It’s the colour of a shrunken oily olive. Its true eyes are pinpricks of light situated on either side of its threateningly wide mouth, and its false eyes wobble like (boobs?) batteries rolling around a broken flashlight on top of its scaly head. It is FromSoftware’s loathed but consistent creature the burping basilisk, which you can find scurrying in all three Dark Souls game and even in the video game developer’s latest role-playing game Elden Ring.
I became acquainted with the basilisks’ malevolent spirit during my first Dark Souls playthrough, which happened when I was a fairly insecure gamer. I’ve been reminiscing about this time as people seem to be using Elden Ring as an entry point into FromSoftware’s other oeuvre.
When I played my first FromSoftware game (Dark Souls 2), I was inclined to give up at the smallest sign of trouble. A difficult boss? Irritating enemy pile-ons? No, thanks!
But my approach changed when I met the original Dark Souls. It was intricate and gory, regal but brutal, and it let me pretend like I was in Hansel and Gretel by including two undead cooks trying to hack off my limbs for their lunchtime repast. What more can a girl ask for?
Though I was in a phase of abandoning any game I wasn’t immediately ready to start filming no-hit runs for, I wanted to stick with Dark Souls because it made me think pleasurably hard about why I was swinging my pixel sword. I started to love it. Then the basilisks came and put my loyalty to the test.
These creepy creatures hate love. They also have a serious indigestion problem, I think, and should see a gastroenterologist for their fetid burp clouds. But, perhaps surprisingly, I don’t think I would have gone on to successfully play Dark Souls or any other FromSoftware game were it not for their putrid presence. They scared me at first, but they helped me push through new game awkwardness and build my faith. They’re a perfect example of how you can use what feel like roadblocks in a video game to your advantage.
Know thy enemy
Before finding inspiration in a video game challenge, you need to become intimately familiar with it. In this case, basilisks gather in wet catacombs like pimples under your skin, puff up their veiny pink chests, and release grey clouds of curse that kill you almost instantly if you stand in them for too long. In Dark Souls, being cursed means that your health pool is halved, and you can’t use humanity points to become Human, a state that allows players to summon multiplayer help, get invaded, and, cosmetically, look like a person and not a pound of dry flesh. Curse also splatters an ominous-looking skull next to your health bar and is generally unideal.
Basilisks belch nefarious smoke and should be avoided in every FromSoftware game. But I’m focusing on their original Dark Souls incarnation specifically because, in my opinion, the 50 per cent health cap curse inflicts on you makes them 50 per cent more annoying than in other games. That challenge also built my character.
Persisting in the face of adversity (they sprayed their juices on me)
Ignore the obvious innuendo here and avoid standing in basilisks’ cursed fumes whenever possible. If your curse-resistant armour set and strategic jabs at their weak bellies aren’t enough, take the opportunity for a deep inhale, exhale and try not to lose your mind when you see your health bar get slashed in half. You can remove the cap with a purging stone, which you can buy from scattered merchant NPCs at exorbitant prices or, in the interest of saving your in-game currency, find some cracked red eye orbs and trade with the invisible bird players have dubbed Snuggly the Crow.
You can find Snuggly in the Northern Undead Asylum, and you can trade for purging stones by dropping one orb into its nest, quitting the game, then reloading to pick up the two purging stones the crow dropped in exchange. It’s a little elaborate, but it works when you have nowhere else to go.
But, more broadly, if you reach a section of any video game that makes you feel like you’re not good enough to make it through, once again do that inhale, exhale, then remember that all skills are acquired. Even if you need time, you can master the skill necessary for whatever bind you’re in.
This isn’t me just saying “get good,” by the way. That phrase often feels like a dismissive way to build the mythology around difficult games and push people away from them.
Because of “get good,” when the basilisks first squatted their frog butts all over my health bar, I felt frustrated by what I saw as my own inadequacy. Dark Souls intentionally punishes you for getting cursed, too, by making purging stones hard-won. There was a voice in my head saying that finding a purging stone wasn’t worth it because I’ll just get cursed again. “It’s probably best to just quit the game,” I thought.
But I stuffed that voice in a hat box in my closet! I welcome the possibilities that come with learning. When I gritted my teeth and got both thumbs back on my controller, I realised that getting cursed taught me Dark Souls’ winding, connected map as I searched for stones. It pushed me to be strategic in choosing pathways as I avoided running into basilisks, and it encouraged me to have no mercy when I inevitably encountered them. I used these skills for the rest of my Dark Souls playthrough and, particularly with strategy and aggression, continue to use them in all FromSoftware games to great effect.
They helped me savour my gaming problems. When I made the choice to keep playing, I stopped seeing Dark Souls’ aggravating basilisks as deterrents and began viewing them as playful motivation. They were crafty, but uncovering how to deal with them made me feel more committed and passionate about video games overall.
Wow, that is a beautiful example of using strife as a vehicle for self-improvement, as well as perhaps a metaphor for humanity cooperating with nature in pursuit of a common goal: beating Dark Souls.
Thanks! I completely agree. I suppose I did learn to comply with the gassy basilisks instead of viewing them solely as an obstruction. They’re a hallmark of FromSoftware’s intentionally challenging gameplay. But if you keep a level head, Dark Souls basilisks or any other video game obstacle will steer you to victory.
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