Last time, on the New Adventures of Old Aether, I said a thing. Do you remember the thing I said? I’ll refresh your memory.
“Still, I managed to take off nearly half his health my first time. For someone with a sobriquet as intimidating as “Father of the Abyss”, this really wasn’t that rough. At this rate, Dusk, I’ll have you safe in no time!”
So, I think it’s time to confess, because there’s no way I’m going to be able to hide it now. I am a flawed man. Pride’s a big one. I mean, looking as good as I do, it’s hard to avoid that, but as excusable as it is, that’s something I have to face about myself. And that quote above is full of pride. I can also be somewhat short-sighted, looking at my goals more than the path I have to take to get there. The quote is full of that, too. But that quote has also made me realize something about myself. Something new. Something I apparently needed Manus to show me.
I am a blasted idiot.
But before we get into that, allow me to put in a bit of filler here, so I can hide the depths of my stupidity from those that are too lazy to hit the jump.
My path back to Manus’s lair takes me past Marvelous Chester. He’s got some new things to say now that I’ve met the Father of the Abyss.
Which I already knew, to some degree, thanks to the spells I’ve been finding around. Chester was happy to fill me in on how exactly that happened.
I’m guessing the primeval man was Manus. Ornery does seem an apt descriptor for him. The toothy serpent does interest me. The Kingseeker Frampt, or another of his kind? No idea. And Chester isn’t about to fill me in.
I wonder if Chester can leave this time. I can head out whenever I want, thanks to the lordvessel and the bonfires being linked. Does Chester have that ability? Or is he planning to just hang out here, just on the outside of the borders of Oolacile, waiting for it to fall? Either way, the man doesn’t seem very proactive about getting back to his hometime.
On my way back, I spy a corpse with some souls near the elevator back down to the chasm of the abyss. It stands at the head of a path I didn’t notice before, leading down to a river-worn gap between two cliffs. I take the stairs down, then turn around and check the gap behind me. It seems to have a treasure-bearing corpse at the end of it. It also has what looks to be two dogs in the way, with glowing red eyes. New enemies!
The two dogs rush into the attack as I step forth. The first one falls pretty easily to my old standby, crashing into my shield then catching my sword in his side as he recovers from his own attack. The second one, I skirmish with a bit more. It has the same moveset as the undead attack dog from way back in the undead burg. It might be stronger, which I’d know if I ever got hit, but I can’t see any difference aside from the fact that this dog actually has skin. This one launches its attack then leaps clear just before my counterblow reaches it, playing a bit of hit and run that would be useless on any combatant with lesser speed. It doesn’t have the power to break through my guard, however, so I keep playing this game with it, catching its attack then swinging into the air myself, waiting for it to make a mistake.
I don’t have to wait long. Just once, it hits me but doesn’t dodge away. Once is all I need.
The treasure in the distance turned out to be souls. Lots of souls, but still, not too exciting for the viewers at home. That also marks the end of this path, so I turn around and head the other way.
I face a few more dogs on this route. Once again, I face them with the simple block, counterstrike, and hope it hits strategy. I’m sure someday legends will be told of this master technique. For the time being, those tactics take a while before they work, but eventually, the dog will forget to dodge, and with them being unable to break through my shield, I’ve got all the time in the world.
The path pretty clearly leads through that gate there. I’m not one to argue, right now, so I take it.
A player left a message. ‘Be wary of dragon.” Duly noted. I spy a ladder heading down, and walk towards it. There’s a roar, and the same dragon I saw earlier, at the bridge in the forest, zooms by, too fast for me to catch an accurate screenshot of it. Here’s what I was able to get. Which is pretty much the bigfoot picture of screenshots, but just trust me, it was the same dragon.
With that, there’s no more sign of it. I take the ladder down. I think I recognize this place! Might this be the Darkroot Basin?
It’s certainly quite a scenic place. Where it not for the crazy Abyss-strewn people infecting Oolacile, the fact that this whole area is going to see a huge fall in the near future, and the big evil dragon that’s inevitably going to blast me with fire as soon as I pick up this treasure, I could see setting up a house here. I’m thinking a nice cabin. Something rustic, yet tasteful.
