Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dark Souls Week Three - One Shot, Two Shot, Three Shot, Four Shot

As previously intimated the character I made for this week was a frail Sorceress named Gimp. I unfortunately failed to live up to my promises and did not use white phantoms quite effectively until later in the run. The first phantom I summoned was a stoic fellow who greatly outclassed the zone and completely trivialized the gargoyle fight. I’m still undecided as to how I feel about this, there are quite a few fights that could cockblock players for several hours and having some random dude rescue you could be nice, but my heart says that the man truly does evil as he leads these poor sheep into darker pastures. My own behavior may have come to reflect this.

I now ran up against my first wall of not finding signs for a while, there were several anticipated points for this: any optional area, the last 4 major boss areas as they are gigantic and somewhat harrowing (phantoms are lazy), and a few others. This spot was the land of Goat and Dogs of yore, still an annoying random boss fight as always. I wandered around for a while in this area and eventually fell off one of the rare bottomless edges here. On my way back I miraculously found a sign and wandered backward through the zone from the fog gate to my corpse with my phantom dutifully following. I didn’t really want to dick this kind sir over so I promptly broke my vow to not do more than 33% (or 50% with just one phantom I suppose) of the bosses’ hp and crushed the goat.

My next set of phantoms (again after some aimless wandering and waiting) were for the Butterfly. One Phantom clearly did not want to fight this boss (overlap of signs between Sif and Butterfly’s area) and bailed in short order, the other showed me a completely new hidden area with a quite useful (some might say overpowered) drop. I was of course grateful to this wise and sagacious mastermind and once again broke the creed, and did the vast majority of the damage to the boss in killing it (naturally any ranged build does much better against the Butterfly).

Gimp managed to die to a few attacks which weren’t troublesome at all on the more stoic individuals I created, having a massive 10 vitality and 10 stamina throughout much of this experience, but I did eventually make it to the Depths bonfire. Here I eventually found another phantom, this fellow a user of the much beloved Crystal Ring Shield. I did not approve and sort of wanted the 25k souls for killing Gaping “solo” so I watched him die whilst not taking a single hit personally. I get the feeling that lots of people did use phantoms to kill Gaping Dragon on the first try and never really figured out how the fight works. Even if they go to help others much later they’ll still suck at it and die to certain attacks.

The Crystal Ring Shield is made from the Moonlight Butterfly soul, I discovered very early on that it does an absurd amount of damage and eventually decided it was bugged. Whether or not it actually is the damage it does (fires a Captain America shot vertically) is equal to the combined damage of your equipped weapon and the shield, regardless of which hand is equipped with which. As such it can do well over a thousand damage fairly early in the game. I have yet to use it on my own personal boss kills but I did use it a couple of times to kill the Centipede for a host who had no chance of beating the boss (once I ran out of lightning to toss). Now, a couple of weeks after first finding it, it is ubiquitous amongst phantoms, as every single one wants to trivialize every fight for their respective host. The CR shield isn’t that overpowered in a single player game, as the animation takes quite a while to come out and most bosses will smack you before you can get it off. However when you have something else to pull the boss off you it makes it very easy to do thousands of damage to a boss in short order. While I was the host I did my best to let CR Shield phantoms die, though this wasn’t always successful.

I now ran into the “Failed to create session” problem in Blighttown, eventually went and killed the boss in short order and then died about 5 times trying to get the Eagle shield. For my other two characters this is the primary shield I use and is the best scaling, easy to use shield in the game. However I have yet to use it on Gimp as it has a Strength requirement of 16. All of that said I somewhat grew to hate Blighttown, stealing my 5 humanity and 40k souls. I present to you a partially fake rant:

Fuck Blighttown and its miserable framerate. Fuck the infinitely respawning fucking wasps that give no souls. Fuck the ladder camping fire toad things (going in reverse technically). But most of all, fuck the blue shits and their grab attacks that kill you in one hit on the final fucking enemy on the arduous route to the shield you’ll never even use…

All of that said Blighttown is a pretty good zone, it’s my fault for making such a frail character. I still love the boss and it’s still a gigantic improvement over the swamp in Demon’s Souls. The reason I was carrying around so many damn souls is because most good spells are super expensive in Dark Souls. Instead of tying spells to boss souls like the first game they stuck with just driving the price absurdly high the more advanced the spell. This character was starting to become reasonably powerful with Great Soul arrows and such but Homing Soul Mass was required for any great damage dealing potential.

Testing out my newfound powers I visited the Stray Demon in the Asylum. This boss actually has one of the easiest attack patterns in the game, being a variation of the tutorial boss. However his “Boom” attacks are difficult to not take damage from and I insisted on having Homing Soul Arrow on when I dropped into the arena (doing 500 or so damage at this point with 30ish int), which made him attack extremely fast after the mandatory fall damage. This killed me a few times, but I eventually prevailed and marveled at Gimp’s spellcasting glory.

