fanbois who are the target audience, especially for the DLCs (which are as hard as balls). I think we have to clarify which game we are talking about, too. I’m catching up on other-Ian’s (Eurogamer) Sekiro playthrough. I like watching him because he’s good at it, but not preternaturally so. There’s one episode where Aoife from Eurogamer is guiding him through the game. She’s saying you have to learn to deflect and once you do, it’s makes the game almost easy. She likened it to a rhythm game, which I hate as well. She said that you cannot beat the game without learning to deflect. She also said that anyone could beat the game. So transitive property….

It’s the lesser-known result of the Dunning-Kruger study. People who are good at something underestimate how good they are in comparison to other people. Because it’s easy for them. Or rather, because you only know your own ability. So however you are at the games, well, that’s the norm. So people who are good at the games don’t know what it’s like to suck. I watched someone play the BB DLC and kill the bosses in two or three tries. I gave up after watching him apologize for taking three tries to kill Lady Maria. So Aoife repeatedly saying anyone can play Souls games is not uncommon, but it’s still frustrating.

I mean, I do think anyone can play. If I could beat the first game, then, yes, it’s possible for anyone who wants to devote time, blood, sweat, and tears to it. But no shame if you don’t. Also, it took me 150 hours to beat the game the first time around, including the DLC. But, there’s no shame in not wanting to put in the work to beat the games. It’s not easy for many people and more to the point, it’s not enjoyable. I had a Twitter friend tell me she tried the game, but then attacked the Crestfallen Warrior at Firelink Shrine because there was a note saying to do so and now she can’t rest there. I felt so bad because that’s a very important bonfire and one you do not want an aggroed NPC lurking around. She did not want to start over from the beginning, so she quit. Which is completely valid.

I recently watched Outside Xtra do a Christmas Challenge to see who could get to the Taurus Demon faster. I was intrigued and tried it myself. Even now, I take my time and over-level on my way to the Bell Gargs. I can take hours in the beginning bits because I want to make sure I can use the Zwei, which is 24 strength. Plus, I want a +5 weapon by the time I reach the Bell Gargs and/or the Drake Sword. Oh, and it’s beat the Taurus Demon, not just reach him. Luke did it in 11:30 or so. Ellen did it in 14 minutes or so. I decided to try it because it’s so not my style. Starting from the very beginning and getting to and beating the Taurus Demon as soon as possible? Alrighty then.

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Dark Souls can still surprise me

I love the Souls games. I’m sure I’ve said that a time or a hundred, but it bears repeating. One thing I love about the games is that no matter how many times I’ve played them, they are still capable of surprising me. For example, I’m shadowing Ian in Dark Souls (my character is doing what his character is doing in case he needs a summon). I just killed the hydra for reasons before realizing that means he can’t summon me for the hydra. Whoops! That’s not what surprised me, though. That was just me playing on autopilot doing what I needed to do before heading down to Blighttown. Ian is sat at the bottom bonfire ready to take on Quelaag. I have the master key and can go in the backway, which I shall. It means I won’t get the best pyromancy in the game (Power Within), but I can get it later.

What did I need to do? Get my pyro flame up to +10 so I can trigger the secret pyro trainer in Blighttown. That meant grinding for 12,000 souls to go from +9 to +10. I also want to do the Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring combo, which meant killing the hydra to spawn the golden golem, killing it in order to spawn Dusk, then buying Hidden Body from her. What I’m saying is that it’s a lot. I did it, though, and then realized to my horror that I had killed a boss before Ian did.

Anyway, none of that is what surprised me. One, I talked about before. Summoning Lautrec for the Bell Gargs made him disappear from Firelink Shrine. That annoyed me because I hate invading him for Anastacia’s soul (don’t ask) and wanted the Ring of Favor and Protection as soon as possible. Imagine my surprise when I went to FLS after killing the Gaping Dragon and finding Lautrec sitting across from Anastacia again! I summoned him for the Gaping Dragon along with Solaire (same as the Bell Gargs), so is the game saying he chills at the FLS until it’s time for him to murder Anastacia? That would make sense. Some people speculate that he romances the Fire Keepers, then kills them for their souls. For the goddess he serves. Fina, the goddess of fatal beauty. That’s why he’s found locked up in the Undead Parish where there’s the soul of a dead Fire Keeper on the altar. It’s an interesting theory and one I can get behind.

At any rate, I’m pleased I was able to murder Lautrec in FLS and not have to wait until Anor Londo to invade him. I mistimed my kick and had to actually fight him, but that was no thing. Three or four swipes of my Zwei+10 and he was gold dust! I was tempted to do a quick run into New Londo to get the Very Large Ember so I could upgrade my Zwei ever further, but I’m not trying to get TOO large in this run. I don’t think levels matter if you play with a friend with a password, but still. It’s tempting, though. If it were closer to the beginning of New Londo, I’d do it. But it’s a fair bit of a way in so I’m going to wait.

