Friday, 27 September 2013

Sucked back into Dark Souls.....

So I've had this game since launch, played it a bunch at first but never got too far into it.  This was mostly because I was not too good at the parrying and riposte mechanic.  So I defaulted to the playstyle that got me through Demon's Souls, which was the poke strategy of a spear and shield.  During this time, I was still into Call of Duty, so it was easy for me to unhook myself from Dark Souls, and I figure it would be something I come back to at a later time.

Return to Lordaran

So what got me thinking about Dark Souls again?  Well, I was watching a livestream of Kripp ( and he was trying out Dark Souls for the very first time.  It was very entertaining to watch someone play the game for the very first time, and it reminded me of the feeling I had when I was playing the game.  Most notable was it took Kripp over two hours (maybe three) to beat a boss battle at a part of the game which was much higher level than he was.  It didn't help that he was using the keyboard and mouse to play the game when the game was only designed with a controller in mind.  But watching him try out things, and learn the mechanics and patterns of the game, inspired me to dive back into Dark Souls.

After watching Kripp finally triumph over the stray demon, I decided that I should do a bit of research before getting back into the game, so I can have a better chance this time around.  More specifically, I searched for tips on how to parry and riposte.  I ended up on Vageta's youtube page where he has a huge series of videos ranging from tips and tricks to gameplay video of him being awesome at the game.

While searching for this video, I did see a lot of videos about lore, and that eventually lead me to EpicNameBro's youtube page where he goes into great depth about the lore of Dark Souls.  This is what really hooked me into the game.

Dark Souls Lore - Digital Archaeology

The game on the surface has a simple story, the opening cut scene sets up the world you end up in.  A lot of the back story of the NPCs and various classes are all hidden within the game's item descriptions, character dialogues and where the developer has placed certain items in the game.  By putting together these small tidbits together,  you end up with a very deep story.  You end up finding out that the developers made this game on top of very intricate story line.  The bosses each have their own back story, and some intertwine with each other, and some explain why the bosses are located where they are in game.  This has created a mini game for the devoted players.  The community has worked together to piece together the clues and have put together a very complete story of Dark Souls and all the characters involved.  Like archaeologists, they dig through the hidden treasures of the game, they look for clues in the world and uncover a compelling history of Lordaran.

EpicNameBro's Dark Souls Lore Series

It is this hidden back story that really hit me with the realization that the designers of the game had all this in their mind.  Carefully wording each item description, placing items, characters and statues throughout the game in specific places to maintain their vision, and then just leave it as is for players to discover is quite remarkable.  Much like how scientists continue to uncover things about ancient civilizations, we video game players get the same sensation when we begin to dive into all the lore of Dark Souls.

This is a drastic change from the mainstream games, especially with the recent release of The Last of Us, and other games where the designers intend you to ride their story as they wrote it, and they will provide you with all the information you need, all you are is enjoying the ride.  Which is not to say its a bad thing, as not everyone likes to play archaeologist.  But its nice to see something that isn't spoon fed to us gamers.

Much like the game Dark Souls is such a niche game, its story telling is just as niche.

Satisfying Mechanics

So what makes this game so immersive and great?  I personally feel a big part of it is the satisfaction you get from getting past a certain area or defeating a certain boss.  The difficulty is high for newer players, however, after a few tries, and some practice with some of the game mechanics, the enemies are quite manageable.

Another part of the game that I really like is the variety of move sets the weapons themselves have, and some unique weapons have unique animations which allow you to pick a weapon that suites your play style.  At the beginning, when I used a spear because it was safe, I could attack while still having the shield up.  As I got better, I realized that this play style is very limiting with its small attack area.  Also, since I was always hiding behind a shield, I could not effectively do any parrying.  After trying out some other weapons, I personally like the curve swords and katana class swords.

Parrying is a very powerful technique that I feel every player should be able to do.  Although most big bosses can not be parried, parrying will help you with the final boss, as well as it will speed up your farming in general.  While in the parrying animation, you are invincible, so any other attack from another enemy will not hit you.  The same goes for the back stab animation, so those two attacks become very important things to master.  All the best players parry and back stab, so that is why I knew I had to work on my own skills.

Dodging is also very important, especially for most boss battles where you can parry.  Once I realized that you needed to keep your equipment burden at 25% of your total available burden, you will have the fastest roll speed available (not counting the dark wood grain ring).  The way I looked at it is, a successful dodge means a 100% reduction in damage.  Plus it allows you to re position yourself either to attack or to heal.  I never really intended to play much PVP, so there's a slightly different mentality when it comes to PVP.  At this point, I just want to be able to survive and to get through the content at a decent rate.

"Grinding" or "Practice"?

Some people might not like the harsh difficulty, but I can assure you that if you practice enough, you can get through the game and really enjoy the late game content.  Some may consider it grinding, but its only grinding if you aren't improving your other skills in the game.  So as I told a good friend who took a crack at dark souls, treat it like practice.  Master the mechanics, memorize the map, and memorize the enemy locations.  Observe their moves so that you can anticipate and counter accordingly.

Soul Farming

Once you get good enough, and understand the upgrade system of the game, you really don't need to farm for souls.  Also, there is a very good soul farming spot in the middle of the game which makes it a lot easier to become over leveled before you finish the game.

In the beginning, I farmed for hours in the undead parish, only to later realize that you can summon both Solaire and Lautrec to the Gargoyle fight which then makes the fight quite trivial.  You can pick up enough upgrade materials along the way to upgrade your main weapon to a level where you can keep up your damage output against the tougher enemies.  The only catch is, you have to really know what weapon you want to stick with (i.e. one you are comfortable in using).  If you are having difficulties with any of the early game boss battles, there are lots of tricks to making your life easier.  Some of them, you can summon help from NPCs, and if you are playing online, you can always look for other players to summon to help you out.
Before I found the ideal farming spot, I spent a lot of time helping other players with boss battles so that I could farm large amounts of souls.  The only problem with this method is that it is not a steady stream of souls, but its the least amount of risk.

For my favorite farming spot, you will definitely need a high level pyromancy flame, and some great fireball and chaos fireball spells.  The spot is when you are in the archives, and sent to the cell after your first encounter with Seath the Scaleless.  The first time you show up there, a siren will go off once you escape, but once you clear it all out the first time and turn off the siren, subsequent escapes do not set it off.  So what I do after the initial breakout is I used chaos firestorm right as I exit the cell to kill the two serpent soldiers who just run past you.  If you time it right, you'll kill both, or you could just let them run off, but that's 1000 souls (more with overkill & serpent ring) that runs off.  After that, you can run down and kill the pisacas down at the bottom.  You can get to a distance where you do not provoke them, but you can hit them with a fireball.  I well placed chaos fireball can kill two to four of them (based on a maxed out pyro flame).  After clearing them out, you can run back up to the bonfire in the cell and reset.  Each run got me 10,000 souls (more with the serpent ring).  This was an easy way to accumulate more than enough souls to reach level 100, and to purchase all the spells in the game.

Can't wait for Dark Souls 2

It may not be a game for everyone, but if you are willing to dive in and give it a try, you will be rewarded for your efforts.  I personally feel that everyone should at least give it a try to at least experience a game that actually takes time and dedication to play.

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