Saturday, 31 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Two Havel

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Though the Ivory King was defeated, I still hadn't finished exploring his city. In doing so I found a coffin I could ride out into the frozen outskirts - a beautiful snow field which has alternating, blinding blizzards every minute. Oh, and giant psychotic ice deer that can literally fly. Wasn't long before I got the "You Died" message.

I figured I'd do the same at Sanctum City, exploring for bits I missed - and boy did I miss one. After defeating the tank invader Rockshield Baldyr in a long battle of attrition, I found myself heading into a cave littered with poison statues and the local poison undead. Fortunately Alfis and Rapacious Andrei joined me for this trek which really cleared the path down into the dark.

Team Exploration go!

There in the lowest level, we encountered three brigands - the leader of which was a Havel cosplayer like me! Each of us going one on one was probably a bad idea as Andrei and Alfis died quick. I had to use the Kenshin method (running to separate them out) to slowly whittle away at them. Eventually only the two Havel's remained, and there could be only one! I got a good supply of souls from that encounter, that's for sure!

He did put up a good fight!

Friday, 30 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Ebony and Ivory

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Elysium Loyce is a nice place without that blizzard, and with Aava dead I could waltz up to the main cathedral and hop down into a pit called "the old chaos" - where the king of this place (the "ivory" king) led his knights into a losing battle. Well, I was surprised that one ivory loyce knight ally came with me but the number of swarming and respawning evil ebony loyce knights (good to be color coordinated) was simply too much to handle.

The solution to being outnumbered...

It was clear I'd need to find more backup so I decided to explore the city, block by block. In addition to the ice skelies, those snow beggars who I previously ignored now doubled as assassins but they were nothing compared to the dreaded ice bandicoots who have the same rolling attack as those skeleton wheel guys. I also have to contend with invaders Hexer Nicholai (who enjoys "slow" spells) and Witch Donna (who can't aim even if her life depended on it). There's also a covetous demon, shiva knights, and evil golems - clearly I'm running past a lot of stuff! :P

...is to bring more allies! :P

Eventually I do find and free three more of the ivory knights, and then recruit players Django and Sunlight Brother "Sunbro Forever" to assist in the battle of the old chaos. It's an epic fight. Django falls early, and is soon followed by the white knights as the black knights finally run out. The Ivory King makes an appearance and proves to be a dangerous foe, but by taking turns to tank him Sunbro Forever and I are victorious, with Sunbro landing the finishing blow. With that, a second crown is now in my inventory. Thank you Django and Sunbro Forever!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Victory feels good!

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Having experienced the one hit killers of this game, I knew it was time to overcome the "lesser" challenges that still blocked me. My first stop was to fight Aava the sabertooth again, this time with Glencour, Ellie and Sunlight Brothers (players) Gibo and Rafael Vidoff. Strength in numbers, as well as learning when to attack, block, and run, finally led to victory against the great cat - though both Gibo and Rafael were slain in the encounter. Thanks guys!

Gotcha this time kitty cat!

This resulted in the blizzard raging across the city to cease, but I wasn't ready to go exploring just yet. Instead I warped back to Sanctum City, ran down the Mayan Temple and fought the ugly siren with Ellie and Benhart again. As usual she summoned her skeles and mace knight but this time I did it the Neverwinter Online way: kill the adds. It was a long and tough slog with Ellie getting KO'ed and Benhart almost dying but finally the siren would sing no more.

Finally destroyed!

Her death caused the sculpture door to open, leading to the white dragon - Sinh, the breaker of equipment! Fortunately I was joined by Abbess Feeva and Transcendent Edde the dragon knight. I guess this white one didn't get along with his master. Feeva's area heals were quite useful but she got KO'ed pretty quick. Edde on the other hand, knew how to tank like a boss, and thanks to that left the dragon open enough for me to slay. Turns out the dragon was the king down here, for from it's head I found a crown. Victory feels good!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Dark Souls II: History Lesson

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Thinking upon the dragon's words I warp back to the giant's forest where Ruined Alfis helps me once more to find all the scary looking withered trees that are actually the corpses of giants. During our exploration we clear out a nest of fire breathing salamanders (via sniping) and are attacked by Forlorn again behind a door I missed. Not to be out done, the Eagle Knight also attacks soon after but Alfis and I are too good and they are both brought low.

