24th January – Ancient Wyvern
I travelled back to the Irithyll Dungeon, not because I wanted to to revisit the deformed monstrosities that I had met before, but because it was time to walk the ‘Path of the Dragon’. Defeating The Consumed King had rewarded me with a gesture allowing me to ‘meditate’, praying to the dragon gods, and if I did this in just the right place in Irithyll Dungeon, I would be instantly transported to Archdragon Peak.
I opened my eyes, and was somewhat taken aback by the place I had arrived. The mountain top where I was stood breached the clouds, I was stood on top of the world. Ahead of me was a host of interconnected, dilapidated buildings reminiscent of Greek architecture.
I fought through a range of Serpent-Men until I reached a set of double doors that towered above me. I pushed them open and continued into an expansive courtyard area that funneled me forward. And that’s when it arrived.
As this colossal beast swept across the sky and crashed down on the ground in front of me, I stopped. My eyes widened and my lower jaw dropped open slightly. Next, I slowly turned around… and ran straight back the way I came!
I mean, LOOK AT IT! Seriously! I retreated as fast as I could. At least, until a tidal wave of fire engulfed me and forced my burning body to the floor. Okay, I needed to try this again with a little more courage, rather than cowardice.
This time, I ran towards the Ancient Wyvern. and found that I was able to position myself in relative safety in the shadow of it’s gigantic body. From here, there was only one thing to do – start hacking away at the Wyvern‘s feet. It quickly became clear that I was causing little more damage to the beast than its annual visit to the chiropodist.
I noticed that unlike every other boss fight, I wasn’t locked inside a claustrophobic arena. Beyond the Ancient Wyvern, the path ahead seemed to be clear. I decided to make a run for it, between the Wyvern‘s feet. Taking a left at the end of the pathway eventually lead to the safety of shelter; some crumbling walls, the remains of a staircase… enough to shield me from the Wyvern‘s fiery breathe.
I encountered multiple Serpent-Men en-route around the perimeter of the courtyard where the Ancient Wyvern was raging. The perimeter eventually brought me to a ladder, leading to a set of platforms that positioned me directly above the Wyvern‘s head. It became clear that the Ancient Wyvern wasn’t an ordinary boss fight. To defeat this titanic beast it became clear I needed to “beat the environment”, rather than my opponent. I aimed my blade downward, jumped, and plunged it through the Wyvern’s skull.
The Ancient Wyvern had been vanquished, and I was free to explore Archdragon Peak further. Before doing so, I realised that there was one boss that I had apparently missed in the Smouldering Lake, beneath the Catacombs of Carthus…
28th January – Old Demon King
Revisiting a place earlier than Irithyll, at this stage in the game meant that I was somewhat overpowered when I faced off against the Old Demon King. In fact, for the first time in my Dark Souls III journey, I defeated this boss on my first attempt.
From Firelink Shrine, I mistakenly decided to warp to the labyrinthine tunnels beneath the Smouldering Lake. If it wasn’t for the fact I chanced across an illusory wall that led me straight to the Old Demon King‘s room, I may have had to take a very large detour. It appeared that Lady Luck was on my side for the time-being.
The fight itself didn’t really cause any problems. He possessed an ‘area of effect’ ability that caught me a couple of times, but it was obvious that I was way over-powered for this fight at this stage. The demon apparently has many ties to similar fire-based bosses from the first Dark Souls game in the area of Lost Izalith. It didn’t take too long for him to join them in a similar fate.
I welcomed the 25 000 ‘easy souls’ that I was rewarded with for defeating the Old Demon King. I knew I was going to need every one of them. It was time to return to Archdragon Peak, and take on what many believe to be the most difficult boss in the Dark Souls III…
3rd February – The King of the Storm & The Nameless King
I was now three Dark Souls III bosses away from soloing the entire game. It felt like a good time to reflect on my journey so far.
