It’s one of my greatest ever gaming achievements. To be able to say that I have beaten every Dark Souls III boss without summons. To most Dark Souls players, this is likely to be the ‘entry-level’ to calling yourself a Dark Souls player. But to me it’s the kind of achievement that I struggle to keep in whenever in conversation about anything game related in ‘the real world’.
“Have you played Resident Evil 2 Remake?“
(Don’t say it),
(Don’t say it),
(Don’t say it)…
“…BUT I HAVE SOLOED EVERY DARK SOULS III BOSS!!“
It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote a blog post entitled Dark Souls: My Truth, which was basically a confession of my abysmal lack of skill whilst simultaneously paying homage to one of the greatest games I had experienced in recent generations. I remember poking fun at the colossal number of blog posts and editorials that the franchise had inspired. It isn’t without a sense of irony that I’m here writing yet another ‘Souls post, having recently documented my entire journey through Dark Souls III across a lengthy four-part game diary.
“So what the hell are you still writing about Dark Souls III for?”
Well, my playthrough diary was around 10 000 words and featured every boss encountered on the road to the First Flame. However, the rekindling of the Flame wasn’t quite the end. As I watched the end credits roll my sense of accomplishment slowly turned to… emptiness. I’d lived and breathed this game every night for well over a month. I had come to know each and every boss, some of whom I’d visited for several consecutive nights but now …they were all gone.
It was strange; I had spent the final days frustrated by the final adversary, the Soul of Cinder, standing between me and freedom. I couldn’t wait to bring my campaign to a close so I could move on. I would be able to experience something other than an endless cycle of life and death, something a little less challenging. Passive, even.
The credits ended and I was presented with a choice. A choice that every true Souls player will be very familiar with. And like every true Souls player, I couldn’t help but choose the option that would begin ‘New Game +’.
I had no intention of playing the entire game of course. I wanted to experiment; to see how far I could get before turning in for the night (it was already after midnight). I ‘re-rose’ from the ashes in the same place that I had done 10 000 words ago, and headed straight for Iudex Gundyr. This time armed with the weaponry, stats and experience that five weeks of grinding had rewarded me with.
I removed the sword that held Iudex in his state of stasis. He awoke (predictably), and the battle began once again. Unlike the first entry of my playthrough diary however, this battle requires little in the way of retrospective commentary. Having slayed Iudex Gundyr on the first attempt, I proceeded through Firelink Shrine and on to the High Wall of Lothric.
I was like a merciless warrior. Everyone and everything that stood in my way fell to the cutting edge of my blade. Parts of the High Wall that had frustrated me as I grinded my way through them the first time barely presented any challenge.
After slaying Vordt of the Boreal Valley (again, on the first attempt), I headed in the opposite direction and entered the cathedral that we later learn contains a secret entrance into Lothric Castle. I had heard that the NPC in this area could be killed ‘early’, thus summoning the Dancer of the Boreal Valley whose defeat would grant us access into the castle. True enough, I soon found myself once again, locked into combat with the Dancer. Less than 5 minutes later, I had gained access to Lothric Castle, a location that had taken weeks for me to reach during my first playthrough.
It was somehow… addictive, and I began to gain an understanding of those that set themselves ridiculous personal goals inside the Soulsborne games. From completing an entire playthrough without getting hit, to taking down the most difficult bosses using nothing but ‘thorny armour’, there simply isn’t an experience that can match those offered by the FromSoftware catalogue.
Eventually, I made myself stop. I haven’t jumped back into that world since. I needed to move on. I had lived and breathed Dark Souls every night since the 3rd January. I’d grinded and dragged myself through boss battle after boss battle; slowly learning each of their weaknesses, their openings, their… personalities.
I have since realised that starting New Game + may have been a mistake. At some point this year I feel a duty to return to Lothric to experience the two DLC packages; Ashes of Ariandel and The Ringed City. The latter of which is accessible from the The Kiln of the First Flame, the final location of the game. Basically, I’ll have to re-complete Dark Souls III to enter The Ringed City…
…But I’m quite looking forward to it.