Especially since I have ordinance.

Using the ashen heart I can enter the memories of the dead giants and find more history about this place. Apparently the giants attacking this place was a direct result of Vendrick taking "the something" for Nashandra from them. Based on the number of giants I fight through, it's a bit of a massacre. Interesting that Benhart of Jugo is present for the war too. I soon find the giant king and slay him easily - since he has the same strategy as the very first giant I fought: nip at the heels until he dies.

Literally bathing in his blood.

From what I learned it's clear Vendrick must pay for his crimes, so I return to the Undead Crypt where Forlorn (now armed with a scythe) attacks again! This guy just doesn't give up! With him dead (hopefully permanently this time) I find that I can enter Vendrick's memory too, and the old king tells me to collect the crowns for some reason. I decide to try take his crown first, and am quickly executed by his gigantic sword with one hit. Oookay, guess I need to level up before facing him too!

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Silly Little Human

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

The shrine is a pretty cool place. There are tons of dragon guards around, but they just bow and salute me as I pass. The few giant warriors aren't as nice, but at least I can handle them since they come individually. During my exploration I nab a petrified egg which angers one Dragonfang Villard whom I have to kill. I then find my ninja buddy Bashful Ray in a lower courtyard - he's here to kill the dragon!

EEEP!

Well, since he helped me before I decide to return the favor but those dragon guards are onto us immediately - swarming Ray in the final ascent. I can only sprint past as he uses his last lightning jutsu before being impaled by twenty different things. Somehow I reach the ancient dragon and he is massive! He also tells his guards to piss off and senses I'm a candidate for the throne.

That's right, it's me!

After giving me a strange heart which he tells me to use on "the withered ones", he tells me to go away too. So I take a few selfies then draw my sword and attack in true heroic knight fashion! "This is for Ray!" I yell, just before the dragon sighs and insta kills me with his little toe. Undeterred I do it all again, the dragon guards letting me go this time (provided I duel the big warriors on the way). Obviously I need to be more agile!

The dragon is unimpressed and stomps on me again. "Damnit, this isn't over!" I whisper at him as I vanish back to the bonfire. Looks like I need to level up a bit.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Dark Souls II: A Flight of Dragons

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Good thing this dragon had a similar move set to the one at the cathedral. While it certainly had more HP, I still managed to take it down and take a lift up the mountain side to a most magnificent sight: Dragon Aerie. The Emerald Herald was inexplicably here too, and tells me of the ancient dragon I should go talk to high up on the shrine. Sure, that sounds like a plan!

This place is great! :D

This place is a maze of tunnels, cliffs and flimsy rope bridges which are patrolled by prisoner type hollows with lots of knock back attacks (of course). They're not much of a problem though. Neither are the sleeping dragons I tip toe around nor is the return of Fencer Sharon who I defeat once more - this time tossing her off a bridge to make sure I don't see her again.

Eventually I make it across the final, long rickety bridge at a dead sprint (because going slow makes it break, thanks loitering dragon) I make it to the base of the dragon shrine and find a bonfire. Phew! I light it up and BOOM! Shrubbery surprise! Damn it! The shrubbery finally introduces itself as Aldia - the same creep who owns that keep where they experiment with monsters. Apparently he too tried to get rid of the darksign but failed. Now he is a shrubbery. He wonders how I will do before vanishing once again.

The shrubbery is very deep.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Monster Keeper

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Having been defeated by Aava and again by the ugly siren, I decided to try another path from the forest crossroads and found myself at Aldia's Keep. On the grounds there I found Lucatiel camped by a bonfire, begging that I remember her name. We both knew she was about to hollow. While dealing with a nearby mimic (scary bastards) she vanished, and I found her again once I entered the keep proper. Only she was now Aslatiel, dressed and geared exactly the same. She was her own brother the whole time? What?

You are a confusing character.

