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


#61

The First Two Primal Bonfires:

Okay so, these first two are the shortest paths to go through so I’m just merging them into one. First I’ll say that the Primal Bonfires are the things you have to light to get to the last quarter of the game and beat it ala the Lord Souls from the last game. And in fact the Primal Bonfires are implied very heavily to be linked to the four Lord Souls

The first is the path to The Rotten in the well/trash chute in Majula. There’s three things of note here, the first area of the Rat Covenant called the Grave Of Saints:

These areas (and I’m counting the other covenant areas that focus on PVP as the rats do) are sort of interesting but mostly feel too short and artificial and I find that the Souls games are often at their worst when they feel too gamey. I get why but I’m not a huge fan. There’s a boss here but it’s just a bunch of normal rats with one rat with a mohawk that is the real boss. After that you can talk to a rat and join his rat gang which sadly is not as cool as it sounds

After this you get to an area I think is called The Gutter that is the shanty town level for this game and the second thing of note down the well. it’s super dark and is the only level that really calls for the torch in the base game. It’s either really big or tiny and good at hiding it but I find it to be the most interesting of those levels so I’ll just call it my favorite of this type of level in the series and say that’s it’s fine

The Gulch, I think is what this next level is called? Anyways there’s a lot more poison shooting statues and does contain two more giants (The game lied that one that’s a boss is not in fact the last) and they’re a really tough fight that I cheesed by using poison since they could totally one shot me. You also fight a red phantom but eh anyways the boss:

The Rotten:
You circle strafe him and stab him a bunch and his visual design is pretty week so eh

After you beat him you light a primal bonfire in what in the normal game is a big empty as hell room that is kind of a real let down but in any version after the DLC came out is a cool green shrine that takes you to the DLC which is the third thing of note. I actually opted to dive into it real quick to get a cool shield that lets me cast spells, hexes, and miracles all with one tool but I didn’t really do much else while I was there so details later

Start Thoughts for these areas:

There’s a weird bug thing in The Gutter that is weird looking and I don’t thing does anything but I killed it anyways

Sometime during all these I did some grinding for a Manikin Saber that I infused with Dark and it hits like a truck

The Gulch looks cool but is far to short to make much of an impression it feels like it should be about twice is long but they ran out of time to expand on it. There’s a fair bit of that in this game

Now for the second more interesting Primal Bonfire

Now the disjointed nature of this game (Which I think is a plus it just makes it hard to write about in a coherent way) means I did a good chunk of this before I did The Gutter section as I needed to to be able to survive the fall down the well. So now we get to the second area most people will go to in the game Heide’s Tower Of Flame:

It’s a long hallway over some water but the main things to note here are the levers you can pull to make the main boss here easier by increasing the space you have to fight the boss without rolling into the water, the Dragon that I think was added in SOTFS that hangs out in the level and is the closest that the game gets to the Dragon bridge that the games love so, and the Heide knights that are none hostile at first but later wake to mess you up. It’s a fine level in that it looks cool and isn’t a nightmare to get through. Bonus points if you now the enemies here are weak to blunt weapons and are not down with the 420 lifestyle.

The bosses:

The Dragon Rider Knight

You circle strafe him a bunch while stabbing him. Eh

The Old Dragon Slayer

It’s Ornstein without smough and actually a fun fight this time. It’s sort of in the Artorias mold of dodging and stabbing but allows you to be a bit more sloppy about it. I like it solid B

After this you meet the lady who sells you miracles and also lies to you about being a cleric and is part of the series running theme of “Yo, this whole Christianity thing, you sure about that? Like, really sure? Especially this whole Catholic church thing?” you can murder her later and she basically just cackles about how you found her out and now you have to die Bond!

From here you get to No-Man’s Wharf

I actually like this level a lot. The pirate theme works better than you might expect it to and it makes good use of the torches. I also like the dude who is behind some boxes that you can free and follows you around with a torch to scare of the horrid nightmare creatures that for some reason live here and hate bright lights which actually makes them very relatable now that I think about it. This level is fun but lacks some of the design that makes other levels in the series sing. It doesn’t convey a lot of narrative, and doesn’t totally make sense as a space, but it’s a solid B which sort of fits the pirate theme at least. There’s also three NPCs here: Gavlan, who buys items off of you and sells poison gear. He’s weird and has no real arc. Carhillion of the Fold, who sells magic stuff and has no real arc. Lucatiel of Mirrah, who is the Sad Knight of Dark Souls II and does have an arc. Here where you are likely to meet her first she sets her backstory up and mostly establishes herself as someone who has long been a swordsman and that she comes from Mirrah. More on her later

Flexile Sentry:

It looks cooler than the last circle strafe boss and has a lot of cool boss soul weapons but eh

After this you get the pyromancer flame and go to Lost Bastille!

I got here and took the bonfire back to Majula to headed to Huntman’s Copse instead, but that’s another Primal Bonfire so I’ll cover that later. Lost Bastille feels like a weird offshoot of The Forest Of Fallen Giants and I’m not sure why it’s not just the same area expanded out. I guess the lighting is different? Anyways this is a fun level to explore if nothing else but it looks kinda dull and honestly I more or less already talked about this whole area with The Forest Of Fallen Giants write up so just some quick notes on the part it plays in builds is what I’ll put here. In this area you find Straid of Olaphis, who sells spells and boss souls weapons, and the blacksmith that infuses your weapons so that they scale off of different or more narrow sets of stats. DS II also has the most open version of this system that lets you infuse things like boss weapons and spell tools on top of normal weapons. In fact I want to say every weapon in the game can be infused but I may be wrong there. You also meet Lucatiel again and here she reveals that she is also hollow and is beginning to lose her memories. She is the saddest knight. I should also note that to complete her arc you need to summon her for three boss fights and have her survive. This is harder than it sounds but so far I’ve gotten two out of three, so I should be good

The boss: Ruin Sentinels

I hate this boss. You have to fight three of them at once but you can take them one on one with some luck but it depends on being able to DPS them hard enough that it’s not an issue. It’s sort of like the Four Kings fight but weirdly more of a pain and mostly just serves as a level check in a series that really doesn’t warrant them

After that you get to the next area that is so tiny I’m not counting it and will instead get straight to the boss,

Lost Sinner:

This is very much and Artorias style fight. It works okay. The real gimmick here is the room is so dark by default that you can’t lock onto her. If you find the right key though you can unlock nearby rooms that that light the place up and make the fight easier. Not easy mind. But easier at least. It’s all fine but like a lot of the Primal Bonfire areas should have been expanded. A larger area where the boss was the first thing to be found and you had to then go around lighting the area up after getting the tar beaten out of you would have made this area way more interesting

After that fight you get to the Primal Bonfire room which looks like this:

Summary

I was not joking about all the empty rooms.

There’s also a bonus area along the lines of the Grave Of Saints but there’s not much there so I’ll just write up the boss of that area

Belfry Gargoyle(s):

It’s more or less the same fight as the DS I version but there’s more of them and they share a health bar. It has the same issue as the Ruin Sentinels however even if I hate this fight less

After that you can get some stuff but it’s a dead end that once had the key you needed to light up the Lost Sinner room but now it’s found somewhere else so eh

Stray Thoughts:

This section is kind of the key issue with this game. It’ll just kind of blends together and not in the way the game wants it to and it just puts focus on all the wrong areas

I actually really like Lucatiel. She’s cool

Eh


#62

The big bug thing cures poison and is a Right Good Pal, I generally keep it alive and rub it’s belly with the wave gesture.


#63

Huh something new every day


#64

Okay next section:

The start of this subsection is Huntsman’s Copse. It’s kinda bad. There’s like, three bonfires all next to each other when it should only have like two, and it’s just kinda boring otherwise. The enemies are only an issue in large groups but the groups are so large that it feels less like a challenge and more like an army has been sent after you. I do like the bonfire closer to the boss that you unlock with a key you can find later in the level and the boss shortcut that you unlock nearby that has the necromancers that respawn the skeletons around there that only need to be killed once. There’s a version of this level that’s better but it ain’t this one. There’s also two NPCs in this area, the dude that sells you hexes and gives you some nice gear if you get your int and faith to 20 each but that’s about it. More interesting is Pate’s counterpoint Creighton the Wanderer. It’s thought by some that he is the one hunting the serial killer but there’s no real consensus. The bosses!

