Ed. Note: This is part two of my review of the Dark Souls III DLC, The Ringed City. There will be spoilers, so if you plan on playing it and don’t want to be spoiled, turn away now. Here’s part one.
After the Mausoleum Lookout, I wandered around and ran into these weird clerics who looked like turtles. I just looked them up, and apparently they’re the Turtle Clerics. They do these weird AoE spells that heals their buddies and takes massive chunks of your health. They’re fairly easy to kill with fire and/or if you flip them on their back. They’re annoying, though, because their miracles track you, so you have to keep moving. I also ran into some ringwraiths! Not really, but they’re Darkwraiths with their orange darksigns very visible on their chests. They’re officially called the Ringed Knights, but come on. They’re ringwraiths. By the way, am I the only one who find the Nazgul to be cute? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
I found my favorite armor set from Dark Souls II in this area, the Black Witch Set. It’s a set worn by the witch, Zullie, who was an outcast. It always amused me that the set is called the Black Witch Set when it’s actually purple, but I recently figured out that SHE’S the black witch, not that the set is black. Black meaning outcast, not the color. She first was mentioned in DS II, along with Alva the Wayfarer. At first sworn enemies, they became trusted compatriots. In Dark Souls III, he shows up as Alva, Seeker of the Spurned and invades you, which implies that they were separated at some point. He’s guarding Zullie’s set, which seems to imply that they were reunited at some later point. I also found the Black Witch Veil, which is what she wore while travleling to disguise that she’s a witch. I love the whole set, and it has decent defense stats for such light armor.
There’s a huge swamp in this area because of course there is, and there’s another Judicator Giant patrolling it because of course there is, and I stealthed my way throughout it because I just didn’t give a shit at that point. I wasn’t enjoying the game at all, and I just wanted to finish it. I hadn’t felt that way about playing a Souls game since the DLC from DS II, and I didn’t like it at all. I made my way to the second boss, and there was yet another dragon flaming up a bridge that I had to run over, and I felt nothing but impatience. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. All the set pieces of a Souls game that I normally find charming or that at least elicit a smile just made me roll my eyes. Another catacombs area that has a breaking floor when you chase a crystal lizard? Oh, please. I will admit when I followed Lapp’s questline and watched it morph into Patches’ questline, that was pretty damn satisfying. When he kicked me down the hole again, I just had to laugh and admire that Patches is Patches no matter what. That’s one standard of the games I really enjoy.
The second boss. Oh, the second boss. I found the coolest new weapon right before the second boss, the Ringed Knight Paired Greatswords, dropped by, you got it, a ringwraith. I can’t use it with my caster because you need 40 strength to wield it, but I love using it with my tank. It’s a dual wield weapon, so it’s best not to use a shield with it, which is not how I play at all, tank or no tank. I will say I love trying out all the strength weapons as a tank because I can’t wield them as a caster, not ever dual-wield, and they’re fun to play with.
Back to the second boss which is my most hated boss in the whole game, and it’s not even close. I cannot tell you how much I loathe this boss, but I’m certainly going to try. Halflight, Spear of the Church. I want to punch this boss in the face repeatedly, and I curse the fact that it was imagined into being. Why? Because it takes what I hate the most about the Souls game and shoves it into an important boss fight. This is not an optional boss or I would never fight him. Ever. This boss fight starts with Judicator Argo (another Judicator Giant) warning you not to enter. I pushed open the doors, of course, and there’s Judicator Argo. He’s not doing anything, and you can try to kill him, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t matter. He summons up a Painting Guardian, but a souped up version, who is fast, furious, and can heal the boss. I found it best to kill her first if possible, but sometimes, Judicator Argo will summon another one. I don’t know if it’s based on time or RNG or what, but it’s fucking infuriating.
OK. Enough stalling. The boss. It’s a trick boss of a sort, and the trick is that if you’re online, Judicator Argo summons a player to be the boss a la the Old Monk from Demon’s Souls and the Looking Glass Knight from Dark Souls II*. If you’ve read any of my Souls posts, you’ll know that I hate, hate, HATE PvP in the Souls games, especially as a caster. I’ve intentionally killed myself after an invasion just so I don’t have to deal with it. I was recently playing the original Souls as a caster on NG+, romping merrily through the Tomb of the Giants.** I was just doing my thing when I got invaded. Seriously? Someone is camping out in the Tomb of the Lords on NG+ just to fuck with people six years after the game was released? That’s another thing I hate about invasions, by the way. People do it in the worst places possible, just to be ultimate dicks. Anyway, I jumped off a cliff so I wouldn’t have to deal with them and continued on. About twenty minutes later, I used another humanity to become human on the very small chance that I could summon someone for the boss. Incredibly, I got invaded by the same guy. There’s a cooldown period between invasions, and he must have been trying the whole time until he was able to invade me again. I immediately killed myself again because I wasn’t dealing with that shit. There’s an even worse invasion thing in the first game that also happened to me during this playthrough. It’s part of the Gravelord Servant covenant, in which they hijack your world and place harder enemies in it. It happened to me in the Oolacile Township, and the way to end it is to find the sign of the Gravelord Servant, invade their world, find them, and kill them. Or, you can wait ten minutes and it’ll naturally go away. If you rest at a bonfire or die, the timer resets. If you go offline, the effect still stays. That is utter bullshit.
