I am going to talk more about Dark Souls III and Dark Souls Remastered, so grab your favorite beverage and settle in. Last we visited the world of Lordran, I was entering the DLC, Artorias of the Abyss, with great trepidation. You can read about it here. My first time playing this DLC, I was well-aware of how difficult and brutal it was. It’s legend, in fact, for being off-the-charts hard. People raved about how amazing it was–and how it wrecked their asses. Since I played it well after it was released, I couldn’t summon for bosses even if I wanted to–and oh, how I wanted to. Sanctuary Guardian was easy-peasy, and then I hit a major wall with Artorias. Manus wasn’t that bad, but Kalameet nearly broke me. Since then, I’ve played the DLC a few times more. SG is no biggie, Artorias has become cake, Manus was fine (because I actually could summon for him), and Kalameet continued to haunt me. I finally skipped him on NG+ with my pyro because I just couldn’t be stuffed and I couldn’t summon. All of this was in my mind when I tackled the DLC this time around.
I faced the SG with no fear in my heart. It got me the first time because I was a bit reckless (pro tip: NEVER get greedy), but I made short work of it the second time around. Another pro tip along with a *spoiler* I guess, if you can spoil a game that is seven years old. Acquiring the Rite of Kindling from slewing Pinwheel, you can kindle bonfires to give you 20 sips from your Estus Flasks. 20! To give you context, you start with 5 at most bonfires, and you can kindle to increase by five per each kindle. You have to use humanity to kindle, but there is an endless supply of humanity in the game. So, you could kindle every bonfire to 20 if you so chose. that’s basically what I did the first time I played, but this time, I only kindled Firelink Shrine (which already started with 10 because there’s a Fire Keeper* there) to 20. Then, I would warp to it, rest, and then go back to the bonfire I had been at. In this game, you can only warp to certain bonfires, but fortunately, most of the bonfires before a boss were warpable. And, in the remaster, they added a bonfire in the Catacombs right by Vamos (which pissed off the purists, but which was a good addition in my mind), so having only Firelink Shrine kindled to the max is a completely viable option.
Going through the DLC with ridiculous Endurance, a maxed-out Zwei**, and five attunement slots made pretty short work of the DLC. Of course, it helped that I’d done it several times before as well because there was nothing that took me by surprise. Well, except for the first dog on the way to Kalameet. I forgot about those fuckers. Why are dogs in Soulsborne games such fucking assholes? Stepping up to Artorias’s fog gate, I felt a frisson of tension because he owned my ass the first time we met. The last time I met him, I did him in one, but who knew how it would go this time? It went smashingly well, dear reader. I got him in one, and I merrily went on my way. Next up was Manus, and I wasn’t feeling too worried about him. Boy, I should have because he got the best of me over and over again. I really didn’t want to fight him several more times, so I decided to try the cheese of shooting him from outside the boss arena, but I was an idiot and used the wrong ring (hornet instead of hawk, which I didn’t even have), so it didn’t work. I womanned up and fought him mano-a-womano. The time I finally beat him, my use of the silver pendant was true, and he didn’t do that asshole six-move combo very many times. I think it took me maybe a dozen times to kill him, and he was by far my hardest nemesis in my playthrough. BY FAR. I will admit, I thought about summoning for more than a second, but my goddamn stubborn pride wouldn’t let me do. I hadn’t summoned for anyone up to this point during this playthrough, and I’d be damned if I did it for Manus.
I was triumphant after beating Manus, but! But! My nemesis was still waiting in the wings. Oh, Black Dragon Kalameet, how I loathe thee. I can’t tell you how many times it took for me to beat him the first time I met him. Or the second. But I can tell you (as I did earlier in this post) that I skipped him on NG+ because I just couldn’t bear to do it. So, it was with trepidation that I stepped through the fog gate, slid down the never-ending ladder, and faced him.
Side note: FromSoft loves their dragons, and they love making the dragon bosses either gimmick bosses or ridiculously hard. Kalameet falls into both categories, and it’s one reason I don’t like the dragon fights in Souls games. I’ve said before there’s a fine line between hard, but fair and flat-out bullshit. I would say Kalameet is in the latter camp, and I never enjoyed this fight. In fact, I saved him for last because of how much I was dreading the experience. I fully expected he was going to be a three-hour situation, and I was not looking forward to it at all. To my surprise, I got him down to about a third of his health left the first time, and he wasn’t nearly as hard as I remembered him. I was rocking the Giant Greatshield along with my Black Knight Greataxe +5 (the highest upgrade for Black Knight weapons) and some lighter armor, and I could block most of his attacks. I finished him off in half a dozen attempts, and it was never really that frustrating. It was a relief that I didn’t have to hunker down to beat him.
Once I was finished with the DLC, I only had clean up to do before tackling Gwyn, Lord of Cinder. Now, I’m not the kind of person to kill NPCs for their special drops before going into NG+, but I did it this time because I really wanted the unique gear, especially Big Hat Logan’s hat. I would like his whole armour set, but I wasn’t going to grind to get the monies necessary to buy out his inventory (so he would go Hollow. Then, I’d have to kill him to get his armour set), so I settled for the hat. I fought Gough to get his gear, and it looks hilarious on me because he’s so big, which my player character isn’t.
Then, I went to face Lord Gwyn, and I wasn’t sweating it at all. I’ve never had trouble with him, even though I can’t parry for shit, and it wasn’t any different this time. Humans are weak to fire, so my pyro spells made very short work of him. I beat him in one, and I decided to link the fire to get the canon ending my first time through. Then, I went through the beginning of NG+, beat the Asylum Demon the first time I saw him to get the Demon’s Great Hammer. I released myself from the solo all boss mandate I had followed in NG and summoned for the bell gargs and Capra. Right now, I’m past O&S and breezing through NG+ like it ain’t no big thing. However, I haven’t touched it in a week, and it’s because I really don’t care for the second half of the game. I don’t have the desire to go through it again, though I may finish it at some point.
