My biggest game-writing project to date wrapped a while back, and I thank you who chose to explore even part of it. Like all things, the story grows in the telling. I never planned to publish the Dark Souls Diaries. It started as nothing more than an email series to disinterested friends. The first several installments were just heavily edited versions of those emails.
When I elected to put them on Tap, it stopped being a goofy thing and became a matter requiring a degree of journalistic integrity. As the Diaries grew in popularity, so also grew my responsibility to be accurate. As such, the evolution of the Diaries took place alongside the evolution of my knowledge regarding the game. This epilogue is the story of that journey, plus the final moments of the game upon which the Diaries are based, and a short look at the recent Prepare to Die PC port. It may not be the last thing I’ll ever write about Dark Souls. But it is the end of this particular (and for most of you, unendurably tedious) chronicle.
30 Frames Per Second * 1,000 Words Per Picture = 208,000 Words; Still Shorter and More Enjoyable than Anything Steerpike Writes, that Pompous, Bloviating Douchewicket
To get us in the mood, let’s watch my video.
All through my PS3 playthrough, and while writing the Diaries, I was at the mercy of YouTube and Google for media pertaining to my adventures. Now with the PC port I can do my own screenshots and capture my own footage. I decided to play through Prepare to Die as a spunky redheaded Pyromancer, and captured her adventures for the video above.
I’ve never been a fan of Dragon Age, Bioware’s “original dark fantasy” franchise. I find it creatively beneath Bioware, for two reasons.
First, it’s not original. Anything they didn’t cadge from Tolkien they cadged from George RR Martin. What Bioware terms “originality” most people would call “find/replace.” Changing names and slightly tweaking conventions that stretch back to Lord Dunsany does not reinvent western fantasy: making Dwarves into politically scheming miners rather than just miners, making Elves downtrodden instead of not downtrodden; these things are hardly the epitome of new creative.
Second, they made it “dark” chiefly by spraying blood onto every surface. You kill a bunny and your entire party is drenched in gore for hours. Blood doesn’t make a story dark, and as frightening as the doom posited by Dragon Age, that tale doesn’t go the extra mile. It means well, and I mostly love Bioware’s games, but they’d have been better off being honest about Dragon Age: it’s a reimagination of very conventional fantasy, not something new.
To be fair Dragon Age’s only real failure was in how it billed itself. The Souls games, meanwhile, don’t bill themselves at all. What they are is what you’re able to uncover about them. And for me – for most, probably – you uncover the truth after the fact. In my case it was while doing research to finish my Diaries. What I found in much study demonstrated a level of nuance and subtlety that blew my mind and changed the way I looked at interactive fiction.
Let’s talk about it.
Listen: the nation of Lordran has become unstuck in time.
The game takes pains to point this out. In Lordran, the flow of time is distorted, it says. A major character warns you early on that “time itself is convoluted here, with heroes centuries old phasing in and out.” Things do not happen in order, it’s impossible to accurately chronicle events, and use of time becomes a stylistic tool rather than a structural one when speaking of Lordran’s history.
This distortion is what allows players to enter each other’s worlds. Every time you see the phantom of another player, it’s because your timeline and theirs have intersected; every time you summon help, or are summoned, or get invaded, or invade someone, you’re temporarily forcing two worlds together. Lordran’s history, and the events that shape it, follow the same chronology as a dream. It is not a single, cohesive reality; it’s a heap of broken images, all moving, always.
Given this it’s natural to mistake the plot’s apparent disorganization for a shortcoming rather than an intentional mechanism. That assumption would be wrong, though. Dark Souls has a lengthy, vibrant, comprehensive set of lore for the entire world. People come to Lordran from many other places: Oolacile, Vinheim, Catarina, Astora, Carim, Thorolund. The Ancient Country of Lords could be a parallel to Olympus of Greek mythology, a land where the Gods dwelt, but fallen into ruin. Its story isn’t written down but meted out in bits and pieces tossed haphazardly into a box and upended for you to sort through, a jigsaw puzzle with no guiding picture.
Said my brother Marcus via email:
…of course I’ve been following the Diaries. The last entry was desperately sad and wrenching… my reaction to the game has been entirely built on your experience; I have literally never seen it. And at first… it sounded like a fun hack-and-slash. Then… in these [later] entries, the narrative arc… is crushing.
…while I enjoyed the diaries immensely, the farther into the world you got, the farther behind you left the rest of us. In the beginning, even Mom could follow and enjoy. By the end here, you’re casually spinning a rich mythology that means nothing at all to me, and yet which clearly consumed you.
