I'm using DSfix to push the internal resolution (slightly) past the default 1024x720, so hopefully the screenshots won't look like ass if you click the pics for a better view.
Okay I've gone with the most boring possible choices for sex, class, physique etc. and I've equipped a ring that apparently recovers HP over time. There's actually a 'tiny head mode' option in there, which also surprised me. Mostly because he looks like this before you turn it on.
In the Age of Ancients, the world was unformed, shrouded by fog.
A land of grey crags, archtrees, and everlasting dragons.
But then there was Fire. And with Fire, came Disparity.
Heat and cold, life and death, and of course... Light and Dark.
Then, from the Dark, They came, and found the Souls of Lords within the flame.
Nito, the first of the dead, the Witch of Izalith, and her Daughters of Chaos, Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight, and his faithful knights, and the furtive pygmy, so easily forgotten.
With the Strength of Lords, they challenged the dragons.
Gwyn's mighty bolts peeled apart their stone scales.
The witches weaved great firestorms.
Nito unleashed a miasma of death and disease.
And Seath the Scaleless betrayed his own, and the dragons were no more.
Thus began the Age of Fire.
But soon, the flames will fade, and only Dark will remain.
Even now, there are only embers, and man sees not light, but only endless nights.
And amongst the living are seen, carriers of the accursed Darksign.
Fortunately a kind passer-by has dropped some keys down for me, so I can make my daring escape.
I gotta mention that I'm loving the atmosphere and art design. There's no music, just the sound of his rattling armour as my dude stomps around. And he really does control like a guy covered in metal, rather than some video game ninja. There's some actual weight to his movements.
Okay, lets see what's behind door #1.
Why does an asylum have a demon anyway? Is he a demon that works for the asylum, or does he belong to a species of demons named for their tendency to nest in asylums?
I checked my journal to see what my current objective actually is, but I couldn't find one. A journal or an objective. Guess I'll go ringeth the Bell of Awakening then.
I've got a block button, a parry button, regular and strong attack buttons, and I can roll. The trick seems to be to have my shield up when they're swinging, and wait for my chance to counter attack. It's all about learning the delay for each attack and getting the timing right.
Actually it seems to be a good idea to keep the shield raised all the time, as it seems to deflect most/all the damage heading my way, as long as I'm facing my attacker. Of course while I'm swinging a weapon, I'm not blocking, so I need to be careful.
AROUND THE CORNER AND THROUGH A DOORWAY.
The guy likes waving a massive hammer around, and getting out of the damage radius isn't that easy, especially when I need to be in close to hit the guy. Plus even when I've gotten some distance, I have to stop for a few seconds to drink a health potion, giving him a chance to jump over and smack me while I'm defenceless.
Still, I nearly had him, on my first try as well. Next time, he's had it.
A COUPLE MORE TRIES LATER.
Well it's nice to have options, but there's no bloody way my first choice is going to be a place called Blighttown, so I'm heading off towards the city instead.
A FEW STAIRS LATER.
The game looks a little dated, but the visuals definitely have some charm to them. It's a surprisingly down to earth and Western looking game for a Japanese developer I reckon, and it's a good fit for the less than superhuman protagonist.
Hey, the bonfire didn't refill my flasks! I guess I only get a refill if I drop below five, which is kind of annoying because I need them to live.
I'm trying to using the shield, but once they've knocked me off balance I'm just a big open target for them while I'm recovering. Every time I make a move or absorb a hit, it costs stamina, and once it's out I'm unable to fight back until it recharges. I suppose the stamina bar's there to stop players running into enemies and just hammering the attack button, but whenever I'm facing off against a room full of bad guys I'm usually too preoccupied trying to survive to check what I have left.
A FEW MORE TRIPS TO THE BONFIRE LATER.
I'm just glad I had the health left to survive it, though I'm running dangerously low on 'giving a shit'.
I sorted the two snipers out without much effort, then climbed back down and strolled off back along the city wall.