So... was she searching for herself and ultimately lost herself during the search? Hell if I know. All I know is he/she was hostile so I turtle backstabbed her/him to death. The foyer of the keep was also devoid of guards (apart from a few that pop out of mirrors) which is worrying since there's a creep imprisoned there who tries to give me assassination jobs targeting the residents of Majula. No thanks buddy.

The whole back part of the keep is some messed up prison lab though run by strange dwarf sorcerer things. It has froggies, hounds, and hiclopsi. The real problem is when one hiclops breaks through a wall and proceeds to free the rest. Then it becomes time to FLEE! Of course by flee I mean run -through- them. This leads me straight into an aviary. Of a dragon. I should have guessed there'd be one of those caged up too.

Yes, I'm here to play!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Today I Smiled: Christmas time is here again!

The house is all decorated and the gifts are under the tree, the relatives are on their way for a day of wondrous glee! Definitely looking forward to the organized chaos that happens each year, and from a small breather from work. Thank you to everyone who has been reading this blog, I know it's been heavy on story-mode as of late and that's mainly due to my hectic work schedule. Still, I hope you are enjoying my Dark Souls adventure story which will no doubt flow on into the New Year.

Also the Nameless story will hopefully revive (and conclude) in 2017... it's been taking a back seat since screenshots are so much faster to generate than hand drawn images. Yep, the story is actually mostly written out now - I just need the art components to go with it. It should come as no surprise the the Skyrim tales will also continue, though I will be endeavoring to be more concise with its format moving forward.

Speaking of things on the back burner, my quest of making a board game also has been bubbling along slowly. My not yet titled "Game 13" plans seem to hold promise but we'll see when I actually get around to play testing. Regardless I doubt that will be ready anytime next year, especially since I want to return to doing Flash stuff too, which is a pretty big ask. Since this is turning more into a Ney Year's Resolution thing I suppose I'll add I'd like to lose 20kg too. Yeah. Good luck to me. :P

How will I actually find the time to do all of this? No idea, maybe Santa can gift me extra hours every day? We'll just have to wait and see. For now I'll leave you with Chewbacca's rendition of Silent Night. Merry Christmas all! :)

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Me:OW.

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Now experienced with defeating Velstadt, the grand knight, I thought I'd have another crack at the ugly siren with Benhart and Ellie. I also decided to try the drake armor for mobility since I know she likes her adds. It goes much better but still ends in defeat for us. Withdrawing, I opt to revisit the Shrine of Winter again which takes me to a snow fortress (now visible since there's no snow storm).

Backstabs with two handed swords are cool.

The gates open for me this time and despite a voice warning me about "the old chaos" I enter anyway. Surprisingly there's a boss fight nearby, the disembodied voice warning that "Aava is watching" (like the Jesus is watching joke?). Welp, the zone is a blizzard and I couldn't see a damned thing as some invisible thing (which I guess is Aava) tore me to bits!

Putting myself back together at the bonfire I opted to go the other way this time, and explore the rest of the city. As expected it was guarded by ice themed undead who were weaker than their poison cousins in Sanctum City. At least this let me make progress, gaining "the eye of the priestess" near a large flame at a central tower. After defeating the invader Holy Knight Aurheim, I was joined by my old allies Glencour (still Masterless) and Ellie to face Aava. Turns out Aava is a giant, sabertooth cat!

Bad ninja kitty!

Being able to see it doesn't help much as we are all sent packing pretty quick. Such a strong kitty!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Dark Souls II: King's Grave

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

I find a lift down after the frog demon and light another bonfire which EXPLODES! Goddamnit shrubbery! It asks again what I'm going to do once I take the throne and indicates that Vendrick is nearby... in the Undead Crypt. Sigh. Again with the naming. The crypt is guarded by a variety of undead (no kidding), as well as relatives of Sellsword Luet - big guys using twin shields.

Having a party always makes it easier!

Fortunately Devotee Scarlett is down here and between the two of us we smash everything including the Nameless Usurper again (guess she really wanted to kill Vendrick). There's an interesting section with metal bells that when hit, ring loudly to summon evil spirits from standing coffins. It's cute that the minion type foes instinctively go for the bells but the solution is simple: destroy the coffins and the bells can ring all they like.

