Underneath my yellow skin

Dark Souls II revisited (but not remastered): The good, the bad, the ugly

the harder they are deaded!
The bigger they are….

I recently finished Scholars of the First Sin (SotFS, the remixed version of DS II, which apparently is much better and harder than the original–which I never played) and the DLC* for the umpteenth time, and I have more feelings about it that I need to share. Standard disclaimer: DS II is the hated uncle of the Soulsborne family. Many Souls fans rage against it and like to pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s very divisive within the community with some absolutely loathing it. Me, I’m more on the positive side. I’ve said time and time again that I think it’s a really good game, even if it’s not the best Souls game. I’ve also said that while Dark Souls is the best of the games (yes, including Bloodborne), it’s the one I’ve replayed the least (except for BB), including SotFS.

During this playthrough, I decided to be a pyromancer/strength character. First time through, I play pyro if I can, caster if I can’t. Huh. Come to think of it, it’s one of the reasons I don’t care as much for Bloodborne. Yes, there is arcane, but magic/casting really isn’t viable in that game. Yes, you can do gun stuff, but I’m not crazy about guns. In fact, in my arcane build (note: I do NOT recommend you do an arcane build your first time through. I’m a stubborn bitch and that’s how I roll, but, yeah, no. FromSoft games are known to be melee-focused, and none more so than this one), I substituted the gun parry with an Augur of Ebrietas parry, which was loads of fun. Anyway, you can’t start as a pyro in DS II. When the classes were revealed, I was so disappointed there was no pyro. You get the Pyromancy Flame fairly early in the game, but it still pissed me off. In addition, your Pyro trainers–both!–are petrified, which means you have to release them from their stone prisons with a Fragrant Branch of Yore. You get plenty in the latter game, but they’re precious few in the beginning, and you have to make hard decisions. Usually, it means putting off un-petrifying the better trainer for a bit, which is irritating as a pyro. In addition, one–Rosabeth of Melfia–blocks the way to a whole new and important area while the other–Straid of Olaphis (the better trainer)–blocks a bonfire and is in a room with five exploding zombies.

One of my biggest beefs about SotFS is that they don’t honor the safe room rule. If you have a bonfire or a vendor, the area around it/them should be safe. There should not be enemies, and you shouldn’t have to worry about getting killed or your vendor getting killed while you’re interacting in these areas. In this game, there are several instances where this isn’t true. The scene I described above is one. There’s another vendor, Weaponsmith Ornifex who is in a similar situation. She’s in a room that has enemies firing right outside, and I worry she’ll get hit with a Homing Soul Area or some such. I’ve had spiders follow me into the room, and I have to kill them while being careful not to hit Ornifex. With Straid, I just snipe the zombies with Magic/Dark, but it’s still irritating and annoying to have to do it every time.

plus penal set cuffs for a pyro buff.
My main look through much of the game–Straid love!

The bonfire nearest to Ornifex is another prime example. When you spawn in, six or seven spiders drop into the room. Granted, they are around the corner and you have time to *spoiler* light your torch–spiders hate fire–but it’s still dumb as hell. Plus, there’s a sorcerer above your head who if he sees you will shoot magic into the bonfire room from above. There’s also the Saltpeter bonfire which has an enemy parked right by it. Apparently, in the original, he would fire his crossbow at you automatically as you sat at the bonfire, which is just not cricket.  At least FromSoft changed that for SotFS so the guy is just standing there now, but still.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I started this playthrough with the express purpose of beating the two bosses solo that I hadn’t before–The Pursuer and Smelter Demon–and that I had beaten the former with surprising ease. The latter was more difficult, but I always felt as if I would do it eventually. My biggest problem was that I skimped on health this time around to get more in strength and attunement, and it really showed. I could only take two hits, maybe, oh, and my endurance wasn’t where I wanted it to be, either. That’s one thing about all the Souls games–you have to make hard choices. I went more glass cannon-y this time, which is not my preferred style of play–at all. Even now that I’ve finished the whole game, I’m under the soft cap in health and endurance, but my roll is on point.

Smelter Demon is in the first half of the game, so I really didn’t have much of an aim for the second half. I missed the final boss (optional) because I messed up the sequence of other bosses, but no biggie. He’s not a great or interesting boss, anyway. I jumped into the first DLC, The Crown of the Sunken King, and was immediately reminded of why I hated the DLCs so much. I know most hardcore Souls fans think the DLCs are the best part of the game because they’re brutally hard, but again, I don’t play Souls games because they’re hard. Also, I don’t think that simply tripling an enemy’s health pool, making them unstaggerable, and having hordes of them rush at you is an interesting way to make things more difficult. With my Greatsword +10 in hand, it was much easier than back when I was a squishy pyro with a piddling Battle Axe +10. I have a ring that gives me +2 attunement slots (spells), so I have six slots total. I have 37 in intelligence with my Straid mask), so I can use some of the better spells and hexes. Pyro has no requirement in this game. So I’m a true tank/caster, which is a great combo.

