Drowning in Dark Souls

Last time, on Deadly Dreaming Dark Souls, I slew a dragon! Which, I know, I’ve done before, but this time, the dragon was a real dick! And yeah, the whole fate of the world destiny of the Best Chosen One moved along too, but really, someone who deserved it got what was coming to them. And really, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Killing Seath left me with one problem though. I don’t have any direction now. Seath had been set up as a problem a while ago, thanks to a conversation with the Firekeeper Knightess. Now, all I’ve got are a few places I haven’t checked out yet, and nothing really pushing me to one or another. I’ve got no drive, no motivation.

Well, that’s what adventuring is all about, right? Going to a place to see new sights, rather than merely to save every living thing? That’s what I’ll do. I’m an adventurer now!

I pick my next pummeling ground pretty much at random. Off the top of my head, there are four new locations I have open to me now. Two of them seem to lead underground, so we’re going to put those off as long as we’re able. I’m just tired of underground levels. Of the remaining two, I go for this one based on nothing more than a vague impulse.

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To the edge of Firelink Shrine, beyond Anastacia’s cage, there’s a stairway leading down.

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The stairway leads to an elevator, which takes me even further down.

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The elevator lets me off in this drab, ruined city. See this? Ruins are good. I think the adventurer life may work out for me after all. There are a few corpses around, and I’m able to pick up some souls from them.

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Not all the corpses are quite dead yet. The area’s littered with these zombies. Seems they haven’t entirely gone hollow yet, as they don’t attack me on sight. Instead, they just keep doing what they’re doing, which in this case seems to be going mad against the walls. I wonder about them. There’s a lot hanging out at this entrance. Who were they? Residents of this city before it fell? Wannabe Chosen Ones who drifted down here as their sanity fled them when it became apparent they weren’t as cool as I am?

I kill this one. I kill it because I don’t trust these former people to hold onto their sanity long enough for me to turn my back on them. It occurs to me that the old me, the me when I started this journey, wouldn’t have bothered a relatively innocent victim of the undead curse, would have just left them to live out whatever life we could be considered to have left. It also occurs to me that I don’t really care. I’ve died too many times to be concerned with the waning lives of others.

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Huh. Now we’ve got a name for this place. Although this just raises further questions. Is this where all the humans in the city of the gods moved to after the giants and hollowed knights took over Anor Londo?

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And how did this city grow so dour? Anor Londo was in fine condition. If this is ‘New Londo’, it must have been founded after Anor Londo, yet it’s obviously not held up nearly so well. I join this hollow in checking out the view. I can see the remains of the city below, flooded. Obviously, I’ll be heading there soon. I leave the zombie in peace. If he’s still able to enjoy things, I’m not going to take that away from him just yet.

I take a path up, and find it leads to a door I opened in the Valley of the Drakes quite some time ago. So, there’s a shortcut, I guess. Being able to port between bonfires, I’m not sure how useful it’ll be. Perhaps if I need to get back to the Darkroot Basin, for reasons that are sure to become apparent in future posts?

Anyways, I head back inside then take the staircase by the gazing zombie downwards. The staircase ends after a brief while, just drops off into the mire below, but there is one thing of note here. A man, locked in a prison cell. And it seems he hasn’t gone hollow yet.

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Rickert of Vinheim. He expresses his astonishment that I haven’t gone hollow yet. Little does he know. And that I’m ‘free’. Which, I suppose speaks to where all those crazy wall-bashing zombies came from. Someone’s been locking them up around here, and now, well, they’re imprisoned no more. Anyways, back in the day, Rickert was some big-time smith. Then he came to Lordran, much like everybody touched by the Darksign. Seriously, I’m pretty sure we undead must number more than Lordran’s native residents ever did. He doesn’t want to escape, claiming it’s safer in his cell, but he does offer his smithing services to me as a means of relieving his boredom.

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I don’t need any work done, but I do chat with him a bit. We talk about Big Hat Logan, who was a very famous academic in Vinheim until he caught the undead curse some hundred years ago. That’s one good thing about the Darksign. It may condemn you to a life of hell until you eventually lose your mind completely, but at least it helps keep you pretty, so long as you power your looks with some poor beings immortal soul. Or whatever capital-h Humanity is. It’s not clear. He also let’s me know that for all of Vinheim’s fame with magic, most of the populace just learns through trial and error. I imagine that leads to more than a few holes in just the wrong places.

That staircase leads nowhere, so I head downwards on the other side of the landing. More than a few of these… refugees? Prisoners? Whatever. They’re along my way.

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See, here’s one weeping uncontrollably, and another trying to eat the wall. Obviously good and healthy zombie behavior. I leave these two be.

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And look at this diseased mind. Worshipping a pot. How disgusting.  How could anyone be so far gone to venerate one of those vile things? I slaughter zombie and pot both. And they both deserve it. There was a corpse inside the pot. The corpse has some Transient Curses on him, basically, the severed arms of the dead that allows me to interact with ghosts.

