So 2019 is here and it has brought me a renewed energy and determination to complete Dark Souls III, return the Lords of Cinder to their thrones, relink the flame and strike this off my new year’s resolutions list early. However, having looked at my saved game I’ve realised that I barely remember anything of my previous and unfinished playthrough, so I’ve decided to rise from the ashes once again with a full restart.
With that in mind it seems a neat idea to keep a record of my progress in the form of a ‘live’ blog post. I plan to update and add to this post as each boss falls, or when a boss has felled my character so many times that I feel the only option is to openly cry about it here. A form of therapy or self-help if you will, as I share my pain, despair and hopelessness.
However, let’s stay positive! My assassin character is ready. Fear him, as he looks heroically o’er yonder…
2nd January – Iudex Gundyr
After reminding myself of the basics I was all set. I decided to avoid the ‘Ravenous Crystal Lizard’ for now and just focus on the lesser enemies. Surprisingly, I reached the first boss without a hitch. I entered the large courtyard armed not only with my sword, but with the knowledge of what to expect.
Despite my confidence, it wasn’t until the sixth attempt that Iudex Gundyr fell. I wanted to keep my distance, especially in his ‘second stage’, but the key is to do exactly the opposite of what my instincts were telling me.
I got in close, kept my shield up, dodged where necessary and eventually finished him with a flurry of slashes from my blade. Iudex Gundyr had been defeated and despite my half-dozen attempts, it had taken many more the first time around. I also managed to retain the few ‘souls’ that I had gathered, quickly re-collecting them after every defeat, and so it is with an air of optimism that I continued to Firelink Shrine…
3rd January – Vordt of the Boreal Valley
So, ordinarily after a couple of hours I would have given up. I spent most of the night getting absolutely humiliated, but I’ve realised that there is no greater incentive to victory than having a blog where I get to regularly update my progress. Suffice to say, tonight I slayed Vordt of the Boreal Valley.
Before that fight of course, I had to battle through the High Walls of Lothric. I remember struggling with this part during my first playthrough and unfortunately, this was no different. This area has many different enemies with a range of varied weaponry combined with a narrow playing area, a few ‘monstrous’ surprises, and the staple Souls trademark of the early appearance of a fire breathing dragon, and you might start believing that perhaps there was a different route to take.
And so, it was a grind to reach my next major opponent. I haven’t completely cleared this area but plan to return to sweep up any remaining loot in the near future.
I’m not sure if it was pride, arrogance or forgetfulness but it wasn’t until around the 90 minute mark that I began to wonder if there was something I was missing. In an hour and a half only one of my attempts came anywhere near to slaying the beast…
I returned to Firelink Shrine and, realising my error, was soon facing Vordt with a reinforced pair of Sellsword Twinblades +2, and a set of five Estus Flasks instead of the three I was using earlier.
I was now consistently wearing Vordt down to his ‘second stage’ where he became less predictable. I had chosen to two-hand my blades as my shield couldn’t protect me against this opponent. I had also learned to stay beneath him where he found it difficult to hit me. This fight was a lesson in stamina control. From this position, I had fallen many times by being overly aggressive and not ‘saving anything for the swim back’ (to borrow a ‘Gattaca’ quote). With each announcement of ‘YOU DIED’ I felt I was getting closer; I was learning his patterns and developing a pattern of my own. Heavy attack, roll, wait… heavy attack, roll, wait… until finally I wore him down.
I plunged my blades through his armour, and had bested him in battle. It was close. It was painfully close. My health bar looked literally empty so it was a relief when the words ‘EMBER RESTORED’ appeared victoriously onscreen and my health bar topped up.
Over Christmas I watched ‘Eddie the Eagle’ for the third time (I love that movie). There’s a scene where the self-taught ski jumper Eddie, having successfully landed the 15m jump for the first time in training, optimistically announces that he is ready for the 40 metres and heads in the direction of the much larger slope.
With Vordt defeated I continue my journey with similar optimism, but suspect the next area may well lead to a similar outcome to Eddie facing the 40 metre jump for the first time. Wish me luck…
4th January – Curse-Rotted Greatwood
Last night, my journey took me through the Undead Settlement where I helped my old friend Siegward of Catarina out with his inability to solve the most basic of elevator problems, who returned the favour by demonstrating his heroics on a patrolling Fire Demon.
Eventually, I found the pink flowers growing through the cracks of the stone floor. A reminder of the arena where I would face the Curse-Rotted Greatwood. Although a somewhat terrifying name and enormity, the bosses size doesn’t make up for the fact that this boss is essentially a tree with testicles (or ‘egg-sacs’). It doesn’t take long to work out where it’s weakspot might be.
The second stage of the fight proved slightly more challenging but essentially, the fight rewards patience. Learning how the boss reacts to different distances and finding opportunities to charge in to deal some damage. It took around eight attempts to defeat the Curse-Rotted Greatwood but with every death I felt I was making progress. I became slightly nervous when I had 12000 souls locked in its arena, and decided to use a Ring of Sacrifice to ensure I could ‘bank them’.
