I don’t care about your ridiculous Barbarian build. You can run around punching pregnant trees and sentient suits of armour to death wearing only a loin cloth and dodging every attack with scripted precision - sod off into NG+ or kindly leave a summon sign, just don’t look down on me for wanting to finish the game with my sanity intact.
For more gaming confessions, check out Phil’s tedious roleplaying tendencies.
I was once like you, a Dark Souls purist who graduated from the infuriatingly stoic Demon's Souls and felt they could eke even more challenge out of Miyazaki’s imaginings. Summons were for the weak, and only those who could complete the game on their own could truly fathom the transitory thrill of a victorious boss fight. How could they even say they beat a boss when all they did was just stand back and let someone better than them do the dirty deed? It was an insult to all of my hard work.
But then along comes Dark Souls III, and after three equally obtuse From Software games, the thought of spending another hundred hours on the same four boss fights is simply too much to bear. So, instead of gritting my teeth and getting on with it, steadfast in the belief that the difficulty and frustration would deliver a worthwhile reward, I… well, I summoned, and kept summoning until the credits rolled.
Have I lost out? Not really. The game’s bosses are still a challenge, you still have to learn the choreography of each one, pitching in with attacks wherever the opportunity presents itself and making sure you’re at least holding your own. Likewise, victory is still marked with elation, which is made more enjoyable by the fact that you get to share it with those that helped you.
And really, why should I apologise for that? As much as I love the Souls franchise, it requires an insulting amount of time and commitment from prospective players in order to see it through to its end. Summoning is a tool for circumventing some of that anguish, letting you experience all a Dark Souls game has to offer without pushing yourself to and often over the brink of despair posed by many of the game’s boss battles.
It’s not an entirely selfish endeavour either. There’s not a single boss in the game who I didn’t return to in order to throw down my summon sign so that I could help someone else progress through the game. Knowing there are players out there waiting around for an opportunity to help out someone else gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling in my belly. Dying over twenty times to a surprise, one-hit kill attack gave my belly no such feeling.
Dark Souls evangelists and forumites somehow convinced me that summoning was gaming’s cardinal sin long before I’d even set foot in Northern Undead Asylum. These, presumably, are the same people who I unfortunately summoned ahead of the Aldrich, Devourer of Gods boss fight. Upon appearing they made some taunting gestures, sprinted to the fog wall and got themselves killed as quickly as possible so as to leave me facing a boss with HP scaled up to reflect the fact that I summoned two players for help. This is Dark Souls III’s equivalent of having your mate crouch behind someone and pushing the person over them, and it happened a further two times before I finished the game “That’ll learn you,” they surely jeered as their phantoms dissolved.
Problem is though, Dark Souls III is a game. If you’re not having fun with it because it’s become that little bit too sapping, what’s wrong with calling in some help and rejoicing in jolly cooperation? I’ve had more fun with the game by using summons than I had trying to tackle the series’ other entries solo.
Instead of every encounter being one of David against Goliath, they’re instead three Davids and one supercharged Goliath duking it out - and that’s a much more exciting billing. Summoning makes each battle that bit more operatic, with players hurling lightning bolts, charging in with ultra greatswords or simply tanking everything the boss has to throw at them. Watching a boss maraud one of your companions while you frantically plan out your own attack is more cinematic than going solo, where you’re always stuck rolling and dodging at the feet of your hulking adversary.
Yes, it’s a bit easier, but more importantly it’s a lot more fun. Call it cheating or tell me to git gud all you want, frankly I had a blast with Dark Souls III, and I’m not sorry for that.
Disagree? Have at me in the comments below.