As the old saying goes, you have your whole life to make your first album, but you’ve got 18 months to make your second. As much as that saying is a poor analogy–considering that Demon’s Souls came before Dark Souls, and the King’s Field games before that–the point stands. It was inevitable that Dark Souls 2 received backlash from fans, even if it was the residual resentment remaining after Dark Souls 1 had been overcome. Comedowns can be harsh. There is no happily ever after in video games. Nobody gets to ride off into the sunset. To quote everyone’s favourite living Jackson, “What have you done for me lately?”
What I mean to say is that I understand there are issues for fans with Dark Souls 2. But I like to think I haven’t put the first game on such a high pedestal that I can’t see its faults already, especially as I came to it so late. My expectations for a sequel are going to be different. How I feel about the game, whether I express it well or not, will not cast in a perpetual gloom by a looming shadow. Comparisons are valid for the sake of comparison, but Dark Souls 2 is its own distinct entity.
On a more personal level, I am not so sure about what I will write about a sequel to a game I have already written 200,000 words about. I don’t mean to harp on that number as an achievement, but more as an indication of the work involved and how complete I tried to be with my thoughts and ideas. I plan to be no less thorough with Dark Souls 2, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about my chances. Then again, I started writing about Dark Souls 1 with no expectations at all, and look where that ended up going.
(Questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcome!)
After mucking about with the options for a bit, and finding a satisfying amount of graphical settings available, I go the easy route and let the game auto-detect my settings. Then I start a new game.
I then have to wade through a few more pages of options. Why these aren’t in the normal option menu is beyond me, especially for the sound and control settings. Still, there is little that needs to be adjusted, so I keep going. The only noticeable option is a bone being thrown to new players, as there is a specific option for the jump button. Considering how obscure jumping was as a function in Dark Souls 1, I can understand why this is in there. Choosing between pressing the sprint button while already sprinting, or depressing the left thumb stick is the same as choosing whether to stub your big toe or banging your funny bone, as neither is ideal. I go with the left thumb stick for now.
Time to watch the intro video.
Compared to the intro for Dark Souls 1, this one is both surprisingly small scale, and surprisingly easy to parse, at least on a surface level. The narrator (Is it meant to actually be the same unseen narrator as the one from Dark Souls 1?) lays out a simple tale for the journey of an Undead who is on the way to becoming Hollowed. A solitary figure stumbles through the rain, images of a life they left behind, or destroyed on the way out. Branded with the curse, the Undead will eventually lose their mind and become a zombie that feeds on the souls of others.
It’s familiar, yet different at the same time. No mention of humanity, which implies an odd shift in the formula. I am travelling to a place where “souls may mend my ailing mind,” yet at the same time if I falter I will become a creature that only desires souls. Am I meant to become the Undead version of a functioning alcoholic?
This old crone–who is nearly toothless and obviously blind, you know, for good measure–gives me the first glimpse of my destination, and what should be the setting for Dark Souls 2. A panning camera reveals Drangleic, a place built long ago in the north by a great king. The architecture is pure Anor Londo, but Drangleic is somehow a name even more awkward than either that or Lordran, plus the implication is that it was built by a man and not the Gods. My initial reaction is that it must be a future version of Lordran itself, but the murky, haphazard geography of Dark Souls is an early knock against that theory. After all, the Undead Asylum was in the north, and the Chosen Undead had to escape that place to get to Lordran.
What is important is that, as with Lordran before it, Drangleic is forgotten and abandoned.
There area few more interesting details about the impetus of this journey. The Chosen Undead, like other Undead of the time, was locked away in the Asylum and left for dead (and then some), while this current batch of Hollowed seem to be roaming around all willy-nilly. Perhaps there was a period of peace after whatever happened at the end of Dark Souls 1 (if this is actually a sequel), and the infrastructure for taking care of Undead and Hollowed broke down. Also, while the Chosen Undead had to be bullied and cajoled into taking on a quest to rekindle the Flame, this time around it looks like Undead naturally home in on Drangleic, like salmon returning to their birth river to lay eggs.
