Five Souls One Fox: A Souls Series Playthrough (Bloodborne spoliers abound!)


#41

Transmisogyny in Dark Souls and Dark Souls III

So I’m going to mostly link to better informed articles with brief summery of what they cover and then give some of my feelings on the subject at the end:

The above is probably the best summation of the issue in regards to the first game (The article predates Dark Souls III which doubles down on a lot of this) and points out how the ambiguity of the games handling of Gwyndolin is both it’s failing and saving grace

This is less forgiving of the game and points the way it plays on some gross trans trickster narratives

This one covers Dark Souls III and the authors feelings around it

Now since there’s less around Dark Souls III’s problems the quick version is that it doesn’t really add any new stuff except Gwyndolin’s brother referring to her as he but Dark Souls already did that several different times. Mostly it’s issue is that it doubles down on it years after the first game without learning anything

So my thoughts! My thoughts are that I’m some cis dude and you should go read the articles by trans women I just linked. I will post some of my feelings on it in a sec here but honestly only because to not post something about this issue in this thread feels dishonest and frankly this forum thread is not a big enough deal that I feel I will be talking over people in the way say, I would if I was writing this for Waypoint the news site. And maybe I’m still wrong to do so! Feel free to PM or post in this thread with any issues you may have with me or the way I’ve handled this

Anyways my thoughts:

Summary

My thoughts are mostly in line with the first article. My only other opinion is that in an ideal world this would read as a commentary on the same sort of awfulness of this whole thing.

And it’s a shame as the series largely treats people with a decency other games often lack (though as you would expect women often get the short end of the stick especially with Gwyndolin but other than that it does okay in a world where Persona 5 is something of a norm for a good chunk of the industry) and it sucks to have trans women tossed under the bus intentionally or not. It also calls into question the seeming complete absence of any other LGBTQ+ characters at all in the series.

I would like to say that I hope they do better from here but the lack of any coverage seriously makes me wonder. Even something like Zelda gets a handful of articles before it’s back to endless praise for it with a side of “it’s a shame about that one bit” followed up with articles about how wacky Mario Odyssey looks. This all sucks and I love these games but I wonder how many more strikes I can give them before it’s time to move on :frowning:


The "Should I buy this game" thread
#42

See, I’ve been thinking about the whole thing myself in my own playthroughs, and honestly I think Gwyndolin’s narrative is closer to that of a trans man than trans woman. His whole story is based around the rejection of his asshole of a dad, who is said to have had him raised as a woman for religious reasons. It wasn’t a decision Gwyndolin made for himself, it was once forced upon him, and there’s no indication of when that decision was made. To me that reads as: he was born female, and his attempts to present as otherwise were shot down by Gwyn, with the aforementioned religious reasons used as justification. Thus when Gywn disapears, as far as Gwyndolin’s concerned he can go fuck himself. It ties in with the rest of the lore, with all Gwyn’s children betreying him in some way, The Nameless King destroying something of importance and becoming a Dragon Acolyte, Gwynevere eloping with Flame God Flanne as soon as Gwyn goes to link the flame, and Gwyndolin rejecting the gender imposed upon him. I mean, here’s his headpeice’s description: “The image of the sun manifests Gwyndolin’s deep adoration of the sun.” He was raised a woman because of his affinity to the moon. He basically wears a fancy-ass headpeice soley as a middle finger to his dad.

And all that’s why discussions around him are hindered, because fundimentally not knowing what a character is representing is one hell of a hurdle to overcome to discussing how that representation is handled. Analysing his narrative assuming he’s a trans man is different to analysing it assuming the opposite, which is different to analysing it from other interpritations, all valid. It’s also possible that he was born intersex, which drastically changes everything.

For what it’s worth though, bear in mind that this is a game made in Japan by a team of japanese folk. Trans visibility there basically absolute zero, with a completely different set of tropes relating to trans-adjacent themes and narratives embedded into the culture. All things considered, this is almost certainly a trans narrative written by people who don’t even know that it’s a thing at all. It’s this coupled with lots of frankly facinating little touches in regards to gender across the whole series that make me think that FROM genuinely wants to engage with gender politics in Japan, which naturally comes across differently to a western audience. Gwyndolin’s the most obvious of these attempts, so naturally he’s the most jarring.

Honestly I think gender in the Souls series is an amazing topic. It’s not a series that’s easy to read when it comes to real-world politics, but there’s so many little things that even western games shy away from, like DS2 letting you change gender mid-game. It’s something that deserves the attention, but tempered with the knowlage that it’s adding to a conversation we aren’t nececerily directly part of.


#43

I mean, hmm. I think that’s a fine personal reading. I do. But none the less this is playing with some gross ass tropes and without anyone having commented on it I can not give them the benefit of the doubt on this. Things like this quite directly lead to violence against trans women that first article even talks about this in how the community talks about the character. I’m not trying to call you out or anything here I just can’t entirely get behind what you’re saying here.


#44

Aye, I get that. It absolutely has an impact in the west simply by being released over here. But that’s all part of a wider conversation about the context of art and the political environment in which it’s created. Depicting a trans character in an a country where trans people are systematically persecuted by the state and population is different to doing so in a country where most people are unaware of the concept. Japanese politics moves at a glacial pace too, in all places, so it’s not likely to change any time soon.

If the west ever starts to really get it’s shit together with progressive politics, this is gonna be a much more prominant topic in the coming years, as other countries produce art that is risky, important or even revolutionary to them, but to us feels somewhat behind. Assuming we don’t end up back in the dark ages or something.


#45

Japan has at least one major trans politician that I know of and has had media that deals with topics of gender and homosexuality for decades if not for the length of it’s entire existence so I’m not really sure this is a matter of visibility or if they just don’t care. As it stands I am very wary of the idea that they can make a game that draws from western tradition for almost every aspect of it’s art design and story, market primarily to a western audience, and still get a pass on this. These are grown people who are perfectly capable of dealing with this who do not need be given a pass and the only reason I’m not harsher is that as of yet a big enough contingent of people have not made enough of an issue about this that I can assume they may simply not know about it but the time where that is still valid is passing VERY quickly and it’s only going to be harder to forgive the longer this goes on


#46

I dunno if this is really the best of places, or if we’re really the best of people, to be talking about full-on japanese politics, to be honest, let alone the dynamics of visibility and/or understanding of LGBT issues worldwide. The most I can really input is that Tomoya Hosoda campaigned explicitly on how bad LGBT visibility is in Japan, which is just stating facts really. Probably best for both of us we don’t try swimming out of our depth.

