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[Let's Play] Dark Souls 2 - Day 19: Hell+++

Page-Page- Registered User regular
edited February 2016 in Games and Technology
As I promised during (and after) my Dark Souls let's play, I am now set to embark on a blind play through of Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Flame.

This is a bit premature, because I thought the game wasn't coming out for another couple of weeks, but I figure I should get in while I can. I've put in the first hour or so, up to character creation, and then stopped, because I have a few things to ask before going further.

The goal is to remain as ignorant as possible, and to that purpose I played Dark Souls 1 completely offline, devoid of any player messages or summons. My intention was to do the same with Dark Souls 2, but I see no way to segregate my game from online without actually disconnecting from my internet. Is that really the case? I can't make an offline game?

Next, are there any mods I should be considering? I used dsfix for Dark Souls 1 to improve settings that were not available out of the box, and mainly that was some texture mods and borderless window options. Apparently Scholar already has improved graphics stuff, and runs at 60fps out of the box, but there's no borderless window option, which is a pain when I frequently tab out for screenshots and notes. Is there a mod for that, is it coming in a patch?

Anyway, place your bets. Which class, which gift? Did I kill all of the rats? How badly do I screw up my build this time?

darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-55-41-18.jpg

Depending on how my schedule works out, the first actual update will be tomorrow night or on Saturday.

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  • Some_tall_guySome_tall_guy Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Definately pick the class with the monocle. Explorer I believe it is called.

    Read your whole playthrough of DS1, loved it btw.

    Some_tall_guy on
    LOL ZEALURKS
  • FaranguFarangu I am a beardy man With a beardy planRegistered User regular
    This is a thing that I am subscribed to now.

    ecco the dolphinFawstLorahaloHedgethorn
  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    Definately pick the class with the monocle. Explorer I believe it is called.

    Read your whole playthrough of DS1, loved it btw.

    Glad you enjoyed.

    Not as sure about my ambitions this time around. Though it's not as if I had any grand plans the first time. We'll see how it goes.

    Competitive Gaming and Writing Blog Updated in October: "Song (and Story) of the Day"
    Anyone want to beta read a paranormal mystery novella? Here's your chance.
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  • PLAPLA The process.Registered User regular
    Speak softly, and carry a big stick.

  • MegaMekMegaMek Girls like girls. Registered User regular
    The game runs really well straight out the box, so you won't need any mods to fix the game. You do need to disable your internet connection before logging into the game to play in offline mode tho, which is a pain.

    Is time a gift or punishment?
  • SulliganSulligan Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Page-

    Though I have not played DS2 in some time, to the best of my knowledge, this is still a thing:

    Though the PC version does run at 60 fps (instead of 30 fps), many aspects of the game will be more difficult than intended due to the design speed of 30 fps because many effects and actions are tied to number of frames. Most noticeable for me is weapon durability. It will degrade twice as fast. I have also read your i-frames are halved (though I think that means the number of i-frames stay the same, but as they come twice as quick, the real time i-window is half as long as it was designed). etc. I'm sure other people could talk about this issue much better than me.

    I've locked my frame rate at 30 fps through the catalyst thingymabober. Works great.

    -Loved your DS1 Let's Play. Looking forward to this!

    EDIT:

    One last item, I think GeDoSaTo is the most relevant mod for what you might be looking for? But as the last time I actually played was pre-DLC, I'm not sure if it's still the thing to get or if there are other options.

    Sulligan on
  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    That sort of thing seems to be exactly what they'd want to fix with a remastering of the game. Wouldn't Scholar address those issues?

    Either way, if I only play at 60fps then I won't be missing 30fps.

    I found a way to get a reasonable approximation of windowed fullscreen. Still have white borders, but those don't show up in screenshots so it's not a big deal. If I set steam to offline before playing I can also avoid that stuff. Unless there's something else I should know about, everything is set.

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Day 01
    Preamble

    As the old saying goes, you have your whole life to make your first album, but you've got 18 months to make your second. As much as that saying is a poor analogy--considering that Demon's Souls came before Dark Souls, and the King's Field games before that--the point stands. It was inevitable that Dark Souls 2 received backlash from fans, even if it was the residual resentment remaining after Dark Souls 1 had been overcome. Comedowns can be harsh. There is no happily ever after in video games. Nobody gets to ride off into the sunset. To quote everyone's favourite living Jackson, "What have you done for me lately?"

    What I mean to say is that I understand there are issues for fans with Dark Souls 2. But I like to think I haven't put the first game on such a high pedestal that I can't see its faults already, especially as I came to it so late. My expectations for a sequel are going to be different. How I feel about the game, whether I express it well or not, will not cast in a perpetual gloom by a looming shadow. Comparisons are valid for the sake of comparison, but Dark Souls 2 is its own distinct entity.

    On a more personal level, I am not so sure about what I will write about a sequel to a game I have already written 200,000 words about. I don't mean to harp on that number as an achievement, but more as an indication of the work involved and how complete I tried to be with my thoughts and ideas. I plan to be no less thorough with Dark Souls 2, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about my chances. Then again, I started writing about Dark Souls 1 with no expectations at all, and look where that ended up going.

    (Questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcome!)


    After mucking about with the options for a bit, and finding a satisfying amount of graphical settings available, I go the easy route and let the game auto-detect my settings. Then I start a new game.

    I then have to wade through a few more pages of options. Why these aren't in the normal option menu is beyond me, especially for the sound and control settings. Still, there is little that needs to be adjusted, so I keep going. The only noticeable option is a bone being thrown to new players, as there is a specific option for the jump button. Considering how obscure jumping was as a function in Dark Souls 1, I can understand why this is in there. Choosing between pressing the sprint button while already sprinting, or depressing the left thumb stick is the same as choosing whether to stub your big toe or banging your funny bone, as neither is ideal. I go with the left thumb stick for now.

    Time to watch the intro video.



    Compared to the intro for Dark Souls 1, this one is both surprisingly small scale, and surprisingly easy to parse, at least on a surface level. The narrator (Is it meant to actually be the same unseen narrator as the one from Dark Souls 1?) lays out a simple tale for the journey of an Undead who is on the way to becoming Hollowed. A solitary figure stumbles through the rain, images of a life they left behind, or destroyed on the way out. Branded with the curse, the Undead will eventually lose their mind and become a zombie that feeds on the souls of others.

    It's familiar, yet different at the same time. No mention of humanity, which implies an odd shift in the formula. I am travelling to a place where "souls may mend my ailing mind," yet at the same time if I falter I will become a creature that only desires souls. Am I meant to become the Undead version of a functioning alcoholic?

    This old crone--who is nearly toothless and obviously blind, you know, for good measure--gives me the first glimpse of my destination, and what should be the setting for Dark Souls 2. A panning camera reveals Drangleic, a place built long ago in the north by a great king. The architecture is pure Anor Londo, but Drangleic is somehow a name even more awkward than either that or Lordran, plus the implication is that it was built by a man and not the Gods. My initial reaction is that it must be a future version of Lordran itself, but the murky, haphazard geography of Dark Souls is an early knock against that theory. After all, the Undead Asylum was in the north, and the Chosen Undead had to escape that place to get to Lordran.

    What is important is that, as with Lordran before it, Drangleic is forgotten and abandoned.

    There area few more interesting details about the impetus of this journey. The Chosen Undead, like other Undead of the time, was locked away in the Asylum and left for dead (and then some), while this current batch of Hollowed seem to be roaming around all willy-nilly. Perhaps there was a period of peace after whatever happened at the end of Dark Souls 1 (if this is actually a sequel), and the infrastructure for taking care of Undead and Hollowed broke down. Also, while the Chosen Undead had to be bullied and cajoled into taking on a quest to rekindle the Flame, this time around it looks like Undead naturally home in on Drangleic, like salmon returning to their birth river to lay eggs.

    Anyway, I (I'm going to assume the character in the intro is me) find a gnarled old tree covered in fireflies under a blood red moon, because when you're doing the mysterious journey to a forgotten land thing you really want to go all-in on the symbolic nonsense, and then decide to jump into a whirlpool. That's one way to up the ante after the giant bird in the first game.

    There is also some meta commentary in there about players doomed die over and over again in frustration. I can dig it.

    Things Betwixt

    I come to lying on a familiar looking flat circle of stone and metal.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-19-36-32-71.jpg

    I immediately run around pressing buttons. The controls appear to be the same as in the last game, but it's been a while so I may be missing something. What's important is that I know how to hit things, though for some reason I can't kick.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-19-48-52-23.jpg

    My health bar is only half of what it should be, as if I were cursed. Stamina is still there, as are the weapon and spell slots, but there is no humanity counter. The space where that was in Dark Souls 1, to the left of the health and stamina bars, is blank.

    I am in a field of knee-high grass that swishes as I move through it. All around are jagged pillars of white rock, and in the distance I can see light coming through a crack. I can hear dripping water. I am underground. Under the lake that I jumped into?

    Because I can, I take off my hood. What's underneath is not pleasant. I was expecting pale, withered Undead, but instead I've got the face and features of a classic gross-out zombie, complete with a balding head and eyes that lack pupils.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-19-50-45-28.jpg

    I put the hood back on.

    I walk to the nearest cliff edge and find the expected bottomless pit falling away below. This is the intro area, and I have only one way to go.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-19-52-55-95.jpg

    I start walking toward the light. As I near a gap between two rock faces I begin to hear shuffling sounds. I'm not alone.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-19-54-29-35.jpg

    After moving a little further I find another field, this one dotted with ominous piles of bones. I catch a glimpse of a small brown shape to my right, and I circle around to face it. There are a bunch of loping rat creatures in the field.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-19-55-37-09.jpg

    After moving a little further I find another field, this one dotted with ominous piles of bones. I catch a glimpse of a small brown shape to my right, and I circle around to face it. There are a bunch of loping rat creatures in the field.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-19-55-37-09.jpg

    Am I expected to fight them while unarmed? And how many are there? I can see their shapes in the tall grass, and I'm worried about them surrounding me.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-19-55-55-96.jpg

    Well, I mean, Dark Souls is an action game, and I wouldn't be playing if I didn't intend to beat things to death. Besides, I need to warm up a bit, right? What's the worse that could happen.

    I catch up to the nearest of the rats and smash it with 2-handed hammer blows. As soon as I start hitting it, the other rats jump into action. There are more of them than I counted on, and I retreat to the choke point I entered through.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-03-28-92.jpg

    The rat AI has a short leash and won't follow me back to my starting area. I am able to catch my breath, and then it's back to the beatings. It takes 4 heavy attacks to kill each rat, which is about all I can manage with a full stamina bar. Punches already do way more damage than they ever did in Dark Souls 1. I am forced to use the slow overhead bash attack because regular punches are too high to hit the little bastards. If I judge the distance or speed wrong the rats pounce, and I can only take a few hits before dying. Which I do. It takes a couple more tries, but I do get them all. With my last sliver of life, and with the breath still hot and heavy in my mask, I consider that I probably could have walked right through without incident. The rats were not hostile until I attacked them, and actually ran away most of the time until I landed that first blow. But I've got fresh souls in my pocket, and isn't that why I came here? I move on.

    To the right of where I entered the clearing, past an old fallen tree, I find a body clinging to a cliff.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-32-26-21.jpg

    I have a moment of light panic when I think that I may have taken all those rats on empty-handed while there was a weapon stash right under my nose. But it's not anything that would have helped. It's an old rusted coin, and its description tells me it is the exact sort of item that I never use. It temporarily boosts luck, which equates to extra loot drops, but without any way to know what the bonus is, or how long it lasts, or even what loot I'd be looking for, how can I make an informed decision on its use? Maybe for an identifiable mini boss, like the Black Knights from Dark Souls 1.

    There is nothing else around, so I head back toward the light. Through another gap in the rocks and I hear the sound of fiercely running water. There is a waterfall on my left, and a rope bridge spanning the gap between me and a dwelling built into a hollowed out tree.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-35-32-12.jpg

    From the bridge I can see there is another body underneath the waterfall.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-37-04-42.jpg

    I consider jumping for it, but a quick check around the back and I've found a path leading down to the shiny loot.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-37-58-90.jpg

    I pick up a Smooth and Silky Stone. So far this game has been one awkward name after another. It is a healing item. I could use it now, but I feel a safe area coming up.

    Outside the ever more inviting house I find a rack of . . . things. They are either bone tools or dried out animals, but I can't tell which. They are not the right size or shape to be those rat things, or to have come from them, and I've yet to see any other wildlife around here.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-40-51-89.jpg

    I walk over to the door.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-41-20-88.jpg

    Upon entering, a cut-scene starts up and I am greeted by not one, not two, but three cackling old crones. They mutter about Hollowed and Undead, much the same as the one that sent me here to begin with, all while a young woman serves tea.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-41-51-03.jpg

    One of the ancient women asks me if I can remember my name. After a brief hesitation, I confirm that I am Dork II, possibly the descendent of the great Chosen Undead, Dork I.

    As a reward for remembering my own name, I am handed a human effigy. It's supposed to be me, but, honestly, I'd take a face like a wire basket over the one I have now. They ask if I can remember what I look like, and I push that zombie-man image from my mind. The character creation menu pops up.

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Day 01 continued.
    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-46-58-83.jpg

    I look over the aesthetic options. There are more body types than the first game had, but fewer homeland options and less descriptions, which is a shame. The ones remaining have a wider variance, so that must serve the purpose. There is also a menu full of advanced options, and by adjusting a few sliders I discover that it's possible to make some really freaky looking weirdos.

    Character creation is still not something I care about much, and I'm as artistically challenged as they come. I know fiddling with any slider is likely to do more harm than good, so I leave them alone and settle for another coin flip sex (tales again, still female). I get some purple hair, though, because why not? I like purple.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-20-55-41-18.jpg

    Now the real work begins. I have to choose a class, and then my gift.

    I take a minute to look over the attributes. At first blush they appear to be about the same as in Dark Souls 1. Strength, Dexterity, Faith, Intelligence, those all seem to have the same core functions as before. Faith now has a bonus resistance to lightning damage, which is a nice nod to the predominantly lightning-based spells that Clerics use, and Attunement quickens casting speed, as well as granting more spell slots. The more I look, though, the more changes become apparent. The completely useless Resistance attribute has been replaced with Adaptability, which raises agility, resistances, and "various stats." That's either vital or just as useless as Resistance was. I can't tell right now because I have no idea what agility is, or what the other stats it raises might be.

    In fact, a quick count shows that Dark Souls 2 has more attributes than Dark Souls 1 did. This is because the all-powerful Endurance attribute, which determined both stamina and equipment load in Dark Souls 1, has been split into Endurance (stamina) and Vitality (equipment load). That puts the total number of attributes to that can be levelled up at 9 instead of 8. Confusingly, Vitality used to be what raised HP, but that has was renamed Vigour.

    The conundrum here is finding the path of least resistance when it comes to levelling attributes. In Dark Souls that was clearly done by picking either a strength or dexterity weapon, getting a few points in Vitality for HP, then dumping the rest into the chosen weapon's primary damage attribute, with enough Endurance to be able to wear necessary armour without becoming weighed down. There were soft caps to each attribute as well, which made things even easier. While I didn't know what those caps were when I played, I was comfortable with my choices once I'd decided on my weapon and the final soul level I was aiming for.

    I don't mean that choosing a spell casting character was more difficult, only that it required more nuance with attribute distribution and dealt with more unknowns. Having to juggle Intelligence or Faith, plus Attunement, on top of the basis requirements of Vitality and Endurance is already an extra attribute to consider, never mind wanting to use a melee weapon as well. When I don't quite know what's coming next, choosing the simpler levelling option is ideal.

    Going in to Dark Souls 2, I figured that my experience with the first game would allow for more leeway when considering an attribute build. It probably will, but these extra stats are still inconvenient unknowns. Adaptability is particularly vexing, because as I said, I can't quantify its actual value. Could be it's as useless a stat as the one it replaces, and could be that it's the most important stat in the game. I can't know until I get more information.

    To that end, I look over the classes.
    • Warrior: Comes with a broken sword and a shield. Is actually the only class that starts with a shield. Has good combat stats, with high strength and dexterity.
    • Knight: A broadsword and no shield, but more Vigour, so more health. Probably heavier armour as well.
    • Swordsman: Carries a sword in each hand, which is something that wasn't practical in Dark Souls 1, outside of a few special cases like the parrying dagger. This suggests new mechanics and expectations for combat.
    • Bandit: Archer and Thief rolled into the Bandit class from Dark Souls 1. Has a bow and high dexterity.
    • Cleric: Still a Faith-based caster. Only wearing a robe, no boots, gloves, or headgear. In fact, many of the classes don't come with a full set of starting armour.
    • Sorcerer: Still pew pew magic, still not very interesting.
    • Explorer: High Adaptability, along with the Knight, which suggests that it's a combat stat, as the Cleric and Sorcerer have relatively low numbers. The explorer starts with a number of consumable items and a ring. I think I recognize a weapon buff, or maybe repair powder, and a prism stone for dropping off of cliffs. The ring and the rest of the items are a mystery to me. The Explorer is also wearing a neat monocle.
    • Deprived: Unlike the first game, the Deprived is now the class with the lowest starting Soul level, as all her stats are set to their lowest values. Instead of no armour, a crappy shield, and a club, she gets nothing but fists and, I'm guessing, a foul attitude.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-21-07-30-03.jpg

    Conspicuously absent is the Pryomancer class. Is that no longer a thing, or was it decided that since everyone could use Pyromancy for free (it was the only magic that doesn't have stat requirements or bonuses), that making it a single class was redundant? Not a big deal to me either way, since I never used it in Dark Souls 1.

    Looking over the classes helps clarify the new attributes, but not to a degree where I feel informed enough to make a real decision. I could put my foot down in any number of places, sure, and I am certain that I would be able to progress no matter where I started, but in the interest of learning and hopefully making the best of things in the long run, there is only one obvious choice.

    Besides, having only a club was attractive before, but the idea of beating skeletons to bits with my bare hands is even better.

    Like her great-great-great (great-great-great-great?) grandmother (maybe?) before her, Dork II is thrust into the world naked and unafraid. Deprived it is.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-21-09-16-17.jpg

    Next up, choosing a gift.

    There is no Master Key, which is a relief of sorts. Less likely that I'll wander into silly places again, or miss something vital for half the game as I did in Dark Souls 1.

    The choices are:
    • Life Ring: Raises maximum health a bit.
    • Human Effigy: Returns Hollowed to life, but doesn't take up an equipment slot like a Ring of Sacrifice. Is it automatically consumed when I die? Seems useless, unless it can be used a bunch of times, in which case it would be way too good.
    • Healing Ware: Items to regain health, like the Silky Stone I found underneath the waterfall. Do I not get an Estus flask?
    • Homeward Bone: Teleport back to the last used bonfire. Maybe bosses don't drop these in Dark Souls 2.
    • Seed of a Tree of Giants: A seed from a giant tree, unless the name implies Giants themselves are grown on trees. Maybe they are. I don't know. I can't eat it. Why would I want to eat it? Nothing about its description tells me what else I would do with it.
    • Bonfire Ascetic: Toss on the fire to make foes more powerful. Does it work on bosses and mid bosses? Does it also improve the rewards for taking them down? More Souls and loot, that sort of thing? Is it permanent for the area it's used in, or does it wear off after a death or resting at another bonfire? I mean, I'm interested in this sort of item, but not if it's a single use consumable that I'll blow on something pointless.
    • Petrified Something: May be of use, someday.