By the time I saw the corner, and the paint I’d used to trap myself there, it was too late to go back and fix the often grievously erroneous misapprehensions I had submitted as fact. What’s worse, though I’d always known that Dark Souls was a bleak game with little to lighten its somber tone, I honestly had no idea how bad things were really going to get. Keeping my narrative at least somewhat funny felt increasingly disingenuous the more I learned.
So I had two challenges: how to tell the truth (now that I knew it), and how to do so without totally reversing the mood I’d started with. To be honest, I didn’t solve either problem very well.
To the degree I was able, from Deaths 581 on I attempted to weave a sense of growing dread organically, on the logic that my character had up to that point elected to be blissfully ignorant on the plausible ground that his situation was so dire he’d willingly ignore certain warning signs. This was credible because Dark Souls’ structure allows for it; since it doesn’t directly reveal anything, everything is easy to whitewash. Moreover, Lordran is such a terrible place, where life and death alike are meaningless, where practically no one has your back, that I could reasonably argue some degree of head-in-the-sand-ism. I made an effort to write into my story a growing recognition that this viewpoint wasn’t going to be valid in the long run. My attempts at humor therefore progressively dwindled in the face of growing in-character doubt. By the end I relegated humor to saying “fuck” a lot more often, sort of the equivalent of someone clinging to the Titanic’s tilting deck and brightly proclaiming that he still has his health between episodes of whimpering and sobbing.
As to revelations of story and character, the best I could hope for was to toss in occasional comments demonstrating that I had at least a vague understanding of how it all fit together and pretend that the discrepancies versus earlier entries were more a matter of new information and thinking things through than just being incorrect the first time around. Even then I got an enormous amount wrong.
Coveting and Other Stuff Thou Shalt Not Do
The mythology and philosophy of Dark Souls are based in the twilight of things. In its predecessor Demon’s Souls, itself a pretty grim experience, a certain character again and again repeats the same line, like a mantra: “…that the world might be mended. That the world might be mended.”
When he finished Demon’s Souls, Xtal wrote in the forum, “it is done, the world is mended.” Here it’s fair to say the line is the same minus one letter. What’s one letter? In Dark Souls, “it is done, the world is ended.”
My naturally florid prose lends itself to writing an epic but ultimately incoherent explanation of the plot. I won’t. I want to but I won’t. I’m going to try to be Faulknerian with this:
Originally the world was simple; unformed. It was supported by gigantic Archtrees, and ruled by the Everlasting Dragons, great titans made of stone. Things had only one characteristic, and nothing ever created dichotomy. Then, for some reason, out of the blue, Fire came into the world… and Fire did bring dichotomy: heat and cold; light and dark.
In the Darkness, new things rose. And as they explored their surroundings they found something in the Fire: souls.
With the strength of Souls, these beings became Gods, and rose up and destroyed the Dragons, ending the Ancient Age and launching the Age of Fire. The Souls gave the Gods power. They did okay for a while but eventually the Fire on which they depended began to gutter.
The fire – the Fire – was special; it didn’t burn fuel, it burned Humanity, something quite different from a Soul. It was only found in human beings. The Gods weren’t Human, but they ruled, so they took Humanity from humans and burned it. This caused the humans to become Hollow; savage mindless undead useful for nothing, suitable only to be locked away in an asylum and there to await the end of the world. The humans had a patron god, but he’d disappeared before the Age of Fire even got started and didn’t come back to help them, not even now.
Some humans tried to fight back. They stole all the Humanity they could find to keep it from being burned. But the Gods found out and flooded their city, killing millions of innocents and locking the upstart covenant away. But still the Fire diminished.
If Fire went out, the Age of Dark would come, which the Gods feared because it meant their end. All that mattered to the Gods was perpetuating the Age of Fire, but some things are beyond even their power. Still, they tried. One of the first Gods tried to rekindle the Flame using her magic and her Soul, but the effort destroyed her. Nothing was working. The Ancient Age had ended; the Age of Fire was ending.
Desperate, the Gods and their friends picked out a human being and tried to trick him, believing that if a human willingly sacrificed himself to the Flame, betraying his own kind, it would rekindle and burn away all the humans at once, enough fuel for an eternity. All they had to do was convince a human to betray his own kind, to act as a sort of catalyst that would ignite and burn away every human being on earth. Obviously they couldn’t tell the truth, so they had to manipulate a human into thinking he was doing the right thing.
…Did they succeed? Sure. No. Well. Depends.
The flow of time is distorted in Lordran. What happens happens and doesn’t happen, then, now, later, never. I can only tell you what happened to me.
Dark Souls Diaries: Deaths 1,240-1,259
At the behest of Kingseeker Frampt, the Primordial Serpent and giant snake-dog thing who had advised me for so long, I gathered four Lord’s Souls – the first Souls, the ones that appeared in the Flames when the Gods rose.
