Breaking Through Dark Souls

Last time, on Aether Gets Destroyed at Dark Souls, we tackled the trap-filled serpent’s den that is Sen’s Fortress. We made good headway into the dungeon, then unexpectedly got killed in a way that is both manly and heroic and would totally take down pretty much anyone else anyways.

But now we’re back! We’re back, and we’re going to cow this fortress! We are going to singlehandedly drive it and everyone within to their knees.

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Right. I do that, and make it back to where I previously died. What? You want me to write up re-doing everything I did last time? Nope. Did pretty much the same things, except better, with less treasure-hunting. Although I did score a sweet flamberge off of a fallen serpent mage.

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Also, It looks like I wasn’t the only person to die at this bridge. Why are the ghosts I find never wearing clothes?

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First things first, I have to take care of the mage watching over this bridge. I try matching her magic with pyromancy, but I find I can’t get a spell to hit her without leaving myself open to hers. Instead, I just stick with my bow, slowly and steadily plinking her health down with my archery.

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I’m in there somewhere, I promise. In the time between my last one and this, someone has kindly left a message on the ground marking where the safe spot in between blades are. That’s a genius idea, and I took up the habit on every one of these pendulum bridges I passed through after this. Which is totally none, because this is the last one in the fortress and I certainly didn’t die a couple of times past this point. So I’m not sure why the thought even crossed my mind.

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The bridge ends at a T-intersection, both paths covered by pressure plates. I head to the left first, and avoid the darts shot at me. Turns out, there’s nothing really worthwhile on that path, although it’d let me sneak up on the serpent mage were I coming from the other direction. I take the other way instead, again triggering the dart launcher, but I’m up the stairs and through a fog gate before any projectiles even reach me.

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I emerge into the exterior of the fortress. Finally, I get to adventure with sky above me again! I can’t remember the last time that happened! I’m so excited, I leave a message proclaiming as such.

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I’m immediately face to face with this giant. He does nothing, however, focusing entirely on dropping boulders down a hole. Hey! Those are those boulders that almost ran me over all those times! What a jerk!

I let him be for now, though. I want to find a nearby bonfire before I go picking fights.

I climb a small staircase to the next landing. Something odd about this area, though. The floor’s all sorts of scorched. I find out why shortly, as a large orb falls from the sky and the ground surrounding me bursts into flames upon impact.

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I take shelter and heal my burns in the next staircase. The landing above that ignites as well. I know I am what children would call ‘da bomb’, but that doesn’t mean I actually like them! Luckily, the flames don’t last very long. I wait for them to die down, then dash towards a corner, coming to rest in a sheltered area of the wall.

I spot my culprit shortly thereafter. There’s a giant on top of the fortress, hurling massive bombs wherever he can see me. Starting to regret not killing that giant earlier. It may have been useful to know just how much these guys can bleed. I have a feeling I’m going to find out soon anyways, though.

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Passing through the landings, I find myself on a series of narrow pathways. I can’t rest here for long, though. I’m still within the giant’s range, as he swiftly demonstrates. I narrowly avoid getting hit with another bomb, and rush towards an opening in a nearby tower.

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Within the tower, I’m safe from the giant, although not from other enemies. Seen here are the remains of a Balder Knight, similar to the ones I face back in the undead parish. These ones are much the same, swift and defensive, with the armor to take even more of a beating than they have before. However, I’ve developed so much since then that even with the improvements they have gotten, they still stand no chance against me.

I continue climbing up a narrow pathway, cut down a knight with a crossbow, and all of a sudden, I’m inside a large tower with a pathway leading up and a fog gate leading out. I take the pathway leading up first, climbing some stairs and passing through an entryway, and all of a sudden, I find myself upon the giant that’s been lobbing bombs upon me. I think both of us are surprised to find me here so soon. I certainly thought it’d be a bit more difficult to fight my way up to him.

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I slash him once, then duck back into the tower as he charges. He stops dead at the entryway. He wants me dead, no doubt to that. But he can’t fit anything past the opening. So he just waits there, as I cut him down from where he can’t counter-attack. It’s not a fair tactic, to be sure. But those who insist on fighting with honor don’t last long in Dark Souls. The giant falls, and I get a chunk of titanite off his corpse.