I do give the series the benfit of the doubt because of all the genuinely good stuff it does in regards to gender, not because I’m assuming ignorance or anything like that. I’d be way harsher if I felt in any way that there was malice behind their depictions of such characters. As it is, I recon there’s good intent, which is enough for me to lay off a tad, though I get why others might not do the same.


#47

The Catacombs

So this level is sort of a variation of parts of the shrine of storms part two with a few key changes. The reaper equivalents stay dead once you kill them, it’s a lot harder to fall off a cliff and die (you still can though), and the enemies are less obnoxious. There’s even a few shortcuts and hidden areas to really spice things up! There’s a bonfire behind a waterfall and that’s always fun. Every game should have something behind a waterfall! There’s a blacksmith that can upgrade things with, uh, fire I think? I’ve never bothered with that to be honest. Oh and you can climb in a random coffin and swear loyalty to the lord of the dead. Minor stuff like that. This is also the first place the dreaded wheel skeletons show up. They are more or less what they sound like skeletons bound up in wheels like they died during some kind of kinky party and decided to just run with it. Thing is the way they attack is they try to roll over you which means they score a lot of hits and can break your guard which if you’ve been playing the game focused around using you’re shield that’s an issue for you. Less so if you just dodge them which this time around I never had any issues with, though prior playthroughs had me dying a fair bit to them. Another thing of note here is that the game clearly intends for you to come here earlier in the game than you do. Every thing here dies in one hit aside from the boss but even they hardly put up a fight

Pinwheel

This boss is more or less just Fools Idol but less interesting. They do however have three masks they can drop which each have cool effects and look weird in a cool way.

The Tomb Of Giants

Now this level is like Shrine Of Storms part 2 but instead of better it’s darker! It’s a pain! You walk in here and the first thing you find is a bonfire that no longer works and at this point you should leave and go level up instead of dying and losing all your souls like I did. Don’t do what I did kids. Don’t be me. The big issues in this level are: The enemies hit too hard, the big skeletons can kill you in one hit and the big skeletons that walk on all fours WILL kill you in two hits that you can barely dodge, and the level is super dark. And the way around this is to kill all the necromancers in the prior level so you can get an item that takes up you shield slot thus making it even harder to get around. It does have some fun secrets, Patches is here along with the Silver Serpent ring that ups how many souls you get for killing things a favorite ring of mine for sure. And a few other things that could make it worthwhile to visit early if you’re feeling brave. It’s a shame if the enemies felt less overpowered the darkness gimmick might be kind of fun but as it is this level is just kind of annoying

Gravelord Nito

This is a cool looking boss and not a bad fight but it’s got a few issues. One the boss room requires you to drop down into it which does something like half your HP and I think it’s a percent not a flat rate which is maybe better than the alternative BUT once you drop in the boss starts charging an attack that WILL hit you nine times of ten and might kill you if you don’t immediately chug some estus. The rest of the fight is a little easy if anything. Maybe if you were underleveled for the area you’d have some issues with more of his attacks but his attacks will also hit the skeletons around the arena so you at least have that going for you. A few tweaks to the issues I mentioned and this would be a pretty cool fight but as it stands it can be a pain like the rest of the level

Stray Thoughts

Um. Flowers are cool. I don’t really have any stray thoughts here srry


#48

The Painted World Of Ariamis

I really like this level! It shows off how a level that’s more linear can still work in a more open game like Dark Souls (Demon’s Souls already did this but most people started here so it’s still worth a note). You to this hidden area of the game by finding another hidden area of the game and finding a doll that let’s you walk into the painting. Now here’s the catch, even if you have fast travel you can’t leave here without making your way through the level. You are trapped and have to make you way out of this rather intricate area. The way the game get’s away with this is two fold and a great example of how the game as a whole is designed to be finished by a wide range of people. First the enemies around here typically don’t hit that hard or when they do are easy to dodge. You just have to stay calm which is in many ways the real challenge of the series. Second the level is not especially long and has a fair number of pretty straightforward shortcuts that lead to the boss which you don’t even have to fight. This is not to say it has never ended someone’s run through the game but it does make sure you have the tools to get through the level. There’s also just a lot of cool stuff here. A rapier that scales off of INT and looks rad as hell that I based my last build around. Dark Ember that let me upgrade my Bastard Sword to Occult which scales better off of Faith. and the enemies here just look cool:

Summary

Like these Crow Demons
http://darksouls.wikidot.com/local--files/enemies/crow-demon.jpg

These very Demon’s Souls-esque Spear, uh, nightmares
https://i.imgur.com/CBZOPtL.jpg

And these very Bloodborne things who’s face let me assure you is quite a horror show even if I didn’t capture it myself
https://i.imgur.com/CBZOPtL.jpg

This level really shows off how this team went one to make Bloodborne next (It’s more complicated than that obviously) and it is for my money one of the best in this game

Crossbreed Priscilla

So you can walk up to her and she just stands there and asks you to leave. If you attack her even once however she will fight back and this is an all bosses run so sorry Priscilla! Even if it does count as murder in this game (The game does actually track how many innocent people you kill though to what end I am not sure). Once you do so you need to attack her tail to get a cool dagger that I can’t use but I’ve some how ended up collecting body parts this play through so I did it anyways. She more or less goes invisible instantly and you have to watch for her footprints in the snow and either avoid her or try and get behind her based on the position of her feet in the snow. It’s a great fight held back a bit by how since attacking her means you have to kill her to leave From couldn’t quite make it hard enough to fully sing like this fight should. Stills this boss is a solid 8 out of two thumbs up

Stray Thoughts:

Bloodborne is real good

You can actually fight a phantom here that wears the same giant head gear as the last fight of the Tower Archestone in Demon’s Souls and come to think of it did I ever do a write up for that fight? Whoops


