Monthly Archives: March 2016

Dark Souls’ Problem with Strength Builds

This post contains gameplay spoilers for the final sections of Dark Souls and Bloodborne. If you haven’t played either, I highly recommend doing so and reading this after.

I submit the soul of one of Dark Souls’ final few bosses, the Four Kings, to the Lord Vessel. That opens the game’s last area, a long path to the final boss, Lord Gwyn. Dark Souls has a reputation for being difficult which can sometimes be overstated, but I was understandably nervous about the climactic battle in a game packed full of really tough boss fights. From Software even emphasise the magnitude of the fight through level design here, since the whole area slopes towards Gwyn’s chamber which is visible from minutes away. When I arrive at Gwyn though, I’m disappointed. Visually he looks great, the boss arena is wonderful, and his moves are suitably intimidating. He isn’t a badly designed boss like the Bed of Chaos or the Capra Demon, both of which will almost always kill the player once. Instead, my problem is that he’s easy. When Gwyn swings his sword, I can absorb the blow and attack through, literally trading hits with him. I take a more substantial chunk of damage than him, of course, but I also have the ability to heal which Gwyn lacks. Moreover, I’m wearing Havel’s armour, the heaviest in the game so I can afford to take multiple hits before I even think about retreating to heal. He doesn’t even harass me as I drink my Estus, like the giant duo Ornstein & Smough. I’m thrilled when he’s dead initially. I’ve beaten an extremely tough game and concluded one of my best experiences in videogames overall. When I’m watching the credits, though, I’m left to wonder: did I play Dark Souls wrong?

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Lovecraftian: In the Mouth of Madness

I love Lovecraft. His prose, concepts, plots and horror creep me out more than any other writer’s. ‘The Whisperer in the Dark,’ ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ ‘The Festival’ and ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ are all among my favourite short stories. Lovecraft’s writing is mystifying and alien, he excels at describing the weird and the set-ups to his plots are always exciting, even when the conclusion is anticlimactic. In spite of my fondness for Lovecraft, though, I’ve never watched films his work has inspired. This series will look at direct and indirect adaptions of Lovecraft, one by one, reviewing them on their own terms and comparing them to Lovecraft’s stories. Today: In the Mouth of Madness.

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