It's not all bad guys here though, the wight, Gravekeeper Agdayne is quite personable as long as you keep all light sources away from him. He even joins the party to fight a very familiar, towering mace knight. Heyyy isn't this the same guy the ugly siren summons? It takes a few attempts to learn his moves (more importantly the timing) but thanks to Agdayne's sacrifice Scarlett and I defeat him.

Mace guy has some sweet looking armor...

The chamber he was guarding holds Vendrick... the now hollow king. He isn't hostile though, so I am content to just nab his ring and get out of there.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Dark Souls II: The Shrine of Amana

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

While the castle climb was pretty straight forward, the Shrine of Amana is around ten times more annoying. It's basically a large underground lake with some shallow parts you can walk through and many sudden drops which instantly kill you. There are lizard men who lurk under the water but at times are put to sleep by the song of friendly sirens (who stop singing when you get close to them).

There are also a lot of spell casters that enjoy sniping and halberd guards who pack a punch. After a number of failed forays I decide to counter snipe with my lightning short bow (it was in my pack, actually a lot of things are given you can't sell anything). This made the place much more survivable. I also found a full set of Drake keeper armor, the same type worn by the guys guarding the ugly siren. Since I quite like the cape I decide it will be my new "scout armor", relegating my Havel suit for heavy combat areas.

Gold people are members of the Sunlight Brotherhood!

At one bonfire surrounded by poisonous turtles, I am joined by Felicia the Brave (again) as well as ****LeDore (player) of the Brotherhood of Sunlight. Solaire's group! Not only do they lead me through a particularly nasty section of casters and knock the invader Peculiar Kindular into the watery abyss, the also help me fight a giant armored frog. Way scarier than the cute variety. Like the spider queen this one only takes damage to its face and manages to devour Felicia early in the fight.

That's one creepy frog...

Fortunately ****LeDore's magic is really strong as he basically kills the frog demon, which opens the path deeper into the mountain. Thanks ****LeDore!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Way of the Blue

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

The higher level of the castle feels like a callback section. Enemies from almost all the other bits are present, including fire sorceresses, a gargoyle, giant warriors, assassin things, and even another bonemare. Had the help of Sellsword Luet for that last one though, and it was very easy since he was the very definition of a tank wielding one great shield in each hand. Sure he didn't do much (any) damage but boy could he take aggro. Haha!

THIS is a TANK.

At the final strech of hostile statues I am invaded by SultanofSwing (player). He managed to pull off a few shots on me but I turtled back to an elevator to recover. And more importantly hide. I guess invaders can't interact with objects? Anyway after wasting his time, he was finally scared off by the arrival of Thanaros (player), a blue sentinel (that covenant focuses on assisting "Way of the Blue"/Newbies with invasions). With his job done, Thanaros also vanished giving me a clear shot to the next boss room where Benhart and Ashen Knight Boyd join me to take on the Looking  Glass Knight.

Who is the fairest of them all?

He's called this because he uses a big mirror as a shield, and furthermore can summon invaders from it to help him during the boss fight! What a bastard! Fortunately he only gets to summon one during the fight who I put down quickly while still in the "summoning" animation. Eventually he falls as well, unable to handle the punishment from three attackers. While the others rest to recover I press on ahead into the Shrine of Amana.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Castle Climber

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

At the Castle's main lobby awaited the spirit of Chancellor Wellager who gave more backstory to the now missing King Vendrick. Apparently the King loved his Queen so much that he brought his entire kingdom to war against the giants some time in the past to take something of theirs. I love how vague this all is. Anyway, the war resulted in many deaths and the king walking away from his throne.

"Interesting, you don't mind if I look around and loot the place do you?"

"I don't but the lightning knights might."

The ghost told me to go right ahead. Turns out the statues decorating the halls also doubled as the guards, coming to life when trespassers such as myself were detected. Fortunately by going slow, I could cull them one at a time as I made my way up the castle - throwing an invader called "Nameless Usurper" off a balcony before reaching a higher landing where I was introduced to the Queen, Nashandra.

Given how the balconies are constructed, she must like yelling?