At the behest of Kingseeker Frampt, I placed them in the Lordvessel, a great stone bowl that opened an ancient door beneath a lonely shrine. Through that door lay the Kiln of the First Flame, the place where Fire had come into the world, bringing disparity for the first time.
At the behest of Kingseeker Frampt, I went to link the First Flame, which he’d told me would perpetuate the Age of Fire. What he hadn’t told me was what else would happen… specifically, to humans, or to me. He’d also neglected to mention that while the Age of Fire sounds nice, it’s also the Age of the Gods… and while the Age of Dark sounds scary, it’s also the Age of Man. The Gods called human beings the “Dark Race;” something else old Frampt kept to himself.
“I admit,” Frampt said as the door to the Kiln creaked open, “I am fond of you humans. May you enjoy serendipity… and may the Age of Fire perpetuate!”
Shortly before my arrival on the scenetheflowoftimeisdistortedinLordran
At some point the king of of the Gods – Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight – ventured down to the Kiln of the First Flame himself, hoping to reignite it. Something similar had been tried before; one of his God friends, the Witch of Izalith, had tried to use her Soul Magic to reignite the fires. The spell she tried was so powerful that it required her to touch the Chaos, the freezing babbling nightmare that lurks beneath fire and earth, beyond the very universe. It was too much for her to control; instead of reigniting the First Flame, she unleashed the Chaos into the world. The Chaos annihilated her, it obliterated her city, it tainted her children, and it tore open a path between its place and the world. It unleashed the demons, and it distorted the flow of time in Lordran.
Cognizant of the risk, Gwyn tried. By all accounts he was slightly more successful than the Witch had been; the Fire did gain a little strength, though the resulting explosion shattered the Kiln of the First Flame and all the subterranean vastness around it, and of course blew him (spiritually) to smithereens. Where Gwyn, Lord of Sunlight had fallen, now rose Gwyn, Lord of Cinder.
He knew it would happen. If he fell into darkness, and a human then defeated him in his Lord of Cinder incarnation, the Age of Fire would perpetuate. So he and the other Gods, along with Kingseeker Frampt, conspired to fool me into thinking that if I went down there and destroyed Gwyn, then linked the First Flame, I’d assume his throne and it would be party time.
I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
The Kiln of the First Flame is an ash-choked waste. Lurking around it are the last of Gwyn’s Thousand Faithful Knights, whose beautiful silver armor was blackened by the heat of the Kiln’s detonation. By this point Gwyn wanted me to reach him, but his knights must not have gotten that memo, because those bitches granted me no quarter. Black Knights have never been easy to fight, though by this point – decked out in a suit of unburned silver, pumped to level 114, hauling an arsenal on my back – they couldn’t hope to stand in my way. I cut through them like reeds, and at last, I stood before the Lord of Cinder himself.
WHO LIT ME UP.
Who is this guy? I hate him.
Is the 20-foot sword strictly necessary, Gwyn? You’re already a God, and four times my size. Oh, and I see it’s on fire, too. That’s a nice touch. Ass.
If you get too close to Gwyn he’ll grab you, lift you up, shove his sword into your tummy and out between your shoulder blades, then spin you around and disimpale you like a human atlatl bolt, shattering your body against the seared basalt of the Kiln. That happened a few times.
If you keep your distance from Gwyn he’ll leap forward, that horrible burning sword swinging across in an arc to bisect you at the pelvis. That also happened.
In the interest of leaving my diplomatic options open I also tried stopping mid-fight and saying (out loud, to my TV), “Hey Gwyn, I’m sorry about calling you an ass. Let’s hug this out, man.” That didn’t work either.
Back to YouTube! Though don’t take this fight as gospel; whoever recorded it is a steely-eyed player.
No real secrets or tricks to Gwyn. He’s just a really, really hard boss who attacks relentlessly, and against whom any mistake can be catastrophic. Presumably if you’ve made it this far you’ve got the skill to defeat him, but truth is I kind of bumbled my way through Dark Souls. I saw the way to defeating him, but my thumbs weren’t fast enough.
I’d wanted to do it alone. I suppose with time I could have, but in the end I summoned help. Don’t even remember the player’s name – began with an M, I think; one letter, mended versus ended. Together we brought him down.
Oddly, at almost the precise moment Gwyn, Lord of Cinder fell, my niece was born in a distant land, where the flow of time is not distorted, to my brother Marcus and his wife GG. His text tweetled on my iPhone just as VICTORY ACHIEVED whooshed across my screen.
That was the weekend anything could happen.
Dark Souls gives you nothing that you haven’t earned. I finished the game on March 2, long before the last sections of the Diaries were written, long before I knew what I know now about the game’s narrative. And in keeping with that, once Gwyn was gone and my summoned help’s world had disengaged from mine, there I stood at a perfectly innocuous-seeming binary option.
