Tales of an Impatient Gamer is essentially a log of all my experiences with Dark Souls, a game I wouldn’t normally play due to its notorious difficulty and the patience needed to succeed. It’s going to be a spoiler-filled write up of all of my horrendous failings along the way, so reader beware. This week, a lot of progress, and what makes the bosses memorable?
Dear Potaku Readers,
Let’s consider this next part to be a story arc: the rescue of Anastacia of Astora by the brave and handsome Lord Gummybuns.
The story continues where we last left off, venturing into Blighttown to find and ring the Second Bell of Awakening. There isn’t much to say about Blighttown. Dark, gloomy, lots of precarious platforms to stand on and then an entire poisonous swamp when you get to the bottom? Obviously not an ideal location. So I ignored all the items I saw in the distance – they were guarded by giant angry mosquitoes or something, those guys are jerks – and went straight for the cave structure, which turned out to be the home of some kind of half woman, half demon spider monstrosity who had a proclivity for spewing lava down on me.
Okay, so I may have melted a couple times there. But only a couple. Quelaag, as she was called, died soon enough, and I was glad to be done with the area. I rang the second bell and was getting ready to leave when a glowing message clued me in to a phantom wall. So I phased through it and, hey look, it’s Quelaag’s deformed sister! I thought Quelaag was bad, but her sister…wow. Should I feel bad for killing Quelaag now?
Next, I returned to Firelink Shrine, only things were very different. The bonfire had gone out and could not be restored, and on further investigation, the mute Firekeeper below was missing, leaving only some rags and a mysterious orb in her place. Oh, and a letter simply reading ‘DEAD’. Thanks, we get the picture, murderer. Turns out it was Lautrec, based on the glowing message where he used to sit that read ‘Be wary of lies’. And after I saved him, too…
My good buddy the Crestfallen Warrior also alerted me to the presence of Kingseeker Fraampt, a really creepy giant serpent thing with a horrifically unfriendly slasher smile. But more on him later, I had to go to Sen’s Fortress and do…something? Maybe Fraampt explained it, but he’s creepy and I mustn’t have listened properly.
That fortress is full of traps and serpent warriors and generally a very mean place, I discovered. Several times I essentially had to cross a tightrope pathway while giant axes swung back and forth in front of me. Peering below, I could see a group of Titanite Demons, like the one the Blacksmith kept in his basement. I decided I’d avoid them.
Past the boulders and the arrows and more swinging axes, I made it to the roof of the fortress, where a giant immediately hurled a massive firebomb at me and blew me up. When I revived and made my way back to him, I discovered he was a pretty easy fight, especially when he threw a tantrum and got tired. Before the fog gate that would inevitably lead to another monstrous fight I came upon the sign of Iron Tarkus and decided to ask for his assistance in the next fight, which proved to be quite helpful.
The Iron Golem, guardian of the fortress, didn’t have much time to stop for a chat. Between his brutal hammer strikes Tarkus and I hacked and slashed at his legs until he lost his balance and fell, leaving barely a scratch on either of us. Tarkus disappeared without a word. Nice guy, though.
In the centre of the area was a floating orange ring and when I inspected it a small group of horrific bat demon things grabbed me and flew me all the way up the mountain to the beautiful city of Anor Londo. Bathed in the light of a setting sun, Anor Londo was terrifying and beautiful all at once. The giant sentinels I met on the way to the bonfire didn’t move at all, guarding who knows what. The city was grand in size and pristine clean, but also silent and empty. It felt wrong.
Sometimes it was difficult to stop and enjoy the scenery, because gargoyles and sentinels and more of those bat demon things would attempt to hinder my progress every way I turned. None of them were particularly challenging, more of a distraction. And then I met the Silver Knight Archers.
While these guys could be tough with a sword, it was their absurdly powerful arrows that were the problem. A mad dash past arrows raining down on me from either side proved unsuccessful. So did the next mad dash. And so on. After the umpteenth attempt I managed to make my way into another building where Silver Knights waited behind damn near every door, but at the suggestion of a glowing message on the floor I discovered that they’re very weak to parrying, and so it was that I cleared the building with relative ease.
When I entered the hall before what would prove to be a horrible battle, I noticed that the orb I’d found back at the empty Firekeeper’s cell was glowing, so I decided to give that a try. It led me into Lautrec’s world, where he stood guard in the same hall with a knight and a mage. He was arrogant and talked about how now he’d kill me too, but a day with the Silver Knights had left me a master of the parry, and he fell to two quick parries with the lightning spear. The Firekeeper soul was pocketed, and soon I’d return to Firelink Shrine to right the wrongs, but I wasn’t finished with Anor Londo.
