Trying to understand how games work

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Just recently I finished Elden Ring. I had a mostly good time with it, but it definitely felt like it suffered with open world bloat. Considering the scope of the game I was a little worried about how I would be able to progress through the sort of cryptic questlines that are typical of a From Software game. 

Before starting it, I saw a lot of mentions of people writing journals to keep track of things that the game wouldn’t. It actually helped a fair amount, as I could check it and refresh myself on certain things to come back to. I also thought it would be interesting to publish the journal. As I was writing in the journal to assist my own memory, this doesn’t paint a complete picture of my experience. It was unnecessary to write down the ways forward that seemed obvious. It’s also not a complete picture of the side-quests of Elden Ring, as I didn’t feel the desire to finish them all. Because of that there are a few dead ends here. I also took care not to spoil myself on the game too much, so some of this could be wrong.

To be fully clear, there will be spoilers. They also might not make sense without the context of playing the game, but I wouldn’t take the risk or reading if I was interested in something like this.

This is what I wrote in a notebook as I was playing Elden Ring:

  • Found a rat-person named Boc. They had been turned into a tree. Said something about sneaking into a cave on the shore.
  • Boss enemies roam the open world, don’t forget it. I was surprised by a rider in black who made short work of me.
  • A man named Diallos is looking for his servant Lanya, who is said to be the sort to wander around.
  • I found Boc beaten up in the Coastal Cave, saying I’d end up like him if I ventured further in. He was not wrong!
  • I saved a man named Kenneth Haight. He’s asked me to help take back his fortress. It’s south of the Mistwood. It sounds like there’s a big reward for helping him.
  • I cleared out Fort Haight. The reward was underwhelming, and my promised knighthood did not materialise. All I got was half a key. Now he wants me to find a suitable lord for this place. Let’s hope they can sort Kenneth out.
  • I spoke to a merchant about a mysterious wolf howl in the Mistwood. If I snap my fingers in the right place I may be able to speak with someone.
  • I revisited the Coastal Cave and emerged at the Church of the Dragon Communion. I’ll need to obtain some dragon hearts to learn some enticing spells.
  • At a small church of Irith, I came across a man named Thops. He told me that I needed a glintstone key in order to reach the academy. He’d also like one if there’s any going spare.
  • Sir Gideon was cold to me on my initial visit to Roundtable Hold, but after Godrick’s defeat by my hands he became very welcoming. He told me where I can find the other shard-bearers.
  • I snapped my fingers like the merchant said. A half-wolf named Blaidd showed up. He is looking for a man named Darriwill, and wants to “end his tale”.
  • I freed the Warrior Jar Alexander. He is headed to the Caelid Wilds for some “festival of combat” at Redmane Castle. Maybe I should be on the lookout for him when I take on Radahn.
  • A girl has asked me to deliver a letter to her father at Castle Morne in the Weeping Peninsula. There has apparently been a servant rebellion. The castle came into view when I was halfway across the peninsula, but then a large ballista bolt coming from that direction landed only a few feet from me. They must not want visitors.
  • Found a place called Oridy’s Rise. It’s locked. A book outside informed me I must find “three wise beasts”. There’s a ghostly-looking turtle in front, and a shallow pool with something invisible to the right.
  • Went a little north from Oridy’s Rise to find some mage-looking folks around a portal. I fought with them no issue, but then a tall warrior who knew some sort of magnetising magic gave me some trouble. I still won though.
  • I fought Darriwill with Blaidd and won. I’ve now been informed of a blacksmith in Raya Lucaria who can help me out.
  • I found the map for the glintstone key. It led me to a dragon, who I could not defeat, so I took the key and ran.
  • I came across a place called Boilprawn Shack just south of the Academy. The guy there seems friendly.
  • There was another fortress in Caelid called Fort Faroth. I didn’t stick around for long as I ran past the bat-like creatures and ghostly knights. I found the second half of that key I got from Fort Haight. I need to see how I can use it.
  • I read up on the glintstone key and figured why Thops was asking me about a spare one. It’s bound to whoever uses it first. He will have to wait as I’ve already made use of mine to get through the Academy.
  • That key in two halves took me up a lift to the Altus Plateau. In that place I bumped into someone who can read fingers. She told me about “ruins of gold” to the east and “the serpent’s sacrilege” to the west, both paths which apparently lead to sorrow. It had something to do with the “Curse of Queen Marika”, which seems ominous to me, so I should find out more.
  • Brother Corhyn has told me that he plans to leave in search of a man named Goldmask, in order to further his study of incantations. Maybe that man can help me too.
  • Fia, the deathbed companion, has given me a dagger to return to its rightful owner, without telling me who that is. D seems to know who that should be so I gave it to him.
