Dead Babies and Dinosaur Butts

Posted by MarkWahlberg (4605 posts) -

I beat Dark Souls.

I can’t help but be conflicted in my feelings towards the game, and I think what it comes down to is that the game’s greatest strength – a sense of mystery, something few games can accomplish – is also what kept me from fully enjoying it. I know everyone made a big deal when it came out about how the game doesn’t fucking explain anything, and is too deliberately hard, etc etc. And while that was part of the fun, for me, I think the lack of communication to the player undercuts the result, especially in the endgame.

If you want to figure something out in Dark Souls, chances are you’ll end up online looking for tips and player guides. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and isn't required for playing, what it eventually means is that the games’ creators risk losing control of the dialogue they have with the player. This becomes detrimental in regards to both the narrative and the gameplay. For example: After beating Quelaag, you can enter a covenant with her sister. Of course, the game doesn’t tell you what this will do, so I looked it up online. Descriptions of the Chaos Servant covenant discuss what is necessary to save Solaire later in the game- because that appears to be the only reason to join – and because I don’t want Jolly Sunbro to die I continued to read. After doing all that I realized that in all likelihood, Solaire is ‘supposed’ to die your first playthough. I’d relied on the Internet telling me what the right way to play was, instead of letting the game play the story out the way it meant to.

This happened in a few other instances, but you get the idea. Arguably I did not have to look any of this up, and I accept that, but if the game had been willing to provide me with the bare minimum of what I needed to know in just a few key instances, it wouldn’t have created the impression that outside sources were a necessary part of playing the game. This might just be a particular hang-up of mine, but for a game based so much on exploration and discovery, pushing players to get their information from other sources means they won’t necessarily be getting it on the developers terms. Not knowing when I'm just being a dumbass and when the game is being deliberately obtuse can become very frustrating.

Like I said above, this doesn’t just apply to the story beats. Dark Souls suffers from some serious balancing issues, and again I think that at least partially comes down to communication problems. In the first half of the game or so, most of the bosses seem to require you to get other players in to help. Which is fine, usually. But after I got the Lordvessel, the only bosses that were in any way difficult were Seath, and the Bed of Chaos – the latter of which doesn’t count because it basically requires several tries to finish. Everyone else I could beat singlehandedly, usually my first try. It’s possible that I over-leveled at some point, but the fact that that’s even possible seems like bad design. Lord Fucking Gwyn was possibly the easiest fight for me in the entire game, and for that to be the note the game ends on was hugely disappointing. I don’t expect the game to say ‘you need to be this level to beat this boss’, but it seemed like I was swinging back and forth between ‘I am not ready for this fight’ and ‘I destroy all in my path ’. That wouldn’t be as big a problem in any other game, but in Dark Souls that undercuts a lot of the games’ tension. Strange as it is to say, I’d much rather prefer this had been just as difficult at the end as it had been at the beginning, learning curve be damned.

Despite all that, Dark Souls is still one of the best games I’ve ever played. I still have lots of questions*, and for me to finish a game and know that I’m going to play it again is one of the rarest and truest signs that it was a success. It's just so impressive to see what happens when a game is fully confident in its own design, and when it all works the way it's supposed to it's better than any other game out there.

* Questions such as: Why is Lost Izalith just a room full of lava and giant mummified dinosaur hindquarters? Why call it the Four Kings if they all look the same and fight you one at a time? Why did they make an XP farm using a swarm of unending baby skeletons? Where the fuck is the big toothy monster that was in all the trailers? And where the fuck is the pigmy guy from the opening cinematic? (wait, no , don't answer that. I want to find that myself).

#1 Edited by golguin (3927 posts) -

Dude, it's all explained in the game. You just have to look for it. Read item descriptions for equipment, weapons, items, etc. and you'll start to piece things together yourself.

There is also other things you said that are flat out factually wrong, but if you plan to play again I suspect you'll find that out on your own.

#2 Posted by golguin (3927 posts) -

Gah, I can't resist. Have fun in NG+.


#3 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5479 posts) -

The only thing that's in an extremely obscure spot is figuring out to use Divine weapons in the catacombs. Tomb of the Giants is ridiculous but still doable without cast light/sunlight maggot (though there's no reason you have to go there prior to Lost Izalith). Gwyn is extremely difficult without parrying and an awesome boss fight; not sure who popularized that as a cheesing method but its still better than Iron Flesh/Avelys. Gaping Dragon is the boss of the Depths; with the Master Key it's possible to skip that zone entirely.