Ornstein and Smough were difficult opponents, to say the absolute least. Fighting them required a lot of strafing, a lot of good positioning, and the patience to strike only when it was absolutely safe. I targeted Ornstein first, because he was the more agile of the two and I could usually get him away from Smough and his giant hammer long enough to get a few good stabs in. When he died, Smough simply laughed and crushed his corpse with the hammer – no respect for the dead. As if suddenly enraged by the desecration of the corpse I’d just made, I charged bravely towards a now powered-up Smough and…realized that was a bad idea and decided to go back to strafing and keeping a distance.
Finally, Smough died and I met a giant pair of boobs that gave me something called the Lordvessel. Personally I don’t care too much about the item beyond the fact that I can now magically warp between bonfires. Fast travel! At last!
We reach the end of the story arc. Back at Firelink Shrine I return the soul to the Firekeeper, and Anastacia of Astora is returned to life. I should be happy, right?
Anastacia watches her words as she talks. She thanks me for my actions, but her tone betrays her. Reviving her brought her tongue back, which had previously been cut off for speaking out of line. So she asks me to leave her be and never talk to her again. Now she sits alone and mute in her cell beneath the bonfire.
Did I do the right thing?
We’re skipping a discussion of Blighttown because honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about it. The fact that I relied on a walkthrough for most of it probably has something to do with that. Call it a momentary lapse in patience, because I really didn’t want to spend a lot of time in such a terrible location.
The most important thing to take from Sen’s Fortress, besides my new lightning spear, was simply that this is the first time I’ve used a summon in a boss fight, and while it was fun, it also felt incredibly cheap. The Iron Golem died on my first attempt as a result, and while that should be a good thing it also means that, unlike pretty much every other boss in the game so far, he wasn’t memorable because he didn’t leave a lasting impression.
Ornstein and Smough, on the other hand, were an absolute nightmare, and I don’t think I’ll be forgetting about them any time soon. It’s a boss fight that really does require patience, especially if you’re taking them on alone. There’s so much risk involved in anything. Taking that one jab at Ornstein might be fatal if Smough closes in on you too fast. The fight in which I was successful must have lasted at least 15 minutes, in which time I was constantly strafing and repositioning myself and waiting for those small opportune moments.
More than that, the actual approach was a problem. Dying against them meant making it all the way back over to them, and while I’d managed to unlock a few shortcuts, I still had to walk a fair distance and dodge the attacks of the sentinels along the way. The same thing happened in Blighttown with Quelaag, but perhaps worse, because you’re very likely to be poisoned and therefore use up items on the way there each time, only to die and get thrown back. In terms of patience, that was the worst part. The thought of having to make my way back there again and again was somehow more painful than the thought of fighting the bosses repeatedly.
Maybe this is because each time I fought Ornstein and Smough I felt a little bit better about it, made a little bit more progress, took off more of Ornstein’s health than the last time. It was incremental and the only reason I kept trying at times, because when I stepped back from the controller and looked at it I was doing better. And the elation that I felt at the end of that fight was incomparable to anything else I’ve ever felt with a video game. There’s a lesson for you: patience and persistence will pay off in time.
As a result, Ornstein and Smough are memorable. I don’t remember anything about the Iron Golem. Ask me to describe his appearance and I’d flail my arms at you and mumble a bit. But Ornstein and Smough, I could be more detailed, discuss their appearance, their moveset, their difficulty, and strategies to fight them. As you’ve seen I’ve talked for paragraphs about them, felt a real sense of accomplishment when beating them. They’re an important boss.
I have to say, I really enjoyed Anor Londo, despite the stresses. As a location it’s breathtakingly grand, and so, so empty. It’s so quiet and something about that is so wrong, but I loved it for that. Apparently you can take some actions that will change how Anor Londo looks, but, besides not wanting to be a cruel bastard, I like Anor Londo the way it is.
And now we hit the content in Dark Souls that I have absolutely no idea about. The first half of the game (if you can call this the first half) has, at least for me, been discussed a lot by the people around me before, and while I wouldn’t say that allowed me to know what to expect at times, in a way it made things seem less daunting. Now, I’m up against…I don’t know what I’m up against. That’s a little frightening. But then it’s also exciting.
That’s the way Dark Souls seems to work. A moment of sheer joy thrown up against a moment of dread. Well done Alex, you defeated Orsntein and Smough after really struggling with them for a while! Oh, you thought it was insanely difficult fighting two opponents at once? Well then, have fun with The Four Kings.