Saturday, April 28, 2012

So, I Started Demon's Souls

All at once, it was everything I expected, yet completely different than I anticipated, and I'm left feeling a little mixed about it all.  Demon's Souls is a brand of difficult that you simply cannot fathom until you've experienced it for yourself and even then, it's hard to condense into words.  It's even harder to form sentences elegantly with those words in a way that sufficiently expresses the 'Demon's Souls Experience' as it were, but I feel like I have to try it anyway.  At least, I -want- to try it, which is surprising and expected all at once as well.  In all reality, that's kind of what Demon's Souls is, or what it engenders - seemingly opposite things being used in the same breath as a valid form of explanation.

I honestly kind of hate Demon's Souls, but at the same time I think I will come to like it as something very very special.

My first experience with Demon's Souls is likely not my own, in fact, but the same experience so many first-time players have had.  I spent about fifteen to twenty minutes crafting the face of Mikhail Metzinger (Unfortunately, the character limit forced me to reduce this to Metziner), set him in the minimal garb of Barbarian because I liked the look of its Strength and Magic stats and started.  Just past the introduction, I began, stumbling through the controls in the tutorial area comprised of what I can only assume are practice dummies that can walk and, should you do absolutely nothing, kill you because that is, indeed, how Demon's Souls rolls.  I wandered without direction other than the path that seemed correct and eventually stepped through the veil that took me to the area with Vanguard, that which instantly makes what type of game Demon's Souls is obvious.

Harkening back to the olden days, Vanguard is a foe that you are not -supposed- to defeat, but despite this you may yet have a chance.  Personally, I died with a single hit to him, but I've heard tell that it is possible to kill him at that tender, starting point.  Wherein most games, you would have some sort of reward at this point for doing that which is 'impossible', the reward for doing such a thing in Demon's Souls, or so I've been told, is a foe even stronger, even deadlier.  You see, Demon's Souls wants to kill you.  And it will succeed, one way or another.  Now, I could say that this is because the game has a reason for this, which is to introduce you to the Nexus and to the core mechanics of the game itself, and that might be part of it, but make no mistake, it is not the whole truth of it.  Demon's Souls simply wants you to die.  Over and over again.  And over and over and over again.

I was not so ignorant of Demon's Souls to find the death to Vanguard surprising; in fact I expected it.  I welcomed it, for it was the initiation.  The trial by fire necessary to steep you down into the mechanics and into the game proper.  I had hungered for that moment for longer than I had realized and when it came, it was swift and it was sweet.  I had a moment of revelry alongside the game because it meant that it had now officially started and I was free to enjoy it as the vast majority of the internet insisted that I should, that I would.  After an unfortunate false start with Boldwin (I, er, didn't realize hitting the crates next to him would also -hit him-) I began with the archstone and went to the first real level.  That's when the enjoyment of the game came crashing to a halt.

In, again, what I imagine is not an experience solely of my own, I steeled the first section rather easily, expecting the soldiers to burst from the wooden blockades along the edges of the area and meeting them with brute force, the crush of wood against flesh, followed by looting those that bore anything and moving on to the next one.  At the giant doors, I went left as is the only way a new player can go, and a message emblazoned on the ground gave a rather cryptic message:  "Beware of an ambush" with a fairly decent rating.  I believed it, and, after a few moments of waiting, figured there was no such thing, at least not right here, and crushed the nearby barrels, hungry for hidden loot.  And it was then that a crossbow bolt to Mikhail's spine lead to his first non-Vanguard death.

That was fine.  Whatever, it was a death, if I'm going to play the game, I have to become immune to these things.  So I got back to the spot of my death with ease and charged down the alleyway, spotting the crossbowman early enough this time.  I circled around up the platform and clubbed his face in, finding a macabre satisfaction in the action and turned that same thirst to the two soldiers in the area.  Well, rather, -one- soldier, as the other unfortunately threw himself down the convenient pit of doom right next to this raised platform.  Entering the building nearby, I moved past the table to engage the soldier that showed up, but the ambusher from behind caught me off-guard and in my haste to try and maneuver myself in prime position to take them both out, I accomplished the exact opposite and met my demise once more.

This cycle repeated again and again - I would get further in and die, find my body and get further in, and as I did, my frustration grew.  This wasn't a challenge, this was trial-and-error; throwing yourself off a roof again and again to find where the ground was softest.  Eventually, however, after fighting a knight enemy atop a castled area with catapults and going through the fog beyond, only to die because I stood too close to an exploding barrel that I couldn't see until a thrown firebomb was an inch away from it, this was when I found my breaking point.  Filled with a bloodlust that could not be sated, I rushed the first grunt in the starting area and clubbed him across the face at the tail-end of a charge.....only to have my weapon break.  Unable to do anything beyond use it, which went as well as you can imagine, I died right there as three more grunts sought vengeance for their slain comrade and they found it in my rather untimely death.  Having lost all those souls, including those from killing that Knight-looking fellow twice, I was done.

Infuriated, I turned off the game, and turned to people who knew the game, recanting my tale to them and finding no solace in their words that this was normal.  Already, I knew it was and it offered no amount of comfort, nothing to soothe the pure -rage- at what I saw as design stuck too far in the past.  Because I didn't see it as a challenge, but simply tedious - You go until you die, find your body and use that knowledge to get a little further.  Again, it's not playing, it's merely throwing yourself at a wall until it breaks and it's not fun.  Of course, that was thinking grown out of frustration and I don't really think I consider that to be my final opinion on the game.  In fact, not but half an hour after I quit the game, I felt the urge to get back into it, which I've stemmed since that night, mostly by enjoying Just Cause 2 when that game isn't throwing entire fleets of helicopters down my throat for blowing up a fucking propaganda wagon are you serious I just obliterated two entire military bases and you get pissy when I blow up a van in a town?!  But I will get back into it.  Mikhail's journey is not over, not even close.

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