The Skeleton Lords

I actually kinda like this fight. There’s three of the lords and none of them have much HP but once you kill one a bunch of normal Skeletons spawn in. The main issue here is that one of them spawns in wheel skeletons which are still a pain. It’s a fun fight but not a great one

Executioner’s Chariot

This is the puzzle boss of this game and it’s fine. You kill more of the necromancers and hide from the boss who just does laps around the arena while you hide in doorways. You finally take on the boss when you bring down a gate that the boss slams into breaking the chariot which leaves only the horse that was pulling it and then you kill and boom boss over. This boss just unlocks a PVP covenant but I must murder all of the things so it had to be done

Harvest Valley:

Eh. It’s sort of the swamp level of the game but not. There’s like, both too much here and not enough here. It’s like empty levels jam packed with stuff there’s not a whole lot of reason to care about. There’s Gavin or whatever his name is here again in a cave. You also find Stone Trader Chloanne who sells you stones. She heads back to Majula and then the Blacksmith is glad to have his daughter back and she wonders who that weird blacksmith is. You also find Lucatiel who tells you about how she is looking for her brother who was the best swordsmen in Mirrah who one day went missing. She believes him to have also fallen victim to the curse and come here to find. Now she’s having even more issues remembering things and only wants someone to hear her story. Now the boss

Covetous Demon:

This is not a boss. You can kill it with two bars worth of stamina and won’t even see it actually do anything that could hurt you. It is the worst boss in a game with a lot of bad bosses

Earthen Peak:

This is a better level than the last but still something of a weak one. There’s at least more to exploring it with traps and more interesting enemies. It’s like a C+. You do meet Laddersmith Gilligan here who has more going on then you might think. It’s implied later on that he’s some sort of criminal and that he might be the killer Pate and Creighton are looking for but I find that doubtful. He is most notable for selling ladders to you here and in Majula that let you get to the Gutter and all that without needing the cat fall ring you can buy or pumping up you health. You also find Pate here again but there’s nothing really new here so eh. There is a trick here where to fight the boss without it getting constant health regen you have to burn down the windmill that churns all the poison and drains all the pools of it around this and the previous levels. Now the boss

Mytha, the Baneful Queen:

It’s an okay circle strafe boss

The Iron Keep

So this level is the one most people point to when they want to talk about how disjointed the game is. You go up an elevator after the last boss and rise up through a bunch of lava in a way that would make no sense in the last game. But here’s the thing, You know how all those NPCs are always talking about how they can’t remember things? Nether can you. The idea is that a lot of the areas you pass through are blurring together and the elevator is meant to be the starkest example of this. It doesn’t quite work. This sort of vague world building works elsewhere in the series but here makes the game feel weirdly half assed as often as not but I admire the idea behind it at least. The actual level is one of the better ones design wise and worst encounter wise. The level is relatively intricate with back passages and levers and traps and manages to feel like a mix of an iron works and castle. There’s stuff hidden all over the place and it’s fun for the most part. There’s three issues here; (four if you count the fact I don’t know how to use a semi colon) First the knights here are a bit much. One on one fights are fine, they hit hard and fast but go down easy enough if you can manage them well. The issue is that there’s so many of them and one mistake can be a disaster and at certain points they can just gang up on you before you have a chance to do anything and worse yet in the second main area they have bows that can knock you into the lava around the level and some of the are captains not just knights that hit harder then the normal ones. It sucks the air out of the room in the first area at least. The second is the optional boss here which is a nightmare, but we’ll get to that. The third issue is that the last boss and the one that guards the Primal Bonfire here is a real let down. The only NPCs you meet here are a merchant who for some reason also runs the Dragon covenant if you bring him a dragon egg you find very late in the game. There’s also another one of those PVP areas the ones that aren’t the rat ones that has one of the awful ablest dwarf characters that I forgot to mention. I kind of hate them. They’re all implied to be insane creeps and it’s bad and I’m not well enough informed to fully articulate why. Anyways the bosses

Smelter Demon:

This is a circle strafe boss that hits so hard you basically can’t take a hit and as a bonus being near him damages you thanks to his fire aura that he gains about one third of the way into the fight. I managed to do this in one fight but only bring Lucatiel into the fight and saving this area in til I was level 90. It would be the worst fight in the game but it’s at least a real fight so it wins out over Covetous Demon

Old Iron King:

He looks like a much less interesting version of the Dragon God from Demon’s Souls and doesn’t in any way put up a fight. He hits hard but telegraphs his moves more then the dragon fight from Mischief Makers (I did not expect to be able to reference that game in this series but I found a way!) so all in all you’re much more likely to roll off the small arena here then lose to the boss. It’s a real let down as it had a lot of potential

After this is another Primal bonfire and the teleporter to one of the DLCs

Stray Thoughts:

You may have noticed a lack of screenshots this time and that’s for two reasons, one there’s no way to hide all the UI with a button press that I know of which makes it hard to get good shots with out having to fight the boss without a UI and I am not that hardcore. And two little in this game looks as good as the last game so it’s not really a great use of the hard drive space. It still looks good on the whole and has moments where it really shine especially later on but not so much in most of the first half

Sometime in the next week I’ll be doing the write up for Majula but if anyone has any questions about the game feel free to either post them here or DM them to me and I’ll forget about it and feel bad about it later. Or I’ll answer your question in the Majula post but one of those two things will happen!


#65

Okay Here’s the last bonfire summary:

These levels are super boring so eh

Oh you want more than that? sigh

So this is the last offshoot of Majula and and also the path that leads to the end game. To get here you have to head off somewhere and find a Fragrant Branch Of Yore that can de-petrify a women that that is blocking the switch. She is the pyromancy trainer and does things like upgrade your flame and sell basic pyromancy spells. To get her to head to Majula though you have to give her some clothes as she is dressed too immodestly to feel comfortable leaving. She’s actually dressed in tattered clothes that just look kinda shit so the idea that she can’t go back to Majula seems quaint in a year where a game gives you a trophy for looking up a women’s skirt but alright whatever. She also claims to be the apprentice of the sorcery trainer but says the guy is ignoring her and she doesn’t know why. It’s supposed to imply that he’s losing his memory the same as all the other hollows but I think he’s just a sexist jerk but maybe that’s just because he looks a bit like Sean Connery. This area is basically a long hallway of wasted potential and scrotum monsters.

The Shaded woods/Ruins

Here you find the Shaded woods a maze like area that requires you to hug the left wall until you find the exit and has spirit enemies you can’t lock onto and also trees that moan if you hit them but I’m not here to kinkshame the level designer so I won’t talk about how they don’t do anything as far as I can tell. Also in the ruins is a talking head that sells you stuff (I have no idea) and warns you that his body is wondering around attacking with out cause. If you kill his body he thanks you and hands you? His sword and can be summoned as a head for some fight later which I regret not doing as now I Wwant to know how that works. After the forest you get to some ruins that just, exist? This level exists. You find a bunch of Aldia’s Island Of Doctor Moreau projects like the lion men and Man Scorpion Tark an NPC you can only talk to if you buy a ring from the cat in Majula. He tells you about how his master created him and then went mad and now he is one of the last of his kind and his lady friend went mad for reasons and could you go kill her he can’t do it thanks okay bye. Alright he does offer to help you do it but it’s kinda shitty in how “Oh the women went mad now I must kill my love!” and really the game has a plain old sexism problem maybe more so than any other game in the series. And this kind of thing is a big part of why. I wouldn’t call it actively misogynistic. It ain’t exactly a thread on The Red Pill but there’s a lot of tropes applied unthinkingly like this. Anyways after that you can find Ornifex who is a rad nightmare bird lady and also moves into the next area to sell you more boss souls weapons

Scorpioness Najka

This is a slightly more interesting boss then most in this game. She actually dives under the ground and pops back up trying to murder you in the processes so it’s slightly different from most other fights in this game C+

After this there’s the second rat covenant area which is notable for letting you grind for Titanite Chunks. There’s also a boss here

Royal Rat Authority

It’s a bad fight you either kill the first rats or they get you with toxic a status effect that does more damage faster than normal poison. If you dodge that it’s not hard to stay under the boss and stab it’s legs. I think they were going for a Great Good Woof Sif thing here but it does not work. Sorry giant rat doggo you were not a good dog

the rest of this area is a hallway.

