Dark Souls 2 continues to punch Dave Cook around the head with its Cestus +10, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing his play-through journal for your sadistic pleasure. He’s really far now.
(This is the fourth chapter in Dave’s ongoing Dark Souls 2 impressions journal, in which he plays the game from start to finish. This update follows his progress up to level 127, and over 38 hours into the campaign)
Looking for these instead?
- Dark Souls 2 journal #1: the first ten hours have been painful
- Dark Souls 2 journal #2: into The Lost Bastille and the trouble with threes
- Dark Souls 2 journal #3: getting dirty in The Gutter and passing level 100
Last Saturday at around 10pm I sat down to play some more of Dark Souls 2 after being distracted by my inFamous, Metal Gear Solid, and BioShock Infinite DLC write-ups, to name just a few. There were to be no more interruptions, just me, Dranglaeic and a shitload of death. Whisky on the rocks in one hand and PS3 pad in the other, I battled my way through many bosses and new areas, confident in my ever evolving ass-kicking potential.
Then I looked at my watch and realise it was 4am.
Now; you may think that doing this job comes with many late night gaming sessions, but that’s honestly not the case. Regardless, I had played the game for some six hours straight without actually realising it, and while I felt appalled at myself, it was something I hadn’t done for a very long time. It was all productive too. This journal entry covers that entire six hour session and another evening’s play.
Here’s what went down.
Scorpioness Najka & the Doors of Pharros
I closed part three of my journal just before my encounter with Scorpioness Najka, a half scorpion-half woman monstrosity whose bark was definitely worse than her bite. Her boss area is completely filled with sand and while her pincer and ranged magic attacks were pretty easy to dodge, she’d occasionally burrow under the sand and jump back up to the surface, slicing a huge section of my health off each time. Running at full pelt and rolling at the right time saw me emerge unscathed once I got the timing down, and before long I was able to cut her down for good.
”It’s times like this I wish Will Smith would kick down my door with that mind-erasing dildo from Men in Black in his hand, before using it to wipe clean my past experience of the series.”
As with all ‘Souls’ boss fights; defeating Najka was a matter of memorising attack patterns and figuring out the best time to attack, dodge and and block. What I noticed across the contents of this journal edition was that those patterns are becoming much easier to identify, and as I feared in part three; the game seems to be getting really easy now. I’ll discuss why I feel this way as the article goes, so bear with me while I explain. I also appreciate that as with all games in this series; what’s true for me may not be true for you.
I think part of this uneven difficulty curve was – once again – the fact that I sort-of knew what I was getting in to at the start. If you read my articles often on VG247, you’ll know that I finished both Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls for the first time last year. All those tricks and stat considerations – such as levelling up your stamina gauge adequately to increase blocking – are still burned into my mind and I’ve stuck to them religiously here.
It’s times like this I wish Will Smith would kick down my door with that mind-erasing dildo from Men in Black in his hand, before using it to wipe clean my past experience of the series. All but two of the bosses I encountered in this part of the journal were defeated on the first try, and were really easy to read. The same goes for normal enemies, which can be tricked into leaving themselves vulnerable by coaxing them into attacking, before springing an assault of your own from a safe angle or distance. It’s more of a scientific formula now than ever before.
I can’t take a picture of Najka as she’s dead, so here’s me using the ‘Praise the Sun’ emote in her lair.
Anyway; beyond Najka’s domain lay the Doors of Pharros, a strange cavernous place littered with Pharros Lockstone switches. Seriously, there’s absolutely loads of them and I get the feeling that you won’t be able to unlock them all in just one playthrough – hello NG+! – and it’s not quite clear what each of them does. The strangest aspect of this place was that while the initial enemies will attack you on sight, those further into the area will not. I ran circles around a group of large elephant warriors for ages, while lashing out at them to find that my sword had to effect. “Hmm… ” I thought. Hmm indeed.
”What I’m hearing from players is that while you get red, flaming Great Souls in your inventory for killing The Rotten and The Lost Sinner, you don’t have to keep them to access Drangleic Castle.”
So of course I got cocky, which is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in any ‘Souls’ game. I’m guessing maybe about seven hours after I first encountered the passive elephant guys, I returned to this area to find the merchant Gavlan, who eventually stops moving around and takes permanent residence near the area’s first bonfire.
After entering a cave to the right of the bonfire, I realised that the enemies inside were suddenly taking notice of me, and that an AI Black Phantom had just invaded in the same room. I panicked and went to run back to find a fog gate blocking my way before being stabbed to death from behind.
I respawned and decided to leave that area for a while, turning my attention to completing the fist half of the quest first. While this isn’t made clear at the start of Dark Souls 2, I later discovered that your real first goal is to collect four Old Lord Souls from The Lost Sinner, The Rotten, The Duke’s Dear Freja and The Old King. Once you have them all you will be granted access to Drangleic Castle, and on reflection the whole process is a bit like slaying bosses in the first game to acquire Lord Souls, before entering the Kiln of the First Flame. It’s not exactly spelled out for you, but then again, ambiguity is big part of the series.
“Gavlan make deal. Gavlan have trouble speak in proper sentence.”
I killed the Lost Sinner in part two of my journal, and I had already been beaten a few times by The Rotten in the Black Gulch during part three, but now I felt ready to take him on. For your reference, the Black Gulch sits beyond The Gutter, an area that resembles Blighttown from Dark Souls and The Valley of Defilement from Demon’s Souls. Check out my speed run video guide to learn how to get through it without a headache.
Luckily, my stamina and poise were massively increased so The Rotten’s big cleaver swipes were no match for my guard. It also helped that I had successfully forged my Twin Dragon Shield up to +10 by this point too. Needless to say; the process of levelling up armour and weapons is much easier than it was in the first game, without those long treks back and forth between the Anor Londo and Darkroot Garden blacksmiths while farming Titanite. There’s none of that crap here, just easy-access crafting in Majula or the Lost Bastille.
Anyway, by keeping my distance and smacking the Rotten with Soul Arrows, I was able to mix up long range hits with melee blows at close range to whittle him down to death. You really need to be aware of the flaming patches on the ground however, as they’ll sap your health rapidly. The boss’s cooldown after doing his big attacks is also quite big, so I found that dodge rolling to the side at the last moment gave me time to dish out a fair few hits before taking time to recover. Either way, he fell to my blade and I earned my second Old Lord Soul. Two to go.
Interestingly; what I’m hearing from players is that while you get red, flaming Great Souls in your inventory for killing The Rotten and The Lost Sinner, you don’t have to keep them to access Drangleic Castle. For example. I later managed to fell The Duke’s Dear Freja – a hulking great spider below Brightstone Cove Tseldora – and her soul in my inventory looks like a regular boss soul. She dropped the actual Old Lord Soul on the ground, and after picking it up it was nowhere to be found in my inventory. You can see how this could be confusing.
Take a right after the second Shaded Wood bonfire to reach this particular King’s Door. It leads to the Shrine of Winter.
Apparently, you just have to kill these four bosses to enter the castle and pick up their Old Lord Souls, rather than presenting the normal boss souls in your inventory at the King’s door. You can also kill three of the bosses and have 1 million souls in your posession to open the door instead. Either way, I’m too scared to trade their plain boss souls in for gear for now, just in case I actually do need them.
I’ll keep an eye on that one once I finally get into the castle, but for now, let’s move on to tracking and slaying Freja.