#4 Posted by MarkWahlberg (4605 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: I did Tomb of the Giants last, actually. And I didn't parry Gwyn or try to game him at all, I just hit him a bunch with my sword until he died. I forgot how parrying even works, and I dunno what Avelys is... godammit.

@golguin: I totally read item stuff, but that's usually all vague background story stuff, right? Which is cool and all, but I meant more for practical advice. Again, I'm not saying they have to explain everything, I love that they don't and I like piecing it all together. I just think it opens up the game to being undercut when they carry it that far in some areas is all, if that makes sense.

Would you actually advise doing NG+? I was thinking I'd prefer to start over with a different build just to try out a different playstyle and keep things fresh, but if the game changes significantly...

#5 Edited by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

@markwahlberg said:

* Questions such as: Why is Lost Izalith just a room full of lava and giant mummified dinosaur hindquarters? Why call it the Four Kings if they all look the same and fight you one at a time? Why did they make an XP farm using a swarm of unending baby skeletons? Where the fuck is the big toothy monster that was in all the trailers? And where the fuck is the pigmy guy from the opening cinematic? (wait, no , don't answer that. I want to find that myself).

Most of the lore answers are in the game if you know where to look.

  • Lost Izalith: Seek out Quelana of Izalith.
  • Four Kings: The entire fight is a DPS check and you passed. The Kings spawn on a timer and you can fight multiple of them at the same time.
  • Skeleton Babies: They're not meant as a soul farm; they're the best way in vanilla Dark Souls to farm Humanity. Useful for levelling up in covenants or buffing yourself for PVP.
  • Not sure about the toothy monster. As previously stated, that's the Gaping Dragon. Maybe stop trying to break the game with the Master Key, huh? :P
  • The Pigmy: HHHHHHHRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH! Must. Not. Spoil. There are a few theories floating around out there and they're all pretty crazy.

Ready to explode your mind even more?

  • Is Gwyn waiting at the first flame to defeat you, or is he waiting for you to kill him? Maybe something else entirely?
  • The Painted World was created to lock things away. What items/creatures are hidden in there and who locked them in there and why?
  • Read and ponder the description of the Humanity item.
  • New Londo was watched over by three Sealers. You find one on the roof of the church. What happened to the other two?
  • Play through the game again. This time, don't talk to Frampt before beating the Four Kings and you'll meet Darkstalker Kaathe. Seems like a shifty fellow, but is he telling your more or less truths than Frampt?
  • Who is Solaire, really? And why is he searching for his own Sun?
#7 Edited by MarkWahlberg (4605 posts) -

@ravenlight: Haha, thanks. i was mostly being facetious with the questions, but thanks for the pointers.

Also, I forgot to mention this in the blog but I think it's kind of interesting how the plot seems to be roughly similar to that in God of War, what with you systematically murdering an entire mythology.

#8 Edited by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

@ravenlight: Haha, thanks. i was mostly being facetious with the questions, but thanks for the pointers.

Also, I forgot to mention this in the blog but I think it's kind of interesting how the plot seems to be roughly similar to that in God of War, what with you systematically murdering an entire mythology.

Interesting comparison. I wonder if GoW would work well with more implied narrative, too.

If you really read into it (not ingame items, just story theory) it seems like maybe you're just hastening the end of a pantheon that's pretty much dead anyway. And regardless of which ending you pick, the power balance of the world is completely changed. The question is, is it changed back to the way it was before the Age of Fire, or to something different entirely?

One more thing: If you do end up playing through again, look up some spoilers on how to complete Sigmeyer's quest (the Onion Knight). Probably one of my favorite stories in Dark Souls.

#9 Posted by golguin (3927 posts) -

@fredchuckdave: I did Tomb of the Giants last, actually. And I didn't parry Gwyn or try to game him at all, I just hit him a bunch with my sword until he died. I forgot how parrying even works, and I dunno what Avelys is... godammit.

@golguin: I totally read item stuff, but that's usually all vague background story stuff, right? Which is cool and all, but I meant more for practical advice. Again, I'm not saying they have to explain everything, I love that they don't and I like piecing it all together. I just think it opens up the game to being undercut when they carry it that far in some areas is all, if that makes sense.

Would you actually advise doing NG+? I was thinking I'd prefer to start over with a different build just to try out a different playstyle and keep things fresh, but if the game changes significantly...

On your first playthrough did you fight all the optional bosses and did you go to all the optional areas like Ashe Lake and the Painted World?

