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Dark Souls II
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Synonamess Botch
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March 15, 2014 - 3:06 pm
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Alright Pokey!  I can't talk about this game without comparing it to Dark Souls.  There are many differences between the two games, subtle and obvious.  I won't go into the technical stuff for now except to state two things.  First, that durability now has much more importance in this game.  Your items repair when you rest at a bonfire, as long as they haven't reached zero durability.  But the max durability of most items is much lower than in DkS.  And what there is goes down much faster.  So it's not uncommon to find oneself far from a bonfire with a broken weapon, only repairable by a blacksmith.  Having a backup is now almost essential.  Secondly, I get the impression that From intends players to level up much higher than they normally would have in Dark Souls.  For a while, leveling was almost all I had to spent my souls on.  Upgrade stones are in limited supply at this stage.  So Steerpike, I would have no qualms about leveling early and often.  In that sense, this is a departure from Dark Souls, where saving your souls for Andre's bottomless titanite shard inventory takes precedence.

That said, my first impressions of the game were, frankly, not all positive.  The opening sequence is nice, but the early areas of the game just didn't seem that compelling.  Compare this to Dark Souls, where you start in the Burg, work your way down to the burg basement and the Depths, then down to Blighttown.  There's a definite thematic progression there to match your actual descent further underground.  Majula is nice, with its serene vista, but everything else seemed like a bunch of unrelated areas just stuck together.

I understand that I've been so steeped in Dark Souls lore for so long that it has a cohesiveness to me now that it may not have had at first.  And DkS2 does seem to be playing its cards close to its chest, as it were, for now.  Xtal is quite a ways farther than me so you should probably heed his comments about that more than mine.  Still, while I enjoy exploring, it all feels too context-free right now.

I will share an anecdote about my experience in the first area you will likely go to after Majula.  It's a crumbling fortress of sorts, something Fromsoft can design in their sleep at this point.  And, as an aside, I don't think their level-design chops have degraded one bit.  It's the typical method: work your way through a convoluted level and, via a previously inaccessible path, find yourself right back where you started.  Still brilliant.  In this particular area I began having a very difficult time.  I was dying over and over and making no progress.  I had no souls to spend on anything as a result.  On top of that I had joined a covenant which, unknown to me at the time, makes the enemies harder and which disables all coop.  Just when I had gotten almost to the limit of despair, I had a flash of insight, with the help of some player clues, and opened up a shortcut I had previously missed.  I won't spoil any more, but will say that From has gotten even more creative in the implementation of shortcuts.  I felt such joy at this discovery.  After that the level started giving up its secrets to me in rapid succession.

That has kind of been a high point though.  No other experience has quite matched it yet.  I'm still looking for the thread to tie it all together.  I'll add to Xtal's frustration over coop.  The match-making system is inscrutable, which I guess shouldn't surprise us.  We forget how much of a mystery DkS and DeS were.  I have Xtal to thank for suggesting I abandon that covenant I mentioned.  While a member, it is not even possible to use the white soapstone, or to see summon signs.  That was just part of the saga of our failed attempts at jolly coop.

 

Rule #2: Double-tap

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xtal
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March 15, 2014 - 4:08 pm
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I have just discovered A New Thing in Dark Souls II that I can't resist sharing.

Remember good old rolling through and whacking illusory walls in Dark Souls? Well, there are the Pharros' Lockstones walls which can still be rolled through or hit, but in addition there is now ANOTHER KIND OF ILLUSORY WALL.

I just discovered one in The Lost Bastille. Just a completely inconspicuous area of wall and it's illusory. But you can't roll through or whack it. You have to press X! And no, there is no button prompt. And then you go into a dead end hallway where another totally inconspicuous part of wall opens the same way. I got access to a previously inaccessible section of rooftop and a ring that could be useful.

Lesson: if you see a message that says there's an illusory wall but you hit the wall there and nothing happens try walking up to it and pressing X.

From Software: Troll Masters Of The Entire Universe.

