So I’ve been playing Dark Souls recently and I want to talk about it.
Dark Souls is a game that rewards repetition. Repeat the same mistake with harsh enough consequences enough times and you will learn to adapt. You can only die to surprise attacks when emerging from doorways so many times before you start inching out of each one with shield raised and thumb hovering over the back-step button. Even the combat is based primarily on repetition. It’s about learning attack patterns and telegraphs. Bosses can be very intimidating, until you learn how they work, when they’re weak. Then it’s just a matter of exploiting that weakness successfully enough to win.
This repetition-based design doesn’t preclude skill, by the way. It takes a lot of skill to exploit these weaknesses on a consistent basis. Maybe Dark Souls then teaches us that skill is simply the accumulation of repetition to a certain point, beyond which you become “skilled.” This is as opposed to skill inherently requiring some natural talent. This is actually something I fervently believe; that anyone can become good at anything with enough practise. This comes with limits of course, someone with nerve damage in their hands is unlikely to become a champion guitarist for example. But on average, most people can become good at whatever they pour enough effort into.
My character wields a Zweihander, an Ultra Greatsword, and has done so for most of the game. I don’t feel like that’s bad or even boring because I’m constantly learning how to better use it. I went through a phase of foolishly jump-attacking everything, and had stopped using weaker attacks altogether. I’m now reintroducing them and finding their quicker speed lets me get in and out without getting hit quite so damn much.
He also wears the heaviest armour I currently have in my possession. It’s known as Havel the Rock’s set, and it is (unsurprisingly) made of rock. Not only do I wear it, I do so while being under 50% of my max equipment load, which means I run and dodge roll as daintily as someone in far lighter armour. My end goal is to also have enough endurance to wield Havels greatshield, which is monstrously heavy, while still remaining below this threshold.
I’m currently fighting Ornstein and Smough. They are….tough. I’ve killed Smough a good few times now, but I always die to Super-Ornstein. Apparently I’m trying to do it the harder way, but as Smoughs armour looks like freeze-dried shit I think it’s necessary. You can only get the armour of the one you killed last by the way, in case you didn’t know.
So a brief summary of the fight. You emerge from the mist gate into this room, with those two at the opposite end. You have to fight both of them at the same time, and when you kill one the other one grows to giant proportions and becomes way stronger. You know, because fighting two bosses at the same time wasn’t already hard.
When I started writing this post I had gotten to the second phase one time. I have since gotten there a few times, but every one has ended the same way, with Giganto-Ornstein at >50% health. Every time I play has now become a repetition of the same thing. I fight the two knights that are directly in my way, then run past everything else till I get to the boss room. I will then either die before killing Smough, or kill him and die to Big Daddy Ornstein. It’s becoming sort of depressing.
I would like to progress with the game and see more areas, but I’m stuck on these guys. God I want to beat them, I want to beat them so bad. But if I want to finish this then the only way forward is by ramming myself against this until I internalise their patterns enough to fuck them over.
Then I will pluck the armour from his flesh, piece by piece, savouring the feel of it’s cool caress against my skin.
Then I will be the Ornstein, and the Ornstein will be me, one Ornstein, unending.
Yes, yes, yessssssssssssss