After the shaded ruins you get to

Brightstone Cove Tseldora

This level is sort of okay. It’s like some kind of mining town but is mostly a long hallway to an okay but short level that’s brings some vertical to the game. It also has a spider theme that’s a bit tired but pulled off well enough. Oh there’s also a boss that is just a bunch of normal enemies with a health bar at the bottom called Prowling Magus and Congregation. It’s the boss most people point to when talking about how there’s too many bosses in this game. There are but on it’s own this one would just be a weird road block and in a better level might serve to make some thematic statement about some weird cult having been started in this town but eh. In the second half of this level you can find Ornifex, the dude who you can pay off to no longer have NPCs mad at you for murdering people or trying to, and Pate and Creighton if you did their questline right. You’ll find them fighting and doing next to no damage to each other so you’ll need to kill one of them. I killed Pate as Creighton has better looking armor that I wanted and he gives it to you if he lives so there you go. He also gives you a key that opens up a house with two chests in it, and one of them is trapped so when you open it you hear whoever you saved say “that’ll leave a nasty scar” so that’s a thing. I like that quest line on the whole but there’s better ones in this game and the others for sure. After all that you pretty much just get to the boss:

The Duke’s Dear Freja

So this fight is maybe the best one of the Primal Bonfire fights. It’s a big ass spider with two heads and like sixteen legs plus the normal spiders from the rest of the level. You have to get up close to hit the boss in it’s heads but it has a few ways to stop you from just circle strafing. One you can only hit it in a head so you can’t just circle around all day hitting R1, two the boss has a charge move that will nail you if you aren’t careful where she spreads her fangs out super wide and rams you, and three the boss can just jump away doing damage if she lands on you. There’s a trick you can use here where the small spiders are afraid of fire and won’t come near you if you have a torch so that can really help. All told this is a good fight something this game needs more of.

After this you go into a room with some dude who might be the body of Aldia (who made Freja from the soul of Seethe The Scaleless. I think) left to wonder aimlessly in this room. I’m not sure especially after you meet Aldia when you light the last Primal Bonfire here. This encounter and NPC were added in a patch not long after the Scholar Of The First Sin (named for Aldia) edition of the game was announced so that people wouldn’t complain about missing out on the added story content. He sort of works like Kaathe/Frampt of this game and says some cryptic stuff. The lore in this game up till now has been rather sparse so there’s not a huge impact here. The next areas pick up in that regard at least/

Stray thoughts

Ther’s a spider monster here that is a dude that a spider has taken over like some kind of headcrab and it’s creepy and I don’t like how the spider dies a little after the dude part and can get one last hit on you. It’s mean

The shaded ruins part of this could be so cool but it’s just not and it’s sad. It really feels like they bit off way more than they could chew with this game and it shows the most here. Still they wisely put the budget in the end game so it does get a lot better


#66

Aldia’s no the Duke, the Duke is just some shmuck with a Spider fetish. Aldia did make the Ancient Dragon in the Aerie though, that might be what you’re thinking of.

Pretty much all of Alida’s dialogue is setup for the Ringed City, which is a dedication to foreshadowing and Slow Burn Narrative that I can get behind.


#67

Well I guess Dark Souls II has two mad scientists messing about with souls to create nightmare creatures then!


#68

Well, aye, but that’ll be Alida and Navlaan, not the The Duke. He didn’t make Freja or anything, she just kind of… happened. The Writhing Ruin, supposedly Seath’s Soul continuing to exert it’s influence beyond death(perhaps a result of his Immortality experiments), affected the land and caused the spiders to all happen, Freja included.


#69

Character round up and Majula

So for this I went depraved to start at level one and built out into a hexer build that uses all forms of magic. What that requires is that I have high Faith, Magic, and Attunement. With a bit of Dexterity and Strength for weapons. Here’s the stat breakdown:

VGR 20
END 15
VIT 6
ATN 30
STR 15
DEX 19
ADP 7
INT 40
FTH 40

Now to max out hexes I only need 30 in INT and FTH but Sorcery and Miracles both call for 40 as the hard-ish cap. Pyromancy also scales off these stats but I don’t remember how off the top of my head. The other thing to note is the ADP which is like the Resistance of Dark Souls II in that it doesn’t really do much. It is supposed to up your invincibility frames when rolling but doesn’t do a whole lot. Still most seem to think it’s worth upping to 9. For gear I have a random mix of stuff that I’m just wearing for looks and decent armor. Weapon wise I have the Blue Flame a sword that casts spells with it’s heavy attack and the Sanctum Shield which also casts spells on it’s heavy attack. It’s maybe a tad redundant but it’s cool and something unique to DS II. I think. You could sort of do it in DS III as well I think but there’s no spell casting shield that I know of. Ring wise I have the spell casting time reduction ring on, the Stamina regen up ring on, the ring of favor equivalent, and the Silver Serpent ring which I will at some point replace with the Magic damage up ring.

Dark Souls II Fox Bigger

Now for Majula.

It’s much like The Nexus and Firelink Shrine in previous games but with a few things to note. It’s much more lonely in Majula than the other two. There’s a lot more empty space here but unlike the rest of the game here it works. For one it lets the surrounding vistas breathe so you really get a sense of the scale of the map that is missing elsewhere. And while it’s too small to feel like a town it still feels like people lived here and has been reclaimed recently by talking cats and a weird dragon lady with an Irish accent.

A quick rundown of the NPCs:

The armor smith who lives in one of the buildings who’s arc is mostly you buying things from him and him getting more and more greedy and forgetting more and more at the same time. He’s also the only black person in the game if not series

The talking cat who is cryptic and is the only NPC you can’t kill. She sells a few rings and minor other goods. She’s more here to add to the vibe of the place and it works

Then there’s the blacksmith that offers his services after you unlock the door to his workshop with a key you buy from the merchant hag in the Forrest Of Fallen Giants. His arc is mostly around his daughter who you find later and no longer recognizes him. He doesn’t seem to care or know.

The last of the NPCs that start here is The Emerald Maiden. Her arc is tied more into the plot of the game. She was made by Aldia as part of recreating the dragons and I don’t really remember the details nor do I care to watch an hour long video on a game that is more a bizarre horror-esque tone poem then a Russian novel about terrible people to have it explained to me. Though you are welcome to do so It’s just not what I want out of it. She’s also the lady you talk to to level up and upgrade your Estus Flask

For ones that show up later you have all the trainers who I already talked about and if you want a list of them there are wiki’s so instead here’s a run down of some of the mechanics in the game. Starting off I’ll go over the sort of general feel. It’s an overall faster feeling game between Dark Souls which is the slowest and Bloodborne the fastest. It’s a little floaty but hardly to the degree most third person action games are and most of the people who dislike this seem to have either just come off of the first game or are to some degree a bit of Dark Souls purest. Some people also just don’t like it

In terms of unique mechanics there’s a few things. For one they change up how you get Estus Flasks and upgrade them. Now you find shards that let you use the flask more and sublime bone dust that makes them more effective. Along with one time use healing gems that you can buy that you can use while moving but heal more slowly over time. The only real issue here is that the shards can be hard to find if you are new to the game and need them most and can feel like they make the game a tad easy if you know how to find them and don’t need them as much. I don’t actually think they make the game too easy as if you don’t know what you’re doing your going to get hit in the middle of the animation and if you do know what you’re doing you likely weren’t going to lose anyways. Not long term at least in this game. This is also largely the same system Dark Souls III uses but it doesn’t have the gems (I don’t think) and lets you divide the flasks between health and mana

The big thing and maybe the worst thing in the game from a raw mechanics view point is Soul Memory. Soul Memory is what it sounds like. It’s the games total tally of all the souls you have earned regardless of level, which is what this game uses instead of your level for any and all matchmaking which makes it a nightmare to connect with anyone you know in a lot of cases. On the plus side it means there’s no point in not just pumping up your level as high as it will go so I’m level 140+ and counting. There’s actually a ring you can get that absorbs all souls for you so you can lock your level at a certain point but it does take up a ring slot so it’s still not great

Then there’s the Soul Vessel that lets you respec. It’s the most free wheeling respec system in the series as well as the first. Bloodborne doesn’t have one and Dark Souls III ties it to a much harder to find consumable and limits how many times you can do it per New Game + cycle for some reason

One of the weirder things here is how after a while enemies stop respawning after you kill them enough. This has the weird effect of making it feel like the only reason that you have succeeded where other undead have fails is you were too stubborn. to quit and wore everyone else down. Plus it’s way later in the game

This is also the first and only game in the series that has a hard mode of sorts with the covenant of champions which stops you from being able to knock enemies out of the game permanently and makes everything hit harder and take more more hits as well. It goes a little too far however and is less a hard mode and more a nightmare mode. But a little fine tuning and it would be a solid addition to the game

Off the top of my head I think that’s it?

