Chilling Down in Dark Souls

We’ve faced a lot of challenges here, in Aether and his Dark Soul. We’ve broken through the death-trap filled fortress. We have lain siege on the city of the gods. We have conquered the broken home of the undead. And yet, all this is only the beginning, building up to a goal greater than any man dared dream. We saw the first fruits of that last time. We had reached heights that no one in Lordran ever thought possible. We completely broke through the limits of human possibility. We had finally seen our greatest accomplishment yet, as we dominated, completely and utterly… a tree. But not just any tree. It was an evil tree!

Yeah, I don’t know if any amount of editorializing is going to make last episode grandiose.

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Still, it got us to where we are today, so it shall not be discounted. And here, we find our brave hero, steadfastly refusing the call of destiny in the deepest pit Lordran has. Although, actually, are we even in Lordran anymore? I have no idea. That tree took us down a long, long way, and there’s very little clue as to the nature of Ash Lake, here. Is this somewhere below the world’s surface? Are those pillars in the distance structural supports holding up the very foundation of everything we’ve ever known? Or have my travels through the Great Hollow taken me to a different realm entirely?

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I don’t know. What I do know, is that there’s a bonfire to my right. Fire is life for those questing through Lordran, so of course I light it up here.

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And a good thing I did, too. Just across from this bonfire is another large hydra. You may remember one of its brethren giving me trouble back in Darkroot Basin. Something tells me I’ll be needing that checkpoint soon. However, I’ve grown since then, both in strength and in will. Let’s see if that’s enough to give me an easier time cutting down this beast.

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This hydra seems to have a far more limited zone of awareness than the basic one did. I manage to get a lot closer before he notices me and starts spewing his water balls my direction. I take a hit or two, but he can’t stop me from drawing into melee range.

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From there, it’s just a matter of patience. I hang out as close as I dare, being careful not to fall in the water, and try to bait him into striking. As he moves, I dodge back, then strike his heads as they attempt to bite me.

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All too easy, really. That’s the thing. Once you finally learn enough about your enemies to beat them the first time, they’re far less of a challenge revisiting them later. I’m wearing heavier equipment, so I’m a lot slower than the last time I fought one of these, and I still have an easier time breaking him down.

I get a few dragon scales off his body. Then, I find a couple of corpses nearby. All likewise carrying dragon scales. Hmm… Either people used to hunt dragons here, or there’s some reason for them to be bringing scales to this place. I imagine I’ll be finding out shortly. Either way, dragons are nearly extinct, growing moreso as I travel across Lordran, so any scales I can get shall prove to be quite valuable.

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The only place I can walk in Ash Lake is this lone sandbar. All else is covered in water, and I’ve proved myself unable to swim several times over. It makes for a very linear path.

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One that takes me directly across these clams. These monster clams. Because the tier of my enemies should match how far down I’ve come physically. They… don’t really do much. Scuttle around on their stupid little legs, and try to bash or chomp me. Their shell’s hard, I’ll give them that. My sword’s harder.

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You know, I was expecting pearls. Hard to believe such a weak monster managed to kill so many.

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I kill another of those clams, then take a look back at what I originally thought was just this big rock. The petrified skull of a giant… something. Demon? Some sort of primordial creature? The skull’s from something bigger than any giant I’ve seen, and has obviously been here long enough to petrify. Given how deep Ash Lake is, there’s no telling where it’s from, or even in what era it was left here. Curious. I hope I don’t encounter whatever race is big enough to leave this skull. Something tells me it wouldn’t end well for either of us.

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I follow the path along, and it leads me around another large, hollow tree. Out of curiosity, I check it out. Looks like two basilisks inside. I back out of the opening, and hide just outside the entry. They both come charging through, one right after the other. I take them both down with a single slice. My way clear, I head back into the tree, and… oh Geezer Zeus.

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Well. Just one of them, and the area’s a bit more open than the Hollow was. I bait him out onto the sand bar, and play a bit of hit and run with him. He’s very, very slow, so as long as I pick my moments correctly and have room to maneuver, he doesn’t present much challenge. At least, that’s what I thought. Problem is, as slow as he may be, he can take a hell of a beating. I hit him over and over again, and he’s still backing me up. I don’t want to run out of space, so I get a bit more aggressive. A little too aggressive, it turns out. I try to get in a strike between two of his moves, and…

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Yeah.

Luckily, the bonfire isn’t too far away. Doesn’t seem to be that big of an area, thus far. I make it back within minutes, then it’s time for round two with the mushroom man. This time around, I start out at full health, meaning I can actually take a hit and keep going. I also wield my sword two handed. The shield wasn’t doing much for me last fight, and the ‘shroom’s high health means I can actually use the extra punch. Other than that, I don’t really change the strategy much.

