Halloween Horror: From Software Edition

It’s that spooky season again, which means it’s time to think about things like horror movies and games, candy, or the inevitable onslaught of Christmas decorations and music immediately following. In the ghastly spirit of the season, I wanted to take a moment and briefly write about things that terrify me. Anyone who’s ever caught my barely coherent ramblings while streaming on Twitch, or those (un)fortunate enough to have spent any amount of time talking to me have likely been given insight into my most irrational of fears: SNAKES. Unlike many others I know, I have no problems when it comes to spiders or mice, but will absolutely lose my shit over the sight of a snake, venomous or not. Over the course of the year, I’ve been playing a LOT of From Software games – Elden Ring, Bloodborne, Dark Souls, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I don’t know if it’s simply a cosmic prank, but they ALL have some sort of snake enemies to make sure my time spent playing the game(s) is extra stressful. Here are just a few of the serpentine shitbags that I’ve come across over this past year…enjoy!

Rykard, Lord of Blasphemy – Elden Ring

After crossing the Altus Plateau and trudging upwards towards Mt. Gelmir, you will eventually arrive at Volcano Manor. This eerie, crimson dwelling serves as both a legacy dungeon and an NPC hub of sorts allowing you to pick up a number of sidequests such as assassinations of various targets across the Lands Between. Here you’ll meet Tanith, Raya, and even Patches, everyone’s favorite little scumbag found in (nearly)every From Software game since Demon’s Souls. It’s here at Volcano Manor that you will hear whispers that the Lord of Blasphemy can still be found somewhere in the vicinity. In the lowest areas of Volcano Manor, you will eventually square off against the God-Devouring Serpent – a big goddamn snake, of course. Once you defeat the God-Devouring Serpent, its mouth opens up to reveal the face of Rykard, who has taken over the serpent’s body to become the Lord of Blasphemy. This may not be the most frightening serpentine enemy on this list, but it makes up for that in the body horror department when Rykard opens his mouth and pulls a giant bloody sword from his throat in the most absurdly comical From Software way possible as you begin the second phase of the fight.

Serpent-Soldier – Dark Souls

After spending what felt like an entire week sightseeing Blighttown’s friendly confines, I finally made it to Sen’s Fortress. Upon arriving, I was promptly greeted a couple not-so-friendly patrols with fuckin’ snakes for heads and equipped to the chin scales with spears and shields. The busted-ass stairways and giant boulders rolling down nearly every corridor make Sen’s Fortress imposing enough, but a small army of these snake-headed jerks are the cherry on top. I didn’t have the toughest time against the Serpent-Soldiers in Dark Souls, but like any other Dark Souls enemy, they can easily ruin your day if approached recklessly. This type of enemy is also found in Dark Souls 3 and Elden Ring, because Miyazaki clearly hates me and takes some sick pleasure in my irrational fear of all these reptilian adversaries.

Great Serpent – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

BIG MOTHERFUCKING SNAKE. You’re even so lucky as to come across them – yes, BOTH OF THEM, several times throughout the game. It’s maybe not as much of an enemy as an *obstacle* but…I hate it nonetheless.

Snake Ball – Bloodborne

Ok, so this is probably the worst enemy in any game that I can think of at the moment, ironically found in my favorite From Software game. Picture this: you’ve made your way through the Cathedral Ward and defeated Vicar Amelia. You provide the passcode to the gatekeeper – “Fear the Old Blood” and now find yourself in the Forbidden Woods. The starting area is dicey enough as you navigate your way through the forest as enemies lob Molotov cocktails your general direction and even try to annihilate your ass with a cannon, however, as soon as you reach the midway point of the area the REAL fun begins – SNAKES. GODDAMN SNAKES. You’ll come across enemies whose head erupt into a cluster of snakes which can quickly inflict lethal poison damage if not outright kill you in a split second, but the most horrifying obstacle in the entire game is known simply as a Snake Ball. This tangled mess of vipers comes in not one, but TWO sizes – regular and extra large. NOPE. NOT TODAY, SATAN!

That’s all I really have for now. I think I’ll go play something nice and cozy, preferably without poisonous reptiles. Happy Halloween! Thanks for reading!

Boss Battles – Dark Souls/Mega Man

Alright. So, let’s pretend you’re a kid sitting in front of the living room tv playing Mega Man 2 on NES, or a grown-ass adult playing the Mega Man Legacy Collection on your Nintendo Switch, it makes no difference. You’ve guided the Blue Bomber through Wood Man’s stage and will be squaring off against yet another one of Dr Wily’s robotic rogues. Wood Man’s attack pattern begins by sending a group of leaves into the air. You try not to take too much damage from this weaponized foliage as it floats back down towards you; at the same time, Wood Man will fire his leaf shield directly at you, providing yet another obstacle to avoid. The battle can prove even more daunting as you realize your Buster Cannon in its default form doesn’t deal a ton of damage; however, you’ve already defeated Heat Man and have absorbed his Atomic Fire ability. This weapon upgrade proves all the difference in the contest as it takes roughly two charged shots to defeat Wood Man.  

