Rekindling the flame of love, with Dark Souls 3


Siegward of Catarina. Don't call it a comeback.
Boy it sure has been a while since I last posted something. I wanted to talk about how much I hated The Division and how much it makes me hate video games as a whole, by making giant worlds filled with nothing to do, acting more as a walking simulator to pad out the game length than actually putting fun activities in the world, but I decided not to. Somehow The Division was just as boring for me to talk about as it was to play.

But alas my words that kill have been stifled by moving again. Now that we have a stable set up and I'm comfortable, I'm back to thinking up things to talk about. One of those things is Dark Souls 3 and the exact moment it made me realize it was an honest joy to play.

I, like most people, loved Dark Souls, though not at first. I obtained a copy from a Redbox machine a few days after it released and I was absolutely bored by the game. I just didn't get it. The fucking dragon on the bridge, I couldn't get past it! That's not fair, it was too hard! All of this and more were the feelings I felt and thought at the time. Everyone loved the game and I just didn't understand it. So I got maybe 4 or so hours into it and returned it to Redbox.

Later I saw the game on sale for like $10 so I said, hey, it might be worth giving another shot! And I bought it. For some reason, for some strange reason, it clicked instantly at that point. I immediately understood why everyone loved it, because I now loved it too.

Dark Souls 2 was a different story. Different game director too. I wanted to like that game a lot more than I did, because so much of it was that familiarity from the first game with a whole load of improvements sprinkled on top. But it never felt like it pushed the series forward. It was that same familiarity that hamstrung my enjoyment of the game. Many of the bosses were one boss with a whole load of enemies surrounding them because, in this new game director's eyes "If hard = good, and people like good, then more enemies = harder, so people will love this even more!"

But it fell flat to me. It just felt like they were saying "HEY GUYS REMEMBER DARK SOULS HERE'S MORE DARK SOULS". It had failed to reach the potential a sequel of Dark Souls could have had, and disappointed me greatly. Many minor advances and fixes were made in the Scholar of the First Sin edition of the game, but by that point the magic was gone. It was even more "even more". So I was pretty frustrated with it as a whole.

I did thoroughly enjoy the first DLC, which was so far the only one I ever got around to playing. It added in a lot of interesting mechanics, like hitting switches to raise and lower structures, but it just made me think "Why couldn't they do this for the actual game".

The one thing that I could think about was how static the series was. It was only the second Dark Souls game, but so far the third Soul's game. And they were all so samey. If you've played one, you've played them all.

Then came along Bloodborne. The newest Soulslike, directed by Dark Souls game director Hidetaka Miyazaki. It was one of my favorite of the Soulslikes for a number of reasons, but the number one was the new dodge. It wasn't a roll like in the Dark Souls games, but a more actiony juke, forward, away, side to side. It kept a fast and intense pace, whereas there is no suitable shield to guard yourself, you had to manually get away from danger at any given moment.

I wanted to talk about Bloodborne when it first came out but honestly I completely forgot about what I was going to write about. It had an interesting system in place where, after receiving damage, you can regain a small amount of health by attacking enemies. It created a flow of combat that Dark Souls just didn't have. Dark Souls was very much so a game of "Bring up shield, walk behind enemies, stab in back, repeat" and Bloodborne finally broke that trend by adding in firearms and alternate ways to stagger enemies, as well as removing any semblance of a Shield to protect yourself with.

It was one of the best entries of the entire Soulslikes and had one of the best bosses out of all of them in Father Gascoigne. Unfortunately no other boss was able to live up to Gascoigne as they took on a more Soulslike style.

And here comes Dark Souls 3. I was immediately unsure and quite honestly, disinterested in it. I mean, they are pumping these things out very quickly nowadays and I'm beginning to get burnt out. For as much as I loved Bloodborne and hoped that was the direction the Soulslikes would take from now on, having another Dark Souls so soon is worrying. I didn't care to hear about the news, as with Dark Souls 2 so much of what was originally announced would probably not make it into the game, and if it did, it would be much different than what it was supposed to be. So I went radio silent on it. Saw no trailers, watched no gameplay, avoided interviews or discussions.

Then it came out, and curiosity took over. They hail it as the final Dark Souls game, and regardless of if that's true or not, especially in this day and age, I might as well see it go. Not to mention a few friends told me of their experience with it and I said, hey, why not. Doesn't sound bad at all. And then Hidetaka Miyazaki is back as director, and he directed Bloodborne as well, so let's give it a shot.

At first glance, yep, this is Dark Souls. I wasn't in the mood to hate it, I didn't want to actively go in with a negative thought processes. But it was certainly the same game I've played 3 other times beforehand. It wasn't until I started making progress in the game that it truly began to win me over. And when it did, it won me over hard.

There I was, standing at the base of an elevator. It was inside of a pretty high tower. It seemed to go deep down as well. But like most of the people in the 60's and 70's, I wanted to get high. So I hit some pressure plates to bring the elevator down, and that's when I saw him.