 

EDIT: Botch, have you un-petrified the guy in The Lost Bastille yet? Straid of Olaphis is his name. I just realized he sounds exactly like Frampt. PRIMORDIAL SERPENT IN MAN BODY. OH NOES!

EDIT 2: One thing I like so far: there is a merchant to whom you can sell items (Frampt-style), and another (Straid actually) who you can simply trade a boss soul to get a boss weapon/shield/etc. No more having to do random shit like upgrading a Broken Straight Sword to +3 so you can get some Artorias sword. You have the boss soul, you can "trade" it to Straid to get any items it makes. This is the kind of simplification I appreciate. There was no need for the bizarre boss weapon upgrade guessing game of Dark Souls.

EDIT 3: Side note: I am already a max-level Sunbro. Got 30 Sunlight Medals yesterday and the day before, cashed them in, same reward system as in Dark Souls. Get a shield at 10 Medals, sword at 20 and Sunlight Spear miracle at 30. Now when I try to offer Sunlight Medals to the Sunlight Altar it simply tells me nah, we're good; you're a Sunbro for life, go relax, have an Estus. Your work is done, sir.

Sun. Bro. Champion.

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

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Pokey
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March 15, 2014 - 4:24 pm
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I am about to leave Majula and head out to the forest, though I may go back and do the tutorial to pick up some more souls. There are a lot of players running around and loads of messages. One directed me over a cliff to some nice rewards. I haven't found the shield you mentioned. I am playing a warrior, so I have a shield. I believe the gift yellow quartz one is a bit better. The matching sword is ugly. It has been fun so far, not nearly as stressful as the first game.  I'll keep my eye out for the lockstone.

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Steerpike
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March 15, 2014 - 8:45 pm
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Great progress today, just arrived at the second fire in the Lost Bastille - cruel offspring of Latria and the Painted World, that place gives me the willies.

Like Botch, I was a little put off at first; but things have clicked now. DkS1 put me off at first too, because I had been used to Demon's Souls; the same's the case here. The changes are subtle but very, very significant; we'll see if they're for the best long term. But once the mixture starts to gel it becomes more comfortable.

 

By the way, I can't be the only one who's noticed that Dark Souls 2 is zero-sum, right? If you kill the same enemy enough times, eventually it stops respawning. That's a massive change, one that could make the endgame almost unimaginably difficult unless there's something to balance it out. I sure hope they thought this through.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Synonamess Botch
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March 15, 2014 - 9:03 pm
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Yes that respawn limit is definitely a big deal.  It remains to be seen just how much though.  If it's souls you're after, there's tons to be had from coop or invasions.  The unknown, at least for me, is item farming.

I think you're making faster progress than me Steerpike.  I'm just now exploring past the first Bastille boss - probably the most interesting one so far.  It's just odd that I've run into exactly zero lore about what the Bastille is.

 

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Steerpike
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March 15, 2014 - 9:22 pm
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It's creepy, is what it is! I miss Majula's idyllic oceanfront!

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Pokey
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March 15, 2014 - 9:40 pm
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I'm taking a break after making it to Malentia in the Cardinal Tower. Took the key back to the blacksmith and got some helpful items. There was a message about a shortcut near the merchant, so I better get looking for it. I could sure use a better weapon. Seems like I had much better weapons in Dark Souls 1 by this time. My Yellow Quartz Sword is broken.

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xtal
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March 16, 2014 - 8:09 pm
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Some crucial information I learned yesterday from experience: rings that break can be repaired. Dks2's equivalent of the Ring of Sacrifice can be repaired for 3,000 souls. I feel like this is a fair compromise.

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

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Synonamess Botch
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March 17, 2014 - 12:21 am
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I've been spending a good deal of time in the Bastille, probing its secrets.  The place feels massive even though I know it's not.  Those belly-flopping mummies are a huge pain.  Here's a question, hopefully spoiler free:  has anyone found a key for a certain set of doors?  Not talking about Pharros here.

Until I answer that question I'll be exploring the Wharf.