There are two bosses in the DLCs that I hadn’t beaten solo, either (again, not including the optional bosses because FUCK THE OPTIONAL AREAS), so I decided to make that my goal for the DLCs. One of them was in the first DLC–Sinh, the Slumbering Dragon. FromSoft makes really ass-hard dragons. All of them except the Guardian Dragon in this very game, which reminds me, I should probably try fighting the Ancient Dragon. Sigh. I didn’t count him in my not beaten solo because I don’t really consider him a boss, given what I’ve heard of him. But, I probably should at least give it a shot. The slog to him is so great, though, and he’s supposed to be so unfairly hard (at least in the original), and I hate killing dragons in general. Anyway, Sinh. Who’s resistant to all elements. Who has a health pool that is ridiculous. Who corrodes your weapon with the poison in his skin. Who leaves toxic clouds all over the arena. Who can still fly, despite the spear in his chest. Who can kill me in three hits. Loads of fun, I tell you.

I’ll let you in on a secret that made it more painless. There’s a tree in this DLC, the Pagan Tree, that if you can get to it, it’ll heal your broken equipment if you hit it (I had gotten to the tree before, but didn’t know this). The problem is, to get to it, you have to behead these statues from a distance in order to hit a switch, and regular arrows won’t do. The fextralife entry says you have to use a Greatbow and Greatarrows, and that takes a lot to use. Then, I saw a video of a guy using Resonant Soul (a hex) to break the statues, and I had that! I could do that! And I did. Anyway, there’s a ring called the Ring of Soul Protection that allows you to not turn Hollow upon death or lose your Souls, plus you can resist petrification. It breaks upon death, but you can repair it for 14,000 souls. It was like 3,000 to repair a similar ring in the original, but they jacked up the price for SotFS, which, while understandable, meant I never used it. Once I realized this tree thing, I set about accessing the tree–oh, you have to flip the switch behind the statues in order to walk across a platform to reach the Pagan Tree. I set up a Warmth ball (healing Pyromancy) by the tree then whip it once with my Notched Whip +7 (I read you can hit it more with a whip than a sword before it dies). I heal it for a few seconds (though not really necessary because it resets upon bonfire use), then feather out back to my bonfire.

hells, yeah!
Gotcha, Sinh!

Is it cheating? No. It’s in the game. Does it go against the spirit of the game? Hell, yeah. But, as it’s not my first playthrough, I don’t give a shit. I would never do it on a first playthrough, but now? I have no qualms. In addition, it does mean an extra trip between each death, but, yeah. Being human and not losing any health for each fight? Sign. Me. Up. Also, not losing Souls? Fuck yeah! Definitely not in the spirit of the Souls mentality, but as I said, I don’t care at this point. Sinh owned my ass so hard. I did look up the best way to beat him, and he’s slightly less resistant to Dark than to anything else. My strategy was to two-hand my Greatsword, apply Dark to it (with a hex), and GIT GUD. Seriously. I had to learn all his moves because one mistake and one combo would kill me. I died to him at least a dozen times, and it was getting me so fucking frustrated. I thought to myself, “Why am I doing this? I could just call in the NPCs and call it a day.”

I got better and better with each run, though. I also realized that Crystal Magic Weapon added a considerable buff as well, so I used that before using the Dark buff after it ran out. I wore the Lingering Dragoncrest Ring that extended the length of my spells, which meant the buff lasted nearly the whole fight. I stopped fighting him when I got too frustrated, and, indeed, I started the next DLC while still fighting Sinh. Readers, I finally slew Sinh, the Slumbering Dragon, and it was such a good feeling. I know it’s a good run when I get calm near the end of the fight and really honed in. I become like a Zen master, and usually, the end of the fight is the easiest (though tensest) part. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to finally kill a nemesis boss in a Souls game. It is the best, which is one reason I’m such a fangrrl.

Another great thing–I found something in the second DLC (The Crown of the Old Iron King, which I played third), a hidden room, that I hadn’t found before (or at least didn’t remember), and I found it by accident! A barrel guy (guy holding a barrel of oil) exploded and opened it up (which is the trick of that area–barrel guys exploding walls to show secret areas. Very frustrating, but comical). That’s one of the best thing about Souls games–there are so many secrets, you can find them even after two or three playthroughs. And, no, you cannot find them all in one playthrough, unless you’re EpicNameBro or VaatiVidya, perhaps.

Anyway, I played the third DLC second (The Crown of the Ivory King), and the Ivory King, who gave me so much trouble before, I beat in two tries by myself. I had to have help to beat him the first time I fought him, so I was surprised by how easily he went down this time. Even with my previous tank character (which is what I beat him with), he wasn’t easy. Am I just getting better? Is it repetition? Possibly. Also, I bet my taiji practice is helping. Either way, it was a good feeling.

This is running long, so I’ll finish it up next week. See you then!

 

 

 

*I haven’t done the co-op bosses in each of the DLC because fuck the optional runs. Seriously. They are the epitome of what’s wrong with DS II, but I shall get to that later.

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