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The From Software Chronicles – Part 4: Demon’s Souls

by on June 21, 2016
 

Alright, if you’ve been with me so far you’ll recall that the last entry ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. I had beaten the two “Maneaters” but had a hell of a time doing so. I had to rely on an exploit that allowed me to take out the first beast before the boss fight even started, and I was then (barely) able to defeat the second one. This fight left me with concerns regarding the sudden increase in difficulty and I basically began to question my own existence overall. The important thing though is that I got through it, and now it is time to press on to see what lies ahead. The next stop will be the Adjudicator archstone in the Shrine of Storms.

Spawning at the archstone places you directly in front of a hallway that leads outside. There are piles of dead manta ray enemies before you and live ones circle the expanse past the cliff edge. Dropping down a little ways allows you to continue back into the mountain through another tunnel with a merchant. This hallway eventually opens up to a large chamber with narrow, crumbling walkways where a new type of enemy is pacing back and forth. These large, see-through creatures have glowing spots on their heads and hands that help you pick them out of the darkness. They move extremely slowly and are very simple to kill with a couple of slashes. The problem with them is that they don’t stagger, so if you attack and can’t kill them before they make contact you are going to take significant damage. Also, they come in a never-ending supply. This is because this area is home to a second creature we haven’t seen before, The Summoner. As long as he lives, he’ll keep conjuring those creatures to attack you. While this as its drawbacks, it also comes with a positive side-effect. I had mentioned in one of the previous areas that soul-farming had become really difficult. Clearly, I just needed to spend some time in this area. It is pretty common to work your way through to the summoner and have enough souls to gain a level. This is a great area to grind.

When you’ve had your fill of leveling, you can continue out to another balcony like the one you saw just after the archstone earlier. This time though you have to follow a very narrow path down the side of the mountain. This path is home to a couple of rolling skeletons, an archer skeleton, and two gold skeletons. These fights can be really difficult as you are constantly in close proximity to a deadly free-fall. To make matters worse, you may have to deal with the manta-rays firing barbs in your direction at the same time. With a little luck you should be able to make it to another cave. This area drove me nuts. You see, this cave is home to more of the translucent enemies, except these are a little different. They attack by firing a steady beam that covers roughly a 90 degree angle in front of them. This beam hits hard, and is difficult, if not impossible to avoid. You’re best bet is to have the brunt of the damage hit your shield and/or have a defense spell activated. If you happen to stop to take the enemies out you run the risk of having a third type of translucent enemy sneak up on you and stab you in the back, which is devastating to your health bar. I decided it was in my best interest to run through this room as quickly as possible and avoid all confrontations as I went. If you follow the path eventually you’ll make it to a fog door and leave that room of horrors behind for good.

The final area of this dungeon brings us to a large room with narrow, naturally occurring, walkways that extend above a glowing liquid inhabited by slug creatures. The pools don’t harm you, and the slugs are rather easily disposed of. The danger in this room comes from something else. It is reminiscent of the mines in the Stonefang Tunnels. You can see glowing orbs of light hovering throughout the area, they follow a consistent path but if you get to close, you run the risk of taking huge explosive damage. Even worse, if the attack doesn’t kill you in one blow, it will send you reeling into the water below. The slugs can easily finish you off before you can recover if that happens. If you make it through this room, you’ll finally reach the fog-door that leads to the boss. Everything leading to this door has collectively become the most frustrating area of the game for me thus far. The reason is that any misstep from here on out, places you all the way back at the Adjudicator archstone with no shortcut to get back quickly. Fighting through this area can be emotionally draining, and is best to be attempted as few times as possible. What makes things worse is that there is a certain way to fight the boss of this area, and if you don’t catch on quickly The Old Hero can quickly ratchet up the number of trips you have to take through the area.

The Old Hero

The Old Hero

The Old Hero is blind. If I’ve learned nothing from comic books, movies, tv shows, etc.. it’s that anytime someone has one of their senses taken away, their other senses become enhanced. If this simple concept would have made its way into my brain earlier, I wouldn’t have cried myself to sleep all those nights. If we are being honest, that’s not entirely true, it was only ONE night. This boss can wreck your day pretty quickly if you make any sort of noise when he is close. So walking, not running, is crucial. There are lines of column bordering the main walkway and if you can walk behind those, out of range of his attacks, you’ll be just fine. Just pop out occasionally, throw some magic at his face, hope he doesn’t launch himself at you, and duck back into cover. Repeat that and the boss will eventually fall and you can return to the safety of the Nexus. Beating this boss gave me the biggest thrill of the game thus far. I can’t put into words how frustrated I was by The Old Hero and this entire area in general. My hope is that this is the high point in terms of frustration and it will be nothing but smooth sailing from here on out. Right?

The next stop brings us back to where we fought the Leechmonger. This area isn’t necessarily worse than the last area, but after the struggle that was the last area, it’s essentially the last place I wanted to go next. We return to a dark, depressing depths of the Valley of Defilement and this time there’s an added wrinkle. If you continue past the former boss arena you’ll find your self navigating a narrow canyon that opens up to a vast mire before you. With the darkness, hopefully you stopped before tumbling over the cliffs edge. Hugging the right wall leads you down to traverse the large swamp. The wrinkle comes from the water that exists in this area is poisonous. On top of that evading or running is out of the question when waist deep in the filth. Equipping yourself properly can help slow-down the poison, but countering it altogether is difficult without the constant use of items.

