Video games and fear – Dark Souls diary

I woke up at an ungodly hour this morning and decided that there was no choice but to either watch paid programming on cable or finally knuckle down and make some headway in Dark Souls, which has been languishing in my Xbox 360, unplayed, for the past two weeks.

I should note here that I’ll be including a couple spoilers, so if you’re new to (or intending to play) the game, you may want to look elsewhere.

What had happened was I’d gone on a bit of a Dark Souls jag recently, after previously hitting a similar wall. Killing the Bell Gargoyles at the top of the Undead Burg, I’d been filled with renewed vigor for the game, and had plunged headlong through several new areas — the Darkroot Garden, Lower Undead Burg, and the Depths. Each presented its own challenges, but I was eventually able to overcome them using the skills and equipment I’d accumulated so far. A longsword I’d picked up earlier had been re-forged by a helpful blacksmith into a weapon with added divine power, I had several new armor sets (including a lightweight set of thief’s leathers), and I’d bumped up my stats to the point that I was able to carry more and still remain nimble.

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Dark Souls’ appeal

I posted yesterday about some much-needed progress I made in From Software’s Dark Souls, which I’ve recently fired up again.

A lot has been written about this game, which is seen as a “spiritual successor” to Demon’s Souls — another brutally difficult game that features a dark, gothic setting in which to die over and over again.

It’s odd that a game that bucks today’s console-driven trends of heavy tutorialization, gradual learning curves, and checkpoint-style autosaving should attract such a devoted following — at least on paper. But the fact is, Dark Souls is a lot of fun. It’s also the most frightening game I’ve ever played, and one of the most rewarding.

If you’re unfamiliar with the unique mechanics, here’s Dark Souls in a nutshell: You’re undead, and your job is to (I think) bring “light” back to a blighted world. You can rest at the bonfires scattered around the vast world, which restore your supply of healing flasks and provide a revive point for when you die. And in case I haven’t quite gotten this point across yet, you will die. A lot. Every corner of the gloomy world holds new perils: Even the lowliest of enemies must be taken seriously, traps spring, and gigantic bosses lurk beyond eerie fog-clouded doors. Each time you die, you’ll wake up at the bonfire you rested at last, and all the enemies you had littered your path with are back.

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Dark Souls’ Bell Gargoyles are dicks

I’ve been playing the brutally-difficult Dark Souls, and I cannot for the life of me beat these damned Bell Gargoyles.

Update: Just after posting this, I decided to give the gargoyles another go. Using the game’s “humanity” system, I was able to “summon” a spirit to help out, and we managed to take out the bastards.

It’s a butterfly with frikkin’ lasers on its head.

Update 2: Following my success in finally killing the gargoyles, I ventured into the Darkroot Garden, which is populated with thorny tree dryads and humongous stone knights. There’s also a thing called the Moonlight Butterfly, which took me several attempts to kill.