Trying out something a little different today; I’m going to keep a ‘journal’ of sorts to track my progress through Dark Souls 2. Because of the nature of this piece, expect spoilers.
Alright! Dark Souls 2! Forget about all the things that make me a good person who is good at things, it's time to play Dark Souls 2. At this point, everyone reading this knows what Dark Souls 2 is about. It’s a painfully difficult game that forces you to use patience, pattern recognition, memory and perfect timing to succeed. The allure of this difficult experience is when all of those things come together to allow you to defeat what initially seems impossible.
The intro scene has an old woman known as a Fire Keeper explaining how I’m cursed, drawn to death like a moth to a flame only to return from death again and again. She’s creepy
Moving beyond this ramshackle nursing home, I found the central area, Majula. Folks who played Demon’s Souls, a PS3 exclusive, will recognize this area as being very similar to the Nexus, where NPCs gather and pathways to other areas of the world are accessible. There are a few buildings here to explore, along with a well that even Lassie would have a hard time getting you out of, so I avoided that. Of course being such a low level character at this point, any enemy is a huge threat. A few ne'er do well rat looking creatures helped me earn my first achievement in this area - “This is Dark Souls”. How did I earn this? Simple - I died.
After chatting up the NPC near the statue showing how many deaths have occurred in the game (lots), I headed off to the Forest of Fallen Giants. This was the first real action I’d seen. A variety of humanoid monsters attacked me throughout, but I was able to find a merchant NPC near one of my first remote bon fires. Luckily in Dark Souls 2, as opposed to previous iterations, traveling from bon fire to bon fire is immediately available to use. After farming the area for a while to get enough souls for leveling up and purchasing some keys from the merchant, I hit my first wall.
Because any enemy in Dark Souls 2 is likely to kill you, bosses are particularly brutal. The Last Giant is a 30 foot tall tree monster, that will swipe his arms and stomp his feet to kill you. And he was successful in his endeavor, as I died at least 10 times trying to find that perfect balance of patience, pattern recognition and perfect timing. This occurred over the course of a day or two, allowing that creeping thought of disappointment and self-doubt to bloom. What if I couldn't beat this first boss? I’ve played both the previous games before Dark Souls 2, and I’m stuck on the first real challenge? Should I even be playing video games anymore if this is how terrible I am?
Then, early in the evening this past week with my wife at my side, reading a book, I was victorious. I’d say it was her emotional support that pushed me to victory. She witnessed the overwhelming joy at finally vanquishing the tree giant and breaking through my first wall. I jumped off the couch, waving my arms around like an idiot and “woo hoo!”-ing for at least 30 seconds. Those 30 seconds are the reason I play Dark Souls.
Full of juicy souls, I leveled up further, upgraded some of my gear at the local blacksmith, and headed onto the next area - Heide’s Tower of Flame. This area is on the ruins of a past city, with narrow walkways and plenty of opportunities to fall over the edge to my death. The enemies here were bigger and badder, but also offered a lot more souls. I farmed the area a few times to continue beefing up my character, but once again hit a couple walls when encountering boss fights.
This time, instead of spending days letting these bosses torment me, I flipped the script. One of the really awesome features of the Souls games is the ability to summon other players into your game to help you defeat bosses. After returning to human form by munching on a human effigy made of twigs, yellowish signs appear on the ground outside the boss areas allowing you to call for help. With the assistance of another cursed soul, we were able to defeat both the Old Dragonslayer boss, as well as the Dragon Rider boss.
That’s as far as I’ve made it. It feels like I’m making progress at a faster rate than I have in past Souls games, likely helped by a combination of previous experience, and finally utilizing the multiplayer functionality to my benefit. I’ll continue updating this “journal” as more progress is made, so look for another update soon where I will hopefully have some info on the upcoming area “No Man’s Wharf”, as well as whether I can get into a covenant or not.