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Now here’s an interesting conundrum. Obviously, this poor undead is in mourning. Clearly he has enough sense left in him to be able to understand this situation, and what’s going on. He’s miserable enough already. And yet, the friend, family, lover, whatever that he’s mourning over has something shiny on their corpse. He probably wouldn’t like me rooting through his comrade’s body. So I kill him as a preemptive measure. The corpse was carrying an estoc. I love swords! Totally worth it.

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Turning around, I spy a familiar figure ahead of me. Or rather, a familiar set of metal-spaghetti armor. The Crestfallen Warrior. He who would mock and disparage everyone and everything surrounding Firelink Shrine. He who would try earnestly to convince both himself and me that I was not long left for this miserable world. Gone as hollow as he was always trying to avoid by not doing a single thing of worth. I’m going to enjoy this.

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Or, I would, except that he’s good. He’s really good. He fights defensively, just hovering within range, and batting my sword out of the way when I attack, before following it up with a deadly riposte. I can’t break through his defenses, his timing is just too perfect, his parries too exact.

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So I opt to burn him instead. Let’s see you parry fire, bootlicker!

It turns out he can’t parry fire. In case you were wondering.

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The only place left for me is to head across this bridge, into the ruins proper. I hear an odd noise as I reach the end.

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Two ghosts flow out of the walls. New Londo is haunted.

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Obviously they just weren’t killed hard enough the first time. I remedy that. The Transient Curses I picked up earlier twigged me to the thought that I might be meeting some soon. Normally, the living, or undead, at least, can’t interact with the… even more undead… it’s complicated, ok?! Usually I wouldn’t be able to touch them, but they could pierce right through me. Since ghosts are cursed souls, though, they can be harmed just like normal by other cursed beings. So I could go find myself a basilisk and ask him real nice to cut my life in half so I could punch these guys, or I could use these Transient Curse, which imparts a nice, harmless, but temporary curse upon me. I guess desecrating the dead to take their arms doesn’t offend the gods much anymore, with everything else going on here. Anyways, I snap open one of the corpse arms, take the curse upon me, and swing my sword. The ghosts pop like balloons.

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Here, I have to be careful. The water can easily hide treacherous drops, and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s a little hard to swim in like 150 pounds of armor. I keep an eye to the floor as I move forward.

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Hmm… a long narrow walkway through the lake with a brightly framed treasure corpse at the end, and ghosts not ever bothering to hide their ambush? Never have I seen a trap so obvious.

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I spring it anyway. A single blow sends both of them to the after-afterlife.

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Totally worth it. Although being a Firekeeper while the city is flooding must royally suck. Dead if you stay, damned if you leave your bonfire behind, you’ve got no options left to you. I feel bad for whoever this was. Unfortunately, the corpse is too far gone for me to restore it to life with this soul. At the very least, I promise to remember you whenever I take my estus.

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I turn back and head on. Eventually, I find myself on dry land again. Ghosts are popping out at every turn. They are relentless, drifting to the walls and floors to get to me. They might become a problem, if they weren’t so exceedingly weak. It’s not just the slicing through like wet bits of paper thing I do to them; they didn’t carry any muscle with them to the afterlife. I take a clean hit from one once. It doesn’t even sting.

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Neither are they particularly fast. They play a good pressure game, I’ll give them that. Always ambushing me from where I can’t see or can’t reach, making good use of their selective immateriality, but really, once I have them within sword range, they don’t stand a chance. Anyways, the pathway led me into a tower of sorts, which we can see here. There are a few ghosts inside, laying in ambush. It doesn’t work out for them. There’s an opening here that leads to an elevator well. I try to call the elevator, but I can’t budge the lever. I take a staircase leading down instead.

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On a broken walkway by the wall in the landing I find myself in, I spy a corpse with something shiny on it. I was thinking it’d be an excellent spot for a ghost ambush, and lo and behold, there it is. You can clearly see bits of ghost poking out of the wall. See, I’m already starting to outsmart them. The ghosts truly stand no chance. The corpse held a parrying dagger, adding to my burgeoning collection of pointy things.

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I head back just a little bit, take a new path around and to the right, kill a ghost in the floor, pass by a fog gate, and come across this sight. A woman ghost. All the ones I’ve been slaughtering up until now have been male. She screams as I approach. Whether in rage or fear, I don’t know. She’s armed and part of a hostile force, however, so I feel no regret as I unmake her.

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I pass through the fog gate. The otherside opens up to reveal a network of catwalks. I spy a ghost underneath a nearby one. I walk forward, expecting the ghost to rise through the floor to meet me, as so many others have. He’s got a different idea, though. He rapidly attacks through the floor, a staccato burst of ghostly blades clanging against my armor. It’s surprising, effective, and actually a bit painful. Good. They’ve finally provided some sort of challenge.

