A quiet, peaceful walk through the woods in Dark Souls

Some people say that you can never go home again. Last time on “Oh my God why is Aether showing us how much he sucks at Dark Souls?” we proved that those people are full of it by traveling back to our old haunt, the Northern Undead Asylum. Now, we’re never going to go back, because we’ve got almost no use for the place, but we totally could if we want to.

Instead, we go to our new home at Firelink Shrine! Land of mysticism, adventure, and total jerks but also Griggs and That One Guy! Speaking of Griggs, let’s see what he’s up to now!


Griggs is busy fanboying over his wayward instructor, Big Hat Logan. Logan was actually pretty happy turning undead, it seems, because that meant he could join the rest of the undead adventurers in prowling all over this land while not being quite as good a chosen one as I am. Griggs is convinced that Logan left him to go check out all the libraries in the land. Because of course books are much more important than the well-being of your proteges.

We knocked out one of our options last time, but we’ve still got our choice of new places to explore. There’s the forest outside of the Parish tower, and the Depths in the Lower Undead Burg. The plot is pushing me towards the Depths, because that’s one of the ways to Blighttown. I’ve played enough videogames to know that means all the best treasure is in the forest. Also, the Depths totally seems like an underground/sewer level, and it’s a matter of principle for me to put those off as long as possible.


A simple decision, really.

Of course, the forest is absolutely festooned with these Ents. They’re weak, but their attacks have some good range, and they’ve got a heavily damaging grab attack that can easily take of half my life. On top of that, they have a really high awareness range, so if there’s one anywhere near the area, you can be sure it’ll be coming soon. They’ll also hide for ambushes, appearing as simple bushes until you hit just the right place. Annoying foes, but luckily for me, I’m strong enough to slay them in a single strike. They drop mosses very frequently upon death, so they’re good sources if you’re looking to boost your supply of remedies.


The area’s divided into two parts: the Darkroot Garden, which makes up most of the forested area, and the Darkroot Basin, covering the nearby cliff and lake. The two cross over at several points, but we’ll but have their own unique features and enemies.


For example, the Garden is full of ruins, such as this one. That’s certainly an attractive door, isn’t it? I bet you’re dying to know what’s behind it. Yeah, me too. Unfortunately it’s locked. Now, I do have a master key. I like to call it my “Black Knight Sword”. However, it doesn’t even put a scratch on the door. I do recall Andrei selling the Crest of Artorias, which looked like it my fit this door, but it costs an obscenely large amount of souls, so I’m afraid we’ll just have to let our curiosity go unsated at this juncture.


There’s some treasure laying all over this area, thus proving I made the right choice in coming here. It’s mostly simple stuff, just souls, but they do offer this tantalizing bit before me. And make sure to leave it way out of my reach. Because they hate me personally.


In an alcove, I find yet another major soul. Going for this one, though, springs a trap, with three Ents popping up around me. One on one, the Ents are nothing to worry about. In groups, though, they’ll happily stunlock you into oblivion, and the range of their whip-like arms keeps you from counterattacking. I actually had to make a tactical withdrawal at first. They ran in pursuit, but I doubled back at just the right time, as they were gathered up in the alcove’s entrance. A single swipe cut through all three at once.


Up till now, the Darkroot Garden had been fairly linear. All the pathways had been hemmed by either impassable stone or a sheer drop. After passing through a white light gate, it opens up into a true forest. In fact, I think this may be the most open area we’ve seen in the game thus far. I’ve got a lot more freedom of movement than I had in the halls of the asylum or the streets of the burg. There is no longer any beaten path, I’m no longer stuck following what’s directly in front of me, I can take any direction I want! That said, the most interesting thing in view is a prone statue directly in front of me. I’ll enjoy my newfound freedom later.


Not before checking what my fellow players have to say, at least. One of them provides me with an excellent strategy for my upcoming enemies.


As I approach, the statue awakens. Much as you would expect from a giant stone knight, the guy is huge, yet powerful. Even when I block his strikes, he’s strong enough to push me out of counterattack range.


He’s also got magic. Specifically, he’s got a spell that slows me to a crawl, rendering my dodging abilities, and thus my way to get close enough to strike, useless.


The thing about that spell, though, is that it takes a bit of time to cast. Time enough to let me get close. Time enough to let me get fatal. The knight drops his stone sword, which is both twice as heavy and half as powerful as the Black Knight Sword I’ve been using. Guess it’ll just decorate my inventory for a while.