#49

The Great Hollow and Ash Lake

These are the only areas in the base game I had never really been to before this playthrough and the Great Hollow part mostly plays like an extended “There’s a thing in the rafters but good luck not falling of and dying trying to get to it” puzzle. It’s fine but it’s mostly know for having more of those frogs that could curse you and maybe make the game unplayable. The second half of the great hollow is a bit weirder at least with the giant bloody mushroom people to hit very slowly but very hard and are just sort of disturbing and a way I have a hard time putting my finger one

The Ash Lake is a bit more interesting. This whole area is pretty damn well hidden. To even get to the Great Hollow you have to attack a wall in an empty room to find a treasure chest, and then attack the wall behind that. You more or less have to know it’s there by looking it up on a wiki. And then you have to get through the great hollow and when you do you see this:

Summary

my internet sucks right now so screenshots will be added later I’m afraid

It’s an arresting image and the whole area is like that. Alas you kind of have to see it for yourself. Most of it is largely empty save for the Hydra that I killed with little issues (Wrath Of The Gods FTW) and some weird clam monsters that drop rare Titanite. At the end however you find The Stone Dragon who is a covenant leader and has a sort of beastly look about them that really contrasts with the other dragons you see around and actually looks a lot like the Cleric Beast from Bloodborne. On the whole the area is not very big or packed with stuff but it proves that the game still has the power to impress even all these years later.

Stray Thoughts:

The little baby mushroom dudes are kinda cute

The Dragon at the end of the level won’t fight back at all but you can still cut off his tail for a sword that needs 50 STR to use one handed which is well past the point where more STR actually benefits the damage any sword can do and this great sword doesn’t even scale off of anything in the first place. I hear it still hits like a truck though


#50

Just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading through this play-by-play of your experience with the Souls series, playful writing style, running jokes giving me a chuckle and just a candid way of phrasing things which I enjoy; it would read better with some editing and grammar checks but we’re on a forum so it’s no biggie.

It fits well because I’ve recently played a great deal of Dks2 and 3 following EpicNameBro playthroughs of the series, and currently working through Dks1, which will always remain my favourite next to Bloodborne.
You’re slightly further than I am currently, as I got to Ornstein & Smough Equire last night, and I’m playing on ps3 for the moment due to potential multiplayer shenanigans with said let’s player, so summons are rare but weirdly enough they still occour in places, albeit sparsely.

I would’ve written this as I was reading it all, but like you I was reading through this around 3am.


#51

Ash Lake is such a beautiful area. It’s so lonely and quiet, but strangely majestic. It feels primordial and ancient in a way that, to me, no other area in the game (or any media for that matter) really touches.


#52

Once I’m done with Dark Souls I’ll be taking a bit of a break to play Destiny 2 and a few other things and likely won’t be starting up Dark Souls II for a bit so I figure around then I’ll do some editing and grammar checks but I’m not getting paid for this so for now we shall all have to live with the them. They aren’t so bad but one of them did drink all the milk without buying more so they aren’t like, perfect room mates or anything


#53

The Dukes Archives

I’ve heard people say this is one of the worst areas in the game and I honestly don’t know why? There’s a part with some invisible walkways that is kinda hard but actually really not that hard at all and the first bit is a fun library level with a ton of atmosphere. The whole thing feels a bit like the gritty Harry Potter reboot you don’t want but we all know we will get sometime in the next 20 years anyways. To get here you go to the first Anor Londo Bonfire and take a left. You can go up to the level before getting the Lord’s vessel but in one of the games rare instances of gating you you have to first get the Vessel to get in. In this hallway there’s two more boars (Now with added anti backstab armor so I hope you brought magic) and then the first of I want to say three bonfires in this area. Past that there’s a crystal golem that drops the pendent you need to enter the DLC and some of the trident channelers that you will have encountered before in other areas except here they respawn and eventually make your way to the boss

Seath The Scaleless

Eveything you’ve heard about Seath thus far tells you he betrayed his fellow dragons and used some weird crystal magic to become immortal. They’re right! You can’t kill him here. He can kill you however and he then traps you in his dungeon (read rad library that I would be quite happy to live in anyways [aside from the snake monsters])

The first thing you’ll discover here is that you can’t just wrap out like you can from most every other area. You 're trapped! It’s fairly easy to get out though so eh. You wake murder the snake guard that’s just leaning against the bars who drops the key. Once you leave however the snake men sound the alarm and start running towards you, and then past you in a panic, and then the squid headed snakes come at you:

Summary

Once they get at you they kill you in one hi~actually I have no idea what they do I shot lightning at them and killed them in one hit instead. I imagine it’s real bad though based on how they look like the lovecraft nightmares from Demon’s Souls. In one of the nearby cells if you have saved her in the catacombs and bought all of her goods she somehow finds her way here and goes hollow. A tragic end to a tragic tale. Once you get to the bottom here, you also find Big Hat Logan who you first freed in Sen’s Fortress and sells you sorcery at Firelink once you free him there. Once you free him here after finding the key later in the level he goes on to sell you magic based on Seaths research and once you buy all that he goes mad and attacks you and you get his big hat and what is sort of the defacto best staff in the game for most magic builds in what is a tragic end to another tragic tale. Here you can turn off the alarm (which I don’t think the snake gards ever turn back on. Not the brightest tools in the drawer these ones. Here you find the key to the door out of here. Now if you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll likely spend some time messing with moving stairway puzzles and such but I made a beeline for the bonfire and the path to the rest of the level. Now there’s a bit more to this level but the only thing of note is yet another NPC trapped in a golem Sieglinde of Catarina daughter of Siegmeyer of Catarina who once freed begins looking for her father. There’s a bit of controversy around these characters as they both are from the reign of the world where if you character is from there they are depicted as being black but these NPCs are white. I have no idea why I’m going to guess From like most devs just didn’t really care * sad trombone noise *

Now after all that you get to the crystal caves but there’s no bonfire here so I’m counting it as the same area. It’s actually fairly short anyways. Here you find more of those rad looking moonlight butterflies and a bunch of invisible walkways ala Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. Now here’s the trick, the two walkways you have to use are straight paths from one end to the other but if you don’t know that it’s a nightmare of shooting arrows at the ground to see if you’re going to fall off and there’s a few golems around to makes things a bit harder but they die for good once you kill them for the most part so they aren’t a big threat for long. There is a more involved walkway that is the nightmare you think it is but as long as you’re careful it’s still not that bad. After that you get to the area with the boss, find some more of those clam things from ash lake which brings into question some things about that area and get to the boss arena (with clams in tow as there’s no fog gate to start so they can enter in with you if you don’t kill them first). Once you get in Seath swoops in with his horrid slug form in tow and the real fight starts

Seath The Scaleless for real this time

So the thing that keeps Seath alive is this one sliver of living crystal. I think the gist of his story is that he was born without scales which means that unlike other dragons he wasn’t immortal and the other dragons were like “Welp sucks to be you!” and he was like “Well F you then I’m going to help Gwyn kill you all!” and he did and then started researching ways to live forever and went mad doing so and also had sex with some goddess who gave birth to Priscilla and if you want to know more about that you’ll have to go find my slash fic. Forum policy prevents me from linking to it for legal reasons.