    I shortlist my choices to the Seed, the Bonfire Ascetic, and the Petrified lump. While the Bonfire Ascetic looks like the most fun of the three, it is likely a consumable that I will find anyway, just like the other gift choices. It is only the Seed and the Petrified Something that stand out as items I may not get otherwise. The mere fact that they have no listed use means that their real use is probably important, or at least interesting. The problem, of course, is will I know when and where to use either of them?

    I decide that a Seed from a big tree is more likely to be encountered in the wild than a Petrified Something, and I choose the Something. It's not as if any of the other options are all that meaningful.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-21-17-15-15.jpg

    After another cut-scene, where the old women tell me I`m going to lose my Souls over and over again, I am shown my new body. I am not Hollowed anymore, and there is still no indication of a Humanity counter.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-21-18-46-06.jpg

    My first move is to check the character stats page. As with the attributes, the substats are different from Dark Souls 1. There are more of them, or maybe there are fewer hidden ones. There are new damage bonuses for each element, and a cast speed. There is also the Agility stat, which is what Adaptability raises. It boosts evasion and "other actions," which is not the best description, but better than nothing.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-21-21-37-17.jpg

    I am now leaning toward Adaptability being important, but I also assume there are coded breakpoints (In the sense commonly used by Diablo players). I don't know what they are, and may have no way of discovering them. Still, it's something to keep in mind, because I probably will evade more this time around.

    There is also a stat in the top-right corner called Soul Memory. Its description: "Souls that once dwelled within the flesh will always remain in memory. Could this be a blessing? Or a Curse?" So, not much to go on there. Maybe it's a way to keep a few Souls after dying?

    I talk to the younger woman in the room. She calls herself Milibeth, and it's her job to look after these old women, who are sisters. There is another sister, who must be the blind one who sent me here. All of them used to be Fire Keepers, but it looks like the fire is dying down again. Considering that in Lordran the Fire Keepers were hunted for sport, them being stuck in an old tree with someone to serve them tea is a definite improvement. Milibeth tells me this is the limbo between the other worlds (lands?) and Drangleic.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-21-25-10-99.jpg

    I climb some wooden stairs and find a chest containing a Human Effigy. Glad I didn't pick that as my starting gift.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-21-26-57-05.jpg

    The Effigy reverses Hollowing, which is a much better description than it had as a starting gift.

    I talk to the old women. Two of them just cackle and then fall into silence, but the one sitting at the table tells me I can return here to start again if my will is unbroken. I think that if my will was unbroken I would have no need to return to the start of the game, but she's old and probably confused. That's all the information I can get out of them, so I move on.

    I open a door, and down some stairs I find my first bonfire. There is also a tablet with a message, and a cart hiding a dead body with an item.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-21-31-23-01.jpg

    I smash the wooden cart to pieces with my fists, then loot the corpse. I find a Soul of a Lost Undead and a torch. The torch doesn't show up in my inventory as either equipment or a consumable, and isn't a key item. I do see that I have gained 5 minutes of what must be torch time in my inventory screen.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-21-34-11-11.jpg

    I rest at the bonfire. Seems that repairs item durability automatically? Convenient. There are also options for using an item box. I never had a need for that in Dark souls 1, and I'm not sure I will this time, either. I can also warp to other bonfires, though I don't have any available yet. That will make backtracking easier.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-02-21-34-24-87.jpg

    While fiddling around with my notes, something in the area dies and I gain 200 Souls. My stats page also tells me that my Soul Memory has risen. I have no idea.

    The Deprived class starts naked, but that is defeated somewhat when I discover the travelling clothes I arrived in are still in my inventory. I put them on, because they're still better than nothing. While looking the armour over, I see that they now have a letter grade for defence, the same as weapons have a letter grade for their damage bonuses. The description tells me that armour is boosted by my defence stat, but I can't find a defence stat anywhere except for the armour itself. Maybe I'll be able to make more sense of it when I find other pieces.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-17-43-13-41.jpg

    There is a tunnel leading out of the tree. At the other end it opens up into an area of narrow rock bridges connecting more giant trees, and beyond that is the blinding light of what I assume will be the outside world. To my right is a fire where I can light my torch.

    Outside of the crackling flames I hear nothing save the intermittent grumblings of some beast. As I take my screenshot, something dies and I gain another 200 Souls. I don't know what it is, but it's eager to get to me, or just really, really stupid.

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Day 01 continued.
    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-17-53-02-64.jpg

    I scope out the area. There are two trees with fog gate entrances. Past the second tree I can hear footsteps, and below it is the big monster that keeps gurgling to itself.

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    There is a third tree, but its entrance is blocked by a "statue." I say statue, but it looks a lot more like someone who has been cursed.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-01-25-14.jpg

    I can't break the statue with my fists, and it's not moving. Oh well.

    There are also a series of unlit sconces in the area. I wonder if I should be trying to do something about that. I light my torch, and it appears in my left hand, with a timer counting down from 5 minutes. I run to each of the unlit sconce and light them, but nothing happens. I look around and see there is another unlit sconce on a giant root stretching from tree to tree. It's above me and out of reach.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-04-37-38.jpg

    Unsure of what to do with the torch, I switch to a 2-handed grip and which puts the torch away and stops the timer.

    It's time to test the fog gates. Maybe I can clear the trees out and make a path to that final sconce.

    I open the path in the first tree, the one on my left. A curving tunnel leads to another tablet, which informs me that I can attack with the R buttons. Past it are some very familiar looking zombie fellows, dressed in rags a lot like the ones I'm wearing. Perhaps there is a one-size fits all Hollowed emporium that does a brisk business on the major roads to Drangleic.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-07-57-24.jpg

    I approach the first Hollowed, and it's immediately hostile. It throws out a slow right hook, and I circle around behind it to get a critical attack. I punch it right in the base of the spine, nearly killing it. It drops to the floor and I'm glad to see that I don't lose my target lock. That was always an annoyance in Dark Souls 1.

    The second tablet tells me about target locking, and that I can change targets. That has me a bit worried, but I look around and see only a single zombie. This one I punch to death, delivering heavy rights to its head until it falls over and blows apart into a shower of Souls. There is an unlit sconce here, as well as another tablet telling me how to dash. I take a left, past the tablet, and find a zombie hiding behind a bush.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-14-45-96.jpg

    I hit it with a jumping overhead attack, then give it a couple of 2-fisted bashes. It dies.

    There are trees within trees here, the spidery branches almost clipping my hood. I can hear more zombies ahead. I come out on a cliff overlooking calm, dark water. I can see that big, pale bastard below. It's guarding a boat, or a coffin? Can't tell from this distance.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-18-08-24.jpg

    I follow the cliff to a small grassed patch with another unlit sconce and a message tablet. There is also a zombie standing with its back to me. I know what the tablet will say before I read it, and I sneak up on the zombie, getting another critical hit. I bash it over the head before it can stand again, finishing it off. I read the tablet, and sure enough it tells me that I can critical hit an enemy's back.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-19-34-84.jpg

    I keep climbing, past another unlit sconce, until I find another hole into the tree. There is a dead body, and inside the tree another zombie.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-22-08-78.jpg

    On the corpse I find a dagger. Better still, I have the attributes to use it, as it requires only 2 Strength and 6 Dexterity. The equipment menu doesn't quite give me the information I want, which is how much better a dagger would be than bare hands, but I figure it has to be an improvement. There are also more substats there, including poise damage, which is a nice addition. I equip the dagger, then check my status screen and see that it's damage is 86 with my current stats, while punching is only 45.

    I take a minute to run through the dagger's moveset. A bunch of back and forth cuts, and a few nice stabs with little range. Still no kick, though. Pressing forward and light attack gets me the same step and slap as with my fists. I wonder if it's some sort of active parry, but it's more likely that the kick animation has been replaced with a more obvious guard break attack.

    Holding the dagger low in both hands, I walk toward the zombie inside the tree. A tablet tells me how to roll. The zombie takes one look at me, then pulls out a bow and starts shooting. Now I understand why I was told how to roll. In my surprise, I fail to roll, and take an arrow, which lodges in my neck. It doesn't do much damage, so I'm not deterred. I try to circle around the bow zombie, but it won't let me, so I cut it down with the dagger. Meanwhile, another zombie has shuffled up behind me, and I kill it as well. The bow zombie doesn't drop anything, so no ranged weapons for me.

    Another tablet tells me how to switch weapons. There is an unlit sconce as well. I take a ramp along the edge of the room and find another tunnel. A tablet there tells me how to backstep, something that I never had much use for. It doesn't go far enough, and doesn't seem to have any invulnerability frames. Maybe it's different in Dark Souls 2, but in the first game there was nothing backstepping did that wasn't done better by walking backwards or rolling backwards.

    The next room has another pair of zombies. One standing on top of a ridge with a bow, and another with a short sword. I kill them both, but take a bit of damage when the bow zombie pulls a sword and slashes me twice. Still, it's not much. I figure that I don't have any guaranteed healing at this point in the game is the reason everything so far hits like a toddler.

    There is another tablet, a loot corpse, and a fog gate.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-38-27-31.jpg

    From the corpse I pick up a Lifegem. A small, crystallized Soul that gradually restores HP. The nearby tablet tells me how to use items. I open up my inventory and equip the Lifegem and the Smooth Stone. A little box appears, showing the next item in my belt. Will it cycle when I use one? That would be nice.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-41-58-12.jpg

    I pass through the fog gate. I am on a high ledge. A tablet tells me how to move the camera, and on my left I see a ladder which I had not been able to access before. There is also a nest.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-43-39-87.jpg

    I walk up to the nest and a pair of high-pitched voices ask for something smooth and something silky. I can take that hint. While I try to work out whether I should leave or discard the Silky Stone, the voices ask for it over and over again. Eventually I figure out that I have to remove it from my belt first, and after that I drop it.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-47-22-99.jpg

    I am given back a Soul of a Lost Undead. I hope that was a worthwhile trade. The voices keep asking for smooth and silky, but I don't have any more. I try other items, but they're all rejected. On a whim, and with baited breath, I drop my Petrified Something, which they trade for an Old Whip. This is a weapon that does extra damage to Hollowed, and also requires 7 Strength and 20 Dexterity to use. I hope I haven't just made a huge mistake.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-53-39-07.jpg

    I kick the ladder down and start to descend. I press the B button thinking it will make me slide down, but instead I jump off, hit the ground, and lose most of my health. Whoops.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-54-56-44.jpg

    I could return to the bonfire and heal, but my goal was to open the path to all the sconces. If I use the bonfire then all those zombies will respawn.

    As the ones I've already fought didn't pose much of a threat, I decide to continue while I still have some strength. I open the way to the second tree. Inside are more tablets and more zombies. Armed zombies. Still, I like my chances.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-55-57-84.jpg

    The first tablet tells me how to hold my right-hand weapon in both hands, which I already knew how to do. The second tells me that I can use my left-hand weapon in both hands as well. More accommodation for a dual wielding style. I take down both of the zombies without trouble. The second must have been a Warrior in its previous life, as it swings a heavy, broken sword.

    Another tablet tells me how to jump. Another bone thrown to new players. Not that I think that's a bad thing. There is a loot corpse across a short gap, and a ladder next to the tablet leading further up into the tree.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-18-59-35-72.jpg

    I clear the gap without issue, and pick up a pair of Amber Herbs from the corpse. These restore spell use. A good upgrade for casters, I suppose, but useless to me.

    I jump back across, then climb the ladder. I peak my head over the top to make sure it's safe. There are only 3 tablets and another unlit sconce.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-19-02-46-51.jpg

    The tablet on the left tells me how to parry, the one in the middle tells me how to do a plunging attack, and the one on the right confirms that forward and light attack is now used to perform a guard break instead of a kick.

    I look over the edge next to the middle tablet. There is a zombie down there in the perfect position to eat a plunging attack, and another on the right waiting to get me while I recover from that plunging attack.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-19-04-34-61.jpg

    My plunging attack does barely any more damage than a normal heavy attack would have, which is a serious downgrade. Because I don't get the instant kill I expected, I am now facing a pair of warrior zombies. I whip my dagger back and forth to keep them at bay. They get in a couple of hits when my stamina runs too low for a roll, but I still take them both out.

    A tablet in the room tells me how to do a jumping attack. There are two exits, one a fog gate and the other a wooden door.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-19-08-10-15.jpg

    I'm not quite sure where that fog gate will lead, and I'm not at all sure where that door leads. I take the fog gate first, as it's more likely to lead back outside, where I can regain my bearings.

    It opens to the bridge with that sconce I couldn't reach. The bridge spans the distance to the last tree, the one blocked by the petrified guy.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-19-09-55-22.jpg

    I run back to the wooden door. On the other side is a tiny room with a loot corpse. I pick up a Cracked Red Eye Orb. Invasion stuff, of no use right now.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-19-11-31-12.jpg

    I cross the bridge to the third tree. There is one more unlit sconce, and a short wall blocking access to the inside of the tree. I hear scrabbling and croaking below me, and sure enough there is one of those toad-like basalisks that spew clouds of cursing breath. That was the obvious explanation for the statue. But how can I get down there?

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-19-13-40-35.jpg

    There is more to this tree. I know there is a ledge running along the outside of if that leads down to the water and that pale beast, and a zombie guarding that ledge. Below me, across a gap that is probably too wide to jump, is zombie a guarding another unlit sconce.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-19-17-00-10.jpg

    This is a problem. I had figured that lighting all the sconces might be the key to getting in to those last areas, but now I see there's a sconce I can't reach until I'm already inside. Unsure of what to do, I drop down from the bridge, back to the starting area. After some consideration, I decide it's still worth trying to light the sconces I can reach.

    I ignite my torch and take it into the second tree. I light one of the sconces inside, then climb the ladder to the ledge with the 3 tablets. I am relieved to find that the torche is still lit when I get to the top. Thinking nothing of it, I drop down. And die. I didn't take falling damage when I landed on the zombie with my plunging attack, but without its soft body to break my fall, I break my ankles instead. It's a death so stupid that I decide I deserve it.

    When I respawn at the bonfire I take off my hood and I'm dismayed to find that I've become one of those green-fleshed walking corpses. My precious, smooth Humanity!

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    One bit of good news is that the sconces I lit before dying are all still blazing away.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-19-25-46-04.jpg

    While I look at them, I gain another 200 Souls. Are there two basalisks in that third tree, and one of them keeps dying? That has to be it, because none of these Hollowed zombies are worth 200 Souls.

    Fighting back to my corpse, I realize the problem I'm having with the dagger. It pushes enemies too far away to combo them. After the 3rd or 4th hit they are out of reach and I'm slicing at the air while they ready attacks. I'll have to be careful.

    I look back down on the basalisk. It's still there, and there's another one across the gap with the Hollowed zombie. So maybe there are 3 of them to start? The one across the gap is moving strangely, its AI walking in glitched out circles.

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    Even while I realize I'm probably wasting my time, I clear out the trees again, then run around lighting the sconces. As I climb up the ladder I'd kicked down from the first tree, I see that I missed a ledge I can drop down to. There is a loot corpse and another sconce there.

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    I drop down and pick up a Soul of a Nameless Soldier. I light the last sconce, and read the tablet, which informs me that I can light sconces with my torch. Great.

    All the sconces are light, and nothing happens. I run through both trees again to confirm I have lit every one in reach. The cursed statue is still blocking the final tree. I run down to the small room with the wooden door and hack at the walls looking for a secret doorway, but there isn't one.

    Options exhausted, I return to the bonfire. It's only then that I realize there is no option to level up. I have 1600 burning a hole in my pocket, and nothing I can do with them. I ponder burning my Effigy, and decide I may as well. I'll have to find out what the benefits of being human are in this game, if there are any changes from Dark Souls 1, and for now I'd rather look like a person instead of a snot statue.

    The game tells me I cannot burn the Effigy now. Oh well.

    There's only one thing for it. That pale beast and those basalisks got lucky. I'm moving on.

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    I pass a torch and walk into a narrow cave. Above me is white sky, all around are rock walls that turn this passage into a wind tunnel. As I move forward, the cave begins to light up, and as I turn a final corner I see a splash of real, honest sunlight. This first sunlight I have seen since arriving in this strange land.

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    If I am the moth, then this is my flame. I run the rest of the way.

    I am momentarily blinded as I reach the open air. This is Majula, where you can smell the sea and watch the sun set forever.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-04-19-58-55-10.jpg

    But that's for tomorrow.

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    Competitive Gaming and Writing Blog Updated in October: "Song (and Story) of the Day"
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    hacksworditalianranmaPLAMegaMekAistanZilla360Fleur de AlysSCREECH OF THE FARGGeth
  • FaranguFarangu I am a beardy man With a beardy planRegistered User regular
  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    As before, discussion and speculation of the future is fine and welcome, as long as it's kept within spoilers. Go nuts, because I won't be reading them.

    Competitive Gaming and Writing Blog Updated in October: "Song (and Story) of the Day"
    Anyone want to beta read a paranormal mystery novella? Here's your chance.
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  • Some_tall_guySome_tall_guy Registered User regular
    I'm currently working through Scholar now and I've made it up to the Iron Keep. I'm wondering what walls page will run into. Sentinals perhaps?

    LOL ZEALURKS
  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Guess I should update. I played some on Sunday afternoon, but I've been busy since, and there are a lot of notes and way more screenshots than I'm used to. Aiming to finish the next part tomorrow.

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Day 02
    Majula

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    First impressions count for a lot. There are sound, biologically encoded reasons for that. People live and die based on first impressions. Wars are fought, and fortunes are won and lost, all based on first impressions. I know the first impression I give off: that of a broken wretch clutching an old dagger as if it were the only thing between me and my personal oblivion. That reek of desperation that is only found in the terminally confused. I've only just arrived in Drangleic, so there's not a whole lot I can do about that.

    My first impression of Majula comes in a succinct physical metaphor. On a tree to my immediate right flies what may as well be the official flag of Majula, a tattered and stained rag, its true identity worn away by the burning sun and withering sea. It has forgotten whatever it was to begin with.

    Those general characteristics are pervasive, from the crumbling ruins to the dry, browned grass swaying gently as it chokes on the salty sea air. Even the heavens seem determined to confirm Majula's status as a fading relic. The sun here is locked in an eternal sunset, always at the point of giving up, but not yet able to go through with it.

    Which isn't the case for everyone, I expect. After crawling out of the Things Betwixt, anyone expecting a glorious return to the living world would be in for a rude surprise. As I begin to walk the cliff side path leading away from the Betwixt, I see there is a spot, almost directly across from my entrance into Majula, where someone, or something, knocked way the rickety wooden fence, giving obstruction-free access to the dark water far below. And also the spires of sharp rock that break the surface like that claws of some long dead god. I wonder what it would be like for an Undead to drown. Pulled under the water and feeling the water fill my lungs. It might not be so bad, the first time. I know it would be increasingly terrible a fate for each death that followed.