Siegward of Catarina. Another Onion Knight. AOK, as I called him. As once I made his acquaintance, he became AOK in my book! We talked, he said some words, and eventually went to the top of the tower. Well, not to the top, but higher up. Once I rejoined him, he pointed towards a building a little ways away, about a giant firedemon looking thing. He talked about wanting to kill it, and I thought, well yeah, it's Dark Souls, clearly we gotta kill that mother.

He remained there, sitting on his perch, looking down on the demon. I figured I'd have to wait for him to attack the demon, or come back later and he'd already be fighting it. But when I came back he was still sitting there. "Shit, did my game glitch? I don't want to google this because that's stupid, but I don't know what to do". So I said, oh well, this guy is cool but I've got demons to kill. So I found my way down this side of the tower, dropping down to a lower roof below me and making my way towards the fire demon. After that, history was made.

There was the AOK, Siegward of Catarina, sitting on his perch, looking down at us. But once he saw me attack the demon, he couldn't just sit there and watch, so he came to help me. He said something cool as shit, jumped from his perch and found the path down, hopping to the lower roof, and immediately rushing into the fray. It. Was. Electric.

We both engaged in Jolly Cooperation, exchanging blows with this massive fire demon. Every time he was hit, I winced at the idea of him dying and me having to lose my new best friend. But we kept on, lashing out with our swords at this big red bastard. This enemy honestly wasn't that hard. With the two of us, he was even easier. But once the battle was done, Siegward of Catarina sat down where the beast had been killed, brofisted me something fierce, and took a fucking nap.

I couldn't believe it. In the static, unchanging world of Dark Souls, something... happened. Something dynamic occurred. And it was great. It was honestly great. Siegward made an incredible first impression on me that made me think very highly of this game, which instilled a newfound vigor to hunker down and enjoy this world. To think I'd be surprised again, in a newer, more incredible way. And boy George almighty was I.

Much later on in the game, Siegward gets locked in a cell and you have to get him out. Doing so took me a while because if I recall, you have to do a bit of legwork and at that point the key was in an area I hadn't yet been. But once you free him, a little bit later some serious shit goes down.

Enter, the last big boss I had yet to defeat. You need to kill all five of them to get to the end of the game, and this was the fifth. I find the boss fog, I walk through it, the cutscene triggers and the camera pans to my character... then pans to Siegward of Catarina as he walks in behind me, proceeds to say some incredible shit about keeping a promise, then, wielding this incredibly powerful sword, proceeds to kick the ever loving shit out of this boss.

This moment was the stand out moment for Dark Souls 3, and even the entire franchise. This is the moment where moving parts were added to a mostly static world, and the execution couldn't have been better. I haven't been this excited about a scene in a video game in a long time. Just the sheer unexpectedness of having to summon people to fight with you, only for Siegward to say "No, fuck that spiritual summoning bullshit, I'm just going to walk in and beat him to death with this crazy magic sword". It was hype.

The game... Dark Souls 3 was fighting itself. I was doing a pittance of damage against this boss, but Siegward was taking a quarter of health away with every attack. He was doing incredible damage against Yhorm, two A.I. against one another but the thing is, you can summon A.I. for a ton of fights throughout the entire franchise. What was so special about this? Well, for one, it felt sincere. It felt like a logical conclusion, and it felt like I got to see the climax of a story I was the supporting character for.

Siegward was the protagonist of his own story. He made a promise to Yhorm, and with my help in retrieving his armor, helping him fight a giant fire demon, freeing him from a prison cell, and so on and so forth, he was able to keep that promise. And he did so in the hypest fucking way possible, by once more sitting down, saying his goodbyes, brofisting me right in the emotions, and taking a nap... in the lair of a giant lord that he just finished killing the shit out of.

I don't know what inspired FromSoftware to create Siegward of Catarina. Why this NPC seemed to have such a big focus on him, making him out to be a hero of heroes. But I'm glad they made him, because he highlighted my love of Dark Souls by providing me with a bro when I needed one, did some spectacular shit that I got to... spectaculate(?), and then he went on his merry way.

Where did Siegward go? Some say he dies. I disagree with that assessment. He left his armor behind for someone else to find, for someone else to don as they keep their own promises to the bosses of Dark Souls. To remind those giant undead bastards that we may be smaller, but we certainly aren't weaker. He promoted the concept of Jolly Cooperation, proving that Dark Souls is at its best when it's played together, and that together nothing can stop us.

And I thank you Siegward. The flame of love for Dark Souls was burning out, but you were the kindling I needed to light that fire and remember the good old days.

Goodbye Siegward of Catarina. And happy trails.

My name is Ryan. I like to play video games and Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also like to write. This is my website, it's nothing special, but I write about topics from time to time that probably make no sense. But if you think they do make sense, then hang around and check out some other articles. My friends call them "blogs" but goddamnit I've got a URL and everything, so they're "articles".

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