LINK THE FLAME? YES/NO
Not even a choice, really. Kingseeker Frampt had told me to link it, and he was my friend. Everything I’d been given to believe throughout over 100 hours of play had told me that fire was good and dark was bad. So I linked it.
And I burned, the human who’d done the unthinkable – betrayed and destroyed his own kind that this fading Age might perpetuate. It had happened once before, when Seath the Scaleless betrayed the Everlasting Dragons and helped the Gods bring them down, with similarly dire consequences for all involved.
I brought down Gwyn, Lord of Cinder; I ascended to his role as king. Admittedly my time as ruler (about eleven seconds) was somewhat shorter than I might have hoped , but then… the flow of time is distorted in Lordran.
A Chosen Undead Will Leave the Asylum in Pilgrimage
Two endings are available in Dark Souls, a “good” one and a “bad” one. Technically I got the bad one. What’s most shocking is that I would never have taken that path if I hadn’t been so absolutely misled. Looking back now I perceive so many clues I ignored or overlooked, clues right out there in the open, plain to see, if only I’d had the eyes to observe them and the mind to analyze them.
I trusted people who had no right to my trust; they tricked me. I had been elegantly and utterly fooled, because I was told very few (if any) actual lies. Instead, my manipulators took advantage of a core human weakness – the desire to not be alone in the world. All they ever told me was what I wanted to hear.
It is done, the world is ended.
I Don’t Know How these Martyrs Carry On
As to what I learned after the fact, when my understanding of and appreciation for Dark Souls (beyond merely appreciating a masterful piece of game design) truly blossomed, I owe the most to a prolific YouTube contributor called EpicNameBro. His hours of exhaustively reconstructed Dark Souls analysis are brilliant, researched and defended with lawyerly precision. While he freely admits that his conclusions are just his own, I could find no fault with them. If you’re curious, you owe it to yourself to see his work.
The two most popular Dark Souls Wikis – here and here – were indispensable to me, not only in finishing the game (something I’d never have done on my own; you may have heard… Dark Souls is difficult, and I’m nothing special) but in comprehending the depth of its lore and complexity.
I summoned countless players for help throughout my game, far too many to mention. One, who goes by the PSN handle Neewop, actually emailed me months after we’d defeated Chaos Witch Quelaag together, having found my Diaries while idly searching for himself on Google.
To be honest I’m a jaded old bastard. I work in video games and as much as I wish they affected me the way they did when I was a kid, they don’t. I know too much about how things work – how the industry works, how games work, how players work. But I can’t say “the wonder is gone.” Sometimes it seems to have gone, but then I find a game like Dark Souls, and I realize that the wonder’s still there, I just need to look a little harder for it.
Thus my most sincere thanks go to Game Director Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team at From Software, without whose splendulous, resplinsive, brillormous, glittstanding work, you all would have been saved a solid 50,000 words. All I’ve done is recite the story they created. Thanks to them for creating it and you all for staying with me.
There. It is done.
Tell Steerpike to quit being so wordy at email@example.com.
Congratulations! … Is that appropriate? On the game, and the niece, I suppose.
It’s been an epic journey.
Great stuff. I’ve enjoyed these diaries throughout and much more than I ever would playing this game. (An email series to disinterested friends… Disinterested??? BAH!)
I am amazed, and quite jealous, that you were able to get so much out of this game. I wish it resonated with me in the slightest, so I too could take such a journey. Alas, my journeys lie elsewhere…
Now that the PC version is out — and modders are working hard to improve it every day — I’m gearing up, FINALLY, for my first “real” playthrough after having futzed around with the Xbox360 version many months ago. In preparation, I’m watching YouTube vids, reading the strategy guide, reading the wikis — and finally starting to read your excellent Diaries, which I had mostly skipped when you first published them in order to avoid spoilers. So yeah … I’m pretty methodical. 🙂
I have to say, as excited as I am to, uh, actually PLAY the game, I’m equally excited to finally jump into your Diaries. Thank you, again, for all the time and effort you put into this.
Having put 60+ hours into Skyrim on PC so far (with at least a hundred more being a possibility, I sense), and looking forward to Dishonored in a few weeks, I’m having to actively force myself to make Dark Souls a priority RIGHT NOW so as not to miss this window of gaming opportunity. What scares me — and simultaneously excites me — is the possibility that Dark Souls might completely consume me, pushing all the rest of my gaming to the back burner for some indefinite amount of time.
So, thanks again, and I’m looking forward to finally reading the diaries!
