Wednesday February 5, 2020
A Dark Soul with a Heart of Gold
“Soul of Gwyn, Lord of Sunlight and Cinder, who linked the First Flame. Lord Gwyn bequeathed most of his power to the Gods, and burned as cinder for the First Flame, but even so, Lord Gwyn’s Soul is a powerful thing indeed.”
Soul of Gwyn, Lord of Cinder
Here we are, at the end of days, tying up loose ends before confronting Lord Gwyn. I want to say goodbye to some NPC’s (in a few cases by murdering them) and finish off some events that I missed earlier. We’re going to head back to the Northern Undead Asylum first, to fight an optional boss that I skipped.
In the main room where we fought the Asylum Demon (seems so long ago, doesn’t it?) there is a section of floor that will collapse as soon as you walk on it. This plunges us down into a pit area, where yet another version of the Asylum Demon awaits. This one is called the Stray Demon, and is significantly more challenging than its brethren.
We want to be mashing the roll button as soon as we fall, so we can roll as soon as we hit the ground. This boss has a bunch of Magic AOE attacks (similar to the Firesage version) that we don’t want to catch. I want to sprint around behind it as soon as possible, then start firing my Soul Spears. At my current level, it’s not much of a challenge – it goes down very quickly, because of my high damage output. We’re rewarded with a Titanite Slab.
That’s…pretty much it. There’s only one more thing I want to do in this area before leaving. Since we’ve completed the DLC, we have the Soul of Manus. I haven’t really done anything with the boss souls in this playthrough, but we’ll use this one. There are actually two uses for Manus’ Soul: we can get the Giant blacksmith in Anor Londo to craft it into a catalyst, or trade it to the crow here at the Asylum for a spell. In a weird twist of luck, I actually helped someone (Sunbros for life!) defeat Kalameet in the DLC, and they dropped the Manus Catalyst for me! I hadn’t planned on crafting the catalyst anyway, but now we have the lore on both. It’s probably not appropriate to put the person’s username here, so I won’t, but thank you random summoner!
So I trade the Soul of Manus for the Pursuers spell, then trade another item – the Sunlight Maggot. In return, we’re given the Old Witch’s Ring. The Old Witch’s Ring (presumably) belonged to the Witch of Izaltih, and it allows us to communicate with the Fair Lady, aka, Quelaag’s sister. Normally when you speak to her, you only get “…?” but now, we can understand her.
Her story is actually extremely depressing. According to Eingyi (the nearby egg boi) she’s extremely weak, near dead, because she tried to help the residents of Blighttown. Moved by their terrible state, she tried to swallow the blight pus (whatever this means/entails, I’m not quite sure, but it sounds disgusting) which helped the denizens, but nearly killed the Fair Lady. I believe her egg sacs contain the remnants of the pus, as well as the tiny sprites of Humanity that she generates, due to her status as a Fire Keeper.
She thinks we’re Quelaag, the only person who watched over, helped, and took care of her to ease her suffering. But we actually murdered Quelaag and now she’s all alone forever. Another feel-good Dark Souls tale! Lovely.
I’ve also neglected to go back to the Painted World to deal with the invader, Xanthous King Jeremiah, who beat my ass the first time we fought. Well, now that I’m overpowered as hell, we’ll see how this goes.
My spells still do ridiculously low damage (he has insanely high Magic defense), but enough to take him out this time. Now, I can get his incredible outfit!
Another NPC that I’ve unfortunately neglected is Griggs. Poor Griggs is still in Firelink, wanting to go out and search for Logan. Normally, once you purchase all his spells, he’ll head out, and go hollow in Sen’s Fortress, where you can find and kill him. However, I think I’ve left it too late – I buy all his spells, but he won’t leave Firelink. Ugh. I’ll have to kill him here… sorry buddy. At least I can show him some of Logan’s Crystal sorceries? I’m sure he’d love that.
Griggs drops some really interesting stuff – it implies that he may have been a spy, sent by the Vinheim Dragon School, to keep an eye on Logan. To what end, we can’t necessarily be sure, but maybe he wasn’t as upstanding as he seemed… Speaking of unsavory types, it’s time to go see our friend Patches!
It’s time to kill this weasel. Rest in pieces, tightwad! I like to start antagonizing Patches by kicking him with the Orange Charred Ring equipped, because your kick does Fire damage; I like to think this reminds our friend of that one time he kicked us down a goddamn hole.
I say my final goodbye to Laurentius – I’m not going to finish his quest, because it ends with his death, and I don’t want that to happen. So I simply speak to him once more, then leave.
We could actually go down to New Londo and get Ingward, the sealer in the Crimson Robes, up to Firelink Shrine. This is something that few players know or experience, but there is a zero percent chance of Abracadaniel going back down to New Londo, so sorry Ingward. Probably the exact reason no one sees him in Firelink (he’ll leave again for New Londo anyway). So let’s go feed the Lordvessel, shall we?