I'm trying my best here, but it's kind of hard to see what I'm doing with this guy's ass filling the screen. I know, I'll run back to the ladder! I managed to defeat that Asylum Demon earlier by diving down on it from a ledge. Maybe I can do the same thing here.
The game lets you retrieve your lost souls from your previous corpse, provided you can reach it without dying again. But there's no way I'm going to make it back here without a few "YOU DIED"s along the way.
SIX "YOU DIED"S LATER.
Hang on, I don't remember these stairs. Did I just smash open a secret path?
It's just a shame my gear is apparently better than anything he's selling or else this might have been any help to me. I guess it's so that all those rubbish other classes can upgrade to become half as awesome as my knight. I'll grab a bottomless box though, as being able to store items sounds cool.
I wonder what this guy wants all these souls for anyway. Is he levelling himself up as well? Man will I feel dumb if it turns out he's the last boss and I've been making him stronger throughout the game. He did sound a bit 'supervillain' when he laughed in my face.
THIRTY MINUTES LATER.
He wants me to... actually I wasn't paying any attention. All I care about is reaching the next bonfire checkpoint before I inevitably screw up. And yeah, he laughed at me as well. Everyone laughs at me. I feel like all these characters are scheming together behind my back and I'm the punchline to their private joke.
If this dragon thinks I'm scared of him, he obviously doesn't understand this situation at all. You see, I'm the one with the uninstall button, and if he pisses me off then in two clicks he'll cease to exist. Sure I won't be able to play anymore, but I think somehow I'll get over it.
Oh wait, hang on... I recognise this place. The place I keep respawning at, the fourth bonfire I lit, way back when I first entered the Undead Burg. I've gone around in a huge bloody circle!
Still, maybe it works better this way. I've opened up a new shortcut so I've lost no progress, and this place has convenient access to that shop.
Speaking of moves and fighting back, I shamefully admit that it's taken me this long to notice that my heavy attack uses up way more stamina than my light attack, and lowering my shield lets me recharge it faster. So that's why I've been getting destroyed in fights; I keep using up all my stamina too fast with heavy attacks.
I decided the noble thing to do in this confrontation would be to make a run for it, while I still had a shred of health left. Unfortunately I went and ran straight off a ledge...
LATER, AFTER FINALLY MAKING IT BACK THAT FAR AGAIN.
This is the 21st century, dammit. We've moved past that!
They should have called this Dark Souls: Prepare to Replay the Last Quarter of an Hour Edition. I think that's what really frustrates me about this game more than anything: the distance between the bonfires. I'm not usually a huge fan of difficult games, but I can put up with them as long as I feel like I'm slowly getting somewhere. Being set so far back after each failure though is just... soul crushing.
Also the targeting loves to spin me around to face the opposite direction sometimes, when it thinks it'll be a laugh. I'll be creeping along a ledge, hundreds of meters above the ground, trying to target a rat I've just noticed through a doorway, when before I know it I'm facing the wrong wall and falling backwards. There goes five minutes of gameplay and a few hundred souls.
It's a shame though, because if there was an optional easy mode with quick saves or whatever I'd probably be liking this more, because the gameplay is actually very solid, the levels are well designed and the story... well, I haven't made it far enough to reach a story yet, but I'm sure it's a very nice one. But my idea of a fix would probably only end up breaking it, as this game was never intended to appeal to me in the first place; the developers don't give a fuck about me and rightly so. Anyone buying this with ideas about getting to see all the content they've paid for without a massive struggle has been sadly misinformed about the product.
Plus if they'd compromised on the difficulty, they would have had to drop its unique selling point of it being a bastard hard oppressive nightmare of a game and without infamy I imagine it wouldn't have been nearly as popular. They stuck to their guns and made a game with deliberately niche appeal, and I think it was the right choice to make.
Though I still haven't given up on ringing that first bell. The second one I couldn't care less about, but the first is so close now. With some more levels, better equipment and some practice, I bet I could make it far enough to get completely stomped by the next boss in a day or two.
If you have any thoughts about Dark Souls, all those mean things I said about it, the state of game difficulty in modern games, the site in general etc. feel free to leave a comment!