Bringing it Back to Dark Souls

Last time, on Aether’s Adventures in Barely Hanging On, we got sucked into a painting with no way out and very limited supplies, and had a hard time. Seriously, we’re starting this episode at the same bonfire we started the last one at. We’ve made no real progress. However! We’ve gained some knowledge, about our enemies, the area, and our tactics! And as G.I. Joe taught me, knowledge is power. So this time, now that our muscles are all full of knowledge, we’re going to put it to good use!  We’re going to steamroll our enemies with knowledge!  We shall make sure that every single strike has all the knowledge we’re able to muster behind it!  We’re ready to give all our enemies a nice blast of knowledge! Right to the face!

Basically, what was really holding us back last time were the engorged zombies and the toxic explosion they go through when you kill them. After playing with my equipment for a while, I found myself a good way around that status effect: using a lightning spear, which allows me to attack while keeping my guard up, and a spider shield, which can block poison entirely. In this game you can have two pieces of gear equipped to each hand and switch between them as you see fit, so I’ve still got my pyromancy and my Black Knight Sword at the ready, in case I fight an enemy far enough away or strong enough to need either of those, but for the most part, it’s the shield/spear combo that’s going to be carrying me through this area.

And carry me through it does. Now, both the shield and weapon I’m using now are far less effective than my standard gear, even after I’ve upgraded them with what titanite I had on me. The spear is weaker, taking me longer to kill, while the shield’s a lot smaller than my usual and can’t negate damage entirely. Still, the combination makes me pretty much immune to the engorged zombies toxicity, which is really what’s been sending me back to the bonfire repeatedly. I take more damage than I used to, but I still breeze through the area much quicker than I had been before.

Engorged Zombie Fireball

Now that I don’t have to worry about my enemies so much, I can explore some areas I completely missed before! For example, the rafters in one of the larger buildings I passed through on my way to the tower. This guy seen here has usually either completely missed me or dropped in on me while I was slaying his fellows on previous runs. Now that I’m climbing up to the rafters, he seems at a bit of a loss as to what to do. I make that decision for him. He can burn and die. There’s not a whole lot else going on in the rafters, although I do find an Egg Vermifuge. This is a sour-tasting, fuzzy chestnut that will purge any parasitic eggs that have been laid in my body. I sincerely hope I never have to use this. I take it anyway, because as my adventures in Ariamis have been demonstrating, only a fool goes unprepared. Besides, you can never tell what people are doing to my body all those many times I spend dead.

The rafters also lead me to a window with a ladder heading downwards, overlooking the fortress wall. I descend, and travel along the wall until I find a stairway descending into yet another room. Inside, I find a few more enemies to kill, and a chest containing a set of Painting Guardian clothes. You remember those guys in white that I killed by the bundle outside of this painting? The outfit they were wearing. I briefly ponder slipping it on myself and seeing if I can sneak by them, but I drop the idea quickly. As any woman who’s seen me would probably tell you endlessly, I’m really beefy. The waif-like Painting Guardians would probably be able to tell I don’t belong in a heartbeat. They’re probably all hollow anyways, and they seem to be able to tell who’s lost their mind already. Interesting fact in the description of these clothes, though. These guardians are charged with protecting the paintings of Ariamis, meaning there’s either more than one entrance to this world, or that Ariamis is the artist and has created several different worlds. Also, hollow or no, nobody remembers why they’re supposed to be guarding the paintings anyways. They just do it, probably because there’s nothing better to do in Lordran if you’re not the Best Chosen One.

Dark Souls Engorged Zombie Pyromancy

I make my way back to the beaten path, heading towards the tower that’s been my stopping point thus far. Now, I want to take a break here to show off something. I’ve killed these engorged zombies dozens of times before. You know this, you read the last post. But have you ever seen anyone burn so beautifully as this? Seriously, just look at that! Exquisite! I am an artist, and flame is my medium!

Dark Souls Crow Demon

Anyways, back at the tower, we go through our usual song and dance. First step, lure the crow demon out and engage him. He doesn’t have a whole lot of moves, and only one really dangerous one. Now that I know his tells he’s not much danger. He goes down after a few hits. He leaves behind a blood-stained, shrunken human ear. A Souvenir of Reprisal, it’s supposed to be proof that someone who has sinned against the gods have gotten their supposedly just desserts. It’s a human ear, though, obviously not from this demon.

