Let’s Illustrate Dark Souls 3 Part 28: Castle Mania?

Entering Lothric Castle means Fault is now in the final stretch of the game and boy does it stretch. On my non-gimmick file this whole area took me by surprise. I had already killed the three Lords of Cinder and was ready for a final boss so getting hit with a surprise fourth Lord of Cinder and a fairly complex dungeon really messed up my internal sense of pacing.

Anyways, two paths here in the castle. One leads to a garden full of poison beyond which lies a bonus boss that I almost insta-killed in my non-gimmick file. The other path leads through multiple layers of castle security and drops you off in front of a pair of dragons that are guarding the next quest boss.

Fault spends some time getting absolutely slaughtered along both paths, but it’s not all bad news. There are titanite chunks scattered all over both areas, more than enough to raise a weapon all the way to +8, maybe even +9 if you look extra hard or get lucky with enemy drops. And if there’s one thing Fault is good at it’s getting lucky with enemy drops.

Funny story: Half the reason I can't draw straight lines is apparently because I was using the wrong driver for my tablet. That's been fixed so from here on out all jagged lines will be all my Fault.

Funny story: Half the reason I can’t draw straight lines is apparently because I was using the wrong driver for my tablet. That’s been fixed so from here on out all jagged lines will be all my Fault.

So, +9 lucky rapier, two paths. Let’s hit the bonus boss first.

The Consumed King seems to be the latest proof that dabbling in the magical legacy of an insane mutant dragon is probably a bad idea. The King himself has become some sort of warped lizard person who casts crystal magic all while babbling about his son. Which, as far as we can tell, doesn’t exist.

Like most bosses he can kill Fault with just one or two good combos and the key to success is not letting him do that. In his first phase this means backing off a safe difference when he surrounds himself with magic mist. In his second phase he gets much more physical and the new best strategy is to stand beneath him since most of his attacks don’t hit things right next to him. Some do, but if you have a decent shield and enough health you can probably survive long enough to heal.

Let’s Illustrate Dark Souls 3 Part 27: Haute Couture

I decide to test out Fault’s new fireproof shield by sending her back to the Smoldering Lake to fight the Old Demon King. I remember him as being really tough during my non-gimmick run but apparently Fault is now overleveled for this area because she just tears him to shreds. Poor guy doesn’t even drop enough souls for a full level.

Fault is obviously stronger than ever before and has a much sturdier shield so it’s time to go tackle the Boreal Dancer again. This time I succeed after about half a dozen attempts and I really do feel like I owe that victory mostly to the Dragon Crest Shield letting me tank one extra hit per combo before my guard collapsed.

So, thoughts on the Boreal dancer:

– Design wise she’s pleasantly creepy, like they took a beautiful feminine form and then stretched it out into some sort of snakelike hunchback. Very uncanny valley.

– The lock-on camera seems to target her torso, which unfortunately moves around like crazy since she tends to sways around even when standing still.

– Fight her at mid to long range and wait for her to over-commit to either a combo or a dash attack. Then jump in and stab her once or twice while she recovers. Then run away again before she catches you in her next massive combo.

Now that the dancer is dead we can go back to Firelink and buy her armor, which is kind of unique design wise. Dark Souls is a dark fantasy game and as a result most of its armor sets are semi-realistic chunks of metal with vaguely masculine outlines. But the dancer set is made of form fitting metal plates with exaggerated female curves all of which gives it a much more high-fantasy feel, like something you’d expect to see in WoW or a D&D manual.

The deeper you go into New Game ++++ the less useful armor becomes for anything other than looks.

The deeper you go into New Game ++++ the less useful armor becomes for anything other than looks.

Not complaining, mind you. It’s a pretty nifty looking set. However it’s also a fairly weak set, meaning there isn’t much reason to wear it unless you either have pathetic equip load or are carrying around super-heavy weapons and shields and have to compensate with light armor. Neither of those applies to Fault so she’ll be sticking with her current armor for now.