I kind of wonder how the giant got up here, anyway. He doesn’t fit any of the stairs leading up, and that wouldn’t be a pleasant climb for him.

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I smash up the rest of his bombs. Don’t want anyone else to be using them against me, after all. The giant’s perch on top of the tower gives me a good view of what’s beyond the fog gate. Specifically, this giant figure. I fire a few arrows, wondering whether that’s a living being or a statue, but they bounce off harmlessly. So that’s just a figurehead then, right?

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I pass through the fog gate, and the statue begins moving. It was a boss, after all, and was simply immune to my earlier attempts to cheap shot the enemy. This pisses me off, a bit. One of the things that made the Dark Souls difficulty seem so fair was that if I did find a way to screw up its systems, it would let me. As long as I could figure it out, I could cheat just as much as the enemies could. Here, though, I explicitly found a way to attack the boss from safety, and it didn’t work simply because of developer fiat. Now I’m feeling like I’ve been cheated by the creators, rather than the enemies. ‘Tis not a good feeling.

Anyways, it’s been a long climb, I’m out of estus and my health was at less than half when I started this boss fight. The golem fires off a shockwave as I approach that cuts through my shield, and I’m immediately back to where I started.

I climb, again. I never found a bonfire in Sen’s Fortress, so I have to take on the whole dungeon again. It’s not fun, and for whatever reason, I’m doing a lot worse this time around than the first time I tried to make my way through. Yet every setback teaches me something. Every time I fall, I get just a bit better. Well, almost every time, at least.

One of the biggest things that keeps me from playing Dark Souls as much as I want to is the lack of a pause function. That’s absolutely ridiculous to me, that I can’t pause in what is essentially a single-player game. I have the kind of lifestyle that often requires me to divert my attention at a moment’s notice, and that really doesn’t gel with how this game works. Case in point, I have to take an important phone call while going through this run, stop in a place I assume is safe, and end up losing tens of thousands of souls and a bunch of humanity for it.

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But hey, you guys didn’t come to hear me whine, you came to watch me conquer! And conquer I shall! I’ll start with this serpent soldier! I’ve noticed something with these guys. They may be big, they may be strong, they may be scary. But man, do they over-commit to their attacks. If you can dodge their initial swing, they take so much time to recover that it’s a simple matter to slip in behind them and teach them all about their own anatomy.

So, good news! It turns out that once you kill the bomb-throwing giant, he’s gone for good. Meaning I can explore this area without fear of doing any impromptu barbecue impressions. I always new I was hot, I really don’t need any help in that regard.

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I take advantage of his absence to explore the area a bit more fully. First off, I find a staircase heading downward from where I first exited to the exterior of the fortress. There are a few more of these Balder Knights in my way, but I am too fast and too strong for them, and they fall without ever even scratching me. I find a flame stoneplate ring down there, which increases my resistance to fire. Circumstantial, but I could see myself using it. Would have been crazy useful against Quelaag, for instance. In fact, why did they put something like this behind a gate that could only be opened by beating her? Jerks.

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I head up again, and pay a bit more attention to the areas I had to rush through earlier, when the sky was raining flaming death on me. I finally find the bonfire, in the most ridiculous place. You have to fall off the edge of one of the landings to reach it, and one would have practically no chance of finding it while being bombarded by that giant. Also, just reaching it requires taking a bit of fall damage. That last part strikes me as oddly fitting for the nature of the game.

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I explore a bit more, traveling down sections of the fortress wall I passed by earlier in my rush to shelter. Down one of them I find a familiar adversary, in a more appropriate setting. Way back when, I had faced another one of his Tower Knight brethren in the Undead Parish. Unlike then, there’s no getting this guy caught on the geography and peppering him with arrows while he has nowhere to go. Instead, I face him in more traditional combat. His massive shield makes it difficult to get a solid hit in, but the walkway is just wide enough for me to slide by when he attacks. Doing so, I’m able to keep myself positioned on his open side, and slash away until he falls. I take his shield as a trophy.

