With Dark Souls 3's Ashes of Ariandel DLC just around the corner, I've spent the last few weeks revisiting Hidetaka Miyazaki's brutally unforgiving series. Not just the third, but also the first, Shibuya's number two, and even console cousin Bloodborne.
You see, I'm one of those weird people who has loads of concurrent saves on the go at the same time. And while this is probably hindering my hard drive, it also allows me to dip my toe into my favourite games whenever I desire, without the need to seriously commit to anything. I get a taste, satisfy an urge, and then move on.
Over the past wee while, I've returned to Drangleic Castle, I've given Nightmare of Mensis another whirl, and I've retraced my steps in Darkroot Basin (and have died at the hands of The Hydra more times that I care to tell you—how did I ever beat this thing, I now ask myself).
One particular game section I find myself drawn back to time and time again, though, is Sen's Fortress from the original Dark Souls. During my very first playthrough a few years back, I somehow managed to successfully navigate Blighttown, defeat Quelaag, and ring the second bell before hitting Souls Level 30. With an ensemble of ridiculously underpowered weaponry and armour, running the gauntlet from Andre's Undead Parish bonfire to the peak of Sen's Fortress now marks the ultimate challenge and, with this build, requires as much luck as it does skill.
You've played Mousetrap, right?
That's pretty much how I view each of my shuttle runs through Sen's scurrilous slaughterhouse. I revisit it, and beat it, every now and then just to prove to myself that I can.
Underpowered, coming out on top against each and every Serpent Soldier is a complete roll of the dice—much like Mousetrap's tedious pre-trap board game. Gleefully skipping past the second set of swinging blades before forgetting about that blasted embedded dart-spouting pressure pad underfoot, is akin to the pinball rolling off the board and not activating the oddly-situated bathtub above. Mistaking that treasure chest for a bloomin' Mimic is like when the big ball misses the seesaw.
Reaching that final catwalk, taking a deep breath and uttering, 'I can do this' under my breath—but of course then overlooking that sneaky Serpent Mage on the left hand side who gleefully knocks me off the ledge with a blast of lightning —is like when the plastic yellow man hits the rim of the similarly-coloured bucket and fails to trigger the titular rodent-catching contraption. You bastard.
Hang on a second, there's a pattern beginning to emerge here: I'm shit at both Mousetrap and Dark Souls, aren't I?
Until I beat it. I dodge the last set of pendulum blades, dash past the bomb-launching giant, roll down to the sort-of hidden bonfire, capture that damned plastic mouse and, yes, I'm a momentary champion who isn't likely to play Dark Souls, nor Mousetrap, ever again.
And I'm also a liar. Until the next time, Sen.