now, I don't mean grinding XP. Or grinding Titanite chunks, or humanity, or whatever. I mean The Grind. That kind of gauntlet you used to run in the arcades or while playing Roguelikes. For me, I'm twenty-something hours into Dark Souls, and I'm starting to hit what runners call "the Wall." From Firelink Shrine all the way to Sen's Fortress, I was having a fairly decent time and taking breaks for a day or so after extended play sessions, but after clearing Sen's Fortress... I don't know. I feel hollow, in a way. I've had help on my journey, though. A guy on Xbox Live I ran into with the GamerTag of Rishain has been incredibly helpful. From discovering Private Chat can be used to coordinate with a Phantom to him teaching me how to upgrade weapons, and this one special guy named Humgard who led me all the way to Quelaag and helped me defeat the spindly bitch in less than ten minutes. That's right, guys. I got through Blighttown in 10 minutes.
I'm not bragging, I'm trying to illustrate how the game can go from stupendously easy auto-pilot to the most punishing experience I've had in ten years. And I used to be into BDSM. Rishain was a hell of a player. All night, for all the wee hours of the morning for a straight week, he departed sage advice from a nasally, latin-american accent. Wisdom I committed to memory in order to better my play. If Rorie and the Drake Sword got me to the Gaping Dragon, surely Rishain could get me to Anor Londo. And yet, I don't feel like playing anymore.
I'm level 42, and I'm rolling a +5 Claymore with a bad-ass 100% phys. resist. shield. I've also got Stone Armour, and Goldhem Cloak/whatever the hell it's called. The armour you get when you trigger the Demonic Discharge, or Fiery Discharge, whatever the hell that thing is in the Demon Ruins. The one with the glowy lava dicks growing out of its face.
And yet, I feel like stopping. Not because the game is bad, I quite enjoyed my time with it. I feel like stopping because, during one conversation with Rishain, he delightfully informed me that I had another 40-60 hours left to go. I had so many areas to explore, so many bosses to defeat, and he made it sound like everything I had done up until Sen's Fortress was a trivial thing. Maybe it was, in comparison to what lie ahead. It was then I asked myself, "do I really want to commit to this?"
And that's where I am. That's what I mean by The Grind. The Grind is wearing on me. I'm getting tired of always running into new, powerful enemies who can whoop my ass in a couple hits. It feels like, for every time I take a step forward, where I start to feel in control of the experience, the game shoves me on my ass and tells me to remember my place. For all my experience, the techniques, the upgraded weapons and armour, I'm still, twenty-something hours in, almost as powerless and fragile as when I started in the Undead Asylum.
Perhaps I could power through if the story had more beef to it. I'm a big story guy. I like stories. I can put up with The Grind so long as the story is there for me. It's how I powered through Dragon Age Origins on the Xbox. But this? Outside of vague cutscenes and almost Lynchian dialogue with undead NPCs, there doesn't seem to be much here for me. I can understand that this isn't the kind of game where story matters, but it leaves me with one less reason to soldier on. Especially when watching the ending cutscene is a Youtube search away, I'm wondering, why should I bother?
RPGs, in the end, allow you to overcome and accomplish once you hit a certain point. Through accumulated experience and knowledge of enemy tactics, you can turn even the toughest enemies into your personal kitchen bitch. Dark Souls isn't like that, and I both love and hate it for that very reason. So here I am, at a crossroads of sorts. Do I put this game down and let it go, or do I try to soldier on?
So in any event, what about you guys? How do you deal with "the wall?" How do you push through The Grind? I'm curious to know what drives you guys to not only finish the game, but start again.