Thank you, Greg, it’s flattering that people enjoyed the work enough to trudge through them. We have had quite a lively Dark Souls discussion going on in the forum too, so head on over there for more support if you need it. : )
While everyone’s mileage will vary, I personally found that spoilers didn’t actually impact my experience with the game. If anything, occasionally knowing what was about to happen increased the sense of dread and excitement. I didn’t memorize the wikis or anything, but I did consult them whenever I was stuck, and would peruse them for useful trivia. It’s worth noting that I’d have never found the Painted World of Ariamis, the Great Hollow, or Ash Lake without the wiki, nor would it have occurred to me to try and get back to the Asylum. All in all some of the things that could be considered “spoiler-giving” actually increased my enjoyment of the game.
Enjoy Dark Souls! There’s quite a community around here if you need help. : )
I’m still not entirely convinced, EpicNameBro’s excellent analysis not-withstanding. I don’t have solid proof, only anecdotal evidence. The big one that sticks out in my mind is Ingward and his comments about the Darkwraiths. He calls them the enemy of humankind. I haven’t yet spoken to Kaathe in one of my playthroughs to get his take though (I’m close but the Four Kings are always a tough nut and I’m easily distracted by other goals, like killing many hours in coop).
End Spoiler Alert!
Nevertheless, it was a good read. But my opinion is probably suspect, given that my take on the matter can be summed up by: “Moar Dark Souls!”
Ingward and the Guild of Channelers in general add to the mystery. For one thing, Ingward appears to be human – which does make you wonder about his motivations. Certainly they believed that it was worth it to destroy the city if it meant stopping the Darkwraiths.
On the other hand, the Darkwraiths’ method of keeping humanity from the Gods was… to kill everybody they met, so that might mark them as enemies of humanity too. My guess, and it’s just a guess, is that the Gods deceived the Channelers just as they deceive the player.
An interesting alternative might be that it has nothing to do with Gods and Men at all; that the whole thing is a Primordial Serpent catfight. We really know nothing about the Serpents, except that Kaathe and Frampt hate each other, and we know they were there before even the Gods. That’d be an intriguing line of thought to follow.
why didn’t you go for the good ending the second time through? OR the fifth? I know you REALLY like to finish certain games more than once.
Oh, you cheeky boy.
I have only finished Dark Souls once, and this time through on PC I do plan to go for the good ending. I haven’t decided if I’ll follow the Darkstalker Kaathe plot, though… while I’d like to learn more about him, Kingseeker Frampt is a lot more convenient to get to, and he offers services that Kaathe does not. I wish there were a way to juggle both of them.
Your mockery has been noted and your punishment is in the mail. Watch for a large box that says, “danger – may explode.”
McShane: Cease, foul tempter! Oh, who am I kidding [runs off to play Dark Souls].
The deception of Ingward is a valid possibility, but that opens up the possibility of deception on all sides. The common theme being that neither side values humanity very highly and is capable of foul deeds in pursuit of its goals.
Another thing that occurred to me is that, although we know what outcome Gwyndolin desires, we assume that it lines up with what Gwyn, knowing what he knows now (minus the, you know, mindless insanity), would also want.
That’s a good point, Botch. We can assume that Gwyndolin is somewhat obsessed with earning his father’s love, but he may be terribly misguided about what would actually accomplish that. Gwyn’s position on the whole thing is completely unknown. Heck, for all we know Frampt tricked Gwyn into going down there first. You’re right about all sides’ attitude toward humanity, though; Darkstalker Kaathe seems more interested in bringing on the Age of Dark than in helping human beings.
I don’t know if the added content in Prepare to Die will expound on this (I doubt it), but there’s also the matter of the Furtive Pygmy, who presumably created the race of men in his own image and split the Dark Soul gazillions of times in order to give human beings souls. Dude’s never shown his face, never really done anything to look out for his creation, which always struck me as odd.
So Botch, given that you’re dubious about the EpicNameBro analysis of the situation, what’s your take on it all? What do you think is happening?
Hah! You give me too much credit. I’m better at nitpicking other peoples’ analyses from the sidelines. My strongest argument is no more than a general gut-feeling, based largely on the seeming consensus of characters in the game.
It all hinges on what the real repercussions for humanity are for either outcome. Linking the fire does seem to suggest that humans will remain no more than fuel (the Matrix has you!). But is that better than the alternative? We don’t know what an Age of Darkness would mean for humankind. Ingward thinks it means death and destruction, but I guess we have that already. Still, why does Gwyndolin see the need to create an illusion for the hero? That’s a tough one. The more I think about it, the more it seems as though humanity is never the winner here. Ultimately, I’m just not sure (but I like the discussion!). I need more information. Sorry, that’s all I got.
End Spoiler Alert!
One unrelated comment on EpicNameBro: The dude is hilarious. Watch his video on how to acquire the rings, specifically the Dark Wood Grain Ring. It’s laugh out loud funny.