Anyway, I (I’m going to assume the character in the intro is me) find a gnarled old tree covered in fireflies under a blood red moon, because when you’re doing the mysterious journey to a forgotten land thing you really want to go all-in on the symbolic nonsense, and then decide to jump into a whirlpool. That’s one way to up the ante after the giant bird in the first game.
There is also some meta commentary in there about players doomed die over and over again in frustration. I can dig it.
I come to lying on a familiar looking flat circle of stone and metal.
I immediately run around pressing buttons. The controls appear to be the same as in the last game, but it’s been a while so I may be missing something. What’s important is that I know how to hit things, though for some reason I can’t kick.
My health bar is only half of what it should be, as if I were cursed. Stamina is still there, as are the weapon and spell slots, but there is no humanity counter. The space where that was in Dark Souls 1, to the left of the health and stamina bars, is blank.
I am in a field of knee-high grass that swishes as I move through it. All around are jagged pillars of white rock, and in the distance I can see light coming through a crack. I can hear dripping water. I am underground. Under the lake that I jumped into?
Because I can, I take off my hood. What’s underneath is not pleasant. I was expecting pale, withered Undead, but instead I’ve got the face and features of a classic gross-out zombie, complete with a balding head and eyes that lack pupils.
I put the hood back on.
I walk to the nearest cliff edge and find the expected bottomless pit falling away below. This is the intro area, and I have only one way to go.
I start walking toward the light. As I near a gap between two rock faces I begin to hear shuffling sounds. I’m not alone.
After moving a little further I find another field, this one dotted with ominous piles of bones. I catch a glimpse of a small brown shape to my right, and I circle around to face it. There are a bunch of loping rat creatures in the field.
Am I expected to fight them while unarmed? And how many are there? I can see their shapes in the tall grass, and I’m worried about them surrounding me.
Well, I mean, Dark Souls is an action game, and I wouldn’t be playing if I didn’t intend to beat things to death. Besides, I need to warm up a bit, right? What’s the worse that could happen.
I catch up to the nearest of the rats and smash it with 2-handed hammer blows. As soon as I start hitting it, the other rats jump into action. There are more of them than I counted on, and I retreat to the choke point I entered through.
The rat AI has a short leash and won’t follow me back to my starting area. I am able to catch my breath, and then it’s back to the beatings. It takes 4 heavy attacks to kill each rat, which is about all I can manage with a full stamina bar. Punches already do way more damage than they ever did in Dark Souls 1. I am forced to use the slow overhead bash attack because regular punches are too high to hit the little bastards. If I judge the distance or speed wrong the rats pounce, and I can only take a few hits before dying. Which I do. It takes a couple more tries, but I do get them all. With my last sliver of life, and with the breath still hot and heavy in my mask, I consider that I probably could have walked right through without incident. The rats were not hostile until I attacked them, and actually ran away most of the time until I landed that first blow. But I’ve got fresh souls in my pocket, and isn’t that why I came here? I move on.
To the right of where I entered the clearing, past an old fallen tree, I find a body clinging to a cliff.
I have a moment of light panic when I think that I may have taken all those rats on empty-handed while there was a weapon stash right under my nose. But it’s not anything that would have helped. It’s an old rusted coin, and its description tells me it is the exact sort of item that I never use. It temporarily boosts luck, which equates to extra loot drops, but without any way to know what the bonus is, or how long it lasts, or even what loot I’d be looking for, how can I make an informed decision on its use? Maybe for an identifiable mini boss, like the Black Knights from Dark Souls 1.
There is nothing else around, so I head back toward the light. Through another gap in the rocks and I hear the sound of fiercely running water. There is a waterfall on my left, and a rope bridge spanning the gap between me and a dwelling built into a hollowed out tree.