A long list of victories, but despite the subtle optimism evident in this tweet, I was nervous about my next target. The Nameless King; often mentioned at the top of many player’s ‘most difficult’ lists, especially outside of DLC. Because of this, I was mentally prepared to invest countless hours into my next encounter. Those paying attention will have already noticed that this update comes a full week after my previous victory against the Old Demon King. The reason for this certainly hasn’t been due to lack of trying.
I had left Archdragon Peak only partially explored. My earlier ‘removal’ of the Ancient Wyvern meant that the area could be traversed in relative safety and it wasn’t too long before I was standing in front of a fog wall which would lead to one of the most infamous battles in Dark Souls history.
Through ringing a giant bell, I had summoned the Nameless King who rather impressively, rides into Archdragon Peak during a storm seated atop a Wyvern. After entering the fog wall, the Stormdrake can be seen emerging through the grey clouds before landing majestically with a few strong flaps of its wings. Without hesitation, I ran towards the beast and engaged in battle.
The combination of the Stormdrake and Nameless King brought with them a wide variety of attacks. The Stormdrake was able to breathe fire, whilst its seated rider had a lightning infused spear. I had decided to double down on my dexterity build by equipping a variety of rings that improved rolling and buffed my ability to dodge, and at this stage I was brandishing a Sharp Washing Pole; a very long, but light blade perfectly matching my agile character build.
The one area of my character that was letting me down I felt, was my armour, having been unsuccessful in locating the spectacularly useful Havel’s Ring on my journey through Lothric. In previous games, this ring had been key to wearing heavier, and therefore stronger armour, without affecting my agility. Regardless, I equipped the best lightning-protective rags I could find in my inventory and began the learning process.
If there was one thing that each of my previous battles with Lothric’s finest had told me, it was that ‘a learning process’ was the most fitting description of any Dark Souls boss fight. On very rare occasions, the lesson would be brief; easy to pick up and gain an understanding. Mostly, they were challenging with multiple steps to learn, and uncovering a successful strategy was often like memorising a complex piece of choreography.
The battle with the Nameless King however, made every previous fight seem like an afternoon in playschool. Victory was only guaranteed by defeating the Stormdrake, and then slaying the unseated Nameless King himself. Effectively, there was a ‘two-for-the-price-of-one’ boss sale at Archdragon Peak whilst I was there and I’d been taken advantage of.
This made learning the second half of the battle very difficult, as it was necessary to defeat the Stormdrake to even ‘get a seat at the table’…
Because of this, I focused on techniques to get past the Drake as quickly as I could. By switching to two-handing my weapon when possible, and channelling my efforts almost exclusively on the beast’s beak, I found I could cause enough damage to ‘knock down’ the Stormdrake temporarily. This would leave a short window of opportunity to sink my blade directly into its eye for a pain-inducing critical hit dealing massive damage.
Of course, it wasn’t that simple. My impatience to defeat the Drake meant making use of marginal windows of opportunity, and fighting ‘on the edge’ would often lead to mistakes. After many, many hours however, I was able to pass the first half of the battle with my collection of Estus flasks largely intact and I could finally start focusing on the Nameless King himself.
It is said that the Nameless King is the son of Gwyn, the first Lord of Cinder, who successfully linked the First Flame and brought an end to the Age of Ancients, defeating the Dragons. He is Gwyn’s firstborn, a banished God of War who sacrificed everything (including his name) to align himself with the kind that his father fought so fiercely to defeat.
I was locked into a cycle of killing the Stormdrake followed by hours and hours of the Nameless King beating the crap out of me, each time trying to benefit by learning a little more. With every death, I became more ‘hollow’, but at least I was becoming an increasingly knowledgeable hollow.
The Nameless King‘s lightning-infused Swordspear hit like a monster-truck, especially with the rags that I was forced to wear. It would be too-many-hours-too-count before I could successfully anticipate the King‘s attacks, and even more before I could successfully dodge them. Several nights were spent edging a little closer, learning a little more. I kept reminding myself that failing to succeed didn’t mean I was failing to progress.