She was sitting too far away to get a good look at, but she claims Vendrick never took the throne and that I should take it myself. She also suggested I go find Vendrick first for answers. "Could you maybe call your guards off then?" She just smiled and didn't reply. Fantastic. Not far off I met up again with Pilgrim Bellclaire and got her help in taking down two dragonrider knights (one being the guy who jumped into the water before). It's an easy victory and while I rest up at the next bonfire, Bellclaire continues her exploration. Inexplicably, Benhart is resting here too - swearing to assist me as I helped him.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Song of Defeat

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

The bridge leads to the lowest section of the temple where a haunting song is echoing along the crumbling staircases. A small handful of elite knights guard this place, but they are easy enough to turtle backstab or simply avoid entirely. At the very bottom I group up with Benhart of Jugo, Steelheart Ellie the boxer and Jin (the player) to try take on the ugliest siren ever.

One of the more difficult bosses thanks to her adds.

Alas she proves way too tough with her dark magic, teleportation, heavy halberd staff, and most annoyingly her penchant in summoning either a bunch of skeletons, a grand mace knight, or a trio of piggies. Thanks for trying Jin! I must have tried ten times to no avail before heading back to Majula in defeat. The Emerald Herald consoles me, telling me I should probably visit the castle instead now that I have the four great souls.

You mean this castle?

I heed her advice, finding I'm able to now open a once locked door in the misty woods. There's another shrine teleporter to some frozen region but locked doors and poor visibility due to a snow storm send me back quick. The Emerald Herald even shows up there to remind me what I'm supposed to be doing. After fighting a whole bunch of hollows and some elephant knights I soon reach Drangleic castle and its seemingly endless supply of soldiers. Took awhile before I worked out that they needed to die next to the hollow golems so that they can open the main door.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Dark Souls II: The Jester

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Exploring Sanctum City is painful, and it gets worse when I reach the Mayan Temple Dragon Sanctum which is patrolled by ghost knights, who are immune to all attacks until I destroy their suits of armor. The first two have theirs laying out on display which is fine, but there are a lot more further in who I just have to run past since their armor is hidden. This takes more than a few attempts.

It's a huge place.

Near the bottom I am invaded by my once ally, Jester Thomas! Low on healing at this point I just dash past his pyromancies and out into a large shallow lake full of half dinosaurs, who join Thomas in chasing me. In the distance I see my salvation: a bonfire! I sprint as hard as I can and light it just in time before the Jester immolates me to death. Fortunately I can now respawn right there, which is a MUCH better starting point to explore that temple.

I thought we were friends! :(

After sneaking back past through dino land, I find Jester Thomas once more and this time after a long duel, slay the bastard. I also discover the "armory" room during a sprint scout and go to town smashing everything. This understandably angers the "ghosts" but I don't care since it makes them killable. Amazingly, I soon have the run of the interior of that temple - finding a stone key to raise a bridge to reach the next part of it, as well as an elevator shortcut back to the very first bonfire!

It's in situations like this that I wish I could carry the old D&D staple: rope. Sigh.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Earth Mover

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Balor (erm I mean the old iron king), is a ridiculously simple fight with easily readable moves yet he still manages to 1HKO Manhunter O'Harrah and knock me into the instadeath lava lake half a dozen times. I finally win but am frustrated that it took me so many attempts. Using the bonfire just past him scares the bejeezus out of me though since it explodes as a shrubbery appears to tell me "I'm interesting" then goes away. WTF? Ok to be fair, he also speaks a little bit about King Vendrick, who "almost" claimed the throne. Whatever that means.

Hello Mr. Jump Scare!

There's also another shrine teleporter here which leads to more locked doors so I return to Majula where I find a new, stout fella named Gillian sitting by the pit. He claims to be a laddersmith so I pay him a fair bit of souls for his longest ladder. This pays off in that it leads to a key! Not to the locked doors in the lava lake but to the locked doors beyond the lair of the Rotten!

I sure hope he decides to land.