    On to more pleasant thoughts. Like the broken remnants of whatever great structures an great nation had built here in the past. Ahead is a stone arch, part of a greater wall that has been falling apart for what looks like at least decades, and is more likely centuries. The foundation on one side has sunk, setting the entire structure on an angle. No doubt the results of erosion. Either that, or the people that built it weren't as bright as they seem. Off in the distance is a strange monument that juts above the rest of the landscape here, a single structure that stands defiantly (and a little suggestively, if you ask me) above everything else. I wonder what keeps it standing while everything else collapses.

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    Through the arch I can see a wooden shack, and I know there's a bonfire down there as well, because I saw it when I first got here. Soft piano music plays as I get closer to what seems to pass for civilization round these parts. To the left of the arch is a dead body holding a Divine Blessing.

    There is a root-chocked passage in the rock, back in the direction I came from. Could it lead into the Things Betwixt? I'm tempted to explore it right away, but I should set myself up at the bonfire first. Maybe then I'll be able to level up.

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    I can see there is a path underneath me, running along the edge of the cliff. I go through the arch and turn right, following a stone wall toward the water. On the other side of the wall is another stone arch, leading into a passage below the cliff. The wind is especially fierce here, next to the water. I can see the horizon still, and it almost makes me uncomfortable.

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    The bonfire forgotten, I head inside, figuring this will lead me to the body I saw from above. In here, protected from the elements, the stone is holding up much better than outside. There's something cold about its artificiality, or maybe that's just the feeling of leaving direct sunlight again. In an old chest I find another Rusted Coin. Perhaps there will be enough of these that I'll end up actually using them.

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    There is a gentle downward slope to the passageway, leading in the direction of the sounds of running water. Soon, a heavy iron gate blocks my path, but I take a doorway in the left wall and find a door and a switch.

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    I pull the switch and the door retracts into the ceiling. I can see another switch on the other side, so I'm not at all surprised when the door gets to just over head height and then slams back down. I pull the switch again, then roll through as soon as the game decides the gap is big enough. I'm not worried, as it doesn't look like any sort of timing puzzle, and the game should give me enough time to make it to the other side. The door slams shut behind me.

    A little further and I'm not at all where I expected to be. I should have realized this would happen as soon as I saw the slope of the floor. I come out into a cave. Fogged light pours in through a hole high up in the ceiling, and a wooden bridge crosses to the other side of a gap cut through the rock by water. The sound of rushing water is all I can hear now.

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    On the other side of the bridge is a wooden plank forming a ramp down to another treasure chest. Inside is a Human Effigy. I can see there's a body in the shallow water below, but I don't think I could get back up here if I jumped down, so I decide to explore further before committing.

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    Another sloping tunnel leads back outside.

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    Forest of the Fallen Giants

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    Not at all where I expected to end up while looking for a dead body hanging off a nearby cliff.

    To my right is a shallow stream running out of the cave. That must be where the body I saw is, and how I would get out if I'd jumped for it. Shuffling slowly back and forth in the water is a big, grey brute that looks an awful lot like the thing I saw standing near the water in the Things Betwixt. In front of me, on a path running along the stream, is a Hollowed soldier dressed in faded brown armour.

    As I wonder about the meaning of a Forest of Fallen Giants and its connection to a Seed of a Tree of Giants, the Hollowed soldier rushes me and swings an axe toward my head like he means to chop me in half. I stab him a few times, and though he's tougher than the Hollowed I've faced so far, he's still not much. He goes down without trouble.

    Next, I approach the big guy. Closer now, I can see its tough, scaly hide and its short, flicking tail. It turns toward me, showing a single black eye. It's like a cross between a hippo and a cyclops, both things I wouldn't want to mess with.

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    It sees me as well, and moves to attack. I dodge a few clumsy swings of its arms, but I find that I've backed against the piles of moss-slicked boulders that run along the forest path. I can't retreat any further, and it lunges toward me, grabbing me with its stubby fingers. It lifts me up so that it can chew on my head. My health drops in great chunks, and though I try to struggle, I am dead before it drops me. Oops.

    I respawn all the way back in the Things Betwixt. I run back to recover my body, then decide that although I may be stupid, I am not stupid enough to charge off again without finally lighting the Majula bonfire.

    Majula

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    So here I am, standing on the outskirts of some shantytown. It's more evidence of life than I expected to find. Well, that's not true, since I didn't know what I would find. Still, I'm a little surprised. I rest at the bonfire. There is still no option to level up.

    I walk over to the nearest building, a low-slung stone affair with a heavy canvas awning. Next to a closed metal door, all hunched down and still, is a man with a sickly green complexion. He wears a thick apron and a belt of tools. He's as obvious a blacksmith as I've ever seen.

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    I talk to him and he confirms that he is a blacksmith. He tells me that he's left his tools inside this building, and then someone came along and locked it up while he was off having a stroll or something. He'd like to have the key to the door, and since I'm certain having a blacksmith around will be helpful, I agree to find it.

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    I look around the rest of this little community. Next to the smith's shack is a corpse holding a Soul of a Nameless Soldier and 3 Lifegems. Maybe I won't be getting an Estus flask after all? No, that doesn't seem right. The consumable item menu is denoted by an Estus flask symbol. Maybe I'll have to wait a while, or maybe it won't be as strong as it was in Dark Souls 1? Those seem more likely.

    A body curled up in a tent holds another Lifegem. I can hear a scratching sound when I'm near it.

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    I turn the corner of the building the tent is leaning against, passing near a big, circular pit that is where most other places would have their town square. I open the door to the building and find a cat scratching at the wall on the spot roughly where the dead body is.

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    I expect the cat to bolt now that the door is open, but instead it talks to me.

    Of course, being a cat, it doesn't look at me, or even stop scratching at the wall, while it talks. It calls itself Shalquior, and after mewling about me being Undead and this land being a slowly fading stain, it offers to sell me some stuff.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-16-55-08-58.jpg

    I check its wares. There are a few rings and a few general use consumables. The most interesting ring is the Ring of Whispers, which allows the wearer to hear the voices of nearby foes. It's supposed to be useful for locating hidden enemies, and perhaps other things as well. The description is vague enough to begin with, but I have to consider whether this is meant to be a multiplayer item. It's not tagged as online only, so maybe there are hidden enemies I should be on the lookout for. If that's even possible. I think I'll buy this ring at some point, just in case.

    There is also a Ring of the Evil Eye, which recovers some health for each enemy killed. This was about as useless an item as could be in Dark Souls 1. Does it being so readily available indicate that it's more or less useful now? I have no idea.

    The consumables have a few surprises. There are prism stones, which are apparently no longer dropped to check for falling safety, but left as markers? Why would I need such that? They are also pretty expensive, at 300 Souls a pop. More relevant to me are the Lloyd's Talismans for sale. These things are only used to counter Estus flasks, so that guarantees that I'll get a flask sooner or later.

    Shalquior will also allow me to break Covenants, though she offers none of her own. When I talk to her, she tells me about how this place is already dead, and that everything must waste away so that something new can be born. From the little of Drangleic I've seen, and from the intro video, this place has been wasting away for a long time, so when exactly should we expect this new growth? She gives me a few hints about other NPCs. An old man near the sea who can tell me more about Covanents, an odd stone nearby that will allow me to face more difficult challenges (an arena? some sort of hard mode?), and the four old ones, who are so ancient that nobody remembers their names. I assume that doesn't mean the sisters that I ran into on the way down to Drangleic, since I've already met them, and so would have everyone else that passes through this way.

    I go back outside to get a look at the pit.

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    The walls are smooth, and at first I think they must be some form of concrete. But the idea that these primitives could have formed and set something so massive is ridiculous. It's difficult to see from this distance and angle, but I'm guessing that the walls of the pit are shaped stone worn down by wind and rain. Which is still an immense engineering and construction effort, but more in line with the ruins I've seen. The only question is why would people put so much work into building this thing here? Seems like a lot of effort for a garbage dump.

    I crane my neck to see over the edge. There are platforms below, spanning the diameter of the pit. The first one is pretty far down, but I don't think it's out of survival range. It's the kind of thing I'd like to have a prism stone to test, though. Below the top platform are others, and they are closer together. It's likely that someone who survived the fall to the first platform could keep dropping down, though the dead body laying there isn't much of an endorsement.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-07-49-29.jpg

    It's then that I remember that the cat sells a ring that lowers falling damage. Perhaps I need to save up for that? Either way, since I can't even see the bottom of the pit, it would be pretty stupid to jump in now. Even if I lived through the first jump, I have no idea how many more there would be, whether I have enough Lifegems to make it to the bottom, and what I would do once I got there.

    I find a well. There is a heavy rock resting on the well's rim. It's tied to a rope that runs over the pulley and down into the mouth of the well. On a whim, I hit the rock, sending it over the edge. The rope goes tight, and soon there is a body hanging in front of me. I recover an Estus flask shard from the corpse, which is absolute confirmation that a flask is on the way. I'll admit that I haven't seen much in Majula that makes me want to stick around, and it looks a lot like I'm not the only one, but these guys are going to extremes. With so many heights to throw yourself off of, why choose something as painful as a hanging? Unless this wasn't a suicide.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-09-30-39.jpg

    Past the well, behind the largest of the four stone buildings, I am jumped by a trio of little pigs, or moles, or pigmoles. I'm not sure. They are immediately hostile, as if I were invading their turf, and charge me in a group. As small as they are, I have a lot of trouble hitting them with my dagger, and even when I do manage to land a hit, they take such a small amount of damage that it hardly seems worth it.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-12-03-25.jpg

    I back away, and they keep after me. I circle around the pit, putting it between me and the creatures. They are unwilling to simply throw themselves over the edge, which marks an improvement over the AI in Dark Souls 1. My only recourse is to run back to the bonfire and rest, resetting their positions.

    In another building, this one opposite the blacksmith's pad, I find a bunch of basic, but well-maintained, armour and weapons. There is a man with the complexion of a burn victim sitting on the floor, even though there's a stool right there.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-16-07-28.jpg

    I talk to him, and he tells me his name is Maughlin. He stammers and hesitates, as if talking to people is a stepping stone toward an anxiety attack. He offers to sell me armour, claiming that he needs the business, though I don't see what for. I don't imagine he's paying rent here, and I can't see him balling up his Souls and taking them to the local Western Union equivalent to send back home to his family. Not that it's any of my business.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-16-21-74.jpg

    Maughlin is selling a trio of shields: a small buckler, a medium kite shield, and a heavy tower shield. That about covers the bases. With my meagre 6 strength I couldn't make much use of the shields even if I could afford them. He also sells 3 sets of basic armour, one of which belongs to the Volgen Falconers. According to the item description, the Volgen are notoriously timid, which explains why Maughlin is such a sap. Though I could buy and wear a piece or two of the armour, I'm still saving my Souls for a level up. I chat with Maughlin a while, and he tells me he is indeed from Volgen. He complains that the Blue Sentinels made doing business there too difficult, which is why he packed up and came to Drangleic. As he is the first human that I have I've met here that will talk to me, I linger. He starts to ramble a bit, seemingly confused about his reasons for staying in this place when it's so clearly bad for business. I have to wonder why he thought there would be any business here in the first place. For a guy like Maughlin, the way he justifies his presence in Drangleic is suspicious. How long has he been here, for a start? I get the impression that he couldn't leave if he wanted to, and that whatever brought me here is the same thing that's keeping him from leaving.

    There is one final building in town, and it's the largest of them all. It stands opposite the cat's place and in front of the pit.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-24-04-69.jpg

    It's locked up tight. Those pig things are hanging around its side, though, and could be guarding a way in. I decide to give them another shot, and I want to test a theory. When that hippo-clops had attacked me in the forest, my controller froze up. It happened again when I was fighting the little pig things. I let one of them attack me, and sure enough my controller freezes up again. I go into the option menu and set controller vibrations all the way to zero. I let another piggy hit me, and this time my controller keeps its connection. That seems to have fixed my problem.

    Well, one problem. I still have these pigs to deal with. I decide my only option is to do the same to them as I did with the rats. I put the knife away and start to smash at the pigs with my fists, big 2-handed clubbing swings. I can get 3 hits in and then roll away before they can retaliate, but they have unpredictable reach on their attacks and I take plenty of hits anyway. After a couple of tries I do manage to kill them all. They're worth a pathetic 20 Souls each. As if that weren't lame enough, there's nothing in the alley.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-32-26-41.jpg

    I rest at the bonfire again. It's time to check out that big stone obelisk. I walk around it a bit, checking the cliff edge for more bodies, and that's when I see a slim figure in a dark green cloak standing next to dead tree and staring out into the sea.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-34-01-11.jpg

    I talk to her. She asks if I'm the monarch. She tells me that I need to see King Vendrick, the one who made Drangleic. Finally, a quest. She also gives me an Estus flask. So, finally that as well. A message pops up to inform me that I can now level up with the power of the Emerald Herald. I talk to her some more, and she tells me that I need to seek stronger Souls, with there being four in particular that I'll need to find. She says I need to hurry and restore hope, which may just be revealing the central conflict at play here. Order versus chaos. Do I take the mantle of the King and restore Drangleic, or do I allow it to finally rest in peace, so that something else might replace it. Maybe that's the issue, that this place is in a magical stasis of sorts, and needs a conscious will to push it in either direction.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-37-00-98.jpg

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    But that's for later. After bugging her a few more times, she asks about my Estus shard. A menu appears. Looks like I level up with her, not the bonfire. Shouldn't be an issue, though, if I can always warp back here. She takes my shard and powers up the flask. I'm not sure if that means more charges or more healing. The flask only has two charges now, after the power up, and is not listed as an Estus flask +1. The bonfire warp menu also listed a strength for the bonfires, so what's that about? Will there be Fire Keeper's Souls? When I find another shard I'll have a better idea.

    She talks for a while longer, telling me about other NPCs. There is a blue knight who has lost hope hanging out near a tower. The cat is an ancient being with a bunch of wisdom. Some more general information about Undead and Hollowed.

    I open the level up menu and get my first glimpse at how these new stats interact.

    Instead of every stat giving some resistances across the board, each stat now corresponds with specific resistances. Strength gives more physical defence, for example. Another change is that every stat gives a token amount of extra health, which is nice. I may be able to ignore Vigour altogether.

    Adaptability is the catch-all stat, as I expected. It gives large bonuses to most resistances, as well as improving agility and even poise. (Though only a small amount, with the three points I can put in Adaptability not giving me any extra poise.) Endurance improves stamina and poise, Attunement improves cast speed, curse resistance, and agility (to a much lesser degree than Adaptability). The other magic stats, Intelligence and Faith, also raise elemental resistances, and also elemental damage. Dexterity raises poison and bleed resistance as well as physical defence. That physical defence must feed into my armour bonuses.

    There is a lot to chew on, and it's still tough because of the nebulous nature of all those substats. In Dark Souls 1 things like bleed resistance were pointless, because there were so few enemies that caused bleeding. How often will I run into curses, or poison? Not only that, but what do those numbers even mean? Higher is better, that much is clear, but how high is enough? Most important, how will armour figure into the equation? Probably a lot.

    My instinct is to ignore Vigour for now. Everything gives some HP, even if it's only a small amount, and I beat Dark Souls 1 with relatively low HP, having a Vitality of only 20. As long as I'm not getting killed in one hit I'm doing fine. I will likely ignore the magic stats as well. Keep things simple and focus on known quantities and hard numbers until I have more information. I know I need Strength and Dexterity if I want to use weapons and shields, and that's where my priorities should be. I might also leave Vitality alone. Having more stamina is nice, but it takes a whole bunch of it to give me an extra attack or roll. I could dump a dozen points into Vitality and not gain anything tangible.

    Since I don't have access to any weapons yet, I'll leave those stats alone. I decide for 2 points in Adaptability, because I do suspect it to be important and it raises the most numbers. Who doesn't like raising the most numbers? I also take 1 point in Vitality, which raises my equipment load. My initial level is so low that each stat point is cheap.

    I then forget to take a screenshot.

    The Emerald Herald slaps me with some light, and I'm ready to move on.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-37-23-03.jpg

    That big old obelisk, the one thrusting majestically into the coastal sky, is somehow a tower in the mind of these NPCs. At least, that's how the Herald described it. Maybe they're afraid of it and also lacking proper depth perception. If you stood at a distance, one eye closed, and squinted for a while, it might come off as a tower instead of a slab of shaped rock. This thought comes only after I've chatted up the knight who sits, head in hands, at the base of the thick stone.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-17-57-38-54.jpg

    In a droning voice he speaks of how I am Undead now, and how life in Majula is about as close to normal as I'll find. A talking cat, a whiny armour seller, and a pack of vicious wild mole-pigs isn't anywhere near my definition of normal, but it's possible the rest of Drangleic is even worse off. This guy calls himself Saulden, and tells me that I must have come here because I heard it was possible to break the curse of the Undead. I suppose that's one interpretation of the information I've the have given me. Well, he's here to tell me breaking the curse isn't possible. Good for him. There follows another spiel about the Undead and Hollowed. So far, there is a lot more general information in this game than the last, though that could be simply the number of NPCs I have interacted with.

    After all his complaining is over, he asks me if I'd like to join the Blue Sentinels. Which is when I realize he must be the blue knight, and that makes this monument a tower. According to Maughlin, the Blue Sentinels are complete assholes. Then again, according to Maughlin, setting up shop in a place primarily known for how nobody lives there anymore is a sound business decision, so. The HP boosting ring I'm given for joining the Covenant tells me the Blue Sentinels is less the fantasy Yakuza than it is a bunch of adventuring hippies who have decided to watch each others backs. Hell, the symbol that pops up next to my health and stamina, where my Humanity should be, is a blue leaf, which isn't exactly intimidating.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-08-55-27.jpg

    Covenants must be more important and obvious this time around for them to have a dedicated spot in the UI. I get a little figure in a red box underneath my stamina as well, which must be the maximum HP buff. It's only about 20 points, but that's better than nothing and it's not as if I have any other rings to wear.

    I talk to Saulden a little more. He teaches me the welcome gesture, complains a bit, and then coughs up information about likely destinations. There is a forest of giants nearby that once held a great fortress. Seems obvious enough where that is. There is also Heide's Tower of Flame, where the blue acolytes hang out. Are they also related to the Blue Sentinels? The way to the tower has been block by a gate that is in turn controlled by a contraption Saulden can't figure out. He also mentions the pit in the centre of town, saying I can't get down there without a ladder. Literally? I doubt that. Saulden seems like the type to tell me I'd need a ladder to get a cookie from a high shelf, and so not to bother. Some general information on soapstone messages and summoning signs, on Fire Keepers and bonfires, and that's all he has for me. I leave him alone.

    At the rear of the obelisk (I'm not calling it a tower, and frankly I am now suspect about Heide's Tower of Flame. If I get there and it's just a stack of bricks next to a few dudes wearing blue robes and holding torches I won't be that surprised.) is a worn out message. I can't read it.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-00-20-96.jpg

    At the front is a less worn message. It tells me that there have been 12 global deaths. Is it only counting mine, or also ones that happened while I was online? It's possible I died a dozen times fighting those rats. Having a running death counter is a neat feature. I imagine I'll be running it up pretty high, as I tend to throw lives away for any slight chance of learning something, provided I can recover my body.