 

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Steerpike
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March 17, 2014 - 10:19 am
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There's a Wharf?

I'm still in the Bastille, getting used by Royal Swordsmen. The mummy giants I can deal with, though I'd feel better with triple my current stamina. I made a little progress last night, but consistently have trouble in the room with the human effigy-looking clay ovens. About forty swordsmen attack at once.

I'm still hung up on this stops-respawning thing. What about Human Effigies? What happens when the merchants are all out of them and there are no monsters to farm for them? You people have to understand, I'm not actually very good at these games. I'm screwed! Game over man, game over!

Botch, I did find an Antiquated Key in the Bastille, is that the one you're looking for? 

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Synonamess Botch
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March 17, 2014 - 2:45 pm
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There is.  Reaching it requires defeating a certain boss first.  You can regain your humanity by helping (or killing) others.  The likelihood appears random though.  But there is so much of both going on right now, it's almost a trivial matter to regain it.  I've even regained it after, for instance, having the host die on me.  I know Xtal has had similar results.

Antiquated key is, unfortunately, not the one.  I forgot where I found that one.  Was it the Bastille?

 

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Steerpike
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March 17, 2014 - 7:16 pm
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Yeah, on the roof near the beginning if you follow the ledge around all the way. It's not really hidden, I couldn't imagine that was the one you were missing. The Bastille seems pretty small, but it also seems like there are lots of places only reachable through creative jumping, maybe it's hidden in one of those spots. I assume, by the way, that Blacksmith McDuff will stop ignoring his customer if he gets a new ember?

Saw at least one (by which I mean four) boss(by which I mean bosses) in the Bastille while helping out in another world. Looks pretty nasty. I too have seen myself revert to human for various reasons - just for being summoned once or twice, I'm almost sure - still, this worries me. Grinders? People who don't play online? Six months from now when the servers are more desolate?

I need to head back to the Forest, because I hear tell of a fire sword and a set of swanky armor laying around, somehow I missed both. This must be rectified... 

...though of course I've used all the Titanite that I've-locked-myself-out-of-my-house sells, meaning new stuff I find will be base until I find more. I understand the why of these decisions, I'm just a little worried about the long-term effects.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Pokey
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March 17, 2014 - 10:42 pm
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Finally, a bit of progress. I've been hanging around the Cardinal Tower bonfire for quite a while doing summons to increase my level a bit, still at 16, and to upgrade my Fire Longsword. Steerpike, you need to go get that. I died twice by falling off the tree, but otherwise, it was not hard. I would love to find that armor. Still wearing the original leather. I have the shortcut open to shorten the trip to the boss. I was down to nearly half health when I did some summons and magically got human twice in half an hour. I put a summon down and get a response in 5 seconds. The summon signs show up 4 or 5 at a time, but go, real fast and it is hard to get to one in time. I wonder how many people die trying to make the jump to the cartographer. I died twice and haven't been back. Hope to get to the boss soon.

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Synonamess Botch
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March 18, 2014 - 12:23 am
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I just found the fire longsword, now that I don't really need it. :(

It's not difficult to get to, just requires a bit of timing.  I haven't solved the riddle of the Bastille blacksmith yet, but there is a fairly simple way of getting him off that chest he's sitting on.

My PS3 really struggles with this game.  It's pretty obvious that the pre-release videos were PC - the console graphical quality is...not good.  The big shadow of your character when standing near a bonfire is so jaggy it's ridiculous.  I also kind of hate the animations. And often when cocking my bow in first-person, the enemies move around like jerky, 3D sprites.  I am enjoying the exploration, but at this point the game just feels like a pale imitation of Dark Souls the first.

Cartographer?

 

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Pokey
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March 18, 2014 - 12:34 am
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The cartographer has the key to a house in Majula. He is above all the wooden platforms by the big tree you can walk up in the Cardinal Tower. I want that key.

I haven't noticed any graphical problems. I'll look a bit closer.

