‘Hard’ can be fun, not punishing

I know I’m a little late to the game, but I have been playing through the original Dark Souls recently. I have never been a fan of difficult games, I give up too easily and look for a guide, or an exploit, or cheat to make things easier and get the whole thing over with (I often pick up a game to experience the story more than anything else). #FilthyCasual, I know, I know, but after seeing the furious dedication that some gamers had for their precious death-laden ‘Dark Souls’, I became curious and picked up the title for a fiver in a Steam sale. One of the best purchases that I have made all year! I’ve been having fun. A lot of it. And that is not without dying more times than the game probably intended (although I made it through Sen’s Fortress on my 4th try without falling to the boss before Anor Londo #PrideThroughTheRoof). I have spent many nights now just wanting to explore that ‘just one more’ region of the meticulously designed map before switching off. The feeling of accomplishment that is found in making it through a particularly stressful or scary area is highly addictive. It is gaming ambrosia, and I have been lapping it up!

First boss of the DLC, the Sancturay Guardian. Tough as nails!

But that’s enough stroking the already established ego of the near-perfect Dark Souls. I wanted to write this post about it because of my recent streaming of the Artorias Of The Abyss DLC. The whole DLC has been constructed as a devilish learning experience. The first boss attacks furiously with claws and a sharp tail, but I managed to tank him and get through to Oolacile. The woods leading to the next boss have a good balance of tough as shit golem dude, and opportunistic asshats with pitchforks. But it was the fight with Artorias that really shines through.

Artorias himself. Best fight so far!

Artorias is somewhat forgiving, in that his moves are well telegraphed with enough timing to dodge (especially useful if he manages to buff himself). Even so, I died a lot just learning what the moves would be. I learnt to not let him buff (by spamming my heaviest attack), and I learned the best times to roll, best directions to roll, and the best times to shield a hit. The combat took practice and became a beautiful sort of dance. Every time I would face him I managed to chip his health down below what I could previously achieve; 70%, 60%, 40%, 20%, and (infuriatingly) 5%. I was rushing to the boss room with excitement every time, knowing exactly where I slipped up the last time and exactly what I should change to stand better odds against the good knight. Defeating him was a wonderful feeling, and it unlocked what felt like twice as much DLC as I had expected. My next target was the dragon I passed on a bridge earlier. I thought I could apply the same ‘learning’ attitude to combat with him, afterall- I have already killed four dragons and two hydras! I was so wrong.

Kalameet. Bastard.

The dragon (that I would later learn is named ‘Kalameet’) passes over the battlefield, spewing black fiery death over the whole area, insta-killing me a number of times. I managed to shield a lot of the damage enough to pick up all the loot on ground, but it seemed that combat was impossible. I gave up and decided to come back later after I’ve had a think about it. It turns out that he is impossible to defeat until a certain conversation with a particularly awesome NPC hidden behind a locked door. The game taught me that a hopeless cause is indeed a hopeless cause, and even though it took me a while before I discovered the helpful conversation, the difficulty was very informative (i.e. GTFO). I have yet to defeat Kalameet. The final part of the DLC involves venturing down into the dark and terrifying abyss. Ghosts everywhere, and the other enemies could easily take me down in less than 3 hits (swarming around me unless tactically lured back to even the odds). It was super spoopy, #2spoopy4me for sure, but I just wanted to know what treasures and secrets hid around every shadowed corner and past each steep path downhill. It was all fun and games until Field Marshall Asshole appeared.

Manus, father of the OH GODS WHAT THE F

Manus wasn’t a pleasant fight. My first encounter with him immediately followed a trip similar to the Tomb of the Giants form the main game, so I was a little bit on-edge and basically panicked. My second fight had me faring better, although ‘better’ wasn’t exactly hard to achieve, and ‘better’ just didn’t cut it. The dude wailed on me, tossing me around like a particularly weighty rag-doll. I fought him one more time before I decided to call it a night. Yes, I still have to come back and fight him, but I know that I can learn his attacks, and I know that I will adapt and become a better player for the constant death that my poor character experiences. And I really, really look forward to it! -PiratPeter

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