Dark Souls 2 journal #3: getting dirty in The Gutter and passing level 100

Friday, 14 March 2014 16:01 GMT By Dave Cook

Dark Souls 2 continues to put series fan Dave Cook to the test, as he visits the sequel’s equivalent of Blighttown. Say hello to The Gutter.

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Note: This is the third chapter in Dave’s ongoing Dark Souls 2 impressions journal, in which he plays the game from start to finish. This entry follows him up to level 103, and over 28 hours in. Look:

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Looking for part one or two of this blog series? Hit the links.

I’m almost loathe to say this as a fan, but as a balanced writer I think I’m starting to encounter a few problems with Dark Souls 2. In previous entries to this series I mentioned that early areas featured quite complex environments with various paths and areas waiting to be explored. You go into these locations, fight lots of grunts and take some time to explore before battling your way to the next fog gate.

“The distance between fog gates has narrowed, and there’s almost always a boss on the other side. They’re stunted locations by comparison, and deliver less of the intrigue that comes with exploring for secrets.”

Except now I’m past level 100 and the 25 hour mark, the distance between fog gates has narrowed, and there’s almost always a boss on the other side. From Majula I beat a path through the the sizeable and complex Forest of the Fallen Giants and The Lost Bastille, followed by Belfry Luna and Sinner’s Rise, which seem to only have one boss and a single bonfire each. They’re stunted locations by comparison, and deliver less of the intrigue that comes with exploring for secrets.

I’ve gone as far as I can in that direction, and my travels took me to the Sinner’s Rise boss; the Lost Sinner. He was pretty tough to begin with, crushing my guard with heavy sword swipes and giving me little chance to recharge my stamina. After a few attempts he keeled over and I received his soul as a reward. It’s a different type of soul; bulbous and flaming, and when I showed it to the Majula maiden she remarked that it was the soul of an ‘Old One.’ I’m yet to uncover the significance.

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Heide’s Tower: like Anor Londo without the crushing sense of defeat

I decided to head the opposite way and found myself in Heide’s Tower of Flame, which looks a little bit like a flooded Anor Londo, right down to the massive cathedrals and hulking sentinel guards. These guys look brutal but at the time they were really simple thanks to their slow speed and my levelled-up Knight. My Twin Dragon shield was bolstered with a ton of Titanite Shards, so my poise is now excellent, not to mention the fact that my Ring of Giants boosts the stat considerably. I was fairly immovable at the time.

“I’m not boasting or being a dick here, but the game felt like it was getting easier and the environments less-inspired.”

My guess is that the area is simple because it’s almost like a second starting area, depending on which way you go from Majula at the beginning. Regardless, it’s a decent place to level up until the guards become extinct, and there also an easy boss battles in there. It’s a Dragonslayer who resides beneath a flaming lighthouse, and he’s quite good at knocking you back with his halberd. This is a problem seeing as the room’s floor is precarious and flanked by lethal drops.

There are switches dotted throughout the area that raise more sections of the chamber floor however, and if you get them all there’s no chance of him knocking you to your death. I do like the opportunity to manipulate the battle in this manner, but I’m yet to see more examples of this. Once the Dragonslayer is dead you can take the stairs to the top of Heide’s Tower, where you’ll find another bonfire and a vendor selling Miracles and other provisions. I bought my first magic wand there and my intelligence was high enough that I could finally use Soul Arrow.

Leading off from this area is the Cathedral of Blue, which is home to another boss. It takes less than two minutes to walk from the Dragon Rider room to this battle – which I’ll keep secret as it’s actually quite awesome – underlining just how close the boss fights were becoming. I’m not sure I like that. Either way, it’s another easy fight that you can win by just blocking and circling, and retreating whenever it uses magic. I’m not boasting or being a dick here, but the game felt like it was getting easier and the environments less-inspired.

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Where’s all the rum gone? It’s dead; I killed it.

After defeating the Cathedral of Blue boss I doubled back to the lighthouse bonfire and took a spiral staircase down to No Man’s Wharf, which is a dank pirate cove. I like it there, mainly because we’ve yet to see the Souls series do pirates, and because it’s a clever area that encourages the use of fire. It’s full of dark areas where these horrid, spider beasts live. They’re capable of causing a bleed effect after just a few hits, even with a decent Bleed Res stat, so blocking isn’t a good defensive tactic.

“At long, long last there’s a proper merchant who will buy your junk in a Souls game.”

I learned by accident that those things are shit-scared of light. I was standing by a fire pedestal trying to coax one of the buggers out of a ruined tavern, and it ran over for a fight. As soon as it entered the light it cowered and backed off screaming. I lit a torch and walked up to it, forcing it into a corner for a quick and easy kill. Better yet, I used a Pharros Lockstone to activate a huge burning lantern hanging above the cove, which caused every spider-beast in the area to roar and hide, waiting for me to slaughter them with ease.

I have to admit that’s a clever piece of game design. The No Man’s Wharf area is small but complex, and there’s also a creepy guy in one of the houses who will buy your unwanted items for souls. Yes, at long, long last there’s a proper merchant who will buy your junk in a Souls game. Kingseeker Frampt doesn’t really count as he ate your items for a crap price. I carried on after unloading my gear and rang a bell high above the ocean to call in a ghostly pirate ship. The next boss, Flexile Sentry, resides down in the cargo hold. It’s sort of like two ogres stuck back to back, but with one pair of legs. Very weird, basically.

He’s a piece of piss though. It took less than 30 of my Soul Arrows to see him killed, and while I noticed that the hold’s water level was rising throughout the fight, I managed to beat the monster without any difficulty. It was at that point I started to get a little concerned about Dark Souls 2’s difficulty, but it certainly wasn’t hampering my enjoyment any. Past the boss room I found a contraption that activated the boat and it sailed me back to The Lost Bastille’s prison area. Now I was really stumped. I had gone as far as possible in both directions, and was lost once more.

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