Last time, on this, we were mightily questing through Anor Londo, the city of the lords, trying to fulfill some ancient prophecy or other about being the Best Chosen One, when we got waylaid by accidentally getting sucked inside a painting with no way out. Will we be able to fight our way our of the Painted World of Ariamis, or will we finally succumb to the difficulties this world’s been throwing at us and end our adventure here? I’ll give you a hint: I’m very awesome. Now join me in applying that awesomeness to our enemies, and see if we can break through!
So a bit of background on the Painted World of Ariamis. This was actually the first area developed for the game, used as a proof of concept to get the whole project approved. As the world of Lordran was developed, it was determined that this specific area didn’t really jive with the rest of the setting, but the developers were still determined to include it after putting all this work on it. So they added it in as an optional section, created by artifice and accessible by being transported through the painting, rather than as a real-world location within Lordran. To get in, you have to possess the Peculiar Doll we got when we visited our old cell back at the Northern Undead Asylum.
The description of the Peculiar Doll references an “abomination” that didn’t fit in with this world, and so the doll drew her into a painted world. Meaning that if I was smart, I probably could have expected this when I saw that giant painting. Alas, I did not. I also was totally unprepared for being dropped in a completely isolated location. Did you know there aren’t any shops in Ariamis? Did you know I’d been running a little lax on keeping my supplies filled? Once again, I can’t get out the way I came in. We’re going to have to find some other way of leaving the Painted World, and we just have to hope my supplies can make it long enough. In any case, I imagine we’re going to come across that abomination before we’re able to leave.
Across the broken bridge and around the bend, this is the sight that greets me. A bunch of hollows impaled on pikes before a ruined castle. The only path I can take leads right through the castle gates. Looks like I’m going to have to lay a one man siege here to make it through. Just me and my old undead self against all the fortress and everyone within it. I’d complain, but honestly, have you checked me out lately? I’m pretty much a wrecking ball given human form! I am a walking natural disaster! I am the world’s best chosen one! Ain’t nothing can hold me down! With the power of my self-assurances, I pass through the first gateway.
A few zombies try to rush me. Yawn. I’ve been killing these guys since I first broke out of the asylum. So long as they don’t rush me all at once, they’re absolutely no challenge.
Pressing onwards, up some stairs and onto the castle wall, I’m given cause to rethink my previous statement as I come upon these withered hollow husks actually utilizing some tactics! An archer at the top of the staircase, ready to fire as I approach. He’s easily taken care of, but not only is there another zombie waiting in ambush at the top as I kill the archer, but his position is covered by yet another archer, giving me two attackers to deal with from two different directions after I deal with the first. I’m able to deal with this by taking shelter in a narrow stairway and forcing them to adjust to me, but I take a few hits from their initial ambush.
After I slay the two of them, more enemies rush me. Something new, something I haven’t… what the hell is that?
Eeeeeegh! They seem to be related to the garden variety zombie, save that they’re covered in massive bulbous tumors. These engorged zombies come in two varieties: the torch-wielding ones seen here, and unarmed pyromancy flingers. One of each attack me now. I duck back into the narrow stairway to take shelter from the rain of pyromancy, and face the torch holder one on one.
It takes two hits to kill him. He explodes in a mess of purple pus as I finish him off with the very tip of my blade. This is an important fact, although not one that registers to me at the time. Unconcerned, I duck and weave between bolts of fire to reach the second engorged zombie. Up close, he’s got no defense against me, and I cut him down. Just like his engorged brethren, he explodes into purple fluid. This time, though, I’m much closer, and I get some of it on me.
Immediately, I feel ill. Very ill. That purple liquid is in fact a very potent toxin, overcoming my resistance and taking effect almost immediately. The garden variety cure, purple moss, doesn’t have any effect. For toxin, you need the blooming purple moss to cure and… oh my, I really don’t have a whole lot of those. I used them all in freaking Blighttown.
I cure myself, with one of the few doses I have left, and press on. A zombie tries to jump me from a doorway. I cut him down, and head inside. I figured that gives me just as good a direction as any. Not a whole lot of places to go in this town. I head downwards, and find some white rats and a few souls, then rise again and head towards the building across the way.
A zombie fires his bow at me as I do so. The arrows are easily deflected, and I rush to slay him. Once again, however, my enemies are using a tactical intelligence they’ve not been showing thus far. There were two more of the regular zombies hanging off the side of the wall, waiting for me to attack their archer kin. As soon as I cut him down, they climb over, but fall just the same. More concerning, however, a number of engorged zombies are moving in to block me on this section of tower. Wary of their toxic splatter, I take down as many as I can with my bow. Arrows are one more thing I’m really running low on. Man, I’m really kicking myself for heading onwards with my provisions so low. I don’t know what I was thinking. One of them gets too close for archery, and I’m forced to level my blade on him. Once again, I’m toxicized.
