Monthly Archives: August 2016

Dark Souls III: First Impressions, Part Two

 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

big and lumbering, just how i like 'em
Killing the tutorial boss on my first try? This game ain’t so hard!

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 stuck in 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.

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Dark Souls III: First Impressions, Part One

Ed. Note: I am going to assume the reader has a base knowledge of the Dark Souls series because I don’t want to repeat what I’ve said before about the games. I have written several posts about the series, some published, some not. You can search my archives if you’re interested in my previous posts. This is the third (and probably final) game in the trilogy*, and I want to get right to the heart of it. In addition, there will be spoilers. I can’t talk about the game without them. If you haven’t played the game yet and don’t want to be spoiled before you do (like me), then I’d suggest you skip this post–as much as it pains me to say it.

whoa, whoa, whoa i'm on fire
Linking the fire in the original Dark Souls

Dark Souls has ruined me for video games. There’s nothing I can play that lives up to it–the original, though I’m in the camp that believes the second game was a good, if not great, game as well. I’ve tried two Souls-like games**, Lords of the Fallen, known as clunky Souls, and DarkMaus, almost a clone rather than a homage, and both wear their Souls inspiration firmly on their sleeves. I tried; I really did. But as I played the wannabes, all I could think was, “I’d rather be playing Dark Souls.” In the end, that’s what I did–put away the other games and re-played Dark Souls and Dark Souls II. I have to confess that the first time I played the original game, I was sick of it by the time I beat it. The legendary Ornstein & Smough boss fight is less than halfway through the game, and it’s really the pinnacle of it. This is probably the fight that has claimed more Souls victims than any other place in the game. Every Souls fan can remember the first time she faced this duo, having beaten a shit-ton of obstacles just to have the privilege of this moment. I played the game well after its release, so I already knew about them, but that didn’t mitigate how awesome it was when I walked through the fog door and their intro cutscene played. “Oh, shit, son! This is the real deal now.” I don’t like to get tips before I meet a boss, so I had no idea how they fought–well, I quickly learned.

I died to these two between sixty and seventy times. No, that’s not a misprint–I died to them a lot. More to the point, for the first forty or fifty deaths, I didn’t feel as if I could beat them. By death sixty, I was mentally defeated. I had been battling these two for a solid week, and they had gotten the best of me every fucking time. I clearly remember the fateful moment when I decided I would give it one last shot and then I would quit the game for good. It was two in the morning, and I had died to them several times earlier in the day. I put on The Pina Colada Song on repeat to keep myself loose, and I walked through the fog door one last time. I did everything differently than I had up until that point, and I finally, finally beat Ornstein & Smough. The jubilation I felt upon seeing Smough disappear into dust has yet to be matched in a video game setting, and I let out a stream of curses in exultation. The rest of the game after that couldn’t match the intensity of that fight,*** and I was more than happy to put the game in the finished column and be done with it. Or so I thought. Then, the sequel came out, and I kept my eye on it. I didn’t buy it when it first came out because I was still recovering from the first one, but I did pick up the complete edition of the sequel with all three DLC when it was on sale for ridiculously cheap. Since I knew I would probably play it at some point, I avoided all spoilers. I did learn, however, that many people were disappointed with the sequel. So much so, FromSoft, the developers, did a remastering of it. That’s the version I played when I finally got around to it, and as I said, it was a good game, more playable in many ways than the original.
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After the Storm: The Hidden Scars Within

It’s been three weeks since I’ve had my car accident. The bruises on my abdomen have faded into near oblivion, and the welts on my arms are completely gone. You wouldn’t know I was in an accident if you were to look at me*. The soreness is nearly gone as well, and I’m going to taiji classes again. These are all good things, obviously, but they are also part of the problem I’m having in dealing with the aftermath. You see, since I’m mostly back to pre-accident form, my brain has a hard time accepting that I recently suffered a serious impact. Let me explain. I’ve been getting back into doing my taiji routine every morning. About a week and a half ago, I did the whole thing including the weight set, thinking I was ready for it. I was not. I was wiped out, so I started paring back. Looking back, I was too optimistic because I felt basically the same as I had before the accident. “Hey, I’m not too sore. I’m not too achy. I’m about about eighty-percent. I can do everything I used to do!”

Well, I can, but then I pay the price afterwards. The good news is that I immediately recognized I couldn’t just do what I  used to do, pretending the car accident never happened. I didn’t soldier on with my morning routine, gritting my teeth through the exhaustion. This is what I would have done before I started studying taiji. I have perfectionistic tendencies, believing that I either have to do something one-hundred percent or not at all. I’m getting better by telling myself that, hey, if you do seventy percent, that’s still better than doing nothing, but it’s not hard to chastise myself for not doing it all. It’s doubly frustrating because it’s the sword practice that wears me out. My favorite part of taiji, and I have to cut back on it. Normally, I have a metal sword I use, but I’ve had to switch to my crappy wooden one because the metal one is too heavy right now. It’s ironic because before the accident, I was looking into buying an even heavier metal sword because my current one was becoming too light. Also, before the accident, I was starting to do the (metal) sword with wrist weights. Can’t do that any longer, either. If I do my pared down routine in the morning before a class, I can only do one full Sword Form in class before getting tired. In a few of the classes I’ve been to since my accident, my teacher wanted us to do two full forms. The first time, I was wiped after one and sat out the second. The second time, I did half the second form. The third time, I did both all the way through, but was exhausted afterwards.  In addition, I have picked up the sabre exactly twice since the accident. It’s wood and heavier than my sword. It felt as if I were waving around ten pounds, and it was arduous. By the time I finished (and I only know two-thirds of the form) it the second time I tried it, I knew I wasn’t doing that again any time soon.

