Underneath my yellow skin

Praising that good sun as a SunBro, er, SunSis summon

big hat loganning it--as a pyro.
Love me, love my ridiculously big hat!

I’m still having sinus issues, which means gaming-wise, I don’t want to tackle anything new. I want the video game equivalent of mashed potatoes, which for me is Dark Souls. I know it sounds strange because Souls games are notorious for being difficult, though you’ll get some strenuous argument about that in the community. Fans who have been playing forever have forgotten how hard the first time through was and now insist that the games are challenging and not hard. Nope. They’re fucking hard. Yeah, I get the argument that it’s more a shift in your way of approaching games than an actual difficulty, but as someone who jumped into the game after only playing a handful of ‘hardcore’ games, I didn’t have any preconceived notions of how the gameplay should be.

In addition, I had never used a controller before, and now I live for Dark Souls control mappings. It wasn’t until much later when I learned that they were considered terrible and awkward. They’re now embedded in my soul, and B is forever the roll button. It’s funny because when I was switching back and forth between Dark Souls (II and then III) and Monster Hunter: World, I would be flailing with the buttons whichever way I switched. However, when I went from MHW to DS, I quickly adapted whereas it was much rougher the other way around. Dark Souls control mapping (and, the Xbox One controller is DA BOMB!!) is what is the most comfortable for me, and it probably will be as I continue to play the games.

Yesterday, I beat the first DLC with the help of some awesome human summons for both the bosses, and it warms my heart that so many people are still playing. I also got two human phantoms for the Nameless King, and one stayed with me until the end. She was great, and I think she was the one wearing the same ridiculously big hat that I was (my favorite hat by a rather large margin in the whole game. You can buy it relatively early, but I always wait until the end of the game when 10,000 souls is trivial. It’s called the Sage’s Big Hat, and it’s an homage to Big Hat Logan, a character from the original Dark Souls), and it always makes me happy to see someone else wearing it. It has a plague mask as well, and it’s amazing. It’s not my favorite set because there is no set (Black Witch Set HYPE), but I will wear the Sage’s Big Hat until the end of dawn, no matter the stats, which I’m assuming are not great for physical, but decent for elements. I’ve never looked at the stats because I was going to wear it, regardless, and I’m happy that I’ve reached the point where I can go for Fashion Souls rather than utility. The rest of the set is the Fallen Knight set, which looks like rags but in a cool way.

Weapon-wise, I was rocking the Executioner’s Greatsword +10, my favorite greatsword as a caster because it gives me FP back as I attack. I used it for all of the base game once I could wield it one-handed, but all the while with an eye on my favorite weapon in the whole game–Lorian’s Greatsword. Once I got it, I leveled up my Strength and Vitality so I could wield it one-handed and keep most of my armor. One of the best thingsĀ  about going into NG+ and beyond is being able to level up everything. This time, I focused on being a caster, so I have 30 Int and 35 Faith. I want to add at least two more to Int (for Affinity) and five more for Faith (for Sunlight Spear), but I do have the rings that give +5 to a given stat. However, my ring set is pretty, well, set. Old Witch’s Ring, Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring, Lingering Dragoncrest Ring, and one of the two rings that gives an additional attunement slot. For the bosses with nearby bonfires, I can dump the Dragoncrest rings and substitute other rings. I usually use the Sage Ring and the Farron Ring to have faster casting speed and use less FP.

wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Wintertime fun activities! In my ridiculously big hat.