    The Victor's Stone is at the top of a ridge running next to the entrance to an underground tunnel system. This is the strange stone I've heard about.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-15-51-05.jpg

    I kneel before it, and a message asks me if I'd like to enter a Covenant, warning me that it will be an arduous path. That's more appealing than a group of goody-goodies that I will never meet because I play offline. Before joining, I run to the cat and check out its Covenant option, hoping it might give me some information on the one I've already joined. It's only a ranking list, informing me that I'm a rank 0 Blue Sentinel. I abandon that Covenant, confirm that the ring still works, and then return to the Victor's Stone. I kneel again, and there are not one, not two, but three confirmation pop-ups before I can join the new Covenant, each warning about how how hard this is going to be. I wonder what the big deal is if there are at least two ways to break the Covenant within 15 seconds walking distance. Anyway, I am now a member of the Company of Champions.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-22-53-90.jpg

    I get myself a Champion's Tablet. It's an online scoreboard for who has delivered the most awestones. What is an awestone? How do you get an awestone? Beats the hell out of me. A corpse next to the Stone gives me 5 Homeward Bones.

    At the bottom of some steep stairs I find what is probably the contraption that has been stymieing Saulden.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-23-52-89.jpg

    It's a circular room designed to spin around. A central pillar holds a button or something. On my right is an open doorway, on my left a metal grate blocking off a stone wall, and beside that a window leaking torchlight. I can see a loot corpse through that window, and the entire setup is familiar enough. Activating the mechanism will spin the room around, the metal grate will block up the open doorway, and then another route will be available. I examine the button to confirm I can't use it. I'll need to find a part or a key.

    Through the open doorway is a curving set of stairs leading further down. It's not even dark, so I feel safe enough continuing.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-26-09-46.jpg

    At the bottom of the stairs I find a metal box. Inside is a crimson parma, a type of small, round shield.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-26-40-36.jpg

    It only has 75% physical block, but it also only requires 6 strength to use. I put it on, and now I can block and parry.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-29-05-10.jpg

    The next room has shallow water and a floodgate. The entrance to a sewer system, I guess. A ring on the wall next to the gate should allow me to open it up.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-29-58-98.jpg

    I pull the chain, let the floodgate open completely. It doesn't slam back down again, but does close after a few seconds. I open it again, then hop down and check the other side. There is another chain there, so it's safe to continue. It's not that I believe the game would trap me (and how could it, since I have multiple ways to get back to the last bonfire?) but more that I'm still in an exploring mode and don't want to commit to a big puzzle to get back.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-32-02-28.jpg

    A nearby body hold an Undead Soul and a broken thief sword. Compared to my dagger, this weapon does more poise damage, less counter-attack damage, and takes 9 strength to use. Oh well.

    I keep moving, down another narrow passage. There hasn't been any signs of enemies so far. In fact, this is one of the more pleasant sewers I've been though, and it's better maintained than anything above ground. I wonder why the people up there don't move in. It's not like it's even an active sewer system, so the smell can't be that bad.

    Heide's Tower of Flame

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-35-29-13.jpg

    Not at all what I expected to find at the end of the tunnel, after being told it was difficult to get here, and Saulden complaining about the the mechanism blocking the way. Could be he's a lazy whiner, could be he was looking for a back door. I don't know. He's the Blue Sentinel, so I suppose he's the expert.

    Blue is the dominant colour here. From the deep, foreboding blue of the water all around, to the blue roofs on the few intact buildings that poke up out of the ruins, and even the muddy grey-blues in the cloudy sky. There is a sense of a more cataclysmic ruin here compared to the general rundown state of Majula. Something bad happened here, something worse than neglect. The landscape hasn't crumbled over time, the sea has not been eroding it. A force shattered and flooded this place.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-36-37-80.jpg

    There is also the white of the arrow-riddled knight sitting nearby. Further along a path of stone that has resisted the elements I can see a pair of statues, and between them a big knight. The statues have the features of, what, giant birdmen? Am I going to fight bird knights? Below and to the right of the statues I can see the telltale glimmer of a bonfire waiting to be lit.

    I try to communicate with the white knight. There is no response. I can see that he's alive. I decide to leave him alone. Maybe I need something else before he'll talk.

    There is another of the white knights past the big guy. I can see that as I get closer to the statues. He is also sitting. So they aren't unique. Will they become hostile?

    I walk over to the giant knight. He's holding a massive shield in his left hand and his right hand clutches a sword that I doubt I could lift with both hands in my current state. He swings it around without trouble, and when I see an opening I poke at him with my dagger. Only, he's not done swinging his sword, and I get chopped in the face, losing more than half my health. I back off and drink from my Estus flask. Because I am pretty stupid, I decide this is the perfect time to brush up on my parrying skills. I have a shield after all. I wait for the next attack, hit the block button instead of the parry button, and then get hit with two big slashes. I try to actually block the third, but I no longer have enough health to survive even the reduced damage, and I die. As I fall to the ground I notice that the white knight shows up as a valid target.

    I respawn in Majula, with the Emerald Herald standing next to the bonfire. I'm pretty sure my maximum health has dropped again, but in the status menu my health is the same as it was before I died. Could be the reduction doesn't show up in the stat screen. I run all the way back to the big knight, grab my body, then try to parry again. I hit the right button this time, but do not successfully parry any of the attacks. I die again. When I respawn I know for sure that my maximum health is dropping each time I die. I wonder how I restore it.

    This time I grab my body and run down some stairs to the bonfire, where I rest before the knight can get close.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-44-25-74.jpg

    In the back of my mind is that root-covered path in Majula. I should check it out before going any further. But this guy killed me, twice, and that demands reprisal.

    In the more open space past the statues I am able to circle the knight and watch his patterns. Three attacks, ending in either a horizontal slash or a vertical slam, and occasionally a followup stab.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-47-30-90.jpg

    Holding my little dagger in both hands, I use the heavy double attack. It's the most damage I can muster, which still isn't much. It takes a lot for the knight to go down. I take bad hits when I get anxious, or when I dodge wrong. I'm sure they should be misses, but it's not up to me. I'll have to get used to the stricter timing, especially if my agility is low. After a couple of tries, the knight goes down. I gain 400 Souls.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-51-42-91.jpg

    I walk over to the other white knight. Still not talking. Do they even notice me? Would an NPC be hanging out right in the open, next to hostile enemies?

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-53-15-21.jpg

    Next to him are some stairs leading to the next tier of this central arena. Up there is a knight with a massive mace. Somehow, this makes him even more dangerous than the sword knight. I think I've read his overhead pounds, but when I move close to start slashing him he quickly swings the mace back and forth before I can recover from my attacks. I die again.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-53-42-39.jpg

    I respawn at the nearby bonfire and recover my body, then get some distance to survey the scene again. There are at least 3 more of the big knights in sight, and who knows how many I can't see. They are the dominant enemy here, and all I have is my butter knife. As much as I'm not phased by poor odds, I do still have some sense. It's probably not worth it to keep going here, especially when I have another path to explore.

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Majula

    After warping back to the Majula bonfire, I climb back to the root path. I duck through a short tunnel and find myself in a walled area.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-18-58-56-14.jpg

    I have found some more ruins, these with the tinge of late summer. Things are greener here, and calmer. Through a hole in the wall and I'm on a path to sunlit ruins. The neglect here seems less spiteful than in Tower of Flame, less malignant than in Majula. I can see glint of some strange metal ahead.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-00-08-99.jpg

    I cross under an old arch and run into another resting knight. He holds a rather large sword made of some metal that almost glows.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-00-49-54.jpg

    I speak to him. He doesn't offer a name, but instead complains about a statue up ahead, claiming it is creepily human and blocking his way. I know already that I'm going to find another petrified traveller. A nearby body holds 3 Lifegems and 3 Homeward Bones.

    There is a building, and I don't see a statue immediately. There are a bunch of barrels, though, and the sound of a basalisk gurgling nearby.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-04-40-68.jpg

    Thinking nothing of it, I roll into the barrels to break them apart. Two of them are not the same colour as the others, but like I said, I thought nothing of it. I should have, though, because they explode when I hit them, sending me flying as my health drops.

    The previously calm setting bursts into frenzied activity. All around I hear the sounds of growling and angry bashing against wood. A door nearby explodes, smashed down by a ghoul with a gaping, raw face. Soon the area is swarming with at least half a dozen of the ugly things. I stab at the nearest ghoul, doing almost no damage, of course, and then back out of the building as I try to take a drink from my flask to recover the damage from the explosion.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-03-10-59.jpg

    It's no good. They come swarming at me, leaping onto me in pairs, and I die.

    I respawn with even lower health. My hunch is that turning human will fix this--after all, I had low max health when I first landed in the Things Betwixt, and gained a full bar once I created my character and became fully human for a while. Losing health with each death must be a representation of slipping further toward a Hollowed state. The only problem with that theory is that I can't test it. The game will not let me burn any of the effigies I've found.

    Still, I'm exploring. I expect a few death, and I'm not worried.

    Back at the building and I recover my corpse. There are doors here made of flimsy wood. I can see those things inside, brown shapes huddled in corners, or pacing back and forth. The one on the left is holding a glowing green staff.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-07-30-28.jpg

    It notices me and starts to bash at the door. I let it knock the wood away, then kill it, pushing it back into the corner of its small cell by stabbing over and over with my dagger. It has a fair amount of HP, but can't put up a fight on its own. I can barely stand to look at it even as I fight. The blotchy brown skin, its fleshy, open maw, and that distended belly flopping about like an extra limb, all work together to make a repulsive creature. A corpse in the same cell holds 3 Lloyd's Talismans.

    There is only one of these ghouls in each cell, yet a bunch of them attacked me before. I look up and around, and see there are other cells above me, out of reach. The sound of the explosion must have drawn them all out at once.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-11-37-16.jpg

    There is a heavy door at the other end of the room. As I approach it I notice a switch in the wall next to it, and also the stone woman who is stuck trying to the switch. I hadn't noticed her earlier because she blends in with the shadows from a distance. I can hear a basalisk on the other side of the door. There's nothing I can do for her, though, and no way to progress here while she's in the way.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-11-58-31.jpg

    Before leaving, I open the other cell on this floor and kill the ghoul inside. It lands a blow on me, cutting into me with glowing green claws. I am nearly poisoned, but I kill it before it hits me again. Its cell is empty.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-13-30-03.jpg

    Maybe I could trigger the explosive barrels again and draw the other ghouls out, but since I can't reach their cells to check for loot, there's no point.

    Back at the bonfire I consider my options. The Forest of Fallen Giants and the Tower of Flame. Which is more likely to have the blacksmith's key? That's when I remember there's a pit in the centre of town.

    I decide to spend my Souls before moving on. I take a point in strength, because I will need basic strength and dexterity to use new gear, so I may as well start now.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-19-00-87.jpg

    I walk to the edge of the pit, line myself up with the first platform below, fall, and then die. Either I don't have enough maximum health anymore, or I do need that ring from the cat. Could I have made it with full health?

    I grab my body and take a final stroll around the town, looking for anything I may have missed before striking out for good. In the armourer's place I find a ladder leading into a loft area. Along with some dressers, shelves, and books, there is a chest. Inside the chest is a titanite shard. Using them can upgrade basic equipment up to +3, but I'll need the blacksmith before I can do that.

    Back up the cliff to get a better look at the body I saw hanging over the edge. I can see there is a path down there, next to the entrance into the Forest.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-28-41-08.jpg

    From the bottom, though, it's apparent that the way is blocked from this side and must be accessed from elsewhere.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-29-53-35.jpg

    I return to the cave and the dead body in the river. I walk the plank down to the chest, step over the side, and fall down to my death again. There is a gap of deep, deep water. I go back and jump for it, covering the distance easily. There is a lot more horizontal distance to the jumps in this game, and possibly more vertical as well.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-33-57-79.jpg

    My maximum health is now around half of what it should be. I have to be more careful from now on.

    I pick up an Undead Soul and another Homeward Bone from the corpse, then continue to the mouth of the cave.

    Forest of Fallen Giants

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-34-36-22.jpg

    I trudge through the running water, skirting around the hippo-clops. I fight the Hollowed soldier, and this time he's got friends. One of them carries an axe, and when he gets behind me and takes a good chunk out of my back I come close to dying. After fending them all off and flasking up, I take a look around. I figure there must be a bonfire around, like the one at the entrance to the Tower of Flame. I pick up a Hollowed infantry armour from one of the dead soldiers, but it's somehow even worse than the rags I'm wearing.

    The bonfire is across the river. I cross the water and then rest up.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-36-45-18.jpg

    I try again to burn an Effigy. I still can't, and I wonder if it has something to do with my Soul Memory. But that doesn't make any sense, since that keeps raising every time I pick up Souls, even between deaths. It doesn't seem possible to catch up to it.

    That the Hollowed here are easy to kill is an sign that I'm moving in the right direction for starting out. This makes me want to go back to the Tower of Flame, but I tell myself it's more likely that I'll find something to do with becoming human again here, and probably the blacksmith's key, if I haven't missed it in town. Those are both things I should have early on, so they should be here rather than a more difficult area.

    I cross the river and fight through a small gauntlet of Hollowed. Some have swords, some have axes, some have only their hands. One, overlooking the river from a ramp, fires arrows at me with a bow. I cut the soldiers down one by one, getting closer to the archer all the time. By the time I reach him I am low on health, and as I close the distance he pulls a knife. I stab the archer, but there is another Hollowed with an axe right behind me. I have no idea where he came from, but have no time to worry about that. I finish the archer just in time to roll away from a leaping axe attack. I turn and stab the final Hollowed, and then take a moment to flask up.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-49-51-75.jpg

    The archer was guarding a weird hollow knot of old wood and roots, and there is a ladder inside leading further up.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-51-54-85.jpg

    At the top of the ladder is an open arena around a moss crusted old tree. There are bodies everywhere, and only a few of them glow with loot. Every step I take in here is going to wake up a Hollowed soldier.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-52-31-26.jpg

    I loot a corpse on my right and pick up a green blossom, which boosts stamina recovery. I then approach the closest non-loot body. Sure enough, a Hollowed soldier pops up. I stab it in the back, killing it in one shot. I begin to clear out the Hollowed in small groups.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-19-54-46-53.jpg

    I am making good progress, and I even get some item drops, picking up another Hollowed chest armour and a broken sword. As I circle around the tree, I notice that there's another Hollowed soldier high above the arena and wearing distinct armour while holding a 2-handed sword.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-10-53-31.jpg

    I get closer to the tree, and the guy above throws a firebomb at me. The edge of the explosion sends me reeling, just as another axe Hollowed rushes from out of nowhere to finish the job. I die.

    This makes me glad. This route is obviously meant to be the more natural progression through the early part of the game. While I am all for taking on the greatest challenge I can find, I am also aware that I can potentially create another situation like I did in Dark Souls 1 by going through the Catacombs first. By the time I finish the more difficult area I am too strong and too experienced to get anything out of the places I should have gone before. If I can die here, then it's good enough for now, and I will be able to have an experience more in line with how the game intends me to play.

    During my next fight I use a Lifegem instead of a flask charge. I can still move around a bit while I pull it out and crush it, and though the healing is slower (and probably less than a flask charge, but since my maximum health is so low it's impossible to be sure), the trade-off might be worth considering. The flask requires me to stand still for a second while I drink from it, but also seems to recover faster.

    I make it up to the ladder, then through most of the arena there before a message pops up informing me that my dagger is in danger of breaking. Even as the firebombs fall from the sky, I have to put the dagger away and continue the fight with my fists and shield. I try holding the shield in both hands and smacking at a Hollowed soldier, but the damage is even less than my punches. I put it away, and punch my way to the end. After a few more hooks and uppercuts, I have cleared the area of living Hollowed.

    Now I need to find my way up to the last guy, the one who has been tormenting me with bombs. He won't move, his AI keeps him in place so he doesn't jump over the edge at me, even if he is in an aggressive posture.

    From the ladder I took to get up here there is the tree ahead, and a fog gate on the left. On the right is an opening to a cliff overlooking the river. There is a ladder here built into the side of an old tower.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-12-46-16.jpg

    I can hear growling as I get closer to the ladder. As I climb, I realize there's someone trying to get down. A boot kicks me in the face, and I punch back at it.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-13-44-56.jpg

    As I ready another punch, the boot kicks me in the face and I lose my grip on the ladder, falling to the ground. Fortunately, I am not far up and I don't take any damage. I am still nearly dead from the kicks, though, so I back away and heal before the Hollowed gets to the bottom. Then I punch him until he stops moving.

    I can see a body below, on a flat area above the river. Maybe I could jump down to it? The fall looks pretty high, but the area behind and around it has the distinct look of background, so I don't see another way over to the body.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-15-37-68.jpg

    Priorities. I climb up the ladder. At the top are some stairs winding around the tower and leading to where the final soldier stands. He looks bigger and tougher than the others now that I'm closer.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-17-20-84.jpg

    A body nearby holds a Soul of a Nameless Soldier.

    The last Hollowed waits for me, silent and still. He's bringing a sword to a fist fight, which hardly seems fair, but I suppose at this point he doesn't know any better. I move toward him, and he throws a bomb at me. I dodge past it and try to get behind him for a critical hit. I punch him once, and he falls over the edge, landing with a thud below, but not dying. My camera goes wild, almost sending me over the edge after him, but I back away and lose the lock. Instead of running for the ladder to get back into position, the Hollowed stays in place. I know I wouldn't survive that fall, unless I landed a plunging attack, but under the circumstances that's a bigger gamble than I'm willing to take.

    I take the ladder back down and walk up behind him.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-20-04-31.jpg

    I punch him in the spine, and as he stands I lay into him. He is stronger than the others but neither of us have any poise, so the best defence here is a relentless offence. He chucks another bomb when I back away to recover stamina, then I close in to finish the job. He drops nothing. I climb back to the camping ledge and jump across a small gap to loot a corpse, finding an Undead Soul and a short sword, which I can't use.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-22-53-98.jpg

    When I get to the bottom of the ladder again I take a minute to sort through my loot. Though I can't use the short sword, I now have a two busted up straight swords that I can equip. I also have a pair of Hollowed boots, which are better than what I'm wearing. I switch the damaged dagger out for one of the broken swords. I'll miss that double stab, but it looks like I'll have a bit more range now.

    I then make the jump down to the corpse above the river. I take minimal damage in the fall, and pick up an Undead Soul and a pack of throwing knives. I hop down a series of rocks and get back to the river without further injury

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-32-16-73.jpg

    I get the bright idea of throwing knives at the hippo-clops. They do a surprising amount of damage, much more than I could do with the meagre weapons I own. It stomps after me, chasing me all the way to the ladder, where I manage to escape.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-34-13-15.jpg

    When it leaves, I start throwing knives again. I have 3 left, and I'm pretty sure it will be enough for the kill. Just then, the hippo-clops puts on a burst of speed. I turn to run, and learn the hard way that there is a significant start-up time for such an action in this game. It lands a meaty fist against my side, which staggers me, and then thumps me in the skull to finish me off before I can do anything about it.

    I'm disappointed less by the death than I am by the loss of my knives. Not that I would be likely to use them otherwise, but I don't have enough of them now to kill the hippo-clops. I almost had it.

