With Dark Souls 2 preparing to eat gamers’ souls, Paolo recalls a battle from the original that makes these games special.
A lone figure garbed in gold plated armour stands in front of a large decaying Coliseum. The structure’s strange beauty was lost on the brave warrior, for his sight was drawn to something else out of hesitation and fear. There, obscuring the threshold of the Coliseum was a Fog Door. The warrior knew all too well what atrocities lay beyond these walled barriers, but despite this knowledge boldly stepped towards the door.
For this warrior was xKILLINGxJOKERx – defeater of Gwyn: Lord of Cinder, vanquisher of The Four Kings and survivor of Executioner Smough and Dragon-slayer Ornstein. He wore gleaming Paladin Armour and held in his hands the Eagle Shield and the formidable cursed Greatsword of Artorias. With these boastings under his belt the warrior traversed the white light, readying his shield and sword for whatever foe stood in his way. Now I’ve probably romanticized about this boss encounter enough. That’s because the next part is, sadly, a little less heroic.
Needless to say, the boss that waited beyond the Fog Door was Knight Artorias – the titular character of Dark Souls’ DLC. Flinging himself in the air with unnatural agility, the corrupted knight brought his sword crashing down onto my character-instantly killing me. This was a stark brutal reminder that Dark Souls never rewards you for your cockiness, but punishes you for it. After many failed attempts to kill the boss, I ejected the disk and shelved the game for many months. But having exhausted every other game I own, and with the release of Dark Souls 2 drawing closer, I decided it was time to return to the world of Dark Souls and give it another shot. Was it a glorious return? No, it was more like a huge slap to the face.
My recent duels with Artorias reminded me why I enjoy playing Dark Souls so much, a game that I have given up on twice because of its difficulty. Yet, it’s an experience that I would find myself eventually drawn back to. Why? Well, maybe that question has been answered to death. The game features a subtle, but interesting story that takes place in a world of interlinking passageways and demonic monsters.
The gamers that have fallen in love with this evil abomination have looked beyond its merits, expressing that the game encapsulates the hardships we all experience in real-life. Like Anor Londo (Where the game takes place) the real world can be just as brutal as it is beautiful. A world where you will suffer defeats before you can achieve any victories. Dark Souls teaches you to persevere through theses hard times so that one day you’ll find yourself basking in the glory of the good times.
It’s a testament to From Software’s ferocious creation that it evokes this type of response from its loyal followers. I see Dark Souls as more of a test, which is what draws me to it so much. I have a somewhat decent job, I have just graduated from University and I’m doing fairly well in my social life, but nothing has come along recently that has really challenged me. Dark Souls fills that void to an extent when a straight forward job and balanced social life fails to test you.
Dark Souls fills that void when a straight forward job and balanced social life fails to test you.
My encounters with Artorias tested three things: Perseverance, trust and patience. Fans would agree that you need a ton of perseverance to make it through the game. Encounters with Artorias are frantic bouts that caused my cheeks to redden with fury. It became blatantly apparent that my character wasn’t strong enough, so I decided to halt my engagements with Artorias until my character was ready. I always dread farming for experience in Dark Souls, as the idea of losing 100,000 plus souls upon death was unbearable. But through perseverance I managed to level up my character enough to stand against the Abysswalker.
The second test was of trust. I noticed many summoning signs written before the Fog Door, small requests from players to help those that needed it. However, when consuming humanity (the item that allows you to summon other players) you also open a window for less than friendly players to invade your game. This is why I’m often discouraged to summon people with the looming threat of being murdered by an Invading Phantom. But if I was to defeat Artorias I needed to conquer this fear and put my trust into the skills of another player so that I might stand a better chance.
The third and most important test was patience. I consider myself a patient guy, but this boss battle really challenged that. Artorias has a very unpredictable move-set, fiendishly tempting you with an opportunity for an attack that could result in your imminent death. Patience is the key to this encounter, as you must study the boss’s movements before taking action. If you put too much distance between yourself and Artorias he will perform that devastating aerial one-hit-kill attack. Do NOT try and attack him from behind otherwise he will initiate a spinning attack that will catch you off guard. By act of patience (and many deaths) I carefully studied each of these moves to exploit his weaknesses and avoid any openings for him to cause serious harm. That all important shield you’ve come to rely on- cannot hold off against his strikes for long, you have to learn dodge some of his attacks or risk losing precious stamina. By doing this I started to see some progress with every fight I had, but never allowed myself to get over confident.
These three things together will win you the day. Levelling up your character will help you fend off Artorias’ attacks, while being patient will allow you to dodge his moves and discover his weak-spots. The knight struggled against me and my newly summoned comrade, but Artorias managed to catch him with a stabbing blow, leaving it up to me to finish him off. With Artorias on his last quarter of health I fought on, waiting patiently for the best moment to strike at his armoured body. Eventually, I finally defeated the Abysswalker and upon his death the Fog Doors cleared and my way to the next area was revealed.
Has our time with Dark Souls prepared us for what’s next? I highly doubt it.
Although it was painfully difficult, my encounter with Artorias will be something to remember. It was a boss battle that seemed to sum up everything I loved about the game- a challenging, unrelenting experience that will test both your senses and emotions. It’s sad that so many games lack the same bite of Dark Souls’ difficult, despite boasting superior graphics and featuring big Hollywood stories.
Has our time with Dark Souls (and Demons’ Souls) prepared us for what’s next? I highly doubt it. If it’s one thing I’ve learnt from facing foes like Artorias or The Four Kings it’s that whatever progress you make, you’ll never be ready for what’s next. The sequel’s boss The Mirror Knight is already gaining notoriety amongst journalists and beta testers, a sign that the series hasn’t lost its infamous difficulty. We might be prepared to die, but are we prepared for the kinds of death that await us in the sequel?
Do you have stories that define what made Dark Souls special for you? Do you think that Dark Souls 2 will be able to keep up the relentless level of challenge? Let us know in the comments below.