Speaking of faster casting speed, I keep forgetting that it’s tied to Dexterity, which is the last stat I level up (besides Luck, of course). I’m working on that now, and it’ll mean I can try some of the weapons I don’t normally use. Speaking of weapons, I’m also rocking the Onyx Blade +5. It’s a DLC weapon, and it’s infused with dark. I love it because it’s lightweight and fast, and it looks fucking cool. Last night, I decided to mess around with the Lothric Knight Greatsword, and I bumped it up to +6. The game throws Titanite Shards and Large Titanite Shards at you like crazy once you’re past the first part of the game, and I have over 99 of each (how much you can hold on your person). Well, I did, but I sold the surplus to the Shrine Handmaid. As for Titanite Slabs, the last of the upgrades, there are six in the main game plus two you can obtain in other ways, and there are three in the first DLC. There are three in second as well, which means you can fully upgrade a shit-ton of weapons. For reference, there is ONE in the baseline game of Bloodborne and ONE in the DLC. There are less weapons overall, but still.

It’s frustrating in the beginning because as a caster, I like to upgrade my Pyromancy Flame and whatever weapon I’m using at the same time. There is a dearth of upgrade materials, so I have to make the hard decisions. This time, though, I didn’t level up my base weapon for the first few hours because I wanted to save the upgrade materials for the weapon I knew I was going to use. So, I only upgraded the initial sword I was using once (I think it was the Broadsword) and concentrated on my Pyromancy Flame. Fortunately, you can get the Executioner’s Greatsword fairly early on, and then I started upgrading that.

The Lothric Knight Greatsword in infused with lightning, so now my three main weapons are elementally-infused. I don’t think there’s a magic-infused weapon, but you can make one with one of the stones. The reason I don’t like to do that, however, is that it drops the physical damage considerable. It’s funny, however, because I don’t mind the lower physical damage of my weapons that are already elementally-infused, but it’s because you can’t miss what you don’t know is gone. I really like the crackling the lightning does when you strike.

Because I went high caster this time, my Vigor, Endurance, and Vitality are nowhere near where I want them to be. That’ll have to wait until NG+, unfortunately. Right now, I’m working on Dex in order to speed up my casting, but it takes 90,000+ souls to level up now. I also want one more attunement slot, which is six levels more. It also gives more FP, which I can get down with, but it’s not at the top of my list right now. I also need more strength, but that, too, will have to wait.

This playthrough has been a bit strange because I don’t completely remember everything the way I did when I was playing it on the regular. I don’t think I’ve played this game in at least six months, so while I remember the areas in general, I was still surprised from time to time. Don’t get me wrong. I knew probably 95% of the game. I just couldn’t remember each little offshoot the way I did when I was playing it all the time. Take, for example, the frustrating ‘platforming’ in the first DLC, and I put it in quotes because Miyazaki loves it, but it’s never very good. I couldn’t remember where to safely drop, and I died once. Grrrrr.

In addition, many of the questlines are finicky, and I couldn’t remember the exact timing. For example, poor Greirat. I don’t like sending him out to be killed, so I make him stay in Firelink Shrine after sending him out twice safely. This time, however, I sent him out the second time late (after Yhorm), and he ended up dying. It’s not a big deal in terms of buying from him because you just give his ashes to the Shrine Handmaid, and she’ll sell the stuff he has stocked.

Speaking of the Shrine Handmaid, she is a very interesting character. Apparently, she is one of the crones from the beginning of Dark Souls II (or at least looks similar), and you can increase her stock by giving her ashes you find throughout the game. She also gets boss armor after you kill them, and some NPC armor from ashes. I bought all of Karla’s armor because it’s dope. She’s a heretic languishing in a jail cell, and she’ll sell you pyromancies, spells, and miracles that are profane and/or corrupted. An interesting tidbit with the Shrine Handmaid that I only found out by either watching a video or reading about it. If you don’t talk to her the entire game, then talk to her in the Untended Graves, she’ll recognize you when you talk to her in Firelink Shrine. I mean, they didn’t need to do that, but they did.

only better if he went dragon form.
Protecting my dragon buddy!

