The Red Knight's bloody assault dissuaded me from tackling the game for a couple of days while I completed Doom. A quick google search also shed some light upon Demon's Souls' open level design, explaining that that I wasn't meant to be fighting the Red Knight until later on in the game. Furthermore I discovered that, in another mildly sadistic stroke, the game prevents you from levelling up until you've dispatched at least one boss.
At least I had the consolation of knowing I wasn't alone since Demon's Souls' online feature allowed me to observe other players roaming the grounds of the castle. Despite the game's age I saw five other players undertaking their own quests and, by viewing the bloodstains I found scattered around, was able to note how they met their demise.
Weren't you on Fraggle Rock?
Other players can also leave messages around each level although while this may sound like an appallingly ill-advised idea, the game's creators have taken steps to ensure that every message isn't just DICKS DICKS DICKS DICKS DICKS DICKS. Instead, Demon's Souls forces you to build your message upon from an existing word back. Nevertheless, the bulk of the messages I encountered were gleefully twisted entreaties encouraging players to leap to their deaths. I wasn't quite that desperate yet.
A great many more deaths ensued, primarily because I wasn't sure where I should be going. Demon's Souls' levels are vast with pathways leading off in every direction and while the Red Knight was preventing me from progressing in one particular direction, I found myself clambering up staircases, dashing across battlements and – one shameful occasion- stumbling off a wall and falling to my death.
While I was collecting souls – the blue items dropped by the enemies that I dispatch – the fact I couldn't spend them on levelling up was somewhat frustrating. I also ran into one of the oddest foes I've seen in any game. It looked for all the world as if a knight had an unpleasant accident and then accidentally dropped their shield on the whole unholy mess. I was able to stop staring long enough to raise my own shield when said fiend tried to stab me with a spear. Could this get any stranger?
I'm going to need to disinfect my sword after this.
The answer is, of course, yes. Stepping into a dimly hit hall, I encountered the game's first boss which, a little disappointingly, was not one of the massive behemoths I'd been lead to expect but rather a horde of the shield monsters gathered around one of their larger bretheren. It didn't end well as I hacked and slashed futilely at the foe. I'd stopped counting my deaths at this point, but if I was to estimate I'd say I was somewhere in the mid twenties.
Yet strangely, I feltl a sense of determination as I begin to understand why people find these games so appealing, determined as I was not to be beaten by this Great Mighty Poo knock-off. Help materialised in the form of a message left behind by another player, one of the few that didn't attempt to goad me into suicide. The message informed me that I could use fire to defeat the foe and so, setting fire to my sword using a pick-up I acquired earlier, I proceeded to lay into Mr Blobby.
After successfully dispatching Phalanx, the boss's formal nomenclature, I stood back to admire my handiwork. I felt a swell of pride at having defeated my stinky nemesis, tempered with the notion that I was somehow cheating by setting him aflame. Furthermore, Sir Bud's defeat of the horror restored him to life. Emboldened, I resolved that tomorrow, I would push onwards to wreak vengeance upon the monsters that plague the land.
Dead again. Bugger.