I’m playing Dark Souls III, and decide to engage in some “Jolly Cooperation”. I put down my white summon sign, which allows other players to summon me to help them in their games.
I get summoned by a guy named Lord Lutor. I’m wearing a breastplate and carrying a kite shield and spear, he’s in chainmail and has a round shield and a sword.
This is Dark Souls, so we can’t talk, but we can use gestures to communicate. I use the gesture ‘Bow’. He bows back.
We head down from the round tower, get in some fights, stab some guys. I kick an undead soldier off a ladder, and he jumps down and stabs it from the air. One of the baddies turns into a huge black slime monster but Lutor throws fire bombs at it until it goes away. There’s a moment’s pause, and then we’re off again.
We keep heading through the level. He picks up a few items along our path; items in the level don’t respawn when you do in Dark Souls, so that tells me it’s his first time through this part of the game. Me, I’ve been through here a few times, both as a co-op companion and on my own so-far unsuccessful attempts to reach the boss.
We seem to have a pretty good synergy going. He’ll draw an enemy out and I’ll stab it in the back, or vice versa, or he’ll fight the big threat while I keep little guys from coming up behind him. Still, neither of us are perfect and there’s the occasional lag spike besides, so we both still take the occasional hit and have to heal.
We finally get to the mist gate before Vordt of the Boreal Forest, the boss of the High Walls of Lotheric, the first real boss of the game. Jolly Co-op only lasts until you kill a boss, so this is our last fight together, whether we win or lose.
I’m out of estus, so I can’t heal. Lutor’s out of estus, so he can’t heal. I’m on one-half health, Lutor’s on maybe one-eighth. We’ve done good, but we’re out of gas.
Lutor does the gesture ‘Collapse’. He falls to his knees like he can’t go any farther.
I wait a second, then make the gesture ‘Point Forward’. My character points toward the gate, to where the boss lies waiting. We’ve come this far, I figure, we might as well see how long we can last against the big bad.
(Also, while he’ll lose all the souls he’s collected this run if he dies, I won’t, so I have nothing to lose 🙂 )
Lutor stands up, and after a moment’s further hesitation he goes through the mist. I have to wait behind while the cutscene plays. Because he’ll start on the far end of the boss room with the boss between me and him, I’m a little worried that he’s going to die right away and that’ll be that.
He doesn’t die. Instead, when I can finally come through the gate, he’s rushing back toward me, rolling left and right to avoid Vordt’s attacks. Vordt is massive, and scary; he’s man shaped, and he’d be 15 feet tall if he were standing, but he’s rushing forward on all fours like a rabid beast. A beast with a giant mace in one hand.
I dive into action, and for once, unlike most of my playing tonight, I’m on fire. While Vordt’s focused on Lutor, I rush in, stabbing at his butt and legs with my spear until I get his attention. When he turns toward me, my focus shifts to staying alive, diving out of the way as Vordt brings his mace sweeping around or smashing down on the spot where I was just standing an instant before. When Vordt stands up tall and prepares to use his breath weapon, we both rush in, one to each side in a pincer move that looks almost like we planned it, striking until it breaks Vordt’s attack pattern and he staggers. I take only a single hit the whole fight. Lutor is untouched.
And then, with Vordt on his last legs, I run out of stamina at the worst possible moment, and Vordt leaps on top of me, smashing me into the ground with the haft of his mace.
The screen goes from color to black and white, and Dark Souls’ signature red text fades in across my screen: “YOU DIED”.
Lutor runs in in the wake of my death, stabs Vordt one more time, and the monster finally dies, crashing down and dissolving into ash. We’ve won, but it’s too late for me.
Where it’s usually customary to make victory gestures like ‘Joy’ or send your helpers off with a ‘Wave’, Lutor does neither. Instead, he uses ‘Collapse’ again, falling to his knees, as if to mourn my loss, the loss of our brief but hard-won companionship.
A new message appears on my screen, in yellow this time: “VICTORY ACHIEVED” My souls counter goes up, almost doubling, and the game tells me I’ve earned an ember (the standard reward for a successful co-op session).
Not too late for me after all.