Dark Souls 2 obsessive Dave Cook has finally finished From Software’s sequel and he’s formulated a final opinion that he’s sure at least five of you have been waiting for. It’s all been leading up to this.
This entry covers Dave’s progress up to level 167 and over 59 hours into the quest. He has now completed the game, but you can catch up with his previous journals here:
- 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
- Dark Souls 2 journal #4: spiders, windmills and a lot of lava
- Dark Souls 2 journal #5: playing silly buggers in Drangleic Castle and beyond
Here’s his final completion status:
Well, that was… easy?! Wait, what?
Yes it’s true. I managed to defeat the final boss in Dark Souls 2 on my first attempt with no summons or co-op buddy (I’m running an offline-only debug version anyway), and the ending left me feeling quite short-changed. I absolutely was not expecting to feel this way by the time those credits rolled.
Life has lost some of its lustre as a result, but let’s back up a bit first.
The Deadliest Sing-A-Long Ever
When we last left my human punching-bag, he was standing outside the Shrine of Amana, a water-logged shit of a place where the mages just WON’T STOP CASTING HOMING SOUL ARROW. The big bold capital letters suggest irritation, by the way, because this place really gave me a headache the first time I entered its soggy pain-hole. What struck me initially was the fact this area has music, well, sort of.
I later found out that the softly sung words echoing throughout the lake were coming from the Milfanito sisters, a pair of siblings who keep singing despite all of the death and nasty shit going on around them. If you remember from my fifth journal entry, there’s a third sister caged up in Drangleic Castle who’s being guarded by a weird creature called the Embedded, and she can only be freed by defeating the Shrines boss, a giant monstrous frog-thing called the Demon of Song.
He’s easy too. Now, I’ve been saying that Dark Souls 2 is getting easy for a while now and that’s because – and I really hate to say this – it is. There’s no other way I can say this, and it pains me to do so, but the game started to get really simple around this point, and right up until the very end, I felt that the last truly challenging boss was the Smelter Demon. That’s not a good sign.
But of course, part of this ‘easy’ progression is due to my obsession with the first Dark Souls. Going into the sequel I knew exactly what sort of class I needed to beat certain enemies, how to spec my build properly, and how to read then react to attack patterns. I know this sort of suggests that beating Dark Souls games is more like a science than a show of true skill, but anyone who’s played these games knows that’s not true.
Behold my final character stats. You can tell I’m a man of little faith. HAHAHAHA!
But yeah, I just felt that where I was initially intimidated by the fact that enemies could become extinct after ten deaths each, this actually makes the game easier as you progress. For example, those mages in Shrine of Amana may be annoying sure, but there’s so little space between bonfires that I was able to kill the first wave of those guys, hit the bonfire to respawn them, and repeat the process until I never had to worry about them again.
People on the social feeds and the Dark Souls 2 wiki forum have been saying that this extinction makes farming crafting items difficult, except it really doesn’t. If you speak with Stone Trader Chloanne by Harvest Valley’s ‘Poison Pool’ bonfire until her dialogue runs out, she’ll relocate to Majula and sell an infinite number of large and regular Titanite Shards, along with finite amounts of every mineral in the game. You have to pay for them sure, but trust me, you won’t find souls hard to come by.
If you do run out of enemies and souls – you seriously won’t – you can burn an item called Bonfire Ascetic that will respawn nearby enemies and make them one New Game+ harder. By the end I had levelled named armour and boosted weapons thanks to Twinkling Titanite and Petrified Dragon Bones, along with an abundance of souls thanks to my Covetous Silver Serpent Ring+1, which gave me more souls per kill.
Put it this way, while the grind of travelling back and forth between the first game’s merchants in Anor Londo and Darkroot Forest is no longer an issue, I felt that From Software’s attempts to keep everything convenient by simplifying the unique weapon and crafting systems, as well as placing every merchant you need in one place, to be a welcome move at first. By the end, I felt like it was making things too easy. I’ll repeat at this point that I still thoroughly enjoyed Dark Souls 2. Seriously.
Woah this has been a big tangent. Sorry. So anyway, I’ll skip through Shrine of Amana because if you stick behind pillars, take the mages on slowly and in small numbers while avoiding the big ogre guy – you won’t miss him – then you’ll get through it with some patience. The Undead Crypt came after that, and that proved to be a touch more challenging, with a big chamber full of bells that, if you allow a Hollow to ring them, summon a gang of spirit warriors into the area that pile on top of you like some sort of rugby death-scrum.
Basically, you need to smash the warrior’s tombstones to stop their ghosts from spawning. Once they’re smashed those guys never come back, even if a Hollow manages to ring a bell. It’ll catch you off guard the first time I’m sure so because I love you guys, here’s a screen grab of me standing before the area in question. It’s down this hole, beyond a pair of big knights who use two shields as weapons. Prepare yourself, health-up and get ready for a fight:
The knights before this section are intimidating, but with good poise and a strong shield you can take them out. After clearing out the grave site down that hole I was able to lower a drawbridge that gave me a shortcut to the next boss, the notorious Velstadt. I’ll admit that this guy was a pain in the ass, and getting to him sees you fighting through wave after wave of big iron knights. Making them extinct isn’t really an option unless you have hours upon hours spare.
Velstadt’s weapon of choice is a bloody great hammer that can utterly smash through your stamina unless you have it levelled up to a suitable degree. As I said in previous entries, I knew from my time with Dark Souls that stamina is important, so I had it levelled higher than my health from the start of the sequel. Like many bosses, crushing this guy is a matter of memorising attack patterns and knowing when to retreat and recover.
After getting the sequence down I found the first half of this battle to be a breeze, but then he started using Hexes and dark magic around 50% health. He can absolutely destroy you with his ranged magic attacks, so the key here is to stay close. During the battle that finally saw Velstadt killed, he never used ranged shots on me once, purely because I stayed close and circled the bastard until he keeled over. It works, try it.
So with him out of the picture it was time to move on to Aldia’s Keep, but first, did someone say ‘cheating’?