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More about Dat (Dark) Souls

I hate the Capra Demon. That’s not a shocking admission or an outre opinion, but I had to say it. I hate him so much. Or rather, I hate his boss arena and his two damn dogs. Here’s the thing about me and the Capra Demon. Either I kill him on the first try or it  takes me aaaaaaaaaages to kill him. This time was the later and I’ll tell you for why.

Here’s the thing you need to know about the Capra. He’s in a boss arena roughly the size of a postage stamp and two dogs who are relentless. If you’re locked onto the Capra Demon as you enter the boss arena, the camera bounces all over the place. Hell, as long as the dogs are alive, you really shouldn’t lock onto anything. I’m an inveterate lock-on player, though, which is a detriment at times.

The conventional wisdom is that you take out the dogs first before tackling the Capra. Them are wise words, but it’s easier said than done.

Here’s my issue. I have a very set way of playing this game. I start as a Pyro because I’m always a Pyro and I grab the Zwei right off the bat. It takes 24 Strength to wield the Zwei so I worked towards that from the start. I also want to take it up to +5 as soon as possible. That’s a lot of levels and Souls that aren’t going towards Vit or End. I’m a glass cannon in the beginning, is what I’m saying. Which is fine in general because I can spell from afar (I buy the first two magic spells for distance sniping). but that entrance to the Capra Demon is a pain in the ass.

If everything falls my way, I get the dogs right away and then I’m up on the ledge, spelling the Capra Demon until he dies. If it doesn’t, however, then the dogs kill me over and over again or stun me enough so the Capra can kill me over and over again. Because of my fragility, I cannot sustain more than one hit from the Capra (along with a few hits from the dogs) without dying. In other words, I was having a really hard time with the Capra.

What I did was don on heavier armor so I could take a few more hits. Then I was able to dispatch of the dogs, which made the fight easy as cake. I stood on the ledge and spelled the Capra. When he came up the stairs, I hugged the wall so that he would not hit me as he jumped down (known cheese). Then, I continued to spell him until he died.

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It’s all about that Souls…and Elden Ring

I’m still riding the Elden Ring (FromSoft) high. I’ve watched the gameplay footage several times and will watch it again several times today, I’m sure. There’s a closed beta for it this weekend, but it’s only consoles, unfortunately. I’m going to pre-order the game, but I’m not sure which edition. Normally, I–well, back up a minute. Normally, I would not pre-order a game. I don’t believe in pre-ordering in general because it encourages bad habits by the devs. Especially before Steam had a refund policy, there was little to no recourse if the game turned out to be terrible or broken. Now they have a policy which makes it a little better, but I still prefer to wait until a game is actually out before buying it. FromSoft, however, has earned my trust and my loyalty. I know I am going to play any game that comes from the brilliant mind of Miyazaki* so why not give him all my monies as quickly as possible?

But, which edition? Normally, I just get the standard edition because I don’t care about the soundtrack (even though they’re always fantastic) and I’m not hyped for digital artwork (even though it looks better in some fashion than artwork on physical media). The collector’s edition has a statue of the level up lady, who actually has a name and a story this time!  Melina. I mean, other Fire Keepers have had names, but very few of them had stories. And maybe she can travel from one bonfire to another? Rather than be rooted at one bonfire. Ahem, sites of grace. Yeah, no one is going to call them that. They’re bonfires, FromSoft!

One thing I love about Souls games is that the NPCs have their own lives. Or rather, NPCs in the original and in the third game. In the second, they had stories, but most of them were rooted to Majula, the hub bonfire. In one and three, however, they had their own motives and storylines; if you didn’t catch them at the right place at the right time, you could miss them forever–and the sweet loot they give you. In the original game, Laurentius of the Great Swamp is my first Pyro teacher, has an interesting story. You find him in a barrel in the Depths. He thanks you when you save him and says he would have been ‘her’ dinner. Meaning the butcher. All the butchers in the games are female, which is neat.

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Elden Ring sparks joy

Elden Ring.

Let me just repeat that.

Elden Ring.

Roughly twenty minutes of gameplay was released today and I. Am. Stoked. I am on my third watching of the footage and will probably continue to watch it all day long.

Let’s rewind a bit. A month before I went into the hospital, there was talk that a release trailer was going to drop during Geoff Keighley’s summer games fest thing. I didn’t get my hopes up too high because we had been teased before–specifically by him. And as the fest went on, it seemed less and less likely that the trailer was going to drop. Until, at the very end, it did. And it was wonderful. I had tears in my eyes as I watched it because it was everything I wanted–and more. I started planning how I was going to do two characters. One was going to be a solo character, a Pyro if possible, or a magicks-user if Pyro wasn’t available. Strengthcasting is my jam and it seems more viable than ever in Elden Ring.

