I realized I’d better get cracking on these Diaries, because I’m really quite a bit farther in the game than this entry, and I’m beginning to forget things that have happened to me. Luckily I discovered a cool new technology called “A Pen” and “A Notepad” and have been writing things down so my brain doesn’t have to remember them unless it wants to.
When last we left our hero, he’d returned from the profound awfulness of Blighttown to discover a huge crowd waiting at Firelink Shrine, all in a frenzy about the campfires being out…
Dark Souls Diaries: Deaths 581-585 (December 19)
Okay, false alarm. Or, rather, less alarming alarm. It turns out that not all the campfires have gone out; just the one at Firelink Shrine. This is kind of a pain because Firelink is really a good central location, and with the fire out I can’t camp there any more – can’t sleep, can’t replenish Estus, can’t repair equipment, can’t make S’mores, can’t tell ghost stories, can’t do any of the things you normally do at a campfire.
Why is the campfire out? It took a while to get a coherent story out of the like ten new people and the giant snake-dog thing who’d all arrived at Firelink while I was in Blighttown, but after some patient cajoling a picture began to form.
It looks like someone murdered the Fire Keeper. Someone murdered the Fire Keeper and took her soul and skedaddled to points unknown.
She was the only (living) Fire Keeper I’ve met. Lissome and forlorn, Anastacia of Astora was her name; she lived in a cage that had been dug into the side of the plateau on which Firelink Shrine rests. “She’s mute and bound to this forsaken place,” said a fellow I’d met at Firelink earlier. “They cut her tongue out back in her village so she’d never say any god’s name in vain.”
Yeah, Dark Souls is bleak.
I’d never paid much attention to her, to be honest; she didn’t speak, didn’t sell anything; didn’t even come out of her cage as far as I could tell. Fire Keepers’ souls are very valuable – they allow you to increase the potency of your Estus Flask – and it seems someone killed this one and took hers.
Who? No one at the Shrine was sure, but it wasn’t exactly Sherlockian to deduce that Sir Lautrec of Carim was the culprit. Dammit. Of all the people who’ve been milling about the place since the game started, suddenly he was nowhere to be found. And he’d been poking around the Fire Keeper’s cell earlier, I’d seen him. What’s worse, this murdering son of a bitch got to Firelink Shrine because of me, because I found him locked in a closet in the Church of Awakening screaming for help and I let him out, thinking I was rescuing some noble hero. So in a way it’s my fault that poor silent girl is dead, and damned if I’m not going to find that bastard and teach him that nobody murders Fire Keepers on my watch.
Meanwhile the giant snake-dog thing – whose name, it transpires, is Kingseeker Frampt – is of the opinion that I am a very special undead, that I might, even, be the one who’ll be able to put an end to the curse on Lordran. I need to get to Anor Londo, the “City of Gods,” as he called it; to do that I’ve got to cut through Sen’s Fortress, which was only just made accessible by virtue of my ringing the Bell of Remembrance down in Blighttown. Presumably somewhere along the way I’ll be able to use the Black Eye Stone I found in the Fire Keeper’s cell to invade Lautrec’s world and give him a nice heaping helping of Ma Steerpike’s Drake Sword +2 Right In His Stupid Face.
Before setting off to Sen’s Fortress I took a short detour and hitched a ride with Sparkly the Crow back to the Undead Asylum, where all this madness began. I thought I’d have another go at the new demon that’d moved in; more importantly, a special and unique object called the Peculiar Doll was said to be hidden in the Asylum, and I needed that for reasons I’ll get into later.
I found the Peculiar Doll without much trouble, taking down a Black Knight and scooping up the strange little object. The new boss, however – the Stray Demon – killing that guy ain’t in the cards. He’s huge, fast, meanspirited, has an axe; all the things I don’t like about demons. Four tries were more than enough to convince me that he was welcome to the Asylum and I’d be leaving him alone.
Upon my return to Firelink I discovered something. While you can’t sell loot in Dark Souls, Kingseeker Frampt, the giant snake-dog thing, will happily eat almost any object you deign to feed him, and he’ll trade you souls for the privilege. The exchange rate isn’t stellar, but it did let me clear out a lengthy and pointless inventory of armor, weapons, and random junk I’d been carrying around in my Bottomless Box. So now there’s a reason to pick up things you’re not planning to use, since you can feed them to the Kingseeker.