I recover, cursing my own ineptitude for my limited supplies, and take the opportunity to explore a bit. You may have seen in a few of these screen shots that there’s a considerable amount of treasure around. I haven’t really been reporting on it, however, as I haven’t gotten anything notable yet. It’s all been souls or crafting materials, stuff we’ve seen hundreds of times before. Man, what kind of life is this, where collecting someone’s soul is mundane? In any case, I explore this large building, climbing through the rafters, looking around the balconies outside, finding paths on the castle walls. All it leads to is this ordinary treasure and a few more zombies of varying times. I collect and/or kill them uneventfully, and move on to the other side of the building.
There’s a large tower here, with both an opening to the broken spiral staircase inside and a landing and broken bridge outside. There’s some large, monochrome mass at the other side of the bridge. I poke my head inside, and see something take off running at the bottom of the tower. I wait for a while, but it doesn’t reappear.
I head back towards the bridge, and finally, it drops down in front of me. You can see it, kind of, at the top of the screen here. It jumps at me, and I can’t do much of anything because I had my hand off the controller to take this screenshot. I’m hit by a grab attack, which ends up taking off the rest of my life before I can fight my way out of it. There. I got killed for this picture. You’d better enjoy it.
I take the setback as an opportunity to explore the area a bit more, collecting some treasure in the few nooks and crannies I’ve missed. Most of what I found isn’t worth writing home about, although I did find one thing that gives me pause. A Dried Finger. A disgusting item that increases my chances of being invaded by other players when used. Obviously I want no part of this, so I stick it right in my pocket. For reasons. I found it on a corpse, splayed over the edge of a balcony. I wonder if this finger ended up being the death of him.
I’ve really got to be conservative with my use of the blooming purple moss. If I use it every time I’m hit with that toxin, I’ll be running out in no time. So I try to proceed without it. Every time I catch the toxin, I make my way back to the bonfire to recover. Of course, using a bonfire respawns all the enemies, so the going is slow. So much so, that I’m not making any progress. At one point, I even end up so damaged by the time I’m splashed with the toxin that the poison kills me outright before I can even get any of my estus ready. This really isn’t working for me.
There’s nothing to do for it. My current strategy is failing me, and my gear’s not up to the task of handling this situation. Yes, I know, it hurts. My beautiful, bulging muscles, my beloved Black Knight Sword, the barber-like precision of my blade barrage technique, in other words, every thing I still love in this world, I’m going to have to change to make it through here. Specifically, I need some new way to handle those toxic engorged zombies. The way I see it, I’ve got three options. I can kill them far enough away that I’m not hit by their splatter, I can discover a way of destroying them that doesn’t cause their toxic blood to erupt, or I can see if some configuration of my equipment will resist their poison enough that I at least don’t get affected by it immediately on contact. I start experimenting.
I’m really low on both arrows and crossbow bolts, so those are right out. I fall back on my next best distance option, my pyromancy. I had avoided this, figuring that as they’re pyromancers themselves and seem to have an affinity for fiery weaponry, they might be resistant to my fire magic. Turns out they’re not. In fact, my spells hit two of the three options I’ve outlined above! It lets me strike from a distance, and apparently if you kill them with fire, they don’t let lose with their blood splatter in their death throes. This works excellently! There’s two problems with this, however. The first is that pyromancy, just like pretty much everything else in this world, doesn’t do as much damage as my Black Knight Sword. It takes a couple applications to finally bring an engorged zombie down. While this isn’t an issue against a single enemy, keep in mind that the big tradeoff for pyromancy’s damage not being dependent on stats is that I don’t get as many charges of it as I would the other schools of magic. I just don’t have enough blasts in me to take down all the engorged zombies in this fortress. The second flaw is that pyromancy’s a lot slower than just swinging my sword. The low amount of charges I have in my spells pretty much force me into a mixed might and magic strategy, hitting them once with my blade then finishing them off with fire. However, casting spells from up close really leaves me open to attack, and I end up taking a lot of hits that’d be much more avoidable if only I had the spell charges of a respectable mage.
I also try switching up my melee weaponry a bit. I’ve noticed that if I hit with the very tip of my blade, I’m just far enough away that the toxic splatter doesn’t hit me. I can’t do this reliably enough to make it through with this alone. However, I get the idea that if I use a weapon that’s just a little bit longer, perhaps I can make it through on my melee abilities. Now, the Black Knight Sword is already a pretty large weapon. The only thing that give me just a little more reach would probably be a spear. So I swap out for that lightning spear I picked up from that mimic back in Sen’s Fortress, sacrificing a lot of power for just a little bit of range. Not enough range, though. I don’t really do any better with this weapon than I did with my trademark sword. I also try experimenting a bit, seeing if it’s possible for me to cover myself well enough with my shield to block the toxin. Turns out, no, no it’s not.