Every enemy in Mega Man games have a set of specific strengths and weaknesses against a particular type of weapon. Identifying which upgrades are effective against which enemies – essentially a rock-paper-scissor match with each robotic foe, makes an ENORMOUS IMPACT in combat rather than simply jumping, shooting and dodging your way through each level. This has become one of the central gameplay elements to Mega Man games and was something that I routinely thought of as I played through Dark Souls over the summer. It was during many of the boss fights contained within From Software’s dark fantasy epic that I realized the similarities in how most boss encounters, while intimidating at first, can be made to feel much less so once you discover and exploit an enemy’s distinct weakness(es).

Bell Gargoyle(s)

One of the earlier boss fights in Dark Souls is the Bell Gargoyle. You come across this enemy on the roof of the Undead Parish before reaching the bell tower. The fight itself is pretty straightforward – dodge and attack. Once the Bell Gargoyle’s health reaches the halfway point is where the real fun begins; you will be promptly be joined by ANOTHER Bell Gargoyle and have to face off against not one, but TWO of these winged assholes. I spent several attempts trying to get the attack patterns down and generally testing my own patience in the process. I was ultimately unsuccessful as I just couldn’t avoid the near-constant onslaught of fire breath attacks from both gargoyles. It wasn’t until I randomly looked in my inventory for any consumable items that may be of use to me that I noticed I had accumulated several gold pine resins, which when applied add a healthy dose of lightning damage to your weapon. On the VERY FIRST application of gold pine resin to my weapon, I completely annihilated both Bell Gargoyles in about a minute flat…well, shit. I had spent so long grinding away at this boss fight, hoping to finally get the attack patterns down and picking the ideal time for a counterattack that I was actually caught completely off guard by how some seemingly small detail like applying lightning damage to your weapon could have in, what had been a difficult fight. It was actually this moment that made me begin to understand the way most boss fights can be approached in not just Dark Souls, but most From Software souls-like games.

Moving on to another example…

Stray Demon

You get your first glimpse of the Stray Demon in the opening minutes of Dark Souls as you make your way through the Northern Undead Asylum. The (optional)fight doesn’t actually occur until you return to the Asylum a little later in the game – another fight that gave me a fair amount of trouble in my first several attempts as this thicc bastard can absolutely wreck your chance at earning that ‘W’ with some potent magic AOE attacks. In doing a bit of research on the fight that I learned of its Achilles heel – bleed effect. The Stray Demon fight can be trivialized by the fight you can stroll, well…fall, more precisely into the boss arena with nothing a base level Bandit’s Knife capable of causing bleed damage(as well as a shield with magic resistance) and emerge victorious, which is EXACTLY WHAT I DID. Is the Stray Demon an imposing enemy? Yes. Does it have a not-so-obvious weakness to be exploited to the point of being (almost)laughably easy? Also, yes.

Ornstein & Smough

Of course, there’s times when you simply WILL NOT have the upper-hand against a particular boss – either because you never picked up the weapon/ammo to gain the upper-hand or they…just don’t have any distinguishable weaknesses to exploit. Reaching the level boss in a Mega Man game without the weapon giving you the upper-hand usually means you’re stuck using nothing but the Mega Buster and having to memorize every single movement and attack if you wanna win the fight. This happened to me MANY more times than I’d like to admit in Dark Souls, making the game feel even more similar to the Blue Bomber’s various adventures. The example which comes to mind first during my playthrough of Dark Souls was the infamous Ornstein & Smough fight. I had made my way through Anor Londo, dealing with a dozen sentinels and a whole goddamn army of silver knights before finally coming face-to-face(-to-face) with the proportionally mismatched duo. This fight took me what felt like the better part of a week. One of my biggest disadvantages, outside being outnumbered, was the fact I knew there was a weakness to exploit – FIRE. I just had no way of doing so. I didn’t have any weapons or consumables to deal fire damage, with no souls to make a quick detour and acquire any either. This meant If I was going to take on both Snorlax AND Pikachu, I had to do it the hard way – patience and pattern recognition. Just like with Mega Man, it IS possible to go through the entire game without using elemental attacks to give you an edge, but it makes an already uphill battle even steeper. The fight against Ornstein & Smough wasn’t exactly pretty and took me an eternity, but…I did it, dammit! 

Of course, I’m morally obligated to mention Bloodborne in at least one blog post a month and a number of boss fights could apply to this as well, though most end up falling under the basic “BEASTS = USE FIRE” guidelines as established by the Hunter’s Workshop…which could be an entirely different post for another day.

Thanks for reading!