    By now it's apparent that I'm not going to lose any more than half of my maximum health from deaths. That's a bit liberating.

    I fight through the Hollowed again with the broken sword. Although it does decent damage and isn't too slow, it's fragile. Before long, I have to switch to the second broken sword, and by the time I've killed the bomb thrower and cleared the area, both broken swords are out of commission, so that I am once again reduced to punching the last few Hollowed to death. The dagger is back at full strength, so I switch over to that. I might have to raise my stats so that I don't run out weapons during a fight.

    I now stand before the fog gate.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-49-05-12.jpg

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    On the other side is a tunnel of ropy roots burrowing deep into the ground.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-49-15-33.jpg

    At the other end of the tunnel is a broken wall. Old dirt piles against it, the bones and armour of fallen soldiers a testament to a desperate battle in the distant past.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-49-51-43.jpg

    I turn left and peak around a corner into a long hallway. There are growling sounds in here, and I know Hollowed are close. As I move the camera to see what's ahead I see one of them standing nearby, axe in hand. He sees me as well, and leaps in my direction, swinging. I stab out with my dagger and we trade hits. A poor decision on my part, as my low health means I can't afford to give away free damage. I do survive the fight, and then use one of my Lifegems to heal. I'll have to depend on these now that I'm out of flask charges.

    Standing next to the broken wall I can see there is a room with another Hollowed.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-52-49-21.jpg

    He is facing that entrance, so I think I'm clever when instead of jumping through the hole I go back down the hall so that I can sneak up behind him. When I near the door to that room the Hollowed comes charging out at me, teeth gnashing, and he's got a friend with him. I back away. Taking on multiple enemies with my dagger requires careful positioning. Getting close enough to stab one Hollowed means I am also within swinging distance of the other. I eat an axe hit, but I do take them both down. The corner here is becoming choked with their bodies.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-54-45-59.jpg

    Back in the room, and I'm looking down at one of the discarded armour pieces, trying to identify it, when a Hollowed attacks me. It must have been hiding in here, laying on the ground behind some debris. I need to be more careful. After killing it I pop another Lifegem.

    From behind a skewed bookshelf comes the glow of an item. I break the shelf down and pick up 20 wooden bolts. I don't have a crossbow, so they're useless.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-55-59-73.jpg

    Past that room, the hall opens up into a wide alcove. I can see there is another of the bomb throwers hiding on my right, and a Hollowed soldier on the other side of a stack of crates. Seeing the bomb thrower from this angle I recognize the piles of strange armour I've been seeing in here. The distinct design of their breastplates, the flowing lines coming together to form a fluid star. Many of these Hollowed soldiers died here, fighting something.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-56-50-20.jpg

    I kill both of the Hollowed.

    Soon I come to a hole in what must be the outer wall of this fortress. Wooden scaffolding runs along the wall, next to the hole. I can hear the birds overhead as I loot a Lifegem from a body lying there.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-58-24-72.jpg

    At the end of the hallway are stairs that up to the outside. I can see an archer standing at the top, and on a giant root hanging over the stairs is another bomb thrower.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-20-59-09-83.jpg

    It's fairly obvious what I need to do here. Armed with only a dinky melee weapon, I will have to close the distance on that archer, which means running up the stairs. As long as I don't stop on the way up I should be able to avoid the bombs, and from there I'll have to assess my surroundings and find the best way to kill each of the ranged attackers while avoiding the other. Of course, chances are pretty good that there will be other Hollowed up there as well, but I'm better off fighting up there than on the stairs. I can't survive those firebombs.

    I sprint to the top of the stairs, past the archer, and into the open. I'm on a wide roof with low parapets running along its sides. I dodge past the archer as he pulls a knife, dodge again to avoid a bomb. A Hollowed soldier is coming at me. I back off, testing the edges of this area and making sure I've found all the threats. An arrow comes out of nowhere and catches me in the shoulder. I lock on to the nearby Hollowed soldier, and another arrow hits me. These aren't the work of the archer at the top of the stairs, who is holding his knife. I'm still in my hitstun from the arrow when the soldier jumps at me, killing me before I can block or roll away.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-11-52-94.jpg

    I think I understand now why there are more slots for holding weapons than the last game. Fighting back to my body requires careful rationing of the few weapons I have, and I should probably start avoiding some enemies to save on durability. I try to make the most of my attacks, going for more critical hits, and I find out that it's possible to miss those. There is a short starting animation now, like a throw attack in a fighting game, and I reach out toward a Hollowed soldier's back only to find that by the time I've initiated the critical attack he has turned to face me, preventing the follow through. By leaving of the Hollowed in the big arena alone before entering the fortress I save a lot of durability, giving me an extra weapon to keep fighting with as I progress.

    Back at the stairs I run with my shield held up. At the top I recover my body as a firebomb lands close enough to do damage. I grab a buckler from a corpse at the far end of the roof, and as I turn to face my enemies an arrow jams into my face, doing much more damage than the others and staggering me for a full second. A followup attack from the soldier puts my health so low I can't even see it, but somehow I'm still alive. I roll forward, past the bomb thrower, and fall to the stairs. I quickly take a drink from my flask. The soldier charges down the stairs after me, and I kill him.

    Now it's only the archer and the bomb thrower. That's manageable. At the top of the stairs I start fighting the archer. Arrows are coming at me from above and behind, and now that things are less frantic I think I can pinpoint the sniper, at least enough to avoid him. I kill the archer, take a hit from another firebomb. Back down the stairs to heal up, then outside to kill the bomb thrower.

    I am out of flask charges now, and down to my final 3 Lifegems, but at least I've found the sniper. He stands on some nearby battlements, completely out of reach.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-12-47-18.jpg

    I move out of his firing range and look around. I can see the giant roots of the trees that choked this great fortress to death. The entire area is frozen in that final struggle of man and nature, and in my post-battle reverie I can watch the clock reverse, all the way back to whatever seeds exploded like bombs to cause this. The aftermath, so many years later, is more than a little creepy.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-14-22-15.jpg

    There is a ladder nearby leading to a higher tier of the fortress's walls.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-14-26-38.jpg

    I climb, looking over the top to make sure everything is clear, and then pull myself up. Nothing attacks me. There is a break in the parapet where I could drop down to the scaffolding that runs along the fortress walls.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-15-31-62.jpg

    It might be possible to get all the way down to the central courtyard, and the glimmer of loot corpses below suggests that eventually I should. But only after I've checked for other paths. I have not forgotten my failed attempt to get into the pit of Majula.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-16-31-67.jpg

    At the far end of the roof is a loot corpse. A Hollowed with a big sword attacks me when I get close. I kill him and then pick up 5 Witching Urns. Magic bombs. In distance I can see an emblem carved into the fortress wall, but it's too far away to get much more than an impression of what it's supposed to be. There is an odd ringing tone in the air here. I don't know where it's coming from, and can't see anything else from here.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-17-37-62.jpg

    There are a pair of heavy-looking doors covered in ornate carving. This is an entrance into the fortress.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-19-41-17.jpg

    As luck would have it, the doors are not locked. I push them open and find a cozy looking bonfire underneath a large, open-armed statue of a woman. Her robes are stained in what looks an awful lot like old, dried blood. Even places of worship don't survive total war.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-20-03-59.jpg

    Sitting amongst the cracked stone and winding roots is a person wearing what might be half a general store on her back. A little lamp hangs off the side of her pack, highlighting her long, gnarled fingers. I rest at the bonfire, then talk to her.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-22-18-73.jpg

    She has a sickly air about her, but she doesn't try to touch me, and with my hood off it's not as if I'm a pleasant sight, either. She calls herself Melentia, and begs me to buy from her. She has that crazy Undead laugh I've been missing as well. I gather she's from Lanafir, judging by the armour she sells. For some reason I can't see a comparison between its stats in the shop and what I'm wearing already, which is annoying. She also sells some scavenged weapons, the same basic swords and axes that the local Hollowed use.

    And a club! I calm myself. I want that club, yes, but I don't yet have the 12 strength needed to use it. I have to be practical. Instead, I buy the head armour she sells, which I recognize as the basic armour the Explorer class wears. It has better stats than my hood and also boosts item find, though I can see my item find stat is in any of the menus.

    Melentia sells some consumables as well. A few Effigies, Lifegems, firebombs, that's normal enough. But also something called a Brightbug, which boosts damage and defence for a short time? A Pharros Lockstone, which is confusing for a while, as its description tells me only that it helps those in need, and is probably related so some mechanism found in world? There is also a branch of Yore, which costs 12,000 Souls and can return someone to normal from a stone form. The use for that item seems obvious enough. Finally, she sells the blacksmith's key and a couple of basic spells (Healing and Soul Arrows). I'd like a Healing spell, but it will take at least 12 Faith, and that seems like a steep price now that the total spell charges are reduced to 3. My priority is still to get basic stats to use some weapons.

    Thinking about it for a bit, I decide that what is really confusing me are the new menu categories. That key should be separate from basic consumables like Lifegems. Considering that it's not actually a usable item, I have to wonder about some of the other items in the same shop category. The Pharros Lockstone, for example. Could that be a key to using the machine in the sewers leading to the Tower of Flame? Not that I could afford it right now, but it's worth considering.

    I buy the blacksmith's key for 1000 Souls and put on my new hat. It comes with a monocle, but my face is so dark that it's hard to notice. Melentia talks of an ancient war with the giants who came from across the sea. When they died they sprouted into trees. That gives some context to the Seed of Giants starting gift, but also makes it more likely that I'll find one on my own. When I'm ready to leave she tells me that next time we meet she'll have a nice bargain for me. Could be idle talk, but it might also mean that I'll run into her somewhere else.

    I climb up some stairs and find a dark corridor. There is a room with a locked wooden door.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-36-11-04.jpg

    The door itself doesn't look sturdy, and following the examples of those ghouls back in Majula, I bust it down with my dagger. I can hear the sound of a titanite carrying crystal lizard. It's in the room, which is otherwise pitch black. Heedless of potential danger, I rush at it, but as I should already know, my dagger doesn't do a good job at hitting short enemies. I switch to one of my broken swords, and come close to hitting it, but it runs into the far wall and disappears.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-37-44-96.jpg

    I search the dark room. Behind and underneath old wooden furniture I find a couple of loot corpses and a wooden chest. I pick up a small leather shield and a hand axe, which I add to the buckler I found on the roof earlier. In another room I kill a Hollowed soldier and loot another chest for a Radiant Lifegem and some Hollowed head armour. The Lifegem is a more powerful version of your standard healing item. My maximum HP is so low that a Lifegem hardly seems worth it, so I'll be saving it for later.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-38-45-54.jpg

    A hole broken into the floor allows me to drop back down to the bonfire. There is a loot corpse resting on a root, and I grab it on the way.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-39-02-48.jpg

    I switch out my shield for the leather one I found. Less stability, but better blocking otherwise, and lighter. I also equip some Hollowed soldier gauntlets that I've picked up somewhere along the way, but leave the helm off in preference for the item find bonus from the Explorer's cap. The helmet informs me that the bomb throwers were royal guards.

    After resting at the bonfire I return to the dark room. As I'd hoped, the crystal lizard has respawned. Nice to know that still works. The problem now is killing it. I try every weapon I am able to use, and none allows me to hit it consistently, even when I don't lock on and point my camera straight down. The only way I have of guaranteeing hits is to use my fists, but with them I can't do enough damage to kill it before it disappears.

    This is the toughest problem I've come up against so far, and I reset over and over again, trying different attack angles and anything else I can think of. I try hitting it right away, I try running after it and attacking it when it runs into the far wall. Finally, in desperation, I pull out my last 3 throwing knives. It's close, but I get the kill with the final knife. I pick up 2 titanite shards.

    Near the bonfire is a hole in the floor and a ladder leading deeper into the fortress. I could take that, or try my luck on the scaffolding, but first I have someone I need to visit.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-55-04-94.jpg

    I warp back to Majula. I figure I'm expected to do this often, if only to level up. I don't mind that much, as it gives me a chance to catch up with the locals. I missed a lot of that stuff in the last game by rarely returning to the Firelink Shrine. There were a some NPCs that I never saw there, as they had already come and gone by the time I got back.

    My first stop is the blacksmith's place. I use the key to unlock the door. He is grateful enough, but tells me to come back later, after he's had time to set up. I take that to mean I need to leave the area and come back.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-56-13-23.jpg

    Before he can get inside, I take a look around. There are the usual stacks of worked metal and miscellaneous tools, most of which I doubt will ever get any use, but I suppose a guy has to keep busy while waiting for the next poor dumb Undead to show up. There is also a chest with a shortbow.

    I check in with the residents. The armourer is still doing nothing, and the cat is now sitting at a desk, because why not?

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-21-58-28-36.jpg

    Next, I level up. I put 3 points into strength, with the club in mind.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-22-00-40-47.jpg

    That only gets me up to 10, though, and I need 12. Feeling impatient, and remembering that I sat on these things forever in the last game, I burn through my Undead Souls. The game lets me use them all at once to save time, which is nice. I can now get my 12 strength, and put another point into vitality, with enough Souls left over to buy the club.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-05-22-02-52-76.jpg

    I warp back to the fortress and spend 800 Souls for the club. I consider buying another so that I'll have a backup, but I'm 40 Souls short for now.

    With my club in hand I feel more comfortable. The moveset has changed, with some elaborate swings replacing the classic jumping overhead smash heavy attack, but I still have the normal jumping attack so that's not a big problem. What matters is that now I have a club, and there is nothing that can stop me when I have a club.

    Tomorrow will be a good day.

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    Zilla360MegaMekGeneral_ArmchairLorahalocB557SCREECH OF THE FARGecco the dolphincj iwakuraFleur de AlysBrody
  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    I feel a bit of explanation is in order. This took way longer than I expected it to. Part of that is because I forgot how much work it is, part of that is that I simply did too much (the notes alone were longer than the last full update, and what I put here isn't all of it), and part of it is that I took way more screenshots this time around.

    It's very dense, and I hope it's at least readable. I'll have to figure out a better process and schedule, but I'm sure the next update won't take as long.

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  • MegaMekMegaMek Girls like girls. Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Awesome update @Page- :+1:
    So, anyone wanna bet how long it'll take Page to figure out that you use effigies to regain humanity, not burn them? :biggrin:

    MegaMek on
    Is time a gift or punishment?
  • General_ArmchairGeneral_Armchair Registered User regular
    MegaMek wrote: »
    The game runs really well straight out the box, so you won't need any mods to fix the game. You do need to disable your internet connection before logging into the game to play in offline mode tho, which is a pain.

    Firewalls are things you know. No need to unplug stuff.

    3DS Friend Code:
    Armchair: 4098-3704-2012
  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    I set steam to offline mode while I play. It does the job.

    It's weird, though, since the game itself then starts in an offline mode. I don't understand why they wouldn't have that as an option normally. For DS1 you could start the game up and then choose to not connect to Windows Live.

    Competitive Gaming and Writing Blog Updated in October: "Song (and Story) of the Day"
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  • General_ArmchairGeneral_Armchair Registered User regular
    Only From knows....and they'll never tell :P

    3DS Friend Code:
    Armchair: 4098-3704-2012
  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    I hear they're making dsfix stuff for SotFS now, so maybe an offline mode will be int he cards eventually.

    Competitive Gaming and Writing Blog Updated in October: "Song (and Story) of the Day"
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  • SulliganSulligan Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    So, I really really want to see Page- duel wield clubs. At what point do we tell him how to power stance? Though he may stumble on it, I think the chance is slight.

    Sulligan on
  • SulliganSulligan Registered User regular
    MegaMek wrote: »
    Awesome update @Page- :+1:
    So, anyone wanna bet how long it'll take Page to figure out that you use effigies to regain humanity, not burn them? :biggrin:
    Whole game complete at half health?

    MegaMek
  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    Anyway, I got the rest of it done. It just needs editing, so that will be out tomorrow.

    I think I've worked out a schedule as well that won't completely wreck me. That it took me a week to write up the notes from a few hours play on a Sunday afternoon has to be accounted for. O_o

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    MegaMekZilla360
  • SavantSavant Registered User regular
    I don't think this needs to be spoilered:



    Nice how he was all like "screw you warnings, I'm a champion!" without much second thought. I wonder if/when he'll change to a different covenant.

  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Day 03
    I am--and always have been--someone who plays games to see what I can get away with. In the parlance of various gaming communities I am either a low-tier hero, or a Johnny, or just an idiot. When I played fighting games competitively (Never mistake this for playing them well.) I would invariably end up with one of the worst characters in the game as my main, whether from design or choice. There was a long stretch while playing Quake where I did not make weapon binds, or didn't bind certain weapons because I didn't like them (of course, the ones I avoided were also the most useful). I played multiplayer Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear using only shotguns or pistols. I honed in on every stupid flavour build I could think of in Diablo 2, from a charged bolt Sorceress (before Blizzard changed the elemental masteries), to a "Mage-azon" that specialized in firing under-powered and overpriced elemental arrows instead of doing legitimate damage.

    Last night, while having dinner with a friend, I explained a bit about my Dark Souls writing. He knows nothing about the games, and the first thing he asked was how I managed to avoid levelling up any stats. He remembers our times playing Diablo 2 where I would sometimes hit the high 50s before distributing a single stat or skill point.

    It has always been the mechanics of games that interest me. The way things interact and build on each other. For games that rely on stats, like RPGs, I am fascinated with the lower limits of what is possible. Ballooning numbers hold little interest. It's all about how far a player can get with the little they have on hand. For me, it is almost always the beginning of a new game that is most enjoyable, when resources are at their scarcest. Choosing to spend or sacrifice is more meaningful when it actually costs something.

    Hoarding was a common phenomena that was independently observed by many players of classic JRPGs. By the end of the game most player's inventories would be full of Elixirs and the like, all saved just in case. I did this just as much as everyone else, across the board. From Resident Evil to the Ninja Gaiden Black, and every RPG between, by the end of the game I'd have amassed enough acid grenades and healing items that I couldn't have used them all even if I'd wanted to.

    My reasons for saving those items had less to do with thinking I'd need them later than it had to do with knowing that I could get by without them. That there was always a more interesting option than trying to brute force an obstacle with special items.

    My formative experiences with learning the proper way to play games happened in dingy downtown arcades where my limited pocket money made every quarter valuable. Continuing was never an option, and for most of the players I met it was even frowned upon. I learned how to 1CC Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder and Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara because I knew a single credit in either of those games meant a solid hour or so of entertainment. I spent hours studying the old Raiden machine, watching others weave through the intricate dances of bullet dodging and bomb dropping while waiting my turn. The first time I saw the ending of Metal Slug was when someone else got a 1CC while I had my quarter on the machine, and I did my best to apply what I'd learned when he finished. At home I played through games like Contra 3 and Turtles in Time until I could beat them without a continue.

    I never lost that. I can't help seeing special items and level ups for what they usually are, which is shortcuts. Yes, there are times when I indulge, and each time I do I know exactly why.

    As much as Dark Souls is an RPG, it's also an action game. While it's possible to solve most RPGs by throwing levels, stats, and gear at a problem--and Dark Souls can be managed the same way, for the most part--an action game demands mastery of, well, action. Unless I run into a total physical roadblock, I should be able to make it through with what I have already, or at least what I've acquired recently. I have never felt the need to grind in a Dark Souls game, and I don't imagine I ever will. What I lack for in stats and gear I can always make up for with skill and patience. And while my skill may not be top-class, I know my patience is.

