Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Dark Souls Day One Impressions
To start this wondrous day off we went to the midnight opening at Gamestop. Why was there a midnight opening on this day? Surely it was Dark Souls selling hundreds of copies! Actually somehow or other NBA 2K12 lured over 100 people to this line, presumably the Dark Souls/Rage people consisted of about 1/3rd of the total. The only other game I’ve waited in line at opening for is Wrath of the Lich King (which turned out to be a pretty excellent month long MMO experience before it started sucking), and that line was only about 10 people. Random NBA games > WoW’s predominance evidently. To be fair there’s about 7 Gamestops in Lansing and this one probably serves the most customers. I didn’t really care whether I got it at midnight or not but for conveniences sake that’s when we went, assuming the line would be about 20 persons long. Oh... shitty NBA game we hardly knew ye. Incidentally this very same Gamestop was robbed a few hours earlier, though I didn’t know it at the time. I don’t think much of Gamestop so I’m just happy it didn’t happen when I was there.
Back to the actual game! I played about 2 hours prior to going to sleep, and played very well up until the last half hour or so, this isn’t much of a game to play when you’re tired. You’ll die, get irritated, be too lazy to be careful when you run back and die again. Taking a break is good for the heart and soul, 14 hours yesterday not withstanding. This game looks much better than the previous game (also a solid looking game). It’s the same engine but the textures look much better and there’s actually a fair amount of color in the world so it can be somewhat beautiful and bleak in unison.
The tutorial area is short and introduces a few new moves, a kick, jumping attack, and a falling attack. There’s another very important move that it doesn’t teach you, if you dash for a bit then tap dodge your character now does a springing leap and lands in a roll, very handy for dodging and weird Dark Souls platforming over abysses. The tutorial boss is actually a boss fight, though he kills you in ~4 hits instead of 1 this time. He’s about as easy as the World 5 bosses in Demon’s Souls and shouldn’t give any experienced player trouble. After fighting him you can travel to a cutscene, but there’s a whole bunch of nice easter eggs in the area to find and a few items so stick around. Plus the view kicks ass.
After that you wind up in a shrine area. This is the de facto Nexus of this game, the bonfire (checkpoints oh noes) gives you 10 health potions instead of 5, most shortcuts link back to it, and there’s a pretty big “safe” area (though you can lure monsters back into it and they’ll still stab you jollily). The game branches off right at the start and you can go to 3 different areas if you want to, though going to 2 of them for any length of time will probably kill you repeatedly until you figure out the easy way to go. There’s basically gatekeeper monsters in a lot of the areas so it’s not too hard to figure out where to go to start with. Later on the game starts to branch out even more and it’s open world-ness reaches full magnificence. Instead of being a bigass flat plain like Oblivion or Fallout this game is very vertical, and while the game might take you 80+ hours to beat completely it’s quite possible to reach most of the game’s areas in less than 5 minutes from the shrine (after opening shortcuts, naturally). I once fell through the world and went through about 7 different texture packs before dying, glorious!
The first area is much like Boletarian Palace’s first area, fairly similar enemies and castle terrain. World Tendency no longer exists, so “Black Phantom” (not actually Black Phantoms but you get the idea) NPCs are now just randomly in the game at different locations. Most areas have at least one of these mini boss type monsters that don’t respawn, though they are often optional. They’re actually very fun to fight, though new players will take quite some time to get used to BPs one/two shotting you. Thankfully most of them don’t seem to heal themselves. One particular type is a heavy knight (I guess Gwyn’s Dark Knights is what you could call them) that as of yet have always dropped crafting materials. Crystal Geckos that murder you, good work From! There are still Gecko like monsters afoot but they’re much more infrequent and seem to only die once (though respawns are still tied to boss kills). The harder BPs remain harder than every boss I’ve faced thus far.
The first actual boss is pretty good. You can use the terrain to your advantage, a recurring theme in boss fights thus far, and he hits reasonably hard. The weirdest thing about bosses so far is that you can full block almost every attack they do, so dodging isn’t nearly as important as it was in Demon’s Souls. Since you no longer have infinite grasses to heal yourself they reduced the damage most boss attacks do so you now die in 3-4 hits instead of 1-2. However, bosses seem to have even more HP than they did before and take quite some time to kill. Hence the difficulty from Dark Souls rises from endurance rather than sheer overpowering terror (though that does get tossed in from time to time). You have to walk back through plenty of dudes, take as little damage as possible to save potions for the boss and then out endure the boss for a while. Incidentally I killed the Taurus on the first try, which kind of made that IGN article I linked a bit more specious. How does one die to an average difficulty boss 15 times? One shall never know.