Look! There’s even some poets in the community! Isn’t that lovely!
I don’t even see the dragon fly overhead before I’m bathed in this dark fire. It kills me instantly.
So, obviously, that’s a challenge I’ll be dealing with in the future. But, I really don’t want to be starting too much of a queue of people waiting to whip me. Let’s take things a step at a time, and take care of the people who joined the line first before anything else.
Back down the Manus-hole it is. It shows the cutscene again. I can skip it, but it still strikes me as a little odd that apparently I get surprised by the hand grabbing for me every time.
So hey, Manus. I did really well against him last time! I’m feeling really confident going into the fight again.
That confidence fades a bit when I’ve drained more than half my estus and haven’t even gotten him down to half life. I do eventually hit that point, however, and once more he starts charging up a spell. I try to dodge it, this time, and roll to the side as he fires numerous dark orbs in an arc at me. The arc is much too wide, and I don’t even come close to clearing it. Instead, I get hit several times in sequence, more than enough to send me back to the bonfire.
Well, that’s nothing to worry about! Even at my best, I still fall in battle occasionally. I just get up and try it again. I do a bit better this time. Not great, but I seem to be keeping pace with him, losing estus at a rate roughly proportionate to the amount of health I take off him. It’ll be close towards the end, but I think I’ve got a chance.
Yet, once again, the exact same thing happens. I get him to half his life bar, and once again, he throws out a spell, trailing dark homing blasts from the sky. I manage to dodge away from most of these, leaving me wounded but not dead, yet as I heal, he throws a bunch of dark orbs right in my face.
Yeah. It turns out the fact that I was able to take him past half life was not just luck. He simply wasn’t fighting at full capacity until then. Once you get him half dead, that’s when he takes off the gloves and breaks out his spells. He’s not exactly a cakewalk up until then, but that’s the point he gets truly deadly.
I’ve noticed something about myself and the way I approach bosses in this game. Namely, there are two types of bosses. There are those that I’m already capable of handling, I just need to work out the right strategy or learn their moves before I’m able to claim victory. Foes like Quelaag, like the Iron Golem, like Sif. Those I typically beat within three attempts. Then there are the bosses for which I need to improve before I’m able to overcome them. Enemies like Ornstein and Smough, the Capra Demon, and Artorias. Sure, learning their moves and working out the right strategy was vital, but overall, the battle hinged on my increasing my capabilities, and growing better than my opponent. Those fights are the ones that take a while.
So basically, either I beat the boss in three attempts, or I’d better pull up a chair and make myself a sandwich, because I’ll be at these for a while. And I just finished up my third failed try at Manus.
Well, I’m determined to break the streak, if I can. So I do mix up my strategy a bit. It’s Manus’s sorceries that are giving me the biggest problem. And I picked something up earlier that’s supposed to help with that. Artorias’s Pendant. I give it a try, focusing my energies through the jewelry, and after a brief moment of charging, I am surrounded by a barrier of light. Looks promising. I drop all the items out of my ready pockets except for my estus flask and the pendant, then make my down to the ol Abyss Papa.
I do well in this fight. Even without his spells, Manus is quite the tricky beast, his extendo-arm making it difficult to gauge just how far his attacks reach. Even so, I’m starting to get the hang of him, and quickly drop him down to when he starts getting serious. Manus charges his first spell up.
As he fires steams of darkness into the sky, I pull out the pendant. As they come crashing down towards me, the barrier is in place. Darkness meets the light, and fades away. I use the pendant a few more times, to catch the portions of the spell not blocked by the first application, and make it through it all, safely.
Unfortunately, both his spell and my defense create a lot of visual interference, and I find it hard to track him in the maelstrom. He takes advantage of that, slamming his hand down on top of me just as soon as my vision clears. I cling to life, but just barely, and I don’t have time to recover before he’s on me again. He’s winding up for a move I recognize, a cross-body uppercut. I dodge back, but once again I misjudge the angle because of the way the length of his arm shifts. I get clipped by it, and that sends me back to the bonfire.
