Monday, 13 February 2012

Help a Brother Out - Being Good in Dark Souls

Dark Souls pt. 2

So... we've talked about the difficulty and why it's important (or even vital) to the game.  Let's talk about something that's more optional - dealing with other people.

This is an area of Dark Souls that is a little bit more um... experimental.  There are other words I could use but I think that's probably the most polite.  When it works it is sublime, but more often than not it doesn't work, or it is abused.

You have choices to make here.  In broad terms you can be a goodie (by helping others) or a baddie (by brutally murdering others.) 

First up.. let's be nice and talk about helping each other (aah). 

Dark Souls is a tough game (you may have read this somewhere already.)  The toughest bits are probably the start (because you don't have a clue what you're doing) and the bosses (because they are generally huge, slobbering demons or other nightmare creatures that want to dismember you and then eat your still twitching, armless, body.)  It can get disheartening to continually pit yourself against overwhelming odds and get beaten. 

Oof! Ow!  Oh god, it's the bonfire again.  Right, dodge that zombie, kill that giant.. ah, boss... Bang! Aaagh! Bonfire again.  Repeat. 

A guy could start to feel a little low.

But!  Don't worry!  Help is at hand!  Get some humanity (and the game will give you some if you beat enough enemies without killing the boss), reverse your hollowing and touch one or two of the white (or, even better, yellow) signs and you will be joined by a friend.  An actual human friend.  In a lonely, desolate world it is nice to have a friend.  It is even nicer to have a friend who can fire lightning bolts and has a huge sword (ahem.)  Now go!  Go and work together to defeat your enemies!

Of course, what with this being Dark Souls and everything, you don't get to build a strong working relationship.  You can't chat.  You're not friends.  You can only communicate with a series of hand gestures (like a kind of medieval Marcel Marceau)  or by being the one who obviously knows where they're going.  As always, this fits in with the whole ethos of the game.  Dark Souls' world is lonely.  Most of the game is spent on your own, but occasionally you get to see shades of others going about their business.  They prove strangely comforting.  Similarly it can be encouraging to hear the bell tolling in the Undead Parish, you know that somebody somewhere has succeeded.

Summoning, or being summoned, fits in with this.  A little bit of comfort, a glimpse of other worlds, but really you are still on your own.  Once the local boss is defeated your new friend will go back where they came from, leaving you alone again to face the horrors ahead.  While they are here, though, they are your companion and your protector.  Cherish them.

The benefits of summoning somebody are obvious.  There are 2 (or 3) of you instead of 1 but what's in it for the summonee?  Is that even a word?

Well, the summonee (yeah, just going to go with it) actually gets a few rewards.  You get half the souls of anything that's killed, including bosses, and you also get 1 humanity if you assist in killing the boss.  In addition members of the Warrior of Sunlight covenant get a shiny medal.  Nice.  However, probably the most important thing is that you get the satisfaction of helping others.

Because Dark Souls is hard.  I don't mean to go on about it, but it's kind of unavoidable.  Most of the bosses can seem impossible until you work them out, and the start is especially punishing.  So it's nice to help somebody through that.  It would be a shame for them to start the game and give up because they just can't beat those damn gargoyles.  You can show them how to beat them, you can show them where the secrets are that you found, you can take this poor lonely wanderer under your immensely skilled wing and keep them safe.  It's a beautiful thing.  You're a beautiful person.  In amongst all this dying and horror and desolation you can create something wonderful - brothers and sisters looking out for each other like proper human beings.

Summoning Tips:
1.  You can only summon, or be summoned by, people within 10% of your soul level.  So be careful of this.
2.  Some people go through the game at a deliberately low level - this means you may be dumped into NG+ when you don't expect it.
3.  Summoning somebody may make an area extremely easy.  There are lots of ways to get great equipment without being high level.  I summoned somebody in crystal caves once who basically completed the area for me.  Great, but I missed out on doing it myself.
4.  Put your summon sign near a bonfire.
5.  Think about joining the Way of White, or Warrior of Sunlight convenants - they get more chance of being summoned.
6.  If you are summoned, it is your job to protect the summoner.  If they die, so do you.
7.  Check with the summoner who they want you to kill first when fighting Ornstein and Smough.
8.  Belfry Gargoyle area is very popular - stick your sign down by the side entrance to the chapel.  So is Capra Demon - stick it outside his fog gate.
9.  If you are summoning remember to keep your helper's health topped up with your estus flask.  They're no good to you dead.
10.  If you plan on regularly being summoned then it's worth getting the "Heal" spell, or using humanity or divine blessing to keep yourself healthy.

Next up:  The Baddies..  (boo!)

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