Another thing I do is ignore the invasion and keep on moving because the invader doesn’t always spawn near you, depending on what kind of invasion it is. In this game, I’m part of the covenant that immediately summons a Blue Sentinel to help you if there’s one available, and I’ve watched from afar the health bar of my Blue Sentinel go up or down without seeing any of the action. That’s amusing, but I still wish the invasion system didn’t exist. I hated the Looking Glass Knight fight in DS II and intentionally played it offline so he couldn’t summon players. You can fucking imagine how I felt about this fight.
I tried it once as my NG caster and got immediately destroyed. I decided I didn’t give a shit about doing this one solo, and I called in a two phantoms to help me. Even then, it wasn’t easy, and I got so infuriated once, I screamed at the game. That’s not like me at all. I’ll curse, yes, but I rarely actually yell at the game. I also slammed my fist into the desk, which I immediately regretted. Here’s the problem with PvP as a caster–casting takes time. Any human being can see most of the spells come at them and simply roll away from them. So, my assets are useless in this boss fight except against really bad PvP players. In addition, an experienced PvP player knows to ignore the phantoms and run directly for the player–in this case, me. It’s a very effective way to fight this fight, and it’s nearly impossible for me to win. I beat this boss after several tries with summons as my NG caster, and I have never hated a Souls game more than I did at that moment. This boss fight alone may keep me from ever playing this DLC again. Oh, I forgot to mention that the player summoned can use two spells automatically as a Spear of the Church, one that shoots out homing knives at you, and the other sends a row of spears bursting up from the ground. Neither costs any FP, which is utter bullshit.
I will say that as my NG++ tank, I did this boss in two against a player. The first time, I would have won, but the player summoned had healing miracles, which is the only way they could have healed themselves. I don’t think it’s fair that they can heal themselves during the boss fight AND have minions who can heal them as well. At any rate, I destroyed the boss the second time, but I didn’t feel euphoric as I normally would–I just felt glad that it was over. And a touch of vindictive pride that I won with my tank. I’m much better in PvP as a tank than as a caster.
I understand that many Souls players love the PvP aspect of the games. I’ve accepted that invading is a part of the game, even though I loathe it. I do draw the line at making it an actual part of the game that you have to beat in order to advance. Look, if it were an optional boss, I wouldn’t be as pissed about it, but it really felt like pandering, even though supposedly the Old Monk is one of Miyazaki’s favorite bosses. Here is one of my biggest gripes about this DLC, and I had the same complaint about the DS II DLC: They are love letters to the hardcore Souls players, the ones who beat the bosses in one or two tries on their first playthrough and then go on to do naked ‘onebro’ punch-only no-hit runs. I knew ten minutes into this DLC that it wasn’t for me, and it made me feel ineffably sad. I love Dark Souls so much, but it doesn’t love me back. This series is not meant for me, and the fact that I’ve beaten all three games plus all the DLCs is a testament to my stubbornness.
Around this time, I went on vacation to visit Ian in upstate NY, and I was planning on finishing the DLC on my laptop. What I didn’t know, though, was for whatever unfathomable reason, FromSoft didn’t enable the Steam cloud sync, so I couldn’t play my saved games on my laptop. That’s utter bullshit, by the way. The original game is on cloud sync, so why not this one? I started a new game, and I was struck by how relaxed I was as I was playing in comparison to the DLC. I told Ian playing the vanilla game of DS III is my way of chilling out. Yes, I’ve become that Souls player. “I play Souls to relax. Doesn’t everybody?” Anyway, while I was hanging out in NY, I would periodically think about the DLC, and it was never, “Oh, I can’t wait to get home to finish it!” It was more, “I have finish this just because. Sigh.” It felt like a chore, which isn’t what I want from a video game.
I also realized while I was away from the grind that who the hell am I trying to impress while playing the game? I got it into my head that the ‘right’ way to play the Souls game is to not look anything up and to beat every boss solo, optional or not, on your first playthrough. There’s also the edict that you play melee first time through, but that one never took because I’m a caster through and through. The other two, however, I accepted as the standard, even though it’s totally arbitrary. The first one I understand to a certain extent because part of the joy of Souls games is to explore and find the secrets on your own. However, during this DLC, I was so frustrated, I had no qualms with looking shit up after failing on my own several times. I think that’s the balance point for me–I want to explore on my own, but if I get frustrated to the point where I’m going to quit the game, then I’m going to look shit up. I think that’s a fine compromise, and the Souls community is aces at finding shit. After I beat the game, I watched a Vaatividya video on how he spent eight hours trying to figure out a particular secret because he had it pre-release, and he couldn’t look it up. He finally figured it out, but I would have given up after an hour or so.
As for the solo thing, I really had internalized that, but the first time I played the DLCs for DS II, I summoned for every goddamn boss. I didn’t feel good about it, but I did it. I went back and beat most of the bosses solo with my tank, but it wasn’t my first playthrough, so it doesn’t count, right? For this DLC, I knew I couldn’t beat the bosses I’d met so far solo with my utility caster. With my NG++ caster? Maybe, but did I want to do the DLC yet again with her? Turns out, I did, but that’ll have to wait until part three of this review. See you then!
*This isn’t exactly the same because the boss isn’t a player, but he can summon a player to help him as a minion.
**By merrily, I mean gritting my teeth and soldiering through. I hate the Tomb of the Giants, no matter how many times I traverse it.