I can’t draw a bead on him from on top of the catwalk, so I just run. As I leave his range and enter another’s, ghostly blades raining on my from the ceiling, I run. I run, and I run, until I’ve left them behind.

Then another ghost comes forward to meet me, hovering just off the edge of the catwalk. Seriously? After you’ve finally gotten a tactic that poses a challenge, you’re just going to take me head on like all your fellow failures? Fine. Hastily, I rush forward, swinging my sword at him. All of his fellows tore apart in a single hit. The basic hollows have provided more challenge to me than these ghosts. Imagine my surprise when my blade missed him entirely, and my rush carried me off the edge of the catwalk.

Ok, so maybe I got a little overconfident.

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11 responses to “Drowning in Dark Souls

  1. It sure is a good thing that many of these enemies drop Transient Curses or else this area would be even more troublesome. I’m not sure why anyone would willingly get cursed even if it does offer a permanent solution to the ghosts (or at least until you get rid of it). Speaking of which, there’s someone in this region that can expunge curses for the cost of one liquid humanity if you ever find yourself plagued with them.

    Also, when you pass through the one-way fog wall in the New Londo Ruins, don’t forget to equip the Covenant of Artorias you got from defeating Sif.

    • Thanks! That’s all good information to know. I had been getting a little worried about my stock of curses; I had used two just getting as far as I did, and none of the ghosts have dropped any more for me yet. Those don’t last as long as I’d like so it’s good to hear that I could restock in the area. Might be a good time to break out the serpent ring, I suppose.

      And I’ll keep my eye out for a one-way fog wall. Didn’t realize I’d be needing to traverse the abyss or whatever the Covenant does so soon. At this rate, I think I’ll be needing to start a ‘Number of times Red Metal has saved my life’ counter.

      • No problem! I forgot to wear the ring the first time I played through this section; it didn’t end well. Doesn’t help that this area has no bonfires. If you run out of curses, they’re sold by the female undead merchant at the very end of the tunnel that leads to the lower Undead Berg.

    • Never! The zombies, I may pass, but pots?! My mortal enemy?! They I cannot abide. In the name of the best chosen one, I shall slay every single one of them, along with their equally vile cousin, the dreaded barrel!

      Crates are cool, though. Crates can stay.

  2. It’s amazing who you meet in the middle of dungeons, isn’t it? 😀

    Another great post on this! I always get the urge to pick up a heavy fantasy type game after reading your posts… and then remember I get sucked i by them too easily and would get nothing else done for weeks!

  3. Hi Aether, just want to say I’ve been reading through your Dark Souls journey these past few days, and I must say it’s been a real treat. I particularly like reading those little vignettes you go into where you sort of describe something you noticed in the game’s details, like the size difference in the Anor London stairs or the crying of the Pisacas. It’s difficult to pick up on little details added by the game designers when you’re focused on “beating the game”, and Dark Souls is loaded with them. Again, thanks for writing these and looking forward to further reading.

    • That is honestly great to hear. Thank you very much. I’m always glad to find out someone’s been enjoying the things I’ve been putting together, and you really put a smile on me, leaving this comment. I hope I’m able to continue entertaining you in future entries in this little adventure.

  4. One of the biggest strengths of this series is how keen an eye you have for observing the small details, and it’s an attribute that, between your musings about the dead Fire Keeper and especially about how the zombie standing in front of the Estoc went Hollow because the person holding the Estoc died, is in full force for this update. I have over 550 hours logged in this game, and I’ve paid only a passing thought to the former detail and none at all to the latter. Thick though I may be to not give these matters more thought, it’s easy to see in light of them how exactly I managed to rack up those 550 hours; this is the game that keeps on giving.

    And speaking of deepening one’s appreciation for this game’s story elements: the Crestfallen Warrior. Notice that he only left for New Londo and went Hollow after you told him you succeeded in ringing the second Bell of Awakening – the one thing he told you from the beginning of the game you had zero hope of accomplishing. Shaken from the wry nihilism to which he’d long since dedicated himself, he was inspired to take action for the first time in his Undead life by your heroic example, and traveled underground to conquer New Londo. But the challenges that awaited him proved beyond his skill no matter how many times he threw himself at the ruins, until at last he succumbed and went Hollow. Thanks to you, the Crestfallen Warrior regained his hope just in time for it to be snatched away from him forever.

    • Thanks! It’s really to the game’s credit that they have so many bits of flavor and story in very nonobvious places. There’s a lot of features there that you either have to slow down and actively pay attention to, or at least spend some time thinking about it to work things out. For example, that story about the Crestfallen Warrior, it makes complete sense and quite deepens his character. Yet, I’d never really paid much attention to the warrior, and so, I never picked up on any of that until now that you bring it up.

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