The next area starts with a nice firebreathing dragon, however like everything else the dragon doesn’t one shot you (albeit if you don’t pay attention it’s still easy to die to it). Next you fight some giant weird looking rats. Status effects now occur based on a meter and how many consecutive attacks you eat (or block, greatly reduced), instead of randomly being caused. Rats drop humanity, the games most useful resource and supposedly extremely rare. If you play well and don’t die for a while you’ll accumulate it naturally but being able to farm an easy enemy a short distance from the bonfire basically negates one of the major complaints a lot of reviews have had thus far. You now lose souls and Humanity when you die. Later you fight the Pseudo maneater boss which is mostly just tedious, and you ring a bell.
Unfortunately I haven’t had any real multiplayer experiences yet, I see some white phantoms around, leave both kind and evil messages and read a few (even more Engrish than Demon’s Souls, though the menu is much easier to use). I did hear the bell ring about 4 times though, and I’ve received a few random Estus Flasks due to some spell or other (possibly just a fire reinforce). Hopefully I eventually get invaded. If all else fails I’ll start randomly tossing white signs up to help others on whichever boss. Some bosses in the game actually have a built in NPC help for certain boss fights, though the way to get him to help you is eventually pretty convoluted (simple to start). The gargoyles are the first boss to offer help, though I’m sure all it does is relieve the tedium.
At this point you can go about 7 different directions, all leading to different bosses (albeit a few of them would presumably nearly impossible). I continued on my linear route and found a Pseudo Maneater, much improved Giant Depraved one type and a Butterfly. The butterfly is the only really unique feeling boss thus far, and it is fairly difficult. For most of the fight you can only shoot arrows at it, though I did wind up doing it with mostly melee attacks. Without spoiling too much I’ll just say it’s fairly cinematic while still being playable and non trivial, an improvement in the last area over the first game’s huge bosses.
The next area I did can go straight to hell. There’s dogs and thieves to start with, which aren’t all that difficult. Enemies now have Riposte stances, which I think is a pretty cool idea. Unfortunately the kick is the only way to knock them out of it and is unreliable thus far, so it becomes a waiting game. The spear/shield combo of legends is even more overpowered in Dark Souls due to limited healing items, and it is no exception in this area. The real problem is the boss, which is effectively a Dual Katana Black Skeleton from Demon’s Souls with a bigger attack radius and (humorously enough) less damage. That’s all well and good but they decided to give him two dogs to fight with as well. Dogs are extremely random in their behavior and can easily corner you with the bosses’ giant hitbox. The only reliable way to kill the dogs while not getting massacred by the boss is to use the terrain.
Unfortunately getting to that point might randomly get you killed, even if you executed a dodge jump perfectly. I actually had a solid chance at winning the fight on the second try but the game crashed and I had to continue anew. With renewed fervor I set my scimitar ablaze and plunged it downward into the Goat, imparting the gift of fire to his wool. Weapon effects, which already looked pretty sweet, look even better in this game, while you won’t use them that much to start with (precious resource), every time you do and massacre something it is fantastic. Goat by himself would be a good boss (buff his damage, even), just a shame they had to add in the wolves and make it annoying as hell.
At this point with 5 bosses dead I felt relatively content and set off to explore the ridiculous number of locations I could travel to. Crystal Lizards were slain, Dark Knights conquered, and death realized. I wandered into an obvious dragon playing dead and acquired a solid weapon, the Dragon evidently did not have the heart to kill me in a single strike. To finish the day off I went and fought the Fat Brushwood Armor guy (Essentially Garl Vinland with better AI) in the first area, who gave me 3000 souls and a fantastic ring on his defeat, a few times what the earlier bosses gave (Butterfly excepted). Every BP-like NPC now conquered I can rest on my laurels and die horribly some more tomorrow.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for
Light Hollow Infantry: 2
Heavy Hollow Infantry: 1
Taurus Demon: 0
Dark Knights: 5
Rapier Knights: 1
New Ratmen: 2
Lightning Golem: 2
Falling: 1 (!)
Falling through the world: 1
Hollow Thieves: 2
Fat Brushwood Mace Guy: 3
Time : 14 hours
Soul Level: 26
Self Grade: B
Approx % Complete: 15
Probably a few more I missed, going to keep a death journal for you, dear friends. Unfortunately forgot to bring my pen and paper this time. Most deaths were caused due to laziness during runbacks and/or general lethargy, though the bosses are relatively solid and BPs are as brutal as ever. On pace to die over 100 times, yay. See you next week, probably only 5 hours a day from now on.