Dark Souls Diaries: Deaths 586-623 (December 22)
Hot damn! Sen’s Fortress is hard. It’s full of scary traps:
And huge tough snake-headed men:
I gotta say, after the Depths and Blighttown it’s nice to at least be in a place someone keeps tidy, but man, staying alive in this castle is downright challenging. I’m not sure if I’ll get to meet Sen himself, but given the sort of people who work in his Fortress I don’t think it’ll be a pleasant meeting if I do.
Rolling boulders, swinging pendulum blades, dart traps, spike traps, deadfalls, circular saws, whoever built this place had a big mad on. Even though the snake men fall victim to the traps just as much as I do, I’m definitely put upon here. At least they know their way around.
When I see ghosts in the game, they’re almost always carrying HUGE melee weapons – giant cleavers or axes or lances. Historically I’ve avoided this type of weapon. They are slow to swing and swinging them really does a hit to your stamina, for one thing. Also, unlike most games, the Souls games actually do pay attention if you’re trying to swing a giant fucking claymore in a narrow hallway. Not only is sparking your blade against the walls not good for the sword, the close quarters can actually make it hard for such a large weapon to hit anything. Even my Drake Sword +2, which is large but not gigantic, gets tangled up in tight spaces. Still, it has struck a pretty good balance between “large and heavy” and “fast.” The drawback to the Drake Sword is that it’s very difficult to upgrade – it requires dragon scales, rather than the usual Titanite shards, to improve, and the only place to get those is off dragons, who have historically proven loathe to share them with me. So far this has been a non-issue since even at +2 Drake Sword has a damage rating of 240, and my next best weapon is only about 185.
But then I killed a Black Knight in the Undead Asylum – he was protecting the Peculiar Doll – and his sword had a base damage of 250. So with a few cheap blacksmith trips I had a Black Knight’s Sword +4 with a total damage rating of 365. That’s a lot more damage. The tradeoff is the size of the weapon. Black Knights are a good eight feet tall, their swords match their stature. A puny sorcerer like me has a little trouble with it, not that I’ve been doing much sorcering lately.
So now I’m torn between the scrotum-grindingly high damage I can do with my new sword and the fact that it’s so slow and heavy that mastering its use is going to take a whole lot of effort. My strength is high enough that I can at least wield the thing with one hand, but it’s hella big and I only get about four “light” swings before I’m out of breath. A “heavy” swing takes approximately five minutes to pull off and drains all but a sliver of my stamina.
What to do? Stick with the Black Knight Sword, get used to swinging slowly, and do more damage? Join the ranks of everyone else, who seems to prefer these monster-sized weapons? Or go back to my trusty Drake Sword and sacrifice the extra damage? I don’t know. The determining factor may be how it handles against the snake men in Sen’s Fortress, as I haven’t been back there since I switched over to it and did all the upgrading.
Another day, another mystery.
Dark Souls Diaries: Deaths 624-636 (December 28)
Final decision on the Black Knight Sword: it’s a keeper. Yes it’s heavy, yes it’s big, yes it crashes against brick walls in tight spaces. It’s probably not what you’d expect a puny sorcerer to be wielding, but you know what? Everyone feels free to make fun of a puny sorcerer, oh yes. But now when he can swing a GIANT FREAKING CLEAVER at their face, they think twice.
The big new sword has been quite helpful in Sen’s Fortress, where those huge snake men do their snaky things in among the traps and pitfalls. I don’t think this place is actually that large, per se, it’s just that it’s sort of labyrinthine and since I haven’t found a campfire yet any death means I have to start all the way back at the beginning. Whoever Sen was, he did not build his fortress with feng shui in mind, nor with any particular respect for interior design and ergonomics. Even the snake men seem to have a hard time now and then.
Purely by accident (when a pendulum blade knocked me off the catwalk) I discovered a big swampy basement area filled with those headless, one-legged Titan Demons, and after getting stomped, stabbed, electrocuted, and hurled against the wall several times I was able to clear a goodly pile of souls and some more Demon Titanite, which I’m assuming will be useful to upgrade something at some point, or I’ll feed it to Kingseeker Frampt. That dude’ll eat anything.