Upon victory, I was awarded with the Soul of the Rotted Greatwood and more importantly, the Transposing Kiln which can be used at Firelink Shrine to transpose boss souls into boss weapons.
That makes three bosses defeated in three nights. I don’t know what I was worried about… *foreboding musical outro*
6th January – Tripling Down
The Crystal Mage? Defeated.
The Deacons of the Deep? Fallen.
The Abyss Watchers? Dead.
As much as I would love to announce the above victories with a confident and triumphant toast, the truth is a little different.
Yesterday, I battled through the Road of Sacrifices and took a route leading me onward through Farron Keep, and eventually to the Abyss Watchers. The Watchers are the first of four Lords Of Cinder that I have been tasked with defeating. My journey so far had been fairly consistent, my character build was making good progress and I was using a combination of Arstor’s Spear and the Irithyll Straight Sword depending on whether I wanted to see the whites of my opponents’ eyes in battle.
I confidently strode through the gigantic double doors with self-assurance and courage. The bodies of the Abyss Watchers were scattered throughout the large room, their souls bound after sharing the blood of the Wolf Blood Master. In reality, this meant that they had found themselves locked into eternal battle with each other. Unfortunate.
After the first hour of failing to defeat the Abyss Watchers I probably should have made the decision to take the alternative route from the Road of Sacrifices to the Cathedral of the Deep. After all, there was a critical item located there that I would need later to progress. But I’m far too stubborn to give up after an hour…
Six hours later I made the decision to head towards the Cathedral of the Deep. Six hours. I was beginning to feel like I was the one locked into eternal battle. I had entered the Abyss Watchers fight with the confidence of Apollo Creed about to fight Ivan Drago, and I had left… well, very much like Apollo Creed after fighting Ivan Drago. I had been broken.
The Crystal Sage boss lay between me and the cathedral, located in the Crucifixion Woods. I remembered the successful strategy that I had used from my first playthrough, and with my battle-scarred pride still wounded from the horrific time I spent being humiliated by the Watchers I was eager to claim a quick victory.
The fight is a little different than most; the arena contains elements of cover, providing some protection from the Sage‘s long-range spells. Despite this, I have found an aggressive strategy of rushing the Sage whenever I can, and dealing as much damage as possible works best. After a couple of ‘practices’ the Crystal Sage had been vanquished and the way to the Cathedral was clear. Well… it wasn’t clear at all. Far from it in fact.
After battling my way through a myriad of Knights, Grave Wardens, Evangelists, Crystal Lizards and one massive Cage Spider amongst others (okay, I ran away screaming from that last one), I found myself in the last boss battle before I would need to reacquaint myself with the Abyss Watchers. The Deacons of the Deep were to be the ‘hors d’ ouevre’ to the main course rematch.
Its a strange feeling to ‘enjoy’ a boss battle in a Dark Souls game, but having spent my journey so far strategically balancing shield defence with well-timed counter attacks, it was a pleasure to be faced with a large congregation of low-powered clerics and be invited to cut through them to defeat the Archdeacon, such is the aim of this boss battle.
I was armed with my trusty Arstor’s Spear (now upgraded to +2), allowing me to cut straight through the crowd aiming towards my target.
The Deacons can do significant ‘Curse damage’, especially towards the end of the fight and so I made a few changes to my garments to counter this. Much like the Crystal Sage fight, I needed a couple of attempts to get up to speed but it was only a matter of time before the Deacons of the Deep were no longer. As well as the substantial ‘soul’ rewards, more significantly the victory granted me a ‘small doll’. This item would later grant me access to Irithyll, where I would face the adversary who has halted my progress in the past. However, before my path takes me there, I had unfinished business…
It was very much a hero’s storyline. Having been defeated horrifically and embarrassingly in battle, I had been on a journey. A journey to learn, to train and to gain the experience necessary to outwit my opponent. As I stood once more before the Abyss Watchers, it was no longer a look of over-confidence I was wearing, but a look of steel determination.
I found I was consistently able to defeat the ‘first round’ of Watchers, before they combine their shared blood into one ‘Super-Watcher’. Slowly, I began to learn his moveset, to know when I could land a couple of hits… but it was never without risk. There was never a guarantee that I wouldn’t be caught with his flailing fire blade and if I was, there was every chance it would be followed by a fatal combination.
Inevitably, there were times when this final Watcher would land a blow. At this stage I was blessed with 10 Estus Flasks upgraded to +2, so as long as I could find safe opportunities to heal, I had ample supply. Eventually, I found the perfect distance to keep from the Watcher. It was close enough to tempt him into the moveset that I knew would leave him open and give me the best chance of landing a couple of hits, but far enough away to keep me out of his range.
I’m not sure why the words “EAT IT!” left my mouth as my final strike landed, but the pure elation and feeling of accomplishment unique to the ‘SoulsBorne’ games probably had something to do with it. The Abyss Watchers, the first Lord of Cinder, had fallen and I could return the ashes to their throne in Firelink Shrine.
Pontiff Sulyvahn, I’m coming for you. You won’t stop me this time…