Interesting thing about open world games that have a definitive story structure: people are going to go to the wrong places. The ghosts in New Londo Ruins mentioned in the previous piece are, well, less of a concern than I may have thought: turns out that my rationale that the fellow at Firelink Shrine’s comment that I needed to ring two bells, one up and one down relative to where I was meant that backtrack-and-descend would be the order of the day. I pretty quickly came to the conclusion that I may well be wrong about this, given that I could barely scratch the ghosts even after I worked out how to be able to attack them. Perhaps, given that we’re talking about a game known for its difficulty and brutality, this sort of reasoning was less than sound, but it did lead me to have a more leisurely stroll around the game’s world.
One thing that one can’t help but realise when roaming through the different regions of the game is the vast differences in approach to each. While maintaining a consistent style, with the idea of decay constituting a key motif throughout the level design, there is a wonderful degree of variety in lighting, internal layout of buildings and variations in flora and fauna that makes the act of exploration in between battles with the hollow hordes anything but dull by comparison. Having headed back to the Undead Parish, a decision made on the basis of the fact that I had rather rushed through prior to meeting the gargoyles, I came across the Darkroot Garden – another area that was to prove full of enemies that I wasn’t able to quickly deal with and therefore was not right for me this current time (yes, I’ve read my fair share of job rejections) – and was stunned by the departure that it represented from all areas that I’d seen so far. In keeping with the obvious theme of “garden”, enemies became more floral in their appearance and mechanics: moss-based creatures using extensible branches to attack; variations on larger enemies from other areas but tainted from their oh-so horticultural clime. Such great care and attention taken in design of even the most disposable of things in this world in the enemies is something to be applauded without reservation.
Have come to the profound realisation that the great outdoors, even in Dark Souls was not for me, I recalled a door that I wasn’t able to open right after my brief tussle with the Taurus Demon and a key I picked up in the Parish: using videogame logic finely honed from a youth spent playing the Soul Reaver games, I made the leap to the conclusion that the two might have had something to do with one another. Due to a wonderful thing that happened to me in my more innocent days (the release and my completion of Metal Gear Solid 3), the descent from the bridge into Lower Undead Burg could not have been a happier one: I’ll accept that the tone is completely different between the two overly-long ladders, and in this case I was descending, but there is something incredibly evocative about long journeys involving the use of ladders. Whether this is something that I’ve been conditioned to believe by Hideo Kojima’s mastery of manipulation of players of his games or whether I really do find something special, perhaps bordering on the erotic, about ladders is up for debate, but the impact this fairly inconsequential sequence had on me is not: I was prepared for a battle once I had completed my descent.
And I got it. I also got confirmation that I may well be going in the right direction given that this new, particularly agile humanoid enemy and the dogs that accompanied them were tough, but manageable given my current equipment. Having had a good look around the area and opened up the shortcut to this area from Firelink Shrine, I did something reckless and was punished for it. The reason why I thought entering fog while carrying four thousand souls was a good idea remains unknown to even myself, but I was punished for it in short order by the appearance of the Capra Demon and his friendly pooches. Killed; four thousand souls lost; crushed.
Having returned to the fog from the bonfire, I was elated to find that, for some reason, my souls had been deposited on the right side of the fog and that they could be reclaimed. Truly, the fates had looked kindly on me, and I proceed to spend them recklessly on a point for a characteristic I selected more or less at random.
You would have thought that I’d learned to be more considerate over my actions.