Dark Souls II Progress: 9/8/15
September 08, 2015

I'm amazed I didn't write this sooner. I've put a fair amount of work into Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, mostly after coming home from work. It's pretty much the only time, save for a few sessions here and there on days off, that I'm able to sit down and play these days.

Previously, I had just entered the Forest of Fallen Giants, which scarcely looks like a forest at all. In fact, a good portion of this game seems to consist of leaping from one castle or fortress to another. It leaves the game with a rather cold, sterile feel. Where in the previous title you ventured through a variety of locations, here it's pretty much Castle A, Castle B, Fortress A, etc. I find it almost an act of self-parody when you enter a forest and it transforms into a castle almost immediately, and you forget that you were supposed to be in a wooded area in the first place.

Anyway, I started off this voyage the same way I had begun the game's predecessor: grinding. After accessing the first bonfire in the woods and learning that the teleport option is available from the very beginning of the campaign, I worked out a quick grinding rhythm. First I'd run across a stream, kill a soldier, veer left, kill another, pad to a makeshift bridge, and off about three or four more guys. If I still had my one and only shot of Estus Flask left, I climbed a ladder and began taking out undead foes up there. It ran smoothly for a while, allowing me to level up several times.

Then one round the soldier across the creek wasn't there. I looked left and his buddy was similarly MIA. The guards near the bridge were still around, though. I thought maybe I didn't properly rest at the bonfire, which allows them to respawn. I ran back, rested, and rechecked. Sure enough, they were gone. At first, I wrote this off as a glitch, but then my stock of soldiers began diminishing all over the place. I found out then that enemies all have a finite number of respawns. Once those have been exhausted, wiped out foes only returns under given circumstaces:

A) You use a bonfire ascetic, which resets respawn limits and boost the area around the bonfire to the next difficulty rating (and also makes enemies in the area worth more souls). This also respawns the area boss.

B) Join the Covenant of Champions, which returns all enemies to the game and grants them unlimited respawns. The trade-off is that they're now more powerful, more difficult to kill, and are much more aggressive. As with the ascetic, they're also worth more souls. Plus, you can terminate your membership and rejoin at any time, which is handy for moments when you need to farm a certain item and you've run out of enemies to drop it. Of course, if you leave the respawn levels return to their pre-Covenant numbers.

Progressing through the forest was slow going. I'd chop my way to a tricky point and either die or turn back. Eventually I found another bonfire and did more of the same. At one point I crawled up onto a clearing where a whole bunch of undead soldiers rose from their slumbers. I turned to escape and kill a bombing soldier blocking my exit, then turned around and notice a humongous knight right behind me. After crapping myself and attempting to run away, I ended up dead at the edge of his blade. The good news is that someone blasted a nearby wall, which granted me a shortcut from the second bonfire to the area with the giant knight. He--called The Pursuer--never returned, but we did meet later...

At long last, I "permanently" extinguished enough guards that I could reach a locked door near the bonfire and access another shortcut. After resting, I rode an elevator and charged through a mist gate, where I found the first boss.



This was a terrific first boss fight. The giant had an easy enough pattern to learn and was simple enough for any build or class to take on without much difficulty. Still, if you weren't careful he could wreck you with a shot or two. I did very well on my first attempt and thought I'd have him schooled with one try. He only had one attack that caused me a little heartache if I wasn't careful, wherein he'd lean forward and swipe the ground with his hand. After I brought his HP down to a certain point (and learned very well how to dodge the swipe), though, he tore off his own arm, thereby extending the range of the attack. Needless to say, he killed me with his own frickin' severed arm. That's brutal.

Nonetheless, I figured out how to surmount the hurdle, chopping away at his ankles until he finally succumbed to his foot wounds, giving me my first boss victory.


The Last Giant dropped a key, which I used to check out a few other areas. I found some nifty treasures, offed a whole slew of pricks, and leveled up as often as I died. Eventually I unlocked a door with some more powerful (and swift) knights behind it. I cut through them and found a mist gate that I was sure would be another boss. I therefore did what I now normally do: repeatedly killed them until they ran out of respawns and moseyed to the next boss.



I hated this fight because it's really not dodge-only friendly. I contemplated added a shield to my repertoire, but I was adamant about remaining a dual-wielder unless absolutely necessary. The Pursuer didn't give a crap about that. At most, I'd get about five hits or tuck and rolls in before I'd run out of stamina and he'd destroy me. I figured there had to be some kind of trick to fighting him, and that's when I stumbled upon something that caused me to grab a shield, if only for this fight alone.

