Earlier this week we talked about summer gaming goals. After a few easy single-player experiences, I've embarked on a journey to beat Dark Souls without levelling up, becoming a Onebro. These are the trials and tribulations of my avatar, Onederboy.
Right. The character creation screen. If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it right, and have a nice big think about how to tackle the challenges ahead. Fortunately, this is the best possible game to attempt this in - far more dependent on player skill than any virtual number you can grind for.
My health will always be the same, apart from minor increases available via gear. There won't be very much of that gear, since my stamina will also never increase. My Dexterity will forever be 9, severely limiting my weapon choices (a standard shortsword requires 10). These are the problems I'll have to solve if I want to get through even the most basic areas of Lordran.
When starting a Onebro run, it's necessary to lay out the rules you'll follow. I'll be allowing myself whatever gear I can use, and I won't eschew coop help, but only if things get desperate. I've got nothing against jolly cooperation, but it requires consuming your limited reserves of humanity, during which time you're vulnerable to a pvp invasion.
Luckily the Pyromancer seems tailor-made to this pursuit, being the only class that actually starts at level 1, and Pyromancy being the only magic that doesn't scale with stats like Intelligence. Hopefully my fire arts will minimise the demoralising chipping away of boss' health bars that can seem slower than wind erosion.
Other than that, I'll be using every trick in the book. Firebombs, temporary buffs, pulling, the Master Key... Anything that isn't a glitch.
In a world where everything respawns when you rest, your ultimate goal is achieving permanency. And whereas permanency previously came from levelling, now, it will come from inventory. Rather than lose a stockpile of souls, I'll race to spend them on luring arrows, resins, and firebombs. Later on, I'll be able to spend vast amounts of souls on Twinkling Titanite to upgrade special gear.
My weapon of choice? Well, there's not much choice, really. A collection of crude, unskillful weapons available to my dexterity is topped by the Reinforced Club, which sports a few lovely nails at the top for some extra bleed damage. With no stat requirements on weapon upgrades, I'd enchant two of these blunt painsticks with expensive fire and lightning upgrades.
I'd be a twink. A dud core in quality gear. The RPG equivalent of that revhead on your street with a stereo worth more than the rest of the car. With my plan set, I was ready to take my first steps into the fog.
Don't You Dare Go Hollow
Sometimes you can clear your way to a boss, and sometimes you can just get good at running towards it. You can take it on a case-by-case basis. Memorising each enemy's reaction as you sprint past them on the way to the boss is potentially quicker than inching forward with a paranoid shield arm. Having beaten the game a few times already, and having little need to collect souls for levelling up, I sprint about half the runs from bonfires to bosses.
The first area, the Undead Burg, is full of undead creatures just like me, except they've given into a crazed, hopeless despair — they've gone "hollow". I knew where each enemy was. I knew when a giant metal ball would roll down a staircase. I knew when to sprint past undeads throwing firebombs from the rooftops, and I knew about the axeman that would be waiting for me at the end. The attacks of the hollow are predictable and I move from boss to boss quickly.
On a bridge leading up to my first major goal, a massive, minotaur-like creature jumps to block my way. I climb a nearby tower and jump down, plunging my nailed club into its face with +10 gravity. The win comes easy - I'm not even supposed to be much higher than level 1 at this point.
After wading through the corpses of hollows, I come to a series of Balder Knights. These lesser knights of Lordran are not prepared for the juxtaposition of an elegant parry with my left hand, and a crude smack of a club with my right. Their bodies pave the way to my next challenge: Two stone gargoyles with axes for tails.
Fighting two enemies with one stamina bar isn't easy - blocking and dodging takes stamina - so for this task I summon the NPC Solaire. He tanks one while my pyromancy quickly deals with the other. The gargoyles go down quick, and I reach my first goal - ringing the upper bell.
So far, I have an abundance of souls. I buy 99 firebombs. Hundreds of arrows. I upgrade my crappy gear, even though I'll use something else later. Happily, it makes a noticeable difference.
The Lower Bell
Next up, the Capra Demon. Two guard dogs rush at me, threatening to interrupt my movement as I navigate the massive sword blows from a monster twice my size wearing a giant goat skull. I deal with the dogs first, and while his attacks are too strong for my stamina to maintain blocking, I'm able to dodge and get in my attacks for a win on the first attempt.
My Master Key allows me to skip past the Depths and head straight down into Blighttown, where I make my way past a poisonous swamp to reach Quelaag - the first boss that gave me trouble in my initial run.
Half-woman, half-spider, her sword swings were fairly easy to get around just by holding up a shield and strafing. At full health, and laying right into Quelaag's backside, I neglect to notice her not attacking. Suddenly a purple explosion startles me, and I'm dead. "Oh right," I say. "Her AoE attack."
Quelaag wouldn't prove to me too much of a challenge, but that purple pop was a warning. A 100% magic damage attack that my armour wouldn't mitigate, requiring two full backward rolls to avoid. Not noticing the charge-up animation was my fault, but there'd be plenty of that to come, with less obvious telegraphing, so I'd need to be on my game. If Quelaag could one-hit me, then so could much of what's ahead.
I go down a few steps and ring the second of two bells. The first chapter of the game is complete as a Onebro, and it's taken me one night. Fast progress, but here's where that stops. Next chapter I'll have to brave the traps of Sen's Fortress, the Silver Knights of Anor Londo, and one of the hardest fights in the game: Smough & Ornstein.
It's all been pretty easy so far, but this is the area you're supposed to be close to level 1, and not have much gear. One step at a time, Onederboy. One step at a time.
The Chronicles Of Onederboy is one man's attempt to conquer one game with one level. These are the life and times of a virtual warrior that refuses to level up in one of the most challenging games available. Do you have any gaming goals over the summer? Let us know how you're going below, and watch out for the next instalment in the Chronicles of Onederboy!