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An ode to cutting off boss tails in Dark Souls

Tails from the Lordrans

Happy 10th anniversary Dark Souls! Here's to you, Sin the Slumbering Dragon. And to you, Crossbreed Priscilla. Chin-chin! Oi, not to you Ornstein, or to you, Smough. How did you even get in, anyway? This is an invitation only event for bosses who have cuttable tails.

There's a tinge of sadness to this celebration, though. Cuttable tails were all the rage back in the original Dark Souls but now they're lost to time, never to be seen again, just like the tails you cut off themselves. Although a part of me hopes that the cycle will renew (like the sort of tails that grow back after you cut them off). And just like skinny jeans are slowly going out of fashion in favour of the 90s wide leg, I'm hoping FromSoftware's bosses won't cling so closely to their tails in Elden Ring and maybe, just maybe, they'll let us lop them off again.

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If you've not played Dark Souls, firstly, how dare you? Secondly, it's the only one of the series that features bosses with tails soft enough to prune. Enter a fight with a slashy weapon and chop at a big baddie's tail enough, and most likely that sucker'll plop straight off. In a very Monster Hunter way, it stops them from using specific attacks, and you'll even get a little something for your efforts. Specifically, a weapon.

But it's not just any weapon! Slice Priscilla tail off and you'll get her dagger. Snap off the Bell Gargoyle's and you'll get their axe. Chop off Kalameet's tail and you're the proud owner of an Obsidian Greatsword. These are all organic weapons, harvested via less-than-ethical-means, sure, but they harbour a greater sense of provenance than others you might find just scattered about Lordran.

I miss tail weapons in Souls not because they're powerful, but because they act as exotic memorabilia. I can flit through my inventory and be reminded of my tussle with Lordran's brightest. And yes, I'm aware that you're able to craft special boss weapons using boss souls in Dark Souls 2, but that isn't as meaningful to me. There's something rather, well, soulless, about delivering a huge soul to a vendor, flicking through a catalogue and selecting the weapon you desire.

Dark Souls Remastered gaping dragon boss fight
Defeating this cutey nets you a key to Blighttown, a sunny, jovial place. | Image credit: FromSoftware/Bandai Namco Entertainment

Making boss weapons is satisfying, but it reduces each boss soul from a priceless artifact to a mundane crafting material. Sure, it creates a powerful, one-of-a-kind addition to your arsenal, but the original product is nowhere to be seen. I suppose it's a bit like when people turn ashes into rings or umbilical cords into pendants. Value is present, but the original thing is transformed in the process.

But when you see a tail weapon slide into your inventory in Dark Souls, there's this wonderful surprise in receiving an original slice of a living, breathing boss, and the realisation you can also use it to hit things. It's a bit like if you cut a tentacle off of an octopus and immediately started using it as a whip (and also the octopus is giant and evil). Carving off the flesh of a powerful being is simultaneously horrible to do, yet cool that you're able to use it as a tool for destruction.

I saw somewhere that FromSoftware removed tail cutting from their games because players had complained about it. Perhaps because they were frustrating to obtain and people didn't want to feel like they'd missed out on cool things. And if we pretend for a second that this might be the reason why they were phased out, then I've got just the counterpoint coming up, isn't that convenient?

I'm okay with tail weapons forcing me to fight a Dark Souls boss in a more difficult, or a more frustrating way. I know I'm not everyone, but I see it as an extra in-game challenge to bag myself the ultimate prize. And in a way, it adds replayability too. If I know there's a particular boss with a choppable tail the second time around, I can head into that fight with a totally different strategy i.e. whip out a sword, roll lots, and whisper, "pspspspsps, here taily-waily", like I'm luring a cat out for head pets.

Dark Souls is a magnificent video game and I'm glad I could air out my thoughts on its soft-tailed bosses for its 10th anniversary. Here's hoping the teams at FromSoftware get really into Monster Hunter again and maybe decide to reinstate the chopping in Elden Ring, or a future Souls game. For now, I better boot out Ornstein and Smough. They've managed to sneak into this party AGAIN.

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