Monday December 23, 2019
An Early Grave
“Sen’s Fortress is an old proving ground built by the ancient gods. It is the only route leading to great Anor Londo. Of course, most fools can’t even find their way into that fortified death trap…”
Andre of Astora
Abracadaniel has a busy day ahead of him today – I want to tackle Sen’s Fortress, and then take care of some small errands before we push onward. Little did I know that, while playing for this day, I made a costly mistake that almost made me scrap this game file entirely. Thankfully, we saved ourselves, but I created a giant nightmare for something that wasn’t entirely necessary. Honestly this is pretty on brand for my life anyway: making things harder than they needed to be. Well, let’s crack on.
The beginning of the Fortress isn’t too bad – just keep an eye on the ground for the trap pressure plates, avoid the swinging scythes that will knock you off the narrow bridges, and don’t get killed by the giant Serpent men (which are one of the tankier enemies in the game). Easy, right? The first real hazard comes with the Indiana Jones-style rolling boulder of doom – just wait until it rolls by, then sprint up the stairs and duck into the doorway on your left. Before we go in however, I want to actually roll off the right side of the stairs, as a friend of ours is stuck here in a bit of a pickle…
No worries Onion Bro! We can take care of that annoying boulder for you. Now, we can head back up the stairs and into that doorway – past the Serpent man, and the arrow trap. From here, we have another harrowing dash up a flight of stairs, trying to avoid getting crushed by this boulder that has mysteriously changed directions. From this room, we can see the mechanism that is dictating the direction of the boulder. We can move the lever to manipulate it – and there’s a couple things we need it to do.
First, we want to aim it downward towards a seemingly dead end – we passed this wall earlier on in the Fortress. The boulder will break through the wall (killing a napping Serpent man in the process) and open a new area for us to explore. I switch the direction back to the flight of stairs (its original position) and head downward. We’re in a room with a bunch of hanging cages – the prisoners of the Serpent men. Most are rotting corpses, but one is very much alive…
It’s Big Hat Logan! Wonder why they call him that? Using our Master Key, we can free him immediately – normally, you would have to push further to find the Cage Key, then return later, but we don’t have to worry about that. Logan says he’ll return to Firelink, so we can keep exploring and catch up with him later. We want to get back to the boulder mechanism and change its direction again, so we can safely search down the flight of stairs. At the bottom of these (now safe) stairs is a room with a single chest inside.
Seems a little suspicious, no? Congratulations, Abracadaniel – you’ve found the first Mimic. From this point on, we’ll have to be more wary of the chests we open. You can tell the Mimic’s apart, because the chain on the right side of the chest is different than the regular ones. If we tried to open this, we’d be eaten and killed immediately. Instead, we attack first.
Mimics are scary looking, and make a sound that’s creepy as shit. But they aren’t too hard to deal with, and their attacks are very telegraphed. We kill the Mimic, and are rewarded with a Lightning Spear. From here, we can see that the boulder has busted through another wall, and opened a secret area for us. One of the best rings in the game is hidden here – it’s the Covetous Gold Serpent Ring.
This greatly boosts our item discovery stat, and is invaluable for farming. Now we can head back up, and continue through the Fortress – there’s a convenient lift nearby. Just make sure you get off before it runs you into the spikes at the very top. In case all the blood wasn’t enough to clue you in.
We’re nearly through at this point – we just need to traverse a couple more narrow bridges, dodge the scythes, and deal with a couple more of our Serpentine friends.
There’s one final pressure plate/arrow trap before we make it outside. We’re almost home free! At this point, we sprint across the open areas and up the stairs, because there is a giant chucking massive firebombs that we want to avoid. On the second upper section, there is a small gap in the fencing that we can roll off – don’t worry, you’re not propelling yourself off the top of the Fortress. Just below is the only bonfire for this area.
I rest because I have no Estus left, then continue onward. I really want to unlock the shortcut here – it’s a cage elevator that gives us a direct route to and from the top of the Fortress. We can easily make it back to the Undead Parish once we activate it. Our Master Key won’t work on this however, so we’ll need something else. To get the Cage Key, we’ll have to jump a gap in the upper ramparts – if you miss and fall, it won’t kill you, but it is frustrating. Thankfully, we make it first try. There is a merchant here that sells good armor, and Titanite shards. We pass him and head down the tower, to kill the Serpent Mage guarding our key. Huzzah!
This is the key we would need to take back to free Logan, had we not started with the Master Key. With this baby, we can unlock the cage elevators, and head back to the Undead Parish, and Firelink Shrine to chat with the enigmatic mage.