Anyways the fight itself is not hugely exciting You kill the crystal so you can damage him and you run around and cut off his tail for the Moonlight Greatsword and from there his attacks are fairly easy to dodge and he dosn’t put up much of a fight. Looks cool though

Summary

Stray Thoughts

This whole level looks a bit like a rad 70’s fantasy novel cover


#54

Almost At The End Of The Game And I forgot To Do The Mid Game Here’s What I’m Wearing Post

Stats!
Vitality 20 This gets my health up to a decent level which matters more in this game than it did in Demon’s Souls

Attunement 16 The way spells work in this game means there’s not a whole lot of reasons to take this stat super high. I mostly gives you extra slots for spells but can give extra casts it’s just not enough to make it super useful past around level 20

Endurance 23 Armor is actually useful in this one so in order to equip all the gear I want and fast roll I want it a little higher than this but that won’t happen in til I am basically done with the game

Strength 24

Dexterity 24 I need both here to use the Dragon Slayer Spear a weapon I really thought I was going to use more but has mostly been a waste of effort. Oh well

Resistance 12 this stat is totally useless. No really there’s no point. It technically ups your resistance to magic and stuff but no one ever puts points into it

Intelligence 10 It started here and I have no reason to take it higher unless I won’t to start making Creed jokes which I do not

Faith 50 The soft cap for faith scaling on weapons is I believe 40 for the most part but the lightning spells scale past that and weirdly so did my sword!

All that lets me take a few hits while still rolling around at a decent clip and maxes out the damage I can realistically do. I’m already a little over leveled for the game actually as my first two times through the game I capped out at like 75-ish and now I’m at 96 (bad [get it? it’s 69 but backwards so it’s bad {I’m sorry}]) but the DLC would have gotten me to around level 85 ish anyways. For gear I have the elite knight helm and chest piece and the wanderer gloves and boots for a look like this:

Dark Souls Fox Bigger

Summary

For weapons I have an occult Bastard Sword, Dragon Slayer Spear, Grass Crest Shield, Occult Long Bow, and Ivory Talisman. Weirdly unlike later games all but the Spear scale off of faith but do magic damage as opposed to the Lightning damage the Spear and later games will use. For rings I use the ring of favor which gives decent bonuses to Stamina, HP, and Equip Load, but breaks if I ever take it off, and Havels Ring which ups my Equip Load by a full 50%

For grinding spots there’s not a lot of reasons to grind in this game but in The Painted World Of Ariamis you can take out a large group of enemies quickly for 10,000 souls in a go so in about 20 minutes which is how I got my Faith to 50.

As for how it holds up? Fantastically aside from it’s Transmisogyny issues which sadly are a big black spot on the series. If you can look past that the levels up to now have been good to great with only the lava based levels really being shit and only Ornstein And Smough mark the only real major difficulty spike if you’re willing to do a bit of research on what stats and the like you want though I would still likely suggest starting with Dark Souls 3 or Bloodborne as a your first game though you may find Dark Souls sluggish in comparison I would say that the slower pace of the game ends up being a strength more than anything. The other thing is that the PC version is kinda of a mess even with the Fix but to be fair part of that is I am using some options that do weird stuff with the UI rendering to cut back on the MASSIVE base game UI so some of that is on me.

On the whole it’s a classic for a reason and while I am wary to promote it with it’s shitty handling Gwyndolin but that’s not really something I can fully speak to beyond my own increasing discomfort with media that mishandles such things. But aside from that it is a masterwork. It’s not flawless, but it is the culmination of 20+ years of game design and proves that games can do things other mediums can’t better then anything else before or since. It is fantastic and I wish I could recommenced it as wholeheartedly as I would like

Bloodborne is still better though


#55

The DLC: Arotorias Of The Abyss

So, how do you even get here? Well, there’s a cave, in an area of the game you don’t have to go to, guarded by a hydra, and you have to free an NPC that’s trapped there, and THEN go get a pendent way later in the game, and walk all the way back, and then a giant hand pops out of nowhere and takes you to the DLC which starts off with a bonfire (Don’t be like me and forget to use the bonfire and have to walk all the way back. Don’t make my mistakes) and a boss!

Sanctuary Guardian

The main theme of this DLC is “Oh these people made Bloodborne huh?” and this boss starts that trend off quickly. This boss pushes you on your dodging abilities more than any other in the game. It’s Hard As Hell. He hits hard, can hit at range, poison you, their moves are hard to fully predict, the whole nine yards! And honestly it doesn’t fully work. I mean, it does now hat I’ve played Bloodborne but the thing about this game is that it’s not as good at teaching you how to deal with faster enemies and groups of enemies as the later games that force it much sooner and are better at handling it. This boss almost kept me from entering the DLC my first time through the game and the Boss right after this did in fact stop me. The thing is at a point you get the rhythm of the fight down and you just nail it. It’s the beauty of the series that it goes from all but impossible to seeming so easy in retrospect. The trick here is knowing how to bait out attacks and how to dodge the lightning. Assuming you don’t care about getting the tail drop which I did only through sheer luck though you can get it later from an easier version of this fight. Also it looks a bit like my old family dog so there’s that. RIP Maverick

Oolacile Sanctuary
Now this whole area is a past version of the Darkroot Basin/Garden where you fight the Moonlight Butterfly and The Great Good Woof Sif in this exact location if I am not mistaken a few hundred to thousand (Time is weird in Dark Souls) years after this. Here you find what sort of acts as the main bonfire for this DLC and Elizabeth the Mushroom lady

Summary

(If you talk to the lady enough she asks if you were look “hither” and she laughs and I think this mushroom lady is hitting on me and I need an adult)

Past here you hit the the main issue of the DLC. The levels are a tad dull. It’s fine. But it follows the Bloodborne and Dark Souls III route of more linear feeling paths that loop back on themselves almost exclusively via broken elevators rather than more organic feel of the rest of the game to the point that I’m not really going to write up much of these next two levels and skip ahead but first, I like the way the Dragon is introduced similarly to the red dragon you first see in the Undead Burg. The golem knights look rad. Marvelous Chester looks like he walked right out of Bloodborne:

Summary

Now the Boss!

