I wrote about my experiences with the game, Dark Souls, up to the point where I played through it a second time up to the point when I ragequit the first. You can catch up on my adventures so far here. Because the post was getting long, I decided to end it and start a new one as I stepped foot into new territory–Blighttown. After beating the enemy that had bested me the first time I played the game (Gaping Dragon), I took some time to buy a crystal shield that I’m still using (though it deteriorates over time and you can’t repair it), to level up, and to make my weapons better than ever. By this point, I had an impressive array of weapons, but I still stuck mostly to my +10 Battle Axe. This is one gripe I have about Dark Souls–the game gives you a lot of weapons, but because each is so different, it’s easier just to become comfortable with one or two types and forego the rest. Another gripe is that I think there are some things that are unfair about the game versus being hard, but I’ll get to that later.
Blighttown. I’d heard stories about this area and how terrible it was. I don’t know of anyone, pro (YouTuber) or not who actually liked this area. Oh, I should note that I went back to the Undead Asylum and picked up the Rusted Ring, which would be very helpful in Blighttown because it allows you to walk on ‘poor footing’ (i.e., water) as easily as you do on solid ground. I’d never been in Blighttown before, and all of a sudden, I was as nervous as hell again. One thing FromSoft (the devs) does well is cultivate a sense of dread. Because most of the big bosses are so hard and saving (at the bonfires, really, read the first part) is so sparse, you have to do most areas over and over and over again. So, while the bosses may remain hard, you get pretty good at running the paths up to the big boss. When you beat a big boss, you move on to a new area, possibly with new common enemies, and you have to relearn what you once thought you knew.
Side Note: It’s really frustrating to see people talk about how easy a certain boss is if you’re having trouble with him/her. “Oh, you just have to do this, this, and that, and it’s no problem.” First of all, that’s dependent upon build. Second, these are usually people who have played the game for many, many hours and have beaten it several times. They have forgotten how hard the game was the first time they played it, or they’re just preternaturally good at the game. Even if the boss is easy to them, it’s not helpful to the person struggling to hear how easy said boss is. Also, you can get all the tips in the world on how to beat a boss, but you still have to fucking do it. That’s often much easier said than done.
Back to Blighttown. It’s dark. Literally. I mean, the whole game is dark even after I’ve cranked up the gamma, but Blighttown is sometimes unreasonably dark. I don’t think having to fight enemies you can’t even see is fair*, even if it’s not deliberate. In addition, the common enemies seem to be VERY buffed in this area, plus it’s on scaffolding, so I have to watch my footing as I’m fighting. I am spatially-challenged as well, so this area was particularly frustrating for me. There are so many twists and turns, and I got lost more times than I care to count. I played for what felt like centuries, not finding a bonfire in the process. That meant I had to start from the bonfire in The Depths every time I died (which was often). Fortunately, I had kindled that particular bonfire** so I had ten estus flasks instead of five, but that didn’t really matter because I died many times before even using five flasks. Still, it grew old having to maneuver through the upper part of Blighttown, and I was relieved when I FINALLY made it to the first bonfire.
Until I saw the firedogs. Dogs who spew fire. I sighed, put on my best fire-resistant armor, and forged ahead. Then I got hit by a poisoned dart as I was fighting the firedogs, and I nearly quit. I felt it was unfair to have to watch my footing, fight these fucking firedogs, AND avoid a poison dart at the same time. While also fighting one of the common enemies of the area (the beefed up skeletons that can hug you to death). Then, after many, many repetitions, I found a way to make the firedogs fall off the ledge, and suddenly, my life got a little easier. That’s the thing about Dark Souls–the most straightforward action is not always the best action to take. It really behooves you to look around your environment and to see what you can use to your advantage. In this case, it was climb up the ladder, kill the skeleton there, and wait for the firedogs to fall off the ledge below.
In most games, beating an enemy without much fear of taking damage to yourself (cheesing) feels slimy. It feels as if you haven’t earned the win, and I don’t usually do it. However, Dark Souls is so brutal, I don’t feel any compunctions about using whatever advantages I have. If I can make enemies fall off ledges? I’ll do it in a heartbeat. Kill them with traps? Fuck, yeah! Any means necessary, baby. That’s my motto when it comes to Dark Souls because there are plenty of times when I’ll have to fight the enemies fair and square, by which I mean they will swarm me and kick my ass, so I’ll take my gimmes where I can get them.
Making it the second bonfire in Blighttown wasn’t THAT hard, but then I did a stupid thing. I went up the waterwheel elevator, assuming the boss’s lair was up there. It wasn’t. I was furious when I realized that I had gone the wrong way (it’s the way out of Blighttown). Yes, I cleared up that area which meant I didn’t have to do it after beating the boss, but it wasn’t what I had planned on doing. Dark Souls doesn’t hold your hand at all, and if you make a mistake, oh well. I’m trying to play the game without the aid of the many wikis (I have consulted them from time to time), which means I’m going to make mistakes and the wrong choices from time to time. After I realized that I’d gone the wrong way, I had to take a deep breath and look around to see where I needed to go to find the boss. Also, I have to add that I knew who this boss was, but that doesn’t mean it made her any easier to deal with. Anyway, I scanned the swamps and thought, “It can’t be right across from the bonfire, can it?” You probably won’t be surprised to learn that it could be and was.
