Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Dark Souls Week Two - Schizophrenic
Alternative titles include: Online Offline Online; Help, Kill, Assist, Murder; and Why is everyone so retarded?
To start this week off I bought the Official Strategy Guide, as the internet was failing miserably in providing any obscure information on various things. With the collector’s Edition you get a mini-guide which is just a few excerpts from the main guide, I looked at this and realized that the actual guide must be quite good. Having beaten the vast majority of the game already this wasn’t going to make the game easier but finding whichever obscure ember or rare weapon or NPC would be useful. I can’t recommend the guide highly enough though, it is just as comprehensive as the present wiki for Demon’s Souls is, and pretty much all information on the Dark Souls wiki is poorly plagiarized from the actual guide anyway (much like most other guides).
In a perfect world there would never have been an official guide and people could still discover the entire game piece by piece (it would take months for people to figure out how to find certain covenants, or how certain NPC trains functioned) but what ultimately occurred was one person bought the guide, spread that information to their friends who posted it on the internet. I am content with my weeklong discovery phase and sort of want to just figure out how the rest of the game works at this point, and the guide has assisted me greatly. I wouldn’t suggest buying it prior to beating the game, but if you’re just going to look up shitty youtube vids on how to beat bosses you might as well have a nice book to look through instead. The only thing you can really spoil about these games is boss fights, and having beaten them all I did not worry about any sacrilege that I might have caused.
After a fairly long while spent farming on the main character I created a new one. This time I made a pyromancer knowing full well the heights such power might grant. The Pyromancer is effectively the new Royal from the first game, you start at the lowest SL and you start with the most useful, rarest spellcasting implement. It’s not as blatantly overpowered as the Royal and you can do quite well with any other class, but it is still arguably the best. I still was undecided whether to be help people or be evil with the character and thus decided to try out both and figure out which one was more fun. You can get 4 cracked Red Eye orbs to invade with very early in the game, and I did and attempted to invade the first two areas in the game. Unfortunately regardless of whether or not an invasion actually occurs each use of the item consumes it. Thus, I now had to join an obscure covenant 15 hours later and then donate 10 humanity to that covenant to have a permanent Red Eye orb with which to invade an infinite times with.
So, I was now stuck with setting white signs down everywhere. I initially approached this in the best way, I set a sign down after every fog door and progressed normally through the game. I was not summoned until reaching the Depths, and the first guy who summoned me was actually fairly competent so we killed the boss there with relative ease (I didn’t take a single hit the entire time, even). I now foolishly strayed from the path and began simply waiting around to get summoned, which took about 15 minutes this time. Unfortunately this second summon resulted in the death of the host to curse, despite him clearly being an experienced player he still managed to not evade this easiest to avoid hazard the game has to offer. I laughed and sighed knowing the pain that dear sir would have to endure being cursed so early in the game.
I set down yet another sign and started farming in unison, a slightly better approach. It still took another 20 minutes to get summoned, this time I died due to carelessness. A completely unexplained feature that I eventually discovered is that the host can heal his human phantoms with the consumption of an Estus Flask, so theoretically the host could have saved me but I try to take as little damage as possible when a phantom, as only a scant few hosts will actually know to heal you. I received 12,500 souls for killing the boss of the area as a phantom, a huge amount early in the game, and greedily sought more hefty sums of souls.
In addition to other players you can now summon NPCs to join you in boss fights as phantoms. If they die as a phantom they don’t die in the game world, so there’s no hazard in doing this multiple times. Like everything else you must be in human form to summon the NPCs to assist you. For the most part these NPCs are relatively intelligent and will help you kill the boss but you’ll do the bulk of the work. There are two, well hidden exceptions to this rule that almost trivialize certain bosses (one of them being fairly hard and the other being relatively easy anyway), but chances are you’ll never find those signs. If you still can’t find these signs when you’re in human form and you’re sure they should be there simply quit the game from the menu and reload (a common cure in Demon’s Souls for various troubles as well), they will be there when you return.
I progressed through the game much faster this time around and was less than half the SL of my first character by the time I finished Anor Londo. It was in Anor Londo that I decided to attempt yet more White Phantoming, and was relatively successful in finding people. I had yet to fight Ornstein and Smough without phantom assistance and started to learn the fight while assisting others. Simply based on a person’s playstyle I could tell whether we had a chance or not, as O&S have specific biases. There is one attack they have after the midway point in the fight that is very difficult to avoid, so I saw various phantoms die to this. Of 3 fights as a phantom only one was successful. On that occasion the host summoned me as well as an NPC, I to that point had very little HP so almost every grab attack could kill me in one hit (SL 35 or so).
