Remaining Defiant in Dark Souls

So, I like Let’s Plays. Gives me a good glimpse of games I never would have tried or am on the fence on, and it’s interesting seeing other perspectives of games I already know well. But I’ve noticed a big problem in all the lps I’ve been watching/reading. They’re always trying to make progress. Constantly trying to hit some sort of performance goal, or even (gasp!) attempting to actually beat the game. What’s going on with that? Where’s all the aimless wandering, the unfocused milling about, the pointed refusal to move yourself towards completing the game? Everyone knows it’s when you’re doing nothing of value whatsoever that you get the best material. Last time, on Aether’s Glorious Dark Souls Conquest Mk. II I tried to deliver just that sort of experience, but I failed. That’s becoming kind of a standard thing here, isn’t it? My failure. In any case, the game tricked me, and I accidentally ended up making progress.

Well, now I’m determined to not let that happen again. No more progress until I’ve exhausted all other avenues of effectively wasting everyone’s time! Will I succeed in this endeavor? Find out below!

After kicking Sif to the curb, I make my way back to Quelaag’s Domain, deep in the bowels of Blighttown. This is actually pretty troublesome, and not just because Blighttown is a hole that no healthy-minded being would ever even think about. No, the problem with Blighttown is that there’s no bonfires I can warp to in there, meaning that if I’m going to traverse it, I’ve got to get halfway through the blasted sewer level again. But I do it. Why? Because I apparently lost all sense of self-respect around the time Frampt decided to give me a saliva-bath.

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Anyways, so I get to the lower level of Quelaag’s Domain, around where we killed the spiderbabe and rang the second Bell of Awakening. I notice that there’s a section of wall that isn’t covered in spiderwebs, making it oddly suspicious. The note on the floor claiming ‘illusory wall ahead’ is a pretty damning clue as well. I give it a good smack, and the wall fades away, leaving me with this view. Being surrounded by literally thousands of infant spiders in those egg sacs does not exactly strike me as a good time, but still, treasure. There could be treasure. I love treasure. I head into this new hallway.

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No treasure down here, but that bonfire is pretty tempting. Blocking my way, though, is this unfortunate soul weighted down under so many eggs nested in his flesh. He asks me if I’m a new servant. Servant to what, I don’t know I’ve no interest in killing him just to get to the bonfire, so I humor him. He lets me inside for an audience with ‘Our Fair Lady’ before shuffling aside. The bonfire’s already lit. Usually the bonfires I’ve been finding out in the wild, I’ve been lighting myself. In fact, the only bonfires I’ve found that have already been lit when I came across them were…

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those tended by fire keepers. Well. I suppose like everything else, ‘fair’ is in the eye of the beholder. I try to offer some conversation and pay my respects, but I just can’t understand her. She’s saying something, but not in any language I’ve ever heard, and her words seem to leave my head as soon as they enter.

Well, whatever. I have the option to join her covenant of bug-infested psychopaths, which I’m not going to do because seriously, no. Mr. Hive at the entrance, Eingyi, as he’s apparently called, does offer a weird list, the ‘Servant Roster, and some pyromancy upgrades for sale. I take the opportunity to boost my flame a few levels. I consider putting him out of misery, because seriously, did you see him? He’s more gross spider-baby than man, now. He seems pretty happy with his arrangement, though. To each their own, I guess.

On my way out, walking through the floor of Blighttown, I run into someone new. Someone I didn’t see here before. Someone just hanging out. Seriously? Who just hangs out in Blighttown?! All of Lordran to go chill in, and you choose the God’s Dungheap to spend your time? Something’s obviously wrong with her. She’s surprised to see me, claiming that only those with unique gifts can do so, and introduces herself as, well…

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The fabled Mother of Pyromancy. The one responsible for granting the art of pyromancy to mortals through the Great Pyromancer Salaman. Apparently, I remind her of the historic flame-wielder, and offers to teach me pyromancy as well. The power to make more things burn better? Of course I’m up for that! She warns me that in pursuing her pyromancy requires giving something up. Heedless, I pick up two new spells from her, the first a more powerful version of my fireball and the second a spell that engulfs the area around me in flames. Both circumstantial, as I don’t get enough uses out of them to make them my mainstays, but I can see getting some good use from this. As I leave her, she gives me a warning to always fear the flame, else it will consume me and I will lose myself. Then…

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Aww, I’m touched. So far, all the pyromancers I’ve met have been such nice, caring…

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Ok, less touched now. Still, the Mother of Pyromancy. Here in Lordran. Quite an awesome opportunity! I’ve got to tell Laurentius. A quick port later, and…

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He notices my pyromancy has grown, already, under Quelana’s tutelage. I let him know about the Mother of Pyromancy, thinking that he’ll be interested in it just the same as I. After all, just sitting around Firelink with nothing to do is sure to kill your hope and drive you hollow. He was kind to me, giving me a part of himself through this pyromancy flame. The least I could do is give him this one positive note to keep his sanity afloat. He resolves to reach her on his own, claiming himself enough of a pyromancer to be able to handle it himself.

