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Dark Souls: Day 2

Given that it will probably take me a while to get through Dark Souls, I decided to chronicle my experience with the game & record any interesting events or progress I make, or any observations about the game thus far.

So what happened on Day 2?

Well, first I started a second character.  A blonde female knight named Seraph.  The reason I created a second character was not to disregard my thief but to have a better character to slog through an area for the first time.  Since knights do more & take more damage, I can go through a section with Seraph, learn the pitfalls & tricks, then go through it again later with Sibeal.

So I took Seraph through the asylum & got her to the same point as Sibeal, at the Firelink Shrine.  From there, I headed down the elevator to do some grinding in the New Rondo Ruins.  There are lots of undead at the start of the ruins that are easy to kill, as well as a few Lost Souls.  It’s a simple matter to go down & kill them all, go back to the bonfire, & do it all again.  There’s also a merchant there, but he has limited items.  This is also a good place to practice combat, like backstabbing (which gives you a few extra souls, by the way).

  • Observation 1: there are no boundaries in the game.  This means it is quite possible to slip & fall to your death.  This happened twice, once for Seraph & Sibeal each, though in different places.

I didn’t proceed further than the first section of the ruins before heading back up.  I checked north of the bonfire, but didn’t proceed very far, between the giant crow making me paranoid & the indestructible skeleton that chased me all the way back to the bonfire.  So I headed northeast, up to the Undead Burg.  As you would imagine, there are lots of undead & skeletons.  But there were lots of Lost Souls.  My second death for Seraph came when I tried to jump across what appeared to be a small gap but I ended up rolling instead & falling off the cliff.

  • Observation 2: jumping sucks.  To jump, you have to sprint, which on the 360 requires you to hold down the B button.  Then, while you’re still running, you have to hit the B button again to leap.  It’s very tricky, & half the time you end up rolling.

I didn’t like fighting in the burg, because it’s very small & hard to manuever.  That’s fine for Seraph, because she has a decent shield, but Sibeal has a metal dinner plate or something, so she still takes damage.  It’s harder for my nimble thief to circle-strafe & backstab.  But there were some fun moments.  One is when the game mechanics work in my favor.  This includes enemies falling off buildings to their death, which never ceases to be funny.  One particular moment had me leaving a building onto a narrow walkway.  The undead were obviously hanging over the sides of the railing, ready to ambush me.  But I beat them to it.  I managed to hit two of the undead & knock them off the building.

  • Observation 3: look out for barrels & crates.  This has two applications.  One is that enemies may be hiding behind these items waiting to ambush you.  I died twice because undead knights burst through the door to the room I was in.  But crates can also hide good things.  This can include secret passages leading to souls, treasures or merchants.

Oh, & while I was playing as Seraph, my game was invaded.  In addition to co-op play, players can invade other players’ game worlds & gain Humanity by slaying them.  My game was invaded while I was trying to shop.  When you fight another player, their character is obscured with a hazy red, so you can’t quite make them out.  I think it was a Pyromancer.  He kept throwing fireballs at me, which I easily circle-straffed around.  It was tougher than fighting skeletons, but I’m happy to say I beat him & took his Humanity.  That’ll teach you to interrupt a woman while she’s shopping.

  • Observation 4: if you’re being invaded, make sure there are no other enemies around.  Nothing would suck more than having to fight another player & a horde of zombies.

Personally, I’m not crazy about the PvP aspect.  I don’t plan to invade other games, so others should return the favor.  I think there should be an option if you want to invade, which allows others to invade your game.  It’s kind of unfair.  I mean, think about it.  Most people are only going to invade against players they think they can beat, i.e. lower level.  Then again, I’m not sure what the guidelines are for invading.  Can you only invade players who are in the same area (& therefore about the same level)?  Is it only when they’re in a shop (I ask because that’s when the message popped up I was being invaded)?  I certainly hope there are limits.  Can you imagine being invaded during a boss fight?

While we’re on the subject of rants, whose idea was it to give skeletons firebombs?  Annoying prats will throw them at you even at close range.

  • Observation 5: be careful when throwing bombs.  They will bounce off walls & obstacles back at you.  I know from experience.

At the end of the day, I managed to get both characters to the bonfire about half way through the burg.  I don’t think I have far to go before the next boss.  I also leveled up a bit.  Tomorrow I plan to do some more grinding.  The area I’m at is a good place for it.  But do I have any more observations?

  • Observation 6: the camera is your friend.  More than once an enemy was hiding just next to the door I had to go through.  Always use your camera to check your surroundings.

  • Observation 7: save some Humanity to Kindle the bonfire.  Sacrificing Humanity to Kindle the bonfire will allow it to restore more estus vials.

  • Observation 8: try to lure enemies out.  Avoid fighting more than one enemy at a time if you can.  Often enemies have a sight range, & won’t attack if you stay outside that range.  They also seem to have a movement range, after which they won’t chase you.  I can’t say that this is true for all enemies, but I did come across some that wouldn’t advance any further even when they were in attack mode.  Use this to lure enemies to you one at a time, & take the battle to an area to your advantage.
End of Day 2 Death Count
Seraph, the blonde knight: 6
Sibeal, the red-headed thief: 5

Happy hunting!

– GamerDame

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First Impressions: Dark Souls

I purchased Dark Souls today & made it through the prologue, only dying one time.  Given that the clerk at Gamestop told me he died twenty times in his first hour (the same time it took me to complete the prologue), I can conclude either one of two things: either I’m better than the average player… or I’m moving along at a snail’s pace.  I’m more inclined to choose the second option.  But that seems to be the style of gameplay Dark Souls encourages; slow & cautious.