From the bridge I can see there is another body underneath the waterfall.
I consider jumping for it, but a quick check around the back and I’ve found a path leading down to the shiny loot.
I pick up a Smooth and Silky Stone. So far this game has been one awkward name after another. It is a healing item. I could use it now, but I feel a safe area coming up.
Outside the ever more inviting house I find a rack of . . . things. They are either bone tools or dried out animals, but I can’t tell which. They are not the right size or shape to be those rat things, or to have come from them, and I’ve yet to see any other wildlife around here.
I walk over to the door.
Upon entering, a cut-scene starts up and I am greeted by not one, not two, but three cackling old crones. They mutter about Hollowed and Undead, much the same as the one that sent me here to begin with, all while a young woman serves tea.
One of the ancient women asks me if I can remember my name. After a brief hesitation, I confirm that I am Dork II, possibly the descendent of the great Chosen Undead, Dork I.
As a reward for remembering my own name, I am handed a human effigy. It’s supposed to be me, but, honestly, I’d take a face like a wire basket over the one I have now. They ask if I can remember what I look like, and I push that zombie-man image from my mind. The character creation menu pops up.
I look over the aesthetic options. There are more body types than the first game had, but fewer homeland options and less descriptions, which is a shame. The ones remaining have a wider variance, so that must serve the purpose. There is also a menu full of advanced options, and by adjusting a few sliders I discover that it’s possible to make some really freaky looking weirdos.
Character creation is still not something I care about much, and I’m as artistically challenged as they come. I know fiddling with any slider is likely to do more harm than good, so I leave them alone and settle for another coin flip sex (tales again, still female). I get some purple hair, though, because why not? I like purple.
Now the real work begins. I have to choose a class, and then my gift.
I take a minute to look over the attributes. At first blush they appear to be about the same as in Dark Souls 1. Strength, Dexterity, Faith, Intelligence, those all seem to have the same core functions as before. Faith now has a bonus resistance to lightning damage, which is a nice nod to the predominantly lightning-based spells that Clerics use, and Attunement quickens casting speed, as well as granting more spell slots. The more I look, though, the more changes become apparent. The completely useless Resistance attribute has been replaced with Adaptability, which raises agility, resistances, and “various stats.” That’s either vital or just as useless as Resistance was. I can’t tell right now because I have no idea what agility is, or what the other stats it raises might be.
In fact, a quick count shows that Dark Souls 2 has more attributes than Dark Souls 1 did. This is because the all-powerful Endurance attribute, which determined both stamina and equipment load in Dark Souls 1, has been split into Endurance (stamina) and Vitality (equipment load). That puts the total number of attributes to that can be levelled up at 9 instead of 8. Confusingly, Vitality used to be what raised HP, but that has was renamed Vigour.
The conundrum here is finding the path of least resistance when it comes to levelling attributes. In Dark Souls that was clearly done by picking either a strength or dexterity weapon, getting a few points in Vitality for HP, then dumping the rest into the chosen weapon’s primary damage attribute, with enough Endurance to be able to wear necessary armour without becoming weighed down. There were soft caps to each attribute as well, which made things even easier. While I didn’t know what those caps were when I played, I was comfortable with my choices once I’d decided on my weapon and the final soul level I was aiming for.
I don’t mean that choosing a spell casting character was more difficult, only that it required more nuance with attribute distribution and dealt with more unknowns. Having to juggle Intelligence or Faith, plus Attunement, on top of the basis requirements of Vitality and Endurance is already an extra attribute to consider, never mind wanting to use a melee weapon as well. When I don’t quite know what’s coming next, choosing the simpler levelling option is ideal.
Going in to Dark Souls 2, I figured that my experience with the first game would allow for more leeway when considering an attribute build. It probably will, but these extra stats are still inconvenient unknowns. Adaptability is particularly vexing, because as I said, I can’t quantify its actual value. Could be it’s as useless a stat as the one it replaces, and could be that it’s the most important stat in the game. I can’t know until I get more information.