The darkness coupled with the openness of the area makes it very easy to lose your heading. Making a circle around the environment will lead you to a lot of items scattered about, but again, the threat of poison makes you carefully consider the benefits of going after them. Making your way deeper into the area brings you to several new slime-like enemies that join the fray alongside the common fodder that you saw earlier in the level. Those enemies aren’t difficult to face, but this area is home to the large goblin enemies from earlier as well, and they are still very difficult to face, especially if you get stuck fighting one in the bog. Assuming you don’t get eviscerated by a giant’s club, or succumb to the poisonous slop, you’ll eventually come across a stilt-housing area. Congratulations, you’ve made it past the swamp, but that’s only part of what this area has to offer.

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The good news is that making your way through the stilt-village will eventually lead you to a very welcome sight. You can activate a shortcut that takes you back to the beginning of the area. I had begun to think that shortcuts were a simply a tease presented to us in the beginning of the game to make us think we had a chance. Activating this shortcut flooded me with joy, because I simply can’t stand any of the areas that make up the Valley of Defilement and loathed the idea of trekking through any of the areas again. Back in the shack area you’ll eventually come across the fog-door that leads to the boss of the area, The Dirty Colossus. Dirty, yes. Colossus, no. He could maybe be considered ample, but a colossus this boss is not. Fortunately he does move with the speed of one though, which means that you should have no problem avoiding most of his attacks and going on the offensive pretty much at will. This boss should fall rather easily and you can make your way out of the grime and bleakness of the Valley of Defilement and once again into the comforting confines of the Nexus.

Dirty Colossus

Dirty Colossus

If we were to continue in the pattern that we’ve developed thus far our next stop would be Boletaria castle. However, there is a fog covering a door just beyond the Tower Knight archstone, and in order to eliminate said fog, you need to jump out-of-order from how you’ve been tackling the areas. The only way to eliminate the fog is to eliminate the boss that exists right past where you fought the Flamelurker in the Stonefang Tunnels. This next area sets the pace for the remainder of the game, with the exception being your return to Boletaria castle. The first part of this game has focused on exploring levels, and character building. This next part changes up the format and puts you on a much more rapid fire clip facing boss after boss. Spawning at the Flamelurker archstone puts you just a short jog to the next boss. The Dragon God is responsible for the fog in Boletaria and he has taken up resident in a giant lava filled cavern just down the hall. The term Colossus could have fit much better with this boss. Oh my.

If you can recall back to the very first entry in this series, I embedded the trailer from the opening moments of the game. This trailer ended with a dramatic look at a giant beast roaring the soul right out of my body. Little did I know that his name is the “Dragon God” and he’s now staring at you between the columns lining that huge room. He is terrifying, but he exists in an arena that doesn’t really suit him well. To make my point he is flanked by two giant spear guns that are aimed directly at him. Seems like a strange way to decorate ones home but nevertheless, that’s the situation. Making your way to these two guns are your main goal in this fight as the combined shots will deplete the boss’s life bar to nearly empty and leave him wounded at the base of the room. All it takes then are a couple of long-range attacks to finish him off for good. This isn’t a difficult boss fight, but it feels like it’s meant to act as more of a set-piece than anything. This battle feels different from the other boss fights. It didn’t feel like it existed to challenge players, but instead it acted as a way reinforcing the epic nature of the mission you are trying to accomplish. It provided a nice change of pace in terms of how the boss battles had been presented thus far. On my way back to the Nexus, I thought to myself, despite its relative ease, that fight may have been my favorite moment of the game thus far.

The Dragon God

The Dragon God

With the Dragon God slain, the door past the Tower Knight archstone is now able to be opened. It is time to see what lies beyond that door. I always love returning to this area, and without a doubt the Boletaria Castle setting had been my favorite in the game. That being said though, this area is a noticeable drop-off in terms of engaging areas to explore. I still like it but it’s not quite as enthralling as the first two areas were. This could be a bit of the overall effect wearing off from the game. As there are only five areas in the game, Boletaria Castle has become more of the same every time you enter a new area. An area that I have overlooked in terms of an evolving setting is the Tower of Latria. That area has so far presented two very different settings within the same realm. Boletaria Castle has become and bit monotonous. The one thing that is introduced in this area is the ability to free an NPC as you make your way through. This is recommended as that NPC will prove extremely beneficial during this area’s boss fight. This area isn’t as direct as the path to the Dragon God, but it presents nothing remarkable as you make your way to the fog-door for the boss of this area, The Penetrator. He is a tall warrior clad head-to-toe in silver armor with a long sword/lance that does considerable damage. This boss, despite his questionable name, is one that potentially may cause issues if not beaten on the first try. Try not to take too long though or that helper will fall in battle. He acts as a decoy, and you want him to live as long as possible. If he is alive you can essentially attack worry-free until the boss is killed. If he dies, then you will be stuck having to go one-on-one with a boss that packs a wallop. You don’t want this if it can be avoided. I can’t say for certain but knowing how this game works, if that NPC dies in the fight, and you die as well, I have to think that he wouldn’t be available for any subsequent attempts thereafter. In my case, that would have made this boss perhaps impossible for my character’s build at the time. Fortunately I was able to finish off the boss and made my way back to the Nexus.

The Penetrator

The Penetrator

I find this as good a spot as any to end Part 4 of the From Software chronicles. Things are definitely building toward a conclusion. Any aspect of exploration or discovery has been left behind with the earlier stages and I’m beginning to enter a gauntlet of menacing bosses that will conclude with the end game. The next part will be the finale of Demon’s Souls in its entirety. It will cover the game’s ending and I’ll take the opportunity to share my overall impressions of the game that started it all. Also, based on a comment that someone left way back after I published my introduction, I’m going to do something extra as well. You’ll have to come check it out when part 5 is published, the conclusion of Demon’s Souls.