Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Circle of Life, Cycle of Death


There's some saying about knowing your enemy. I assume the idea behind it was always that knowing your enemy meant that you knew how to deal with them which made the fight easier for you. At least part of that is wrong, far as I can tell. Because I know my enemy, and he still beats me into the ground without remorse.

By this point I know my enemy really freaking well. My enemy is an asshole in a pointy hat, who's about three times my height, has two giant swords, one that's coated in magic and the other in fire, and has a health bar that would make some of the undead entities I fought on the way here blush. Considering he's stationed in a giant cathedral in the center in a town full of them, I can only assume he's a religious figure. For the past three or more hours he and I have been getting very well acquainted.

Closing my eyes as I type this I can still see the cross shaped room this particular jerk sits in every time I walk through his door, with him waiting at the center of it. It's only once I cross a few of the pews that are stationed in there that he actually stands up, ignites his weapons, and comes to slash my head off. I know that my little pings of magic chip off of little chunk of his massive health bar, even though their 124 hits of damage would cut mine by at least a fifth. His attacks on the other hand can kill me if two manage to land, if I'm not wise enough to dodge through them.

These are some of the many constants running through this fight every time it's attempted. Like some hellish version of Groundhog's Day, we both go at it with the same tools, with the same arena, and with the same result. I even run past the same idiots on the way to the boss's room, which happens to be guarded by another idiot with a scythe, who ended a few runs prematurely with the fact that he could take out about 90% of my health bar in one swing if I didn't dodge it.

It's a classic David and Goliath thing. I think. Big person versus small person. Me versus big religious swordsman. Me in this case being a robed idiot armed with nothing more than a shield that's almost no use to me, and a giant magic stick. Constantly doomed to be knocked into the ground. That is until I get the fight down, at which point I'll get my reward of a few more level ups, a new quick travel point, and access to the next area, at which point the cycle starts anew.

Getting the fight down isn't that easy, on account of things changing up on you. Because once the boss hits half health he decides that one of him isn't enough. No. Now there's a clone of him that copies his moveset, which is widened to include such thrilling things as a ranged attack that will wipe out half of my health on its own. At which point things to go hell. For now.

Because that's how Dark Souls works. Or rather that's how the Souls series works, or the Soulsborne series as some like to call it. That's how Demon's Souls (which is one of the most odd titles to say in full, just give it a try), Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2, and Bloodborne all worked before this. And that's not just how the bosses work. That's how the entirety of the games work.

The areas even leading up to the bosses are trials in their own right. Making slow progress towards your next big foe is a long span of area you might be seeing time and time again. Or it might be something that you get right on the first go, at which point you might hit the next little warp point, or unlock shortcuts that lead to previous ones that let you scuttle on through ten times faster. It's these little rewards, on top of the gear you find and the levels you gain, that make it easier to keep going.

Just on the way here I crossed through a warehouse, a sewer, some kitchen, a church, a small decorated room, and an eerie city street. Along the way I had to conquer creepy half-invisible people, some armed with swords, others with magic, knights in armor, rabid undead dogs, and something that I can only describe as what happens when the girl from The Ring has sex with a spider.

All of that, just to get access to an elevator that takes me back to where I started. But an elevator that at the same time cuts down that run to the boss from an hour, to about thirty seconds. Which makes it much easier to fall into a "one more try" sort of rut, of just slamming your force into a boss until it goes down.

Not that there aren't easier methods. If I wanted, I could "summon" another player, or even an NPC if none were available, to assist me in my plight. It's an option that's there for everyone, and it's one that makes these games a bit more bearable for those not willing to waste their time as I am, and at the same time it's one way to build camaraderie in an uncaring world or spend some time with struggling friends. Except I happen to be stubborn and play these things as that I never summon people, because this is my fight and I'll finish it on my own.

I wanted to be able to end this thing by saying that I won. I've been typing it every time I hit a load screen, which happened to be my method for getting the reading I needed to get done tonight finished. But it really just isn't in the cards. Because despite knowing so much, really that's only part of the fight. Know your enemy all you want, if you aren't up to task you're not going to get the job done.

At some point, he'll be dead, and I won't be. But that still comes with the caveat that somewhere beyond him is another ruthless monster, probably more than a bit eldritch in nature, that's ready to eat me alive again.

At which point the hours of my life following that moment become forfeit.