To that end, I look over the classes.
- Warrior: Comes with a broken sword and a shield. Is actually the only class that starts with a shield. Has good combat stats, with high strength and dexterity.
- Knight: A broadsword and no shield, but more Vigour, so more health. Probably heavier armour as well.
- Swordsman: Carries a sword in each hand, which is something that wasn’t practical in Dark Souls 1, outside of a few special cases like the parrying dagger. This suggests new mechanics and expectations for combat.
- Bandit: Archer and Thief rolled into the Bandit class from Dark Souls 1. Has a bow and high dexterity.
- Cleric: Still a Faith-based caster. Only wearing a robe, no boots, gloves, or headgear. In fact, many of the classes don’t come with a full set of starting armour.
- Sorcerer: Still pew pew magic, still not very interesting.
- Explorer: High Adaptability, along with the Knight, which suggests that it’s a combat stat, as the Cleric and Sorcerer have relatively low numbers. The explorer starts with a number of consumable items and a ring. I think I recognize a weapon buff, or maybe repair powder, and a prism stone for dropping off of cliffs. The ring and the rest of the items are a mystery to me. The Explorer is also wearing a neat monocle.
- Deprived: Unlike the first game, the Deprived is now the class with the lowest starting Soul level, as all her stats are set to their lowest values. Instead of no armour, a crappy shield, and a club, she gets nothing but fists and, I’m guessing, a foul attitude.
Conspicuously absent is the Pryomancer class. Is that no longer a thing, or was it decided that since everyone could use Pyromancy for free (it was the only magic that doesn’t have stat requirements or bonuses), that making it a single class was redundant? Not a big deal to me either way, since I never used it in Dark Souls 1.
Looking over the classes helps clarify the new attributes, but not to a degree where I feel informed enough to make a real decision. I could put my foot down in any number of places, sure, and I am certain that I would be able to progress no matter where I started, but in the interest of learning and hopefully making the best of things in the long run, there is only one obvious choice.
Besides, having only a club was attractive before, but the idea of beating skeletons to bits with my bare hands is even better.
Like her great-great-great (great-great-great-great?) grandmother (maybe?) before her, Dork II is thrust into the world naked and unafraid. Deprived it is.
Next up, choosing a gift.
There is no Master Key, which is a relief of sorts. Less likely that I’ll wander into silly places again, or miss something vital for half the game as I did in Dark Souls 1.
The choices are:
- Life Ring: Raises maximum health a bit.
- Human Effigy: Returns Hollowed to life, but doesn’t take up an equipment slot like a Ring of Sacrifice. Is it automatically consumed when I die? Seems useless, unless it can be used a bunch of times, in which case it would be way too good.
- Healing Ware: Items to regain health, like the Silky Stone I found underneath the waterfall. Do I not get an Estus flask?
- Homeward Bone: Teleport back to the last used bonfire. Maybe bosses don’t drop these in Dark Souls 2.
- Seed of a Tree of Giants: A seed from a giant tree, unless the name implies Giants themselves are grown on trees. Maybe they are. I don’t know. I can’t eat it. Why would I want to eat it? Nothing about its description tells me what else I would do with it.
- Bonfire Ascetic: Toss on the fire to make foes more powerful. Does it work on bosses and mid bosses? Does it also improve the rewards for taking them down? More Souls and loot, that sort of thing? Is it permanent for the area it’s used in, or does it wear off after a death or resting at another bonfire? I mean, I’m interested in this sort of item, but not if it’s a single use consumable that I’ll blow on something pointless.
- Petrified Something: May be of use, someday.
I shortlist my choices to the Seed, the Bonfire Ascetic, and the Petrified lump. While the Bonfire Ascetic looks like the most fun of the three, it is likely a consumable that I will find anyway, just like the other gift choices. It is only the Seed and the Petrified Something that stand out as items I may not get otherwise. The mere fact that they have no listed use means that their real use is probably important, or at least interesting. The problem, of course, is will I know when and where to use either of them?