It wasn’t until the sixth consecutive night that I had become attuned enough to the Nameless King that I felt ready to take advantage. Finally, I felt that I had reached a turning point in the battle. For every one of the King‘s moves I felt I knew how to dodge or counter. I knew which of his moves would leave an opening, and could anticipate which would require me to stay well away.
Eventually, the sixth consecutive night led to one battle. One battle in so, so many that wouldn’t end in my death. There would be a reversal in the outcome and I would be the one left standing. The Nameless King had presented me with the toughest challenge in my journey and subject to either of the final two remaining bosses taking as long to achieve victory, the rumors about the Nameless King had proven to be true.
The storm enshrouding Archdragon Peak subsided. My work here was done. The time had come to return to Lothric Castle.
4th February – Lothric, Younger Prince & Lorian, Elder Prince
It is said that the Royal Family, by Oceiros’ rule, desired an heir so strong that they would be the perfect candidate to link the First Flame and be a surviving Lord of Cinder. However, when they were unable to produce a suitable candidate biologically, Oceiros looked to the worship of Dragons. Ultimately, the family committed a deed so heinous and foul in pursuit of this ‘perfect heir’ that Lothric himself was cursed. Lorian chose to share this burden and their souls were bound together forever.
The Twin Princes chose to refute their duty to link the Flame, instead deciding to watch it fade from a safe distance. Ultimately, this led to a civil war and many tried to assassinate the Princes. They were forced to barricade themselves in at the highest point of Lothric Castle, beyond the Grand Archives for their own protection…
But I was now knocking on the door, with the Nameless King freshly inked on my victory list.
With Lothric, the much weaker and younger brother out of sight, the battle begins solely against Lorian. Lorian himself is crippled; his movement is severely restricted and he is physically constrained to crawling on his knees. He does however have the assistance of his brother Lothric, who can teleport him around the room, often mid-attack. Technically, this resulted in losing the ‘lock-on’, so it was often necessary to quickly relocate Lorian before his flaming Greatsword came crashing down from behind.
Other than the slightly tricky teleportation, the first half of the battle against the Twin Princes was fairly simple. Most of Lorian‘s attacks were largely telegraphed and easily dodged by staying close and rolling around him. It wasn’t long before Lorian was defeated, but the Twin Princes hadn’t yet finished…
The much smaller and weaker Prince Lothric climbed down from his bedstead and revived his brother. It was now necessary to fight Lorian again, but with the addition of a magic-casting Lothric as he clung to Lorian‘s back. This provided the battle with an extra dynamic as I now had to deal with Homing Soulmass and Soulspear spells, in addition to Lorian‘s previous moveset.
It was quite difficult to dodge the multiple soulmass balls as well as Lorian‘s sword, but I found that keeping a close distance to the Princes would force them into close combat for some time. Eventually, they would teleport to safety and revert to trying to hit me with magic. I would often find myself frantically scanning the room when this happened, as a surprise Soulspear to the face (or anywhere) hurt like hell!
Lothric was able to revive Lorian multiple times throughout this second stage, but eventually I took the opportunity to do what many others had tried to before. I had slayed the Twin Princes, and was in possession of the cinders required to gain access to the Kiln of the First Flame and link the fire. I was finally able to make the ultimate sacrifice. The sacrifice that these Lords of Cinder chose to refuse.
6th February – Soul of Cinder
I had done it. I had punished each Lord of Cinder for failing to relink the Flame, and returned each of their ashes to their thrones in Firelink Shrine. I had slayed 18 of Lothric’s finest, from re-animated suits of armour and colossal dragons, to overly-obsessive theologians and a rather disgusting disease-ridden tree. I had defeated princes, kings and all manner of beasts. It was time to warp to the Kiln of the First Flame and begin a new Age of Fire.
When I arrived at the Kiln, I was taken aback by the environment around me. I recently read the post of another blogger that describes the area perfectly…
We see a jumbled-up mess of other worlds, other dimensions, maybe even other ages, all amassing around this single point. Time and space in Dark Souls 3, therefore, has become a snake eating its own tail. The relationship between different realities is no longer merely obscured, but the worlds are disastrously crashing into each other.