Artorias the Abysswalker

Widely held as the high watermark for the souls games boss fights prior to this playthrough I had gotten here twice and never made it past him. He hits hard and fast and you need to be faster. About every 25% of his health you take out he will try to charge up to move faster and do even more damage per hit but if you can hit him enough you can stop him from doing that. So the trick here is you have to meet him blow for blow. He moves much the same way you do (and with his soul you can make a sword that let’s you use his special flips as well) so it feels almost like the dark link fight in Ocarina Of Time but fun. I would say the last boss of the Bloodborne DLC is an all around better fight but this one is fantastic none the less.

After that fight you find another bonfire (One of the issues here and in later games is that there’s so many bonfires that you never have to use the shortcuts meaning you never really explore the levels the way you do in the earlier parts of this game) and go through a level that is fine but not especially memorable aside from the enemies design

Summary

Later on you get to the Chasm Of The Abyss which stands out a little more. Mostly for looking rad the Bloated Head enemies eyes glow at any distance and living versions of the humanity items you use to unhollow and kindle the bonfires for more estus walk around here

Summary

Here you also find the Cat Alvina who guides you to what is like, the fourth elevator in what I now assume is the ruins of The Mall Of Lordran and to a illusory wall that hides The Great Good Woof Sif guarded by a magic barrier that keeps the living humanities would seemingly quite like to eat poor Sif away. Kill them and Sif teleports away (¯ \ _ (ツ)_/¯) and you can summon them for the boss fight. It’s a neat area but also almost totally dark (though not to the degree the Tomb Of Giant’s is thankfully) not much to write home about a trend Dark Souls II would more or less make it’s norm

Manus, Father of the Abyss

Summary

So I admit I summoned Sif here for the hell of it so that may have made the fight a little easier but honestly I don’t think he’d have given me much trouble anyways. The magic wasn’t that hard to dodge and his melee just didn’t hit me all that hard. He’s a good fight but a trial run for Bloodborne’s boss design for sure. Compared to Artorias he’s a bit of a let down but by no means a bad fight and I may have simply lucked out when I got him on my fifth attempt

And that’s the DLC there’s no other fights here at all!

sigh Okay I haven’t done the Dragon yet but I will! just as the last thing I do before Stabbing Gwyn to death.

Stray Thoughts

You can totally tell that From was not yet quite sure how to handle DLC and that this area was cut from the base game and added back. The bosses I assume benefited from this but the levels themselves not so much


#56

Lost Izalith and the rest of those kinda bland but not as bad as people tell you lava levels

These levels don’t quite suck but honestly there’s not much too them either. They look cool though:

Summary

Boss number one: Ceaseless Discharge

Summary

You have to kill this boss to get the lava level to drop so you can access the rest of the ruins. If you try to kill it it’s kind of a boring fight that brings to mind some of the lesser fights in Dark Souls II and III. You can however instead of fighting him run back to the entrance of the boss arena and he simply falls off of a cliff and dies. Poor guy. Just wanted to be near his sisters the weird spider ladies and ceaselessly discharge lava. Actually that sounds kinda gross

Boss the second: Demon Firesage

Summary

It’s yet another version of the Stray Demon you fight at the start of the game so I’m just going to move on

After that you find an elevator back up to the bonfire by the Choas Servants covenant bonfire you find behind a fake wall but you don’t need it as there’s a bonfire right before the next boss five feet from here

Boss The Third: Johnny Gat AKA The Centipede Demon

Summary

(sorry they don’t photograph well)

This boss is at least a little more interesting. Solaire can be summoned for this fight but is useless more or less as more often as all the lava means he dies fairly easily but screw it I’ve made it this far with him and in about ten minutes he’s going to disappear from the earth rather or not you saved him. It’s not a super interesting fight aside from the arena he shoots fire at you and has weird stretchy arms (Nintendo stole ARMS from this boss fight and if you’ll just read my 4,000 page manifesto you’ll see why and also learn about how chipmunks secretly control our food supply!) the only real issue is that he stands in lava that makes it hard to melee him and his ranged attacks are a little too fast to get your spells off but once I got the attack pattern down I just launched like twenty lightning bolts at him and it was fine. He looks cool in motion at least and drops a ring that lets you walk through all this damn lava

That Level that I’m sure has a name but that I’m going to call the Dragon Butt Swamp as I am a child

So after that you find Solarie being the sad knight he was meant to be and for the last time in the whole game. Or so I thought I guess after this you can find him on a bridge I had already gone down to try and save him but forgot to check the wiki so I never got the last bit (goes to youtube) but based on that video I just watched he is still really sad so I didn’t miss much. It does keep the ongoing theme of faith almost always letting the faithful down that runs through the whole series and reaches a climax in Bloodborne. Bloodborne is really good

After that you get to the Dragon Butt Swamp

This is the level that really sells me on the idea that the last bits of this game are rushed. It’s a big ass lava swamp with a shit ton of Dragon Butts copy pasted all over. It sucks but if you just run through it’s not as bad as the swamp in Demon’s Souls. Mostly because it’s shorter. Past that you get to the last of the ruins. There are two enemies here. Statues that I could kill in one hit and do little damage, and these things:

Summary


Bloodborning intensifies

There’s also a Pyromancer NPC but eh let’s get to the worst boss in the game already:

Bed Of Choas

Summary

So this is a puzzle boss ala Dragon God but bad. It’s actually mostly fine. You run to either side and whack a thing with you’re weapon of choice (not sure about bows) and then the tree bit has a firey bit appear over it and then you have to jump down onto a pathway and hope that A: you aimed in the right direction, and B: you don’t get knocked off the path somewhere. One of those two things will happen most of the time. It took me like four goes to finally pull it off. After the jump you just go up to this thing which is the real boss:

