Ed. Note: I started Dark Souls III. I have thoughts about it. Many of them. This is part two of my first impressions. You can read part one here.
I made my way through the first area with no problem and soon encountered the tutorial boss, Iudex Gundyr. He’s in the middle of the cemetery, kneeling, and he’s not moving as I entered the arena. I immediately knew that he was the first boss, and I walked around the arena, keeping an eye on Iudex. He didn’t move, and there was no fog door, but he was clearly the boss. Full disclosure: I had seen a brief glimpse of him in a video, but I didn’t remember what he looked like. Once I was done exploring the arena, I cautiously approached him. I wasn’t nervous, even though I was fully prepared to get my ass kicked. When I got close to him, a prompt appeared, telling me to pull out the sword next to him. I did, and then, of course, Iudex started moving. It was on, and I was about to test my Fireballs for the first time. I quickly switched to my Pyromancy Glove instead of my Hand Axe* and watched him for a few seconds to get a feel for his pattern. He was slow as are most of the big bosses in Souls games, and he moved pretty deliberately. I did what you’re supposed to do against big, slow bosses in these games–I moved backwards, let him do his set pattern, then attacked. I lobbed Fireballs at him every time he finished his pattern, and I reminded myself to not get greedy. That’s the number one rule in Dark Souls: Don’t. Get. Greedy. It’s hard because FromSoft is really good at making you think that you can end it in one swing when you really cannot. When you see the boss with one or two sliver of health left after you attack, the impulse is to just get in one more swing. However, you’re probably out of stamina at that point, and while you’re mashing on the RB button, the boss is finishing you off.
I kept my cool, and I stuck to the number one rule of not getting greedy. I circled around the arena, making sure to keep my eye on Iudex. I was running out of FP, and I was running out of Estus Flasks, but I was steadily chipping away at Iudex’s health. When I got it down to about a third left, I allowed myself to think that I might get him on my first try. I kept doing what I was doing, and before I knew it, he was dead. I did it! I killed a boss on the first try! Granted, it was the tutorial boss, and granted, pelting him with Fireballs did make the fight much easier, but still. I beat a Dark Souls boss on my first try without ever having seen him before! I mentally patted myself on the back and moved on, feeling pretty pleased with myself. There was a bonfire to be lit once he was vanquished, which hearkens back to Demon’s Souls. I never played it because it’s a PS3 exclusive, but I’ve seen playthroughs of it. I soldiered on, marveling that I hadn’t died yet. I cut through the Hollows who crossed my path, and before I knew it, Firelink Shrine flashed before my eyes. I knew about this before I played the game, but seeing it in all its majesty was a whole different thing. Quick background–Firelink Shrine is the primary bonfire of the original Souls game. I knew that it was going to be in DS III, and I knew it was going to be the hub world, but seeing pictures of it and actually going to it are two vastly different experiences. Firelink Shrine was my home base in Dark Souls, but visually, it wasn’t much different than any other area. I mean, it had its own distinct flavor because that’s the way Miyazaki rolls, but this Firelink Shrine is a set piece, for sure. It’s reminiscent of the Nexus from Demon’s Souls, but on a much grander scale. I walked my character in, savoring the atmosphere. There were NPCs, and, of course, I talked to each one. The Fire Keeper, who is a staple of Souls games, only this one has her eyes bound, much like the Black Maiden from Demon’s Souls did. She gave me a spiel about using the coiled sword to blah, blah, blah and called me the Ashen One. I used the sword I had to light the bonfire, then just stared at it in satisfaction before visiting the other NPCs. The Crestfallen Warrior, though that’s not his name here, but he didn’t have much to say. The Shrine Handmaid, a merchant who reminded me of the hag from the second game–Merchant Hag Melentia (yes, that’s her actual name). She sells a key for 20,000 souls, which made me smile again because every Miyazaki game has this–a shortcut you can buy for 20,000 souls or be a stingy asshole like me and find it the hard way after several frustrating hours.