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Continuing down that path, I climb a ladder, and find myself face to face with a guy wearing very familiar armor. We’re Elite Knight Set twins! Unfortunately, we’re never going to be Lung Twins, because he attacks me and I’m forced to remove his in self defense. The guy fades away as he dies, leaving behind his rapier. Ricard, his name was. Huh. I shall honor his memory every time I use his sword. Which will probably be never.

I continue up past Ricard, and find two treasure chests at the top of that tower. One holds a Rare Ring of Sacrifice, which allows me to die without losing anything, just once. The other holds a Divine Blessing, which is pretty much the Elixir of Dark Souls.

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Because I’ve finally found a nearby bonfire, I can afford to take a few more risks. So I go back to the start of this section, and draw my bow on the giant dropping boulders down into the dungeon below. I fully expect him to return fire with those boulders. Instead, he just stands there and passively takes my fire until he dies. I feel kind of bad now.

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One other place I hadn’t explored yet is the tower above. It takes a leap over a gap in the pathway to reach it. I miss the leap at first, but land near a sniper’s crossbow and some bolts. I collect those, and make my way up again, this time dropping down to where the giant I just killed was located. He’d left behind another titanite chunk. I head up a third time, and finally make that jump across to the tower.

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Inside the tower is this merchant. He was once a knight who sought to make his way to Anor Londo, the city of lords. After watching those even stronger than him try and fail, though, he gave up, and apparently just sticks around here, selling armor and supplies to those coming through and making sure everyone knows that they can’t handle what’s to come because who do they think they are, the Best Chosen One? He does have some interesting equipment, but nothing I’m crazy about at this time. Might be worth a stop later, though. Heading down from the tower, I find a corpse with the key to Big Hat Logan’s cell, which we would have needed if I didn’t start the game with the Master Key.

And that’s everything I had left undone in this area, so what do you say we give the Iron Golem another try?

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At first, I repeat my earlier strategy, just rushing forward and striking at his ankles. He punishes me for that, taking more than half my remaining estus in recovering from being pounded into the earth, while I’ve barely taken off a sliver of his life. It was worth it, though. I learned a few things. I learned that plenty of his moves, particularly those involving his ax, have a minimum range. Meaning he can’t hit me with them if I get too close. He can punch and stomp the ground, or use his shockwave, but the windup on all of those is pretty long. Also, I learned that I can just walk in between his legs. Following that moment, I back up, and just watch him for a little while. I also learn that he has a maximum range, too. The only long distance attack he has is his shockwave, and even that doesn’t extend very far. I take my time, moving in and out, learning his various attacks, and how he telegraphs them. I spend a good few minutes studying him, learning how best to evade his various attacks, where the best places to stand are, when to advance, and when to back off.

The golem never lands a single blow on me for the rest of the fight.

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Get something that big, of course it’s going to be slow. And that means I can read him. Now that I know his attacks, I have a punishment ready for anything he can do. Blade when I’m close, pyromancy when I’m not, I always have some pain ready for him every single time he hits nothing but the stone beneath me.

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Twice, I do enough damage to knock him on his ass outright. He sits there a good long while, able to do nothing but absorb my blows and suffer.

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It’s a slaughter. Now that I know his movements, the Iron Golem stands no chance against me.

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In the center of the battlefield, there lies a ring of light. I take a look at it.

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It calls out. There’s no light, no sound, nothing to give any sign of it, but it calls out just the same.

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A group of thin, demonic-looking creatures respond, flying in towards me. They set my nerves to fighting, but they don’t seem to mean me harm.

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Instead, they just lift me up. They’re carrying me somewhere. I’m… not so sure about this.

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We travel for a good long while. The blessed sun is setting when we arrive at… oh my.

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This place is gorgeous.

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They drop me at my destination unceremoniously.

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I have arrived.

Next time: So pretty.  And the scenery’s not bad either!

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5 responses to “Breaking Through Dark Souls

  1. I love these posts, and this game looks exciting, but I got to say I am glad you’re playing it and not me! 😀 Think I’d get too easily frustrated and stop!

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