With the Boreal Dancer out of the way Fault heads back to the chapel and uses an ancient stone bowl to force a statue to decapitate itself which somehow triggers a ladder into dropping down and giving us access to Lothric Castle. Seems like a simple doorbell would have been a more practical choice but I’m no architect so what do I know?

Let’s Illustrate Dark Souls 3 Part 26: 8 Ranks in Knowledge (Dungeon Design)

First stop on Fault’s pre-endgame leveling tour is Irithyll Prison. I happen to know there’s a NPC down here who’ll be our buddy if we break her out of jail. She’s in the same rough area where we found the Profane Coal, which is too bad because that area was guarded by half a dozen of those jailer cultists who temporarily drain your max HP every time you get close. That wasn’t such a problem when Fault’s only goal in life was to dodge roll her way to the coal and then die, but now that we need to survive long enough to hold a full conversation with someone we’re going to need to clear them out.

Fortunately Fault has just enough DPS and stamina to safely stun lock one of them to death, so all we have to do is aggro one of them, lead it away from the rest of the group and then stab it to death before they can kill us. As long as we don’t ever let them attack it doesn’t matter that we’re down to only 1 hp.

A tedious process to be sure, but it earns us a bunch of souls and lets us free a prisoner who might very well be an abyssal child of darkness but, hey, what’s a cursed fate or two between friends? This particular lady is an important late-game trainer for dark sorceries, advanced pyromancies and a possible source of dark miracles. Fault can cast absolutely zero of these so rescuing her was more of just a thing to do to pass the time.

Next up is one of, in my opinion, the better bits of level design in DS3 and one I’m going to talk about at length (so I wouldn’t blame you if you skip to the next post).

It all starts when you open one of the rare non-mimic chests in the game and find access to a key that supposedly opens the oldest cell in Irithyll prison. But where would we find that?

Well, the key description mentions that the first prisoner was a giant and the first cells were built at his feet. So let’s go find a big room with a giant. Or at least a big room that used to have a giant before Fault stabbed him in the shin a few dozen times.

Looking around the room you’ll notice some cell windows built into the wall and behind one of them is a room with a corpse, an item and a locked door. Seems like a good candidate for the cell we’re trying to unlock. But how do we get over there?

You think for a bit and remember that there was a certain path in the Profane Capital that lead to an underground swamp surrounding a small church that had stairs that lead right back to the giant’s room. Obviously that means the Church must be right next to the giant’s cell and thus right next to the room you’re trying to unlock.

You head to the area to investigate but realize that following the stairs back to the giant takes you much too high to reach the door you want. So you go back down the stairs a bit and start looking around really closely and notice that one of the windows set into the rock wall near the roof the church doesn’t have any bars set into it. Jumping through that window leads to the cell behind the giant’s room and gives you access to a covetous ring that increases your item discovery rating by 50. Added on top of Fault’s high luck we’re close to breaking 200 now. No idea what that mathematically means but I expect many good drops in her future.

Anyways, what I like about this particular secret is how logical the whole progression is. It’s not some random secret you can only find through luck or by obsessively head butting every wall you find in search of illusions. Instead it’s a matter of following clues and thinking carefully about level geometry.

Treasure in hand Fault does a little bit more grinding and exploring and finally earns enough souls to raise her luck to 42 and, more importantly, raise her strength to 14. That is just high enough to switch over to the Dragon Crest Shield, which I personally think is one of the best medium shields in the game. It completely blocks physical damage, almost completely blocks fire damage and can take a few hits before depleting all your stamina.

The best defense is a good offense, but the Dragon Crest shield is a close second.

The best defense is a good offense, but the Dragon Crest shield is a close second.

Let’s Illustrate Dark Souls 3 Part 25: No One Expects The Lordric Inquisition

After a few tries and a few burnt embers Fault emerges victorious from her battle against Aldritch. Having defeated the third Lord of Cinder she is magically transported back to the High Wall and receives a final desperate quest from a dying priestess: Find Prince Lothric and remind him that he really needs to go be a Lord of Cinder too.

Clever players might have noticed that there were four empty thrones, not three. I was not clever.

Clever players might have noticed that there were four empty thrones, not three. I was not clever.