Summary

It sucks and people are right to hate this one even if the area itself is fine-ish

The rest of Darkroot Basin

There’s a few things to note here, the Invisible NPCs that are kind of a pain in that as soon as they get too far from you break lock on, the talking cat Alvina who runs a covenant where you invade anyone who enters the forest. Joining this also unlocks a merchent who sells some rare weapons. The Ember you find here that lets you enchant weapons to scale off of INT guarded by those mushroom people that I forgot were here, and the door that works as a shortcut to the bonfire not far from the Moonlight Butterfly but you do have to send 20,000 souls so I skipped it knowing I would be coming here very late in the game. Instead I just ran to the Boss

The Great Good Woof Sif

Summary


Fur shaders are not on the list of things this game does well

This fight echoes the Artorias fight but sadly From has not yet mastered the art of large animal bosses (and I’m not entirely sure they have yet). What makes this fight great is the thematic elements. There’s a majesty to this fight that most media doesn’t bother with. Also It’s just a big ass wolf with a sword and that’s rad as fuuuuuuuuuuck. The story here is that this wolf was a companion to Artorias and wields his sword. Why they have this blade when in the DLC Artorias also has the same sword. Maybe he had a matching sword made for his wolf? I really want to see that training montage now. Anyways Having done the DLC first I got a slightly different opening scene where Sif recalls that I saved them and mournfully howls as they know exactly why I am there and will fight to the death to keep me from doing it. Sif is a good woof. And I killed them :frowning: Oh well that’s life sometimes you stab woodland creatures to get magic jewlry I killed a Mountain Lion with a sick yesterday for a ring that let’s me see what’s in my fridge without opening it so whatever * sad sniff *

New Londo ruins

The main things here are A: You can go to the first bit at the start of the game. B: There’s no reason to beyond a sword you can get super early and a firekeepers soul. C: You can’t hit the ghosts here without being cursed, using an item, or a dagger that they drop. It’s a pain if you aren’t high enough leveled to just kill them by looking at them. It’s meant to be done way earlier in the game but there’s not really a whole lot here. Not even an especially useful weapon. It’s also not a super interesting level though it at least looks pretty good and moody. No idea how this city has just been chilling down here all this time but not a whole lot of this world makes sense when you think of it as a place people lived it not that long ago. Like, where is there a giant lava swamp with demons in it next to the slums? Anyways you get through here find a dude in a red outfit that is supposed to look like a plague doctors outfit but kinda looks like a KKK uniform (This I am willing to assume was very unintentional) and move onto the second half. The second half starts off underwater but by talking to the Plague Doctor with the Lord’s Vessel or murdering him for the key you can drain the city and unleash the darkwaiths who are servants of, uh, entropy I assume? There’s a covenant you can join called the darkwaiths that is focused on PVP so I guess they do that. You can also get to the Valley Of Drakes which think I covered but is just a hallway between here, The Depths, and Darkroot Basic/Garden. The drakes here are blue and spew lightning no idea why. Now the boss here are the four kings which look like something out of Final Fantasy VII and to fight them you have to have the ring from killing poor old Sif the good good woofer

The Four Kings

Summary

This is a tough fight no doubt. First, the four kings bit is a misnomer, I word I have never used before today, and there are in fact as many as you let spawn in. But they all share a health bar and will likely either die or kill you before you notice that so I’ll just assume there is only meant to be four and they didn’t bother coding in a limit which okay whatever who am I to judge games are hard to make I type eyeballing the folder on my PC filled with failed dreams and pictures of foxes which are also failed dreams in that I never got to pet those foxes as they are wild ass animals that don’t like that and will bite you for trying. The trick here is to beat them down as fast as you can before the next one of them can spawn in which you can do via lots of damage to them or putting on the heaviest armor you can find and tanking the hits as you just pound away. It’s kind of a pain in the way a lot of these late game bosses are. It’s meh when you have outleveled the game by like 40 levels (later games make this less of an issue though this is still way better than Demon’s Souls) The more interesting thing to note is what happens here if you come here before meeting Kingseeker Frampt pictured here:

Summary

If you come here before ringing the two bells (this boss can actually be like the third one you do in the game but good luck with that) you instead meet Darkstalker Kaathe who let’s you join the Darkwaiths and tells you not to relight the fire as Kingseeker Frampt does and instead become the Dark Lord and rule over a new age of man. This is implied to be the bad ending but things didn’t seem so hot before all of this so maybe this ends up better who knows.

Stray Thoughts

Sif makes me sad :frowning:

I did not kill a mountain lion with a stick for a magic ring. It was all just a bad trip and as a result I am no longer allowed in my local Applebee’s which is hardly a loss anyways

You meet Sigwhatever his name is in the ruins but I’m going to do a rundown of that mega bummer tomorrow when I write up the last of this game


#57

Odds And Ends

BOSS RUSH WOOOOOOOOO

Stray Demon

SO I thought this was the first boss in the game but this is actually the second version you can fight by going back to the asylum. It’s the same fight as the other two versions in this game so instead I’ll briefly talk about the return trip to the asylum. You get there by unlocking the elevator to the church in the Undead Burg and then jumping off the elevator at the right time so you can get to the nest of the giant crow that carries you from the asylum to Firelink shrine in the first place and for some reason it’s also happy to just take you back as well. There’s four things of note here, the boss, the knight who gives you the estus flask is back, hostile, and drops his shield when you kill him, the peculiar doll that lets you enter the Painted World Of Ariamis, and the rusted iron ring that lets you move at full speed through water and swamps.

The Black Black Dragon Kalameet

This is the optional super boss of the DLC and feels like a first run of some of the Old Ones in Bloodborne (I swear I’ll talk about Bloodborne less in the Dark Souls II write ups but after that it’s all down hill) with even some elements of it’s design calling to mind the nightmarish look of some of them. It also breaths this super cool looking black and off white fire that just looks like nothing else I’ve seen and somehow I forgot tho grab a screen shot. The fight itself was actually not as hard as I expected it to be, the dragon’s attacks aren’t especially hard to dodge though one wrong move and you risk getting killed fast. It’s mostly about knowing when you can afford to strike and sheer endurance. It’s though but I managed on the second go which maybe says more about my skills then it does this one fight.