I quickly made my way through Sen’s Fortress (actually a pretty fast zone once you know where everything is) and to the Grand City of Anor Londo, that land of White Phantoms. You can only start summoning them about a third of the way into the zone, but I quickly did knowing the hazards ahead. The most difficult narrow ledge sequence in the game is in Anor Londo, and there’s nothing quite like watching someone fall headlong to their death. Unfortunately after 2 sets of phantoms the last guy was hesistant to continue, so I had to lead the way and failed to fall. If I had to do it again I probably would have suicided to summon more phantoms, but a few divers made for some enjoyment.

I now brought some phantoms along for the rest of Anor Londo, discovering first an awesome Drake Sword user. Naturally anyone who uses the Drake Sword possesses the brilliance to shoot arrows for an hour, and therefore dies horribly when faced with 2 giants. The last room before the primary boss in Anor Londo has 2 powered up such beings and is quite the hazard. It is not uncommon to be invaded while fighting them and they are each individually more dangerous than the vast majority of Black Phantoms.

1 set dead I returned for more, finding this time a guy who liked to backstab everything. He of the backstabbery was so proud of his gilded skill he neglected to pay attention to not being hit in the process and eventually died horribly. I as the host, may have intentionally killed him by not using my Estus Flask, but mayhap not. A Gold Phantom lived through this ordeal and we made the way to opening a useless shortcut, I didn’t really want to kill the boss yet and died instead to ensure more phantoms. The next set were actually competent and quickly dispatched the boss and the area as a whole, naturally using the Crystal Ring Shield to the fullest. I tried to let them die but it was not to be.

At this point I realized I was unlikely to find any more phantom signs, as the game diverges from the main path severely. I therefore took a short break and returned to my Occult Sword wielding fellow from a week past. After 3 hours of farming covenant raising crap I decided to finally go and fight the last boss, Lord Gwyn. Having put this off for going on 70 hours at this point I was anxious to finally see him. Instead of a cutscene I was greeted by one of the best songs in the game and Gwyn’s magnificent sword. I got something of a feel for the fight then homewarded out like a bitch and re-setup my gear accordingly.

Gwyn is pretty handily the best boss fight in the game and has elevated the game all by himself in my eyes so I might have to give it a better score. He’s basically a cross between the Penetrator and Flamelurker from Demon’s Souls. Unlike Flamelurker he doesn’t stagger unless you do a shitload of damage to him so even with perfect dodges it’s quite difficult to actually get in a hit with no response. I died pretty quickly the next foray, and next tried to regain my souls. Gwyn laughed at my foolishness and quickly murdered me again, giving me the finest beating since my original encounter with Flamelurker many moons ago. Still, I was getting a feel for the fight and got him down to about half 2 attempts later and beat him the next (quite similar to the Flamelurker experience overall).

I’d have to say he actually is harder than Seath even if you do go after Seath’s tail, and has the hardest learning curve of any boss in the game (though Bed of Chaos has an argument the first few attempts). I can’t really say if he’s harder than Flamelurker (several points for either side) but he’s certainly just as good a fight and fantastically placed as the last encounter in the game. I wish there were 1-2 more Flamelurkers instead of the several dual/quad boss fights in the game, as while those are certainly much more enjoyable than Maneater they’re still a tad random. Super Ornstein is probably the closest equivalent but Gwyn is much harder than him, though his grab is not quite as devastating (instead everything else is).

Following this I decided to white phantom with Gimp. I needed to farm about 100k souls to buy the best set of spells in the game, and what better way than to kill Ornstein and Smough for 15000 souls a pop. I was also able to one shot Silver Knights with Soul Spear and could farm 900 souls every 15 seconds while waiting. Homing Soul Mass turned out to be the most useful spell in this farming process, as I discovered I could one shot Black Phantoms.

Highlighting the ridiculousness of PvP in Dark Souls neither my balanced initial character nor slightly unbalanced second character were even close to a match for my pure Int stacking sorceress. As I went on through the week I killed close to 15 BPs, some in host games and some who invaded mine, and while they could also 1-2 shot me I only died a few times and my previous 50/50 success rate was greatly improved. In truth I have had an epiphany and am now one with the cheapness. I’m so skilled that I press one button and then run around for a while waiting for it to annihilate whoever comes in my direction. Sometimes they roll a few times, and then die. Sometimes they don’t show up for 20 minutes and I get bored. Sometimes they sit outside the hallway the instant that I am summoned to someone’s room, and die. And occasionally they backstab me while I’m casting a spell (should have waited 10 minutes corner camping like a real pro, leet skills yo) or afk, alas.

Fully embracing the douchebaggery of the Dark Souls populace I decided to get the best set of spells in the game from the Duke’s Archives. The Duke is actually Seath, as I found out in a very informative set of dialogue from one hideous being who I had oft murdered in the past. Chasing weird sets of dialogue is always fun in this game, as it usually is done quite well and is the only way to really figure out what’s going on in the world. Alas, everything in those accursed Archives could either 1 or 2 shot my character, and I had to tread extremely carefully in making it through. This slow plod took about an hour, even skipping all of the golems (900+ Magic Resistance, even my weapon does nothing but magic damage). However, it was most certainly worth it.