Do you have the DLC?

If you didn't fight all the bosses and explore all the areas then go into NG+. You'll find it a bit different with new surprises that I wont spoil.

What is your level? People usually beat the game for the first time between 50-80. I beat it at level 60 my first time.

#10 Posted by MarkWahlberg (4605 posts) -

@golguin: Painted World and DLC yes, Ashe Lake no. And here I was thinking I'd been a thorough explorer...

And now I feel silly. I was like, level 104 when I beat it. So... I guess maybe I overcompensated at some point. *cough*. Maybe I just sucked at the game, I dunno.

Also: I totally think I saw your name pretty high on the rankings for Battle of Stoicism at one point. Congratulations?

#11 Edited by Fredchuckdave (5479 posts) -

@markwahlberg: Your SL will be higher if you did the DLC for sure; the more you die the higher your SL will be in the end more or less. Predominantly people are around SL 50 when they beat Ornstein and Smough and gain 5-10 levels through the next 4 major areas, the DLC is basically like 2.5 major areas or so. Additionally if you somehow killed a blue phantom (or a white phantom killed them for you) they could easily give you 300k souls or so which'd be another 7-8 levels. There's no shame in being a high SL when you beat the game though I think there's a certain amount of shame if you're 40 vit/40 endurance.

#12 Posted by golguin (3927 posts) -

@golguin: Painted World and DLC yes, Ashe Lake no. And here I was thinking I'd been a thorough explorer...

And now I feel silly. I was like, level 104 when I beat it. So... I guess maybe I overcompensated at some point. *cough*. Maybe I just sucked at the game, I dunno.

Also: I totally think I saw your name pretty high on the rankings for Battle of Stoicism at one point. Congratulations?

Yes, you did see my name. At one point I was ranked 4th at the Battle of Stoicism ranking for singles SL 50 and below. That character is soul level 48. I've literally fought in hundreds of PVP fights (won most of them) with a good chunk of them being 1v2 so I feel pretty ready for Dark Souls 2 when it finally comes out. At this point I think I have around 300+ hours of PVP experience.

I suggest you go into NG+ with your current level and try not to level up anymore. There are lots of hidden magic spells in the DLC that get used a lot during PVP so you might want to look into picking them up if you didn't find them. The same goes for weapons and spells in the normal game.

#13 Posted by envane (1163 posts) -

if you still have questions about the pygmy , pay more attention to the npcs in the dlc , and read the item descriptions for the shit you get from the final boss of the dlc .. infact the talk option of many npcs will give you huge amounts of information sometimes , you just need to be persistant

#14 Edited by McShank (1629 posts) -

@golguin said:

@markwahlberg said:

@golguin: Painted World and DLC yes, Ashe Lake no. And here I was thinking I'd been a thorough explorer...

And now I feel silly. I was like, level 104 when I beat it. So... I guess maybe I overcompensated at some point. *cough*. Maybe I just sucked at the game, I dunno.

Also: I totally think I saw your name pretty high on the rankings for Battle of Stoicism at one point. Congratulations?

Yes, you did see my name. At one point I was ranked 4th at the Battle of Stoicism ranking for singles SL 50 and below. That character is soul level 48. I've literally fought in hundreds of PVP fights (won most of them) with a good chunk of them being 1v2 so I feel pretty ready for Dark Souls 2 when it finally comes out. At this point I think I have around 300+ hours of PVP experience.

I suggest you go into NG+ with your current level and try not to level up anymore. There are lots of hidden magic spells in the DLC that get used a lot during PVP so you might want to look into picking them up if you didn't find them. The same goes for weapons and spells in the normal game.

300 + hours of pvp. You sir are one dedicated person. I think I stopped pvping when people were still trying to just beat the game :D

I haven't Beat the DLC as I own it on both pc and ps3 now but yet cant push myself to play it through as it doesn't feel the same. But to the NG+ for OP, Play it at least once more for the extra fun. Starting over is cool and all but NG+ is where its at. Anything after that is just pushing yourself to see if you actually learned how to *play* the game or if you just powered your way through. I stopped at NG+7 before I started a new character and I feel like it stopped being New after the third play through and more or less became a challenge of skill timing and what can I push for limits on certain play styles whether its certain magic combo's or weapon combos.

And dont read online on how to beat it on your first play through >.< I learned that during demon's souls when it launched and is the reason I still play it as I dont know if there is still something i am missing or missed.

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