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The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 3: Quitting Demon’s Souls

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Renouncement

After more than two months since my last entry, I admit I’m in a bit of a rut.  I don’t want to go back and play Demon’s Souls and I also don’t feel I’m getting any better.  As it stands I’m trapped in area 1-4 about 15 or so hours into the game and I have no desire to play it.  Yes, as my previous entries have stated, I’ve found the right items, I’ve discovered how to outwit (and even kill) the red dragon, and I have upgraded my equipment.  I think my biggest problem is leveling, which is a grind of the grandest degree, and no matter how many times I run 1-1 to kill the red knight for my 2,000 souls it just doesn’t feel rewarding.  I’m at level 18 or so and none of the stats seem to have a large effect, especially compared to the gap from levels 1 to 5 or even 5 to 10.  This game’s jank is also starting to get to me.  Whether it’s the stuttering at the top of the stairs in 1-1 or the framerate hitches in the back halls of 1-3, I now get annoyed with the glitches.  I’ve heard all of the decries as well.  Play as a mage, do this thing here to cheat, do that thing there to by pass some of this, “git gud.”  Yeah, I’ve heard it all before and I don’t like any of it.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 2: Beginning Demon’s Souls

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Version

Someone pointed out that I claimed to have the European “Black Phantom Edition” in my story from Part 1, but then when I posted to Twitter that I was starting this crusade I clearly had a copy of the US “Deluxe Edition” in that photo.  Keen eye, although many are aware the box art is completely different.  Yes, it’s true, I no longer own the “Red Phantom Edition” because I sold that sucker for over $250 on eBay back when Dark Souls took off and demand was extremely high.  Mind you, I did this only after walking into a local GameStop and seeing them selling a copy of the US Deluxe Edition for the standard $59.99 price tag, which I think was a discount.  In the US the Deluxe Edition only came with the strategy guide (with a worse cover), but those that pre-ordered also got the art book and soundtrack as a bonus.  The employee admitted that a pre-order had never shown to claim their copy and despite being rare and in high demand, no one in the south suburbs of Kansas City seemed to care at all.  He also admitted that one of the other employees had already snagged the free bonuses (art book and soundtrack) so I wouldn’t be getting those and thus the discounted price.  Side note: it always baffles me nonchalant GameStop employees are about the terrible things they do to their customers; this was not the first employee to flat out admit that when a pre-order goes 5 days unclaimed that the employees are allowed to descend upon it, pick it apart, open it, take it home to play it, and you get this semi-used sloppy seconds version of a game you are paying full retail price for.  The game had been out for at least several weeks in the US and, yep, this copy had been opened and clearly played but thanks to that magical circular sticker they put on the box it was considered “sealed” by the GameStop gods.  I didn’t care, I could keep my copy of the same game – now specific to my region – and it came with the most important item: the strategy guide.  It also helped that I was able to rip the soundtrack before selling my other copy and you could find quite a few amazing high quality scans of the art book in PDF form, which are still live today.  Granted, it’s not the tangible book or disc, but neither are the art books, strategy guides, and soundtracks in future versions (other than my UK version of Dark Souls III), so technically this now just matches my others.  Either way, that’s why my pic had the US Limited Edition, which is not that far in value these days from the Black Phantom Edition so bully for me.

Black Phantom Edition (UK)

Deluxe Edition (US)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to School