After outdueling Seath with his own methods (highest Magic resistance of any boss in the game) I gradually realized the enormous power of my previously weak seeming character. Stacking one set of stats is the only viable way to build your character for PvP, all Vit and Endurance, all Int, or all Strength, and if you’re good enough with rolling Vit and Endurance don’t necessarilly matter for PvE survival either. Crystal Homing Soulmass could do 1500 damage in one shot, with 10 casts.

Seeing this I despaired for my poor faith build, whose Sunlight Spear (requires 50 faith and the last boss’ soul to even use) only did 750 damage to the weakest enemies. I realized then that faith was useless in PvP, as only the much improved Wrath of the Gods is worthwhile and instead of 1500 damage and 10 uses it was 400 damage and 3 (with a sweet knockback). Additionally Wrath can only be purchased once per playthrough, but Soulmass variations can be bought 3 times (effectively 30 casts to 3). About half of the BPs I’ve faced have used the Fog Ring, but even without it lock requiring spells are almost universally inferior to Soul Mass spells and Wrath, while you can dodge Soul Mass fairly easily it doesn’t much matter if you walk around a corner and get hit with more than a thousand damage.

Gimp eventually became a Gold Phantom and with my 1500 damage (can boost it up to 2500 with the correct setup, though limits spellcasts) I can kill Ornstein and Smough in about 45 seconds (20-25 seconds + 20 seconds of cutscenes), depending on the boss’ movement. I could 2 or 3 shot the last boss, 4 shot Four Kings, and one shot almost every other player, and will probably wind up playing this character the most whenever I stop playing online. I now have 16 Sunlight Medals and have succeeded as a phantom 5 times as often as the character I actually made for that purpose. I sit on a pile of 500,000 souls ot this point, and want to eventually get to Sunlight + 3 (Covenant rank, 80 sunlight medals) for the hell of it, though incompetent hosts can still die to a variety of things and ruin my trivializing the game for them.

One strange thing I noticed is that lag (I assume host-side) simply makes NPCs pause into a spot for the phantom, the host likely sees the fight as normal but on the phantom side you can just sit there and nuke the stationary enemy/boss. This happened a handful of times, one time the host disappeared and reappeared repeatedly. If a host is aimless I’ll generally just go clear the way to the boss and wait for him to find me, only one host has really taken forever to do so. Upon fighting the boss I quickly killed Ornstein and he appeared to suicide into Smough’s lightning ass pound (normally difficult to avoid but he was well outside of the radius when Smough went in the air). I haven’t mentioned I also killed a phantom that would have murdered him easily and the Titanite Demon (HUGE ranged bias) of all things to save his poor ass. But he still was so entitled as to slowly maneuver through the zone while I dutifully stood at the boss door.

It’s kind of liberating to have such a tiny amount of HP. Ring of Favor isn’t all that great with low Vit so I finally have 2 ring slots to mess around with. There’s one obscure as hell ring that changes your roll animation, that might sound useless but it actually gives you the fast roll at half equipment load instead of 1/4th, thus enabling me to have 2 shields equipped. Additionally I can wear whatever armor I want instead of at least halfway decent (second character) or generic (first character) gear. Almost every armor in the game can be upgraded quite a bit, so even normal armor can exceed the stats on some of the best first clear sets. However it does take a titanite slab to boost a single piece of armor to +10 (from +9, generally a huge stat boost), so it would take at best 2 clears of the game (or 10+ hours of farming them, S drops aren’t worth it) to make a full set. My otherwise terrible armor is not too bad at +6 and looks pretty damn sweet to boot.

Random oddities: I’ve killed a BP while the host died in unison, I received the souls for killing him (pathetic amount as always). I’ve also killed the boss after the host died, presumably the boss does stay dead though you get ported out before the 15k souls are handed to you. In New Game+ Soul income is greatly increased from Demon’s Souls, ranging from twice as much to five times as much. Some enemies have more than double their previous damage output and several bosses are quite a bit more difficult. There is no block to phantoms helping players in NG + as opposed to the regular game, as Gimp was able to assist a fellow in failing to kill Ornstein and Smough.

Death Count
Falling – 8 (4 for a single chest)
Sewer Blobs – 1
Wasps – 1
Blue Shits – 2
Crystal Undead – 2
Stray Demon – 3
Giants – 1
Mimic Grab (not opening) – 1
Gwyn – 4
Ornstein/Smough (as Phantom) – 4
Other Players (as Phantom) – 3
Competent White Phantoms/Hosts – 25
Incompetent White Phantoms/Hosts – 60
CR Shield White Phantoms – 10
Ornstein and Smough Kills – 20
Host Deaths - 30
10 Vitality
19 Attunement
10 Endurance
12 Strength
12 Dexterity
8 Resistance
44 Intelligence
14 Faith (hint)
Soul Level: 50

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