I’ll Never Cross That River

Nature nurture heaven and home
Sum of all and by them driven
To conquer every mountain shown
But I’ve never crossed the river

Puscifer’s song “The Humbling River” pretty much sums up my experience with Dark Souls. While I’ve cleared a few areas in one try, instances like that are countable on one hand. Most of the time, I approach something and fail numerous times.

Often times, my brushes with failure would lead me to a dark path. I would lose hope in the face of peerless strength. I’d ask myself, “Why can’t I beat this fucker?!” It’s tough to rationalize to yourself why you’ve been able to tackle gigantic wolves and minotaurs, but you make blunders in the face of a tree.

So while I’ve been around most of the world in Dark Souls, there are still certain areas where I tremble a bit. Every time I enter the sewers of the Depths, I fear that I’ll run into the cursing toads. When I trek into the Tomb of the Giants, I become paralyzed at the thought of those giant skeletons (a closet fear of mine).

Brave the forest, brave the stone
Brave the icy winds and fire
Braved and beat them on my own
Yet I’m helpless by the river

Braving every kind of environment doesn’t prepare one for the horrors of the bosses. While some areas are more intimidating in appearance, others actually prove quite deadly. Sen’s Fortress is a prime example of a cautionary area. Walking too fast will see you slammed by a boulder or sliced by a swinging axe.

The Catacombs are also home to many a pit. Falling drops you into areas where you are surrounded by skeletons. What makes this worse is how the skeletons won’t die until you find the sorcerer conjuring them. As if pitfalls weren’t bad enough.

The Demon’s Ruins are also littered with lava and flames, making travel extremely frustrating. Failing to take your surroundings into account will lead to a very untimely and disheartening death.

Angel, angel what have I done
I face the quakes, the wind, the fire
I’ve conquered country,crown, and throne
Why can’t I cross this river

When times get tough, I sit and ponder my actions. “Why am I failing? What am I doing wrong?!” Dark Souls requires me to carefully plan my attacks and attempt different things each time. Repeating what is safe often ends up with wasted efforts.

I think back to previous successes and my rage builds. I will myself to continue and lull myself into a false sense of security. I tell myself, “This is it!” and I press on. When I see the boss, my heart begins to race and I start shaking.

I take a few hits and shrug them off. The adrenaline surges and my eyes widen. My grip tightens and my breathing ceases. I flinch every time an attack comes at me and swear loudly when it connects. I pray that this will be the time.

And then I lose.

Pay no mind to the battles you’ve won
It’ll take a lot more than rage and muscle
Open your heart and hands my son
Or you’ll never make it over the river

I rest my head in defeat, ready to give up for the moment. I then remember that Co-op is a valid option. Others must surely be having the same struggles as I, so why not lend a helping hand?

I drop my soul sign and wait. While this usually yields nothing, sometimes I’m summoned and the two of us hike forward. Upon entering a boss arena with another person, I calm my nerves and allow them to tank.

While they are going to town on the guy, I’ll draw agro slowly and surely. As the boss winds up for an attack, I make a few quick jabs and draw its attention. I then retreat and allow my new best friend to continue his assault.

Still, he is only human as well and shares my same fears. He falters and takes damage. I see a dramatic drop off in HP on his bar and cry in fear! Unable to heal him, I desperately tackle the boss and give it my all.

I’ve failed again!

It’ll take a lot more than words and guns
A whole lot more than riches and muscle
The hands of many must join as one
And together we’ll cross the river

Nearly at wits end, I revive myself to human form and look for multiple compatriots. Three is always better than two, so I ease my own fears when I see an NPC and human coming into battle with me.

We sprint at the boss and begin to whittle his health down. Now that I have an extra ally, my own inhibitions are set free and I’m able to strike without fear. Nothing holds me back.

My actions become a second nature. No more guessing whether R2 does strong or L1 blocks. Instincts take over and impulses flow. Swords clash with flesh and blood sprays into the air.

My comrades are all on their A games and the boss begins to tremble. His health bar depletes faster by the second and we all close in. The three of us continue our assault.

We finally cross that river!

That ultimate victory is what makes Dark Souls something incredibly special. No game I’ve played give me this kind of rush. While the failures are strong and their impact often makes my question my skill, sticking to your guns and pulling through is a feeling that is unparalleled in gaming.

Still, since I’m not finished with the game, I will be staring at that river yet again. Nito, you’re going to make me cower. I’ll curse, I’ll shake, I’ll tremble and I’ll doubt, but my strength will get me to cross that river.

The Capacity For Murder (Short Blog)

There may be some slight spoilers for anyone who cares. Nothing too major is discussed, other than the endings of Season 2 and 3.

“Breaking Bad” is easily one of the best shows I’ve ever watched. That is a statement I will take to my grave. It is completely enrapturing and always thought provoking. Be it through sheer shock value or intense dialog, the show constantly one ups itself and brings a macabre smile to my face.

The characters on the show run the gamut of morality and are often trotting the line into evil. It’s the only show besides “The Shield” where it is truly hard to connect with anyone, yet Vince Gilligan and crew have written some wonderful characteristics into their characters that make them pleasurable to watch.

As such, I find myself bonding with the character of Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul. The kid is a meth addict with a failure of a life. The series shows his eventual spiral into evil at the hands of Walter White, portrayed by Bryan Cranston.

Jesse starts off on the wrong side of the law, but he isn’t an inherently evil person. His actions mostly harm himself and his family life is devolving based around that. Since Walter is essentially blackmailing him into cooking meth, he has no choice but to soldier through the cesspool and trek deeper through the darkness.

There’s one point during the second season where Jesse loses his girlfriend due to an overdose. He completely blames himself and even remotely connects a plane crash to his “failure.” In the next season, taking on a new persona that he assumes is evil, he eventually kills a man to save Walter.

You can see it’s not easy for him.

What this does for me is make me think; do I have the capacity for murder? I’m not going to blame “Breaking Bad” for giving me that thought or even claim that I will now become a convict. What I’m questioning is this: would I react the same way as Jesse?

See, I bond so much with Jesse because I feel like my life is spiraling downward. Family deaths have caused me to lose contact with a bunch of my family members. I remained home this past Thanksgiving because I didn’t feel like I could bond with anyone.

I also had a close problem with my alcohol intake. I was bordering on alcoholism while I was trying to impress some girl, a status that I’m still very scared of. While I do sometimes get drunk, I’ve never returned to the level of insanity that I previously could.

Some of my older co-workers give me problems, as well. My reactions aren’t outward at them, but I often get incredibly distraught at home and tend to lash out at whoever crosses my path. It’s sickening when I think about it, but my rage needs to be let loose.

This makes me think back to my teenage years when I often would punch walls or instigate verbal fights with other classmates. With how awful I perceive my life to be now, could I honestly kill someone?

Jesse eventually breaks under the impression that he needs to save his partner, but he soon becomes cold blooded and takes more lives. This is something that wasn’t present during the first two seasons of the show, where Jesse was visually sick at the thought of murder.

Will there ever be a time where I just break? Is it possible that someone will push me over the line and I’ll react with violence and bloodlust? I honestly think that answer is no and I’m pretty sure that none of the situations in my life are as serious as the predicaments that Jesse found himself in.

I don’t think I’ll be killing the entire Colombian Cartel anytime soon.

Still, the very idea that I can bond with such a low-life character and that I see a lot of similarities just makes me wonder. It says a lot when a show as gritty and brutal as “Breaking Bad” can create a character so plausible that I have to stop and examine my own psyche.

At the very least, I’d probably be just as wrecked over the death of a loved one as Jesse. Maybe that’s a plus?