    If you haven't figured it out yet, that was more or less a long-winded justification for leaving the Forest of Fallen Giants so that I can run around in areas that I am obviously not supposed to be yet.

    Heide's Tower of Flame

    With my club in hand, I warp back to the Tower of Flame bonfire. I can now do damage to the big knights, which is all that matters. "Have club, will travel" is my unofficial motto for Deprived everywhere.

    The sword knight doesn't even put up a fight. I circle around, find an opening, run in and give him a couple of smacks, and then I'm out of reach again before he can swing his sword in my direction. He drops a Cracked Blue Eye Orb, an online item used by the Blue Sentinels. A little confusing how they are in control of a faraway land and also a sunken city, but I'm sure that will become clearer later on.

    After confirming for myself that trying to make progress here is a reasonable goal, I warp back to Majula, where the blacksmith has set up shop.

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    He sells a few basic swords, an axe, a mace, and a spear. He also sells titanite and repair powder, which is perplexing for a moment, but I remember that bonfires heal the durability of damaged weapons, which isn't the same as fixing a broken weapon. I'll still need some way to fix something that becomes completely busted, and it's would be useful to have a way to repair an item's durability anyway without resetting an area at a bonfire. Looking at the weapons on offer confirms my suspicions. Durability is slashed across the board. I will have to plan for multiple weapons, which doesn't bother me since I played the first game while often switching between weapons.

    Speaking of which, the one I have my sights on now is that spear, if only to see what has changed. I have enough souls to buy it, or to upgrade my club with the titanite I've found. I choose to buy the spear, though I'll need 6 more dexterity before I can use it. Having such ready access to titanite and a blacksmith also tells me that I'm expected to use them. Enemy hit points will be rising at a more regular pace.

    One advantage I have for weapon planning now is that I have a better notion of their longevity. For the longest time while playing Dark Souls 1 I expected to find improved versions of whatever weapon I'd been using, which made me cautious about investing in the ones I found early on. If there is a spear and a winged spear, what else will I find that will trump them both? That is how most games work, and though there is still some of that in Dark Souls, the biggest deciding factor for choosing between weapons is comfort and their movesets. Now I know that the club and spear I have right now could carry me to the end of the game if I invest my stats correctly and invest in upgrades. I still want to try as many weapons as I can, especially if I find new and unique categories, but I'll always have the basics to fall back on.

    I talk to the smith and he complains about his wandering daughter, saying that she knows a lot more about orestones (another name for titanite?) than he does. Is she going to be green as well? For her sake, I hope she got her looks from her mother.

    I warp back to the Tower of Flame and go about my business of bashing the big knights to death. I spend a lot of lives--doesn't matter how often I die now that my maximum health isn't dropping--trying to parry the first sword knight's attacks, and come to the conclusion that it's impossible in general, or impractical for me, and either way I'd be wasting time if I kept at it.

    Of course, my health not dropping anymore has downsides. The biggest of them is that at half health I can barely survive most hits, and a few of them will kill me outright. But that's incentive to do better, right?

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    I kill the hammer knight as well, though he's still more trouble than the sword knight. I find him harder to read, and his better range is a problem. After he goes down I loot a nearby corpse and find an Undead Soul and yet another Human Effigy.

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    At the top of some stairs, and through an open doorway, is a bridge leading into the nearest standing structure. There is also a sword knight who is guarding something. A brown square on the ground behind him. A ladder maybe?

    When he sees me, the sword knight sets his feet and raises his shield, but doesn't move in my direction.

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    He pivots in place to keep me in sight, but that's all the movement he takes. He must take this guarding thing seriously. Wedged behind the open door is a body holding a Lloyd's Talisman.

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    If I turn away or try to walk past, will this guy go for my back? I can hear the clank of his steps every time he shifts position so that he can keep watching me. It makes me nervous.

    When I get within striking distance, he finally springs into action, lashing at me with his sword. I retreat down the stairs, and he doesn't pursue all the way. As he turns his back to return to his guard position I go for the kill. I may have stupid priorities and ideas about how I play games, but none of them involve fighting fair.

    As the sword knight dies, I hear a mechanical sound. I climb the stairs and see that a switch has popped out of the ground. So that's what he was guarding.

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    I pull the switch. In a nearby building I watch as water rushes out and a ring section of floor rises, clicking into place.

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    Looks like I'm opening the way through.

    I turn around, and then freeze. Something in the distance has triggered a primal part of my brain. Though all I can see from this angle is a low, red shape, my mind fills in the blanks. There is a dragon up there. Or a drake. Or whatever else they're called these days. As I watch, the dragon's body rises and falls at a slow, regular pace.

    There's a dragon up there and it's asleep.

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    And it looks like the thing is guarding another goddamned bridge.

    Which I will have to cross when I get to it. For now I set my sights on the next building.

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    I've used my Estus charges and only have 3 Lifegems left. As I get closer to the building, I can see there are three knights inside. One in the middle of the large space, the other two guarding exits going left, toward the dragon, and right, toward the building with the floor I raised.

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    I use one of my Lifegems to heal up. The idea of fighting three knights at once is daunting enough to make me second guess my decision to break away from the standard path. I get far enough into the building to look around. I want to make sure there aren't any more of these guys hiding in a corner or something.

    On my right is another square space in the floor. Another switch. Do I have to kill all these guys for it to activate?

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    As I walk further into the room the two flanking knights raise their shields and freeze in place. At the same time, the one in the middle charges at me. This dude is carrying a sword bigger than he is, and since he's already a pretty big guy that's saying something. I back out to the bridge, and the other knights don't follow. Which is good.

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    I keep retreating, waiting for the knight to find its leash and run back, but it follows me all the way back to the statues near the bonfire. I decide this is as good a place as any to fight, and I let it have a swing at me to see what it can do. It smashes the sword down, then swings it in a wide arc. Because I'm not that bright, I decide this is all the opening I need. I move in for an attack, and the knight reverses directions, slashing back the other way and killing me in a single blow.

    I repeat the process of getting to the building. This time I draw the big guy out and let it go nuts. After I've seen its patterns I'm able to kill it, though I still take a hit. It drops a palestone, an upgrade ore that removes buffs from weapons and tells me I'll get some new effects, like poison, to add to my gear. I hear footsteps and turn to see that the pair of sword and shield knights who had been guarding the exits of the building are now running in my direction, as if to help their pal.

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    I guess they decide it's too late, though, because they're running away now.

    I'm low on HP and have no more flask charges. The next hit will kill me for sure. I could rest at the bonfire, but then I'd have to do this all over again. Besides, the sword and shield guys are easy.

    Back in the building and I see the switch has popped up.

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    It has a similar effect to the other switch. Another ring section of floor rises out of the water, and it looks like that has completed the puzzle. The other switch was still pulled even after I died, so this one should be the same. Whatever is in that building, I can now access it.

    So, left or right? I've been opening the way to the right, so I may as well stick to that direction until I see what I've opened up. I kill the knight there. As expected, the other one doesn't life a finger while I fight.

    Past that knight is a wide balcony and another of those lounging white knights, behind him a skyline of blunt, broken towers poking out of the floodwater like stacks of old, weathered bricks. The way the white knights placed is making me more and more uneasy. I keep waiting for the moment they'll pounce. I get close to this one and there is still no reaction. I leave him alone.

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    Down some stairs is the final area before a fog gate leading into the building. There is also a treasure chest with a white knight plunked down in front of it, as if daring me to do something about it. Is it a test, or do I have to kill this guy to get the loot? Too bad I can't kick him into the water.

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    I'm so close, but those hammer knights still give me problems. I spend another Lifegem, and with it I am able to kill the hammer knight by drawing it out and attacking it as it tries to get up and down the stairs. By fighting it here I risk losing the 5000 Souls I have built up on the way, but the victory nets me a pair of old knight's leggings. These things have 22 poise and way more defence than what I'm wearing. Almost more than the rest of my gear combined. I put them on as quickly as I can.

    I stop by the chest. This guy really won't budge, and I can't get close enough to open the chest unless he moves.

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Day 03 continued.
    I decide that all the evidence points toward me having to kill the white knights, but that I am so close to whatever I've been working toward that it would be stupid to try that now.

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    I pass through the fog gate. Music begins to play. It's the one thing I didn't want: a boss fight. The HP bar appears at the bottom of my screen after a few seconds. Dragonrider is the name.

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    Even as I debate using my final Lifegem, the Dragonrider stabs at me with his huge polearm. I wasn't prepared for him, and I definitely wasn't prepared for that range. I die.

    And now what? That fat, red asshole has my 5000 Souls. At least he explains that napping dragon, so I have one less thing to wonder about.

    What happens next is predictable enough. On the way back I take a bad roll to avoid a hammer blow and fall straight into the water. I lose my body.

    I'd care more about those 5000 Souls if I wasn't pushing double that by the time I'd fought my way closer to the dragon. This happens mostly by chance. I've been careful to fight everyone near the bonfire, at the statues. I drag them all back there, so that if I die I'll be able to recover my body. When I kill the big sword guy in the central building and the other two chase after me, I run after them and kill whichever stays to fight. When I get to the building I see that this time it's the one on the left that died, not the one on the right. So I'm curious. I poke my head out to see what's going on in that direction.

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    What's going on is that one of the white knights isn't as lazy as the others.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-06-00-25-40-23.jpg

    But this guy isn't a giant, clanking knight. He's just another Undead loser in some fancy armour, right? I can take him. Yeah, I can do this.

    Of course, he does even more damage than the big guys, and moves a lot faster as well. I try to track his charge, and I think I see a pattern. Which is when he slides across the ground at an unnatural speed and cuts me down with a single blow.

    At least now I know. They are going to be hostile, and there is no avoiding them forever.

    I decide to test myself against the white knight nearest the bonfire. After taking care of the sword and shield knight, I wake him up with a few taps of my club. Against these guys I am able to parry, though my first attempt just knocks him on his ass and allows me to get a few free hits in. He stands up and instantly kills me with a quick slash before I can recover. I try a few more times, and get a better handle on the timing for the critical attack followup after a parry. The problem is that, though nice to look at, my critical attacks don't do a whole lot of damage. By my reckoning it would take at least 3 of them to get a kill, and that supposes he does his normal slashing combo instead of a dashing attack that I can't seem to parry at all.

    While fighting these knights, trying different timings and strategies, my Souls stain, or corpse, or whatever you call it, disappears. I had nearly 14,000 Souls stocked, and wasn't worried about losing them since I only fought near the bonfire. But after a death and respawning, it's not there. I check the entire area, running around to see if it's somehow fallen under the stone and I might still be able to pick it up if I find the right spot, but I can't. It's gone, and so are all my Souls.

    Yes, it's a disappointing. It sucks to lose things like that. But in a way I deserved it. I shouldn't be doing what amounts to grinding. I've dropped about 20,000 Souls here, which is more Souls than I've seen during the rest of my adventure combined. I'm more annoyed that I don't know how or why they disappeared than I am about losing them in general. In the meantime, I've also collected nearly a full set of the old knight's armour, and also one of their greatswords, though I can`t come closing to using it yet.

    The prospect of collecting another 10,000 Souls while I continue to progress in baby steps has lost it's appeal. I know what the goal is. I know what I need to do, and I've already opened the way.

    Dragonrider

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    My defences bolstered by the old knight's armour, this guy only has a single attack that can one-shot me, though the rest come close.

    Like everyone else around here, his patterns are pretty simple. He has a pair of horizontal slashes, first left, then right. He has a long-ranged stab attack that will put me on my back with a sliver of health left, and he has an overhead smash attack that kills me every time it connects, and sometimes even if its small area of effect clips me.

    I can roll through the slashes without issue. I could even block them if I had to, but at significant cost. The stab is easy to avoid, and so is the slam attack for the most part. It still puts me in the ground a few times, always when I've reached a point where I'm sure I've got him licked. Maybe I've become fatigued after all that work in the Forest of the Fallen Giants, or maybe I'm naturally slow. Every time it hits is also a time when I'm sure I dodged it, which confuses me because most of the time I do dodge it. Perhaps the timing changes when he falls below a certain health threshold? I know that some of his other attacks do, as he begins to chain slashes and slams together after I've got him below half health.

    At first I fight carefully, keeping my distance and jabbing at him with my club every time he presents an obvious opening, like after I dodge his stab attack. I do well enough sticking with that, but keep falling to an eventual slam attack. As the fights continue, I become more reckless. My experience with 3D fighting games tells me that he's going to have a weak side, which is why I continually circle to his right, toward his weapon and away from the shield. That way I always have enough time to dodge his slash attack, and when I have the opportunity I can pound away without worrying about him raising the shield. I even stagger him a few times.

    It's my handicaps that keep him competitive. That any mistake on my part guarantees death holds me back for a while, but at a certain point I recognize that I have solved the puzzle.

    It doesn't matter that I have low health and terrible defences. It doesn't matter that my only weapon is a piece of rough wood, or that I don't have any more stats than its basic requirements. It doesn't matter that he kills me in a single hit and each of mine takes out only a small piece of his health bar. I have faced greater odds, and I'm not bothered by them. The great heroes of old died in one or two hits, and it never stopped them from fighting against screen-filling bosses that could withstand absurd amounts of punishment. If I can still fight, if I can do damage, then I can win.

    During the final fight I go all out, giving him no chance to mount an offence of his own. I stay as close to him as possible, always circling to his back. I roll only when he does a horizontal slash, and it puts me far enough behind him that he can't follow it up. As close as I am to him, I have less distance to move relative to his attacks, like the inside of a spinning record. If I keep my distance it only makes it more difficult to avoid him, and also to take advantage of openings. I mean, I'm the one with the club, and he's the one with the giant polearm.

    Even when he raises his massive shield to protect himself from my fury it doesn't matter, because I'm not on the shield side. I am at his exposed flank, pounding away. During the final battle he doesn't come close to hitting me.

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    "Victory Achieved"

    I gain 12,000 Souls and a Dragonrider Seal. This is like a boss Soul, and I could break it open to gain a bunch of Souls, or save it and use it to make a special weapon later on.

    Even as I'm basking in my victory, I hear a telltale clanking. I spin around and find that the hammer knight who guards the fog gate is now entering the room. I'd been running past all those guys to get here, so I expected something like this to happen.

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    He doesn't come much closer. Maybe he saw that his boss was dead and decided to let me go this time. Or maybe that's as far as his leash allows him to get into this room. It's ambiguous. He turns around and returns to his post.

    The boss didn't drop a Homeward Bone, but that's no big deal. There is another exit from this room, so I can keep exploring. I expect a post-boss area to be safe enough.

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    I climb some stairs and find myself on the upper floor of this flooded building. There is a bonfire, and near the edge of the building kneels a woman with her hands clasped together in prayer.

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    I light the bonfire, then talk to the woman. She tells me she is Licia of Lindelt, and offers to sell me some miracles. She also carries a basic Cleric chime, used for casting miracles, and a ring that improves faith (Does it raise the Faith stat, or amplify its effects? Seems abusable if it it raises a basic attribute.) It costs 28,000 Souls, so it's not like I can test it out. Again I am tempted by the basic healing spell, and again I decide not to buy it. Instead, I chat with Licia. She drops some very subtle hints that she may not be as good a Cleric as she presents herself to be, that she's more into bilking saps out of their cash than salvation for the masses.

    As with the other NPCs I've met, she is eager to make excuses about why she hasn't left Drangleic. She says she was looking for some acolytes in the tower here, and that the people round these parts must have a great burden of suffering. What burden, and for that matter, what people? As I leave she tries to guilt me into throwing her a few Souls. Even the Clerics here are jerks.

    A short bridge connects the bonfire to another building.

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    The interior of the building is dark, with only a few lights and no windows. I climb down some stairs and figure I must be heading under the water. A dead body holds a Monastery Charm, which heals and cures poison.

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    Somewhere below me is another big knight, this one with a tower shield and a spear. I walk forward far enough to find another of the huge sword knight and decide I have had my fill for now. I leave the building and a message tells me that I'm back in the Tower of Flame. That must be another transitional area.

    I can see that all the white knights have come alive, and are now patrolling the route I used to get here. That's going to be an issue. But not right now.

    Using the bonfire, I warp back to the Forest of Fallen Giants bonfire and speak to Melentia. What else am I going to do with 12,000 except buy the Branch of Yore from her?

    Now I have to decide who to free from their stone form, the guy in Things Betwixt, or the lady in that palace of ghouls.

    But that can wait. Right now I need a nap.

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  • ecco the dolphinecco the dolphin Registered User regular
    Man.

    Page- is almost like playing this game with both hands tied behind his back while trying to balance on a unicycle.

    I really feel that we might want to tell him about using the effigies, especially because he's in the CoC...

    Penny Arcade Developers at PADev.net.
  • MorninglordMorninglord Registered User regular
    Man.

    Page- is almost like playing this game with both hands tied behind his back while trying to balance on a unicycle.

    I really feel that we might want to tell him about using the effigies, especially because he's in the CoC...
    Nah, its ok
    He's got a club.
    He'll be fine.

    (PSN: Morninglord) (Steam: Morninglord) (WiiU: Morninglord22) I like to record and toss up a lot of random gaming videos here.
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  • Corp.ShephardCorp.Shephard Registered User regular
    Ah!

    I loved the first edition of this Lets Play!

    Alas I actually had to stop reading it as I had not finished Dark Souls myself. I didn't want to spoil the parts after the Lord Vessel.

    I really like reading this too but... while I have exhaustively beaten Dark Souls 2... Scholar of the First Sin's edition has enemies, traps and dastardly surprises anew from the original. Just reading this much has revealed a hefty number of differences...! I don't know if I want to spoil them for when I feel like picking it up inevitably...

    I guess we'll see. Glad to see it happening regardless!

  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    That's what I hear. I guess I missed out on the whole "this game is way easier than DS1" hype. Not to say I've made a judgment either way--it's too early to tell, but from the tidbits that have been tossed my way that seems to be the current opinion.

    Anyway, Mein Kampf: Dark Souls 2 Edition will keep trucking. I've got caffeine and a fresh chicken biryani from the best place around. Time to get to work.

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  • cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent The World on This SideRegistered User regular
    Can't believe I almost missed this. I look forward to your interpretation, especially on the story. It was my favorite part of DS2.

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    I shouldn't do this so early, but I'm giddy now that I'm sitting down with these notes.

    Yesterday's play session was intense, unexpected, and even I'm a little amazed at how it turned out. My hands were shaking a little bit when it was over.

    So, uh, probably Wednesday. :rotate:

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  • SulliganSulligan Registered User regular
    Oi! As Corp.Shephard said, I may have to stop following this until I play through SotFS myself. So much, already, is different than vanilla.

  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Day 04
    I have taken down the Dragonrider, earning myself the tidy sum of 12,000 Souls. It's a specific number, and it immediately reminded me of the Branch of Yore that old Melentia has for sale. So instead of investing the Souls in some fresh stat points, I warp over to the bonfire inside root-choked fortress and buy the first, last, and only Branch of Yore in stock.