I decide that a Seed from a big tree is more likely to be encountered in the wild than a Petrified Something, and I choose the Something. It’s not as if any of the other options are all that meaningful.
After another cut-scene, where the old women tell me I`m going to lose my Souls over and over again, I am shown my new body. I am not Hollowed anymore, and there is still no indication of a Humanity counter.
My first move is to check the character stats page. As with the attributes, the substats are different from Dark Souls 1. There are more of them, or maybe there are fewer hidden ones. There are new damage bonuses for each element, and a cast speed. There is also the Agility stat, which is what Adaptability raises. It boosts evasion and “other actions,” which is not the best description, but better than nothing.
I am now leaning toward Adaptability being important, but I also assume there are coded breakpoints (In the sense commonly used by Diablo players). I don’t know what they are, and may have no way of discovering them. Still, it’s something to keep in mind, because I probably will evade more this time around.
There is also a stat in the top-right corner called Soul Memory. Its description: “Souls that once dwelled within the flesh will always remain in memory. Could this be a blessing? Or a Curse?” So, not much to go on there. Maybe it’s a way to keep a few Souls after dying?
I talk to the younger woman in the room. She calls herself Milibeth, and it’s her job to look after these old women, who are sisters. There is another sister, who must be the blind one who sent me here. All of them used to be Fire Keepers, but it looks like the fire is dying down again. Considering that in Lordran the Fire Keepers were hunted for sport, them being stuck in an old tree with someone to serve them tea is a definite improvement. Milibeth tells me this is the limbo between the other worlds (lands?) and Drangleic.
I climb some wooden stairs and find a chest containing a Human Effigy. Glad I didn’t pick that as my starting gift.
The Effigy reverses Hollowing, which is a much better description than it had as a starting gift.
I talk to the old women. Two of them just cackle and then fall into silence, but the one sitting at the table tells me I can return here to start again if my will is unbroken. I think that if my will was unbroken I would have no need to return to the start of the game, but she’s old and probably confused. That’s all the information I can get out of them, so I move on.
I open a door, and down some stairs I find my first bonfire. There is also a tablet with a message, and a cart hiding a dead body with an item.
I smash the wooden cart to pieces with my fists, then loot the corpse. I find a Soul of a Lost Undead and a torch. The torch doesn’t show up in my inventory as either equipment or a consumable, and isn’t a key item. I do see that I have gained 5 minutes of what must be torch time in my inventory screen.
I rest at the bonfire. Seems that repairs item durability automatically? Convenient. There are also options for using an item box. I never had a need for that in Dark souls 1, and I’m not sure I will this time, either. I can also warp to other bonfires, though I don’t have any available yet. That will make backtracking easier.
While fiddling around with my notes, something in the area dies and I gain 200 Souls. My stats page also tells me that my Soul Memory has risen. I have no idea.
The Deprived class starts naked, but that is defeated somewhat when I discover the travelling clothes I arrived in are still in my inventory. I put them on, because they’re still better than nothing. While looking the armour over, I see that they now have a letter grade for defence, the same as weapons have a letter grade for their damage bonuses. The description tells me that armour is boosted by my defence stat, but I can’t find a defence stat anywhere except for the armour itself. Maybe I’ll be able to make more sense of it when I find other pieces.
There is a tunnel leading out of the tree. At the other end it opens up into an area of narrow rock bridges connecting more giant trees, and beyond that is the blinding light of what I assume will be the outside world. To my right is a fire where I can light my torch.
Outside of the crackling flames I hear nothing save the intermittent grumblings of some beast. As I take my screenshot, something dies and I gain another 200 Souls. I don’t know what it is, but it’s eager to get to me, or just really, really stupid.
I scope out the area. There are two trees with fog gate entrances. Past the second tree I can hear footsteps, and below it is the big monster that keeps gurgling to itself.
There is a third tree, but its entrance is blocked by a “statue.” I say statue, but it looks a lot more like someone who has been cursed.
I can’t break the statue with my fists, and it’s not moving. Oh well.
There are also a series of unlit sconces in the area. I wonder if I should be trying to do something about that. I light my torch, and it appears in my left hand, with a timer counting down from 5 minutes. I run to each of the unlit sconce and light them, but nothing happens. I look around and see there is another unlit sconce on a giant root stretching from tree to tree. It’s above me and out of reach.
Unsure of what to do with the torch, I switch to a 2-handed grip and which puts the torch away and stops the timer.
It’s time to test the fog gates. Maybe I can clear the trees out and make a path to that final sconce.
I open the path in the first tree, the one on my left. A curving tunnel leads to another tablet, which informs me that I can attack with the R buttons. Past it are some very familiar looking zombie fellows, dressed in rags a lot like the ones I’m wearing. Perhaps there is a one-size fits all Hollowed emporium that does a brisk business on the major roads to Drangleic.
I approach the first Hollowed, and it’s immediately hostile. It throws out a slow right hook, and I circle around behind it to get a critical attack. I punch it right in the base of the spine, nearly killing it. It drops to the floor and I’m glad to see that I don’t lose my target lock. That was always an annoyance in Dark Souls 1.
The second tablet tells me about target locking, and that I can change targets. That has me a bit worried, but I look around and see only a single zombie. This one I punch to death, delivering heavy rights to its head until it falls over and blows apart into a shower of Souls. There is an unlit sconce here, as well as another tablet telling me how to dash. I take a left, past the tablet, and find a zombie hiding behind a bush.
I hit it with a jumping overhead attack, then give it a couple of 2-fisted bashes. It dies.
There are trees within trees here, the spidery branches almost clipping my hood. I can hear more zombies ahead. I come out on a cliff overlooking calm, dark water. I can see that big, pale bastard below. It’s guarding a boat, or a coffin? Can’t tell from this distance.
I follow the cliff to a small grassed patch with another unlit sconce and a message tablet. There is also a zombie standing with its back to me. I know what the tablet will say before I read it, and I sneak up on the zombie, getting another critical hit. I bash it over the head before it can stand again, finishing it off. I read the tablet, and sure enough it tells me that I can critical hit an enemy’s back.
I keep climbing, past another unlit sconce, until I find another hole into the tree. There is a dead body, and inside the tree another zombie.
On the corpse I find a dagger. Better still, I have the attributes to use it, as it requires only 2 Strength and 6 Dexterity. The equipment menu doesn’t quite give me the information I want, which is how much better a dagger would be than bare hands, but I figure it has to be an improvement. There are also more substats there, including poise damage, which is a nice addition. I equip the dagger, then check my status screen and see that it’s damage is 86 with my current stats, while punching is only 45.
I take a minute to run through the dagger’s moveset. A bunch of back and forth cuts, and a few nice stabs with little range. Still no kick, though. Pressing forward and light attack gets me the same step and slap as with my fists. I wonder if it’s some sort of active parry, but it’s more likely that the kick animation has been replaced with a more obvious guard break attack.
Holding the dagger low in both hands, I walk toward the zombie inside the tree. A tablet tells me how to roll. The zombie takes one look at me, then pulls out a bow and starts shooting. Now I understand why I was told how to roll. In my surprise, I fail to roll, and take an arrow, which lodges in my neck. It doesn’t do much damage, so I’m not deterred. I try to circle around the bow zombie, but it won’t let me, so I cut it down with the dagger. Meanwhile, another zombie has shuffled up behind me, and I kill it as well. The bow zombie doesn’t drop anything, so no ranged weapons for me.
Another tablet tells me how to switch weapons. There is an unlit sconce as well. I take a ramp along the edge of the room and find another tunnel. A tablet there tells me how to backstep, something that I never had much use for. It doesn’t go far enough, and doesn’t seem to have any invulnerability frames. Maybe it’s different in Dark Souls 2, but in the first game there was nothing backstepping did that wasn’t done better by walking backwards or rolling backwards.
The next room has another pair of zombies. One standing on top of a ridge with a bow, and another with a short sword. I kill them both, but take a bit of damage when the bow zombie pulls a sword and slashes me twice. Still, it’s not much. I figure that I don’t have any guaranteed healing at this point in the game is the reason everything so far hits like a toddler.
There is another tablet, a loot corpse, and a fog gate.
From the corpse I pick up a Lifegem. A small, crystallized Soul that gradually restores HP. The nearby tablet tells me how to use items. I open up my inventory and equip the Lifegem and the Smooth Stone. A little box appears, showing the next item in my belt. Will it cycle when I use one? That would be nice.
I pass through the fog gate. I am on a high ledge. A tablet tells me how to move the camera, and on my left I see a ladder which I had not been able to access before. There is also a nest.
I walk up to the nest and a pair of high-pitched voices ask for something smooth and something silky. I can take that hint. While I try to work out whether I should leave or discard the Silky Stone, the voices ask for it over and over again. Eventually I figure out that I have to remove it from my belt first, and after that I drop it.
I am given back a Soul of a Lost Undead. I hope that was a worthwhile trade. The voices keep asking for smooth and silky, but I don’t have any more. I try other items, but they’re all rejected. On a whim, and with baited breath, I drop my Petrified Something, which they trade for an Old Whip. This is a weapon that does extra damage to Hollowed, and also requires 7 Strength and 20 Dexterity to use. I hope I haven’t just made a huge mistake.
I kick the ladder down and start to descend. I press the B button thinking it will make me slide down, but instead I jump off, hit the ground, and lose most of my health. Whoops.
I could return to the bonfire and heal, but my goal was to open the path to all the sconces. If I use the bonfire then all those zombies will respawn.
As the ones I’ve already fought didn’t pose much of a threat, I decide to continue while I still have some strength. I open the way to the second tree. Inside are more tablets and more zombies. Armed zombies. Still, I like my chances.
The first tablet tells me how to hold my right-hand weapon in both hands, which I already knew how to do. The second tells me that I can use my left-hand weapon in both hands as well. More accommodation for a dual wielding style. I take down both of the zombies without trouble. The second must have been a Warrior in its previous life, as it swings a heavy, broken sword.
Another tablet tells me how to jump. Another bone thrown to new players. Not that I think that’s a bad thing. There is a loot corpse across a short gap, and a ladder next to the tablet leading further up into the tree.
I clear the gap without issue, and pick up a pair of Amber Herbs from the corpse. These restore spell use. A good upgrade for casters, I suppose, but useless to me.
I jump back across, then climb the ladder. I peak my head over the top to make sure it’s safe. There are only 3 tablets and another unlit sconce.
The tablet on the left tells me how to parry, the one in the middle tells me how to do a plunging attack, and the one on the right confirms that forward and light attack is now used to perform a guard break instead of a kick.
I look over the edge next to the middle tablet. There is a zombie down there in the perfect position to eat a plunging attack, and another on the right waiting to get me while I recover from that plunging attack.
My plunging attack does barely any more damage than a normal heavy attack would have, which is a serious downgrade. Because I don’t get the instant kill I expected, I am now facing a pair of warrior zombies. I whip my dagger back and forth to keep them at bay. They get in a couple of hits when my stamina runs too low for a roll, but I still take them both out.
A tablet in the room tells me how to do a jumping attack. There are two exits, one a fog gate and the other a wooden door.
I’m not quite sure where that fog gate will lead, and I’m not at all sure where that door leads. I take the fog gate first, as it’s more likely to lead back outside, where I can regain my bearings.
It opens to the bridge with that sconce I couldn’t reach. The bridge spans the distance to the last tree, the one blocked by the petrified guy.
I run back to the wooden door. On the other side is a tiny room with a loot corpse. I pick up a Cracked Red Eye Orb. Invasion stuff, of no use right now.
I cross the bridge to the third tree. There is one more unlit sconce, and a short wall blocking access to the inside of the tree. I hear scrabbling and croaking below me, and sure enough there is one of those toad-like basilisks that spew clouds of cursing breath. That was the obvious explanation for the statue. But how can I get down there?
There is more to this tree. I know there is a ledge running along the outside of if that leads down to the water and that pale beast, and a zombie guarding that ledge. Below me, across a gap that is probably too wide to jump, is zombie a guarding another unlit sconce.
This is a problem. I had figured that lighting all the sconces might be the key to getting in to those last areas, but now I see there’s a sconce I can’t reach until I’m already inside. Unsure of what to do, I drop down from the bridge, back to the starting area. After some consideration, I decide it’s still worth trying to light the sconces I can reach.
I ignite my torch and take it into the second tree. I light one of the sconces inside, then climb the ladder to the ledge with the 3 tablets. I am relieved to find that the torche is still lit when I get to the top. Thinking nothing of it, I drop down. And die. I didn’t take falling damage when I landed on the zombie with my plunging attack, but without its soft body to break my fall, I break my ankles instead. It’s a death so stupid that I decide I deserve it.
When I respawn at the bonfire I take off my hood and I’m dismayed to find that I’ve become one of those green-fleshed walking corpses. My precious, smooth Humanity!
One bit of good news is that the sconces I lit before dying are all still blazing away.
While I look at them, I gain another 200 Souls. Are there two basilisks in that third tree, and one of them keeps dying? That has to be it, because none of these Hollowed zombies are worth 200 Souls.
Fighting back to my corpse, I realize the problem I’m having with the dagger. It pushes enemies too far away to combo them. After the 3rd or 4th hit they are out of reach and I’m slicing at the air while they ready attacks. I’ll have to be careful.
I look back down on the basilisk. It’s still there, and there’s another one across the gap with the Hollowed zombie. So maybe there are 3 of them to start? The one across the gap is moving strangely, its AI walking in glitched out circles.
Even while I realize I’m probably wasting my time, I clear out the trees again, then run around lighting the sconces. As I climb up the ladder I’d kicked down from the first tree, I see that I missed a ledge I can drop down to. There is a loot corpse and another sconce there.
I drop down and pick up a Soul of a Nameless Soldier. I light the last sconce, and read the tablet, which informs me that I can light sconces with my torch. Great.
All the sconces are light, and nothing happens. I run through both trees again to confirm I have lit every one in reach. The cursed statue is still blocking the final tree. I run down to the small room with the wooden door and hack at the walls looking for a secret doorway, but there isn’t one.
Options exhausted, I return to the bonfire. It’s only then that I realize there is no option to level up. I have 1600 burning a hole in my pocket, and nothing I can do with them. I ponder burning my Effigy, and decide I may as well. I’ll have to find out what the benefits of being human are in this game, if there are any changes from Dark Souls 1, and for now I’d rather look like a person instead of a snot statue.
The game tells me I cannot burn the Effigy now. Oh well.
There’s only one thing for it. That pale beast and those basilisks got lucky. I’m moving on.
I pass a torch and walk into a narrow cave. Above me is white sky, all around are rock walls that turn this passage into a wind tunnel. As I move forward, the cave begins to light up, and as I turn a final corner I see a splash of real, honest sunlight. This first sunlight I have seen since arriving in this strange land.
If I am the moth, then this is my flame. I run the rest of the way.
I am momentarily blinded as I reach the open air. This is Majula, where you can smell the sea and watch the sun set forever.
But that’s for tomorrow.