I Am Not Ready #2
In celebration of Jess Jenkins’ upcoming chapbook, Prepare to Die, I’m playing through Dark Souls and writing about my deaths for the month of September and maybe beyond. Check out the first dispatch here.
This game doesn’t fuck around.
What I have come to realize is that Dark Souls requires a certain amount of “farming,” which is a term most commonly used by players of massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). It’s relatively simple: repeat a (hopefully) simple and (possibly) easy task until one has acquired a certain necessary amount of something before moving on into the game. Sometimes one farms for gold or a particular item that will be of use. In Dark Souls, one farms for the souls themselves, as they are the world’s currency and take place of “experience,” the nebulous number in many RPGs that relates to leveling-up, better statistics, more power.
I spend an entire half-hour session simply farming the same eight or so entry-level enemies until I have an admirable collection of souls. The positive note is that I do not die once in accomplishing that task. I now own an item repair kit and some new armor that will become damaged with each new death and yet somehow remain affixed to my body as I awaken once more.
I have given away all my souls to a man who looks like he is completely desiccated and now I am ready to die again and again.
I lose all 3000 souls I gained from killing this massive creature called the Taurus Demon. I haven’t been quite this sad in a long while.
I go on a suicide run to get back the souls I had lost in a previous encounter with this Black Knight. It goes well. Sort of.
Dark Souls has a distinct lack of narrative. There are a few opening cinematics but beyond that there is almost no direction as to where one is supposed to go. No NPC handing you a quest—kill X number of forest creatures in exchange for Y, and then go to NPC Z, who has another interesting proposal for you, and so on, and so on—so instead I am left to wandering, mostly to my demise. Except for the Undead Burg, the decrepit castle where I found the Taurus Demon and the Black Knight, other places tend to kill me almost immediately. I walk down a staircase and I giant ogre-esque creature one-shots me with what looks like a tree trunk. I wander down a path that hugs a steep valley and find what looks like the remains of a dragon clinging to the cliff. It looks burnt-out, desiccated. I step nearer. I step nearer. My wife is standing next to the TV, watching, telling me not to. I have to. I’m curious.
The dragon awakes and kills me with one fingernail.
I kill the Black Knight by accidentally getting him stuck inside a small tower. He can’t advance on me and instead of trying to block my attacks, he tries to walk back through a threshold that was apparently one-way. I hack at him until he hies.
I feel a little bad about using this little exploit to make my kill, but then again I don’t at all. It wasn’t my fault.
One takes whatever advantage they can with this game.
Case in point: when in human form, another Dark Souls player can invade your world and kill you to harvest the souls you currently carry. It’s an inconvenience at best, and it’s been one of the primary reasons I haven’t spent much of the game “alive.” Today, however, I need something in-game that requires being in human form, and as soon as I complete that mission, my world is invaded. I run out onto the bridge where the dragon lingers and his fires kills the invader. He dies by the same fire that took me so many times. I feel a sliver of control. I made this fire to kill another. I take the invader’s Humanity. I now have three. Three humanities. That should feel good, but it kind of doesn’t.