Another tangent: When I go back and play Demons’ Souls, it feels much bleaker to me. Not the story as such, but the environments themselves. But then its “good” ending is much clearer-cut. Whereas Dark Souls isn’t quite as dreary throughout, but the ending is nothing if not ambiguous.
Congratulations Steerpike on reaching the end of your excellent diaries. I expect you’re now going to start revising them for your new book
STEERPIKE’S DARK SOULS DIARIES: UNCUT
where you put back in all the crappy sentences you edited out. The moment when the Hellkite Dragon took over the column and the bit where you said, hey, I’m man enough to take pepper spray in the face TOO.
I’ve read everything now, so no need to play. That’ll save me half a year or so, thanks!
Thanks for a concise summary of the theme and plot, Steerpike. While I am still up in the air about playing this game (I can see in your character’s movements the issues I’d have with the controls), I now understand why you are so fascinated with this game. Sure it’s dark and relentlessly despairing but it seems to tackle the great theme of all compelling art, “What does it mean to be human?”
And congrats to Marcus and GG.
I thoroughly enjoyed your diaries. I still haven’t beaten Gwyn, but I have tried at least 20 times. I agree that the there is very little to “spoil” in this game, but finding the Hollow and descending into Ash Lake without any preconception of where I was going was ABSOLUTELY MINDBLOWING. Then afterwards, the whole reality of the archtrees and the ashes of the age of fire were very cleverly hinted at it in your diaries and BOOM, I was forced to grow another head in order to provide another explosion.
Thank you Melodious Punk! And cool name!
The Hollow and Ash Lake would’ve been… yeah, mind-blowing, to stumble on. To not know where you’re going or how deep you’re going to get, my word! I was in such a hurry to get out of Blighttown I wasn’t even aware of these locations until much later, while perusing the wiki.
On the other hand, to find yourself in Ash Lake without the Lordvessel, the only easy way to leave… my God, is it even possible to climb UP the Great Hollow? I wouldn’t want to try.
In my PC playthrough I detoured briefly to the Hollow to grab the Cloranthy Ring prior to facing Quelaag – stacked with the Grass Crest Shield, the difference is amazing. My stamina regens about twice as fast as without (I tested, scientifically, by one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi-ing with and without).
In terms of pure sock-knocking, going down to Ash Lake could only be matched by the first time you see Anor Londo.
yes. Anor Londo in a smooth frame rate was the selling point for the pc version to me.
I completely forgot about the climb up. Yes, it’s possible, it’s miserable. I believe I ended up going to the hollow out of frustration with Quelaag, so the Cloranthy Ring served a very solid design element for me and the Dragon was my first Covenant, so in all, it was enough to make me feel adequately rewarded for the climb down and back up.
thank you 😀
I completely forgot about the climb up. Yes, it’s possible, and it’s miserable. I believe I ended up going to the hollow out of frustration with Quelaag, so the Cloranthy Ring served a very solid design element for me and the Dragon was my first Covenant, so in all, it was enough to make me feel adequately rewarded for the climb down and back up.
I think this was a worthy piece to cap off the Diaries. I’m expecting even more wordiness and hopefully more Helkite for Diaries 2.0, which will cover the next Souls game, of course!
I have a question. How did you get the Great Lord Greatsword halfway through this series? The only way to get it is to upgrade a sword with Gwyn’s soul, which is going to be difficult if you haven’t killed him yet.
Hi Eschatos: a completely legitimate question. The answer is… I have no idea.
I’d noticed Gwyn’s soul in my inventory at least as far back as my encounter with Crossbreed Priscilla, but as I noted in the Epilogue during my first playthrough I wasn’t exactly clear on the storyline so I didn’t think much of it. More than midway through the game – after the Duke’s Archive, I want to say – I decided I needed something stronger than the Black Knight’s Sword +5 so I started upgrading a regular longsword at the Giant Blacksmith in Anor Londo. I remember distinctly using Gwyn’s soul to ascend it, but even then I had no idea where I’d gotten it. And I wound up using the Great Lord’s Greatsword for the rest of the game.
I can only assume it was a bug of some sort. It’s not one I could duplicate because I’m damned if I remember when or how that soul got into my inventory.
Welcome to the site!
I’m sort of late to the comments, I guess, got here from Rock Paper Shotgun. I’ve been playing PC version of Dark Souls for quite some time already and it just tugs me in more and more, especially when I’ve found that I can play AND record videos at the sometime (yes, I made that super popular video called “Elaborate and sophisticated use of Zweihander in Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition (annotated)” that has about 275 views, and, I’m not even lying, around 3 likes on Youtube).
Anyhoo, thanks for the great read. And I was wandering if you are playing PC version nowadays, so that I might meet you in the Darkroot Garden by chance (and die horribly, cause that’s how I roll in PvP).