Stray Thoughts

Nice


#70

Hey FWIW (I’m late on this) the etymology of Asylum leads to the original definition as a “place of refuge” or an “inviolable place.” So it’s a place where the Undead go where they aren’t supposed to leave, but not exactly a prison either. It’s a decent word choice.


#71

So first, I missed one dude in Majula but he’s just depressed and hangs out near the shrine that tells you how many times people have died in the game. He gives you a Soul Vessel and let’s you join a covenant that is supposed to summon people in to defend you from invasions but in all the versions of that covenant I have never once had it work so eh

Anyways on to the last big stretch of the main game

First you get to The Castle. I think it’s Drangleic Castle (Okay I copied it from a wiki) but I just think of it as The Third Castle In This Over Stuffed Game. This is where the plot really gets going. First the Emerald Herald meets you at the stairway up into the castle and says something about how you made it this far and other things again lore videos. This is where the game starts to actually pick up. Up till now the game varies greatly from good to bad (though SOTFS helps a bit) but from here on out it’s pretty good actually. Starting here the game makes better use of the environment for puzzles and combat and even manages some story telling! One of the main things it does here specifically is that killing something near statues of Giants has the statue absorb the souls of what you killed to do something with a door or a lever. It’s never quite portal but it’s is used well in a few spots like the room were you have to kite an assassin in to a room to turn on an elevator to take you to the BDSM Kingdom Hearts reference. No really. For NPCs you have Chancellor Wallager who is a ghost and very confused about things and will also sell you things for some reason. You also meet Queen Nashandra who’s role I have yet to really piece together I think she corrupts the king or something and she might be Manus according to an art book? I’m just here for like, the vibe dude takes sip from yellow Russian. After you meet her you get to the first of five bosses here (You come back here for the end game but only fight two bosses here at first):

Twin Dragon Riders

This is the same boss you fight towards the start of the game but there’s two of them

After this you find a bonfire and Benhart of Jugo who continues to not be super interesting. Here you find the elevator and the weird dude who is a giant keyhole and honestly I am not sure why they put a BDSM Kingdom Hearts reference in this game but I assume someone was really proud of their slash fic. past the elevator on the first floor there’s a locked door with a key you find later in the level but I’ll skip that and mention the hallway of horse headed knight statues which cool and how there’s a weird darkness off to the side in this hallway that I suspect is supposed to be some terrifying darkness but really just looks like a bug and then you get to the next boss:

Looking Glass Knight

So this boss is actually pretty good! The boss has a few moves and manages a gimmick or two as well. He moves at slow pace but his attacks hit hard and in wide arcs and at times from a distance as well thanks to him summoning lighting from the sky. The big thing is that he summons help in the form of phantoms that he brings through his mirror shield. The phantoms can even be other players but no one seemed to realize this when the game was at it’s most popular thanks to using weird unexplained mechanics. So it’s a souls game. B+ boss would murder again

After this you get to the Shrine Of Amana

This Level is more of a gauntlet the the prior level but it’s a good one. Also a very hard one. There’s a bunch of mages around here that can shoot you from quite a distance and you’re trapped in water that slows you down. But! The spells they cast are slow and easily dodged through. But! There’s holes in the ground you can fall into in spots that are rendered hard to see by how the game renders the water. But! If you use a torch you can see where the holes are. But! If you roll in the water with a torch the torch goes out. But! Actually that’s kinda it. There’s a few other types of things out to kill you like the Dragon Pilgrim Knights and the Amana Aberration which are weird frog monster people that remind me of Toad from that 2000’s X-Man show where they were all in high school. There’s a few minor branches with some treasure in them but the only one that really matters is the door guarded by yet another Dragon Rider which has the soul of King Vendrick sitting on a chair and I have no idea why. The only NPCs here are some singers that sing to keep the dead at peace and if you help all four of them including the one behind BDSM Birth By Key Impalement. There’s also like, three major bonfires and it feels a bit like at some point there’s was only two and they looked at the level and said “Oh we can’t do this to them but in another one”. It does falter a bit towards the end where they pit you against something like four mages and two knights with some frogs tossed in there for fun and an NPC invasion all after one of those bugs that bleed corrosive acid that can really wear down your gear. It sucks.

The Demon Of Song

When this frog walks away you won’t hear it say please oh baby don’t go. This boss is a bit boring but it looks weird at least and if it catches you unaware can end you quickly. It’s gimmick is that it hides in it’s own skin which is rubbery and bounces off all attacks you attempt at it and you all are so luck that I have resisted all of the obvious jokes about this. It’s not a great fight but It’s all right

After this you can find your way to the Undead Crypt or off to a shrine that if you helped all the singers can restore your humanity if you are totally out of human effigies In theory it’s handy in practice if you needed this you needed it 30 hours ago

NextI’ll cover the last three or four areas of the base game!

Stray thoughts

The castle is constantly besieged by a rain storm that adds a really nice vibe to the boss fight

The Shrine Of Amana is one of the more hated levels in the game for being a pain in this ass to get through but I’ve always kinda liked it myself

This game is too damn long

It’s mostly pretty good though


#72

Okay Undead Crypt let’s do th~plays Destiny 2 for four hoursis!

Undead Crypt is a bit short like a lot of these areas in the late game but has a few things going for it. It has a cool look does some leg work for the plot and has some cool fights and gear. The lore is just a bunch of stuff about the dark and so on so I’m not going to sum it up like I’m doing a report on my summer vacation. Though it does something neat where if you try to use a torch one of the NPCs (he’s a blue dude that sells some stuff and is very emo there that’s all you need to know) will attack you for bringing light in to disturb the dead. Gear wise this is where you find the Blue Flame which is a cool sword that I already talked about and the Mace Of The Insolent which let’s you cast miracles and hexes. The fights are all based around more normal dregs that if they see you will ring bells that summon in phantoms and skeletons and there’s these knights with big shields that act like walls you have to murder. Which is really all I ask for in a wall. But there’s also two boss fights! Sort of!

Velstadt, the Royal Aegis
This is a fun but basic fight. It’s another stick and dodge fight where you trigger a second harder phase about halfway. Still while it lacks in originality it makes up for it in execution and serves as a nice call back to Demon’s Soul’s Garl Vinland

After you take him out you find the Emerald Maiden who comments on your progress and find one of the cooler sights in the game King Vendrick undead and mindless walking in circles in a room with only a pile of his discarded clothes on the floor dragging his sword behind him. It’s a cool moment and leads to a bad boss fight:

King Vendrick

So this boss is, again, bad. To do any real damage to him you need to collect at least four and ideally five souls of Giants the last of which requires you to kill an optional boss that is an honest nightmare and once you do that the fight just amounts to rolling around him hoping he doesn’t manage to hit you and kill you in one shot. It’s bad

Aldia’s Keep

This is the last offshoot of the Shaded ruins and requires you have the kings ring for Reasons and this is where you find Lucatiel for the last time in a shed. She can barely remember who she is but thanks you for helping her to remember as much as she has and hands you her gear as thanks. It’s a good moment but let down by the next bit where you find her brother as a red phantom whom you have to kill. Having you find her brother right after finding her for the last time robs her of her agency and what should have been the ending to her story as you either find her after she has slain him or help her do it. instead it sets her up as having forever been in the shadow of her brother and it kinda sucks. She deserves better then that. Once you deal with all that you get into the main hall and find a Dragon Skeleton that comes to life and atta~actually it doesn’t do that in this version. Not yet anyways to get it to do that you have to light four sconces and defeat the red phantoms it summons. Wait have I talked about the Forlorn in this? Their an NPC phantom that invades you a whole bunch and put up something of a fight bot only shows up in the SOTFS version. It’s not as interesting as it should be honestly. Anyways this area is really just a hallway. There’s a few secrets you can find though so it’s not a bad hallway. You can find an acid pit with nightmare skinless dogs (Dogs are the worst enemies in the Souls games they hit harder then you would think and fast), find the gutted giants that are bleeding that acid for some reason that really makes me question how long the giants have been dead if some of them have turned into trees and others are still bleeding but it’s Dark Souls and time is weird and some kind of weird lab where they make Mimics? Or study them? Who knows