While I suppose being teleported here is nice (since that means we don’t have to find this cutscene on our own) it’s also kind of annoying because with Aldritch dead we can go loot the empty throne room of Anor Londo for a ring of fast healing which is great since most of Fault’s current rings are kind of lame. So we ignore the dying woman’s last request and run off to the nearest bonfire.

A few minutes later, ring in hand and souls well spent, Fault returns to the high wall and attempts a ritual meant to open the path to Lothric castle. She also, coincidentally, finally finds the Lothric Knight Leggings she was looking for way back at the beginning of her quest for pants. But too little too late, I already have better stuff.

What was I talking about? Oh right, the Lothric castle ritual. Starting the ritual summons the Boreal Dancer, a giant armored gypsy looking monster with a pair of sweeping swords that let her threaten pretty much the entire room all at once. Her back story is kind of sad. Apparently she was a noble who got on the wrong side of Sulliman and was “rewarded” with an assignment to become a traveling warrior. Even got some sweet magic equipment out of the deal. But the curse of the Pontiff eventually drove her made and remade her into a beast just like what happened with good old Voldt.

Speaking of Voldt, remember how he kept killing Fault due to having a two hit combo that she didn’t have enough health to survive? Well the dancer is that fight all over again but worse. Her more powerful combos are deadly enough to knock away Fault’s shield and kill her in two hits which means that even though I can dodge it 90% of the time the other 10% finish me off.

Looks like now is a great time to run around exploring older areas in hopes of finding cool treasure (that Fault probably can’t use) and earning enough souls to level up a few more times.

Let’s Illustrate Dark Souls 3 Part 24: Suspiciously Like Work

My favorite mid-level grinding spot is probably the Yor the Giant bonfire, which is only fifty or so feet away from three gargoyles and a dozen cultists. Killing them all is worth around 20,000 souls and while they aren’t exactly super-easy to fight the fact they’re so close to the bonfire means it’s easy to retrieve your souls and retreat if you goof up and die.

At the moment I only need 12,000 or so souls per level so I’m basically getting a level and a half for every run.

After a little farming I raise Fault’s luck to 40 (because that’s a nice round number) and then boost her Vitality to 20 (another nice round number) and her stamina and endurance to 15 each. This also means I have enough excess equip load to upgrade my armor ever so slightly by buying the Outsider Pants the shop lady has been selling ever since I killed a couple unique enemies in the Farron Woods.

Side Note: Fault’s luck score is finally high enough to actually qualify for her starting dexterity of 13. We are finally 100% in line with our Luck Knight build restrictions.

What a silly way to play the game.

What a silly way to play the game.

Let’s Illustrate Dark Souls 3 Part 23: Famous Architecture

With Sulliman dead Fault emerges into the ruins of Anor Londo. Fortunately they’re only a fraction of the size of the original Anor Londo and mostly serve as a speed bump on your way to the final Lord of Cinder.

Funny trivia: In the original game Anor Londo was in pretty good shape except for a single giant window that had a broken panel which you could sneak through to find a bonus item. Centuries later in Dark Souls 3 the rest of Anor Londo now lies in ruin but that one window has somehow been repaired.

Have you ever looked at a giant fantasy castle and found yourself wondering "Who exactly is in charge of keeping this place clean and in good repair?"

Real estate agents always seem to gloss over the high upkeep costs involved in owning a giant fantasy castle.

After a quick trip through the ruins Fault can now fight Aldritch the Devourer of Gods. It goes very very poorly.

Aldritch is a challenging boss, and not in a fun way. His main gimmick revolves around constantly spamming a pair of homing attacks. The first summons a swarm of energy balls that float around randomly for a bit before suddenly trying to murder you. The second summons a hail of magical arrows that chase you around the arena for several seconds and come very close to auto-killing anyone silly enough to stand under the rapid shower of death.

Between these two attacks you’ll spend most of the fight dodging, which leaves very few opportunities to actually attack the boss and leaves you with the unpleasant sensation of working very very hard just to make zero progress.