Dark Souls Undead Dragon Fight

With the crow demon out of the way, it’s time to slay the dragon! Just like last time, I begin my march down the bridge, and the undead dragon charges me. From there, the fight unfold much like last time, although I’m playing a lot more defensively and keeping a better eye on him now. He only has two attacks, one where he vomits toxic sludge at me, and another where he tries to stomp on me. By paying attention, and staying out of the way when my stamina runs low, I’m easily able to avoid both. I simply swipe at whatever body parts are available until I run out of breath or he starts to move, then stay out of the way as he attacks before pressing forward once again.

This time, the dragon falls without doing much damage. He was barely even a challenge the second time around. He leaves behind a dragon scale, which will allow me to upgrade dragon equipment. I also find a Bloodshield behind him, a solid piece of gear that might be worth replacing my current shield with, should I bother to upgrade it.

Turns out that when the dragon charged me, well, only half of him actually did anything. All of him from the waist down is still waiting at the end of the bridge. It does nothing as I approach. I’m able to stand it upright, hitting the legs with a leaping attack, but all that’s behind it is the broken remains of the bridge. I could drop down to the bridge below for a shortcut of some sort, but I decide against it. There’s no telling where that will end up, and the fall’s going to hurt.

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Detouring in Dark Souls

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.

Dark Souls Ariamis Fortress

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.

Dark Souls Ariamis Zombies

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.

Dark Souls Ariamis Zombie Archers

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.

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Enjoying that Dark Souls View

Last time, on a Dazzling Display of Dark Souls, we kicked some ass. Like, seriously. Did you see the fight against the Iron Golem? I haven’t seen anyone lose so humiliatingly since the Netherland’s victory over Spain in the World Cup. Ha ha! Topical humor.

Anyways we got dropped off in Anor Londo, city of the gods and, now that I spend most of my time in my undead form, one of the last places in Lordran where you can find true beauty. I head down the staircase to explore this new destination.

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These sentinels are the only beings still seeming to reside here, at least in these upper levels. I’m not wanting a fight before I’ve found a bonfire in the area, but luckily, these guys don’t seem to be looking for one either. Judging by their posture, they’re definitely guards, but mayhaps they’ve already heard that I am the Best Chosen One, and that I have honorable business here? Or maybe my reputation has preceded me and they want to avoid the thrashing I’ve been giving half of Lordran. Whatever the case, I don’t bother them, and they don’t bother me.

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Two more of them inside what looks to be some sort of temple or shrine. Again, I’m not looking for a fight, so I don’t get close.

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The shrine opens out onto a large landing. I take some stairs down from there, and find a bonfire, tended to by a fire keeper. I talk with her first, before settling down. She gives me a bit of direction, telling me that a revelation will visit the Best Chosen One if he visits Geezer Zeus’s old keep that’s just across the way. She also tells me a bit of life as a fire keeper, referring to herself as “a gatekeeper and a guide”, saying that she sticks with the job because otherwise, there’d be no beacons in Anor Londo. Turns out, the bonfires tended to by the keepers are special beyond just giving me a bit of extra estus. They’re linked to one another, somehow, and shall never die as long as the keeper lives. However, it seems keepers can’t leave the area around their bonfires.

Thus enlightened, I rest at the bonfire and level up before moving on.

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I’ve said it before, but this area is absolutely gorgeous. It strikes me as a bit odd, in fact. I’m just a little over 30 hours into the game now. Usually, game makers will blow their visual design load pretty early on, catching as many players as they can before some will drop out. I’m impressed that From Software has held out for so long. Hopefully, this is a sign that they’re still holding plenty of other great sights in reserve.

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Now that I’ve got a checkpoint, I think it’s time to mess with some people. I start by seeing what those sentinels are really guarding. I want to see what’s worth protecting. Turns out, the sentinels are aggressive, although you have to get fairly close to trigger them. I do with the two of these. There were treasure chests behind them, although it seemed to me they’re defending the statue more than the loot.

Their shields are the most annoying part of the fight, completely blocking any attacks that so much as brushes up against them and leaving their fronts and sides absolutely invulnerable most of the time. That means I have to brush up my counter game, but unfortunately, their attacks don’t leave them open for long.

Particularly when fighting two of them at once, the openings to attack are rare. It only takes two or three attacks in sequence to deplete my stamina and knock my guard away. I might be able to handle one of them, but two is just too much, and working in concert, they wear me down. Continue reading