Following the path down I find myself in a huge cavern which houses the ancient Sanctum City. The Mayan temple in the distance is a nice touch. This place is guarded by giant, poisonous skeleton warriors, corrosive bugs, and more poison shooting statues - these ones actually move since they ride little turtles! Even cooler is that the city landscape changes upon hitting switches (which I accidentally discovered during combat). Whole buildings move to form or reveal new paths. Best of all, there's a great white dragon down here. I suspect I'll be fighting him eventually!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Gesture of Friendship

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

The interior of the Iron Keep is pretty well guarded by very "Eastern" knights wielding katanas who do a good job in giving me a hard time. An explorer named Magerold is here too, selling wares and talking about a shrine of dragons somewhere as well as Lucatiel who finally joins my party. I also should note this is the first area of the game that I've seen player summon signs, and get my very first co-op cleric named Lee.

The more the merrier!

The three of us make easy work of a smelter demon boss (1st go), which causes my team to disband. Lee waves vigorously as he vanishes. I only realize now that there is no actual method of communication beyond in game gestures and slow to write messages, so I spend a few minutes after the battle to learn and practice the gestures my character knows. In case you are reading this, thank you Lee!

The next area is some type of foundry which really kicks my butt with enemies knocking me into lava or just overwhelming me. Takes awhile before I find an alternate route (hard to see during combat and fire traps) above the gauntlet, defeating Oliver the Collector and finding a switch to turn off all the flame traps in the keep. Then I found the inappropriately dressed Manhunter O'Harrah nearby who accompanied me onto a lake of lava to face this guy...

Didn't Gandalf deal with you?

Monday, 12 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Cool Turtle

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Since the Belfry is another dead end, I revisit the Gutter next - since I have a key to a locked door there now. In a room littered with poison shooting statues I find my old armor! Erm, I mean Havel's old armor! It still weighs a ton, but with the super defense it provides I warp back to Earthen Peak more confident than ever. The climb is definitely more survivable now, and after easily defeating a giant demonic turd I am joined by Devotee Scarlett who is a bit of a punk/cleric.

You thought I was exaggerating huh?

She guides me to a nearby windmill and keeps pointing and gesturing at it until I torch the thing which makes her happy. Young people eh? There's nothing that really stops us from continuing our ascent. Even the fire sorceresses are easily slammed now, and when the pyromaniac Jester Thomas joins there is no stopping our little band. Even the medusa boss of the place had no chance. I just sat and watched as Thomas and Scarlett tore her apart.

Easiest "boss" fight so far.

They depart after that victory leaving the path open for me to a keep made of iron, sitting in a moat of lava. Because that's obviously the best place to build these things. On the approach I am invaded by Fencer Sharon who has no chance getting through my defense. After sending her packing, Armorer Dennis attacks next - and he has some cool magic sword powers. Not cool enough to win though (thank you Estus flask!). I make sure to toss his corpse into the lava so he won't show up again.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Dark Souls II: De ja Vu

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Beyond the chariot chamber is just a dead end with an evil little dwarf who asks if I want to join the (PvP) Covenant of Blood. I say no, and decide to revisit the pretty sinking ruins for anything I missed. While the tall warriors who I previously ran from before are easily defeatable now, all the white knights who previously were just resting are now on their feet - hostile - and deceptively agile for shamblers. I still manage to beat them, and find I missed a turn off during my previous visit. One that led to a red dragon!

And then...

Good thing it is nowhere near as strong as the one from Undead Berg. Once I get under it, this one has no chance. I am then joined by Masterless Glencour, perhaps the only "good" white knight, to enter the nearby cathedral where we face ... Ornstein!? He is nowhere near as tough as last time though and with Glencour tanking it is a very easy victory. Targay, the leader of the Blue Sentinels watched our fight and says we are worthy of joining his order. Again since this is a PvP thing, I say no.

With the cathedral also a dead end, I revisit the Lost Bastille and as usual, find an area and bonfire I totally missed. The Eagle Knight attacks me once more in a dark storage room but this time I defeat him convincingly. Using a lockstone I also open a bridge to a new tower, one guarded by cute little knights. Masterless Glencour assists once more in slaying them and the invader Vorgul the Sinner. At the top, we battle FIVE belfry gargoyles! Glencour is thrown off the roof early, but I still manage a victory (barely) and ring the tower bell. Because that's what I do.