And hey, while I’m here, do you remember Frampt? The primordial serpent? You can feed him items in exchange for souls. A wide variety of items, including one that I’ve been picking up over and over again in Blighttown.

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Hey, you remember when he decided to transport me inside his blasted mouth? The indignity of it? Yeah.

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Down the hatch.

I mess around for a good long while above ground, because I kind of like being able to see the sun and smell something that’s not dung. No matter how much I try to avoid it, my business of avoiding my real business leads directly through Blighttown. Reluctantly, I warp back to the ‘Fair Lady’s’ bonfire. This puts me near my eventual destination, but I’ve still got to head across the Blighttown floor. I find yet another new addition to this hole.

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It’s a familiar face, too.

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Laurentius! You’re almost to her! Quelana’s just right over…

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Laurentius, what’s… Oh! Oh. ………ooooooh.

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Laurentius of Great Swamp. Possibly my greatest friend in all of Lordran. Gone hollow. With a heavy heart, I put him down. I’m sure he’d want me to anyways. Given his undead nature, I don’t know if it will take, but that’s about the only thing I can do right now.

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I’m about at my target in Blighttown here. It’s that little root to the left of this shot surrounded by leeches. Yet, in the distance, there’s another familiar face here. Jeez. What is it with people and Blighttown lately? Is everybody gearing up for a toxic poo party here? In any case, wary that this is another ally gone hollow, I make my way towards that distinctive onion armor in the distance.

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Siegmeier of Catarina. Apparently, dude can sleep standing up. I nudge him a bit. Blighttown’s no place to spend any more time than you have to.

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Well, at least this one’s still sane. I guess that proves that you don’t have to be crazy to willingly make your way to Blighttown. I can see how he’d have trouble with his stock of antidotes. The muck around here is filled with a contact poison, and he can’t be too fast in that bulky armor. I give him a few doses of purple moss. I’ve got more than enough to spare, and I really don’t like seeing friends go. That, and I’m not entirely sure Siegmeier’s actually undead. He’s shown a sense of preservation for his own life thus far that I haven’t seen in many others afflicted with the darksign.

He gives me a shield identical to the one he’s wearing there. It’s actually a pretty good piece of equipment, but it doesn’t reduce damage completely or boost my resistances like my Bloodshield does. Still, as I’ve learned several times over, you can never tell when the right piece of equipment will bring an impossible challenge down to earth.

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I search for treasure around the swamp in this area. I find the Server, a ritual greatsword that restores my health bit by bit through the magic of the occult. Sounds like an interesting weapon, although it has nowhere near the power of my Black Knight Sword.

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And with that, we can finally leave Blighttown behind. Hopefully forever. I head up this root which leads into a massive tree.

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The corpse is bearing a plank shield, a mass of driftwood barely strapped together that’s most indicative of the Deprived, the class you can start as if you’re interested in a greater challenge with this game. After all this time, we’re finally getting to the point where the game thinks we’re ready to handle introductory equipment. More interesting than that, though, is the wall behind him. I smack it, and it fades away, leading deeper into this tree.

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I come across a treasure chest, holding two humanity. It used to have a wall here, but likewise, that was an illusory obstacle. Someone, or something, doesn’t want people heading into this tree.

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I resolve to find out why.

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I head deeper into the massive tree, until I run into a bonfire and, just beyond it, this view. Well, that looks complicated. These roots/branches/whatever that make up the most obvious pathways loop in and around each other, creating a visually confusing mess of pathways.

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A couple of places look to have tunnels in the walls with no immediately obvious means of reaching them.

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In addition, there’s a number of corpses bearing treasure here that seem to require me to leap from root to root. Hmm…

So, I’m not good at vertical mazes. For whatever reason, I just have difficulty mentally parsing them. It seems that the path I originally find myself on is pretty direct, however. It bypasses some seductive treasure, but at the same time seems to consistently lead downward. I stay on this path for now. I’ll come back up for the rest of the goodies and exploration once I’ve got more of a sense of the area.

This path leads me to a large, well, hollow within the Great Hollow. It holds three basilisks inside, although these seem to be blue rather than the green varietal we saw in the Depths. One of them sees me before the others, and rushes up to engage, alone.