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Still, that was all I needed. Hey, this was the first one of these mushroom men I’ve killed. Yet another personal hurdle I’ve climbed. Feels good. Of course, the score’s still like 4 to 1. I’ll catch up eventually, though.

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There’s not much of anything inside this tree. At least not on the ground floor. There is this treasure on a mushroom pathway above me, but I’m not sure how to get there. There’s a pathway that leads up and around the tree, but that just takes me back to the outside.

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I spend a few minutes hunting around, but to no avail, before I spy this hollow log sticking out of the tree. On a lark, I drop down into it. It leads to a path that takes me right up to the corpse with the treasure. A miracle. Great Magic Barrier. After all that work, nothing I can actually use.

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Beyond that tree, there’s… not a whole lot more. I kill a few clams and enjoy the scenery, pretty much. The area’s very pretty to look at. Ash Lake’s a pretty quiet domain, not a whole lot going on here, but it does have some gorgeous views. I follow this twisting path along into a copse of trees.

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The trees open up to this… thing, stationed before a lit bonfire. I pause, and survey the room. Aside from whatever that is, there’s no enemies there, and the figure doesn’t seem to be moving, at least from a distance. I step forward, cautiously.

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The mass heaves, and the wings sweep back. That thing is a blasted dragon.

The everlasting dragon, in fact. For all the historical strife and bad blood between men and dragons, this guy doesn’t seem to mind my presence. Using the bonfire reveals why. This dragon’s a firekeeper. I had no idea that was even possible.

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The dragon has nothing to say. We don’t even speak the same language. I can join some weird dragon cult with him, based around fighting other not-as-best chosen ones for Dragon Scales to gain dragon powers, which actually sounds pretty wicked, but I pass on it for now. Got plenty on my plate already without random duels being thrown in the mix. However, there’s one thing I remember about dragons. Let’s see if…

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Yep.

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The dragon’s chill enough that he doesn’t even mind. Just lets me make a massive freakin’ greatsword out of tail without even batting an eye. He’ll probably grow it back later, anyways.

Dude let me use his bonfire no problem, let me take his tail, even invited me to join his crazy dragon club. We may not be able to speak the same language, but I feel like we’ve got an understanding anyways. We be bros.

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The sword I got from him is something special. The thing is massively powerful. I’ve upgraded my Black Knight Sword as high as I can, but this weapon still leaves it in the dust with regards to base damage. The only problem is its weight. I’m a strong guy. Strong enough to one-shot a few other players, in fact. I can’t even two-hand this sword effectively.

I give it a few practice swings. Getting nowhere with this. I’ll need to do some training before I can even think of replacing my sword. Still, that’s not so bad. This Black Knight Sword’s been the most reliable friend I’ve had.

And anyways, that’s the end of our Ash Lake adventures. See you next time, when we maybe do some stuff that actually matters!

Next time: Stuff that actually matters.

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8 responses to “Chilling Down in Dark Souls

  1. You know, for a game that is so aware of how often you’ll die, death and resurrection takes a bit longer than I’d think and it is still treated as a big deal with the Text on screen and all that.

    • I think death would be a lot less irritating if they were just a little more generous with their checkpoints. Here, it wasn’t so bad because Ash Lake is tiny, but a lot of other, much bigger areas still only have one or two bonfires, and dying can really set you back a huge amount.

      • Generally scarce checkpoints is considered padding and fake difficulty in anyone other game, not sure how I feel about it the Souls series. I generally consider the Souls series to be like 80% skill based difficulty and 20% fuck you chump difficulty.

  2. Ah, Dark Souls. It really is an amazing game, isn’t it? I played through the game myself last year and it quickly became a firm favorite. It’s one of those rare games where the difficulty actually feels fair (for the most part; there are some cheap areas and bosses, but they’re in the minority).

    You’ve made it past the hardest boss fight, so I’m sure you’ll win now!

    • The difficulty’s a lot easier to bear when it’s coming on organically, when it feels like the game’s not just being cheap. I think that’s one of the main things that’s so great about Dark Souls. Usually, when you fail, it’s because of some mistake you made rather than the game taking advantage of some flaw in its own engine.

      Thanks for the vote of confidence! At this point, I really have to win. Else this’ll be a really anti-climactic playthrough.

      • Yeah, I totally agree! The difficulty is genuine and not the result of the player’s inability to read the developers’ minds. In the latter case, the mentality seems to be, “No, you have to play the game OUR way!” Dark Souls, on the other hand, is a game that treats the player with a lot of respect.

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