Is there a merchant in this place? How about a campfire? Throw me a freakin’ bone, Sen.
Dark Souls Diaries: Deaths 637-650 (January 2)
The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire!
Seriously. I got up to the roof of Sen’s Fortress and there’s this giant… giant up there, throwing firebombs the size of Buicks, which then explode and crisp me. This cannot possibly be good for the long-term structural stability of Sen’s Fortress. I’m almost 100% sure that whoever insures Sen will not pay for repairs if they find out that he’s got a bomb-throwing giant on his payroll. That kind of thing is gonna void your roof’s warranty.
Did I despair? No! Well, yes, at first. Yes I did. But then I took a cue from our very own Toger, who recently remarked that “poison is the gift that keeps on giving.” Thus did I huddle on a protected staircase and give Mr Bomb Giant a special treat in the form of about 55 poisoned arrows. As his health crept ever lower I snuck to a new location and discovered that there are in fact two giants up there, and I hate them both. The bomb-thrower died twitching and puking from all the poison I pumped into him; he doesn’t respawn so I’m through with that guy. The other one seems to be in charge of deploying these round rolling Indiana Jones-style squashy boulders that kept rolling over me down in the Fortress. The whole place is one enormous crushy smashy pinball machine. Though I seriously considered introducing him to the delightful combination of Poisoned Arrows + The Black Bow of Pharis, in the end I decided against it. I finally found a campfire up here; since I no longer need to make the climb through the Fortress every time, I shouldn’t have to deal with his rolling balls any more.
I’m still not 100% clear on what I’m supposed to be doing here, or how it’s going to help me with my principal quest of hunting down that ass-dog Lautrec and taking some cold cuts out of his flesh. And every time I return to Firelink, Frampt just won’t quit on Anor Londo, and how I’ve got to get there and blah, and blah, and blah.
Actually I like Kingseeker Frampt. You wouldn’t think that giant snake-dog things could be charming, but he kind of is. And to tell the truth, other than Solaire of Astora and Andrei the Blacksmith, Frampt is one of the only
people entities in this godforsaken realm that’s been nice to me.
I’m still not 100% clear on what I’m supposed to be doing in Sen’s Fortress, but I have come to the end of it. The boss of this place isn’t Sen at all but the Iron Golem, who’s more or less what you’d expect of something called “Iron Golem:” he’s a big metal man with a big metal axe.
To be honest I think he might be a Stainless Steel Golem, since he lives outside and has shown no signs of rusting… though I admit I’ve never seen it rain here. Still, “Iron” is traditional.
In a way it was kind of a letdown, to come upon the Iron Golem, after the dual horrors of Gaping Dragon and Chaos Witch Quelaag. He shows all the same great boss design I’ve come to expect from the people at From Software, but he’s only terrifying in a normal, pedestrian, “I will squash you” sort of way. I won’t have nightmares about the Iron Golem, nor will friends look at me with haunted eyes and say “some of those creatures just are not right,” the way Pete did when we were discussing Quelaag the other day.
Iron Golem took a few tries, largely because his great sweeping axe had a nasty habit of sweeping me straight off the curtain wall and down a grillion feet to the rocks below. I was too cheap to recover my humanity and summon another player to help me – it really wasn’t necessary anyway – so it probably did take more tries than it needed to, but in the end, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. And just like that, Sen’s Fortress was behind me.
In front of me was a wall almost as tall as a mountain, with just the barest hints of spires up there in the clouds. Could that be the fabled Anor Londo, the sunlit City of the Gods?
And how in the blue crap do I get up there?
Well, there is this strange glowing ring of energy that wasn’t there before. And clearly in a Souls game, the best move when you see something strange and glowing is to march up and grab it with both hands, especially if you just killed a boss and are carrying about 60,000 souls, have no Estus left, and are a long, long way from a campfire. *grab*
Those are… those are spots. Those are spots and they’re getting closer. Those are winged spots, those are SPOTS WITH WINGS. Those are Gargoyles. Those are great big fat gargoyles and they’re coming at me. Those are two gargoyles grabbing me by theNONONOTONEONEACHARMNONOTHISISGONNAHURTSOBAD
Next up: the Sunlit City of the Gods! And Deaths 651-696 >>
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That was hilarious. I loved it. I don’t know how you can die so many times, but keep it up and keep writing.