Guardian Dragon

The issue with this fight is that the dragon is too big in this too small space for it to leave much of an impression. It’s not especially hard though the giant cage you fight it in looks quite cool with the fancy new lighting

Summary


#73

Dragon Aerie

After you kill that dragon you go up an elevator to the sky to find that yes, there’s more of them. A lot more. Not far in you find The Emerald Maiden who tells you about how she was created to help you (or someone else but you made it here first so you) and other stuff. This is actually a super cool looking area that leaves less of an impact than it should. There’s a lot of those weird exploding mummies and dragon eggs that when you smash them (and you will you monster) spew acid because this game really wants weapon durability to be a thing. It’s kinda not though. You also find more of the same type of Dragon you fought as a boss two minutes ago and no the fight isn’t anymore interesting here despite all the air space for them to fly around. There’s also a few environmental things here with zip lines that you can use with your bare ass hands which I’m not entirely sure is how those work where you can jump off of them early to get some stuff but at this point in the game they have run out of cool shit to give you so honestly I didn’t bother. All in all this area is more a prelude to the next area

Dragon Shrine

This area was kind of a nightmare in the base game and is more of one in this but it’s a way more interesting nightmare. The nightmare here is the the big ass knights that you have to fight your way past here. And you have to fight your way past them as in this version as if you do run past them the Dragon Knights around here (no they aren’t dragon rider knights though they are different dudes in weird dragon armor complete with tails #FurconDrangleic2013) will get real mad and attack you. It’s a much better setup then the previous version where these big ass knights could simply be run past. This is also where you find the Dragon egg that unlocks one of the major PVP covenants. It’s a short area if you don’t factor in the prior one but it’s one I like a lot more this time around.

Ancient Dragon

So this is an npc but you can fight them as well but first the talking bit. The voice for this character is like a weird wind voice thing that sounds backwards and works pretty well and I honestly don’t remember what they said I think it was something about memories. They then hand you the Ashsen Mist Heart which let you travels into memories of giants to get the last soul you need to reach the throne and finish the game. So at this point I left. Because I have tried this fight before and know how it goes. It goes poorly. Mostly due to the fact that in the base game at least attacking the Dragon makes the dragon knights permanently mad and there’s a shit ton of them and you still have to fight the bigger knights and they all hit HARD so getting back to the boss for the forty attempts you need to make at it is a nightmare and this boss will annihilate you in like one hit even with the most tailored of builds. I will be coming back to this one later needless to say

Memories Of Giants

To enter the memories you have to go up to those big tree giants in the forest of fallen giants and examine them via an in game prompt that says Examine. Prior to getting the heart his would just tell you something vague about the tree but after getting it you walk towards the tree and fade into mist and load into a past version of the the forest. But it’s not just any past moment it’s the moment when the Giants attack for the Drama! and you go back and get attacked by both giants and human alike for reasons I’m not sure of I guess you don’t look like a soldier so why wouldn’t they attack you. This is all interesting but in the sense that I don’t have anything to really say about it and thus am just using interesting to indicate to you that I know something about this area but find it so self apparent that it does not need to be stated even though in reality it’s interesting in the sense that I think about it and go “huh” without much further thought. You find two npcs here: Benhart of Jugo, who is still boring as fuck and pales in comparison to the onion knight from Dark Souls who’s archetype he sort of occupies. And Captain Drummond who is the captain of the guard? He’s a nice background character but really all you do is meet him as he’s bleeding and if you come back to him after defeating the boss of these memories he gives you a helmet that I think is real ugly

The Giant Lord

This is The Last Giant fight but again and maybe actually literally the the same giant. The battlefield is cool at least in how it takes place in the same area as the Pursuer boss fight and you get to see the statue head roll onto the outer wall of the fort/castle where you find it later and it’s a nice moment in a game that too often feels static.

After that you get the Giant’s Kinship because that’s how killing things work which let’s you ascend to the throne. Side note I have read some theories that Dark Souls II is an anti colonialist narrative but if your anti colonialist narrative requires you to kill the oppressed your anti colonialist narrative sucks. Also I don’t really think that the anti colonialist narrative narrative fits anyways but I’m going to try and piece together what this game is supposed to be about later

Now at this point I could do the last five bosses of the main game but I still have to do the DLC so that’s next

Stray Thoughts

I wish I was playing Bloodborne


#74

(I’m still working on this but life got in the way)


#75

Crown of the Sunken King

This was the first of the DLCs put out for Dark Souls II and it sets the stage for what to expect from the rest of the DLCs. It starts in the same room as the primal bonfire after The Rotten with a bit shrine that you hit A to pay respects to and then takes you to the big entry way where you can lay down your summon sign and get called in for the co op bosses even if you don’t have the DLC. Past that room you go up to the cliffside and Sinh the final boss of the DLC flies over head lands on a nearby archway and goes on his merry way and takes a nap while waiting for you to stab him a bunch. Past that you start the bulk of the DLC with the more interesting level design and interaction then the main game but it also immediately show how the DLC falters with heavy handed encounter design. This can all be summed up with the first major encounter, it starts with one of the new Dreg/Knight equivalents the Sanctum Soldier laying on the ground waiting for you to walk by so it can wake up and stab you in the back but since you’ve played enough of this game to get here you’ll see it coming and stab it a bunch. The first thing you’ll notice is that they die in either two or six hits depending on your build and weapon and you’ll think “well this means I likely won’t be fighting a whole lot of them at once so that’s fine” or if you did it in two hits like I did when I looped back around to this area after beating the rest of the DLCs “Oh damn this fire katana does a shit ton of damage holy shit I could have been done ages ago”. The issue is that after you fight that one you then fight about seven some with bows all steps away from this first one. But this is also where it introduces the main environment mechanic here the moving pillars. Around the first bit of the DLC there’s a series of columns that can be moved by whacking nearby pillars which then moves the columns (this got confusing fast) which in this case will crush some of the Soldiers making the fight much easier but also makes it so the archers can hit you more easily so there’s a good trade off here. Sadly this whole puzzle element goes under used and is almost entirely dropped when you get into the second part of the DLC in the big Aztec pyramid (I know nothing of Aztec representation so I will say that yeah the whole dark Aztec pyramid with creepy wall carvings and such is dubious to say the least and move on but feel free to link me to any articles on the subject)Once you get in there it’s a good but pretty standard level. There’s a few nice details like the ghost knights that you can only kill if you break their graves/statues first and the weird Dragon things that are sort of like the dragon zombie buts from the first Dark Souls mixed with the Demon of song. I am beginning to think someone on From has a Yoko Taro style fetish for Dragon butts but there’s no trophy for staring at the butts so it’s not a feminist masterpiece like Taro’s work dramatically side eyes web cam which is not even turned on. It does still have some light puzzle elements in the pyramid but they’re less dramatic and feel a bit sub par as a result. Shooting a switch on the celling with an arrow to open a secret door is cool but feels a bit arbitrary even though the big columns outside are if anything more bizarre if you stop and think about it. The third and shortest part is a fall down the pyramid into the pit. This is the only part in the main game (Maybe the series?) that really requires you to jump all that much. It’s not super demanding but it’s entirely possible you never learned that you even could jump in which case you’ll miss some nice gear and the bonfire closest to the bosses but you might be able to just fall down the middle section and drain some Estus to make up for it

The bosses:

(Fun fact I always have to google the names of bosses in this as normally I just think of them as Axe Lady, and Dragon wot has a spear sticking out of it)

Elana, The Squalid Queen

This boss is actually quite like the last, er, now second to last boss of the game at least on a surface level. She uses a few similar attacks but the real trick to this fight is that she summons help in the form of Skeletons, Velstadt, yes she summons in another boss to fight you and yes it is a bit unfair, or those weired pig things from Majula but that’s pretty rare and if that happens you’ve likely won the fight as it happens instead of her calling in Velstadt leaving her without her biggest piece of back up. Elana herself will whack you with her helbred and cast some dark spells on you and she packs a punch but they’re easy to dodge and for the most part it’s easy to find space to heal in with only some of her spells being able to hit you fast enough to punish bad timing. The trick here is being quick on the offense before she can build up enough mobs to overwhelm you and I quite like this fight it’s the best in the DLC and one of the better ones in the game. Also she’s like, a fragment of Manus or something which is important