So here, we’ve got two of those giant stone knights and four buried ents (see that spiky bush right in front of me?) surrounding a corpse with some treasure on it. This may be the most obvious trap I’ve ever seen. I’m going to spring it anyway. Why? Well, I just can’t let that treasure go, can I? No fear!


Did you know this game uses really glitchy ragdoll physics? Anyways, the trap is actually sprung in two parts, so as long as you’re not stupid, you’re only really fighting two ents and a stone knight at once. That still an overwhelming amount of opposition though. What we do, instead, is put a bit of distance in between us. The speedier ents aren’t smart enough to not fall for such an obvious tactic, and pull ahead of the plodding knight, allowing me to pick them off easily. The knight alone is no problem, once you know his tells.


After slaying the other group of enemies, my reward is a new set of armor. This is the armor that the knight that set us free in the beginning of the game was wearing. Judging by it’s flavor text, we were supposed to get it directly from him too, but apparently that was changed without quite fixing it. Oops. Anyways, it’s actually a really good set of armor, but unfortunately, it’s a lot heavier than what we’re currently wearing.


Also, in case you were curious, here’s the set of sorcerer’s gear we got from when we rescued Griggs. Eesh. This is going right into storage, where it freakin’ belongs.


There’s these two-headed snake…. things… in the forest as well. I’m not sure whether they’re actually enemies or simply environmental hazards, as they don’t leave their trees to strike and I didn’t bother trying to kill them (hey, I need to leave behind something to tell others of my glory), but I imagine we’ll start seeing these in more concealed locations as the forest goes on.


In the back of this forest area, there’s these ruins, containing nothing more than a staircase heading up into a white light gate. Passing through the light, I find myself on a bridge while a hauntingly melodic tune plays. This is really odd. Background music in Dark Souls is generally only playing at Firelink Shrine and during boss battles, but this music is just setting me at ease. I don’t see any…


Ah, there it is.

In fitting with the low-key BGM, the Moonlight Butterfly is a really slow paced battle. It just floats, lazily, infuriatingly out of reach. I pull out my bow and start peppering it with arrows, and it responds by charging up an attack. Moments later, way too many lances of light fire out at me. I manage to get my shield in the way in time to block it, but I still take significant damage. Magic damage, which my current shield can’t handle entirely.

In fact, the butterfly seems to have two main attacks, those piercing beams of light, and an attack that launches three slower moving, homing blobs of light. Both of them are magical. That crest shield I got from the nameless knight could really come in handy here, but unfortunately, the game never pauses for some reason so I can’t switch it out without being creamed. The bridge offers very limited dodging room, but I somehow manage to handle it, ducking and weaving between arcane bolts while constantly replying with arrows.


Eventually the butterfly just seems to get bored with life and just floats down next to the bridge, hanging out there. I’m not one to let an opportunity pass me by, so I break out my sword and open up a clinic on it. It looks like it’s charging up something, but I never find out as it dies before it can make another move. I collect its soul, which seems to be a component in the creation of some unique weapons.


After crossing the bridge and heading up another ruined tower, I find a petrified being that looks suspiciously like Andrei, our old blacksmith buddy. I loot his corpse, because of course I do. What, you expect me to see treasure and just pass it by? I get a key off his body, along with a block that the game terms a ‘Divine Ember’. Judging from how heavy a theme the value of fire has been so far, I’m going to guess this is important somehow.


It’s really rare that you interact with other players directly in Dark Souls, but they really do a lot to give you a sense of activity. Players can leave messages for each other, you often catch glimpses of other players as ghosts in your world, you can watch how nearby players died, etc… The Darkroot Garden, on the other hand, really seems sparsely occupied by other players. There’s not a whole lot of messages, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else since I got here, and this poor soul’s death is really one of the few signs I’ve had of other players being here since I entered. I guess it’s fitting that there’d be fewer signs of intelligent life in the forest than in the city, but still, it’s kind of lonely here.


Heading back to Andrei, I show him the ember I took off of his dead twin. He’s really interested in the piece. Says if I give it to him, he’ll be able to create divine weapons. I do so. Turns out that to make divine weapons, you need green titanite, of which I don’t have any yet. I curse.

Well, we’ve still got the Darkroot Basin to go over! Tune in next time as I thoroughly embarrass myself there!

Next time: Stuff happens.  Don’t miss it!

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