I don’t understand what is going on. It’s basically a game with all boss fights? That cheats by keeping you helpless?
@Pokey: Have you PLAYED this game?!?
@Scout: No…it’s essentially an open-world dungeon crawler kind of thing that never, ever cheats (else it wouldn’t work). It just doesn’t hold your hand (at all, ever).
Now, Steerpike, I have to say, though…Sen’s Fortress? Hard? No. No, no, no. That’s every other place. Sen’s Fortress is a fricking CINCH. But maybe that’s because I’ve been wielding my trusty Longsword +12 for so long. Numerically inferior to the Drake Sword, but I never took a liking to that particular weapon. I like to thrust at things. Yes I do.
Pokey actually just completed an epic run of Demon’s Souls in the forum. That whole conversation was awesome!
Scout: what Brandon said. There are plenty of bosses, yes, but they appear in typical bossy fashion. Regular foes are more regular. A game I often mentally compare it to is Gauntlet, from back in the Eighties – both share brutal difficulty and a sense of very hard-won progress. The world of Dark/Demon’s Souls is incredibly bleak, and there’s a sort of existential sense of tragedy and doom hanging over everything. Technically speaking it’s an action-RPG; not dissimilar from what you’re playing in Witcher 2 right now, actually, though I’d say the Souls games focus more on slick combat controls.
To tell the truth, Brandon, I pretty much think every new place I visit is hard. Sen’s was hard, after that Anor Londo was hard, after that the Duke’s Archive was hard, after that etc etc etc. But I’m doing a pretty good job getting through them.
I am having an upgrade problem, though, maybe you can help: my Black Knight Sword is now apparently maxxed at +5, along with my suit of Silver Knight Armor. The only Ember I’ve ever found apparently doesn’t allow those things to be ascended, and I’d like to keep improving them or make the executive decision to switch to something else. Any thoughts?
How long would you say you’ve been at this now, Steerpike? I’ve read reviews by people who claim to have completed the Souls games in 20 hours, and others for whom it took 70. That’s a bit different.
Also: Demon’s Souls is in my PS3 right now. Yes, I reacquainted myself with it on Sunday. By that I mean I reacquainted myself with how to die. Forgetting the intimacy and timing of the controls contributed to this. There were a lot more blood stains, notes, and ghost-y people running around than I remember in the past. More online-y things, in other words. Maybe people are remembering how to die in Demon’s to prepare for Dark? It felt almost like I was in Northshire Abbey in November 2004. But not really. ‘Cause, you know: loneliness, despair, anguish, horror; these are things more associated with Souls than Warcraft.
Awesome new entry Steerpike. Love the way you tell these tales.
I found Sen’s Fortress a refreshing experience after Blighttown’s depressing darkness. After all the rotted wood, muck, bleakness, decay, and lack of natural light, I was practically depressed and in a weak mental state. Being able to return to a more “normal” relatable environment like Sen’s stone castle walls and sun lit skies (ok, overcast), was a huge boost to my mental morale (booby-traps and Serpent-men be damned!)
Thinking back, I really enjoyed Sen’s Fortress. Especially once I found that hidden Bonfire!
And I’ll save my thoughts on Anor Londo until your next entry, but basically my jaw was on the floor when I first arrived. Fantastic job by From Software there.
Regarding your weapon question, I do not think you can ascend the Black Knight Sword past +5. I believe that is where mine is at. It does scale with your strength though, so the more strength you have the more damage it will deal out.
Not sure if you have created it yet, but my go-to weapon during my first play through was Quelaag’s Fury Sword, which you create using her soul and a “curved sword”. Excellent damage, extremely quick, and very stamina friendly. I just hope you didn’t feed Frampt your Demon Titanite pieces because you need those to upgrade it!
I was amazed at the number of deaths because I only died a small fraction of that in Demon’s Souls. Am I going to die a lot more times if I play Dark Souls or are you playing a reckless character? I don’t think the game keeps a record of deaths. I’d like to know how many I had.
Pokey, I just figured Steerpike was making those numbers up for the sake of self-deprication. If that’s actually how many times he’s died … good grief.
Xtal, according to the counter I am just about to crack 100 hours with Dark Souls. I’m well ahead of where this Diary leaves off – I estimate I’m at the 85-90% mark, as what remains is basically wrap-up.