It took a few tries, but the trick looked like this when it worked:

The Pursuer begins the fight by dashing at you and cutting loose a wicked chop. Time L2 with a shield just right and you can parry the attack--which I did--and stun him for about five seconds. While he was out of it, I ran to the back and activated a ballista. An explosive bolt caught him in the back, loosening him of about 80% of his HP. He turned around in response and headed straight for me. I sent a second missile to his chest and put him down.

With The Pursuer dead, I gained access to The Lost Bastille. Unfortunately, I used up my supply of anti-stone fragrances, which remove petrification from NPCs and enemies that block certain areas, and therefore couldn't find out where to go. I checked a FAQ and it recommended I return to Heide's Tower of Flame, yet another fortress area, and rematch Dragonrider.

Prior to the fight, I took the time to practice up on my dodging skills and leveling by extinguishing as many of the giant knights the region had to offer as I could. I ended up removing three of them and using a crank of sorts that modified something on the Dragonrider's platform. Before long, I grew weary of fighting the massive armor-clads and decided it was time to bring the rider down.



I fared better in my first few tries than I did in my initial encounter with Dragonrider so many hours ago, and yet couldn't best him. There were times I'd give him a run for his money, but then misstep and fall to my death. Thankfully, this fight didn't take me too many tries. I held my right hand weapon, a falchion +1, with two hands and discovered an unbeatable pattern. If you slip behind Dragonrider, he begins to rotate. If you circle around him in the same direction in which he's rotating, he basically can't hit you. He'll try, but the attack will miss, leaving him wide open. I did this for a couple of minutes, sustaining maybe two blows myself, but laid the rider to rest in the end.


After the Dragonrider were the dark innards of the tower. I pushed through them, fought off scores of monsters, passed an area with a petrified NPC (or foe, I couldn't tell) and discovered another bonfire. Passing that, I headed into what appeared to be a grotto that gave way to a huge opening populated by droves of undead soldiers: No-Man's Wharf.

It took me about three or four sessions, but I worked tirelessly to clear out the wharf. After many slayings and deaths, I came to a contraption that asked for a certain stone that I recall from earlier in the game. I went back to the merchant who carried it, dropped a couple thousand or however much it cost, and placed the item in the slot. BAM. Light almost everywhere.

Part of the trouble with the wharf isn't just the tough enemies. The area is nearly pitch black, making it easy to accidentally walk off a dock and into the murky, killing waters. The light felt like I was making sound progress.

Apparently, the function of the light is to keep some really tough monsters at bay. These creatures creep out of little crawlspaces and buildings and mess you up good if you're not careful. However, they cower at the brightness and retreat back into their hovels, which allows you to run past them without event. Thanks to that, I was able to ring a bell, which summons a ship holding the boss, and then kick down a bridge for a shortcut. After I felt confident enough, I attempted the encounter.



I didn't win in our first duel, despite this being a pretty easy boss. There's a column of sorts in the middle of the room that you can use to stymie his charge attacks, which is helpful. His combos are pretty easy to avoid, and you can score careful shots on him without much trouble. Unfortunately, the room fills with water while you're fighting, making footing nearly impossible after a certain point. That was how he got me.

Obviously, I needed to kill him faster, so I looked up blacksmiths and weapons. And dammit, I had access to one all along at The Lost Bastille and didn't realize it. I returned to the locale and did as I needed to do, which took several attempts. I pushed and explosive barrel to the bottom of a set of stairs, coaxed a halberd-wielding maniac to slice it, and blew a hole in the wall. Upon entering, I activated the bonfire and entered McDuff's shop. Since I already had the dull ember (which, if I'm not mistaken, you receive earlier in this version of the game than in the original). After giving it to him, he allowed me to purchase stock, imbue weapons, and upgrade. In his inventory, I found an old friend from my days as a DEX build character in Demon's Souls: Uchigatana. I bought it, bumped it up to a +4, and returned to the Flexile Sentry for rematch.

He's dead now.

I haven't done much since the Sentry. I'm keeping his soul for an item trade later. I decided to return to the bastille and prepare for another boss fight there. I'm still in the process of clearing my path...

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