Imagine being dropped into a world full of unknown and inexplicable monstrosity, how long will you survive, how hard will you fight, how frequently will you get lucky? My Dark Souls II journey started exactly the same way as anybody else’s, but this game had a different plot written out especially for ME. All those ruthless dog killings in The Lost Bastille, the tri-party thrashing of the enormously armour heavy Smelter Dragon, and all those little moments of exploration was gone in a flash. That’s right; a Mage’s irreversible journey to the ancient undead kingdom of Drangleic was challenged with the loss of valuable save game data, thanks to a file corruption error on my PlayStation 3. Some lose souls, while others lose their whole journey. I was edging towards the last quarter of the game when this happened. Like in those PVP fights in Dark Souls II, the consequence had an effect on me, a bleeding effect that was slowly poisoning my mind and will to go back. With my head hung low, I thought about it, once, twice, and then I figured out what the game plotted for me. Like every noob stepping into the dark corridors of Drangleic, I committed mistakes in my first run, consumed too many effigies, upgraded a weaker sword for nothing, and failed miserably in reading the enemy’s next move.
Perhaps you’ve seen it. Maybe in a dream. A murky forgotten land. A place where souls may mend your ailing mind.
With my entire PS3 wiped clean of data, I thought of dedicating my time and life to one title, and one title only this time – Dark Souls II. Listening to the Dark Souls II E3 theme song raised hopes in me; “Again and again I come back” said Nitzer Ebb’s lyrics. Starting off in Things Betwixt, I followed the same style as my first run, a Sorcerer with a kitchen knife-like dagger. Cutting through the initial horde of hollows, I walk up to Majula, and meet the Emerald Herald who tells me who I was. Perhaps I have seen this, maybe like a dream. And I followed the shadow of my previous run, discovering The Forest of the Fallen Giants, taking down the soldiers who would kill me with ease previously. Pushing myself up at the fallen Cardinal Tower, kindling the bonfire and making my presence known to all. Sometimes you don’t instantly get what you want; my second homecoming was indeed fated for greatness. Dark Souls II has a fantastically absurd world to deliver, though it may not link up like Lordran’s from Dark Souls, but it has its deep edge separating from other games of this year. The process of self realisation and learning helps, and it helps even more especially if you are traversing Drangleic for the second time.
The Heide Knight was not that difficult to take down this time, as I kept a watch over the archer on the top. And as soon as I was done with these two, it was time for that piece of hollow that would play dead by lying on the ground. Even though I had an appetite for cursing the hell out of my PS3, I think it righteously gave me a second chance, with a better understanding of the world around me. I picked up the Heide weapon from the ground, and after a couple of initial skill ups based on strength, I was able to use it with full authority. Dark Souls II may not be as punishing as Dark Souls, but even then, the consequences can burn you to ashes. I’m speaking of consuming a human effigy every time you are in front of a fog wall, summoning phantoms and sadly dying at the hands of the boss inside. If you prefer playing as a Hollow throughout your journey, you may want to look at the Ring of Binding. Found just outside the Dragonslayer arena, the Ring of Binding keeps your HP at 70% of its potential, even though you are hollow and you’re dying every second. If you progress further into the world, you will come across the No Man’s Wharf and Huntsman’s Copse, yes its Copse and not ‘Corpse.’ When you go up the first stairs in No Man’s Wharf, strafe left and enter the room killing the Varangian Hollow and smashing the cupboard. You will find your best bud throughout your Dark Souls II journey lying there for you – The Ring of Life Protection. The Ring of Life Protection is just like the Souls rings from the previous editions that break when you die but keeps your human form and your souls count. The ring can be mended anytime for just 3000 souls. These two rings, when used wisely, can easily keep you ahead of the curve, of course both require you to perform exceptionally well.
I hated visiting the Darkroot Forest without my Cat Covenant Ring in Dark Souls, that’s because the keepers (other players) would invade my world and slay me eventually. In Dark Souls II, you’ve got a truck full of online gangsters waiting for you at Belfry Sol and Belfry Luna. These two towers were once raised to protect the Queen, and online players who are a part of the Bell Keeper Covenant can invade your game while you strafe into their territories, cutting you into halves and doing the poser gesture. Even though Belfry Sol is meant for PVP sessions, and one can easily avoid that area, Belfry Luna has the optional Bell Gargoyles that you should take down for a good shot of souls. To discover Belfry Luna, you must go down the ladder at the Servant’s Quarters in The Lost Bastille and use your Pharros Lockstone to discover the hidden door.
By my second run, I almost knew what I was going to upgrade. After reaching a 30 mark in my strength, I stopped raising it (I was good with my Lightning Zweihander and Tower Shield), and turned my attention towards Faith and Magic instead. There are some magic spells that ask for an enormous qualification of rank 64 (Soul Geyser), while the most effective spells (like the Magic Greatsword and the Magic Shield, useful for PVP) can be used after you cross the 35th mark. Faith increases your Lightning, Healing, Hex and Resistances attribute, and it is vitally important to be upgraded if You Praise The Sun. Magic is ineffective against certain enemies, like the keepers in Earthen Peak, so your faith based offense comes into play, namely Lightning Spear and Emit Force. Even though Harvest Valley gets my vote of being the toughest area after you-know-that – Gutter, it is the ideal place to farm for souls. The Hex emitting mammoths are often inside enclosures and the fatty can be easily backstabbed for titanite shards. I was so much aquainted with the area that I knew how to win cheap with the fatty, kill all the fatties inside the room towards Earthen Peak and just knock the one on top. Come down and wait for him to follow you, wait in front of the pots and he will throw his body over the pots, smashing it and getting poisoned, from here you need to just dance. The Harvest Valley is also the place for all you Sun Bros, and trust me, the Heirs of the Sun is easily the most satisfying covenant till date. Every time a world master comes as a phantom, you receive a Sun Medal, that can be exchanged for rank and gear from the statue, and if you pair up with a Sun Bro, you get double the medals. This covenant is especially designed for Co-Op players and I believe in helping, not invading.
The Shrine of Amana has to be the most threatening terrain in Dark Souls II, and if you go without knowledge, you can only die. From the trolls you meet in Things Betwixt to Sorcerers with Homing Spells to camouflaged lizard-men. And did I forget telling you that you can simply walk into a hole in the ocean and die instantly? Definitely the worst place to go to, but if you are using a Boss Weapon, you will find your Dragon Charms and other utilities there. This, along with the Memories of the Giants, were the only places that I did not visit in my previous run. And boy, what wonders it did to my run.
Like most of the people would say, Dark Souls is definitely not for everybody, because if you don’t die by the fire you will perish under the ocean. But for a guy who has a day job and other responsibilities by night, I am still hooked to what Drangleic can offer. Beating the game for the first time, it didn’t take long for me to start my NG+ and trust me when I say this, Dark Souls II will allure you perhaps a thousand times, and even though you will fail and die, the world will ask you to be its slave. Put aside your weekend gigs, your random hikes, and for once and all chase your sanity till the end of Drangleic, because it’s not just worth it, it’s fate. Dark Souls II will teach you the ways, but you must be prepared to die a lot, and definitely suck in your first stint in Drangleic.
Until then, Praise the Sun.