But what do you expect when the very first caption on the back of the box is “Prepare to die”?

So let’s jump right into my experience with the prologue.

When you start a new game, you first get to customize your character.  This includes the standard name, gender & appearance.  You also choose your class & a gift.  My avatar is a red-headed female thief named Sibeal.  I’ve read that the Master Key is the best gift to choose, since it allows you to unlock doors.  But the thief has this automatically, so I picked “Tiny Being’s Ring,” because it said it slowly restores HP (but in reality it just gives you a slight increase).  I did feel kinda dumb taking the time to customize Sibeal’s face when her thief mask covered it anyway.

The game proper starts up with a little backstory.  Back when dragons ruled over the otherwise lifeless world, souls began to rise up from the ashes of fire.  The life that appeared banded together to defeat the last of the dragons.  But now the fire is dying, presumably meaning an end to souls & therefore life.  Furthermore, some people are receiving the Dark Mark & becoming undead.  These undead are shipped to an asylum in the north.  And it’s here that the game starts.

Sibeal, in mummified form, is locked in a cell in the asylum, when a knight drops a corpse into her cell.  After absorbing his soul, the tutorial begins in the way of messages written on the ground.  They explain the basic controls like how to move, fight, ect.  At first the only enemies of other undead who don’t seem to have the brain power to fight back.  This is probably a good thing, because I’m pretty sure my starting knife is a half-broken sword handle.

Things go pretty easy at first, but I take things nice & slow, knowing the game’s reputation & trusting nothing.  Eventually I reach a large room, & I’m thinking, “Oh crap, boss fight.”  Sure enough, Sibeal doesn’t even make it halfway across the room when the Asylum Demon, a fat demon with a huge hammer, jumps down from nowhere.  I noticed the writing on the ground ahead of me, but the demon takes most of my attention.  I manage to land a few blows, but my glorified pocketknife barely dents his lifebar.  When I got close enough to the message, it basically says, “Run for you life,” so I do.  Thanks to a conveniently placed door, I escaped with minimal damage.

I light the bonfire right outside the demon’s door, which is something Demon’s Soul didn’t have.  It saves the game, restores your health & items… & respawns all the enemies you’ve killed along the way.  Fun.

Sibeal continues on through the asylum, fighting more undead & gaining a shield.  A little rinky-dink shield that looks no bigger than a plate, but better than nothing.  Now that I have a shield, I spend most of my time walking around in a defensive posture.

After reaching another courtyard with a bonfire, I head upstairs, setting off a trap boulder that runs me over & knocks a hole in the wall where the knight from earlier is dying.  After agreeing to hear his request, he tells me to ring the Bell of Awakening, & gives me five healing elixirs, which replenish at bonfires.  I go up, fight more undead, including an undead knight, & pick up a half decent knife.

Now comes the story of my first death.  At the top of the stairs, you’re only option is to go through the white light, which leads you to a balcony above the Asylum Demon.  My thoughts at this point were, “Oh crap, he sees me!  Go back through the light!  Hurry!  Hurry!”  But sadly, the demon killed me with his hammer.  But instead of getting mad, I started laughing uncontrollably.  It was pretty funny, & I wasn’t so far from the bonfire that it made me mad.  Lesson: if the game tells you how to do something, that probably means you’re going to have to use it soon.

So I respawn at the bonfire.  In this game, when you die, you lose the souls you’ve collected (which are used to level up).  But they remain at your bloodstain, & you can get them again so long as you don’t die before you reach them.  So very carefully, I make my way back up & recollect my souls.  And then, paying attention to the cue about a falling attack, I go back through the white light.

Now, Sibeal drops down from the balcony onto the demon’s  head, stabbing him & cutting lifebar down by half.  From there, it was just a matter of circle-straffing around him, rolling out of the way of his attacks, healing when necessary & whittling down his health until he died.  Much cheering & celebrating commenced.  And clearly I wasn’t the only one, because there was a new note on the ground that said, “I did it!”  I concur, sir.

High from my victory, but paranoid the game was going to screw me out of it & unsure if boss characters respawn at bonfires, I unlock the giant doors & head up a strange-looking hill.  But not before following the message on the ground about a Soul being nearby & watching someone’s ghost fall off the cliff, which convinced me not to explore that way.  At the top of the hill, a cutscene triggers, which some woman talking about a chosen undead, & a giant crow carrying me away.

The crow drops me at my next level, the Firelink Shrine, complete with bonfire & a less than helpful man who tells me there are actually two Bells of Awakening.  Deciding to call it a day for now, I level up some of my stats & use the humanity I collected nearby to return to the living.

So what’s my general opinion so far?  So far, Dark Souls is an interesting game.  It definitely uses trial-&-error, but aside from losing experience, there’s no real penalty for dying.  That being said, the best approach is caution.

I have two chief complaints so far, & one I can’t really blame the game for.  One is that a lot isn’t explained in the game.  The game doesn’t explain leveling up, humanity or any of those things.  You just have to figure it out on your own or look it up.  The second, which isn’t the game’s fault, is I’m not sure how much use player messages will be.  I haven’t left any myself, but there seems to a limit to what you can say, so there’s a lot of repeat messages.  Also, there’s plenty of room for people to abuse the system & leave false messages.  I came across a few.  One said the wall ahead was illusory, but unless there was a trick to it that I couldn’t figure out, they lied.  Another, before reaching the crow, said imminent death ahead.  But short of falling off the cliff, there was no danger.

So in general I’m enjoying myself & look forward to a slow but steady challenge.

– GamerDame

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