Sinh, The Slumbering Dragon

There’s two types of dragon fights in this series, Shoot a bunch of arrows into the dragon while avoiding the fire, or stabbing the dragon in the feet while trying not to melt. This one is slightly different in that Sinh breathes poison. It’s maybe the easiest of the dragon bosses but it has all the same pluses and minus as the other Dragon fights. I don’t hate it but it’s not especially interesting

The co op Boss and lead up to it

So each DLC has one boss that is really only meant to be taken on in co op and is honestly just a pain in the ass to get there solo. This one is a big room with poison dart shooting uh, lizards I guess? And look these areas are only interesting in how openly gamey they are in comparison to the rest of even this the most gamey of Souls games and that’s fine and maybe even fun if you can find someone to play them with but they don’t really hold anything of value behind them and the bosses are all various types of rehash and only the area from last DLC is doing anything novel with the preamble area but I’ll talk about that later for now I’ll just say these areas aren’t all that interesting and move on to the boss
Ancient Soldier Varg, Afflicted Graverobber, and Cerah the Old Explorer

This is a battle with three NPCs which you have all more or less fought already and if your trying to do it solo it’s just a lot of kitting around and look I’ve been at this a while so I skipped this it’s not worth it you get some Dragon Bones and a spell and skirt I didn’t want anyways and there’s no narrative pay off of note it’s just there so I skipped it. Maybe I’ll go back to it later but eh

Stray thoughts

This DLC has some pretty good gear in it like the shield I used as my primary spell casting tool and a Greatsword that I didn’t use this time but made good use of in prior playthroughs and also has a ring that upped the power of my lighting based spells and weapons which cam in handy in the next DLC

This is maybe the weakest of the DLCs but never quite hits the low points of the next one


#76

Crown Of The Old Iron King

The second of the DLCs this one starts at the Primal Bonfire after the Old Iron King and is largely a better execution on some of the ideas in the Iron Keep level. And might actually be the same level in the past? I’m not sure how this works but I think these areas are just real far away. Anyways it starts with a room not unlike the Sunken Crown one and then you move up to the main vista where you see the entire level in front of you. This DLC is built around a series of towers the largest being the primary and first one you’ll explore after crossing over a big chain that by all rights you should not be able to walk across but it’s cool so whatever. Before that though you acquire the Smelter Wedges which are used in the main gimmick of the level. Throughout the area there are Ashen Idols that grant nearby enemies boosted health attack and prevents you from fully killing them and all around makes them a pain if you don’t kill them first. Now this sounds good on paper but there’s two issues here. One much like the first DLC the encounters here are very heavy handed with too many very hard hitting foes coming at you at once and while their are often ways to work around this they aren’t always great and this is before the Ashen Idols start buffing them. And two the Idols don’t respawn which means you’re just encouraged to run up to them and try to get locked into the animation for killing them instead of having to actually take the fight head on and better learn how to deal with the encounters which is not great. Something like toning down the buffs a bit and forcing you to kill everything around the Idol first would have worked better on the whole I suspect. The other foes are all just things you’ve seen before they Dreg/Soldiers and Big Dudes That Hit Hard with only the barrel kobolds (which just look like dregs) and the weird haunted armors that shoot you with greatbows standing out. The kobolds with explosive barrels won’t attack for the most part but can be used to blow things up like other dudes and walls with things hidden behind them which is fun. The Haunted armors just move in weird ways and like to play dead on you. There’s also some dudes that crawl around and launch themselves at you to explode but they go a bit underused. Getting around the level is a bit like the last bit of The Sunken Crown in that it’s a decent downward for the most part. The thing that makes it stand out is that going down you see paths and platforms that at the start don’t move but that later you come back to and find various rooms with treasures and Idols it’s actually a really cool level and would maybe be an all time great were it not for overzealous combat design. The best example of this is about midway through the level where you cross over to one of the other towers to get invaded by an NPC but instead of your normal NPC fight instead this one faces you head on for a bit before running down a stairway to drag you into fights with a bunch of other mobs and of course an Ashen Idol. So what this means is you get into a fight with an PC which will likely drain at least one flasks worth of health and then you get mobbed by too many soldiers and a few bow dudes all of which hit harder thanks to the Idol and this also applies to the NPC that ran off and now stands in front of the Idol waiting to attack you. This is all a pain in the ass which is a shame as it’s a good idea and something the series could use more of. The NPC invaders are often quite static and with a few tweaks this would be really cool. Bloodborne does a little better with this sort of thing but we will get there (next year most likely). For all your trouble you get Artorias’s greatsword which when wielded in the left hand lets you use his move set which is a lot of fun. Not too far past all this you get the Smelter rod which some of the crawling dudes are worshiping (?) and then you can stick this into a console and this lights the whole main tower back up and unlocks both a bunch of stuff upwards and lets you head down to the the first and only boss you need to fight after a bit more downward spiraling you fight:

The Fume Knight

This guys back story is that he is the rebel Raime who faced defeat at the hands of Velstadt for some reason. A fun bit of trivia is that if you wear Velstadt’s helm into this fight Raime gets mad and enters his much harder second phase as soon as the fight starts. You really don’t want that to happen the fight itself is something of a precursour to what is to come in that he is mostly a semi standard fight ala Velstadt and the Smelter Demon but his trick is that he shakes up the timing on his moves so you never quite no how he is going to attack. It puts a bit more focus on split second timing then I think Dark Souls can handle with its dodge rolls VS Bloodborne’s side step but it still works more then it doesn’t. The main difficulty here is that he hits real hard in this second form and trying to use a flask to far from him triggers a charge attack that will likely kill you in the second phase. But the bonfire for this fight is pretty close by and and the fight is not super long so all in all I like it. So long as you take out the Ashen Idols just outside the boss room that will buff him anyways. The trick to that is so far there have been more Idols then the things you use to kill the Idols so you can actually be stuck without a way to fully take them out but you can get more elsewhere and the worst case scenario is that you have to go take out the other major boss first

Now before you can take on the other major boss you need two things. The Ashen Mist Heart you get late into the game, and you need to turn the power back on in the main tower. After that you have to find your way upwards and into an area that was inaccessible. Once you find the path you get invaded by a dude that has a weird predator helmet on (I have no idea why there’s a reference to the film Predator in this game) and then after that you get invaded by like four more of the same dude all at once. They have less health then the first one though so it’s not as bad as it could be. Then you find the bonfire right outside a suit of armor which you can use the Ashen Mist heart to enter and leads into maybe the worst area in the game? At least the most boring anyways. It’s just a gauntlet of Alonne Knights and salamanders and it’s just a pain in the ass it’s not interesting to look at there’s not really and meaningful design to it as a location and it’s boring and eventually I just beat all the knights enough that they didn’t respawn anymore so I could just get to the boss faster. It’s just really bad design placed before a pretty cool fight

Sir Alonne

CW for Suicide

Summary

The namesake of the Alonne Knights. His backstory is that he came from the far east and helped the Iron Lord become the Iron King in something of a reverse of the tale the recent game Nioh is based on. As for the fight it’s not that dissimilar to the Fume Knight fight but as tad easier and with a few tweaks that make it a better one for my money. First his attacks are a tad more predictable. Unlike The Fume Knight you know how he’s going to attack most of the time. Second he does have a sort of second phase but it’s triggered by him impaling you on his sword at which point he moves faster and does more damage to you but you can avoid this phase by not getting hit and finally as you can guess by the context warning if you get through the fight without getting hit at all you don’t kill him, he kills himself. Which thinking about it would be a tad offensive if this game was made by non Japanese devs but From can do what they want I guess

That’s about all there is to this DLC. I on the whole quite like it but I think the next one is the best for my money. There’s a bit more you can do here like the co op area which is worse then the last one and who’s boss is just a rematch with The Smelter Demon but this time it’s blue so I skipped it as well. Maybe I’ll go back to it but eh. The other major thing is you can go and finish off the Ashen Idols to claim the Soul of Nadalia, Bride Of Ash whom I assume was married to the Old Iron King and lead to his downfall as all women do amirite? Eh? Eh? Yeah no. This game may not have the Transphobia issues of the first Dark Souls but it trades it for some misogyny for sure. Nadalia is the fragment of Manus for this DLC and was split for some reason into the Ashen Idols you’ve been stabbing.