In the past games, magic felt as if it was separate from melee. There was casting time and in some games, you had to level up in order to use certain spells/miracles/pyros. In this game, it seems as if you can switch from melee to magic seamlessly, which would be right up my alley. I had to laugh, however, because there’s a raining arrows spell that is lifted directly out of Dark Souls III (a boss used it).

Side Note: I speak of the Dark Souls fanbase as if it’s one unit, but it’s not. There are as many opinions in the community as there are people, if not more. But, there are some common beliefs that run through the community, such as you have to beat all the bosses solo in order to be a true Souls fan. And that magic is for pussies. Oh, and shields are for babies. All bosses are easy if you just fight them with the exact build you are not, and you must be a parry king in order to win any Souls game. My tongue is firmly in my cheek, but there are very firm ideas of what you should and shouldn’t do in a Souls game. Here is my Souls edict: Play it however you want and enjoy it. Play it your way–that’s what I do. My way is considered the hardest way because I do everything exactly the opposite of what is deemed proper. I don’t parry (or any of the other combat systems in the FromSoft games0 and I rely heavily on magicks. Then, along the line, I added strength so now I’m a strengthcaster.

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I looked Death straight in the eye–twice–without blinking

We’ve all heard stories about how when people are dying, they see a bright light guiding them. Some hear the voice of a loved one telling them to go to the light. It’s all gentle, encouraging, and almost poetic.

Not me. I woke up from a week of unconsciousness with a gasp, ready to fight whomever needed fighting. I was mad as hell, scared, and disoriented. I didn’t know what the hell had happened to me, but I was furious, anyway. There was no gentle waking up. There was no coaxing into the light. It was me, instantly alert, ready to have a go at the nearest person. Fortunately, I was tied down or I probably would have started swinging, which I would have regretted later. This is actually how I sleep, come to think of it. I had a friend who loved sleep. She talked about drifting gradually into consciousness, feeling deliciously dozy as she slowly woke up. Not me. I went from sleep to instantly awake in a nanosecond, which is jarring. I don’t have any grace period between sleep and awake, much to my regret.

That’s what happened in the hospital. One minute, nothing, the next minute, awake and spitting mad. And I couldn’t stop talking. My id took over and ran with every thought that entered my mind. Because I’m aware that I tend to ramble, I keep a tight rein on my thoughts. In the hospital, however, when I was hopped up on sedatives and narcotics, and I  had just woken up, I had no control over my mouth.

I rarely think about the fact that my heart stopped twice, but it’s there in the back of my mind. It’s not something I can focus on for too long without getting a bit freaked out. Death is something I’ve been drawn to/repulsed by for my entire life. The thought of death freaked me the fuck out. But, honestly, it’s just like falling asleep forever. It’s the conscious me that is afraid of death. The unconscious me didn’t even know she was unconscious. I know that seems obvious, but I can’t stress enough how jarring it was to suddenly wake up from nothingness.

Back it up even further.

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You CAN go home again

I’ve been home for three-and-a-half weeks, but that’s not the home I’m talking about in this post. I’m talking about Dark Souls III by FromSoft and I’m talking about Firelink Shrine.

When I was in the hospital, one of the therapists I saw (physical? Probably) told me that I should play video games as part of my rehab. My eyes lit up because that was right up my alley. Play video games for rehab purposes? I can do that!

Let’s rewind even further than that.  A week or two before I went into the hospital, the release trailer for Elden Ring (also by FromSoft) dropped to much hype and elation. It was at the end of Geoff Keighley’s summer fun fest game show (not the official name) just when everyone had lost hope that it would actually drop. When it was announced, everyone lost their goddamn minds, including me. I actually had tears in my eyes as I watched because I had waited so long for it. Honestly, I was beginning to think it would never be released so while I was excited by the news, my biggest feeling was one of relief.

Once I had properly digested the news, I was full of plans for the game. It’s supposed to be released in late January of next year, and FromSoft is usually pretty good with their release dates.  It’s the first time they’ve set one of  their games in an open world, which was exciting. Everything looked so dope and I could not wait to get my hands on the game. FromSoft is one of the few developers from whom I will pre-buy a game based on reputation alone. I was going to have two concurrent games going on. The primary character was going to be my solo run through the game–beating the bosses solo, etc. My secondary character was going to be the one I could co-op with, mostly with Ian.

After I woke up in the hospital, I eventually thought about Elden Ring again. Or maybe it was in the first few days I was home? At any rate, my thoughts about the game had drastically changed. Instead of all the lofty goals I had set for myself, I had one simple goal–to play and enjoy the game. That was it. To explore a new wondrous Miyazaki world (stridently ignoring GRRM) filled me with anticipation and glee.

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