Not this time, Eagle Knight!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Crushed

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

It seems Lucatiel is stalking me, and she admits as much when I find her hidden in one of the caves down here, saying she was tempted to kill me and take my souls to prolong her own time. Instead she assists me with fighting the boss of the area, who happens to also be the sculptor of these statues - a massive writhing mass of bodies called the Rotten. It flattens me a number of times before Lucatiel and I finally defeat it, earning me the third "great" soul.

A monster with a hobby: Sculpting.

Beyond him is a strange altar which warps me to a new zone but giant locked doors prevent me from advancing further. Before leaving that pit, Lucatiel advises that there are other hidden paths below which I go looking for, encountering and slaying three club wielding giants in the process. Proof that "the last giant" was also inappropriately named. There's also a strange old guy in a wheel chair down here but he's not very helpful so I just leave him there and warp back to the poison assassin forest to see if I can now explore a higher area where the staff and whip mummies were previously kicking my ass.

The answer is yes, mainly because I find Creighton the axe man and a ninja named Bashful Ray to assist! After clearing them and crossing a long, rickety rope bridge (which I managed to fall off once due to carelessness), we slew a tough red guard at which point Ray used his ninja skills to vanish. Creighton and I continued on to face a skeletal chariot! The death machine just made rounds while it patiently waited for me to kill the necros and their bone minions, then shut a gate on its face. With caution I managed to slay the bonemare after that. Alas, Creighton did not survive.

The red guard was worse than the chariot.
Maybe he is from the Elder Scrolls?

Friday, 9 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Gutter Trash

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

The next path I decide to explore is the great pit in the center of town. I had tried jumping down before but could never survive the fall to the first platform. Now, with a ring of damage fall reduction (that talking cat is useful) it is now doable, and soon I find myself in a large catacomb littered with short statues. To be specific, I was drawn into Caes (player) version of it, because this is a PvP area. I never run into him though, as I easily find a bonfire and the boss chamber which humorously is just a bunch of rats.

So... did the rats carve these rat statues?

Just beyond them is the rat king, who asks I become his servant. I obviously say no and leave because that's just silly. The path continues down into the darkness and soon I end up in a horrible, dark place called the Gutter, where the statues that were once decor now shoot poison and falls to certain death are all around. It takes me a few goes to find where I'm meant to go, lighting braziers on the way to help me out.

One of the more disturbing denizens in the Gutter.

I even run into a giant ant but since it's not hostile I leave it be and proceed even further down where the statues have started becoming green from all the poison built up inside them. Giant rock worms and horrid hand monsters which emerge from tar pits are here too, making progress very slow going. In between all of that I'm invaded by Woodland Children Victor and Gully (one after another, due to having to rest at the bonfire). And then by Forlorn again - this time, he's the one that dies. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Light Bringer

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Good thing there's a message right at the start of the spider lair which reminds me of a new mechanic in this game: the torch. I light one up, forsaking a shield or two handing my sword, but the benefits here are great. Not only can I see where to go but the spiders all flee from the light, making them easy kills. At the bottom I find Ashen Knight Boyd whom I save from becoming the spiders next meal and he assists me in the fight against their hive queen: The Duke's Dear Freja. Who names these things?

Worth noting its head and its arse are the same.
Minor dig at females in general maybe?

The two faced, armored spider is immune to attacks that don't strike one of her aforementioned faces. Those also seem to be the most dangerous places to stand when fighting her, so I let Boyd tank her for a bit to learn her move set while I scare away her little adds with torch light. It soon becomes clear she only attacks in one direction at a time so Boyd and I alternate with the bait and switch method with one tanking/evading while the other deals damage. The bug is soon slain, and now I have a second "great" soul to my name.

Boyd bids farewell here while I backtrack to the previous areas, trying to find things I missed which is a lot apparently: in the misty ruins I get to fight some Thundercats (lion men), as well as a tough headless warrior and back in the Lost Bastille I manage to free both Felicia the Brave and Pilgrim Bellclaire who help me defeat a trio of really tall, skinny knights. Having pocketed some extra loot, I return to Majula.

You gals kill the thing, I'll stand over here and cheer!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Creepy Crawlies

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

It's the poison that kills me... really?