Second time around, I play the same strategy. Fight him down to half his health, then break out the pendant when he breaks out the spells. I catch him charging for a spell again, and I trigger the pendant. Before the field activates however, he lets loose, sending a wide arc of dark orbs before him. I get hit by several, and it puts me down. The forward arc is much faster than either of the spells that sees him firing into the air. Way too fast to bring the pendant to bear.
Again, and again, and again, this happens. Manus was a competent combatant without using magic. Powerful and dangerous, but with flaws in his style that could be easily exploited. Adding his Abyss sorcery to his repertoire makes him exponentially more deadly. Not only does it give him additional offensive options that I have trouble dealing with, it also forces me to leave openings for his physical attacks as I lean on the pendant for defense against his spells. Additionally, having to prepare myself for both physical and magical attacks requires me to change my fighting style, and I find myself being both a lot less aggressive and making more missteps in my dodging as I attempt to be ready for anything.
So yeah. This isn’t working out well for me. Manus is not the most intense opponent I’ve faced. I don’t think he’s the most powerful. Nor the trickiest. But the strengths he has, he works together so cohesively, that he might be, overall the most challenging enemy I’ve ever fought. And he’s probably the toughest. I don’t know that I’ve fought anyone else with his HP. His fighting style is not overwhelming, but it is so very solid that it’s hard to make further inroads once he starts incorporating magic.
I spent longer fighting Manus, Father of the Abyss than I have any other boss in the game. I committed more time to trying and failing against Manus than any other single challenge Dark Souls has to offer me. More than Ornstein and Smough. More than the Capra Demon. More than Artorias. Manus has so much vitality, allows such very specific windows to attack, and has such a varied offense, that he is probably the most adamant opponent I’ve ever faced in Lordran.
It would be easy to get discouraged. This was a challenge to which I had no answers. No matter how I changed my strategy, no matter how well I learned his moves, no matter how much my skills were growing, I couldn’t gain anything more than small advancements on him at any given time.
This isn’t a very exciting fight to write about. If you’ll do me a favor, when you’re telling all your friends about how great I am, could you just make something up about how I finally beat him? Like, I went off into the forest, and spent a year wrestling bears for training, then came back with fire in my eyes and powerbombed Manus back into the grave? Because what proved to be the real factor is something that I’ve found I’m really good at these past several years, but it’s not really something that makes for epic tales. I didn’t use my power, my intelligence, my creativity, or my biting wit to win.
It was all about my ability to endure. Like I said, I couldn’t gain anything more than small advancements. Miniscule, really. A few slivers more of his life off with each attempt. But those slivers add up.
I learned his moves. I learned that you couldn’t block his overhead slam if you were too far away, and that you couldn’t dodge it until it was almost on top of you because otherwise it would track you. I learned to recognize the difference between the way he telegraphed his three spells, and to use my shield rather than the pendant on the forward arc. I learned to move forward when he attacked high, and back off when he attacked low. I learned not to linger behind him. I learned that I had to watch for the tells before the tells, because otherwise I would dodge too late for some moves. And I learned because I had to. I felt the pain of each of his attacks dozens of times, sheer repetition forcing those moves into my mind.
I was only gaining inches. But I was still gaining inches. I was the file grinding down the mountain. But as long as I was gaining, I could not be stopped!
I died a hundred times!
And it was because of this that the battle was mine!
Every time, just a little bit better! Every time, just a little bit more! Every time was he closer and closer to death! By slivers, by inches, by microns, but that was all I needed! As long as I kept trying, as long as I kept unbroken, eventually, all these little bits would overtake him!
And I will never quit!
There is no formula to my victory here. No one moment I can point to as the turning point.
I simply tried, again, and again, and again, each time growing just a little, tiny bit, until I was something more than he.
I may not be the strongest, the smartest, the most skilled. But I endure. I endure better than anything else. And that is why I shall succeed.
Next time: Dialing it down.