Thanks Gazebo Hunter, welcome to the site. We got about nine gazillion hits thanks to RPS Sunday Papering the Diaries. I owe those guys a cookie bouquet!
I also owe a big thanks to Joel “Harbour Master” Goodwin, he of Electron Dance, for tipping RPS off and doing a whole link drag about the Diaries this week. HM, you are indeed the man.
I’m in the middle of a PC playthrough right now, though distracted somewhat by XCOM and Dishonored. I’ll get back to it soon. A bunch of others who lurk around these parts are also playing on PC, and we have a loooooooooong thread about Dark Souls in the forums. I doubt you’d die horribly in PVP against me, though – there is literally no one more incompetent in PVP than I am. I don’t think I’ve won a single match unless I had summoned help. Whatever the word is for “sucks more than is possible,” that’s me in Dark Souls PVP.
Oh no, I’m much worse at PvP, once I had a 0 wins/10 losses day, and that even when there were 2 of us Forest Hunters against one intruder (must say that PvP culture in Dark Souls is another interesting thing, I can’t recall another game with such a naturally evolved code of chivalry, so to speak – the greetings before the fight, for example).
Speaking of Gwyn fight, I’ve had quite a different experience. I wasn’t paying too much attention to figuring the story probably, so I knew that he’s some sort of a god, and prepared to die, but the fight turned out to be quite easy, and here I am in New Game Plus already. But I had this weird feeling like I was tricked – not in the “bad final boss fight design” tricked, I realized that maybe Gwyn was actually a human like me before, and that the whole thing with the Keepers of the First Flame is a divine game of chess, that this guy with a huge flaming sword and me both were just pawns.
Certainly one of the greatest aspects of the game is that you don’t know. It’s all speculation. My view of the story is based largely on EpicNameBro’s interpretation, with a few different ideas thrown in from my own perspective. But who’s to say if any of us are right? It could all be between the Primordial Serpents (a theory that’s really beginning to grow on me). It could all be between the Fire Keepers. The whole thing could be an illusion – Darksun Gwyndolin certainly has the power to cast a large enough illusion, and much of what you see seems deceptive.
It could be the Bed of Chaos, another extraordinarily powerful being, more powerful than the gods, even. People don’t talk about the Bed of Chaos much, probably because they’re in such a rush to get out of Lost Izalith because it’s more fun to be bungholed by a pineapple than it is to hang out in that hellscape.
By the time I finished the game, most of my interpretation of the story was limited to comprehending that it was a reinterpretation of Greek mythology – specifically the Olympians rising up and defeating the Titans. The rest I cobbled together later.
Part of me wishes that From would do a long postmortem and explain all their thought processes, not just on story but on the design as a whole. But another part much prefers the mystery!
Openness to the interpretations is a great quality of a work of art, I guess. I think I’m now gonna pay more attention to details while playing through NG+, and I want to finish Siegmeyer’s storyline (I let him die in Lost Izalith because of my cowardice – I thought “Oh it’s fine, he’s a tough onion guy, he’ll manage, I’ll just jump in if they’ll start killing him…” He survived the fight, but with fatal wounds, I guess, so he died on my hands (almost).
Oh, and there’s a mystery of Sen, too – although he might have been just some paranoidal wizard with an army of serpent man a la Conan the Barbarian villain, but then again, why does that fortress serve as a gateway to Anor Londo?
Regarding Ash Lake – in the earlier diaries you mentioned ashes from the dead seeping from above, and that might well be the case, although I’ve seen a mention, on the wiki probably, that Ash stands for tree species, same as Yggdrasil, which makes a lot of sense as well, and in that case the sand might be just sand.
I was thinking about Sen the other day, actually. Who was that guy? What’s his problem? That’d be another fantastic DLC, honestly. I’d be shocked if they do more DLC, but I’d put a vote in for that as a potential storyline.
Re- Ash Lake: For the life of me I can’t remember where I got the idea about the ashes from the dead. It sounds too clever for it to be something I could have come up with by myself. Ash trees and Yggdrasil makes a lot more sense. The Archtrees are made of stone, like almost everything from the Ancient Age. Based on that maybe I just assumed that the ash referred to something other than the trees.
Alright, this is a pretty damn nerdy comment, but you are wrong Steerpike. There are several items made of wood in the game that mention being carved from the wood of arch trees, and that this gives them magical properties (see the otherwise terrible Cracked Round Shield’s high magic defense, for example).
Now if I’m wrong about that, I’ve quite improperly interpreted some items from in-game.
I would mock your nerdiness, but… who am I kidding? I’m just as bad.
