I recently stumbled across this thread in the DS2 forum: "Dark Souls 2 new features announced" and was amazed by the heat of the discussion about invasions and the ethics of gameplay in the game.
It made me realize how much players are misguided regarding what they should expect from a “souls” game and how they should approach it. Apparently a lot of people are still failing to adapt their perception of the game even after many years of existence. I hope reading this will help them change their perspective and help them relax and appreciate all aspects of the souls games including PvP.
To tackle the problem, I remembered the different phases I went through and what motivated the transitions to the next phase.
When I started playing DaS about 2 months after its launch, I was new to the series. I did not know what to expect and was not really enthusiastic at all about this game....there was nothing else interesting me at the time. I was hooked in about 10 mins... because of the physics of the game, the precision of the controls and the gloomy atmosphere...I played the shit out of this game in PvE for long hours and I sucked...I knew nothing, was struggling to make any sense of the mechanics of the stats etc....but what I dreaded above all was being INVADED....oh boy, the scarce few times I was invaded, my heart was pumping furiously in my chest, my palms were sweaty and I could not think straight...because I was AFRAID...what other games make you genuinely afraid ? None that I know except DaS...
For this reason, I hated being invaded, I avoided at all cost being human except when I was stuck at a boss that I could not out match alone (most of them back then but Ornstein and Smough above all else). Only the hope of finding good players helping me to overcome the obstacle allowed me to find the courage to expose my sorry ass to a potential invasion...I was then wiggling nervously on my couch while waiting for my summons to appear, hoping they would arrive before the dreaded red invader...ah, good times. Now obviously I am the invader or I summon them or actively open the doors of my world to invasion like most of you who read me now because we are all veterans of this game. But back then, fear was keeping me away from the human form.
OVERCOMING FEAR BUT STILL LACKING SKILL
With time, I learned the ropes and gained confidence...fear was slowly replaced but excitation when I was invaded because I knew there was a chance for me to win the fight...initially, I was the plain victim. Now I was a competitor. But in fact, I still had my ass kicked most of the time...and this is the very moment when I developed my “in game fair play value system”:
When I lost, it was to people backstabbing me, using magic (ah Homing souls mass) and the very much dreaded Wrath of gods, katanas topped up with some insane weapon buffs, backstabbing me while I was bowing...everything I was never doing because of either morality code I still stand or because I had no clue about the strength of weapon buffing for a long while because I thought (and I still do) that magic looked so fucking retarded that I did not want to use it. This got me extremely angry most of the time because it was soooooo cheap being one-shot by the bandit knife buffed with darkmoon blade with the hornet ring…pfff. Don’t get me wrong: I still think it is cheap but I do not get angry about it anymore. Why? Because I tried it.
Even though I found magic ridiculous, I knew it was overpowered…And I realized how right I was about that…don’t get me wrong: magic still sucks balls but it dishes some serious damage out. And so I tried to inflict on others what I was enduring all this time with a happy grin on my face thinking “there you go sucker, you shall know fear and defeat too”.
But it did not happen….sure I got away with some cheap victories mostly against other “noobs” but all together, I still got my ass whipped badly by people not even using magic most of the time…What? How do they do that? Rolling out of my wrath of mother fucking god? How on earth do they manage that? Freaking lags were obviously to blame, not my ignorance…right?
EMBRACING DIFFICULTY TO LEARN HOW TO PLAY PROPERLY
That is when I decided to take the game seriously ^_^
I started a low soul level run in the initial intention to see how long I could go at low level…I managed to beat the four kings at level 4 the first time. Then I finished the game at level 1, including the DLC. This taught me a few things:
- Gear is so much more important than level
- Skill is paramount: at low level, you cannot suck up damage but still out damaging the boss.
Strong from those observations, I decided to go in the burg and see if I could be like all these assholes who grieved me as soon as I was human over there. And guess what: yes of course I killed the targets easily…not even breaking a sweat in 90% of the cases. But in 10% of the cases, I still got beaten…because my opponent was a good player…a calm and patient adversary aware of what I had up my sleeves, waiting for me to rush to attack to punish me. Notwithstanding that one shooting targets was fucking boring, I decided to take advantage of my low level to learn rather than to win. I decided to replace all my super upgraded gear by simple entry non upgraded gear, both armor and weapons and to invade like crazy the burg. At this point, I was always dropping some large and green titanite shards to my “targets” before a fight because I could and thought it was elegant ^_^. And those fights at level 4 remain to date the best by a long league I ever had in the game. I faced noobs as well as trained players…nobody had access to cheap tricks (read spells here), the fight were never ended in a backstab by a buffed weapon. I discovered the depth of the fighting system, the distance, the rhythm, the faints because my opponents were forced into playing “fair” like me.
ACCEPTING DEFEAT IS REQUIRED TO LEARN FROM IT
As Fedora tells to young Indiana Jones: “You lost today, kid, but that doesn't mean you have to like it.”
Today I play dark souls peacefully because I play with my eyes open: when I am beaten, there is a reason. I want to understand it and this attitude makes me a better player every match. Before, I was angry at the slightest thing that I could not do or that I refused to use: someone using magic beating was like cheating, someone spamming great combustion was lame…today I know how to defeat these techniques because I accepted that they are being used and only from there did I learn how to circumvent them.
Dark souls is like a scientific meeting: your peers will destroy you as soon as they can. But by doing that, they will make you better; they will give you the answers to your questions as long as you are disposed to accept the answer.
WHY DO I LOOK FORWARD TO PLAYING DARK SOULS II?
There is nowhere to hide anymore…no more “I am in soul form so I am safe” means you will be forced form the start to fight for survival. This means you will not have the luxury to be afraid of other players because you are unexperienced. You will have to face invaders all the time.
And if you read me properly, this is a great gift that From Software is making to the community. If you understood the mind set that you should adopt while playing the souls game, you now see that this will force people to learn early from each other and hone their skills permanently.
The way of the blue, despite its pretty lame name, seems like my sort of sport:
Unlike many other players, I still play by the rules of my real me moral system: I do not enjoy trashing players, grieving etc…but I understand that others do. The satisfaction of trashing “noobs” will now be matched by the satisfaction of defending them…assuming that From Software creates enough incentive to do so, the split between experienced players should not be only towards the red invaders, but equally distributed between invaders (reds) and defenders (blues).
I cannot wait to see all the news techniques and tricks that other players will use on me that I never even considered. I will no doubt die a lot, hopefully a lot more than in the prequel…and that is fine…because in the Souls games, what kills you makes you stronger!