    What to do with it, though? Right now I have two people who have been cursed into stone forms, each blocking a different path. There's the guy blocking my entrance into the final tree of Things Betwixt, and there's the woman who is stuck in front of the switch inside those ruins filled with ghouls.

    Of the two, it's obvious that the ghoul gulag is the main path. There's an NPC outside of it ready to tell any who approach that there is definitely a statue in there blocking his progress, which also means the statue is blocking my progress. At some point, I will have to pull that switch and open that door, which isn't necessarily the case for the tree.

    Yet I only have a single Branch of Yore, and Melentia isn't selling another. All this tells me is that at some point I'm going to find another one, or another NPC will have one for sale. Because the Things Betwixt area is a side area, and you can't give the player a single use item that will give them access to a small side area while also preventing them from continuing with the game proper.

    When will I get another Branch of Yore? I have no idea. But I have to assume that it will be there when I need it. Which makes my choice easy. I'm going back to Things Betwixt to finish exploring that last tree, and to light the final sconces inside. It will feel good to cross something off the list.

    Things Betwixt

    The first step is to confirm that I can use the Branch of Yore to free this guy.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-22-36-08-02.jpg

    So, I can. Good.

    I can hear the basilisks on the other side of the fog gate. That might be a problem, but there will be basilisks if I open the other door as well, so there's no avoiding them anymore.

    While I'm in the area, I check in with the old Fire Keepers. Strowen, the head Fire Keeper, wonders aloud if I've come back to start again, and a menu pops up. Now I get what she was babbling about. There is an option to reallocate my attributes, though I need an item called a Soul Vessel to do so.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-22-37-28-32.jpg

    This changes things, or at least it would if I knew more about the game. Or maybe even if I don't. With such a system, it is possible to view character progression in distinct chunks, or phases, instead of as a linear progression. Say I wanted to use a cool dexterity sword, but I have to beat a certain boss later on to get it. All the other dexterity weapons till that point aren't up to snuff, which would be a problem normally, but if I can make a full strength build to carry myself to the weapon I wanted, and then reset my points and change to a dexterity build, it would make life easier.

    It doesn't even have to be that specific. When I played Dark Souls 1, I ended up cornering myself into a strength build because I kept putting points into strength so that I could use new weapons I'd find. Given the choice, I probably would have stuck it out with my spear, but by the time I realized it would have been possible to use a spear all game, it was too late, so I picked the highest strength weapon I had on hand and used it instead. If I can reset my stats, to any degree, then that pressure is gone. If I find a weapon I like later on, but don't have the optimal stats for it, I could fix things so that I do.

    A thought strikes me as well. It's possible that the reset wouldn't be complete. After all, every class starts with different stats. What's going to happen, will I get all my Souls refunded so that I'm back at level 1? What if I were a Warrior instead of a Deprived? But what if the stat reallocation--and notice that it is reallocation, not a reset--is related to the Soul Memory stat that seems to be keeping track of every Soul I pick up. Maybe the refund will only be as much as my Soul Memory. Or maybe not. I have no way to test this yet, or to tell either way, but it seems the most probable use for Soul Memory so far.

    I also stop by the nest and see if the voices will trade for any of my items. They won't. Oh well.

    Anyway, I have a statue to take care of.

    I run over to it and use the Branch of Yore.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-22-49-10-20.jpg

    The guy stumbles back to life, taking a few moments to get his legs under himself. It's another Undead traveller who must have gotten himself turned to stone while trying to run away from the basilisks inside the tree. I bet he'll be glad someone rescued him.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-22-49-16-16.jpg

    Or not. Whether he was Hollowed before the basilisks got him, or lost his mind while frozen in place, I have no idea, but he's definitely Hollowed now, and his only reaction to freedom is to attack me. As I club his brains out, I hope that he was Hollowed before a curse turned him into a statue. The idea that someone stuck in an agonized eternal moment like that might still be conscious is far more horrifying.

    As the Hollowed dies, the fog gate clears up. There are a pair of basilisks on the other side, as I expected. They have the scent, and they're after me.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-22-50-36-37.jpg

    I have my highest curse resistant shield equipped--which isn't saying much as I only have 2 shields to choose from. None of my armour has any curse resistance, so I'll have to make due. Besides, what's the worst that could happen? Is a curse going to lower my maximum health even more?

    These googly-eyed bastards start spewing their cursed breath as soon as they see me. I move back, avoiding any touch of the gas. Once it looks safe, I attack the nearest with my club. As I start my swing, the other leaps at me. Can't be that bad, right? Just a stupid toad-monster, after all, and it's not using a cursing attack. I forgot to take into account how weak I am. I die at a single touch of the basilisk's flailing limbs. I'll have to be even more careful.

    After recovering my corpse, I try again. Now that they aren't crowded around the fog gate and waiting to get out, I am able to draw them out one at a time. I kill the first easily enough, mostly avoiding the curse breath. I do get a whiff of it, and the bar appears on my screen, but it's not as bad as I expected it to be. Still, I wait for the bar to deplete and disappear before going after the other one. I try to fight it inside the tree, but take a hit. An arrow whizzes by my head and sticks into the wood there. I forgot about the Hollowed archer. I get back outside, flask up, and then kill the second basilisk.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-22-54-59-49.jpg

    I duck inside the tree and head over to a tablet. It's next to an old, dead tree that looks to be on the way to turning to stone itself. I use the smaller tree as cover from the arrows while I read the tablet.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-22-55-14-76.jpg

    That's simple enough. But I suppose this is still the tutorial area. I kick the tree over, creating a bridge to the area guarded by the Hollowed archer.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-22-56-42-36.jpg

    I don't feel like fighting the basilisk while the archer uses my back as a pincushion, nor do I want to fight the archer while the basilisk curses at me. The basilisk is too far away, though, for me to catch its attention. Maybe too far away to be an immediate problem as well? I rush the bridge and close on the archer, hoping to kill him before the basilisk notices. But the archer is much stronger than I expected, and doesn't go down with a couple club taps. Instead, he almost kills me with a vicious sword slash. That's enough of that. I time out his next arrow, then dash back outside the tree to heal. That was my last flask charge.

    As I tab out to take notes, I see the final basilisk wandering out of the tree as casual as you please.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-22-57-45-11.jpg

    I dodge a curse barf, and as I get close to it, the basilisk does some weird jumping spin attack, which knocks me on my ass, but also sends it flying over the edge and into oblivion. Well, that explains all the random Souls I get walking through this area. A few seconds later it dies and I gain Souls.

    It's only the Hollowed archer now. He's standing at the other side of the fallen tree, arrow ready. It pings off my shield, doing some damage but not slowing me. It's risky getting close now, as I have little health and no more flask charges, so I stay around the range where he'll take his bow out, and as he fires the arrow I charge, killing him while he switches weapons.

    There is a hole in the floor. That is the only way to go. Not only is it a hole, but it is a deep hole, and at the bottom is a basilisk standing next to a loot corpse.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-01-44-94.jpg

    Nearby is a fog gate. That's the way I'm supposed to go, alright.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-01-50-79.jpg

    I'm not sure I could even survive that fall. There is another unlit sconce in here. Maybe that will open up another path? May as well try. I light my torch on the nearest fire, then set the sconce ablaze. Nothing happens. Either nothing is ever going to happen, or there's another sconce outside the tree, past that fog gate.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-03-22-94.jpg

    Jumping now would be suicide, and I don't want to spend my last Lifegem on a peek around. I return to the bonfire and rest. I can get through that room without taking so much damage.

    This time the first two basilisks both do their little jumping uppercut, letting me knock them off the edges. The last one goes down without putting up a fight.

    I fight the archer. When I get close he pulls his sword, as usual, but then does a guard break. It misses, and I start bashing at him with my club. One hit, two, three. He falls into the pit. And doesn't die.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-09-39-37.jpg

    He's down there with the basilisk now. Wait, did I say there was one basilisk in that hole? Let me correct that. There are two of them down there.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-10-23-32.jpg

    Actually, I was wrong about that as well. There are three of those bug-eyed freaks in that pit.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-10-33-59.jpg

    And that archer I knocked down there? Maybe you think he's lonely in that pit, with those basilisks bumping into him and nowhere to go. Think again, because there's already an archer down there, on a ledge overlooking the pit full of basilisks.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-11-04-04.jpg

    This is a situation where you pause for thought, and take a good hard look at life and priorities. If I fall down there I will die--that's a forgone conclusion. If I die down there I will probably lose my body and all my Souls. Right now is when any normal, sane person decides that maybe, just maybe, this area is meant for higher level characters, ones who are better equipped, ones who maybe even have a full health bar.

    But that's not what I'm thinking. What I'm thinking is, "There's a ladder down there, to get out of the pit. I bet basilisks can't climb ladders."

    Yeah, that's the ticket.

    I mean, if I could survive the fall, dodge the curse breath, and the arrows, and somehow get up that ladder I'd at least be able to look around.

    I wait for the basilisks, which are all wandering around at random, to get as far away from the ladder as they can, then I drop down for a plunging attack on the archer.

    Which I miss, of course.

    I take a lot of damage in the fall, leaving me with only a small amount left, not enough to survive another attack. I dodge away from a sword slash. Cursed breath is filling the pit. I dodge again, toward the ladder, and start to climb. An arrow hits--did it go right through me? Am I invulnerable on a ladder? No time for that. I get to the top of the ladder. I'm still alive.

    The archer up there is looking at me with those beady little Hollowed eyes, all milky white and without visible pupils, as if they can't focus on anything in the real world. I whip out my Estus flask and chug the last few drops before he can get me with another arrow. Then I move in on the archer. I hit him, and he falls over the edge, into the pit. I've done it. I'm safe now.

    Only, I'm not safe, because I can't stop my momentum. The last club swing carried me too far, and I'm slipping over the edge after the archer. I hit the ground and curses are spewing in every direction. I'm low on stamina because I was attacking, and I'm also surrounded. A single sword slash kills me.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-21-21-26.jpg

    As soon as I respawn, I gain 200 Souls. When I arrive at the tree, one of the basilisks is already gone. A good start. I clear out the top level of the tree without any trouble.

    The problem now is getting a good angle for my drop into the pit. I lose so much health when I land that I need to get free to heal up. Even though killing everything up here only cost me a glancing blow on my shield, I have to use a flask charge to be sure I won't die when I hit the ground.

    When I think I have the right angle, I drop again. I land on one of the basilisks with a plunging attack. Not that it makes a difference, because I take more damage than it did. I'm closer to the ladder than my body, so I roll in that direction. I get to the top again, and figure that since the archer had just fired an arrow, and since he waited so long last time, it's safe to drink from my flask. So he shoots me in the face, and I die again, without recovering my body.

    After a couple more false starts, I do everything as properly as I can expect to. I make it into the pit and up the ladder, and I take out the archer. I'm out of flask charges, but at least I'm safe for the moment.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-30-58-64.jpg

    Now it's me, the basilisks, the loot corpse in the pit, and the fog gate. Which has me thinking about how I am supposed to get out of here. There's no ladder back to the top of the tree. I guess there will be a way back when I make it through.

    I really should be going through the fog gate now. I really, really should. But that body, and those basilisks. What's the worse that could happen? I begin to line up plunging attacks, dropping on the heads of the basilisks with my club, then scooting back to the ladder and out of the pit before they can respond. It almost works, too, until one of them gets wise and does that spinning jump attack while I'm climbing away. So much for ladder invulnerability, unless it's only for arrows.

    One of the basilisks drops a raw stone. This can change a weapon to a raw state, which raises base damage but lowers attribute damage bonuses. I wonder if it's still a poor choice for upgrades in this game. Maybe needing a special item for it is enough reason to make it better? I'm sure in the long run that regular upgrades, with improved attributes, are superior, unless it's possible to turn a weapon that doesn't have attribute bonuses raw.

    A couple more attempts and I'm back in the pit. Realizing that I've been going about this like an idiot, this time I just grab the item from the corpse and leg it. It's an Estus flask shard. That's nice.

    With that done, I can go through the fog gate.

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Day 04 continued.
    I'm down by the water now, and I can see that the monster on the shore is the same type of hippo-clops as the one in the river over in the Forest of Fallen Giants.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-58-35-79.jpg

    I have also found what I hope is the final unlit sconce.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-00-05-52.jpg

    The question is, how do I get a lit torch down here? Because dropping down that hole with my torch out seems like a terrible idea, even for me.

    As I stand around looking at the pale rocks and dead, black water, I realize I'm not alone. A Hollowed shows up to attack me, and I recognize it as the one I've seen standing outside the tree every time I pass by. There is a cliff path over there that goes around the side of the tree.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-12-23-58-19-79.jpg

    I can see one hippo-clops down there, but I can hear something else. Besides the sticky noise of the basilisks creeping around in the pit, there is the sound of heavy, breathy grunts and growls from somewhere closer than the enemy I have in sight.

    The cliff path around the tree leads back up to another potential log bridge.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-01-14-48.jpg

    This tree falls down like the other, and I now have a bridge back to the bonfire. This means I can bypass the inside of the final tree, and don't have to fall into that pit anymore. It also means I have a straight line from a lit torch to the final sconce.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-01-24-27.jpg

    I light the final sconce. Nothing seems to happen, which was always a possibility. At least I have satisfied my ODC.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-02-43-92.jpg

    The lapping of gentle waves against the shore is drawing me down to the water. It's why I came here, after all. I may as well check it out.

    A narrow ramp runs along the edge of the rocks, down to the beach. Walking down it brings me closer and closer to those grunts, and as I reach the bottom I come face to face with the last thing I wanted to see. Another hippo-clops. And he's not happy. And he somehow alerts the other one.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-03-38-72.jpg

    I turn and sprint for the cliff path, hearing the big guys stomping after me. I can recharge my flask at the bonfire. Because having those two heals will definitely make the difference in this fight.

    And continuing today's trend of every bad situation turning into a worse one, when I reach the top of the path I find another surprise. Waiting for me, sword in hand, is a silent, red invader. I'm not human and there was no invasion message. Must not work that way anymore. Where did this guy come from, anyway? Is this what lighting all the sconces accomplished?

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-03-50-24.jpg

    This guy is blocking my path to the bonfire, and those hippos are still coming up behind me. Weighing up my options, I decide that trying to get through this guy is the least terrible choice on offer. I raise my shield and attempt to get around him. He begins to swing his sword, and I block one slash, then another. The knockback is too much, and I'm pushed over the edge. Dead again.

    He is still there when I return, which is good.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-06-12-48.jpg

    I make the mistake of trying to sneak around him to recover my body instead of confronting him head-on. He's having none of that, and kills me with a single sword slash. Oops.

    Turnabout is fair play, and my (possibly) distant ancestor was the heavyweight champion of knocking fools off ledge. When the next fight starts, I roll around a slash and begin clobbering him in the back. It's not long before he slips over the cliff edge and disappears below. After a long fall, I gain 2500 Souls, but no items. Do NPC invaders have bloodstains? Did I miss a chance for an item by doing that? I rest at the bonfire and come back. Nothing there. Oh well.

    Now it's time for the hard part. I have to kill both of those hippo-clops somehow. With a club that has no reach and does almost no damage. Or maybe not.

    I warp from the bonfire to Majula and talk to the Emerald Herald. She uses the Estus shard to upgrade my flask, and now I have 3 charges. Another mystery solved. I invest my Souls in 3 points of dexterity, which puts me at 9 in total. Still a few points off from being able to use the spear, which should give me better range than a club. By my count I'll need a little over 3000 more Souls for the extra 3 points.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-35-45-32.jpg

    (Note: For an unknown reason my screenshot program stopped working at the point, so there are several in a sequence missing, including the level-up screen. The above stats are still what I ended up with.)

    I'm not saying it was easy, or that I didn't use some dirty tricks on the AI, but after some tough fighting the first hippo-clops falls. This was the one hiding in the corner. When his buddy has stopped noticing me, I go down there to check out what he may have been guarding. In turns out to be nothing but a rock, so that makes him low man (hippo?) on the totem pole, because at least the other one is in charge of that coffin thing and gets to stand near the water.

    There is a strange sound coming from behind me, and I turn to see what it is. In the middle of the beach a black form is forming out of a weird smoke. After a second it has solidified into a phantom black knight with glowing red eyes. It floats above the ground, and with that colour scheme and armour design I'm guessing it probably isn't going to help me take down this last monster.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-43-57-93.jpg

    The phantom knight zips in my direction, aiming to slash me in half from the groin up. I dodge the attack, then get back up the ramp to take another screenshot. It stays in place, looking at me, and after a few more seconds it disappears.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-52-04-23.jpg

    This is when I look at my screenshots, trying to confirm what I'd seen, and realize that the last few weren't there. I tentatively put a foot down on the sand, and the phantom knight doesn't return. A one time deal, or will it come back if I rest? Either way, that gives me a chance to take out the hippo-clops without worrying about another enemy coming up behind me.

    I die fighting the hippo. When I return for my body I am relieved to find that the second hippo has stayed dead, and that stepping onto the beach again causes the phantom knight to appear and then disappear when I head back up the ramp. He will only fight me there, on the sand. As he starts to turn to smoke, I run up and smack him a few times with my club. I get good hits in, but from what I could see they did little damage. If he always disappears like that, then even if I do fight him there's no way I could kill him fast enough.

    Which is a problem for later. Right now it's time to get rid of this hippo that has been taunting me since I first arrived in Drangleic.

    Getting close, I can see that what he's guarding is pretty much an open casket, though with a design that is reminiscent of a boat. Will this have something to do with a death Covenant? I could see that phantom knight being a part of such a thing.

    It takes some work getting rid of the big jerk. I simply cannot be near him. Any attack is going to kill me in one hit, or stagger me long enough for the second to finish the job, and he will often put on a burst of speed so that he can grab me and munch my face off, or slap me so hard my heart implodes.

    He may have more range, more damage, more health, and more poise than I do, but I have my brains and my speed. And my club, which is the fantasy version of a shotgun in a zombie movie. It solves problems.

    By keeping the camera unlocked and my thumb on the sprint button, I am able to keep a step ahead, and whenever he leaves an opening--when he falls on his back after a 3-hit combo, or when he misses his grab attack--I dart in to bash him with my club, and I'm gone again before he can do anything about it.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-00-55-08-37.jpg

    The beach is a big, flat, empty arena, so I have plenty of space to move through. I manage my stamina, and after I have him thoroughly figured out, I take the beast down in a single, calculated battle. He never lays a finger on me.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-01-03-56-42.jpg

    Adding together the Souls gained from both of the hippos, and from the Hollowed that guards the path down here, I now have a fair amount saved. I also have that open coffin begging for me to crawl inside it. What will happen when I do? I have no idea. The smart play here is to cash out now before I bet it all on another stupid unknown. Not that I'm done here, but there is no sense in a pointless risk right now. That coffin could take me to a boss fight, for all I know.

    I go back to the bonfire. I have enough Souls to use the spear now, so I warp to Majula and level up to 12 dexterity.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-01-06-47-61.jpg

    I am completely underwhelmed by the spear. No, that's not the right word. I am disappointed by it.

