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.