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Steerpike
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March 18, 2014 - 9:28 am
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The Blacksmith is off the chest, he's clanking at his anvil but all he says is that he ought to get a new ember. He won't do any work or acknowledge that I'm there. I have visions of the Titanite I bet he sells, and my morningstar needs Titanite. It hungers for Titanite.

Pokey, if I'm picturing the area you're in correctly, there's an easier way around to the cartographer - a second cave opening in the same wall, but opposite where you come in. You have to do a sort of roundabout trip to the ground, then up a ladder, across the plank houses, and then run along the wall until you get there. It's perpendicular to the masonry wall with a bowman on it. You should see some messages warning of a boulder, which rolls by well ahead of you as long as you take it slow in the cave. I haven't figured out the Majula house yet, but I feel like it's a big part of the mystery. There are  really good items in there, too - a Pharros's Lockstone and an Estus Shard, if I recall, and just one enemy. Cale (I think that's the cartographer's name) will turn up later, so be sure to visit again. Something going on with that house.

As to the suit of armor I mentioned, it's a full Drangleic set - better protection than my Elite Knight but far too heavy. The real treasure is the Drangleic Shield - 100% physical damage reduction. Compared to my Eagle Shield the difference is unbelievable. It's also very heavy, but worth the stat investment.

I visited Heide's Tower of Flame briefly. I think that's where I'll go next. For now, I've gotten quite a distance in the Bastille - one boss defeated. I'm having a bit of trouble with the Belfry Luna area and I'm short a lockstone for a third contraption I discovered, but I hope to have the Bastille wrapped up tonight.

Leveling is odd. I'm level 36 already and it's still pretty affordable to level up - maybe 4,000 souls - so I keep doing it. So far it hasn't impacted my ability to summon or be summoned. I can't be very deep into the game, not with three bosses defeated, so I'm not sure what to make of it all.

Life is the misery we endure between disappointments.

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Synonamess Botch
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March 18, 2014 - 11:42 am
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Thanks for the tip Pokey.  I had totally forgotten about that area.  I know just where I'll make use of that lockstone...

Steerpike you'll notice that each level has noticeably less impact on your stats than in DkS.  I'm already in the low 60s and am most likely nowhere near midway through the game.

 

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xtal
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March 18, 2014 - 3:33 pm
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Same, as far as leveling goes. I've heard there are more bosses than the first game, so it's probably longer if you take all the optional paths. I'm level 85 and feel like I'm in the middle.

Folks: I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Dark Souls II has a Blighttown. It is called, appropriately, The Gutter. You probably won't get there until you've thoroughly scoured the Harvest Valley and Earthen Peak. If you've been playing for a while now and have thought well, there doesn't seem to be any terrible poison places! ...just you wait. The Gutter / Black Gulch is poison fucking hell. I'm dying constantly there. Which I like.

I also discovered the Rat covenant. It's interesting. Then I was setting up traps for victims and I corroded all my own armor and rings with acid. D'oh.

I seem like I've hit that mid-game question mark. Like do I push onward or grind for souls/items/levels? My instinct is to grind to learn the areas, and why not, it's fun!

 

I have learned a game-changing piece of information on the fextralife wiki forums. Game-changing if you'll be a long-term DKS2 player. Bonfire Ascetics, the items you can burn at bonfires which claim to increase the challenge, do just that. But I've learned the way in which they do it: they propel whatever bonfire's area you burn it at to NG+ essentially. That means all enemies will respawn (and have NG+ attributes), and this time around you won't be picking up new items. Apparently in NG+ you will get different drops from bosses (such as +2 rings, instead of the normal or +1 you can get in your first game) and regular enemies will drop NG+ stuff as well (which is apparently different). Thread here: http://fextralife.com/forums/t26995/best-item-bonfire-ascetic/

Also, you can burn an ascetic multiple times in one bonfire. I'm not sure if there's a limit. The key to creating an unending cycle is to find an area which has a Bonfire Ascetic as a static item pickup and just keep rinsing and repeating if you want to reset that area. I'm not sure how many Ascetics can be obtained in one game (without using any to reset an area) but someone in that thread claims to have about 25 of them. I have just two at this point. One was a pickup (I forget where from) and one I bought from a vendor in the Harvest Valley. For an idea of my progress, I've killed 12 bosses.