Side Note II: I am not good at this game at all. My reactions are slow, and when I panic, everything I’ve learned goes right out the window and I just start mashing buttons. You can get away with that in many games, but not in Souls. Needless to say, that just hastened my death more often than not, and I would have to do the same area over again. I also have tunnel vision in which I keep trying the same strategy. Souls is a game in which you need to learn from your mistakes and change the way you approach things, so my style isn’t conducive to good Soulsing. I also don’t deal well with frustration AND I am a perfectionist, two things that are guaranteed to make Dark Souls a nightmare.
So why did I keep playing? Sheer stubbornness. Honestly, the second time through the part I’d already played was, well, not easy, but comfortable. I had learned from my first playthrough, and I could see my improvement in marked ways. In addition, when I finally manage to kill a boss, any boss, or even an enemy that has been plaguing me for a while (looking at you Black Knight on the tower bro), the high I feel is incredible. Triumph courses through my veins, and I literally shake with adrenaline after the fight is finished. In addition, since I’m not used to doing things I’m not good at, knowing that I persevered and did something I didn’t think I could do gives me warm fuzzies as well.
Back to Bligthtown. I made it to Quelaag’s Domain and was greeted by the sight of the majestic fire spider queen herself. With impressive bosoms heaving (she’s half-human, half-spider), she attacked me. Remember, I’d never fought her before, so the first few times we fought was mostly me learning her attack patterns. She never felt impossible, but I still died to her several times. I decided to use a humanity and summon Maneater Mildred to help me out. I went human and made my way through the swamps, attacking firespiders as I went. I was attacking one when I saw this red being materialize and rush me. What the fuck? Oh, hell! I forgot that you have to kill Maneater Mildred before you can summon her to help you beat Quelaag. Fuck! I was flustered as I was currently fighting a firespider while trying not to get poisoned by the swamps. My scream as I died as a human*** chilled me, but it made me more determine to do this shit. I used another humanity and polished off MM with little problem, allowing me to summon her to fight Quelaag. MM was a tank, meaning she could take a lot of damage as well as do a lot of damage in return. More importantly, she was constantly aggroing Quelaag so I could concentrate on whacking at the latter’s butt, which was where most of the bosses in Dark Souls were most vulnerable. I was too eager the first time and died, but I knew it was a matter of time before I got this bitch.
Side Note III: One thing you learn quickly in Dark Souls is to not get greedy. The impulse is to whack away once you have an opening, but most of the bosses can one-shot you or at least damage you severely, so it’s best if you attack a boss two or three times and then back off. Again, it’s tempting to keep on attacking because you just want the fight to be over as quickly as possible, but it’s really best to be patient, take your two hits when you can, back off, and then wait for the next opening. Actually, this is true for the combat in general, but doubly so for boss fights.
Back to Quelaag. MM and I got her the second time around, and it wasn’t even close. The funny thing about the boss fights is that when you actually beat the bosses, the fights tend to be fairly easy and short (so far). I took a moment to smile over the fact that this was an all-chicks fight and that FromSoft didn’t make a big deal of it. Granted, it’s because I chose to play as a female (as I always do if I can), but it’s still pretty powerful to me. I saluted Maneater Mildred as she disappeared into the ethers, rang the second Bell of Awakening, and quickly homeward boned my way back to the last bonfire at which I rested, then made my way back up the scaffolding and got the hell out of Blighttown. I was so glad to see the backside of it and to return to Firelink Shrine.
As I made my way up, however, I noticed that the Fire Keeper was dead. She’s the one who tended to the flames of the bonfires, so I was unable to light this particular bonfire. I was bereft. This had been the closest thing to home I had in this damn game, and after mourning the loss of this bonfire, I noticed that other things have changed as well. There was an odd clicking sound, and it’s the Ood in the pool. Actually, his name is Kingseeker Frampt, and he’s the first NPC who actually gives you reason for doing what you do. Most of the lore is gleaned from reading notes or details or from reading the wikis. To have an NPC actually tell you what you need to do is odd–plus, it’s not your immediate objective, anyway. In addition, when you talk to the Crestfallen Warrior (the one who told you about the Bells of Awakening in the first place), he’s discontent and ready to move on. Everything has changed, and I don’t like it.
*I’ll get more into THAT later as well.
**Using my precious humanity to do so. But, it gives me twice the estus flasks from which I drink in order to restore my health. It was a worthwhile trade-off in my opinion because I only had to do it once.
***When you’re human as opposed to a hollow, people react differently to you in the game, and you sound and look different as well.