More Like Dork Fools Pee, or, Dark Souls III

Dark-Souls-3

Well now aren’t you just the fanciest little pain in the ass.

Power is a fickle little bitch, so sayeth Dark Souls III, the purported final entry in developer From Software’s unforgiving dark fantasy franchise.

Once again Dark Souls III drops you off in a decaying world devoid of both happiness and exposition and sends you off into battle against twenty or so juggernauts and leviathans with the power to utterly destroy you physically and emotionally. When you are inevitably destroyed you don’t respawn at your last save, you die and come back to life. It may seem like a trivial difference but no matter how many times you may have died playing Mario, Mario has never died. So far as the world and mythology of Dark Souls is concerned, when you die, you die. You just keep coming back.

Mechanically, you’ll lose any souls (the in-game currency used to upgrade your character and acquire resources) you had on you, but you’ll respawn to fight another day. You’ll die and come back over and over, your own patience the only truly dwindling resource in your character’s battle against the powerful. And when that patience finally pays off and you slay one of Dark Souls III’s many goliaths they, unlike you, will stay dead.

It’s one hell of an insight into the dynamics of power. All that is necessary for the destruction of power is the destruction of the powerful. You kind of have to be alive to hold dominion over anything. The power of your daunting adversaries depends on their survival. But you? You are the powerless, the subjugated masses personified in a single avatar. You control nothing, you have not castle or kingdom, but you can die and die and die. There will always be more of you. You’re older than even your most ancient opponent and you’ll long outlive even your most vigorous.

You’ll far outnumber them too. You are countless. You are everywhere. The status of your oppressors depends on their location, confining them to only the principalities and arenas over which they hold sway, but location means nothing to you. Whether you stand atop dizzying castle heights or slum through poisonous abyss your status remains the same.

You can be a lot of things in Dark Souls III. Lady. Dude. Fat. Fat on top skinny on the bottom. Magician. Magician with floppy hat. Fat on top skinny on the bottom dude magician with a floppy hat, two shields and a dress. But regardless of the form you take on your adventure into Lothric, you are in your very marrow, the 99%.

Those you defy stand taller and hit harder than you can, but where they are finite you are endless and ultimately shackled only by the limits of your own persistence.

Where the precise story of the latest Dark Souls remains characteristically elusive, the game mechanics and lavish art direction communicate a narrative of railing upward against bloated, corrupted power in a world that’s been poisoned by it.

As has become expected from the franchise, Dark Souls III is a piece of master craftsmanship set in a world as shallow or deep as your engagement with it.

As has also become expected from the franchise, Dark Souls III is a pain in the ass.

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New Lap Record, or, More Like Bloodboring Am I Right? (The Blog Post)

bloodboring logo

It only took me a twelfth of the time I spent beating Dark Souls to beat its spiritual sequel Bloodborne. Which is to say rather than roughly four years it took me roughly four months. And even then the ending I got this weekend, while “truer” than some, was not the absolute “truest” of them all. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna waste time hunting down the final third of an umbilical cord (don’t worry about it) while the Batmobile is just waiting to be driven in Arkham Knight.

But, should you play Bloodborne?

Well, on the one hand I hold a deep intellectual and literary reverence for director Hidetaka Miyazaki’s games. Their particular brand of storytelling, one deprived of exposition to the point of being malnourished, vying for scraps of half-truths in item descriptions to concoct some semblance of a narrative meal, is captivating. Depending on the amount of digging and extrapolating you’re willing to do Bloodborne can be a kiddie pool or the Marianas Trench and whether you want to splash around a bit or explore the abyss Bloodborne insists you take an active effort in divulging the secrets of its mythology, flat out refusing to draw a line from any one point to another.

It’s a fascinating way to tell a story, one that keeps me intellectually engaged and curious even now, as I look back on the world of Bloodborne from the rearview mirror of the Batmobile. But, that curiosity starts to fade around the tenth time you drop into a bottomless crystal moon lake to get clobbered by a slug with a million legs and a rock head who is supposed to be a spider and its pack of relentless goons who actually are spiders.

Spiders have EIGHT LEGS! GO TO HELL!!!!

Spiders have EIGHT LEGS! GO TO HELL!!!!

Much like its Souls predecessors, Bloodborne prides itself in punishing anyone arrogant enough to take it on. While the challenge is often just engaging enough to bait you onward at some point you’ll hit a wall. It might not be the wall your friend hit or the wall(s) I hit, but it’ll be a big old brick wall and you’ll hit it and hit it and hit it. On several occasions I found myself wishing I’d never bought Bloodborne. I contemplated the blissful ignorance of never delving into Yarnham, the games werewolf-infested, Victorian hellscape. I’d fall asleep at night with a smile on my face, drifting off into a dream world in which Bloodborne didn’t exist. But always, always Bloodborne would gnaw and nag at me, unfinished, whatever wall I hit standing defiantly in the forefront of my mind like a Kubrickian monolith.

