It’s with no small degree of shame that I have to admit that I’ve never played Dark Souls. I know. I’ve heard so many great things about it since it came out, but what with one thing and another… one of those things being Games For Windows Live, which gives me hives… I’ve just never gotten around to playing it. I’ve never been very good at these games, to the point of playing Bayonetta on the easiest possible mode just to watch the craziness without my utter incompetence getting in the way. But, y’know, when everyone I know tells me that I’m missing out on the game of the generation, I listen. To the ones who don’t dribble when they talk, anyway. And even they seem to dig it.
So, in readiness for the sequel, it’s finally time to dive in and get damned. Evil, be ye warned!
Character creation always worries me. It’s an RPG thing, where you’re always asked to prioritise things like “Dexterity” and “Intelligence” without having any real idea of how the designers have done so. It’s always so easy to screw yourself over with these things and not realise until it’s too late. But at least here it seems to be based on class rather than point-spend, so any of these choices should be safe enough. Warrior seems to be the ‘dodge and avoid’ choice, with Knight more of a tank. I’m curious about the Pyromancer. “Swamp pyromancer. Casts fire spells and wields a hand axe.” Maybe I’m just showing my ignorance of mysticism, but that seems like a poor specialisation for someone in a swamp. Aren’t all their enemies too soggy to burn?
I pick Knight, because Knights seem to have the most sensible armour for fighting evil and I’ve played enough of these games to always be suspicious of magical classes. Much as I love mages, they tend to be glass cannons and so not super-effective in combat heavy games where the developers want more of players than for them to stand back and pelt fire until everything falls over dead. Bloody spoilsports…
Ah, and I get a free item? Well, splendid. I can have… what? From the music, I’m not sure a “Goddess’ Blessing” is going to be that useful. Certainly doesn’t seem to have done much for the rest of the world. “Twin Humanities” – well, a spare never hurts. But as a gift, ‘sometimes found on carcasses’ makes it sound more like opening a birthday present and finding a 10% off voucher for lunch at Frankie and Benny’s. Not sure I’m going to need a pedant on my travels. I ponder it, but as a sign of solidarity, I opt for the African-American Firebombs.
Right. Time for adventure! Game, begin!
“In the Age of Ancients, the world was unformed. Shrouded by fog…” declares the narrator, somehow not feeling the need to double-down on this Silent Hill stuff by adding. “And the textures… were a bit shit… and the resolution… oddly low. As decreed by the gods!” It’s a depressing looking world of dead things and desolate wastes, to the point that I’m not surprised someone decided to just set fire to it. That said, I think we can all agree that if this place has one problem beyond all others, it’s that the Lord of the Dead is called “Neato.”
Not a good start for any world. Very bad precedent. Just ask the Goddess of Justice, Whatevs.
But where do I come into this? The world is fading, the fires are going out. Definitely, this place is in need of a good hero, a noble hero, a hero capable of bringing light into the darkness. Why, apparently there’s an undead plague taking place, with carriers of an incredibly unimaginative ‘darksign’ having to be dealt with. That sounds like a good place to start. I will slay ALL these ungodly abominations. They shall know my righteousness, and my wrath.
Wait, what’s that? Okay, hang on a second, I think something’s gone wrong here.
“Yes, indeed. The Darksign brands the Undead. And in this land, the Undead are corralled and led to the north, where they are locked away to wait the end of the world. This is your fate.”
Okay. Well, this could be worse. My cell is nice and roomy, and my cellmate pretty quiet. Dead quiet, in fact. I suspect he may have been unfortunately misfiled in some kind of bureaucratic cock-up. This is the Northern Undead Asylum. I’m guessing the Northern Actually Dead Asylum probably gets a lot of our mail.
The option to ‘Pillage Corpse’ immediately offends me. If the intro showed us nothing, it’s that nothing good ever comes of pandering to one’s base instincts. To be a hero, you have to be a hero in the dark. Besides, it would be extremely rude. Instead, I examine the rest of my cell. For a hellish hole of rot and decay, it could definitely be worse. There’s a nice big skylight to let in the sun, so that’s a plus, definitely making up for whatever genius designed this place thinking there was reason to add windows overlooking solid rock walls…
And let’s not forget the facilities. A nice big bucket, and a free sack! Score! Not to mention some exercise equipment for doing pull ups and helping tone those atrophied muscles a bit. Okay, so they’re technically wall-mounted manacles, but look on the bright side – actually being imprisoned in them would really suck. My cell even has a little garden. Admittedly, something of a ‘doom moss’ theme does prevail in it, but it’s better than nothing. With a little fertiliser… again, hurrah for the bucket… I might be able to get some mushrooms going. Ideally a big enough one to act as an umbrella for when it rains through the skylight.
Yes. Positive mental attitude. That’s the key.