Stray thoughts

I overall quite like this section but it’s really held back in a few key ways and it’s a shame

There’s some good use of vistas in this level that really shows off where you’ll be heading over the course of it and I really like how it sets it all up


#77

Crown Of The Ice King. Wait that’s not right, Crown Of The Ivory King that’s it

This was the last of the DLCs for Dark Souls II and also the best in my opinion. This is the only one who’s entrance isn’t found at a Primal Bonfire and is instead at the Shrine Of Winter in The Shaded Ruins. This DLC’s main gimmicks are that the main bosses are just off to the left when you first enter but the catch is the first boss is totally invisible and while I imagine you could take the boss on that way you aren’t really meant to. Then Alsanna, Silent Oracle the Lady Wot Was The Kings Downfall Because Women blah blah blah for the area even tells you to turn back (I actually like this NPC and in a game with more women in a variety of roles I would have less of an issue with all off this but that’s not this game so oh well). The way around all this is to go right and explore the level and find The Eye Of The Priestess which let’s you see both the boss and a few hostile NPCs scattered around. The second gimmick is that the level is frozen by icy winds until you take out the first boss and speak to Alsanna who tells you the back story for the DLC. Basically this whole level is sort of the ice based recurrence of the Bed Of Chaos from the First Dark Souls. I think the idea is that this was where the Bed Of Chaos was in the first game and it started to regrow or something and then The Ivory King came and held it back with ice and built the city the level takes place in on top of it so as to keep it contained. But as things tend to go around here eventually the King started to lose his strength and went mad and Alsanna is holding it back while waiting for someone to reunite the king’s knights and kill him for because I guess that fixes this somehow? This is the third gimmick. You reunite the king’s knights so that they can help you stop the flow of additional enemies into the boss fight by finding the in various points around the level that are now unlocked thanks to the icy winds ceasing and defrosting the various ice piles letting you get to areas you could maybe see but never get to your first time through. This is honestly brilliant. The Souls series is built on a foundation of forced repetition and this forces the player to get to know the area and its enemies before adding to both in a way that ramps up the encounter difficulty without just tossing you to the lions as the last two DLCs did and really makes the space stand out in your mind in a way the best levels in the series do. The only thing it really lacks is that without NPCs like Solarie and Lucatiel and there’s no real personal thread to attach to and this holds it back from being the height of the series but it comes close! And I’m a sucker for a good ice level so that helps. The actual enemies around here aren’t really anything to write home about it’s mostly just good variations of the standards The things that stand out are the priestesses that in the frozen version of the level just sit there in prayer even if you attack them but in the unfrozen version will wait for you to walk back and then sneak up on you sometimes in great numbers whilst the soldiers and knights launch ice spears at you those jerks. Then there’s the golems that work like the golems in Drangleic Castle in that when you kill things nearby they spring to life but instead of doing so to open a door they then attack you instead. There’s a neat moment with these golems where there’s three of them blocking a chest and in order to open it you need to kill all three of them. The trick is that you can hit them before they are activated for less damage and kill them but if you don’t do all three at once they will spring to life all at once but you don’t want that. It’s fun but make sure you do it with the Katana that damages you with each attack like I did I almost died doing that. Then there’s a bonewheel style enemy that rolls into you to do quick and massive damage if you can’t avoid them that are these weird blue ice hedgehogs that go real fast and plaster themselves over tons of cheap merchandise in an attempt to wrangle money out of the parents of small children who do not understand why their kids think they’re so cool. And a fun NPC encounter with a white phantom that behaves much like the one in The Crown Of The Old Iron king (Spoilers its because it is that NPC) who doesn’t really attack you but instead waves at you as you walk by and waits for you the use a nearby lever so that he can stab you in the back. The jerk. At this point he’ll run off to either drink an estus flask or if you pulled the lever he’ll try to dreg you further into the level as he did at Brume Tower to get attacked by the White Covetous Demon which would be more intimidating if the Covetous Demon wasn’t the worst fight in maybe the entire series. Stab it in the side a bunch and back away if it tries to roll over you. Boom your done. It can be a little tricky if the NPC tries to attack you as well but in my game he didn’t so it was not an issue. Now as for the knights you need to find there’s three of them trapped around the level you need to find and once you do they stand up from their chairs they teleport to the area outside the boss room. I have no idea why they didn’t just do that in the first place. Once you’ve done that you can really take on the second and final boss of the DLC but first I should cover the first one

Aava, The King’s Pet

This big tiger plays out a bit like the Sif fight but is pulled off better. Like that fight it’s against a large four legged creature that attacks in wide arcs. The main differences are that Aava is better about backing away and charging and has a few magic attacks to spring on you as she needs. The main trick is staying close and knowing when to dodge and when to fully back off yourself. It’s not an especially unique fight per say but well done and reminds me a lot of a number of fights in Bloodborne. Though the way Bloodborne was made concurrently with Dark Souls II I can’t say which came first

And Finally

Burnt Ivory King

So this is the fight you need all the knight for. When you first dive down into the pit where the chaos lives. Now instead of going straight into fighting the boss you instead start by fighting off a number of corrupted versions of the same knights you’ve rescued. There’s I would guess around 12 total but only three or so to start with more spawning in over time. As you take them out eventually the knights fighting on your side will begin to glow and will seal off the portals that the knights come in through one by on until finally all of them are frozen in ice and the boss proper shows up. Now you only need three of the four total knights you can find to freeze the portals but if you find all four you’ll also have some help for this phase of the fight. The Burnt King himself is in the Artorias mold but toned down a bit as makes sense for the nature of the fight. IT works more or less as the Fume Knight in the last DLC so I’ll refer you to that for the details of how it plays out. It’s a good fight but more due to the things around it which is something the series could use more of and does well
And that’s it! Ish! After this Alsanna thanks you for freeing the king and will take the souls that the Charred Knights you fight prior to the fight in exchange for the armor of the knights and eventually the kings gear and her own soul if you bring her fifty! Which would take hours of grinding so if you want to know how that plays out I guess youtube it
Anyways the DLCs co op area is the most fun by far. To get there you jump into a coffin sled thing and find yourself in a massive snowy field. It’s a cool idea in the context of the series in that it’s an area that trades the traditional density of the series for openness. You walk between decrepit building with occasional blizzards bringing in large undead looking reindeer that maul you and do so quite heavily. Here’s the thing, this doesn’t really work in a game like this that’s based on fast repetition and this whole area takes like ten minutes with no bonfires so I gave it like two goes and moved on. The boss here is just Aava The Kings’s pet but there’s two of them and as such I don’t see it being worth the effort

Stray Thoughts

I should be better about writing these stray thoughts down as they come to me as I swear I had more then this to put here but can’t for the life of me recall it


#78

Okay time for those last few bosses from the base game. First I’ll cover Darklurker and the lead up to it

The Darklurker is part of a covenant that has you go through some short areas with a lot of NPC phantoms to fight and a chance to be invaded by other players where you have to kill everything to become closer to the dark or something because this old dude in a chair told you to. I’m sure there’s something more going on here and the way you just sort of stumble onto the whole thing is cool but the whole thing about the Dark is it’s sort of vague and bad but maybe not and again there’s lore videos for this. Anyways if you go into these areas and like the fires in here as a bonus objective but there’s no way to light your torch in here aside from bringing in a lighter so I had to go back through the first one. If you get through all of them and and light all the fires you can fight the boss. But there’s a catch, to get into these areas you have to spend a humanity from you inventory to even enter and in order to fight the boss you have to kill all the NPCs in the run up area first (I think. I’m like, 90% sure) So here’s a hard limit to how many times you can go up against the boss before you need to grind more of them

Darklurker

This fight is something like the inverse of Ornstein And Smough it starts off with one boss that then splits into two. The thing that makes it a hard super boss is that splitting in two thing and the fact that it hits REALLY hard with some of it’s attacks. It’s a bit lazy all told and the fact that it looks like a unused piece of Kingdom Hearts concept art. It’s honestly fine as an optional super boss of sorts but if you can dodge roll at the right time it’s not especially tough
Next up is the dragon from the Dragon Shrine. The catch to this boss is that once you have attacked the boss all the dragon knights (The smaller dudes with the weird looking dragon armor not the giant dudes that look like the Heide’s Tower knights) will be hostile every time you go by and there’s a lot of them and all of them are hard as hell to fight. I think. I somehow managed to beat the Dragon on my first go so I had no reason to find out. To the wiki to find out for sure! * checks wiki * looks like that’s a no? Huh. Well nevermind then

