Lo there, scaleless dukes and furtive pygmies alike. If there's anything I like to write about way too often, besides just "everything", it's randomizer hacks. For as much as I tend to steer clear of roguelike games and those that prominently feature procedural generation due to how creatively stifling it can be to rely too much on algorithms, there's something about randomizer hacks in particular that I find so appealing. I think because they offer a chance to revisit games I've previously enjoyed in full once or twice before and getting to experience a whole new side to them; in some cases it's just the novelty of wandering around and seeing all the new enemy and item placements, but occasionally the way I approach the game has to necessarily change to account for some unexpected new hurdle or roadblock. I've tried out a few in the past based on older (usually between 16-bit and 64-bit) games like A Link to the Past and Super Mario 64, but the one I've really been wanting to try out was the original Dark Souls. Now that I finally have a half-decent system that can take the punishment of a modern(ish) game running multiple ridiculous mods at once, the timing seemed auspicious.
Dark Souls is, of course, the second Souls game and my personal favorite (Bloodborne aside, which can't be played on PC, still, for reasons as unfathomable as the Great Old Ones themselves). It left such an impression on me the first time I played that I'm near-certain I wouldn't get lost even if all the key items got jumbled up and dropped in unfamiliar new locations. Likewise, the skills I sharpened while dying to that game's bosses over and over has given me an (if not entirely warranted) self-confidence to weather the worst Lordran has to throw my way. There's limitations to the process of simply remixing all the items and enemies, and deep down I know it's going to be essentially the same experience, but poking around some randomizers seems like a perfect excuse to jump back into that world and possibly try a new character build in the process.
I've presented here a few scattered screengrabs of my time in the newly-revised Dark Souls, passing through the Undead Asylum on the way to Undead Burg and Undead Parish and eventually locations that don't have "undead" in their titles and yet are even less pleasant. First though, I'll get into what randomizers I've been using and the settings I've opted for.
For Items, I've shuffled all the key items including the Lordvessel (which lets you warp, so I was tempted to leave it be; instead, I'm now hoping I get it early) and the four Lord Souls. I liked the idea of NPCs wearing random mismatched armor sets—why should they be any more fashionable than I?—and I've replaced all the "low-level" soul-gaining items (which so far has been all of them besides boss souls) because I was curious what the randomizer would produce instead. This, of course, does not mean I can avoid collecting all those white glowy items from the corpses lying around inopportune places because any one of them might be holding onto a vital key item. Ditto for previously inessential locations like Painted World or Ash Lake. It's going to be quite the journey to the four ends of this accursed land to recover everything I need, though there's always a chance that every essential item just miraculously drops into my lap while on the critical path.
With the Enemy Randomizer there's potential to really screw yourself over and I'll admit to being too much of a wuss to mix bosses in with regular enemy placements or opt for a fully unbiased enemy swap. I've instead opted for the "difficulty curve" with the "a bit loose" modifier, which will likely provide but not guarantee enemies that I can actually deal with in those early areas. Of course, a true Souls player knows to run past everything if they can help it and ignore the souls if they don't need them in that moment in time, but on the whole Undead Burg can be a pretty rough start with all those narrow paths and more so if there's something real nasty sitting on them. As we'll see, the promise of a tough but not insurmountable trial proved to be an attainable dream, if perhaps one that still highlights my cowardice. I misread the "not replacing NPCs" setting: I thought they meant hostile NPCs, such as Havel or the invaders, which I still wanted to meet. It does in fact mean all of them, including friendly ones who can still be talked to even though they're a basilisk or a skeleton or something now. I kinda wanted to keep them all human for the stupid armor thing though, I'll admit it.
The Enemy Randomizer also had a few more options (you can see the Other Options tabs in the screenshot) and those include not randomizing the mimics (I randomized them), some conditions relating to boss adds (the second gargoyle or the Pinwheel clones, for example, which have also been randomized), and a way to nerf the chances of Gwyn showing up as a normal enemy replacement since having to fight the final boss while jogging around Blighttown is probably too much to ask. I also left T-posing on for certain enemy spawns because who doesn't love T-posing? Pop those Christ Airs, my undead brahs.