Day 2. At least I think it’s day 2, the sun hasn’t gone out in the last few hours. Tried to get to sleep, but didn’t have much luck. The Asylum kindly provides a big bed of straw, but I don’t seem able to lie down in it. Probably too excited about being in a new place with so much to discover! Also, the closest control is a roll, which gets into bed, yes, but then I jump right back out raring to get going. Turns out that cursed undeath is many things, but at least better than most Monday mornings. Why, I’ve never been fitter! I can run around my cell for hours without so much as losing a blip of stamina! It doesn’t even hurt a little bit to land flat on my back in full plate armour! If it wasn’t for the whole ‘end of the world’ thing, I’d totally recommend the Darksign fitness plan to everybody.
One thing’s for sure though, when I do get tired, the nap is going to be epic. And much thanks to my cellmate, who’s still yet to do anything but lie there, but whose bright soul of humanity is going to be an awesome night-light.
Bed bugs? I ****ing defy you to try and bite.
Running a few more energising laps around the cell though, I suddenly realise that I’m not alone. Yes, it seems that I’m sharing my cell with a whole family of cockroaches, and while normally I’d probably think “Eeew”, rotting corpses on the brink of entropy can’t really afford to be picky about their friends. If we can make some kind of connection, they could be good allies, bringing me… well, I don’t know what undead might actually need in the way of contraband, but it won’t hurt to have a support network if and when something comes to mind.
It’s no good though. They just don’t want to talk, though at least they’re not scurrying away in my presence, which makes me think that in future we might be able to overcome our differences and form a mighty alliance. I can use them as my eyes and ears in the outside world. In return, they get first dibs on my poop bucket. Everyone wins!
They listen patiently to my proposal, then get back to their random scuttling, presumably chewing it over. Clearly, I need to find some more common ground here. Oooh, I know! Sport! What better way to bring two allies together than a friendly game of beach volleyball? Wait. No net. No beach. Definite shortage of the Dead Or Alive cast. So scratch that. Okay. Well, we’ll make do with what we’ve got. How about a game of catch? I’ve even got a ball!
Okay, so I didn’t think that through very well. The Cockroach Alliance will have to wait. As they made it painfully clear, they got pretty badly burned on our last deal. In time though, I’m sure they’ll come around. Until then, I can at least treat them to a little human culture with a medley of great musical numbers. Nothing by bloody Andrew Lloyd-Webber though. The poor things have to stomach enough shit already.
Tragically, I’m only half way through Peter Molyneux’s new theme song when disaster strikes and I accidentally pillage my cellmate’s corpse. There may not be any laws against it, but it’s definitely a violation of good manners. I apologise, adding that if he accepts my apology, he should just lie there and decompose a little more. And also, if he wouldn’t mind my chopping off a limb and cooking it with a bomb if I feel peckish, just say nothing.
He is a generous and forgiving individual. I approve.
So, what has it gots in its pocketses?
Well, this is… problematic. And questionable on a number of levels. Have the last seven hours been completely wasted though? I think not! Yes, some heroes might seize upon this key as a boon, unlock that door and stride out to show the world its mistake by beating up the biggest and baddest things that live in it. But is that really right? Who am I to make that judgement call, especially when looking out of the cell door I can see exactly what happens to undead after time. They sit in their cages, howling and shrieking; brainless, immortal abominations that genuinely do have to be controlled, even if that method of control might be a little stricter than required.
Is that not an inevitable slide? Were it not, would the no doubt brilliant minds who gazed at this world’s problems and decided that an asylum of the damned was the only approach that made logical sense not have done all they could? The system may not be perfect, but as I see it at the moment, the odds of one person making a genuine difference to the death of the world are so incredibly slight that is it not the absolute height of selfishness to assume oneself to be different… to be somehow chosen? Why, that’s the kind of claim that gets people locked up in asylums for their and everyone else’s own good. And as far as I can tell, it seems to be working. Why would the powers that be continue dragging our corpses to this wretched place if it was having no effect?
No. The path of the hero cannot be built on such unknightly arrogance. It is one thing to be a cursed corpse awaiting the end of all things, but things could definitely be worse. Maybe at some point, I shall use this key to see if the Asylum has a library of some description, or possibly a games room, or an explanation of whether or not the giant demon down the hall is an actual employee and if so, what the deal is there. I wonder if it gets dental.
But nay, sidetracked have I been and no further shall I tread. The system may not be perfect, but it’s apparently held things together as well as anything else so far, and can only continue doing so if all of us are brave enough to play our assigned parts – whatever they may be, however dark our corner of the mechanism. Sometimes, the bravest thing is to do nothing at all, and simply have faith that in time, everything will simply sort itself out.
And I have faith in the system. To the very end of the world.
Which apparently isn’t far off anyway, so, y’know, whatever.
Now, I wonder if cockroaches can be taught to play Tic-Tac-Toe…