Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Demon's Souls: Battle Log

I beat my second boss. My game timer is at something like 8 hours. I've played the same level at least 20 times. I watched YouTube videos about how to beat that boss. And then I worked out my own strategy involving 100 arrows, about twenty minutes of patient battle, and a conveniently positioned parapet.

This was not a matter of hitting the glowing red spot with the appropriate item (gained in the level!). This was not a matter of memorizing the attack pattern. Or of twitching fast enough. It sure as fuck wasn't a matter of wading into battle, mashing buttons, and dealing more damage than I absorbed. This is the first time I can remember beating a seemingly-impossible boss by thinking, "What would I do when confronted by a 30 foot tall knight?"

I'd hide my ass where he couldn't get to me and pepper him with arrows until he died of internal bleeding, that's what I'd do. And that's what I did.

And I had fun working it all out. As frustrating as it was to die over and over again, it was made tolerable by an excellent decision on the part of the designers.

You don't have to watch any goddamn cutscene before fighting the boss. Okay, that's not quite right. The first time I fought him, there was a ten or fifteen second cutscene that showed me the layout of the room and the secondary threat (a bunch of archers; whom you should take out first). But every subsequent time I entered the knight's tower, there wasn't so much as a moment of transition. So instead of having to watch half a minute of "isn't he scary and full of polygons" intro each time I walked in, it was straight to the fight.

On the other hand, the fucking targeting system is driving me downright batty. In order to target an enemy, he must be fully exposed. And by fully exposed, I mean that he's fully exposed to the camera, not to your character. So if you spot a guy's arm sticking out as he lays in ambush, there's no effective way to target him. Furthermore, the range is restricted to something like fifteen meters from your character to acquire a lock--but an enemy can be probably a hundred meters away before the lock is broken. The autoselection of the next target is also somewhat weird--it never seems to target the closest guy, but rather the guy closest to the center of the screen.

Relatedly, there's no way to walk backwards with your shield up without that you've locked on to somebody. This is really annoying if, say, you walk through a door to find half a dozen guys waiting for you. Sure, your shield's up... but you can't retreat without turning around and exposing your back. And since the door jamb, door, and wall are between you and your enemies, at least partially obscuring them, locking on can often be quite difficult.

In most games, these targeting foibles would be simply annoying. In Demon's Souls, they're fucking fatal. When many enemies can slaughter you in two or three unblocked hits, it's unforgivable that you can't retreat with your shield raised unless you happen to beat the targeting system into submission. I once died because the camera locked onto, of all things, a goddamn unreachable set-piece dragon flying overhead... instead of one of the two knights standing in front of me.

But the lock-on system is the first real flaw I've found in this game. Unfortunately, it's pervasive and supremely annoying.

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