Let’s talk about co-op. As we all know, I hate PvP. I have no patience with it, and I will kill myself in order not to give an invader the satisfaction of killing me. Or, if I’m embered up for a boss, I’ll go through the fog wall, then coiled sword fragment home. The one covenant I enjoy in this game is the SunBro covenant. It’s official name is the Warrior of the Sunlight Covenant, and it’s a callback to the original game and Solaire, everyone’s favorite SunBro. I like it because you can level up without doing PvP, and the rewards are useful for a caster. Turn in 10 Sunlight Medals, and you get Sacred Oath, a miracle that boosts your attack. Turn in 30 Sunlight Medals, and you get the miracle, Great Lightning Spear. I was aiming for the latter, which meant I needed a shit-ton of Sunlight Medals. I had three by various other methods, so I had to get twenty-seven more. During my last foray into Dark Souls III, I found a really good way to farm the medals.

Related note: The altar to offer the Sunlight Medals is right near the Dragonslayer Armour boss fight. I put down my summon sign outside that fog wall, and I got summoned to fight what is quite possibly the easiest boss for me to co-op on at that point of the game. Given that I had a +9/+10 weapon at that point, I couldn’t go to the earlier areas to be summoned. (In this game, the summoning is predicated on your weapon upgrades. Plus, I’m sure taking into consideration if you’re on NG, NG+, etc. At least that’s what I gather from what I’ve read about it.) I used the Chaos Bed Vestiges pyro with all the enhancements plus my Irithyll Straight Sword for inflicting frostbite, and the fight was easy-peasy. I have an incredibly high rate of winning this fight with other players, and it’s probably because most of the people summoning me are also longtime Souls fans if they’re still playing.

With the Sacred Oath boost and a decent host, this fight is over in five minutes. I got up to fifteen medals in a few hours. It’s a comfortable fight for me, and I think I died a total of three times out of maybe forty tries. Twice, the host wanted me (and another summon) to fight an invader, and I have a one and one record with that. As I said, I hate PvP, so I’m fine with going one and one. Once I help my host win, I put down my sign again, and rinse, lather, and repeat. I added a new wrinkle to this in that while I was waiting to be summoned (which, surprisingly, didn’t take that long most of the time), I went and killed the three Lothric Knights and the two clerics that heal/buff them. It’s a short loop, and using my Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring makes it cake to kill the first knight with two backstabs and the rest of them with the Chaos Bed Vestiges destruction. It’s a cool 15,000 or so souls per loop, and I got a ton of levels as well as my Sunlight Medals doing the loop plus the co-op. By the way, these knights can drop a Sunlight Medal themselves, which I did not know until one of them dropped one. I think I got three in this fashion. At any rate, I got my thirty–oh, I should say, you get a Sunlight Medal every time you successfully help someone beat a boss. That’s how I got the bulk of my medals, and I have the miracle I was seeking. Plus a shit-ton of levels. So many levels! I got 16,000 souls every time I helped a host beat the boss (I think? Sure. Let’s go with that), so it all quickly added up.

I love co-op. I love helping someone beat a boss. I really love co-oping with other caster phantoms. There was a stretch in which I was being summoned alongside another Warrior of Sunlight phantom (Lionel, shout-out, SunBro!) six or seven times in a row. That was really fun! I also loved helping out a host named Nergigante. I wanted to give a shout-out to my MHW bro, but there was no way to let him know that I, too, was a lover of MHW.

I’m now ready to take on the second DLC, but there are a few things I need to clean up first. I’d like to get the Eleanora and the Black Bow of Pharis (both weapons), but to do both, I have to take on very annoying and difficult enemies. The former is significantly harder than the latter, and I can cheese the latter now, but the former is the one I really want. It’s an axe, and I love axes. I want all the axes, even if I don’t use all the axes. I did not use an axe during this playthrough except for the briefest of moments (the Hand Axe), but it’ll always be the first weapon I try, probably because I started with the Hand Axe as a Pyromancer on my first run in the original Dark Souls.

I love this game. Part of my problem with playing a new game is that I always hold it to the standard of, “Would I rather be playing Dark Souls?”, and the answer is usually yes. I will want to play Souls games for the rest of my life.

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