I have honestly not been using the wiki except to look at the covenant pages; I've been learning a lot of secrets simply from reading the messages I see. They have legitimately helped me with my chances from finding hidden items to boss fights.

Botch, what model of PS3 do you have? I thought they were all created equally...but perhaps not. I agree that some of the shadows are janky, but I haven't had a single performance issue. The game is not only a solid 30fps everywhere, sometimes it seems to go beyond that into weird giant-TV-high-refresh-rate mode like Infamous 1 did. I have a Slim 120 GB model. No performance nitpicking really.

I'm enjoying the game immensely (obvious, maybe?) but it is ... different from Dark Souls. As in it seems less concerned with shepherding the player through a relatively linear path of despair (Gargoyles > Capra > Depths > Blight > Sen's > Anor Londo) and more with creating an even sort of pacing. No one area has upped the ante from the previous quite like we saw with the Lower Burg to the Depths to Blighttown, or the Parish/Blighttown to Sen's to Anor Londo. They get harder in different ways for certain (the lengths to which Black Gulch goes to keep you poisoned, for example) but it is perhaps not as observable as in DKS1.

I think the biggest complaint I can level against it at this point is that the whole world doesn't seem to be bound together as a convincing, cohesive whole, like Dark Souls was. Obviously we all have more experience with the first game and so can picture every area that much easier but I don't think there was ever a place where you felt like you were just in a video game and had "warped" to the next level. At the top of the Undead Parish you could look down upon Firelink Shrine and even the pit of Blighttown. And from almost anywhere you could look up at the great wall of Anor Londo. Dark Souls II, from what I've seen so far at least, has failed to achieve this scope. When I leave the Huntsman's Copse and climb to the top of the Earthen Peak I can't see any area I've traversed before; just poison, fog and marshes. I can't see that spire in the distance that you can see from Majula, I can't see the sunken remains of Heide's Tower of Flame in the distance ... I just see the Harvest Valley below. Don't get me wrong, it's disappointment of the smallest kind, but it's still worth comparing, since Dark Souls the First was incredible impressive when it came to this.

Have any of you found a Fragrant Branch of Yore yet? When you do post here and I can suggest where you use your first one based on what you're looking for!

EDIT: Steerpike, definitely do Heide's Tower next. It will unlock basically your alternate path through the early game, so it's a good idea. The non-optional boss there also isn't that hard. I soloed him.

If being wrong's a crime I'm serving forever

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Synonamess Botch
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March 18, 2014 - 4:30 pm
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"I think the biggest complaint I can level against it at this point is that the whole world doesn't seem to be bound together as a convincing, cohesive whole, like Dark Souls was."

Completely agree.  For me however, this is a much bigger deal.  I play a lot of Dark Souls - more than any other game I've ever played.  At this point I don't really see myself having another go at Dark Souls 2.  I hope it will eventually convince me otherwise since there's still a lot to be seen.  But for all the little annoying things from the first game that this game improved upon (using multiple soul items at a time, gesturing even when standing on a message, quit/restart-free crow trades, etc.) it forgot to make a compelling world.

On top of that, the feel of the combat and movement is just not as fun.  For all the lag backstabs and other PvP annoyances, Dark Souls just feels better.

I haven't found a Fragrant Branch and I'm itching to come across one.  There are two places I can see to use one: near the blue sword guy and in the Bastille.  The latter is just blocking a bonfire - not a big deal since there's another one very close by.  But there is an item there as well I think.

 

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Pokey
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March 18, 2014 - 4:48 pm
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Steerpike, I haven't found that alternate route to Cale that you mentioned. I went down to the ground and up the ladder and looked around, but didn't see anything. This was while I was doing summons, so didn't have a lot of time. Am I looking for a ladder or something on the  ground?

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