Bloodborne holds the distinction of being the only game to illicit a physiological response from me. When health bars of certain bosses would dwindle below that final quarter my arms would tingle and my hands would start to go numb. It was weird.  And the dopamine rush when that health bar emptied? An iron corset taken off of my soul.

But the joy I got from Bloodborne was more often than not purely out of spite for Bloodborne. And boy oh boy does Bloodborne spite me back, various threads and unexplored nooks and crannies still tugging at my cape while I patrol Gotham’s rainy streets, reminding me of prey slaughtered valiantly with my hunter’s axe.

I’ve seriously contemplated shattering the game disc with a hammer and framing the splintered shards like a trophy so that I can’t return to Bloodborne.

Bloodborne is the kind of game you’ll only truly love after you learn to truly hate it.

So should you play it?

Nope. You shouldn’t.

And if my word is enough to discourage you, you absolutely shouldn’t.

 

For in depth, in character coverage of my entire Bloodborne playthrough check out the audio diary of my character, Butt von Fart, on Pony Tricks Podcasts, available on PodBean and iTunes.

 

Pony Tricks Comic Cast Bonus Episode 22.1, or, The Day After Free Comic Book Day 2014

It’s the day after Free Comic Book Day and, like, 10 years after the day Dark Souls was released. But here I am talking about Free Comic Book Day and playing Dark Souls. FUN FUN FUN. BONUS BONUS BONUS. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. ROCKET RACCOON. FUTURES END.

Dark Souls: Year Three, or, A Glowing Recommendation and a Stern Warning

The video game Dark Souls came out on October 4th 2011. I bought it that day. The sequel, Dark Souls II, came out on March 11th, but I haven’t bought it yet. Because I still haven’t beaten Dark Souls.

Yeah, yeah. Shut up.

No worries, he's totally on your side.

No worries, he’s totally on your side.

Dark Souls is an open-world RPG, you know, like Skyrim. Except Dark Souls actively punishes you for dying while simultaneously trying its absolute hardest to butcher you.

It’s a real romp.

So why am I writing about a three-year-old game that I both hate to Hell and have yet to beat? Because goddamnit, I respect it.

And I want you to play it in hopes that you will be worse at it than I am.

The Souls franchise (the aforementioned Dark Souls I & II and the original installment, Demon’s Souls) requires the player to observe and analyze, to apply critical thinking and above all else to learn. Dumb, right? It is built to be a challenge, rather than a choreographed sequence of set pieces masquerading as “off the rails.” But where a game that is difficult just for the sake of being difficult would just infuriate me (AMIRIGHT fellas?) Souls continually impresses me with its second-to-none, honest-to-god craftsmanship.

Where your standard issue console video game is a Gibson Les Paul from Guitar Center, Dark Souls is a gorgeous, one of a kind classical guitar, crafted by the wrinkled and storied old hands of a luthier whose father and grandfather before him were luthiers and whose blood, sweat and tears run thick with song.

Oh, look. He's dead.

Oh, look. He’s dead.

The world of Dark Souls is staggering. It isn’t an expanse of map full of dozens of entrances to dozens of smaller maps each separated by a load screen, it’s a sprawling collection of gorgeous vistas, bleak catacombs and everything in between, all organically flowing into one another.

Time after time I’ve fought my way through difficult portions of the game, taken an odd turn and found myself back at a hub I’d frequented hours earlier in my playthrough. Everything in Dark Souls is connected, like a terrible, homicidal hellscape turned cyber ecosystem. And that environment is only heightened by Dark Souls unique online-play.

Players can leave messages for one another in the world. Maybe they’ll give you a sign that safety is near, or maybe they’ll tell you safety is close, but really they’ll be leading you toward an enemy way out of your league. Maybe when you come across such an enemy you’ll need some help. You can summon players into your game to assist your progress. But players can also invade your game and murder you. Luckily, you can enter their names into a book of sinners, so that other players can go murder them for murdering you. Like justice.

Dark Souls is next level. And even though I haven’t beaten it and therefore haven’t played Dark Souls II yet, I can’t recommend either game enough. You may come to loathe me for that one day, but I wholeheartedly stand by the opinion that Dark Souls is the single most finely-crafted game I have ever played. And I have played, and beaten, Jaws Unleashed.

Dark Souls is brilliant.

And I hate every godforsaken second of it.

And I can’t wait to beat it and get DSII y’all!

 

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1. How do you get through the Tomb of Giants?

2. How do you use cheat codes without forfeiting your PlayStation trophies?

3. How do you unlock trophies without actually doing what you’re supposed to do to unlock them, so that people think you’ve beaten a game when you really haven’t? I’m only asking for a friend who is playing Call of Duty on Hardened.