  • That might have been a bad idea.
  • Roderika has warned me of spirits howling and wailing in fear of a curse. I apparently should be keeping my distance from something.
  • Apparently D found the “mark of the centipede”, whatever that is. I’m curious about it.
  • Iji is the name of the blacksmith Blaidd sent me to. He told me not to set foot in the Carian Manor as it’s dangerous. I must go explore it.
  • I went to Castle Morne and delivered Irina’s letter to her father. However, he assured me that he will stay until he is certain that the Sword of Morne is protected.
  • Irina has been murdered. Her father is now looking for whoever is responsible.
  • Met another woman who can read fingers in Caelid. She tells me a festival is to the south. Is this the one Alexander was telling me about?
  • I found a man in the Altus Plateau with a gold sun-shaped mask. He wouldn’t talk and kept staring at the Erdtree with his finger pointing at it.
  • Re-reading my notes I realise that this was probably Goldmask, I directed Brother Corhyn to him.
  • I met up with the witch Renna, who is actually Ranni, daughter of Rennala. She told me of Blaidd and Iji’s work with her, and mentioned another man named Seluvis. She wants me to go through the city of Nokron for her, wherever that is.
  • Blaidd says the well in the Mistwood may lead towards Nokron. I had already explored that region and found myself at a dead end.
  • Seluvis has asked me to deliver a potion to the warrior Nepheli. The last I saw of her was in Roundtable Hold, but she’s long since left the place.
  • I found her at the Village of the Albinaurics.
  • Rogier says that he may fall into a “fathomless slumber” and that it may become a problem. What does that mean? This can’t just be a euphemism for death?
  • I gave the potion to Nepheli’s father Sir Gideon. Seluvis hasn’t told me enough, and I don’t know much about Nepheli either. I’ve let Seluvis think I gave it to her.
  • Met up with Blaidd again, who tells me he also can’t find a way forward to Nokron. Apparently Seluvis may know more, but he just directed me to another sorcerer named Sellen.
  • Sellen informed me that I need to fight Radahn. I suppose this was inevitable.
  • Nepheli talked to me about her father disowning her, but mentioned how she might have been helping him to become the Elden Lord. Is this what I’ve been working towards?
  • A masked man in Liurnia seemed to have some suspicions about the Two Fingers. He offered me an opportunity to hunt those working for them.
  • I found out what’s inside the jar people…
  • I fought and defeated Radahn with many at my side. This included Blaidd who informed me that the path to Nokron should be open “where the star fell”, wherever that could be.
  • The cryer at Redmane Castle is leaving as he has business to take care of. I guess he’s free to do what he likes now as the “festival of combat” is over. It sounded like there’s a possibility of seeing him again.
  • Iji told me that the star fell in Limgrave. I’m going to need to take a look at my map. I’ll be searching for Nokron alone it seems, as Blaidd has another important task to do.
  • Rogier has fallen into that “slumber”, but he wrote a letter for me. It says that D has a younger brother who also fell into a deep sleep in an aqueduct near Nokron. It’s said that D’s brother stood before the “Prince of Death” near that spot. I hope he doesn’t mind that I’ve been wearing D’s armour.
  • Miriel tells me of a statue in the Erdtree capital of Radagon’s likeness. It apparently harbours a big secret.
  • I think I found D’s brother, but he wants D’s armour. I’m not giving this up.
  • I found a mysterious blade in Nokron, which I delivered to Ranni. She’s given me a key I can now use in the Carian Study Hall. The enemies there gave me a lot of trouble before, but I’m stronger now.
  • I came across some deadly gargoyles in the aqueduct near Nokron. They were too much for me right now. I can always come back.
  • Renna’s Rise at Three Sisters opened up. There was a teleporter that took me to part of River Ainsel that I was looking to get to but struggled to reach it. Turns out patience is not only rewarded in combat, but also in exploration.
  • I found a miniature Ranni, and the real witch herself speaks through it! She wishes me to eliminate the Baneful Shadows. I did so making use of Scarlet Rot, but now I come to a place full of that disease. This is what I deserve.
  • Went up Mt. Gelmir to the Volcano Manor. Met a masked woman named Tanith. I told her I would join her, but only so I could make my way to Rykard.
  • I went past that lake of rot to obtain a ring I could give to Ranni. She said that she’d see me again “when it’s all done”. Does this mean it’s over soon?
  • Iji had some words to say about Blaidd’s fate.
  • Sir Gideon has informed me of the remaining demigods that haven’t been located: Miquella, Malenia, Ranni, and the Lord of Blood. He is not concerned with Ranni as she cast aside her great rune, but maybe he should be. Of course I’m not going to tell him that.
  • I found a letter detailing a request from Volcano Manor for a Tarnished to be hunted. I marked the location for “Old Knight Istvan” on my map.
  • The woman at the church of plague needs a gold needle to be healed. A man near Selia said I should be able to find one in the Swamp of Aeonia.
  • I made short work of a rider in black.
  • So begins an age of the stars.