It was time to go back, return to the game that brought me nothing but defeat and frustration.  A game that I paid a very high price for, imported when it wasn’t in my country, and thought was utter hype garbage.  I wouldn’t be going in half-cocked, however, despite what some may think this is not a crash course in masochism.  I wanted to be prepared, not only for the rough mechanics, but also how to overcome many of the flat out bad design choices that were played off as a difficulty spike.  When a game drops a boulder on you that you cannot avoid unless you know it’s coming, that’s just bad design, not a challenge.  The easiest way to prove this is when you have the knowledge of the boulder, it isn’t a challenge at all and can actually assist you in taking out enemies you no longer feel you need to fight.  This is where and how I draw the line between difficult and bad design, and I knew Demon’s Souls was chock full of both.  So I did what any planner or student would do: I read the guide.  It was so coveted, even by me, for so long that surely it would have some helpful information.  It did, but like everything else with this franchise, it was hardly straightforward and read more like an encyclopedia than a guide.  Again with my definitions.  A guide should walk you through the process of the game, allowing you to basically follow your progress in the game along with the page number of the guide with the occasional diversion chapters for filler.  An encyclopedia just dumps all the information in one organized place and forces you to determine what knowledge you need and seek it out.  This guide had spreadsheets, characters sheets, leveling info, item lists, enemy lists, tips, and several sections on higher gameplay tactics, but it never has a single page that covers how you start out.  There are 10 starting classes all with different stats, abilities, and perks, many of which won’t even matter until you’re at least 10-15 hours into the game and at which point you may have to restart the game if you selected the wrong build.  Additionally this title is a game of melee combat, ranged combat, magic, or different combinations of these attacks so you can understand why I was puzzled by a Thief class or the difference between a Knight, a Soldier, and a Temple Knight.  If you know this game well you’re probably tearing your hair out because the differences are distinct and real, but you would never know most of this without looking it up online.  While my guide gave me the different stats of each class and some random distinguishing characteristics, it really didn’t help you decide who to go with.  Hell, I had played Bloodborne and I still didn’t know who I wanted.  In this regard, the guide was somewhat useless because although it gave me stats and told me equipment, I didn’t know what the equipment did.  I later learned that if I went over to the equipment section, I could have looked each item up, but I think it would have been more helpful to just simply say something like “Silver Coronet – increases MP” to assist.  Games typically tell you what an item does when you get it, right?

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 1: Starting Point

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Welcome to my new series, The Soulsborne Diaries.  This will be an ongoing documentation of a yearlong journey through various video games belonging to From Software’s, shall we say sub-genre, of games that currently encompasses Demon’s SoulsDark Souls I-III, and Bloodborne.  I’m going to come right out and say that this isn’t a guide by any means – I’ve not played most of these games – and this is also not a series of deep dives into the concepts, lore, or mechanics of these titles either.  If you want that may I suggest Bonfireside Chat, a fantastic series  by the main crew at Duckfeed.tv.  The purpose of these diaries is an opportunity for me to digest my experiences in an attempt to discover why people are so drawn to them and also if I’m compatible with that drive.  This series would be best suited for the uninitiated hoping to journey vicariously with me or the seasoned veterans to get a glimpse into my process, my challenges, and my (hopeful) achievements.  In this process I do hope to open up a dialogue or at least hear out comments, but I must stress that I am no expert and undoubtedly a series with this passion may draw individuals who despise what I say or my lack of knowledge on various topics.  If this is you, please let your voice be heard in the comments below or by writing an e-mail, but I do ask that you remain civil as the treatment and response you receive will be equally respectful.  That doesn’t mean we can’t disagree and that you can’t be exasperated in your response, by all means.

Introduction

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly new to Soulsborne titles.  I got on the Demon’s Souls bandwagon before the game even came to the US, nabbing a European “Black Phantom Edition” that included an art book, a soundtrack, and a strategy guide.  Admittedly my initial draw was the popularity it was garnering on the import site I frequented at the beginning of the PS3’s life – for those that didn’t live in a region-locked world, having the PS3 region free was huge for me.  When it arrived I have to admit that I was enthralled by the art book, which was filled with grotesque creatures and massive monsters all with a medieval theme.  It reminded me of the first time I flipped through the pages of the Dungeons & Dragons Monsterous Manual, wide-eyed at the horrors you could encounter in that world.  After looking over the book and making a spot on my shelf, I didn’t touch the game for several months, a trend I’m guilty of even today, but it was particularly bad at this time.  Later, when Atlus released the game here in America, a few of my friends started asking me about this game that was apparently huge in Japan and Europe.  I don’t know that it was initially successful, but the long range sales of Demon’s Souls can’t be denied and this was definitely a jumping point for From Software to do something greater, albeit without the help of Sony Japan, who funded this first game.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 1, 2018 at 5:04 pm