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Basilisks only have two attacks, as far as I know. They’ll leap up and shower a small amount of their curse dust on you from above, or they’ll inflate like a cartoon character before spewing a large amount of powdered curse directly in front of them. Both attacks do no damage, but fills up your curse resistance bar swiftly. That bar reaches the top, it’s game over. Luckily the extra humanity I’ve picked up boosts my curse resistance significantly. The bar’s almost double the length it normally is. And they go down in a single hit. Makes this fight something of a joke, really. Especially when they come at me one by one like this.

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After killing the three of them, I continue my path down the Great Hollow for what feels like an hour.  Well, no, not really, it felt like five minutes, but that’s pretty much an hour in video game time. Man, this tree is huge. Am I even still above ground? It seems like I’ve been descending for a lot longer than I climbed to get into it in the first place. Still, it looks like end is in sight, as I spy something of a floor below me. A floor made of roots sure, but at least there’s an end to my descent. I make it down there unmolested.

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When I reach the bottom, I spy two more of these basilisks. They haven’t noticed me yet. I’ll take them out one by one, but I don’t want to fight them near those holes in the floor. I take aim on this one first, and fire, hitting him in one of his giant eyes. That’ll get his attention.

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As expected, he rushes me. Well come on then! They will be speaking of the pain I inflicted upon you for genera… wha?

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Or, I suppose you can just stumble through a hole in the floor and fall to your death. Whatever works for you.

The second one provides a bit more of a fight. By that I mean he actually manages to walk within reach of my sword, not that he’s any sort of challenge. I look around for some sort of path out of here, into wherever the Great Hollow leads. I find none. Which confuses me. I thought for sure that… oh no.

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Not done climbing down yet.

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At the bottom of the ladder, there’s a basilisk that parks himself right at the base, waiting for me to come down. I respond by just letting go of the ladder and falling on top of him. To the developer’s credit, that totally does a small amount of damage and staggers him enough for me to kill him to death. I totally wasn’t expecting that to work. There are a few more basilisks in the area, but they’re spread out enough that I can take them all on one by one. No challenge there. Then, I continue my eternal descent. I swear, any further and I’m going to have to start worrying about falling into hell.

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Not too far down, giant mushrooms start growing on the walls and a mushroom kid comes up to greet me. D’aww, how cute.

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Well, they’re a bit less cute when they’re trying to kill me. Unlike the ones in Darkroot Garden, these kids are aggressive. They don’t do much damage, but they actually take two hits to kill. I feel a little bad at their mournful cries as they die, but come on! This is Lordran! You can’t show mercy to anyone here, else it’ll be your life. And trust me, dying sucks! I’ve done it enough times to know.

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I get near the bottom. For real this time! I think. And there’s a welcoming committee! A big mushroom, followed by a little one, followed by another big one. And are those bloodstains covering Daddy Trippin’ there? I’m not a fan of that.

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This is my first time fighting one of the big guys. They pack a whallop. They’re offense is simple and easy to dodge, just punches, but what they lack in technique they make up for in raw power and endurance. It’s remarkably easy to bait them into attacking and leaving themselves open, but I can barely scratch them with my blade. At the same time, I don’t have a lot of room to maneuver up here. Makes them that much harder to deal with, as I can’t stop them from pressing me back.

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Eventually, I get pushed into a corner. One punch overwhelms my guard, and another knocks me flat. Normally they’d send me back a fair ways, but as I really had nowhere to go, I just crumple against the wall as the mushroom winds up for another punch. It hits me as soon as I get up, giving me no opportunity to dodge. And that’s all she wrote.

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I make my way all the way down again, doing the same things as last time, up until I hit the mushroom family again. Last time my problem was that I ran out of room to maneuver and hit a wall. This time, I instead drop to the floor and try to engage the shrooms in the area down there. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work either. I’ve got more space there, but not enough space to properly handle the two of them. I get pinned between them and the wall, and get pinned in just the same way as before.

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And this game really, really needs a pause function. That’s really the main contributing factor to why I don’t play this game as often as I’d like. In this case, I was going up against the basilisks in the first hollow on the way down when I had a sudden distraction in real life. I had to choose between game success or stopping meatspace problems from happening, and meatspace won. I got cursed, which instantly killed me, and cut my life in half until I can get this curse off me.

With this latest death, I hadn’t retrieved my old humanity and souls, so they’re gone forever. I was already prepared for curses, so this it’s not going to trouble me any, but I thought that while I didn’t have anything to lose, I met as well hop around and explore off the beaten path.