It’s fairly common for people to overstate how difficult Dark Souls is. In the past couple of weeks I managed to finish both games in the series. They’re fantastic games, but really not as rock hard as people make them out to be. As long as you’re cautious, observant and learn how to create a decent character build, then the game gets much easier. Not to say it becomes super easy, but it becomes manageable.

There are certainly moments where I felt frustrated because I was losing a fair amount of times, but then I would slow down, and keep an eye out for what was killing me. After doing that I wasn’t dying so much. Most of my deaths were down to rushing in and over-estimating my own abilities.

I even managed to get my younger brother to sit and play the game, he mashed buttons through most of the combat and ended up losing very quickly. He didn’t enjoy it. To be fair he doesn’t play video games much.

But really, Dark Souls might just be one of the greatest video games I have played recently. Once I figured out how to handle each enemy, it became very satisfying, not because I was winning by blind luck, but because I earned those victories. It doesn’t stick you in a room full of fast enemies and expect you to deal with it quickly, Dark Souls works at your own pace. You can avoid being overwhelmed by picking off enemies one at a time. That might sound very easy but don’t let your guard down too much around a single enemy.

When I finished the game a friend said to me: “Every other game is going to feel a lot easier now.” I said not if I play Dark Souls II next, which is exactly what I did.


For as grim as they are, the games can sometimes be remarkably pretty.

Dark Souls II is even easier, mostly because a lot of the bosses follow the same patterns as each other, healing items are in an absolute abundance, checkpoints feel closer together and your character levels up a lot faster.

There are a few points where the game feel a bit harder, but not fair. You are forced into combat situations where you have to take on multiple enemies at once, which is not suited to some of the mechanics of the game. The lock on targeting isn’t really made to deal with more than two or three enemies at a time, which is why it becomes a bit of a hassle in large combat situations where you have to take on five or more enemies at once. And when there are so many enemies, you have to wait for a lucky chance in which one of them isn’t attacking, which can sometimes take a fair bit of waiting.

Then there are moments where it just feels rougher around the edges. The hit-boxes in the game don’t feel consistent, some of them are about three times the size of what you’d think they would be. Sure you can get used to it eventually, but it’s not fun to be suddenly magnetised into an enemy’s instant-kill grab attack.

I wouldn’t say that this makes it a bad game because it’s still better than a lot of games out there. At its greatest it still has the same satisfaction you would get from besting an area in the first game, it just doesn’t feel as refined in spots.

Which is why I would seriously recommend trying these games out if you haven’t, they might not be for you, and it’s possible you could get frustrated from losing so much. But I haven’t felt as satisfied by a game recently as when I did when I took down some of the more challenging bosses.

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