Once the Lordvessel is satiated with all the Lord Souls we collected, the gates to the Kiln of the First Flame are open. We get to walk down an imposing staircase, while the ghostly figures of Silver Knights pass by. It’s a really cool moment – it conveys the tone, and the history of this area. These are the knights that followed Lord Gwyn to Link the Flame – just echoes now. Be careful, as you can actually fall off the edge of these stairs and die.
I love the appearance of the Kiln. I love the ruined-looking, charred pillars, and the ash coating the ground. The bowl-like shape of the area gives off the feeling that a massive, fiery explosion has emanated out from the center – that’s where the First Flame lies, and that’s where we’ll find Gwyn.
This is a popular area for PVP, so it’s likely you’ll be invaded if you’re human. Otherwise, it’s a fairly linear path past the Black Knights (Silver Knights charred in the flames) to the center of the Kiln. You can pick up the Black Knight armor in this area, and grind the knights for their weapons and shield – they also drop Titanite Chunks (of every colour) upon death. I grind for my favourite – the Black Knight Shield – before returning to the Lordvessel (which automatically gives 20 Estus, by the way).
I also wanted to show you guys a really cool, fairly rare sight – I spotted a Vagrant in the Kiln on my way to fight Gwyn! I believe a Vagrant spawns when someone with a lot of souls/humanity was killed in another world (from PVP). Maybe? They’re little crab-like creatures – this is only the second one I’ve ever seen. The other was in the Undead Parish.
Sorry the shots aren’t great but I had a Black Knight breathing down my neck. But anyway, I want to make sure my hollowing is reversed before I fight Gwyn because… What’s this? A golden summon signature? \[T]/
It’s Solaire! Praise the Sun! Our Warrior of Sunlight made it out of Izalith, and is ready to take on Gwyn! I won’t summon him, but I’m extremely glad to know that he’s made it here in his own world. That’s given me the heart I need to finish this game. At the bottom of the sweeping staircase is the final fog gate.
Gwyn, the Lord of Cinder, is a hard fight – don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. He’s very fast, and very aggressive, making healing difficult when you’re in a pinch. His boss fight also has the best OST in the game – the melancholy piano sets the mood perfectly for the gravity of the moment. His flaming greatsword does both physical and Fire damage, so a high-stability, fire-resistant shield (like the Black Knight one!) will help a lot. Also crucial to note: Gwyn is the only boss in the entirety of the game that you can parry. Hopefully you’ve been practicing!
My first playthrough of this game left me really stumped here. I hadn’t practiced parrying at all (why bother when you have backstabs? Gwyn. Gwyn is why you bother) and his aggressive, relentless attacks were a lot to handle. You can cheese him a bit on the rocks in the arena, but this isn’t very reliable. I ended up practicing on the Black Knights in the Kiln for hours before I felt confident enough to take on Gwyn. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then.
While I know that my Magic does a lot of damage, and would end this quickly, I want to do this fight both ways – with spells, and melee. So I parry Gwyn’s terrifying, leaping strike (he usually opens with this) and then switch to spells. I simply have to dodge his sword, and watch for his grab and kick attacks. I die a couple times trying to get some cool screenshots, but eventually, I finish off the Lord of Cinder with a good old fashioned parry. I hope Solaire was successful in his world as well.
Gwyn’s death is quite sad. He’s a fascinating figure, and the game builds him up so well.
Now, we have a critical choice to make: we can link the First Flame again, becoming cinder ourselves, to prolong the Age of Fire – and the Gods – once more. Or, we can walk away from it all – accept the fading of the flame, and begin the Age of Dark – the age of man. Neither are wholly good choices – one seems to push off the inevitable, a futile gesture. While the other ushers in an age of the unknown – for better, or worse, it’s unclear.
I think the way we’ve played this file, especially interacting with Kaathe, we’re already leaning more toward the Dark. So let’s embrace the Dark, place our hope in man, and leave the flames to die. Can you imagine a more fitting Lord of Dark than our Abracadaniel? I think not.
We initiate this ending by walking out of the boss arena (not lighting the bonfire), triggering the cutscene where we’re greeted by the Primordial Serpents, welcoming us as the new Lord of Dark. Frampt seems to be cool with us again.
And there we have it. Dark Souls complete! This run was surprisingly fun, and I enjoyed being a wizard a lot more than I thought I would. Some aspects felt waaay easier than playing as a melee character, while others felt a lot harder. I would definitely do this type of build again – and I’d love to try a mixed Strength/Intelligence, or Dex/Int in the future. I think this run also proved to me that no matter your years of experience with the game, it can still knock you on your ass.
I also want to quickly thank anyone who read these entries. Thank you for coming along on the journey with me! I’d maybe like to do another game in this style at some point, but definitely not for a while. Hours of play, hundreds of screenshots, and dozens of deaths later, I still love this game just as much as I did a decade ago. It’s crazy to me that I can return to a game that I’ve already played a million times, and still feel like I’ve had a new experience. Here’s our final stats (level and total time) to close. Thanks again for reading along!