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The area has a lot of Titanite Lizards around. A lot of them. There’s more Titanite Lizards in the Great Hollow than I’ve seen this entire game, thus far. It takes a bit of trickery and the help of the internet to find them all, but slaying them gives me a really solid collection of titanite for future equipment upgrading. Most of my current gear’s about as good as any blacksmith can get them, but any new pieces I collect will greatly benefit from these.

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There’s a lot of corpses scattered around the hollow. Almost all of them are holding titanite of some sort or another. My guess is that before the Great Hollow was blocked off by illusion, this area saw a lot of other people hunting down these Titanite Lizards. Of course, the footing’s rather precarious here, saying nothing of the basilisks and mushroom men, so a lot of less agile and sexy hunters than I must have fallen to their deaths.

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The only corpse I find that’s holding something other than titanite bears this ring. I pick it up from a hollowed out log. Yes, a log inside the tree. I don’t know how it works either. Anyways, some experience shows me the boost in stamina recovery this game gives me is really significant. I rarely have trouble with managing my stamina, but this could really come in handy should that ever change.

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Anyways, that’s about all that there’s left to do in this area before trying to finally break through. To start with, let’s take care of that curse. One of these purging stones should take care of that. Humans aren’t actually able to break curses. Rather, we can transfer them from one being to another. This stone was once a person. A living, breathing person. And it takes the curse as my surrogate. Hopefully, there’s no consciousness left in this stone. The alternative is horrendous to think about. In any case, I had thought that I might hold this stone up and focus the curse onto it, or something magical like that. But nope. It’s administered orally. Urgh. I’m not looking forward to this coming out.

With the curse out of my system, I blaze a warpath towards the bottom of this tree. Basilisk, mushroom folk, perilous drops, nothing’s stopping me now. In no time at all, I make it to my previous stopping point at the lowest level of this Great Hollow. As before, the big mushroom men come up the mushroom path to meet me. Little do they know, however, that this time, I’ve got a plan. A plan so clever, so devious, that I almost feel sorry for these guys. They’re never going to know what hit them. It’s deceptively simple, too. In fact, I can put it into effect with two easy steps.

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Step 1: Get the two big guys up on the mushroom ramp, then jump off and get to their side.

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Step 2: Cheese it.

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MUHUHUHUHAHAHAHAHAHA!

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ALL SHALL KNOW MY WRATH!

For all their power, the mushroom men are slow. I’m able to beat them by not fighting them at all. They have no way of stopping me from just running by and getting to the exit without them.

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For my efforts, I’m rewarded with a new area, to play around in. Ash Lake. I have to say, I’m not really looking forward to this. After sewer levels, underground levels and caves are probably my least favorite standard questing environments, and we’ve come down so far below the surface of Lordran, that I bet I know exactly what we’re going to face. Enclosed spaces, the same brown and gray rock textures repeated over and over again, randomly twisting passages that make no geologic sense, and apparently and underground lake that I admit, may spice up an otherwise bland environment but still doesn’t come close to making up for…

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Oh my.

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6 responses to “Remaining Defiant in Dark Souls

  1. Another awesome post! 😀 I can’t believe how big a game this is!

    But yeah, this part, ‘Blocking my way, though, is this unfortunate soul weighted down under so many eggs nested in his flesh.’ Ew, ew, ew, ew!!!!!

    • I know! I’ve put 44 hours in this game, been running this series for over a year, and it still seems like I’ve got quite a bit of content to go through.

    • Yeah, and how is that fair?! One vocal viewer ruins it for every one else who would have loved watching the player be completely stuck and unable to do anything new or accomplish anything for hours on end! That’s where the real action is. Everyone knows that.

  2. Shame about you getting cursed and losing your souls. Your real-life distraction was probably pretty urgent if you couldn’t just kill the two basilisks before attending to it, but you still likely could have just quit to the main menu until you were free to play again; at the rate this game autosaves, you would have lost less than a minute of progress upon resuming your save file at the very most. But yes, even that plus the omnipresent online functionality doesn’t excuse the game’s lack of a pause button. It’d be nice if, for Bloodborne or the as-yet-hypothetical Dark Souls III, pressing Start and Select at the same time (so that those buttons could retain their existing functions) would pause the game as long as the player isn’t in human form, so that pausing doesn’t conflict with online play.

    • Huh, I didn’t even think of quitting the game. You’re right, I probably could have done something about it. I could see restricting the pause function when you were in human form, but as a hollow, there’s just no point to it. No chance of getting invaded, so it doesn’t have a chance of messing with player interactions, all it does is lead to little moments like this. I agree, it’d be pretty darn nice if they put something like that into a future game.

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