My verdict on Dark Souls Remastered: I love the added zip to the graphics and the sounds. I like that summons can heal themselves with Estus now. I’m glad it got me back to my roots so I could experience the game that started my love/hate/love relationship with Souls games. I’m pleased at the realization how much better I am at playing Souls games now than I was when I was a n00b. Other than that, though, there really isn’t a reason to buy the game if you already own the Prepare to Try edition (PC).
Now, let’s talk Dark Souls III. The Ringed City. I’m internally sighing as I type this. Look, I’ve gone over my complicated feelings for this DLC, so I won’t harp on that point again. What I do want to say is that I zipped through the area after the Demon Prince in order to get to Midir as quickly as possible. I have OCD traits, and normally, I would do all the fiddly bits of the DLC, even though I’ve done it a million times before. This time, though, the only goal at this point was to beat Midir solo. Fucking Midir. Darkeater Midir. Yes, another dragon. Why does it always gotta be dragons????? A dragon with a ridiculous health pool and goddamn hyper-armour (except on his head). I knocked him off his ledge, then trooped to his actual arena. He pushed my shit in over and over again. I was using Pestilent Mist, Lightning Blade, and Lightning Arrow, spells-wise, and I started out with the Uchigatana +10 because I wanted a longer and faster weapon. Now, realize, I hadn’t used the uchi all game, so it wasn’t easy to suddenly switch. However, my best previous attempt on Midir with my tank in NG+4 was with the Washing Pole, so this was the closest thing to it I could find.
I lost to him time and time again, and the closest I got was getting him down to a quarter health. Then, in his second phase, he did that bullshit laser thing, and insta-death. I was getting more and more frustrated fighting him, and I kept switching up my gear, armour, and spells. One spell, the Lightning Arrow. I tried Lightning Stake and Great Lightning Spear on different runs. I had 35 in Faith at this point, which was what I needed for Lightning Arrow. I also had 30 in Intelligence because I needed that for Pestilent Mist. Which, by the way, used to be Pestilent Mercury, but it got nerfed because it was super-easy to use it to kill Midir. Man, I wish I had been able to get to Midir in that window, but that’s neither here nor there.
What I would normally do was drop down to Midir, then immediately use Pestilent Mist so it would hit him when he charged me. Then, I would try to block or roll when he continued to charge, using Pestilent Mist when I could. I applied Lightning Blade so I could attack Midir’s head as best I could, then more Pestilent Mist. By the way, I know you’re not supposed to fight Midir with lock-on, but I am just not talented enough to swing the camera as I’m fighting. I do break the lock-on from time to time, but I almost always fight with lock-on.
After not beating Midir many, many times, I decided that I would try to get my tank who’s in NG+5 to that point. Nice in theory, but I couldn’t get past the Demon Prince, even with the two NPC summons. Or with only one (Amnesiac Lapp). I tried half a dozen times, and I came close, but I didn’t get it done. I probably could have, but I didn’t want to keep trying, so I went back to my NG pyro/tank. I watched a video of someone beating Midir, and I noticed that he was using the Raw (or was it Heavy?) Dragonslayer’s Crescent Axe buffed with Gold Pine Resin. The DCA already does lightning damage, and I didn’t think you could buff an infused weapon. I pulled out my own DCA and realized I could use Lightning Blade on it. I upgraded it to +10 and infused it with a Heavy Gem (or Raw. Whichever isn’t the one the guy in the YouTube video used), then I went to battle Midir again.
Long story somewhat shorter, I did it. I actually beat Midir solo. On the winning run, everything went my way. A tail slash that should have hit me, but didn’t. Very few fire breath attacks, and the ones he did employ, I blocked with my shield.*** More importantly, in the second phase, he didn’t do his goddamn laser attack once. I think it’s partly because I was more aggressive in this fight, trying to stay as close to him as possible, especially during the second phase. Whatever the reason, I was so grateful he didn’t do that attack because I cannot avoid it, no matter what tactic I try. When I’m fighting a boss, I don’t really pay attention to the health bar of the boss beyond glancing every now and again to ensure it’s actually going down. This time, I glanced near the end of the fight and saw that I was four hits away. Then three. Then two. Then one. I wasn’t consciously paying attention, but I had it in the corner of my eye. I will say I used Pestilent Mist very liberally during the winning run, and I used it at the end. That’s why I could see his health constantly ticking down near the end because Pestilent Mist is a persistent attack. Funnily enough, he died from it and not from me attacking him. I didn’t care, only that I watched his health tick down to zero. I also get really quiet when I’m nearing the end of a fight because I’m concentrating so hard. Once the deed is done, I explode into a jubilant curse-fest that would make a sailor blush.
I can’t describe how shocked, relieved, amazed, proud, and, yes, ecstatic I was when I finally got the HEIR OF FIRE DESTROYED message. I actually had tears in my eyes as Midir evaporated into dust. My heart was pounding, and I couldn’t believe I had beaten Midir. I know it sounds silly and stupid because it’s just a video game, but I was exhilarated in a way I haven’t been while playing a video game in quite some time. It was such a high, and I uninstalled Dark Souls III a few minutes later. I was finally ready to let this one go–at least for now.
*If there is a Fire Keeper at a bonfire, you get an additional 5 sips. Which is cool.
**Remember not to @me about what a NOOB I am for using the Zwei.
***Black Knight Shield. By far the best overall shield for this fight.