I stepped through the fog wall and into a desolate, other-worldly environment. In the distance, I could see the final bonfire. My journey had been long and arduous. This was the conclusion to several weeks of resilience and determination.
But, there was one final obstacle. One last and as yet unwritten page. The Soul of Cinder stood between my blade and my destiny. An amalgamation of all of the Lords who had previously sacrificed themselves to the Flame. Everything that I had experienced had led to this point. The Nameless King, Pontiff Sulyvahn, Ocerios; the most difficult battles in the game and all prerequisites to this point. It was time to write the page.
The Soul of Cinder tested my patience and self-control like no other. I had faced tougher bosses but I had mentally prepared myself to endure hardship. Having defeated 18 bosses, and with the final bonfire RIGHT THERE, I just wanted to get past this one final challenge, but it wasn’t that easy. It never is.
The Soul of Cinder has an incredibly diverse moveset, due to it’s ability to channel the souls of different Lords. Ultimately, this meant that he could be fighting you with a curved sword, before trying to impale you with a spear or turning to magic to attack from distance. It could also buff itself, heal itself, throw explosives, emit clouds of poison gas… there is truly a lot to deal with.
Gradually, I began to learn which of the Soul of Cinder‘s ‘states’ allowed me the greatest opportunities to deal some damage. His ‘spear’ and ‘magic’ states became the ones to look out for. His attacks were easily dodged and left him wide open to a heavy stab with my blade.
Similarly, there were other times where I would learn to stay away. His curved sword caused me far more trouble than it had any right to with some Pontiff Sulyvahn inspired double spins, and his ‘buffed state’ just didn’t seem worth even trying.
Eventually, I wore the Soul of Cinder‘s health bar down to zero. Except we weren’t done. We were far from done. It was time for the Soul to channel the Lord of Cinder himself. Gwyn, the first to link the fire bringing an end to the Age of Ancients, was the final boss faced in the first Dark Souls, and that fight is largely memorable because of the melancholic piano chords played throughout the climatic ending.
Similarly, as the Soul of Cinder gets back to it’s feet with renewed strength and vigour, those same chords can be heard. It makes for an incredibly evocative final battle.
To say that the Soul of Cinder with the skills of Lord Gwyn is a challenge would be an incredibly shallow understatement. At this stage, the Soul of Cinder throws lightning bolts at you from distance, throws them into the ground for a close-up ‘Area of Effect’ attack, or can summon a bunch of lightning bolts to rain down on you from the sky. But these attacks are nothing compared to his Greatsword combinations.
One combination in particular, sees the Soul of Gwynder hitting you three or four times in the air before plunging his sword through your likely-already-lifeless body as it lands on the floor in front of him.
The relief and sense of victory was overwhelming. I had successfully returned all Lords to their thrones and defeated the one last remaining protector of the Flame. I walked towards the final bonfire and was presented with the option of ‘Linking the Flame’. Before doing so, I walked the perimeter of the battleground. It was perhaps a final check for secrets, or maybe I simply didn’t want the journey to end. It provided an opportunity to reminisce about some of the most memorable battles I had endured through Lothric. The elation as Pontiff Sulyvahn fell, the uniqueness of the Abyss Watchers, the grandeur of fighting Dragonslayer Armour atop Lothric Castle, and I don’t think I’ll be forgetting about the Nameless King for a quite a while.
I had delayed long enough. I held my hand out towards the final bonfire, and chose to relink the flame. The ultimate sacrifice. The flame consumed my body as the new Lord of Cinder. I was now duty-bound to prolong the flame’s life for a little longer, but in true Dark Souls fashion, it very much seemed like a thankless task. The flame was ready to die, it was time for a new age. Maybe the previous Lords of Cinder new this, and had embodied their Soul to stop me from making an unnecessary and meaningless sacrifice.
Ultimately, I didn’t really care. I had defeated every boss.
I had defeated my own uncertainty. My own frustrations. My self-doubt.
I had defeated Dark Souls III.