Seems as good a time as any to go off and grind for levels. Fault could really use some extra health and better armor.

Let’s Illustrate Dark Souls 3 Part 22: Didn’t See That Coming

To get to the next boss Fault needs to return to the Boreal Valley and fight past a bunch of ghost zombie swordsmen who can unleash brutal multi-hit combos. On my non-gimmick file I absolutely hated fighting these things but as a rapier wielding Luck Knight I find I can actually stun lock most of them to death. Light fast weapons certainly do shine in the right situation.

This gives me a relatively easy path to the much dreaded Pontificate Sulliman, a super-aggressive swordsman who barely gives you time to breath and has very few openings for fighting back. He was probably the toughest boss I fought on my normal file and was responsible for countless deaths. I can only imagine how much worse it will be with Fault.

In fact, I know for a fact my first attempt will be doomed since I used up all but three of my Estus Flasks just getting to him. I should probably retreat and come back later with full supplies, but I have 30+ embers so I figure I as long as I’m here I might as well burn one and summon the nearby phantom so he can teach Fault his unique gesture. And I figure as long as I have a phantom I might as well drop in on the boss to refresh my memory on how he moves.

Fault emerged victorious, first try, with basically no healing items.

I can only assume this is a miracle of muscle memory from my last playthrough mixed with a little bit of luck. The enemy really left himself open a few times and let me get in a couple free combos and that really can make all the difference.

Have you ever wondered what Dark Souls would be like as a politically charged cyberpunk adventure? No? Okay then...

Have you ever wondered what Dark Souls would be like as a politically charged cyberpunk adventure? No? Okay then…

Let’s Illustrate Dark Souls 3 Part 21: Fear Is The Mind Killer

Last time Fault watched as the game defeated one of it’s own minibosses, leaving the way clear to enter the Smoldering Lake, which leads to one of my favorite Dark Souls 3 moments.

You enter the lake (which is more like a sulfur swamp), hear a big “twang” noise and a few seconds later a giant iron ballista bolt blasts you off your feet.

Your first reaction is shock. Did I just get hit with a ballista bolt?

Your next reaction is confusion. Why is there a ballista inside an underground cave?

Then you get shock again as a giant lightning sand worm bursts out of the ground.

Then comes enlightenment. So that’s why there’s an underground ballista.

Then comes death. Because Dark Souls.

Anyways, Fault spends a few lives playing matador with the sandworm in hopes of getting the ballista to kill the thing off. This eventually works landing us six thousand souls (doesn’t seem worth it), an awesome miracle she can’t use and an undead bone shard for boosting our flask (hooray for that at least).

That reminds me, isn't there a new Monster Hunter game coming out soon?

That reminds me, isn’t there a new Monster Hunter game coming out soon?

Fault then runs around the ruins of Lost Izalith for a bit until she gets tired of fighting demons and decides to just grab a few levels and then head to the next main game boss.

Let’s Illustrate Dark Souls 3 Part 20: The Enemy Of My Enemy

The good news is that Fault managed to kill a gimmick boss Lord of Cinder. The bad news is that he was the last gimmick boss in the main game and from here on out we have to actually fight enemies to win. Fault is probably going to need some new levels.

That means it’s time to explore one of the optional bonus dungeons! Fault warps back to the catacombs and makes her way to the rickety old rope bridge. A single poke causes the whole thing to fall apart. While this originally might seem like a trap designed to punish anyone caught fighting the dozens of skeletons in the area it actually serves a deeper purpose. Give the broken bridge a moment to stop bouncing around and you can actually use its remains as a ladder to descend to the Smoldering Lake.

On the way you have to fight Diablo, Lord of Terror. Or at least his generic mini-boss cousin. Fault’s attacks barely dent the thing’s health bar but I eventually win with the following clever strategy.

1) Watch the demon accidentally charge it’s way into a pit full of skeletons

2) Come up with a plan for using Fault’s newly gained high ground advantage for endless dive attacks

3) Stare in confusion as the skeletons friendly fire the demon to death before I jump even once

Must be that luck score at work.

As long as I still get the XP...

As long as I still get the XP…