Ancient Dragon

This is the type of Dragon fight where you stab it in the feet. It wasn’t even an especially hard one of those for me. The thing here is that the boss can normally kill you in one hit with it’s fire but as long as you have the right rings on and high enough HP you can heal enough that it doesn’t matter and if your fighting this boss more then once you’ve likely to have been to a wiki or will break down and find one soon enough and learn that you can just respec into a build well suited to this fight. I already was and this fight ended up being a let down after all that build up. Even aside from that it’s clear this is not meant to a major boss fight and they compensated by just making the fire attacks hit super hard and all but impossible to avoid. The boss just doesn’t animate super well and it feels like there wasn’t time to improve it. It’s honestly kind of a bad fight and not worth it. As a side note you don’t get a dragons soul for killing this dragon you get a giants which is an interesting detail. To get the Soul Of The Ancient Dragon you take the Ashen Mist Heart and go back to the boss room for Big Ass Spider and go into the memories of the dragon hanging there above the room

Okay now for the last three bosses. You get to these via going to the first bonfire in Castle Drangliec and off to the left via a door you need the Kings Ring to unlock. Also for some reason in the Sins Of The First Scholar version there’s a knight statue that attacks you as you wait for the door to open. That’s mean. Once the door finally opens the Emerald Maiden is on the otherside (Look, it’s been over a month I don’t have it in me to care that’s just a thing she can do) and she talks to you about how she was born of the dragons that Aldia made to undo the curse but they failed or else why would you be here and she tells you to go deal with Nashandra. But first you have to work down an over long hallway with just kinda, nothing there. It’s not a bad summation of the whole game honestly. Something that should be interesting that’s only kind of interesting. Anyways BOSS RUSH * Air horn starts blearing *

Throne Watcher And Throne Defender

This is a fight against two bosses akin to the Looking Glass Knight. It’s a fight of the same type as a lot the bosses in this game but it’s used a lot for a reason and they balance having to fight two bosses at once well this time for a change As one attacks you the other tends to hang back and they switch off somewhat often. They will both try to attack you at once if you let them get on both sides of you but if you can keep both in sight it’s a fun fight. The other thing is you need to keep both alive until you can take both of them at once or else they will revive each other. Which is bad
After that you fight the final boss of the base game

Nashandra

This is not a fight that’s ever given me much trouble so I’m afraid there’s not much I have to say here. I’ve already mentioned the similarities to the first boss of the Sunken King DLC but it also plays out a bit like Darklurker with her hard hitting but easy to dodge beam attacks. The only thing that really stands out here is the orbs she calls in that curse you that if you are too close to you will all hit you at once draining your maximum hp until you either run off and within range of her beam attacks. It almost works!

After that in the game as it launched you would see the only ending the game had where you take the throne and sit there. This might sound like a massive let down but that’s pretty much how all these games end so it doesn’t super bother me. But after a patch to the base game they added Aldia as an NPC and third boss to this section if you also killed King Vendrick. I should also note all these bosses come back to back there’s no break here. You beat the Throne Knights or whatever and it goes straight to the next fight. Having said that once you beat a boss you don’t have to repeat it and can warp out to heal up and all that. But weirdly that almost makes it worse. At that point what’s the point of having them back to back just space them out a bit or something it’s all anticlimatic as is. Okay now the real final boss

Aldia, Scholar Of The First Sin

This fight a good idea done poorly. Insert snark about game here. It would make for a pretty good replacement for the bed of Chaos but that’s sort of different topic. He just kinda teleports between three locations and you have to chase him and hit him while he isn’t on fire or else he takes less damage and you get caught in the flames around him and it does a ton of damage to you if you don’t roll at as fast as you can, I don’t hate this fight but like the rest of Dark Souls II it just feels lacking. There’s no thematic weight behind this fight the way Gwyn had or even The King from Demon’s Souls. It’s just there like the rest of the game

After that you unlock a new ending where you say fuck it and walk off without taking the throne and things get real dark. Then after the credits the game loads you back into Majula Where you can go and do the bosses you missed or start New Game + mode. I should note here that while I am not a New Game + person maybe the way Dark Souls II most successfully expands on previous games is in it’s New Game mode. It adds new red phantoms around the levels to up the challenge beyond just giving things more health (it also does that) and changes up some encounters like the Lost Sinner having pyromancers backing her up and dropping the Old Witch Soul from the Bed Of Chaos which can be traded for both the Chaos Blade a katana that does a lot of damage but also damages you with every hit which I used in most of the DLC and the Fire Blade Pyromancy that enchants your right hand weapon with fire. You can also burn what is called a Bonfire Ascetic at bonfires right before a boss to get to the harder version with the extra drops which I did in a few spots to get the Katana and a ring from the Skeleton Lords. It’s a neat feature I wish was in the other two games. Weirdly New Game + also adds an encounter with the big spider boss who’s name I can’t be bothered to remember on the walk up to her where she attacks you on a bridge that would have really spiced up that area in a way it really needs

And that’s Dark Souls II! The weakest game in the series by a far bit! It has some highs for sure, finding the king is one of them, the last DLC as well. And uh, um. I feel like there was more but the fact I can’t really remember kinda tells me what I need to know here. It’s a lot of good ideas that just aren’t executed on super well. The way the landscape warps to imply that your character is forgetting things is really cool on paper but poorly communicated in practice and just makes the world design feel lazy and so much of the worst of it is in the start of the game that it just makes a bad first impression before you have anytime to piece together why things might be so scattered and it’s an all around poor match for the way the co op summoning works. The game already implies that reality is condensing down on itself and trying to then add on the the more personal reasons for all of this ends up putting too much into a game that doesn’t lend itself to that kind of density. The world is also more static. In Dark Souls most NPCs have an arc of some sort but here most head to Majula and that’s kinda it with only the Maiden, Lucatiel, Benheart, Licia really having anything going on beyond a surface level. Which ends up being an issue with the games plot as well. The one of the few things the game really makes sure you know is that Nashandra is the villain and her whole plot is that she like manipulated the king and she’s actually some chunk of Manus and thus evil and so on and so forth. On it’s own this is pretty sexist but more worthy of an eye roll then anything else. Add in all the DLC which is about three more women who are all manipulative forces of evil and you have a real issue. To be fair all of the Souls games have some problem with this but most end up with enough verity in character arcs that on the whole it sort of balances out, but Dark Souls II just ends up being capital S Sexist in it’s major plot beats by the time it’s all done and that’s not really something I can say about the other games. Maybe Dark Souls I but you have to dive deeper into it to find it (Gwendolyn’s cleavage aside) whereas Dark Souls II seems to want to make a statement and at least for me it ends up drowning out most of the positives in the plot. The other thing is the game just looks flat compared to other games. They seemed to want to do more with the lighting but even after the updated version it still looks very meh on the whole. One of these days I’ll sit down and figure out exactly what about the look is so off but right now all I got is something vague about color palettes and I want to move on and away from this game. I don’t hate this game I actually think it’s quite good, but after this playthrough I like it a fair bit less I have to say even if the DLC is largely quite good. But so much is seemingly so slap dash and playing it so soon after the others really exposes that. Oh well it’s up hill from here with Bloodborne! And then back down hill a bit for Dark Souls III!

Stray thoughts

I have a theory that the main story telling strength of video games is not interactivity but the fact that they’re so long and require so much effort on the players part that they are both incredibly difficult to meaningfully critique and engender a sort of bizarre Stockholm syndrome effect where any attempts at it are met with extreme hostility as the brains inherent way of dealing with all the gymnastics it has had to do to justify the effort and if you go to VulpesAbsurda.com you can find my Go Fund Me page to send me to my local collage so that I can get a degree in games and philosophy so that I can further develop this theory and spend every waking moment obnoxiously telling it to anyone who will listen as part of my efforts to justify all the mental gymnastics I have spent on it over four years of schooling at a minimum

I never saw a message behind a statue that said “Try tongue but hole”

Summary

So I put one in myself because I am a child


#79

Shit if Bloodborne 2 is announced I’m going to have to beat the last two Souls games before it comes out

I am not doing a write up on my first play through though I am not a reviewer


#80

Well I guess I will be fighting new bosses when I play though Bloodborne: