Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Esteemed Critic Plays Dark Souls 2


The initial time I encountered this noble creature, I thought nothing of it. The beast gave me an item and some puzzling words, but then of course, the internet had to intervene and inform me that this ancient dragon is an optional boss, and Dark Souls 2 is all about destroying bosses, so I complied and struck the poor fellow repeatedly until he grew hostile. The area around us is an aerie for lesser dragons, who roost on rocky outcroppings that rise miles above the land. It is one of the most visually striking places in the game, in environ whose beauty belies the frustration that awaits any would-be challenger. Suffice it to say that the ancient dragon destroyed me with one blast of its fiery breath. That was fine: one dies to bosses on the initial encounter all the time, though it is a slog battling one's way back from the bonfire through a horde of powerful stone knights and dragon warriors. But then I died again, and again, and again, so many times that I started ignoring the lesser enemies and running for the fog gate, which resulted in even more deaths, until I concentrated on methodically killing them, for after ten kills or so, they stop respawning, rendering the path more or less clear. The dragon, however, was not having any of my plan. He is a deceptively simple creature; all one must do is linger around his left forelimb, striking it and then venturing out in front of his shaggy head to bait his breath attack. He will half-heartedly swipe at you with his right paw, but this attack is easy to avoid. The problem is that he will very-occasionally flap his great wings and take to the skies, and then you'd better haul ass, because he lets loose with an area of effect flame blast that will kill you unless you have the grym shield, a heavy rock-like thing that has one-hundred percent flame resistance. But you must have great stamina to wield it; if you get caught directly beneath the wall of flames, nothing will save you. The health pool of this monster is also great; so large that my large club + 10 was degrading through the fight. My only strategy was to strip off my armor (if you get hit, you're dead anyway), revealing my dead, decaying flesh, and equip a greatsword to use as backup. Still I died and died, for one mistake and the beast has your soul. We battle upon a flat tower with precipitous ledges, and many times I killed myself running away from the dragon. The fight took on a religious significance for me--every thing that opposed me in life became the dragon. I died and respawned at the bonfire, my health reduced, evidence of my failure mounting. Still I climbed the steps. I whittled him down to twenty-percent health. My clumsy fingers failed me, and I did not block a flame blast in time. I died. I mounted the steps again. I was persistence; the beast could do nothing but wait for me, it had no refuge, no shelter, no respite. I died, but this time, his health pool was almost depleted. No more mess-ups. No more failures. I wacked at his great forelimb, two-handing my giant sword. He is like a tree that refuses to be felled. But persistence is rewarded, and eventually he succumbs after numerous attempts. I am rewarded with a petrified dragon bone and a soul of a giant. Where is the dragon's soul? Is the creature a fraud, a ruse, a forgery? Were my labors wasted on a fake?

 
Dark Souls 2: 6 out of 10. Remarkable combat, life-lessons, but it's still a video game, and we don't award perfect scores to video games because we are a snob.

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