We did very well early in the fight but I finally got hit by a grab that is fairly difficult to avoid and died just as the boss was about to. While bosses are doing grabs they’re just as invincible as you are when you’re doing a riposte or backstab, so I was forced to painfully wait through this one shot attack. However, since the “returning to your world” death animation is so long they actually killed the boss prior to that and I still received 15000 souls, a Sunlight Medal, and a Humanity for my trouble.
At this point I ran into an issue where I was unable to connect to any multiplayer whatsoever. The message “failed to create session” kept popping up on my screen and I figured that it would eventually go away. A day and a half later it still persisted, cutting off several summons, hosting and invasion opportunities. I then astutely decided (only took 30 hours) to unplug and replug in the connection cord, though I did have access to all the other online features. This actually worked and I was quite able to play once more. I believe this only happens when there’s a shitload of people on (weekends and nights), but try pulling the plug and reconnecting if you start receiveing the same messsage and potentially save yourself some trouble.
I now went down to New Londo Ruins and went to fight the Four Kings, a necessary prerequisite to join the Red Orb providing covenant. Now, I had beat the Four Kings on the first try on my first playthrough, it was a somewhat close fight but relatively easy. However this new character was vastly weaker in most stat departments, and I discovered Four Kings is much like Maneater from the first game, if you have the gear/health and the damage output the boss isn’t particularly difficult (though random things can still happen), but without it’s almost impossible. I also summoned an NPC to fight with this boss, but this was actually a bad idea. The Four Kings have multiple AI strings, and if you’re going at it solo generally only one King will go “all out” on you, but if you bring in NPCs or other players each one of them will activate and you might get completely massacred by chain attacks and novas. I wound up levelling a bit prior to beating the Kings, which probably made my Red Eye experience a bit more irritating. Just be thankful you don’t fight them on a bridge. /shudder
Now SL 50 I decided to try invading people, this took quite some time but I eventually found a coward. As a phantom in Dark Souls you are unable to heal yourself with the Estus Flask, this means either wasting an attunement slot on heal or simply not healing. However the host can heal himself as he pleases. The first douche I fought ran away at the first sign of trouble about 10 times and I eventually did somewhere around 5000 damage to him prior to finally dying, him using his Estus Flask about 15 times.
The thing with the Estus Flask is that even if you see the start of the animation and attack they’ll probably still get the heal off and potentially block prior to your attack actually hitting. You effectively have to hit them before they even start the heal animation due to lag, and even a strong hit isn’t guaranteed to knock them out of that animation. Naturally this makes being a phantom a tedius task unless you build your character to do nothing but an absurd amount of damage in a short combo, which is fairly cheap and skillfree, particularly if you use a fog ring.
Speaking of Fog rings I was promptly invaded immediately upon leaving the fight with the pansy. This sagely fellow had a fog ring, murdering any potential respect I might have had for him. The fog ring makes it impossible for other players to target you, that may sound bad but it’s actually fucking horrible as the vast majority of spells require lock on to hit with any accuracy or sometimes even come out. As you might imagine fog ring users are a reliable candidate for genocide in my book. Fortunately I eventually figured if I forced him into a narrow hall I could reliably damage him the more straightforward fashion and won the fight.
I began the next day with a few more invasions. The first ventured into Sen’s Fortress and died to something or other before I could even get to him. The game started me almost at the start in a hidden hallway so I had to methodically make my way up through the traps (just as dangerous to phantoms) and by the time I reached the top the host had died, what he died from I’ll never know. I now went to the forest nearby and had my first and only relatively amicable fight as a phantom, against a person who outgeared me tremendously. Still, I managed to do about 2000 damage to him before all was said and done and I died, after he healed himself a few times (not 15 at least).
There’s a new spell in this game in an obscure as hell place hardly anyone would have figured out in the aforementioned perfect world. Also in this location: the spell to light up your surroundings… Excuse me while I ceremoniously fall to my death in a fit of rage. The spell I’m referencing is Chameleon, which turns you into some inanimate object from whichever area you’re in at the time. Running around as a phantom without a fog ring makes it painfully obvious where you are, but disguising yourself as a pot can make the host go insane trying to find you. I now had a trump card to fuck with people who should be burned alive.
My next invasion was once again in Anor Londo, that land of overused multiplayer items. However, this time it was in the Twilight version and I rightly figured this person must surely be someone else trying to invade people in Anor Londo. I sought a wondrous hiding place and waited for about 30 minutes (well, mostly switched to the computer for 30 minutes), occasionally hearing footsteps go by. He eventually found the room I was in, though I was of course a pot so I probably could have just sat there and avoided discovery. In the room with me was our good buddy the Titanite Demon, this particular one having around 3500 HP, naturally he almost killed the host without me having to lift a finger, but he just barely rolled out of the room.
Unfortunately this douchebag was also a Fog ring user, so there wasn’t much point in trying to fight him as a phantom. I still went and did anyway, did 2500 or so damage to him (healed himself, naturally) and then chased him down a hallway. After a while I was randomly backstabbed while still chasing him down that hallway. Joy of joys! Still, I’m glad I wasted this asshole’s time, as this mindless sort of scum are what ruined my opinion of the Dark Souls playerbase.