I hate feeling weak and frail. Part of the reason I started taiji was to feel strong, and it’s discouraging that I’ve regressed. Even though I know it’s understandable given the circumstances, i still get frustrated when I have to scale down my morning routine because I just can’t do it all. In addition, I was cleaning the fridge with my mom a few nights ago, and it took roughly an hour. I’ve done it by myself in the past with little problem. In fact, I would sing as I did it, maybe do a little dance or two. And since I normally clean at midnight, I’d be topless because naked cleaning is the best. This time, though, by the time I was done, I was dizzy and wiped out for the rest of the day. I half-wish I had physical reminders of my accident,** because right now, it’s too easy to gaslight myself. “It’s not that bad.” “You don’t have any broken bones or even anything sprained.” “You should be able to do everything now since you got off so lightly.” Intellectually, I know that I experienced a physical trauma, but it’s hard to accept it emotionally. I will give myself credit for not pushing myself to the point of harm, let alone past it, but I’m beating up myself too much for not being able to do more.

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My Car Accident: My Life Did Not Flash Before My Eyes

I was in a car accident Friday night. My life did not flash before my eyes, but it’s one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had. I was on my way to taiji class, driving on a local road at about 30 mph. I was alert, scanning the road as I drove. As I was passing the entrance to the highway, I saw a blur hurtling at me. I tried to veer away from it and/or brake, but once I realized I was going to get hit, I relaxed. Time slowed down to a crawl, and there was a whistle in my ear. A second later, pain exploded in my chest such as I’d never felt before. For a second, I couldn’t breathe, but I never lost consciousness. Time sped up to normal again, and I was sitting in a pile of smoke with deployed airbags–which is what caused the pain in my chest. There was a burning smell in the air, and all I could think is, “Damn. I’m going to miss taiji class.” Shock does funny things to the brain, don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t. I felt like I was watching the whole thing happen until the airbags hit me, and then I was jolted back into my body.

I was preternaturally calm after it happened. I’ve been known to freak out over the littlest and stupidest thing, but when it comes to a true crisis, I get very calm. Again, it’s probably partly shock, but it’s also the way my brain is wired. All the extraneous bullshit just melts away, leaving my mind focused. I stepped out of the car and heard a very kind passerby asking if everyone was OK. He had called the police and let us know they were on their way. Thank you, kind stranger, for being a good guy in that moment. I really appreciate it. The other driver was a young girl of South Asian descent. She was hysterical, and I felt weirdly protective of her. She kept saying her dad was going to kill her, and I patted her on the back and told her to take some deep breaths and that it would be OK. She asked me if I was OK, saying she didn’t see me. She added that her dad needed the car for work and now he couldn’t go and it was all her fault. She also had a young man in the car with her, and I realized that she was probably talking to him as she was speeding home to get the car to her father. She probably almost passed by her turn and then yanked to the left at the last moment. She was not slowing down at all when she hit me, and I can’t tell you how it felt to stare at 2,000 pounds hurtling at me, helpless to do anything about it. I tried to stop; I tried to swerve, but it all happened so fast–even though it felt like time had stopped. There was absolutely nothing I could do, and in the instant before I was hit, I just accepted that. “I am going to get hit. There is nothing I can do.” This passed through my brain in a flash, and I relaxed as she plowed into my car.

I realize that I’m repeating myself, but it’s my way of dealing with the situation. It’s still hard to believe this happened to me, even though it’s been a few days. My parents are in town, so I called them immediately after it happened. Then, I texted my taiji teacher to let her know I was going to miss class because of the accident. After that, I talked to the cops who’d just come, and they were courteous and helpful. The officer said, “You were driving down the street and she turned into you? Is that what happened, ma’am?” I said it was, and later, he told me the other driver had been cited for a failure to yield. I DM’ed Ian to let him know what happened, then my parents showed up. They had gotten a ride from a friend of theirs, and they were understandably freaked the fuck out. More so than I was, honestly. Again, shock and my weird ability to be calm in the worst situations carried me through the situation. The police officer asked if I wanted a ride to the hospital, but i declined. I felt fine, I insisted. Then, when I got into my auntie’s* car, my ribs hurt like a motherfucker and took my breath away. I reluctantly decided I should go to the ER, and she drove us there.

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