    What made the spear for me in Dark Souls 1 was that it had range and speed. That was all it had, and that was all it needed. The light attacks were quicker, shorter stabs. The heavy attacks were slower stabs with more range. The jumping attack was lunging stab. I think the rolling attack might have been an upward swing, but who uses those?

    That's what spears are for, that's what made it good. Every time there was an opening I could get in half a dozen pokes, and with the heavy attack I could fight and out-range most enemies, keeping a safe distance while punishing every attack they missed.

    This spear is now a hybrid slashing and stabbing weapon, more in line with the partizan's moveset from the first game. The simple stabs are gone, and the new ones are lame. The light attacks come in pairs, which slows them down considerably. The heavy attack is a horizontal swing followed by a stab that has decent range, but since it comes after a very slow attack, who cares? The swinging attacks also hurts one of the spear's greatest strengths, which is fighting in tight corridors. Worst of all is the jumping attack, which is now a downward stab with no range at all. Unless it's possible to hit downed opponents with it, what is the point?

    I put the spear away. I can't use it in this state. I can only hope that there is another spear I'll find later on that is a true thrusting weapon and isn't hampered by awkward and pointless slashing attacks.

    The club is still a club, though, so I have that. I can also use the old knight's greatsword that I picked up in the Tower of Flame, but only 2-handed, and only if I remove most of my armour so that I can still move.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-01-10-41-98.jpg

    It's time to take down that phantom knight, on the assumption that he'll stick around if I don't run away.

    Close up, I can see the designs of open-mouthed, screaming faces that cover his armour. Black smoke pours out of his joints, and he makes frequent rasping hisses in my direction as he darts around the beach.

    My assumption is correct. As long as I stay on the beach, he stays out and fighting. I attempt a battle while wearing heavier armour, but find that he kills me in a single hit no matter what I'm wearing, so I instead strip down to my lightest gear. I go to work learning his patterns. His charging slash that I can roll past. His wide horizontal slash that has a deceptive timing and is often followed up with a combo that has two different endings. The occasional quick stabs. The leaping slash he does after floating in the air for a moment. I get it all down, and find the openings in each sequence.

    I am wearing him down, bit by bit. Once, when he drops to around half health, he starts to gather dark energy, and moments later it erupts into a torrent of dark skulls that fly around the area and then home in on me. I dodge a couple of them, but 3 hit my in quick succession. I am cursed! And also dead.

    When I respawn, everything is normal. My health is still at half full, and all my stats are otherwise intact. Looks like curses are a thing that only matter to the living now. Which is a relief.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-01-56-40-02.jpg

    His most dangerous attack is that horizontal slash. Like the overhead smash of the Dragonrider boss, I have trouble timing the rolls with it sometimes. More often than not, that is how he gets me. I decide I need to stay close, so that I can better recognize and react to it. It also helps the next time he does his dark missile attack. Close as I am, most of them go over my head, and I manage to survive with a sliver of health and a curse bar that isn't quite full. When he does it again, I'm not as lucky, but I notice that he only shoots them out from the front.

    With that final bit of information, I have the phantom knight completely solved. Every attack is one that I see coming and know how to punish. When he does his magical attack I get behind him and lay into him with my club. As with the last fight, when he finally goes down I have accomplished a perfect victory.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-02-19-34-92.jpg

    He drops a twinkling titanite and a bunch of Souls. The twinkling titanite looks like it has the same use as in Dark Souls 1, to upgrade unique weapons.

    Now it's coffin time, but I think maybe I should spend my Souls first. I have collected a fair number from basilisk suicides and killing the Hollowed on the way down to the water, plus all the Souls the phantom knight gave me. I figure that helps make up for everything I lost in the Tower of Flame.

    I warp to the Forest of Fallen Giants and speak to Melentia. From her I buy the Pharros Lockstone. Is it the key to the switch in the sewers? I'm about to find out. Next, I warp to Majula and buy enough titanite shards to upgrade the club to +3. From here I'll need large titanite shards, and probably an ember to upgrade the smith. There is no option to change my weapons to raw, so that must take an upgrade as well. I would be more hesitant about upgrading so early, but I figure the game wouldn't make it an option if I wasn't expected to do it.

    At the Herald I level up again, putting 3 points into vitality. Need to work on that equip load.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-02-29-29-43.jpg

    Now I am ready for the coffin.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-02-31-05-96.jpg

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  • Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited April 2015
    Day 04 continued.
    Which ends in more disappointment. I think. I crawl inside and the lid closes, as expected. The screen goes dark, and then the lid opens again and I get out. I look around and realize I'm in the same place as I started. A message pops up telling me that "the nature of my being has changed." I look at my stat screen and character sheet. Nothing new there. What happened?

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-02-31-33-84.jpg

    I hop inside again. The same thing happens, and I get the same message. Have I reverted whatever change took place the first time? I decide to get inside once more, to be sure, and then I leave. I mean, I figured I'd at least get a Covenant invite to reject.

    There was a load screen, and I should have expected it to count as me leaving the area or resting. The Hollowed on the path back to the bonfire has respawned. I hardly even notice stomping him on the way out.

    Back in Majula and I take the lockstone down into the sewer. There's something standing next to the device now. It's the woman I met in the Tower of Flame, Licia.

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    As you might expect from a humble, god-fearing priestess travelling the land to bring peace and harmony to all, she has monopolized control of the device, claiming that it takes miracles to use, and she wants 2000 Souls to flick the switch for me. I don't have 2000 Souls, and the lockstone doesn't work, either. So much for that. I wonder if she's telling the truth about a miracle getting the machine working, and if I'd be able to learn it. Chances are it's none of the miracles she's selling if that's the case.

    Feeling like a bit of a conqueror, I figure I'll set my sites on an area I've already begun. After all, I have my +3 club.

    Heide's Tower of Flame

    As much as I am a capable learner when it comes to patterns and AI tendencies, there is a belligerence within me that sometimes rears its ugly head. It is usually apparent in moments that aren't quite stressful, but more about tedium. I look for imagined shortcuts, and I have this firm concept about how a game is supposed to work. Besides my poor decisions on a big picture level, this is what hurt me most when playing fighting games competitively. Well, that and my general laziness and terrible command input.

    But I digress. The point is that I will often make an unconscious or arbitrary decision about how a game should work, and then have it stick to me like old tree sap. Most people have this to some degree, and it's the ability to quickly unlearn bad habits that sets top players apart from the ones who are merely very good. And it's not as if it's only my fault. Some of these traps are there by design. They are all over the place in fighting games, and one of the greatest benefits of having an active community is being able to identify the most basic of them so that everyone can learn to circumvent them without giving away stupid, free wins.

    Playing Dark Souls 2 on my own means I can't benefit from the mistakes and wisdom of others, but it's a game against the AI, so the learning curve isn't anywhere close to as steep as learning to play against other human opponents.

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    I say all this to put into context my slow, rambling struggle against the white knights of Heide. They are the exact sort of enemy that is tailor made for causing me trouble. They move erratically, to the point where I often wonder if they're bugging out. They also have an annoying tendency to attack at random, which seems to become worse and worse as I progress through the area. I have these ideas about how I can fight them, and some of them are sensible. For example, I learn that my club's running attack will always stagger them. Well, except for when they are already in the middle of an attack, or when they decide to randomly do their little quick slash attack. My jumping attack will also stagger them.

    After a while, it is this quick slash attack that is the only threat the knights pose. That it is so random is what tortures me. I can fight two of them in a row that will allow me to zone them out and bash away whenever I see an opening, backing off before they can respond. And then the third knight will cut my throat as soon as I get close, or while I'm still recovering from the attack I just landed, or as he is standing up, or when it really, really looks like I have a chance for a back stab critical attack. Actually, that last part seems to be by design, as they will often present in a manor that looks like I can walk right in and get that free damage, only to kill me when I get close. Because I am a stubborn person who refuses to learn from some mistakes, a part of my brain lights up every time and tells me that this is it! This is the moment! I am supposed to get that critical attack, because that's how the game works. Then the the mild shock that I am dead again, which is more from how I fell for the same trick one more time than the trick itself.

    What am I doing back in the Tower of Flame anyway? I am trying to kill a dragon. Because dragons are the worst.

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    Step one is to gain access to the loot I missed the first time through here. After taking care of the hammer knight and one of the white Heide knights, I am able to open that chest I couldn't before.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-03-10-35-79.jpg

    Inside is a Ring of Binding, which raises my maximum health while Hollowed. That amounts to gaining a quarter of my life bar back, and that is definite progress.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-03-12-21-96.jpg

    This gives me some room for error. I can now survive a single attack from each of these enemies. With that, and my 3 flask charges, I am able to make steady progress, until I have come through the other side of the central cathedral and find another loot corpse at the edge of some collapsed stairs. It holds a Divine Blessing.

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    If it weren't bad enough that the Heide knights fight like schizophrenics, they also don't stay in place. The old knights each have a spot that they like to hang out in, only moving when I gain their attention and they decide to fight. The Heide knights wander about, and where I end up fighting them depends a lot on how fast I get through each area.

    Through careful curbing of my instinctual desire to take every fight as a slugging match, I am able to improve my runs to the point where I can reach the end with a full bar of health and a couple of flask charges left over.

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    So, I'm at the end now, standing at the bottom of some stairs that climb up to the dragon's resting spot. There is another white knight up there, the only one that is still sitting down. I am impatient, though, and after the work involved in getting to this point, I need to make sure what I am doing isn't futile. If I'm to continue then I have to be certain that I am not completely wasting me time. Imagine if I get up there and find out that it's a dead end, or that I can't kill the dragon. What if it flies away? While it's unlikely that this is a true dead end, ultimately, since there's a bridge right there, it could be that I have to drop that bridge from the inside, that I am running backward through a shortcut that I can't use yet.

    I run up the stairs, past the lounging knight. I see him only long enough to notice that he is holding a spear instead of the swords that all the other Heide knights fight with. I am level with the dragon now, sprinting toward a narrow bridge.

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    The dragon is drawing itself up, and as I get near the bridge I hesitate, waiting to see what it will do. That is a mistake, because what it does is breath fire all over the place, burning me to a crisp, and even doing a bit of damage to the spear knight.

    I fight my way back to the dragon, though it takes some effort. Along the way I get some item drops, including the huge 2-handed mace the hammer knight fights with, white chest armour and leggings belonging to the Heide knights, and even the massive ultra greatsword that the old knight in the middle of the main building fights with.

    The hammer requires 30 strength, and there is no hope of being able to use it. The armour is a decent compromise between the very heavy old knight's armour I already have, and the ragged bits of cloth that are my only other change of clothes. I find a Heide knight sword as well, which seems to be a normal long sword that does a bit of lighting damage. Fits with the dragon theme, I suppose, and all the arrows these guys sticking out of these guys. Maybe? I'm not sure. If they were the invaders, why are they called the Heide knights? Could be that they were the ones on the receiving end of the invasion, though. It would be less confusing if anyone around here, from the land that birthed the Way of Blue, wore a scrap of blue.

    I am standing at the bottom of the stairs again. I want to get rid of the spear guy this time. I use my final Lifegem.

    So he comes at me down the stairs and starts swinging this spear around. The spear is faster, has more range, and does more damage than the swords the other knights use. He kills me with a slashing combo that ends in a hopping lunge. While the slashes miss, the lunge may as well have come from behind me for all I did to recognize or avoid it.

    Dead again, and realizing that I have found an entirely new enemy that will likely have me jumping through hoops to work out. I have finally reached my limit. I have been grinding through this place for a while now, and when I got near the end I find out that I may be just beginning.

    I'm not going to run away without knowing for sure, though. I do the most sensible thing I can think of. I run to the dragon again, because if I really can't get across that bridge then it's time to leave. The dragon is asleep when I get there, which implies that I could have enough time to get to it before it is fully awake and ready to breath fire, so I am hopeful.

    It's no trouble getting past each of the knights on the way. They are too slow and oblivious to raise a hand before I'm too far away for them to hit me. As I get closer, the dragon wakes up, gets to its feet, and spews fire again. But I've rationed my stamina, keeping it ready for the final sprint to the finish line. I am crossing the bridge as the dragon opens its mouth, and by the time the flames appear I have made it past.

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    Of course, so has everyone else. The spear knight is here with me, and soon he is joined by another white Heide knight, and even a big sword and shield knight. I circle around the dragon, waiting for what it will do next. If it breaths fire again, I may have to give this up.

    But it doesn't breath fire. It spins around and bites at my head, which knocks me to the ground, but doesn't do unreasonable damage. I get closer and whack it a few times in the shin. I can hurt it, too, though not a whole lot. That hasn't stopped me yet, and it won't stop me now. I can make it to the dragon, and I can survive next to it, and I can hit it as well. This is the criteria for a successful fight with just about anything.

    Before I die, I get to see the dragon's tail send the big knight flying into the water, and also a familiar brown square on the ground near the dragon's feet. It's a switch that will rise up if I kill this beast, and that must drop the drawbridge.

    Between my bonfire and the dragon's open-air bedroom are:
    • Three old sword and shield knights. Difficulty rating: 1/5
    • One old hammer knight. Difficulty rating: 3/5
    • One old greatsword knight. Difficulty rating: 3/5
    • Three Heide sword knights. Difficulty: 1-4/5
    • One Heide spear knight. Difficulty: the worst/5

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-05-10-47-54.jpg

    Not every obstacle is created equal. There is a difference between a wall and a maze. If I had run into impenetrable dragon's breath, that would be a wall. I could not get past it with my current means, or from my current position, I would have to give up. Anything less than that I consider to be a maze, which is my favourite type of puzzle. All that I need to get through a maze is knowledge and memorization. If I can perfect my run, if I can solve the problem of that spear knight, I know I can do this.

    First step is making sure I'm in the best shape possible before getting to him. I need to get a better handle on the randomness of the Heide knights. After some experimenting, I find that I can use the huge old knight ultra greatsword if I hold it 2-handed and take off all my heavier armour. Its heavy attack is a strong stab that has plenty of range, and also staggers the Heide knights for a long time, long enough for me to back off again. Is this a function of poise damage? This sword does more poise damage than everything else I have, and does that mean it also has longer hitstun? Whether it's that, or merely a function of the weapon's moveset, it is the solution I've been looking for. With the stab, and its followup swing, I can fight the Heide knights at a range where I don't have to worry about their random attacks, then switch back to my club to take care of the big guys.

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    I try taking on the spear knight as if he were like the others. My brain keeps telling me that I can do that. It's the problem I explained earlier. In my mind I can fight him the same way as I fought the rest, using the big sword to stab the knight before he can get close enough to do anything. But his speed and range thwart me. I am at a loss for a while, doing everything from putting on all my heaviest armour so that I can take a hit (it doesn't work, I die just as fast), to trying to block with big sword, as it has the best stability of all my options. I learn something then, that it's possible to parry with a 2-handed weapon, though it seems impractically slow with the sword. It's not much better for blocking, either, as the damage the bleeds through kills me almost before I run out of stamina.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-14-42-21-44.jpg

    At some point I pick up some awestones. Random loot, or specific drops from one of the big knights? I have no idea.

    While staring at my items looking for a hidden anti-spear knight potion, I realize that my ingrained perceptions of how the game should work have been holding me back in ways I haven't even noticed.

    I have been looking at this Hollowed and human thing from the wrong angle. I saw that I could burn an Effigy at a bonfire and that was all that mattered. After all, it required a bonfire to reverse Hollowing in Dark Souls 1, so why wouldn't it be the same now? A less stupid person would have clued in that it wouldn't work the same way because it is obviously not working the same way. There is no more Humanity to collect and convert--the entire system is different. But these Effigies, which are right there in my consumable item menu--they are the first item on the list--have been under my nose this whole time. Why did I found them before I could burn them? Why are they in my consumable item menu?

    The answer is that they are consumables. Now, to my credit, an Effigy is often something that gets burned, and, like I said, there is an option to do just that. But all it takes to find out how to become human again is highlighting my Effigies and opening the interaction menu. The top option is to use an Effigy. I could have been human this whole time. I could have fought those hippos and that phantom knight with a full health bar.

    I don't use an Effigy now, though. I have yet to solve this spear knight problem, and the extra health would not help, now that I have the Ring of Binding.

    Invigorated, I head back out to map my way through the final leg of this maze. And soon, I do.

    By pulling him all the way to the end of his leash, I am able to fight in a position where I at least have the option to back away and drink from my flask. Every other fight has ended as soon as he got close enough to poke me in the gut. Now I take the time to watch him closely, study what he's up to. Then, I have it. I find the times to roll, and the attacks that I can punish. In the end, he is as mortal as the rest.

    I lose that fight, but I have the confidence now to use an Effigy. I pop it, and I am now human again.

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    Using the Effigy doesn't heal me, so it's not quite as useful as it could be, but I rest at the bonfire and, for the first time in forever, I have my full health bar to work with.

    Everything comes together. I make the run while taking only a single hit from the spear knight before he goes down. I use a flask charge, put away the big sword, pull on my heavier armour, take out my club. I am ready.

    darksoulsii-2015-04-13-16-18-23-43.jpg

    I have been doing the runs so well up to the point of the spear knight that I have kept Souls from life to life. Standing near the top of the stairs, with nothing but my club, with the dragon there, and with nearly 29,000 Souls in my pocket, I do get a momentary flash of excitement. What if I do this wrong? What if he toasts me before I get across the bridge and I can't recover my body? I took the spear guy down once, but it wasn't easy, or fast.

    I push that aside. I am here now, and I have only one thing left to do. There is no point in second guessing my abilities.

    I get to the top of the stairs. The dragon is rising. I run for the bridge. I have judged the distance wrong, and I'm out of stamina before getting safely across. A blast of flame hits me, knocking me to the ground. Half my health gone. I stand slowly, and catch the tail and of the same blast. The other half of my health is gone. I failed.

    But no. Somehow, I am still alive, with a tiny sliver of health. I stand up and dash to the dragon's belly before it can breath fire again. I pull out my flask and drink, even as the dragon lifts a leg to stomp me. I lose some health, but I'm alive. I stand and use my final flask charge. The next stomp I see and avoid, and from there it is a battle of angry feet and brutal club swings. I stay as close as I can, because when I do the dragon keeps stomping, and I can see those coming and avoid most of them. I notice it's possible to target different body parts of the dragon, which is helpful. I dance from leg to leg, attacking whichever is on the ground before the other one crashes down. This pattern is easy, and I have already mastered it.

    The dragon dies.

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    It drops the Watchdragon Parma, a medium shield with decent resistances and respectable stability. I equip it immediately. It also drops a petrified dragon bone, which upgrades special weapons. I haven't seen any demon titanite yet. Has it been replaced? Seeing the dragon bone reminds me that I should have tried to cut the dragon's tail, which slipped my mind in my frenzy to kill it before it killed me. It's possible I missed a weapon, but it's not a big deal.

    With the switch pulled, the drawbridge comes crashing down.

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    Temple of Blue

    There is a body at the top of the drawbridge, and also a fog gate at the entrance to the temple. I loot an old radiant Lifegem, a big healing item.

    I am sitting on over 30,000 Souls now, am close to death, and I'm completely out of flask charges.

    But I've come so far.

    I know I shouldn't. I know it's a bad idea. I know it will end in disaster. And I know I can't resist, either.

    I have to get a peek. I have to know.

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