Dark Souls Diary 1
Some of my friends at both Pixlbit and 1UP encouraged me to put a blog series together keeping track of my first Dark Souls playthrough, and here it is you lucky ducks. I'll enjoy doing this because for one, it'll give me a chance to put a spotlight on the game and encourage others to give it a try. And second, it will give seasoned DS players a chance to laugh at my failures and naivety as I learn the ropes of the game, praise the sun, and slash my way to victory.
Let's begin catching you up to speed. I'm pretty deep into the game already and so my first couple entries will bring you up to where I am currently. I could just make a giant blog to catch you up but I want to break it up into smaller pieces. I'll mostly be detailing my favorite parts of the game, the combat and level design. You shouldn't worry about any spoilers. People who have finished the game are still getting together to try and figure out the story and explain the lore of the universe. I certainly won't know enough to spoil anything.
My character and progress
At the beginning of the game I created a few characters and tried them out in the Undead Asylum to see what the combat felt like. After quite a bit of deliberating and experimenting I settled with the Warrior class because I wanted to make sure I could have a decent balance of Endurance, Strength, and Dexterity. I wanted to create a character that mainly used a one handed sword, a shield, had a powerful bow as backup, and wore light enough armor so I could dodge attacks but not be too fragile when I did get hit. One of the things I really love about character creation in this game is that the different starting classes can give you completely different play-styles. Having a just a few extra points in an attribute can make a world of difference, as can a certain piece of equipment and its properties.
My character has actually been developing into exactly the type of warrior I wanted, which is awesome. She's a light, slim, tough-yet-agile, female Warrior named Andromeda, after the princess from Greek Mythology. She's a Soul Level 90 or so and I've put around 89 hours into the game already.
This was a great area to test out classes and get a feel for combat. It's a brief area but it has some optional tutorials, allows you to recover your starting gear, there's a handful of hollowed soldiers, a booby trap, and a boss character. I was killed by the Asylum Demon a few times learning his patterns, when I should strike, and when to run or roll. After I killed him I was really happy and proud of myself. Little did I know that this guy was one of the easiest bosses I'd come across and everything from here on out would be an uphill battle... sometimes through tar (no joke).
Firelink Shrine / Undead Burg / Undead Parish
When I got here I was in awe at the scenery but also a little intimidated because I didn't know where to wander off to first. When I stopped and looked around I was intrigued by the mystery of the place and I wanted to know what the gameworld was all about. You appear to be steeped high up in a range of mountains in a sprawling stone kingdom. The scope and expanse of the castle walls and structures in the kingdom are so epic it makes you think they must have been built by creatures the size of titans.
Once I got my act together and began wandering off, I ended up going in a direction I should have avoided. I went into a graveyard that leads to The Catacombs, and I ran into a bunch of brutal skeletons that would break my stance then kill me in two quick hits. That's just the little guys too, don't even get me started on what it was like running into one of the giant skeletons that hangs out around the cemetery. At the early stage of the game you can't even harm the skeletons, they just reform after you strike them down. So that made me learn an early lesson about what I'm not strong enough to do yet.
I went off in a different direction and ended up in the Undead Burg and Undead Parish area. There's a bonfire in the Burg and it's in the perfect spot to allow you to heal, replenish health potions, and farm souls around the area. I used the bonfire as a base and would wander out into the encounter spaces, learning how to fight each enemy type. The Undead Burg really helped me level up several times, allowed me to buy some new Chain Mail gear, and most of all it helped me sharped up my combat timing. When I came into the area I was getting chopped up and stabbed constantly, but after a couple hours I was fighting effectively and clearing the whole area piece by piece.
After a lot of trail and error, I eventually killed the Black Knight, Havel the Rock, the Taurus Demon, and reaped in all the rewards that came with them. I took a lot of risks, died a bit, but the rewards and satisfaction of overcoming all those enemies absolutely validated the time and effort I put into it. Havel may have one-hit-killed me several times with his giant club, and the Black Knight may have sent me running away with my tail between my legs several times, but I got the last laugh.
There's also an undead merchant tucked away in the Burg and he sits around talking to his furniture and inventory. I'm not sure what he's all about, I just know he's crazy. I really like him because he reminds me of the shady merchant in Resident Evil 4.
Across the bridge in the Burg you come into the Undead Parish which is home to a friendly blacksmith, some dangerous Knights, and the Belltower Gargoyle bosses. The knights were a pain because they can parry your attacks and use a critical attack to shishkabob you. Always watch out when they switch the grip on their rapier swords and take on a fencing stance. They can earn you 200 souls per kill though, so if you learn to kill them consistently, this is a decent place for an early level character to farm for souls and level up before moving on. At the end of the Undead Parish area there is a blacksmith named Andre and I've become really fond of him. Andre is literally the only normal person I've come across in my adventure. The NPCs and various personalities in Dark Souls are pretty shady. There are people who are simply eccentric and quirky, then there's some who are plain crazy and make no sense, then it'll escalate and you'll find people who are outright psychotic and dangerous.
Andre is just a polite brute of a man who looks like Poseidon without a trident. He hammers away at his armors all day long, lets you upgrade your gear, and when you leave he always wishes you luck. Blacksmith Andre is the only friend I have in Lordran.
When I entered this area I was really scared of the Ents (tree people) at first. I had no problem fighting with humanoid, boney, or fleshy character at that point, but when the first Ent came darting through the bushes and attacked me with its branches I freaked out lol. In reality these guys aren't too dangerous and they end up being a minor pest, as well as a great way to farm for anti-poison items, but I shit myself when I saw the first one because it was something I had never seen before. In Dark Souls, one of the keys to surviving areas and moving on is learning all about every enemy type. What amount of damage they do to you, what attacks they use, what their weaknesses are, and how to beat the consistently. In this game even the things you are familiar with can still kill you if you aren't careful, so the anxiety of coming across new creatures is pretty high for me since I know nothing about them.
There's a sealed door in this area that can only be opened with a special crest called the Crest of Artorias. 1Upper Chris Yarger helped me out and encouraged me to get the crest so I could access the area. Chris' advice was one of the best things to happen to my character, because the area on the other side of the sealed door is the probably the best place in the game to farm for souls. There's a forest area with several high level enemies hiding out waiting to attack you on sight. It's extremely dangerous at first because you will come across a powerful mage, a cleric, an invisible thief, and a Bandit who does massive damage with a battle axe. I developed a method of engaging each of them one by one, luring them to the side of the cliffs in the ares, and kicking them off the cliff so that I never had to fight them in melee combat. Each trip through the area I can earn 7000 souls in a couple minutes, so it's the perfect place to gather souls if you want to buy some equipment or level up.