I now started to run into the “Failed to create session” issue again and decided to hell with it. I pumped up my faith to 40 (farmed 650k souls in an hour and 15 minutes) and joined the hardest to join covenant. To join it you need 50 faith minus 5 for every time you helped someone else kill a boss as a phantom, I had my 2 and was glad for it. Prior to joining I offered another 20 humanity (1 gained from actual PvP! Well, sort of…) to the Red Orb covenant (Darkwraiths of Kaathe) to receive some extremely evil looking armor and a sword. This sword was just a normal sword with a cool attack pattern so I decided, ridiculous faith stacking build and all, to build it up to Occult +5.
In order to create delicious irony I decided to try Gold Phantoming (being in the Warriors of Sunlight turns your signs from white to gold, if you beat a boss you and everyone else in the group receives a Sunlight Medal to go with everything else) while wearing around my deathmask suit. Miraculously, despite my SL being 80 now I actually started finding people down in the Demon Ruins. I fought the easy boss in this area a couple of times and the harder boss a couple of times, doubling my previous success numbers. I now have offensive miracles and can toss lightning at NPCs/people (though it has no tracking so it’s effectively useless in PvP), which looks fantastic. I’ll probably finish the game on this character and simply start laying down signs everywhere I go on New Game +, as waiting around for people to summon you is boring as hell.
Something else I noticed amidst the madness: Trophies track across all characters, so if you found a rare ass weapon on one character but not another don’t fret as it will still count towards the total. I received the all magic spells acquired trophy despite only having 90% of the spells on either character. It would have been nice to know this as I wouldn’t have farmed nearly as much crap (2nd character got several rare drops off the first non respawning enemies), but I’m happy to spread occasionally useful random thoughts. Additionally: dodge jumping does not have any invincibility frames, makes no sense but there you have it.
My advice for pvp is as follows: Don’t approach Dark Souls as a multiplayer game. It is a fantastic single player experience with occasional support or interference which tends to be fun, but trying to repeatedly fulfill those experiences takes a lot of sitting around and waiting, and at least when it comes to fighting other players it often comes down to who used the cheaper mechanics/who got luckier with shield clipping if no one used a fog ring. If you’re trying to invade someone you basically have to be able to do 1200+ damage in one stamina bar or they’re going to be able to run away and heal while you can not use your estus flask at all as a phantom, which comes down to using specific 2 handers. Approaching PvP in any fashion but the most generic will ultimately lead to a tedious experience. There is a small amount of skill involved, but lag, luck, and willingness to be a cheap asshole are really the determining factors in these fights.
On the other hand if you have a few friends and want to do something like Dragon Eye dueling it’s quite possible to do so if you’re in the same SL range, there’s no block to multiple fights with the same person and assuming neither party wants to fuck over the other side it can be a lot of fun. Additionally Dragon Eye dueling actually has a useful, rare reward. It is far easier to simply farm humanity at a few particular spots in the game (or just buying it from patches) than waiting a half hour between invasions or being summoned. The top guy in the Book of the Guilty has about 500 anti-renown or whatever, the top “Servant of Chaos” has 10,000 humanity donated, so even if you did nothing but nonstop red orbing to the cheapest extent possible you’d still be 20 times slower than just straight up farming.
Well, there’s one true way to experience Dark Souls almost exclusively multiplayer and that’s by being the host (assuming you don’t “fail to create session”). With that in mind and considering my most joyous experiences were watching phantoms fail miserably at bosses I’ve made a new character. This time a Sorceror, the most divergent from my other two characters. (melee/heal/pyro and pyro/melee/miracle) I’ll try to keep my character as frail as possible (a whopping 8 starting Vitality). If both phantoms die I will either die myself or homeward out and I will not under any circumstances do more than 33% of the bosses’ HP, even if I have 100 + Soul arrows to do so. I’ll be starting with the Gargoyles and will find out just how easy the game can be made. I may try Gold Phantoming in New Game+ alongside this character, or I might save that for the week after (2-3 more weeks of posts, review after that sometime).
Undead Drake (Hint) – 1
Falling – 10
Gargoyles – 2
Balder Knights – 1
Black Knight – 2
Gaping Dragon – 1
Ratmen – 1
Lightning Serpentman – 1
Iron Golem – 1 (One Shot grab I didn’t even know he had!)
Ornstein and Smough – 2
Titanite Demon – 1
Havel – 1
Skeletons – 2
Four Kings – 4
Ghosts – 1
Other Players – 3
Competent White Phantoms/Hosts – 10
Incompetent White Phantoms/Hosts – 15
SL – 80
Time Played – 30 hours (~10 hours spent doing nothing)