That Red Dragon that kills you on that bridge that seems super tough but isn’t

I really should have this like 25 in game hours ago all I had to do was hit it with my sword a few times and it died quite quickly with no real way to damage me. Bit of a let down for how though it seems at the start

Dark Sun Gwyndolin

Summary

I’ve already dealt with the issues around this boss so rather then beat this dead horse I’ll just assume you’ve already read all that and talk about this fight as just a fight

To find Gwyndolin you have to get a ring from the catacombs and somehow think to put it on in front of a stature of Lord Gwyn that is notable only by virtue of the fact it’s hard to find in it’s own right and is called the Tomb Of The Darkmoon in the fast travel menu. Do all that (by reading about it on a wiki) and you find the covenant that Gwyndolin runs that guards Anor Londo and invades anyone who does a certain thing that I suspect next to no one ever did making the actually function of this covenant somewhat dubious. Which frankly is true of almost all of them but I’ll get there at some point. In front of where you can join the covenant is a fog door which at this point you can almost certainly guess will be a boss fight and you are correct. Walk in and Gwyndolin admonishes you for daring to attack her and extends the hallway out behind her seemingly forever in what is one of the most interesting boss arenas in the series. The way it all plays out you chase her down a hallway for quick hits as she shoots some very hard hitting magic and arrows at you and again I need to emphasize, it hits HARD, and some of it pierces through the pillars you can hide behind. Smartly however From didn’t give her too much HP so it’s not a fight that drags on too long. It’s one of the most interesting fights in the game and one I really like unfortunate context aside

Other Things! Like massive bummers in regards to NPC quest lines that get super dark in ways I didn’t expect!

First let’s talk about Princess Gwynevere:

Summary

o uh yeah. Dark Souls is great but has by far the biggest issues with this sort of tacky sexism. The story here is supposedly that the artist was told to go design this character and came back with that, Miyazaki was going to ask him to redo it less tacky but the artist was apparently so proud he couldn’t do it. I find this less a cute anecdote and more a prime example of how sexism carries on long past when people should know better but it’s not a mistake the series really repeats aside from one or two “sexy” armors in later games so I’ll skip the rant here. The other thing to know about her is she is fake. There is a real goddess with that name who looks like that but she left Anor Londo ages ago and the one you see here is an illusion created by her sister Gwyndolin (There’s a lot to unpack there but I already linked to articles about it in the Transmisgony post so just go read that I guess). So if you kill the fake you learn that she was not the only illusion there. All of the enemies in Anor Londo were also illusions and in their place is nothing. Well, there’s like two dudes who show up outside the hallway where Gwynevere is and die after you kill them once. No idea who there are I’m sure there’s a 6 hour lore video on the subject somewhere. Also the Sun is fake. All of Anor Londo goes dark after you kill her and it’s eerie as hell and implies that the world is even worse off then you think as while the sun is still there in the rest of the game (I suspect the reason so much of Anor Londo looks a bit flat in terms of geometry is that they had this twist in mind and wanted to make sure they wouldn’t have to totally redo the lighting on a lot of complex landscapes) Anor Londo is where the gods lived and there’s no sun which is what the entire pantheon is base on. And almost no one was going to ever see this

Siegmeyer and Sieglinde of Catarina
WHOO BOY this one goes places! So, a summery, you Seigmeyer outside Sen’s Fortress snoozing and wake him up. He says something rather chipper and goes ever onwards on his quest with nary a moment of doubt save for the end of his quest where he feels as though he has too often depended on you to do his work for him but is otherwise the happiest person in the game aside from patches who is an asshole. Now, in Seath’s archive you find Sieglinde his daughter. Now you might be thinking “Oh! That’s nice a family reunion!” But no, this is Dark Souls. At some point Sieglinde will show up at Firelink and ask if you know where her father is and sure okay you tell her and it’s fine whatever. Later she shows up again and says this “Well, hello again! I have finally located my father. All of your help was invaluable to us… Thank you so much. I was finally able to pass on my mother’s last words. My father? He went on his final adventure. Don’t worry, that’s just the way he is. Undead or no. Sort of reassuring, really. If he goes Hollow, I’ll just have to kill him again” Umm. What? Now there’s on last event, you go to the first bonfire in the Ash Lake and see this:

Summary

Her father has gone hollow (lost all sapience and now mindlessly attacks anyone and everything more or less) and she has killed him. She gives a titanite slab as thanks for your help and says that she will now return to her home as unlike most here she was never undead. The game makes no statement here about any of this

The End: Kiln Of The First Flame

After gaining the four lord souls you go to where you placed the Lord Vessel fill it with the souls and unlock the door to this:

Summary

It’s quite a sight. The level itself is more catharsis then anything else in how it consists of Black Knights that up to now have been some of the tougher fights in any given area. At this point they may not be easy for you (unless you learned how to parry in which case they are and were quite easy, but you likely have not though you may soon) and you can all but chew through them and they drop rare gear. It’s a short level and soon you find yourself at the last boss:

Gwyn Lord of Cinder

Summary

This fight Is either, VERY hard, or you break out a shield and parry him like there’s no tomorrow

Summary

I opted for the latter. It’s a cool fight honestly and reminiscent of the False King boss fight in Demon’s Souls. It looks good as hell and the music that plays is beautifully understated and it’s a great even if as a fight the game has shown all it’s cards and doesn’t have a whole lot left to show. Something that also holds true for a good chunk of the rest of the games, Dark Souls II especially, Bloodborne less so

After the fight you get to pick your endings of relight the fire and drag on the status quo or say fuck it and let it go out and rule over a dead world with these weird nightmare snakes

Summary

And that’s Dark Souls! Next up I play all the King’s Field! Or I’ll just play Destiny 2 for a month straight and skip King’s Field and just go to Dark Souls II:Scholar Of The First Sin

Stray Thoughts:

I honestly thought the end game was fine-ish. Only the lava levels really drag and the Tomb Of Giants is a tad more mean then it really needed to be

The DLC was fine. I kind of expected to like it more given that so many seemed to love it but I didn’t really feel like there was that much to it

I did like the first bit of new game plus just to see what it was like and I tore through the Asylum Demon but he sure hit a hell of a lot harder

Next weekend I need to edit this for typos, grammar and inconsistencies in how I use Oxford comma’s and woof this is a lot of text to go over


#58

Chapter 3:
There Will Be Souls

Several million in fact I’ll be like level 150 by the time this game is over. Now I’ve gone with the Scholar Of The First Sin version as that is the version I have played the least and DS II could use a few improvements in encounter design which I am told the SOTFS version does try to address (I apparently played through this version at some point and just don’t remember?)

