March 31, 2015

With gritted teeth, I play on.

I tell myself, continually, that I am having fun. That this is what fun is. The constant deaths from clunky combat, the trial and error method of learning, of starting over and getting further. I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere, as I die, yet again, to the same monster that has killed me a hundred times before.

With gritted teeth, I play on.

I tell myself I am making progress. That I am getting better. That my reactions to these brutal attacks is improving. I am learning to dodge, to roll out of the way. I am learning to time my attacks, and to avoid attacking unless necessary. Instinct tells me to go all out, to slash my way through the enemies. Experience tells me that to do so would be suicide. I miss a roll, I die.

With gritted teeth, I play on.

I choose a different path. One that appears to offer less resistance. Maybe this is the correct way to go. Maybe all those monsters I was dying to were just a sideshow, and here is the main path. What’s over here? Some item, some object that will help me get further? Maybe a new checkpoint from which I can restart as I push further and further into this game?

I don’t find out. I die, again. With gritted teeth, I play on.


It reminds me, a lot, of the classic arcade shooter. Not the more modern bullet-hell variety, but of the slow, methodical shooter. Of R-Type, of Gradius, and their punishing difficulty that can only be conquered through this kind of repetition. Of their extreme penalties for failing, and for the fact that the ship I pilot, much like my character now, is fragile enough to die in only one or two hits.

If I can get past these monsters, I can push a little further, beyond where I have been before. I can see more of this intricate and intriguing world, reach deeper into its gaping, horrific maw and pull out more experience, more gear, more levels.

With gritted teeth, I play on.

There is an interminable wait between death and resurrection. A time, perhaps, to reflect. Internalise the lesson. Take a moment to reflect. To stretch and freshen up. To return to that lantern and look again upon this twisted, broken place. Its anguished moans and agonised screams from unseen things. Some of them are the innocent of this world, caught up in events they aren’t programmed to fully understand. Others— the ones I must fight— are its agents, sent to deal with me as much as I am sent to deal with them.

They are, so far, winning. With gritted teeth, I play on.


I make it, finally, past everything I have tried before to make it past. I come, finally, to a boss. The first boss, the one who’s defeat will result in opening up large new tracts of game to explore. But this boss is even stronger and tougher than what I fought to get to it. The fight lasts a matter of seconds, and of course, I die. It will be a long time before I can get back up to this point. My death and resurrection results in the resurrection of those I had to kill to get here. I’m not yet able to take them down consistently, and I will have to fight through them again.

My desire is to understand why this game means so much to so many. Why its predecessors have become so successful despite their incredible difficulty. Why would someone put themselves through this. Do they find it fun? Are the idiosyncratic controls and the methodical, almost strategic nature of the combat things a person would like? Why not make a game where combat isn’t governed by an all-to-short meter. Why not let me input combos and let me rack up hit chains to win? The game looks like it might be that kind of game, but it’s very clearly not.

I want to understand. I want, most of all, to believe. With gritted teeth, I play on.

This time I return to the boss. I stop and wait. I am learning patience. Let the monster come to me. Let its actions guide my own actions. Let it make its move first. It does. I roll out of the way. I look back. It’s open. I run in, attack, run out. I do damage. More damage than before. The fight has barely started, and the health bar is long. I focus. I need to do this. It comes again. I dodge, again. I attack, again. I escape, again. The health bar seems to shrink by agonisingly small amounts. But I am learning patience. The fight goes on.


It’s health lowered, the boss changes tactics. I am not ready. It hits harder than before. Too hard. I die. I choose not to return immediately to the world, however. I take the option offered up by the lantern, to enter a dreamspace. A safe zone where I can get some respite. It is safe here, though not necessarily peaceful. The imposing hall is decrepit but comfortable. Headstones mark places I haven’t been to yet, portals to worlds I’m not yet good enough to see. A doll stands in front of me, offering advancement. Workbenches in the hall let me repair my gear. I can’t afford it right now, but it does not yet matter, as the world beyond has not yet broken it down.

I make my way to the portal that takes me back to where I was. The lantern that is the only one I’ve seen. The monsters are back, and I will have to fight them again. I feel more prepared, more ready this time. Despite the feeling that I am not truly progressing, I can start to see the path ahead. I just have to execute it. Bring myself forward, learn it. If I can, then I have become a better player. I will be a better player. I am ready.

With gritted teeth, I play on.


Beatifully detailed and unsettling world that highlights the power of the PS4
Uncompromising challenge that will be satisfying to skilled players
Gorgeous armour detail


High difficulty will intimidate many players
Prepare to spend a lot of time looking at loading screens

Overall Score: