Dark Souls 2 Diaries – Day 02

Majula

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First impressions count for a lot. There are sound, biologically encoded reasons for that. People live and die based on first impressions. Wars are fought, and fortunes are won and lost, all based on first impressions. I know the first impression I give off: that of a broken wretch clutching an old dagger as if it were the only thing between me and my personal oblivion. That reek of desperation that is only found in the terminally confused. I’ve only just arrived in Drangleic, so there’s not a whole lot I can do about that.

My first impression of Majula comes in a succinct physical metaphor. On a tree to my immediate right flies what may as well be the official flag of Majula, a tattered and stained rag, its true identity worn away by the burning sun and withering sea. It has forgotten whatever it was to begin with.

Those general characteristics are pervasive, from the crumbling ruins to the dry, browned grass swaying gently as it chokes on the salty sea air. Even the heavens seem determined to confirm Majula’s status as a fading relic. The sun here is locked in an eternal sunset, always at the point of giving up, but not yet able to go through with it.

Which isn’t the case for everyone, I expect. After crawling out of the Things Betwixt, anyone expecting a glorious return to the living world would be in for a rude surprise. As I begin to walk the cliff side path leading away from the Betwixt, I see there is a spot, almost directly across from my entrance into Majula, where someone, or something, knocked way the rickety wooden fence, giving obstruction-free access to the dark water far below. And also the spires of sharp rock that break the surface like that claws of some long dead god. I wonder what it would be like for an Undead to drown. Pulled under the water and feeling the water fill my lungs. It might not be so bad, the first time. I know it would be increasingly terrible a fate for each death that followed.

On to more pleasant thoughts. Like the broken remnants of whatever great structures an great nation had built here in the past. Ahead is a stone arch, part of a greater wall that has been falling apart for what looks like at least decades, and is more likely centuries. The foundation on one side has sunk, setting the entire structure on an angle. No doubt the results of erosion. Either that, or the people that built it weren’t as bright as they seem. Off in the distance is a strange monument that juts above the rest of the landscape here, a single structure that stands defiantly (and a little suggestively, if you ask me) above everything else. I wonder what keeps it standing while everything else collapses.

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Through the arch I can see a wooden shack, and I know there’s a bonfire down there as well, because I saw it when I first got here. Soft piano music plays as I get closer to what seems to pass for civilization round these parts. To the left of the arch is a dead body holding a Divine Blessing.

There is a root-chocked passage in the rock, back in the direction I came from. Could it lead into the Things Betwixt? I’m tempted to explore it right away, but I should set myself up at the bonfire first. Maybe then I’ll be able to level up.

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I can see there is a path underneath me, running along the edge of the cliff. I go through the arch and turn right, following a stone wall toward the water. On the other side of the wall is another stone arch, leading into a passage below the cliff. The wind is especially fierce here, next to the water. I can see the horizon still, and it almost makes me uncomfortable.

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The bonfire forgotten, I head inside, figuring this will lead me to the body I saw from above. In here, protected from the elements, the stone is holding up much better than outside. There’s something cold about its artificiality, or maybe that’s just the feeling of leaving direct sunlight again. In an old chest I find another Rusted Coin. Perhaps there will be enough of these that I’ll end up actually using them.

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There is a gentle downward slope to the passageway, leading in the direction of the sounds of running water. Soon, a heavy iron gate blocks my path, but I take a doorway in the left wall and find a door and a switch.

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I pull the switch and the door retracts into the ceiling. I can see another switch on the other side, so I’m not at all surprised when the door gets to just over head height and then slams back down. I pull the switch again, then roll through as soon as the game decides the gap is big enough. I’m not worried, as it doesn’t look like any sort of timing puzzle, and the game should give me enough time to make it to the other side. The door slams shut behind me.

A little further and I’m not at all where I expected to be. I should have realized this would happen as soon as I saw the slope of the floor. I come out into a cave. Fogged light pours in through a hole high up in the ceiling, and a wooden bridge crosses to the other side of a gap cut through the rock by water. The sound of rushing water is all I can hear now.

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On the other side of the bridge is a wooden plank forming a ramp down to another treasure chest. Inside is a Human Effigy. I can see there’s a body in the shallow water below, but I don’t think I could get back up here if I jumped down, so I decide to explore further before committing.

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Another sloping tunnel leads back outside.

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Forest of the Fallen Giants

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Not at all where I expected to end up while looking for a dead body hanging off a nearby cliff.

To my right is a shallow stream running out of the cave. That must be where the body I saw is, and how I would get out if I’d jumped for it. Shuffling slowly back and forth in the water is a big, grey brute that looks an awful lot like the thing I saw standing near the water in the Things Betwixt. In front of me, on a path running along the stream, is a Hollowed soldier dressed in faded brown armour.

As I wonder about the meaning of a Forest of Fallen Giants and its connection to a Seed of a Tree of Giants, the Hollowed soldier rushes me and swings an axe toward my head like he means to chop me in half. I stab him a few times, and though he’s tougher than the Hollowed I’ve faced so far, he’s still not much. He goes down without trouble.

Next, I approach the big guy. Closer now, I can see its tough, scaly hide and its short, flicking tail. It turns toward me, showing a single black eye. It’s like a cross between a hippo and a cyclops, both things I wouldn’t want to mess with.

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It sees me as well, and moves to attack. I dodge a few clumsy swings of its arms, but I find that I’ve backed against the piles of moss-slicked boulders that run along the forest path. I can’t retreat any further, and it lunges toward me, grabbing me with its stubby fingers. It lifts me up so that it can chew on my head. My health drops in great chunks, and though I try to struggle, I am dead before it drops me. Oops.

I respawn all the way back in the Things Betwixt. I run back to recover my body, then decide that although I may be stupid, I am not stupid enough to charge off again without finally lighting the Majula bonfire.

Majula

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So here I am, standing on the outskirts of some shantytown. It’s more evidence of life than I expected to find. Well, that’s not true, since I didn’t know what I would find. Still, I’m a little surprised. I rest at the bonfire. There is still no option to level up.

I walk over to the nearest building, a low-slung stone affair with a heavy canvas awning. Next to a closed metal door, all hunched down and still, is a man with a sickly green complexion. He wears a thick apron and a belt of tools. He’s as obvious a blacksmith as I’ve ever seen.

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I talk to him and he confirms that he is a blacksmith. He tells me that he’s left his tools inside this building, and then someone came along and locked it up while he was off having a stroll or something. He’d like to have the key to the door, and since I’m certain having a blacksmith around will be helpful, I agree to find it.

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I look around the rest of this little community. Next to the smith’s shack is a corpse holding a Soul of a Nameless Soldier and 3 Lifegems. Maybe I won’t be getting an Estus flask after all? No, that doesn’t seem right. The consumable item menu is denoted by an Estus flask symbol. Maybe I’ll have to wait a while, or maybe it won’t be as strong as it was in Dark Souls 1? Those seem more likely.

A body curled up in a tent holds another Lifegem. I can hear a scratching sound when I’m near it.

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I turn the corner of the building the tent is leaning against, passing near a big, circular pit that is where most other places would have their town square. I open the door to the building and find a cat scratching at the wall on the spot roughly where the dead body is.

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I expect the cat to bolt now that the door is open, but instead it talks to me.

Of course, being a cat, it doesn’t look at me, or even stop scratching at the wall, while it talks. It calls itself Shalquior, and after mewling about me being Undead and this land being a slowly fading stain, it offers to sell me some stuff.

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I check its wares. There are a few rings and a few general use consumables. The most interesting ring is the Ring of Whispers, which allows the wearer to hear the voices of nearby foes. It’s supposed to be useful for locating hidden enemies, and perhaps other things as well. The description is vague enough to begin with, but I have to consider whether this is meant to be a multiplayer item. It’s not tagged as online only, so maybe there are hidden enemies I should be on the lookout for. If that’s even possible. I think I’ll buy this ring at some point, just in case.

There is also a Ring of the Evil Eye, which recovers some health for each enemy killed. This was about as useless an item as could be in Dark Souls 1. Does it being so readily available indicate that it’s more or less useful now? I have no idea.

The consumables have a few surprises. There are prism stones, which are apparently no longer dropped to check for falling safety, but left as markers? Why would I need such that? They are also pretty expensive, at 300 Souls a pop. More relevant to me are the Lloyd’s Talismans for sale. These things are only used to counter Estus flasks, so that guarantees that I’ll get a flask sooner or later.

Shalquior will also allow me to break Covenants, though she offers none of her own. When I talk to her, she tells me about how this place is already dead, and that everything must waste away so that something new can be born. From the little of Drangleic I’ve seen, and from the intro video, this place has been wasting away for a long time, so when exactly should we expect this new growth? She gives me a few hints about other NPCs. An old man near the sea who can tell me more about Covanents, an odd stone nearby that will allow me to face more difficult challenges (an arena? some sort of hard mode?), and the four old ones, who are so ancient that nobody remembers their names. I assume that doesn’t mean the sisters that I ran into on the way down to Drangleic, since I’ve already met them, and so would have everyone else that passes through this way.

I go back outside to get a look at the pit.

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The walls are smooth, and at first I think they must be some form of concrete. But the idea that these primitives could have formed and set something so massive is ridiculous. It’s difficult to see from this distance and angle, but I’m guessing that the walls of the pit are shaped stone worn down by wind and rain. Which is still an immense engineering and construction effort, but more in line with the ruins I’ve seen. The only question is why would people put so much work into building this thing here? Seems like a lot of effort for a garbage dump.

I crane my neck to see over the edge. There are platforms below, spanning the diameter of the pit. The first one is pretty far down, but I don’t think it’s out of survival range. It’s the kind of thing I’d like to have a prism stone to test, though. Below the top platform are others, and they are closer together. It’s likely that someone who survived the fall to the first platform could keep dropping down, though the dead body laying there isn’t much of an endorsement.

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It’s then that I remember that the cat sells a ring that lowers falling damage. Perhaps I need to save up for that? Either way, since I can’t even see the bottom of the pit, it would be pretty stupid to jump in now. Even if I lived through the first jump, I have no idea how many more there would be, whether I have enough Lifegems to make it to the bottom, and what I would do once I got there.

I find a well. There is a heavy rock resting on the well’s rim. It’s tied to a rope that runs over the pulley and down into the mouth of the well. On a whim, I hit the rock, sending it over the edge. The rope goes tight, and soon there is a body hanging in front of me. I recover an Estus flask shard from the corpse, which is absolute confirmation that a flask is on the way. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen much in Majula that makes me want to stick around, and it looks a lot like I’m not the only one, but these guys are going to extremes. With so many heights to throw yourself off of, why choose something as painful as a hanging? Unless this wasn’t a suicide.

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Past the well, behind the largest of the four stone buildings, I am jumped by a trio of little pigs, or moles, or pigmoles. I’m not sure. They are immediately hostile, as if I were invading their turf, and charge me in a group. As small as they are, I have a lot of trouble hitting them with my dagger, and even when I do manage to land a hit, they take such a small amount of damage that it hardly seems worth it.

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I back away, and they keep after me. I circle around the pit, putting it between me and the creatures. They are unwilling to simply throw themselves over the edge, which marks an improvement over the AI in Dark Souls 1. My only recourse is to run back to the bonfire and rest, resetting their positions.

In another building, this one opposite the blacksmith’s pad, I find a bunch of basic, but well-maintained, armour and weapons. There is a man with the complexion of a burn victim sitting on the floor, even though there’s a stool right there.

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I talk to him, and he tells me his name is Maughlin. He stammers and hesitates, as if talking to people is a stepping stone toward an anxiety attack. He offers to sell me armour, claiming that he needs the business, though I don’t see what for. I don’t imagine he’s paying rent here, and I can’t see him balling up his Souls and taking them to the local Western Union equivalent to send back home to his family. Not that it’s any of my business.

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Maughlin is selling a trio of shields: a small buckler, a medium kite shield, and a heavy tower shield. That about covers the bases. With my meagre 6 strength I couldn’t make much use of the shields even if I could afford them. He also sells 3 sets of basic armour, one of which belongs to the Volgen Falconers. According to the item description, the Volgen are notoriously timid, which explains why Maughlin is such a sap. Though I could buy and wear a piece or two of the armour, I’m still saving my Souls for a level up. I chat with Maughlin a while, and he tells me he is indeed from Volgen. He complains that the Blue Sentinels made doing business there too difficult, which is why he packed up and came to Drangleic. As he is the first human that I have I’ve met here that will talk to me, I linger. He starts to ramble a bit, seemingly confused about his reasons for staying in this place when it’s so clearly bad for business. I have to wonder why he thought there would be any business here in the first place. For a guy like Maughlin, the way he justifies his presence in Drangleic is suspicious. How long has he been here, for a start? I get the impression that he couldn’t leave if he wanted to, and that whatever brought me here is the same thing that’s keeping him from leaving.

There is one final building in town, and it’s the largest of them all. It stands opposite the cat’s place and in front of the pit.

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It’s locked up tight. Those pig things are hanging around its side, though, and could be guarding a way in. I decide to give them another shot, and I want to test a theory. When that hippo-clops had attacked me in the forest, my controller froze up. It happened again when I was fighting the little pig things. I let one of them attack me, and sure enough my controller freezes up again. I go into the option menu and set controller vibrations all the way to zero. I let another piggy hit me, and this time my controller keeps its connection. That seems to have fixed my problem.

Well, one problem. I still have these pigs to deal with. I decide my only option is to do the same to them as I did with the rats. I put the knife away and start to smash at the pigs with my fists, big 2-handed clubbing swings. I can get 3 hits in and then roll away before they can retaliate, but they have unpredictable reach on their attacks and I take plenty of hits anyway. After a couple of tries I do manage to kill them all. They’re worth a pathetic 20 Souls each. As if that weren’t lame enough, there’s nothing in the alley.

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I rest at the bonfire again. It’s time to check out that big stone obelisk. I walk around it a bit, checking the cliff edge for more bodies, and that’s when I see a slim figure in a dark green cloak standing next to dead tree and staring out into the sea.

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I talk to her. She asks if I’m the monarch. She tells me that I need to see King Vendrick, the one who made Drangleic. Finally, a quest. She also gives me an Estus flask. So, finally that as well. A message pops up to inform me that I can now level up with the power of the Emerald Herald. I talk to her some more, and she tells me that I need to seek stronger Souls, with there being four in particular that I’ll need to find. She says I need to hurry and restore hope, which may just be revealing the central conflict at play here. Order versus chaos. Do I take the mantle of the King and restore Drangleic, or do I allow it to finally rest in peace, so that something else might replace it. Maybe that’s the issue, that this place is in a magical stasis of sorts, and needs a conscious will to push it in either direction.

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But that’s for later. After bugging her a few more times, she asks about my Estus shard. A menu appears. Looks like I level up with her, not the bonfire. Shouldn’t be an issue, though, if I can always warp back here. She takes my shard and powers up the flask. I’m not sure if that means more charges or more healing. The flask only has two charges now, after the power up, and is not listed as an Estus flask +1. The bonfire warp menu also listed a strength for the bonfires, so what’s that about? Will there be Fire Keeper’s Souls? When I find another shard I’ll have a better idea.

She talks for a while longer, telling me about other NPCs. There is a blue knight who has lost hope hanging out near a tower. The cat is an ancient being with a bunch of wisdom. Some more general information about Undead and Hollowed.

I open the level up menu and get my first glimpse at how these new stats interact.

Instead of every stat giving some resistances across the board, each stat now corresponds with specific resistances. Strength gives more physical defence, for example. Another change is that every stat gives a token amount of extra health, which is nice. I may be able to ignore Vigour altogether.

Adaptability is the catch-all stat, as I expected. It gives large bonuses to most resistances, as well as improving agility and even poise. (Though only a small amount, with the three points I can put in Adaptability not giving me any extra poise.) Endurance improves stamina and poise, Attunement improves cast speed, curse resistance, and agility (to a much lesser degree than Adaptability). The other magic stats, Intelligence and Faith, also raise elemental resistances, and also elemental damage. Dexterity raises poison and bleed resistance as well as physical defence. That physical defence must feed into my armour bonuses.

There is a lot to chew on, and it’s still tough because of the nebulous nature of all those substats. In Dark Souls 1 things like bleed resistance were pointless, because there were so few enemies that caused bleeding. How often will I run into curses, or poison? Not only that, but what do those numbers even mean? Higher is better, that much is clear, but how high is enough? Most important, how will armour figure into the equation? Probably a lot.

My instinct is to ignore Vigour for now. Everything gives some HP, even if it’s only a small amount, and I beat Dark Souls 1 with relatively low HP, having a Vitality of only 20. As long as I’m not getting killed in one hit I’m doing fine. I will likely ignore the magic stats as well. Keep things simple and focus on known quantities and hard numbers until I have more information. I know I need Strength and Dexterity if I want to use weapons and shields, and that’s where my priorities should be. I might also leave Vitality alone. Having more stamina is nice, but it takes a whole bunch of it to give me an extra attack or roll. I could dump a dozen points into Vitality and not gain anything tangible.

Since I don’t have access to any weapons yet, I’ll leave those stats alone. I decide for 2 points in Adaptability, because I do suspect it to be important and it raises the most numbers. Who doesn’t like raising the most numbers? I also take 1 point in Vitality, which raises my equipment load. My initial level is so low that each stat point is cheap.

I then forget to take a screenshot.

The Emerald Herald slaps me with some light, and I’m ready to move on.

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That big old obelisk, the one thrusting majestically into the coastal sky, is somehow a tower in the mind of these NPCs. At least, that’s how the Herald described it. Maybe they’re afraid of it and also lacking proper depth perception. If you stood at a distance, one eye closed, and squinted for a while, it might come off as a tower instead of a slab of shaped rock. This thought comes only after I’ve chatted up the knight who sits, head in hands, at the base of the thick stone.

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In a droning voice he speaks of how I am Undead now, and how life in Majula is about as close to normal as I’ll find. A talking cat, a whiny armour seller, and a pack of vicious wild mole-pigs isn’t anywhere near my definition of normal, but it’s possible the rest of Drangleic is even worse off. This guy calls himself Saulden, and tells me that I must have come here because I heard it was possible to break the curse of the Undead. I suppose that’s one interpretation of the information I’ve the have given me. Well, he’s here to tell me breaking the curse isn’t possible. Good for him. There follows another spiel about the Undead and Hollowed. So far, there is a lot more general information in this game than the last, though that could be simply the number of NPCs I have interacted with.

After all his complaining is over, he asks me if I’d like to join the Blue Sentinels. Which is when I realize he must be the blue knight, and that makes this monument a tower. According to Maughlin, the Blue Sentinels are complete assholes. Then again, according to Maughlin, setting up shop in a place primarily known for how nobody lives there anymore is a sound business decision, so. The HP boosting ring I’m given for joining the Covenant tells me the Blue Sentinels is less the fantasy Yakuza than it is a bunch of adventuring hippies who have decided to watch each others backs. Hell, the symbol that pops up next to my health and stamina, where my Humanity should be, is a blue leaf, which isn’t exactly intimidating.

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Covenants must be more important and obvious this time around for them to have a dedicated spot in the UI. I get a little figure in a red box underneath my stamina as well, which must be the maximum HP buff. It’s only about 20 points, but that’s better than nothing and it’s not as if I have any other rings to wear.

I talk to Saulden a little more. He teaches me the welcome gesture, complains a bit, and then coughs up information about likely destinations. There is a forest of giants nearby that once held a great fortress. Seems obvious enough where that is. There is also Heide’s Tower of Flame, where the blue acolytes hang out. Are they also related to the Blue Sentinels? The way to the tower has been block by a gate that is in turn controlled by a contraption Saulden can’t figure out. He also mentions the pit in the centre of town, saying I can’t get down there without a ladder. Literally? I doubt that. Saulden seems like the type to tell me I’d need a ladder to get a cookie from a high shelf, and so not to bother. Some general information on soapstone messages and summoning signs, on Fire Keepers and bonfires, and that’s all he has for me. I leave him alone.

At the rear of the obelisk (I’m not calling it a tower, and frankly I am now suspect about Heide’s Tower of Flame. If I get there and it’s just a stack of bricks next to a few dudes wearing blue robes and holding torches I won’t be that surprised.) is a worn out message. I can’t read it.

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At the front is a less worn message. It tells me that there have been 12 global deaths. Is it only counting mine, or also ones that happened while I was online? It’s possible I died a dozen times fighting those rats. Having a running death counter is a neat feature. I imagine I’ll be running it up pretty high, as I tend to throw lives away for any slight chance of learning something, provided I can recover my body.

The Victor’s Stone is at the top of a ridge running next to the entrance to an underground tunnel system. This is the strange stone I’ve heard about.

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I kneel before it, and a message asks me if I’d like to enter a Covenant, warning me that it will be an arduous path. That’s more appealing than a group of goody-goodies that I will never meet because I play offline. Before joining, I run to the cat and check out its Covenant option, hoping it might give me some information on the one I’ve already joined. It’s only a ranking list, informing me that I’m a rank 0 Blue Sentinel. I abandon that Covenant, confirm that the ring still works, and then return to the Victor’s Stone. I kneel again, and there are not one, not two, but three confirmation pop-ups before I can join the new Covenant, each warning about how how hard this is going to be. I wonder what the big deal is if there are at least two ways to break the Covenant within 15 seconds walking distance. Anyway, I am now a member of the Company of Champions.

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I get myself a Champion’s Tablet. It’s an online scoreboard for who has delivered the most awestones. What is an awestone? How do you get an awestone? Beats the hell out of me. A corpse next to the Stone gives me 5 Homeward Bones.

At the bottom of some steep stairs I find what is probably the contraption that has been stymieing Saulden.

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It’s a circular room designed to spin around. A central pillar holds a button or something. On my right is an open doorway, on my left a metal grate blocking off a stone wall, and beside that a window leaking torchlight. I can see a loot corpse through that window, and the entire setup is familiar enough. Activating the mechanism will spin the room around, the metal grate will block up the open doorway, and then another route will be available. I examine the button to confirm I can’t use it. I’ll need to find a part or a key.

Through the open doorway is a curving set of stairs leading further down. It’s not even dark, so I feel safe enough continuing.

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At the bottom of the stairs I find a metal box. Inside is a crimson parma, a type of small, round shield.

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It only has 75% physical block, but it also only requires 6 strength to use. I put it on, and now I can block and parry.

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The next room has shallow water and a floodgate. The entrance to a sewer system, I guess. A ring on the wall next to the gate should allow me to open it up.

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I pull the chain, let the floodgate open completely. It doesn’t slam back down again, but does close after a few seconds. I open it again, then hop down and check the other side. There is another chain there, so it’s safe to continue. It’s not that I believe the game would trap me (and how could it, since I have multiple ways to get back to the last bonfire?) but more that I’m still in an exploring mode and don’t want to commit to a big puzzle to get back.

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A nearby body hold an Undead Soul and a broken thief sword. Compared to my dagger, this weapon does more poise damage, less counter-attack damage, and takes 9 strength to use. Oh well.

I keep moving, down another narrow passage. There hasn’t been any signs of enemies so far. In fact, this is one of the more pleasant sewers I’ve been though, and it’s better maintained than anything above ground. I wonder why the people up there don’t move in. It’s not like it’s even an active sewer system, so the smell can’t be that bad.

Heide’s Tower of Flame

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Not at all what I expected to find at the end of the tunnel, after being told it was difficult to get here, and Saulden complaining about the the mechanism blocking the way. Could be he’s a lazy whiner, could be he was looking for a back door. I don’t know. He’s the Blue Sentinel, so I suppose he’s the expert.

Blue is the dominant colour here. From the deep, foreboding blue of the water all around, to the blue roofs on the few intact buildings that poke up out of the ruins, and even the muddy grey-blues in the cloudy sky. There is a sense of a more cataclysmic ruin here compared to the general rundown state of Majula. Something bad happened here, something worse than neglect. The landscape hasn’t crumbled over time, the sea has not been eroding it. A force shattered and flooded this place.

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There is also the white of the arrow-riddled knight sitting nearby. Further along a path of stone that has resisted the elements I can see a pair of statues, and between them a big knight. The statues have the features of, what, giant birdmen? Am I going to fight bird knights? Below and to the right of the statues I can see the telltale glimmer of a bonfire waiting to be lit.

I try to communicate with the white knight. There is no response. I can see that he’s alive. I decide to leave him alone. Maybe I need something else before he’ll talk.

There is another of the white knights past the big guy. I can see that as I get closer to the statues. He is also sitting. So they aren’t unique. Will they become hostile?

I walk over to the giant knight. He’s holding a massive shield in his left hand and his right hand clutches a sword that I doubt I could lift with both hands in my current state. He swings it around without trouble, and when I see an opening I poke at him with my dagger. Only, he’s not done swinging his sword, and I get chopped in the face, losing more than half my health. I back off and drink from my Estus flask. Because I am pretty stupid, I decide this is the perfect time to brush up on my parrying skills. I have a shield after all. I wait for the next attack, hit the block button instead of the parry button, and then get hit with two big slashes. I try to actually block the third, but I no longer have enough health to survive even the reduced damage, and I die. As I fall to the ground I notice that the white knight shows up as a valid target.

I respawn in Majula, with the Emerald Herald standing next to the bonfire. I’m pretty sure my maximum health has dropped again, but in the status menu my health is the same as it was before I died. Could be the reduction doesn’t show up in the stat screen. I run all the way back to the big knight, grab my body, then try to parry again. I hit the right button this time, but do not successfully parry any of the attacks. I die again. When I respawn I know for sure that my maximum health is dropping each time I die. I wonder how I restore it.

This time I grab my body and run down some stairs to the bonfire, where I rest before the knight can get close.

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In the back of my mind is that root-covered path in Majula. I should check it out before going any further. But this guy killed me, twice, and that demands reprisal.

In the more open space past the statues I am able to circle the knight and watch his patterns. Three attacks, ending in either a horizontal slash or a vertical slam, and occasionally a followup stab.

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Holding my little dagger in both hands, I use the heavy double attack. It’s the most damage I can muster, which still isn’t much. It takes a lot for the knight to go down. I take bad hits when I get anxious, or when I dodge wrong. I’m sure they should be misses, but it’s not up to me. I’ll have to get used to the stricter timing, especially if my agility is low. After a couple of tries, the knight goes down. I gain 400 Souls.

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I walk over to the other white knight. Still not talking. Do they even notice me? Would an NPC be hanging out right in the open, next to hostile enemies?

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Next to him are some stairs leading to the next tier of this central arena. Up there is a knight with a massive mace. Somehow, this makes him even more dangerous than the sword knight. I think I’ve read his overhead pounds, but when I move close to start slashing him he quickly swings the mace back and forth before I can recover from my attacks. I die again.

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I respawn at the nearby bonfire and recover my body, then get some distance to survey the scene again. There are at least 3 more of the big knights in sight, and who knows how many I can’t see. They are the dominant enemy here, and all I have is my butter knife. As much as I’m not phased by poor odds, I do still have some sense. It’s probably not worth it to keep going here, especially when I have another path to explore.

Majula

After warping back to the Majula bonfire, I climb back to the root path. I duck through a short tunnel and find myself in a walled area.

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I have found some more ruins, these with the tinge of late summer. Things are greener here, and calmer. Through a hole in the wall and I’m on a path to sunlit ruins. The neglect here seems less spiteful than in Tower of Flame, less malignant than in Majula. I can see glint of some strange metal ahead.

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I cross under an old arch and run into another resting knight. He holds a rather large sword made of some metal that almost glows.

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I speak to him. He doesn’t offer a name, but instead complains about a statue up ahead, claiming it is creepily human and blocking his way. I know already that I’m going to find another petrified traveller. A nearby body holds 3 Lifegems and 3 Homeward Bones.

There is a building, and I don’t see a statue immediately. There are a bunch of barrels, though, and the sound of a basilisk gurgling nearby.

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Thinking nothing of it, I roll into the barrels to break them apart. Two of them are not the same colour as the others, but like I said, I thought nothing of it. I should have, though, because they explode when I hit them, sending me flying as my health drops.

The previously calm setting bursts into frenzied activity. All around I hear the sounds of growling and angry bashing against wood. A door nearby explodes, smashed down by a ghoul with a gaping, raw face. Soon the area is swarming with at least half a dozen of the ugly things. I stab at the nearest ghoul, doing almost no damage, of course, and then back out of the building as I try to take a drink from my flask to recover the damage from the explosion.

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It’s no good. They come swarming at me, leaping onto me in pairs, and I die.

I respawn with even lower health. My hunch is that turning human will fix this–after all, I had low max health when I first landed in the Things Betwixt, and gained a full bar once I created my character and became fully human for a while. Losing health with each death must be a representation of slipping further toward a Hollowed state. The only problem with that theory is that I can’t test it. The game will not let me burn any of the effigies I’ve found.

Still, I’m exploring. I expect a few death, and I’m not worried.

Back at the building and I recover my corpse. There are doors here made of flimsy wood. I can see those things inside, brown shapes huddled in corners, or pacing back and forth. The one on the left is holding a glowing green staff.

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It notices me and starts to bash at the door. I let it knock the wood away, then kill it, pushing it back into the corner of its small cell by stabbing over and over with my dagger. It has a fair amount of HP, but can’t put up a fight on its own. I can barely stand to look at it even as I fight. The blotchy brown skin, its fleshy, open maw, and that distended belly flopping about like an extra limb, all work together to make a repulsive creature. A corpse in the same cell holds 3 Lloyd’s Talismans.

There is only one of these ghouls in each cell, yet a bunch of them attacked me before. I look up and around, and see there are other cells above me, out of reach. The sound of the explosion must have drawn them all out at once.

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There is a heavy door at the other end of the room. As I approach it I notice a switch in the wall next to it, and also the stone woman who is stuck trying to the switch. I hadn’t noticed her earlier because she blends in with the shadows from a distance. I can hear a basilisk on the other side of the door. There’s nothing I can do for her, though, and no way to progress here while she’s in the way.

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Before leaving, I open the other cell on this floor and kill the ghoul inside. It lands a blow on me, cutting into me with glowing green claws. I am nearly poisoned, but I kill it before it hits me again. Its cell is empty.

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Maybe I could trigger the explosive barrels again and draw the other ghouls out, but since I can’t reach their cells to check for loot, there’s no point.

Back at the bonfire I consider my options. The Forest of Fallen Giants and the Tower of Flame. Which is more likely to have the blacksmith’s key? That’s when I remember there’s a pit in the centre of town.

I decide to spend my Souls before moving on. I take a point in strength, because I will need basic strength and dexterity to use new gear, so I may as well start now.

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I walk to the edge of the pit, line myself up with the first platform below, fall, and then die. Either I don’t have enough maximum health anymore, or I do need that ring from the cat. Could I have made it with full health?

I grab my body and take a final stroll around the town, looking for anything I may have missed before striking out for good. In the armourer’s place I find a ladder leading into a loft area. Along with some dressers, shelves, and books, there is a chest. Inside the chest is a titanite shard. Using them can upgrade basic equipment up to +3, but I’ll need the blacksmith before I can do that.

Back up the cliff to get a better look at the body I saw hanging over the edge. I can see there is a path down there, next to the entrance into the Forest.

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From the bottom, though, it’s apparent that the way is blocked from this side and must be accessed from elsewhere.

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I return to the cave and the dead body in the river. I walk the plank down to the chest, step over the side, and fall down to my death again. There is a gap of deep, deep water. I go back and jump for it, covering the distance easily. There is a lot more horizontal distance to the jumps in this game, and possibly more vertical as well.

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My maximum health is now around half of what it should be. I have to be more careful from now on.

I pick up an Undead Soul and another Homeward Bone from the corpse, then continue to the mouth of the cave.

Forest of Fallen Giants

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I trudge through the running water, skirting around the hippo-clops. I fight the Hollowed soldier, and this time he’s got friends. One of them carries an axe, and when he gets behind me and takes a good chunk out of my back I come close to dying. After fending them all off and flasking up, I take a look around. I figure there must be a bonfire around, like the one at the entrance to the Tower of Flame. I pick up a Hollowed infantry armour from one of the dead soldiers, but it’s somehow even worse than the rags I’m wearing.

The bonfire is across the river. I cross the water and then rest up.

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I try again to burn an Effigy. I still can’t, and I wonder if it has something to do with my Soul Memory. But that doesn’t make any sense, since that keeps raising every time I pick up Souls, even between deaths. It doesn’t seem possible to catch up to it.

That the Hollowed here are easy to kill is an sign that I’m moving in the right direction for starting out. This makes me want to go back to the Tower of Flame, but I tell myself it’s more likely that I’ll find something to do with becoming human again here, and probably the blacksmith’s key, if I haven’t missed it in town. Those are both things I should have early on, so they should be here rather than a more difficult area.

I cross the river and fight through a small gauntlet of Hollowed. Some have swords, some have axes, some have only their hands. One, overlooking the river from a ramp, fires arrows at me with a bow. I cut the soldiers down one by one, getting closer to the archer all the time. By the time I reach him I am low on health, and as I close the distance he pulls a knife. I stab the archer, but there is another Hollowed with an axe right behind me. I have no idea where he came from, but have no time to worry about that. I finish the archer just in time to roll away from a leaping axe attack. I turn and stab the final Hollowed, and then take a moment to flask up.

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The archer was guarding a weird hollow knot of old wood and roots, and there is a ladder inside leading further up.

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At the top of the ladder is an open arena around a moss crusted old tree. There are bodies everywhere, and only a few of them glow with loot. Every step I take in here is going to wake up a Hollowed soldier.

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I loot a corpse on my right and pick up a green blossom, which boosts stamina recovery. I then approach the closest non-loot body. Sure enough, a Hollowed soldier pops up. I stab it in the back, killing it in one shot. I begin to clear out the Hollowed in small groups.

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I am making good progress, and I even get some item drops, picking up another Hollowed chest armour and a broken sword. As I circle around the tree, I notice that there’s another Hollowed soldier high above the arena and wearing distinct armour while holding a 2-handed sword.

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I get closer to the tree, and the guy above throws a firebomb at me. The edge of the explosion sends me reeling, just as another axe Hollowed rushes from out of nowhere to finish the job. I die.

This makes me glad. This route is obviously meant to be the more natural progression through the early part of the game. While I am all for taking on the greatest challenge I can find, I am also aware that I can potentially create another situation like I did in Dark Souls 1 by going through the Catacombs first. By the time I finish the more difficult area I am too strong and too experienced to get anything out of the places I should have gone before. If I can die here, then it’s good enough for now, and I will be able to have an experience more in line with how the game intends me to play.

During my next fight I use a Lifegem instead of a flask charge. I can still move around a bit while I pull it out and crush it, and though the healing is slower (and probably less than a flask charge, but since my maximum health is so low it’s impossible to be sure), the trade-off might be worth considering. The flask requires me to stand still for a second while I drink from it, but also seems to recover faster.

I make it up to the ladder, then through most of the arena there before a message pops up informing me that my dagger is in danger of breaking. Even as the firebombs fall from the sky, I have to put the dagger away and continue the fight with my fists and shield. I try holding the shield in both hands and smacking at a Hollowed soldier, but the damage is even less than my punches. I put it away, and punch my way to the end. After a few more hooks and uppercuts, I have cleared the area of living Hollowed.

Now I need to find my way up to the last guy, the one who has been tormenting me with bombs. He won’t move, his AI keeps him in place so he doesn’t jump over the edge at me, even if he is in an aggressive posture.

From the ladder I took to get up here there is the tree ahead, and a fog gate on the left. On the right is an opening to a cliff overlooking the river. There is a ladder here built into the side of an old tower.

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I can hear growling as I get closer to the ladder. As I climb, I realize there’s someone trying to get down. A boot kicks me in the face, and I punch back at it.

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As I ready another punch, the boot kicks me in the face and I lose my grip on the ladder, falling to the ground. Fortunately, I am not far up and I don’t take any damage. I am still nearly dead from the kicks, though, so I back away and heal before the Hollowed gets to the bottom. Then I punch him until he stops moving.

I can see a body below, on a flat area above the river. Maybe I could jump down to it? The fall looks pretty high, but the area behind and around it has the distinct look of background, so I don’t see another way over to the body.

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Priorities. I climb up the ladder. At the top are some stairs winding around the tower and leading to where the final soldier stands. He looks bigger and tougher than the others now that I’m closer.

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A body nearby holds a Soul of a Nameless Soldier.

The last Hollowed waits for me, silent and still. He’s bringing a sword to a fist fight, which hardly seems fair, but I suppose at this point he doesn’t know any better. I move toward him, and he throws a bomb at me. I dodge past it and try to get behind him for a critical hit. I punch him once, and he falls over the edge, landing with a thud below, but not dying. My camera goes wild, almost sending me over the edge after him, but I back away and lose the lock. Instead of running for the ladder to get back into position, the Hollowed stays in place. I know I wouldn’t survive that fall, unless I landed a plunging attack, but under the circumstances that’s a bigger gamble than I’m willing to take.

I take the ladder back down and walk up behind him.

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I punch him in the spine, and as he stands I lay into him. He is stronger than the others but neither of us have any poise, so the best defence here is a relentless offence. He chucks another bomb when I back away to recover stamina, then I close in to finish the job. He drops nothing. I climb back to the camping ledge and jump across a small gap to loot a corpse, finding an Undead Soul and a short sword, which I can’t use.

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When I get to the bottom of the ladder again I take a minute to sort through my loot. Though I can’t use the short sword, I now have a two busted up straight swords that I can equip. I also have a pair of Hollowed boots, which are better than what I’m wearing. I switch the damaged dagger out for one of the broken swords. I’ll miss that double stab, but it looks like I’ll have a bit more range now.

I then make the jump down to the corpse above the river. I take minimal damage in the fall, and pick up an Undead Soul and a pack of throwing knives. I hop down a series of rocks and get back to the river without further injury

.

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I get the bright idea of throwing knives at the hippo-clops. They do a surprising amount of damage, much more than I could do with the meagre weapons I own. It stomps after me, chasing me all the way to the ladder, where I manage to escape.

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When it leaves, I start throwing knives again. I have 3 left, and I’m pretty sure it will be enough for the kill. Just then, the hippo-clops puts on a burst of speed. I turn to run, and learn the hard way that there is a significant start-up time for such an action in this game. It lands a meaty fist against my side, which staggers me, and then thumps me in the skull to finish me off before I can do anything about it.

I’m disappointed less by the death than I am by the loss of my knives. Not that I would be likely to use them otherwise, but I don’t have enough of them now to kill the hippo-clops. I almost had it.

By now it’s apparent that I’m not going to lose any more than half of my maximum health from deaths. That’s a bit liberating.

I fight through the Hollowed again with the broken sword. Although it does decent damage and isn’t too slow, it’s fragile. Before long, I have to switch to the second broken sword, and by the time I’ve killed the bomb thrower and cleared the area, both broken swords are out of commission, so that I am once again reduced to punching the last few Hollowed to death. The dagger is back at full strength, so I switch over to that. I might have to raise my stats so that I don’t run out weapons during a fight.

I now stand before the fog gate.

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On the other side is a tunnel of ropy roots burrowing deep into the ground.

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At the other end of the tunnel is a broken wall. Old dirt piles against it, the bones and armour of fallen soldiers a testament to a desperate battle in the distant past.

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I turn left and peak around a corner into a long hallway. There are growling sounds in here, and I know Hollowed are close. As I move the camera to see what’s ahead I see one of them standing nearby, axe in hand. He sees me as well, and leaps in my direction, swinging. I stab out with my dagger and we trade hits. A poor decision on my part, as my low health means I can’t afford to give away free damage. I do survive the fight, and then use one of my Lifegems to heal. I’ll have to depend on these now that I’m out of flask charges.

Standing next to the broken wall I can see there is a room with another Hollowed.

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He is facing that entrance, so I think I’m clever when instead of jumping through the hole I go back down the hall so that I can sneak up behind him. When I near the door to that room the Hollowed comes charging out at me, teeth gnashing, and he’s got a friend with him. I back away. Taking on multiple enemies with my dagger requires careful positioning. Getting close enough to stab one Hollowed means I am also within swinging distance of the other. I eat an axe hit, but I do take them both down. The corner here is becoming choked with their bodies.

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Back in the room, and I’m looking down at one of the discarded armour pieces, trying to identify it, when a Hollowed attacks me. It must have been hiding in here, laying on the ground behind some debris. I need to be more careful. After killing it I pop another Lifegem.

From behind a skewed bookshelf comes the glow of an item. I break the shelf down and pick up 20 wooden bolts. I don’t have a crossbow, so they’re useless.

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Past that room, the hall opens up into a wide alcove. I can see there is another of the bomb throwers hiding on my right, and a Hollowed soldier on the other side of a stack of crates. Seeing the bomb thrower from this angle I recognize the piles of strange armour I’ve been seeing in here. The distinct design of their breastplates, the flowing lines coming together to form a fluid star. Many of these Hollowed soldiers died here, fighting something.

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I kill both of the Hollowed.

Soon I come to a hole in what must be the outer wall of this fortress. Wooden scaffolding runs along the wall, next to the hole. I can hear the birds overhead as I loot a Lifegem from a body lying there.

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At the end of the hallway are stairs that up to the outside. I can see an archer standing at the top, and on a giant root hanging over the stairs is another bomb thrower.

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It’s fairly obvious what I need to do here. Armed with only a dinky melee weapon, I will have to close the distance on that archer, which means running up the stairs. As long as I don’t stop on the way up I should be able to avoid the bombs, and from there I’ll have to assess my surroundings and find the best way to kill each of the ranged attackers while avoiding the other. Of course, chances are pretty good that there will be other Hollowed up there as well, but I’m better off fighting up there than on the stairs. I can’t survive those firebombs.

I sprint to the top of the stairs, past the archer, and into the open. I’m on a wide roof with low parapets running along its sides. I dodge past the archer as he pulls a knife, dodge again to avoid a bomb. A Hollowed soldier is coming at me. I back off, testing the edges of this area and making sure I’ve found all the threats. An arrow comes out of nowhere and catches me in the shoulder. I lock on to the nearby Hollowed soldier, and another arrow hits me. These aren’t the work of the archer at the top of the stairs, who is holding his knife. I’m still in my hitstun from the arrow when the soldier jumps at me, killing me before I can block or roll away.

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I think I understand now why there are more slots for holding weapons than the last game. Fighting back to my body requires careful rationing of the few weapons I have, and I should probably start avoiding some enemies to save on durability. I try to make the most of my attacks, going for more critical hits, and I find out that it’s possible to miss those. There is a short starting animation now, like a throw attack in a fighting game, and I reach out toward a Hollowed soldier’s back only to find that by the time I’ve initiated the critical attack he has turned to face me, preventing the follow through. By leaving of the Hollowed in the big arena alone before entering the fortress I save a lot of durability, giving me an extra weapon to keep fighting with as I progress.

Back at the stairs I run with my shield held up. At the top I recover my body as a firebomb lands close enough to do damage. I grab a buckler from a corpse at the far end of the roof, and as I turn to face my enemies an arrow jams into my face, doing much more damage than the others and staggering me for a full second. A followup attack from the soldier puts my health so low I can’t even see it, but somehow I’m still alive. I roll forward, past the bomb thrower, and fall to the stairs. I quickly take a drink from my flask. The soldier charges down the stairs after me, and I kill him.

Now it’s only the archer and the bomb thrower. That’s manageable. At the top of the stairs I start fighting the archer. Arrows are coming at me from above and behind, and now that things are less frantic I think I can pinpoint the sniper, at least enough to avoid him. I kill the archer, take a hit from another firebomb. Back down the stairs to heal up, then outside to kill the bomb thrower.

I am out of flask charges now, and down to my final 3 Lifegems, but at least I’ve found the sniper. He stands on some nearby battlements, completely out of reach.

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I move out of his firing range and look around. I can see the giant roots of the trees that choked this great fortress to death. The entire area is frozen in that final struggle of man and nature, and in my post-battle reverie I can watch the clock reverse, all the way back to whatever seeds exploded like bombs to cause this. The aftermath, so many years later, is more than a little creepy.

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There is a ladder nearby leading to a higher tier of the fortress’s walls.

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I climb, looking over the top to make sure everything is clear, and then pull myself up. Nothing attacks me. There is a break in the parapet where I could drop down to the scaffolding that runs along the fortress walls.

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It might be possible to get all the way down to the central courtyard, and the glimmer of loot corpses below suggests that eventually I should. But only after I’ve checked for other paths. I have not forgotten my failed attempt to get into the pit of Majula.

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At the far end of the roof is a loot corpse. A Hollowed with a big sword attacks me when I get close. I kill him and then pick up 5 Witching Urns. Magic bombs. In distance I can see an emblem carved into the fortress wall, but it’s too far away to get much more than an impression of what it’s supposed to be. There is an odd ringing tone in the air here. I don’t know where it’s coming from, and can’t see anything else from here.

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There are a pair of heavy-looking doors covered in ornate carving. This is an entrance into the fortress.

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As luck would have it, the doors are not locked. I push them open and find a cozy looking bonfire underneath a large, open-armed statue of a woman. Her robes are stained in what looks an awful lot like old, dried blood. Even places of worship don’t survive total war.

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Sitting amongst the cracked stone and winding roots is a person wearing what might be half a general store on her back. A little lamp hangs off the side of her pack, highlighting her long, gnarled fingers. I rest at the bonfire, then talk to her.

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She has a sickly air about her, but she doesn’t try to touch me, and with my hood off it’s not as if I’m a pleasant sight, either. She calls herself Melentia, and begs me to buy from her. She has that crazy Undead laugh I’ve been missing as well. I gather she’s from Lanafir, judging by the armour she sells. For some reason I can’t see a comparison between its stats in the shop and what I’m wearing already, which is annoying. She also sells some scavenged weapons, the same basic swords and axes that the local Hollowed use.

And a club! I calm myself. I want that club, yes, but I don’t yet have the 12 strength needed to use it. I have to be practical. Instead, I buy the head armour she sells, which I recognize as the basic armour the Explorer class wears. It has better stats than my hood and also boosts item find, though I can see my item find stat is in any of the menus.

Melentia sells some consumables as well. A few Effigies, Lifegems, firebombs, that’s normal enough. But also something called a Brightbug, which boosts damage and defence for a short time? A Pharros Lockstone, which is confusing for a while, as its description tells me only that it helps those in need, and is probably related so some mechanism found in world? There is also a branch of Yore, which costs 12,000 Souls and can return someone to normal from a stone form. The use for that item seems obvious enough. Finally, she sells the blacksmith’s key and a couple of basic spells (Healing and Soul Arrows). I’d like a Healing spell, but it will take at least 12 Faith, and that seems like a steep price now that the total spell charges are reduced to 3. My priority is still to get basic stats to use some weapons.

Thinking about it for a bit, I decide that what is really confusing me are the new menu categories. That key should be separate from basic consumables like Lifegems. Considering that it’s not actually a usable item, I have to wonder about some of the other items in the same shop category. The Pharros Lockstone, for example. Could that be a key to using the machine in the sewers leading to the Tower of Flame? Not that I could afford it right now, but it’s worth considering.

I buy the blacksmith’s key for 1000 Souls and put on my new hat. It comes with a monocle, but my face is so dark that it’s hard to notice. Melentia talks of an ancient war with the giants who came from across the sea. When they died they sprouted into trees. That gives some context to the Seed of Giants starting gift, but also makes it more likely that I’ll find one on my own. When I’m ready to leave she tells me that next time we meet she’ll have a nice bargain for me. Could be idle talk, but it might also mean that I’ll run into her somewhere else.

I climb up some stairs and find a dark corridor. There is a room with a locked wooden door.

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The door itself doesn’t look sturdy, and following the examples of those ghouls back in Majula, I bust it down with my dagger. I can hear the sound of a titanite carrying crystal lizard. It’s in the room, which is otherwise pitch black. Heedless of potential danger, I rush at it, but as I should already know, my dagger doesn’t do a good job at hitting short enemies. I switch to one of my broken swords, and come close to hitting it, but it runs into the far wall and disappears.

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I search the dark room. Behind and underneath old wooden furniture I find a couple of loot corpses and a wooden chest. I pick up a small leather shield and a hand axe, which I add to the buckler I found on the roof earlier. In another room I kill a Hollowed soldier and loot another chest for a Radiant Lifegem and some Hollowed head armour. The Lifegem is a more powerful version of your standard healing item. My maximum HP is so low that a Lifegem hardly seems worth it, so I’ll be saving it for later.

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A hole broken into the floor allows me to drop back down to the bonfire. There is a loot corpse resting on a root, and I grab it on the way.

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I switch out my shield for the leather one I found. Less stability, but better blocking otherwise, and lighter. I also equip some Hollowed soldier gauntlets that I’ve picked up somewhere along the way, but leave the helm off in preference for the item find bonus from the Explorer’s cap. The helmet informs me that the bomb throwers were royal guards.

After resting at the bonfire I return to the dark room. As I’d hoped, the crystal lizard has respawned. Nice to know that still works. The problem now is killing it. I try every weapon I am able to use, and none allows me to hit it consistently, even when I don’t lock on and point my camera straight down. The only way I have of guaranteeing hits is to use my fists, but with them I can’t do enough damage to kill it before it disappears.

This is the toughest problem I’ve come up against so far, and I reset over and over again, trying different attack angles and anything else I can think of. I try hitting it right away, I try running after it and attacking it when it runs into the far wall. Finally, in desperation, I pull out my last 3 throwing knives. It’s close, but I get the kill with the final knife. I pick up 2 titanite shards.

Near the bonfire is a hole in the floor and a ladder leading deeper into the fortress. I could take that, or try my luck on the scaffolding, but first I have someone I need to visit.

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I warp back to Majula. I figure I’m expected to do this often, if only to level up. I don’t mind that much, as it gives me a chance to catch up with the locals. I missed a lot of that stuff in the last game by rarely returning to the Firelink Shrine. There were a some NPCs that I never saw there, as they had already come and gone by the time I got back.

My first stop is the blacksmith’s place. I use the key to unlock the door. He is grateful enough, but tells me to come back later, after he’s had time to set up. I take that to mean I need to leave the area and come back.

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Before he can get inside, I take a look around. There are the usual stacks of worked metal and miscellaneous tools, most of which I doubt will ever get any use, but I suppose a guy has to keep busy while waiting for the next poor dumb Undead to show up. There is also a chest with a shortbow.

I check in with the residents. The armourer is still doing nothing, and the cat is now sitting at a desk, because why not?

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Next, I level up. I put 3 points into strength, with the club in mind.

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That only gets me up to 10, though, and I need 12. Feeling impatient, and remembering that I sat on these things forever in the last game, I burn through my Undead Souls. The game lets me use them all at once to save time, which is nice. I can now get my 12 strength, and put another point into vitality, with enough Souls left over to buy the club.

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I warp back to the fortress and spend 800 Souls for the club. I consider buying another so that I’ll have a backup, but I’m 40 Souls short for now.

With my club in hand I feel more comfortable. The moveset has changed, with some elaborate swings replacing the classic jumping overhead smash heavy attack, but I still have the normal jumping attack so that’s not a big problem. What matters is that now I have a club, and there is nothing that can stop me when I have a club.

Tomorrow will be a good day.

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