Sunday, December 30, 2012

An Intermission of Demon's Souls

Remember all those times when I said "I'm going to play Demon's Souls soon"?  No?  Because they were a long damn time ago?  Yeah, I hear you.  Under the weight of my new PS3 games that I got for Christmas, I felt something of an....well, not an obligation, but a want to clear off a few games from my backlog that have been sorely neglected before I leap into the new.  At the urging of a good friend (well, she was on my back about playing the game for a couple months....a couple months ago) I decided it was finally time to step back into the stone halls and stunning terrain of Boletaria to attempt to conquer the seemingly-insurmountable challenges the small kingdom has to offer me.  Even with something very much like hesitation, wariness, I trudged in to face the dangers head-on.

Compared to the last time I 'played' Demon's Souls, I can honestly say that I have been playing Demon's Souls this time.  Actually playing it.  Actually understanding the nuances, the methodology to it and the caution that one must take to actually enjoy the game.  I rolled a new character - rather a new attempt at Mikhail Metzin(g)er - as a wizard build, understanding that magic would be an invaluable tool and set upon the task of getting settled.  The tutorial section re-familiarized me with the controls of the game and dumped me unceremoniously into the lair of the Vanguard who killed me with a single swipe before I had a chance to do much else but let a flaming shot loose which did a respectable amount of damage nonetheless.  Dropped now into the Nexus, I did what I must - spoke with the folks there before I took the Archstone to the Castle for my real reinitiation.

The beginning section was familiar to me in a hazy sort of way and as the shambling undead rushed at me, I was able to take them out handily enough.  Their ambushes, slight as they might be, were still etched into my brain so not a one of them was successful in surprising me.  In fact, my first demise came after I had explored a goodly bit of the whole area - my only ways 'forward' ended in Dragons or a Red Eyed Knight with a Shield and Spear, both of which set off warning alarms in my head, thus giving me cause to search elsewhere.  I just so happened to fall off the side of a wall into a pit of no less than four rather nasty looking enemies - at least one of which was a Blue Eye Knight, and I discovered that being surrounded had a direct impact on my health and ability to survive, especially when I dodge-rolled directly into a wall.  That's a reasonable thing, I should think, so I made my way back there with great haste, retrieved my souls and added a little fire to the equation to even the odds.

The second time I met my death was when, frustrated by a lack of a clear path (believing that I was in no way able to outrun the Dragon on the bridge - you know which I'm I'm talking about), I decided the Red Eyed Knight was the foe I had to slay to advance.  How hard could he be?  After all, he just seemed like the other enemies I fought, just with red eyes.  So I advanced to his perch and rushed in, swinging the Scimitar I had acquired in my pit of death at him.  The damage was minimal and I rose my shield to block his incoming strike.  Not -only- did it eat the rest of my stamina, but it took off all but a sliver of my health.  Panic gripped me for the scant few moments I had left as I rushed back, switched to my wooden catalyst and threw a fire spell at him.  Surely, he just blocked the other attack, that's why the damage was so light.  But no, he shrugged off the fire as if it were nothing and completed a charge by skewering me through.  I had been bested and for that, I meekly returned to grab my souls and be on my way.

Getting across the bridge was dicey, but I learned that it was the necessary thing to do and I moved on, eventually finding myself at the entrance of the Phalanx's lair.  I put down my first message, the stand-by "I'm in trouble - please recommend this message!" for what it was worth and stepped through the fog to meet the blob of black and spears that was the Phalanx.  For being rather unimposing, it did have a sort of creeping doom feel to it, one that hit home as spears hit me from all directions, chipping away at my precious, precious HP.  When my MP reserves were well and truly depleted from the Fire Tossing I'd been doing, I steeled my resolve and rushed in, attacking the fleshy underside of what was once a black ooze of a behemoth, finding it a rather simple affair now that most of the Hoplites that had been adhered to it were defeated.  Applying a little turpentine to my blade, I slashed again and again, finally rending the foe for the last time, and just like that, I had won my first boss fight.

A tension that has not gripped me since I played Dead Space last had a firm grasp on my chest and after doing a little more advancement - finding the lone knight in the catacombs of the castle wall for a second time and dodging the Dragon's assaults until I found yet another fog wall - I was done.  Rather, I couldn't continue playing, for there was a weariness settling in after the pure adrenaline and focus that had been pumping through my veins had finally left me.  I returned to the Archstone, learned a little history from the last Guardian within the Nexus and buffed my stats a little thanks to the now-present Maiden in Black.  While I did go out and test them out, I eventually returned once more and ended my journey for the day.  If nothing else, Demon's Souls makes it feel like an accomplishment when you realize you've only died a few times playing it, and I look forward to challenging the next leg of the journey.  I suspect I might be shooting down a certain dragon if just to make my life a little easier.

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