Just a quick Dark Souls check-in this time.
With my Hunter character, I put about forty hours in and had just gotten to Sen's Fortress before I decided that I wasn't happy with how my character was progressing. It wasn't terrible and it certainly wasn't awful to the point that I was unable to progress, but I just wasn't feeling great about the way I had built my character. I had a few regrets.
Starting a big, long-term role-playing game (RPG) like this one (also see: Oblivion or Fallout 3) it's hard to know what your play style will eventually become, or what obstacles lay ahead. In fact, I've often thought that developers should give players at least one reallocation of skill points just because there are so many factors that you can't predict. Will there be a lot of locked doors, or won't there? Will I find many weapons that use STR, or is it wiser to invest in DEX? Should I take a chance on learning some Miracles, or would I be wiser to increase some other stat? Sometimes these things don't reveal themselves until several hours into an adventure, and at that point, it's entirely possible that a player has made decisions based on incomplete information that later turn out to be problematic.
Now don't get me wrong, I do think there is value in the permanence of some choices and I'm not asking for a constant do-over mode to erase every single mistake, but I think there's a difference between having good information and making an error, and having no information and making an error. With the reality being that I've got a job, a wife and family, responsibilities at GameCritics and a few other things going on, sometimes getting a little bit of respect from developers for the time I've put into their game is very appreciated.
Now, with all that stuff said, there is absolutely no re-spec option in Dark Souls that I know of. So, given that, my choices were to either stick it out or start over from scratch.
In most games, I think I would have chosen to stick it out until the end, put it on top of my "completed" stack and move on, but since I'm such a huge Demon's Souls fan and I've been looking forward to this game for quite a while, I didn't want to spend the rest of my play time with a character I wasn't 100% invested in... there is no sense in not enjoying the experience, and who knows if we'll get another sequel, so I decided to bite the bullet and start a new character just to see if that felt better.
(And just to be clear, I didn't erase my Hunter... that one is still available if I want to go back to it.)
I started a brand-new Pyromancer since I was curious about using magic, and I've been pretty happy with the choice so far. Apparently there are better spells that can be found later in the game, but at the moment, the stock fireball spell is close to what the firebomb item is. Essentially, it's a flaming grenade that you lob at an enemy for a pretty hefty chunk of damage and if any other enemies are very close by, there's a bit of splash. This ability has been very useful on the spear knights and the parrying knights, not to mention that it takes large bites out of bosses—the first two demons went down like chumps, and most of the larger creatures are susceptible to it as well.
Interestingly, between the direct damage available from the fireball, better weapon choices and stat allocation, and my previous knowledge of the levels I've already been through with my Hunter, I was able to make it to the first Bell in about an hour—and that was including some time to grind for souls. By way of comparison, the same journey took me about ten hours the first time due to dying, searching, exploring, and so on. I don't know that the rest of the game will continue at such a speedy pace, but I have no doubt that it will go by a lot quicker…
If you're not sick of hearing about this game and you'd like a little more, you can check out the most recent GameCritics Podcast. We talk about our most secret video game confessions, a couple of XBLI titles (Wizorb and Robotriot) and quite a bit about Dark Souls.