I’m pretty sure I remember reading – or did EpicName mention it? – that the Archtrees were made of stone too, but I think we’re dealing with a special Ancient Age kind of stone that’s maybe a little more flexible, since the Everlasting Dragons are made out of stone too.
Maybe that was some sort of translation incident? The Great Hollow is inside one of the Archtrees, and there’s some dead branches that break just like wood. Maybe stone was not in literal sense, but referred to the hardness of the material, similar to irontree. And I’ve also remembered that Gough carves those heads from archtrees, and they look like quiet wooden.
Miyazaki noted in an interview once that the Everlasting Dragons are made out of stone in part so they can’t feel, from which I inferred either pain or emotion. This is sort of reinforced by the fact that you can chop off the Everlasting Dragon’s tail down in Ash Lake and it doesn’t seem to mind much. The Archtrees I’m less sure about; I can’t remember where I read that they were stone too. They certainly look and act like trees.
Steerpike, perhaps someone gave you Gwyn’s soul. I’ve received some pretty awesome, random gifts from coop players before.
Gazebo, I like your idea about Gwyn simply being the dupe before you. It may not be the case, but it is certainly poetic.
I had always thought Ash Lake was called that because, being at the foundation of the world, it’s where all of the ashes from the bonfires settled. No?
The thing about Ash as a tree is a rumour, according to this wiki article: http://darksouls.wikidot.com/ash-lake, but it makes sense, seeing the similarities between Archtrees and Yggdrasil. And sand of the island could be ashes, but it seems unlikely that all the ashes from bonfires (or dead bodies) formed just one small island.
And regarding Gwyn, it felt this way because of the simplicity of the fight, it wasn’t what I’d expect from a final boss (although a friend who plays as a sorcerer said he had some trouble), besides, Gwyn looks very human compared to most of the other powerful beings.
Wow, these Dark Souls daries were my favorite articles on here and I can’t believe I missed the last entry! Just wanted to say thank you for the experience Steerpike. The Diaries were a fantastic read and made me appreciate Dark Souls even more, which I didn’t think was possible considering it is my favorite game released this generation!
That said, I plan on starting a petition for you to add a few more entires covering the Artorias of the Abyss content. C’mon man!!!! 🙂
I am playing through that content myself now (PS3) and after having kicked my Dark Souls addiction several months ago and going through withdrawals and convulsions in the process, I am unfortunately now all in again thanks to this DLC and thinking about this game at all times. Damn you From Software!!!
The new content is kicking my ass though! I have months of rust on me and I am in a NG+++ run, so it is brutal!!!! I may just start a new character when I am done with this run because I don’t think my mental state can survive a NG++++ tour.
So yeah, Artorias of the Abyss Diaries!!!!! Go!!!!!
Thank YOU – and everyone – for reading, Tanis. Your advice got me past Seath the Scaleless (gold star, remember)!
As for the expansion content, I was doing great, then XCOM and Dishonored came out and distracted me.
Will there be a Prepare to Die-aries? No promises. I’m kinda hoping Xtal will do those.
Regarding the discussion about Archtrees above, you did slightly read it wrong Mr Boone! It is not the wood of an Archtree, but the children of Archtrees. Demi-archtrees if you will. The great hollow is one of those dead children, though the true Archtrees far away may be truly immortal unless destroyed.
This is where all the magic-resistant wood shields come from, an aspect inherited from the true Archtrees. I myself theorise that the gods destroyed all the Archtrees around Lordran to clear space for their own creation (Nito and The Witch certainly both have it in for the trees in the intro), artificially creating-breeding the demiarchtrees to keep holding it up. But like everything else of the Gods, those trees could not last forever.
I’ve slightly misread something then, not surprising. No matter how much Dark Souls I play there always seems to be one item description I read and think I must have missed this the eighty-second time around…fascinating. For example, some of my favourite descriptions (can we call them omni-being commentaries on Lordran and the larger world?) are those of keys. Not the first thing you think to read, either.
Some are simple, like the key to Gough’s tower (“The grooves of the crest are enchanted, the door sealed with a powerful spell”), while others, such as the key you use to escape your cell in Seath’s prison, are quite informative whilst retaining a juicy vagueness (“The Archive Tower, once a trove of precious tomes and letters, became a prison after the onset of Seath’s madness. The serpent men who guard the prison know not the value of what they hide. In the basement of the tower are the writhing ‘mistakes’ of the terrifying experiments which were conducted there”). In both cases, we earn a fragment of the puzzle that is Dark Souls.
The key descriptions also help give you an idea of where to use those keys too. I do really like the way Dark Souls does lore through objects though, and level design. Such as allowing you to see a bonfire through a crack in the wall in the Catacombs, which in turn clues you in to the illusonary wall on the other side to reach said bonfire. But only if the player pays attention!