In any case, the mixture of Black Knight Sword and pyromancy, always being sure to finish them off with fire, serves me well enough to make it back to that tower without getting toxicized. I draw in that enemy that killed me in a single attack before, then retreat back to the bridge outside for a more open area to fight. I finally get a good look at him here. Some kind of crow demon, it looks like. Rather than waiting for him to strike first, I immediately lay into him. It seems he has a few attacks, but the only really deadly one is the grab he killed me with earlier, and that has a really large charge time I can use to carve his wishbone out. The rest can be blocked, simply enough. With my read on his offense, he’s got no fight to put up, and the bird collapses in a heap soon enough.
With the demon out of the way, I start walking across the bridge. This causes the black mass at the other side to charge at me. Some sort of undead dragon, it looks like. Hey, I’m always up for slaying dragons. You aren’t really a true hero until you’ve killed one, and as Best Chosen One, I’m worth at least 8 times the average hero. So I’ve got a quota to fill, here. I start out by firing what few bolts I have from my crossbow, but those barely chip at his health. If I’m to get anywhere with this great zombie, I’m going to have to get a little more personal.
I take the fight to him and… bleeeegh, that camera. That’s really a pain. I can’t get all of him on screen at the same time, and oftentimes, I can’t even tell if I’m actually damaging him because his lifebar is popping up over his head, so far away from the parts of his body I can actually hit. And yes, he’s just as disgusting as he looks. His main attack is to just rear up and vomit on me. I had just started to feel clean again after that blasted sewer level, and then this happens. It also has the side effect of filling the area with toxic sludge, but the build-up is slow and the damage slight, so that’s a much more minor aspect compared to the injury this has done to my sense of cleanliness. Seriously, I’m starting to feel like this is never going to wash off. I’m nothing if not a survivor, though, so for the time being, I do my best to grit my teeth and push through it. I’m able to do some decent damage striking at his right foot. However, my eyes are focused on his head, watching the amount of pain I’m causing him, and as such, I don’t even notice him lifting his decrepit claw until it slams down on me, killing me instantly.
I honestly start to get a little frustrated at this point. I foolishly hadn’t been carrying enough supplies on me, and now I’m paying for it. For the first time, I’m feeling like I’m being punished for exploration, being stuck in this area with no way out except to beat it. I make a few more runs carrying my irritation with me, but the toxic zombies keep driving me back to the bonfire with their infectious splatter.
I take some time at the bonfire, calm myself down, and think. I’m getting nowhere here, I seem to keep hitting walls. Now, in Dark Souls, when you’re stuck, there’s generally two basic things you can do about it. You can either learn to do what you’re currently doing better, or you change your approach and try to find something that works. Now, I’m already about as awesome as it’s possible for a being to be, so I don’t think my skills have all that much room to improve here. That leaves altering my approach. I’ve already experimented a bit, adding pyromancy to my offensive suite, but maybe that’s not enough. Certainly hasn’t been reliable enough to get me through, so far. So I go back to square one. Last time, I just looked at switching up my weapons and magic, perhaps a more thorough review is in order. I start taking a look through all my equipment, seeing if I can find something that could help me out here.
Here’s something interesting I forgot I had. I picked this shield up from the sewer below Lordran. I can tell, because it still smells. Supposedly, it will help me resist poison. I test it out, putting it on, then cutting into the next engorged zombie I see. Turns out, it only blocks poison. I head back to the bonfire to nurse my condition, and think. I can’t keep my shield up while attacking, that’d throw my whole swing off. At least, it would with my Black Knight Sword. Now, this thought is absolutely abhorrent to me, and it goes against everything I stand for, but maybe using gloriously powerful blades isn’t the approach here. See, I noticed something when I was experimenting with the lightning spear earlier. With the polearm, it was a simple matter to keep my shield up and thrust at the same time. Perhaps that combination is just what I need here.
I try it out, and it works wonderfully. Sure, the lightning spear can’t hit for nearly as much as the Black Knight Sword, but the engorged zombies aren’t all that durable in the first place. The spear is still enough to take them down without much trouble, and as expected, they start spewing toxic blood everywhere. I can keep my shield up while using my spear though, and the spider guard deflects the poison entirely. The zombie falls, with no ill effects to me.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think we’ve got ourselves a new approach.