I’d also add that I wouldn’t call myself particularly good at these games. I do tend to be rather reckless, and I also waste a lot of time (and lives) puttering about areas I know, falling into holes or getting eaten by monsters I’d left behind. A lot of my deaths are sort of filler, and not part of my forward momentum.
Pokey, I don’t think you’ll die constantly in Dark Souls. Despite the promotional material (the game’s tagline is “Prepare to die”), Dark Souls is absolutely not harder than Demon’s Souls. It’s just different. Certainly don’t let my incompetence give you pause. : )
Thanks for the tip on swords, Tanis38. I think I might have broken Quelaag’s soul, but I have an assortment of others. In truth I’m doing a lot of damage now, so just boosting my strength may be more than enough.
I’m still trying to frame how I will write about the instant of arrival in Anor Londo. It’s not something you can easily put into words. I can only think of one other moment that visually and aurally clobbered me so hard – interestingly, in a game when another city is revealed for the first time. You can probably guess which one.
By the way, your tip on Seath the Scaleless was most appreciated! You have earned a Gold Star. : )
Gravelord Nito defeated!
Yay! Gold star! Glad I could assist in that encounter. That was the only time I felt kinda cheated by the game.
Congrats on defeating Nito. Did you have a Divine weapon with you or did those annoying skeletons stick around for the entire fight?
I’d also add that I wouldn’t call myself particularly good at these games. I do tend to be rather reckless….
I can confirm this. 🙂
I also waste a lot of time (and lives) puttering about areas I know, falling into holes…
I can confirm this as well, especially the part about “falling into holes”.
It’s quite shocking the number of times the answer to the question: “Matt, where the hell are you?” is: “I fell in hole! I’m a in hole.”
It’s true, what Ajax says. It’s like a sickness. Left 4 Dead? Chances are I fell in a hole. MW3 Special Ops? Fell in a hole. I attract them or something. Sometimes they’re deep, sometimes they’re shallow; sometimes I fall to my death sometimes it’s more of a tumble. I can’t explain it.
@Tanis38: no, no divine weapon, though it would have been nice. I swapped the Dark Knight Sword for a longsword upgraded to Lord’s Sword. Does slightly more damage but, grr, again stops upgrading at +5. The skeletons were a huge pain; my strategy was basically to roll forward, slash at Nito, roll away, recover stamina, repeat. I got him on the first try without summoning assistance, but it was close.
If you are still in the area, farm those skeleton babies right outside Nito’s area. They can give you a ton of humanity. Just tread carefully, they can easily swarm and overwhelm you if not careful.
My current weapon of choice is a Great Demon Machete +15 (the kind the Capra Demons wield). It is stupidly huge, heavy, and slow, but so powerful it usually doesn’t take more than two swings to put enemies down. It’s huge arc can even hit enemies practically behind you. Plus it stuns enemies easily, making its slow swings a non-issue.
Glad I could help! 😀
And these diaries are brilliant. Pray continue.
[…] Deaths 581-650. So in a way it’s my fault that poor silent girl is dead, and damned if I’m not going to find that bastard and teach him that nobody murders Fire Keepers on my watch. […]
The thing I love about a Dark Souls experience is how different it can be from someone elses, especially when you account for our different strengths and play styles.
In the beginning it took me a good 15 tries to beat the Tauros Demon. But I beat Gargoyles, Capra, Gaping, Ariamis and a few areas the first try, but others like Quelaag (many dozens) and Ceaseless that others found easier I struggled with for freaking ages. Probably the only universally hated(?) parts are O&S and those cheesy archers in Anor Londo. The parts I don’t like are the Garden and blight because I find them boring and Duke’s cos it’s a bitch.
You know what’s funny? I mean, first, you’re totally right – everyone’s experience is remarkably different, even if you tend to play alike – but what’s funny is how different “different” really is.
I never even met the Ceaseless Discharge. And I’m not sure he’s supposed to be an optional boss. Meanwhile, most agree that Ornstein & Smough are among the toughest in the game, and I cleaned their clock in two tries, while drunk, though I admit most of the heavy lifting was done by summoned help. I fear encountering them on subsequent playthroughs in case I see what they’re really like.