Anyway, these are two pretty robust randomizers that I'm thankful still accounted for dirty casuls like myself wanting to check out some dumb randomizer fun out of pure curiosity rather than the hardest of the hardcore "run around naked and solo Malenia" types looking for new wrinkles and speedrun opportunities in a game they've already mastered and then some. To you two fine mod-development persons, I doff whatever ridiculous hat the randomizer will spawn me with.
For this annotated screenshot LP I've decided to mostly stick to the ways the randomizer has caused me to deviate from my usual behavior, either in terms of figuring out where to go or how to overcome the obstacles in front of me. That is, as opposed to taking a screenshot everytime an item/enemy is different and going "wow, the item/enemy is different, how strange is that?" like I've only just now realized what a randomizer does (though I might be tempted to make a few of those regardless).
Due to the way the enemy randomizer is set, I don't have full freedom from the start to go anywhere I wish without suffering an ignominious fate: the new enemies are still approximately matched to the difficulty of the foes that used to occupy their spots so if I were to, for example, head into the graveyard from Firelink I can expect some heavy resistance that won't get any easier to cope with should I go as deep as the Tomb of the Giants. That said, if I can get some lucky item drops it might alleviate the difficulty added by the new monster locations. How much easier or harder the game may become is one of the more entertaining surprises that comes with a randomizer, after all.
Side-Note: "The Sacrifice" i.e. the protagonist. Since all the spells are jumbled up with the rest of the items and since I've never ran one before, I've decided to go for a mage-type build. Since that might take a while to craft—I'll need a decent Intelligence stat first, and that's going to come after I've boosted Endurance and Vitality to survival levels as well as my Strength (and Dex) for a decent weapon—I went with the Pyromancer starting class so I could get some practice fighting with witchcraft in the meanwhile. Pyro also starts at level 1 and has a decent array of all-rounder stats, so it's generally the best choice regardless of your intended build.
My starting gear included a Pyromancy Flame +2, the extremely bulky Golem Armor from the Iron Golem boss fight, the Helm of the Wise that Domhnall (the weird dude in the sewers) sells, and the blood-stained skirt from the Dead Firekeeper set. No gloves or other gear. For some reason, I start with the "Undead Rapport" pyromancy spell which I've never been able to get to work.
With that, let's review our options:
- The Bell (Hell?) Gargoyle fight is a nightmare at present. Skipping until I get better gear or some non-fire spells. Ideally I'd like to focus on ranged attacks so I won't have to swim in endless lava barf.
- Lower Undead Burg needs a key to open, as far as I recall. Haven't chanced upon it yet.
- The remainder of Darkroot Forest needs the Crest of Artorias to get past that door. Haven't chanced upon that either.
- The one area of Darkroot Basin I haven't explored yet has a roided-up electricity knight guarding it. No thanks.
- The Valley of Drakes has Smough patrolling around, but I think I can run past him if push comes to shove (and I'd love to shove him off the cliff). That means dealing with Blighttown right after, though. I'd laugh long into the night if all the monsters there were replaced with those with no poison resistance.
- There's the Firelink graveyard and what lies beneath, but those monsters might still be too hardcore. Maybe after I've hit the bells.
- Sen's Fortress is currently closed for business. Then again, all those snakepeople managed to get out somehow...
- That leaves New Londo, which I can access from Firelink. There's another vendor down there I should talk to as well (the imprisoned magic blacksmith guy). Kind of a mid-game area, but I have little recourse right now—since all the ghosts spawn over the lake, I wonder if their replacements will just sink like rocks? Might be amusing to find out.
At any rate, we're done here for today. I intend to keep popping back in and working my way through the transformed game whenever I have a gap in my backlog-clearage, using what options I have available to make life easier (I'm definitely going to have to keep visiting vendors: as well as the low-price treasures there's no way of knowing if they're carrying something important... which I guess also means I might have to kill them at some point too) and working towards a viable mage build, building stats like Intelligence and Attunement that I'd always previously ignored. If I could get fewer DLC spawns going forward as well, that'd be great. I'll pen another one of these updates once I'm done with the game or close to it, highlighting any unexpected hardships that may have arisen.