It’s at this point (now that I have the Gold Serpent Ring) that I want to farm for some Blue Titanite Chunks to upgrade my Enchanted Longsword. They drop from the Blue Crystal Golems, and they’re in an area called Darkroot Basin (below the Garden section). I can get there by running through the Undead Burg, to the Watchtower where we fought Havel, and exiting through the very bottom.
Before I start farming these Golems, there is another mini-boss that I have to deal with. It’s the Hydra. This thing is a pain in the ass. It’s awkward to hit from range, so you have to be right in its face, at the edge of the lake – don’t go too far forward though, as there is a drop off, and you will die immediately. Wait for all the Hydra heads to strike at you (keep that shield up) then start swinging. You can either chop all the heads off (good thing this isn’t Hercules) or deplete its health – whichever comes first.
There’s actually an NPC we can meet in this area – we just need to free her first. If we circle around the lake with the Hydra (taking care to hug the cliffs to the left, so we don’t fall and die) there is a small, flooded section, where a Golden Golem is hiding. Our Rusted Iron Ring is going to help, once again. When we kill this Golem, a woman falls out. Go figure.
This is Dusk of Oolacile. She sells some really useful spells, and her set (which we can find) is important to us, as a magic user. Her crown in particular will amp up our power significantly. She disappears, but tells us to summon her later, so let’s do that.
We can now run back to where we first encountered Dusk, to find her set on a corpse in the water. We’ll slap her crown on (Crown of Dusk) immediately. Abracadaniel looks beautiful. This crown boosts the power of sorceries, but compromises our Magical defense stat. This is fine for now.
There is a Black Knight guarding a bonfire nearby – I kill him, light the bonfire, and rest to respawn the Blue Golems. Then I start up my (metaphorical) tractor and get to farming. Though the drop rate is fairly low, it doesn’t take too long to get the 10 chunks that I need. I get one or two on each run, and it only takes about half an hour. I think I just got really lucky.
We can now upgrade our Enchanted Longsword to +4 – almost maxed out. We need a Blue Titanite Slab to get it to +5 though, and we don’t have access to that just yet. It’s at this point that I have the brilliant idea to head into the Catacombs early. If we can defeat Pinwheel, the boss for that area, we can get the Rite of Kindling early. The Rite of Kindling allows you to kindle bonfires to higher levels – granting you a maximum of 20 Estus. I know Ornstein and Smough in Anor Londo is on the horizon, and I don’t know how that’s going to go as a wizard. I might need the extra healing. I decide to go for it. I pass by the Primordial Serpent, Frampt, who has appeared in Firelink (I don’t speak to him – this is important) and hoon it down into the Catacombs.
Here’s the issue: the skeletons in the Catacombs respawn endlessly unless you do one of two things: a) kill them with a divine weapon or b) kill the Necromancer in the immediate area that is reviving them. Abracadaniel has terrible Strength and Dexterity, so if I made a divine weapon, it would be doing really pitiful damage. I decide to go the route of rushing the Necromancers. How bad could it be, right? I manage to kill the first one (he’s right beside the first bonfire, conveniently) so I can rest, and activate the switch.
In the next area, I rush the necromancer again, but get killed by a group of skeletons. I pretty much rinse and repeat this process, taking care of the Necromancers in this area. I have to activate another switch to flip the bridge and make it passable before moving on.
I’m going for the shortcut through the Catacombs, to make my life easier. The idea is to drop down (this drop eliminates, like, 60% of the Catacombs) to the blacksmith, Vamos, kill the boss, and then use a Homeward Bone to get all the way back up to the entrance. It makes the whole area pretty painless. But here’s where I make a huge mistake and screw myself. I partly blame the designers of the Remastered version of the game.
I get to Vamos no problem, when I notice that a bonfire (not there in the original Dark Souls) has been added to his smithy. Isn’t that great? I think to myself. Without another thought, I light it, and rest. About 3 seconds later, I realize my mistake. Now that I’ve rested here, upon death (and Homeward Bone) I’ll be teleported to this bonfire. I’ve trapped myself in the depths of the Catacombs. Fuuuuuuck.
I’m now stuck in a pit with the Bonewheel Skeletons (the literal most annoying enemy in the game) with no easy way back up to the surface. There are several Necromancers still alive. Abracadaniel is up shit creek without a canoe, let alone a paddle. Tune in next time to see if we can get ourselves out of this mess! Spoiler alert: we can, but almost at the cost of my sanity…