To start you spawn straight into the game before character creation as this dude:

Don’t spawn people into the game before giving them the option to create their character it’s kinda shitty. I get what they were going for but none the less, some dense robes are not the solution here but it’s a somewhat minor detail

Now this game is huge, and the interesting things that the game does are not always in the levels themselves so I’m just going to sort of condense the levels down into bigger arcs along the lines of five-ish bigger acts and then the DLC

Act one:

Here you start in the tutorial section in some sort of shrine and make your way to the home of three women in red who all look the same who let you create your character, I went Depraved with an eye towards hexs as it’s sort of the games main build gimmick aside from the power stance stuff. Once you get down with all that you walk out the back door into a long but cool looking hallway with rooms branching off with tutorials in them about things like jumping, parrying, backstabbing, normal stabbing, rolling, more stabbing, and so on. You can also find the crow traders here and I traded them my starting gift for a ring that makes me look like a white phantom and does nothing else that I wore anyways for like ten hours since there was nothing else to fill those four (four!) ring slots. There’s also a coffin you can get in here that changes your gender and I’m not sure why that’s there as it’s too random a thing to feel like it’s making a statement of any sort but stands out too much to feel like it’s not doing something. Though most likely the thing it’s doing is trying to be a weird ester egg with no real thought behind it unless I missing some major plot arc about gender identity. I have played this game like six times though so I will go out on a limb and say that I am not

After all that you get into the major hub area Majula. I actually quite like this hub, it’s my second favorite in the series and warrants it’s own post later

Now from here you can go off in basically two directions, maybe three if you have a lot of HP at the start, and I opted for the Forest Of Fallen Giants to get up my stats to wield the mace that makes the other major area way easier. Now I’ll go over this as part of my primary thesis that Dark Souls II has the worst level design but makes up for it with solid encounter design and by being the most open game in the series in terms of how you can build your character and acquire the tools you need for it. Anyways, the level itself is a lot of hallways which is fine the games are never all that open but there are good hallways and bad ones and most of this game is mediocre hallways which is what this is. The first bit is a forest hallway, that leads into a arena with a bunch of the dregs and in the base game a white NPC knight that would only fight you if you whacked him a few times first but here I thinks it’s more dudes. Now you can break off here and find a few things around but mostly you’ll just fight your way past all the dudes, break your dagger the only weapon you can equip, and have to then punch all the dudes to death after. Fun times! Self inflicted ones no less! Now, here’s the thing, it’s all kind of dull. The new lighting engine in DS II helps for sure, it makes the game much less dull to look at, but so much of the game lacks detail that it feels a bit half baked:

You see that a lot, denser areas followed by almost totally empty space right outside where you can go. I suspect that this has a lot to do with the game’s initial reception as being Dark Souls as made by the B team. Forest hallway section it picks up a bit when you find the major bonfire for this section of the game and it starts to branch off a bit more. You can backtrack a little bit to find some gear and such including the fire long sword I was using and it helps the castle area feel a bit more real. Past the bonfire you get to one of the better levels in the game, maybe even the best which sucks given that it’s the first one in the game most people will head to and sets up the faults and strengths of the game. Or who knows maybe setting expectations if for the best here. This more or less plays out like the first level in the last two games so I’ll skip the details and get to the NPCs and bosses

That dude who makes maps:

He doesn’t really do much but sets up the dream like nature of the game in how he speaks about how he got here and what he’s doing. After you meet him here he just hangs out but does give you the key to the manor in Majula and moves in there at some point

Mild Mannered Pate:

So this guy is roughly the Patches of this game (I was wrong in my assumption that Patches was the only NPC to appear in all the games he is absent for this one) who leads you in to a trap here and sort of elsewhere. He’s a bit of a mystery to be honest. He’s paired with another NPC and one of them is supposed to be a serial killer and one of them is either hunting down the killer or hiding from them and there’s no way to know which is which and it’s a mess and one of the more interesting NPC quest lines in the series

The Merchant Hag

She works as the NPC boss armor seller and once you beat the Last Giant here she will move to Majula if you talk to her enough

Boss Fights!:

The Last Giant:

This is a bad fight. You walk around the boss and hit his ankles and at some point it tears off it’s arm and tries to hit you with it but you just keep dodging and hitting it’s ankles. It’s sort of okay as the first boss fight in the game for new players but they really should have done more with it given the importance of the giants in the plot

The Pursuer:

So this one is interesting. It’s a solid fight first off though not one that really stands out, it’s sort of along the lines of the Capra Demon so not much to talk about there but A: in the SOTFS version he shows up over the course of the game. In the base game who shows up once in an area prior to the main fight and will likely kill you. You can only fight him one time in most of the bonus fights as well so it’s it’s a tense fight that I have yet to win. And B: The boss arena has a way for you to all but one shot the boss with some ballista if you can get him in front of them and fire them. It’s great in co op where you can use it to end the fight by either killing the boss or the person who happened to step in front of it and will now be sending you an angry PSN message.

And that’s the first area. From here’s you can go to the second area that you can head to from Majula or head to The Lost Bastille. I opted to skip the lost The Lost Bastille and will write up where I went next later.

Stray Thoughts:

This game does look really good in spots:

I love the music that plays in Majula a whole bunch

This area would have been way easier had I leveled up my physical stats first instead of pumping up Int and Faith first and I don’t know why I did that to myself


#59

hi did you fall for the trap in the area down the ladder from the Cardinal Tower bonfire where the giant sword has crashed through the wall and an item is on the hilt, and if you go up there to the hilt and look around to admire the beautiful coastal landscape you get ambushed by a swarm of dregs and can’t escape?

i didn’t fall for that trap three times, for sure.

for real though i love majula. it’s simultaneously lonely and friendly, and its musical theme is lovely.


#60

Oh I did the first time through the game for sure but after that I was pretty aware of the trap so I havn’t really fallen for it since.