Equipped with the rings I bought from the cat, I return to the misty lion man ruin and manage to talk to the previously silent man scorpion who introduces himself as Tark, possibly once known as Tarkus until something bad happened to him in Anor Londo. Apparently he wants me to help him slay his female counterpart who I had previously run into. Lucky for me he comes along to assist and on our second attempt (I misjudged the aggro swapping on the first one) we manage to slay her. Tark is satisfied and returns to his domain while I push on to a strange cavern full of locked doors which I quickly run out of keys for.

The place is guarded by slow moving elephant knights and ... really big dwarves(?) who are easy enough to run past. Eventually I emerge at a deep valley and after fighting through a small army camp I make my way down some dark, spider infested caves into a church where I have to slay a whole bunch of hollows and their magic wielding priest.

Oh, hell no.

Lower down is the continuation of the town, and it is absolutely infested with the poisonous arachnids (and some man-spiders), to the point that they start coming in swarms. Good thing the bastard sword has a wide sweeping arc attack which is effective at small group extermination. The lowest building seems to be where they are coming from, and I soon find out why: it's their lair.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Xenoshyft

How many will die in your quest for unobtanium Xenosathem? The answer is A LOT!

In this cooperative, deck building card game for up to four players, you are all section leaders assigned with protecting your mining base on a remote alien planet of the deadly and hostile kind. Each player controls one "building" if you like that has special abilities and a slew of troops and gear that you will be using to defend your shared HP base through 3 waves of increasing difficulty with 3 rounds of monsters each (9 in total). Should your base reach zero hit points, it's game over for everyone.

Doesn't look like a "tower defense" game, but it is.

To stop the advancing aliens, each player has a "lane" board where they can put four troops and gear them up. You can't rearrange their order without special cards so you hope for the best when the randomly deployed face down bad guys, start turning up. They too have special abilities, like defending or empowering their allies, or attacking the last troop in your lane - generally whatever is required to screw you over. Combat is simultaneous so instances where both the bad guy and your troop dies is common. Indeed, I've found it's quite rare to have troops left standing after each round.

I've not yet had a win on this game, mainly because wave 3 ups the difficulty insanely, but I'm certain the secret to victory lies in hand management and luck - which I suppose is a staple for deck builders? Not sure since this is my first (second if you count my short experience with Magic the Gathering when it first came out)! So yes, it is hard but it is also fun. The setup does take a little while to do though, and you will require some thick skin as your people are killed left and right. All up I give Xenoshyft three explosive spiders out of five, and recommend it for people that like punishing card games. :P

Monday, 5 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Lost and Found

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

Amazing segments of beauty in an otherwise crapsack world.

As expected, all the prisoners, guards and dogs in this prison are hostile hollows. They're easy enough to deal with using basic field tactics though (like flanking and luring). I am once again jumped by the Eagle Knight here, and manage to hurt him significantly before having to flee. Fortunately he gives up the chase and vanishes - at least he didn't kill me this time!

Lucatiel has followed me here it seems, purely to give me a ring of some sort. Again, she doesn't offer to assist in any other capacity so I leave her there and find my way into the "main" prison block of Sinner's Rise - from the top I see some big winged creatures in the distance but my path leads me back down to sea level. After slaying another shiva knight I come to a massive prison of "the Lost sinner", a giant man who was so thoughtfully locked away -with- his great sword.

If he wanted invisibility he should have copied those mist bastards.

His first move is to kill all the lights with a single swing but I can still see him and his telegraphed moves just fine. I slay him on my first attempt and collect what happens to be the first of the four "great" souls. Cool. A bonfire behind him warps me back to Majula where I spend his soul purchasing the interesting rings sold by the talking cat.

NWO: Storm King has no Thunder

Now that I've finally completed the Sea of Moving Ice single player story line, I can give a more rounded review of this whole campaign, which boils down to one word really: GRIND. The locations are pretty, sailing in the final zone is fun, the foes are ok, the story is passable despite suddenly getting a whole bunch of new NPCs. I also quite like the increased number of patrolling enemies, it's like they saw what I did in my map Arroway Manor and copied it - yay!

It seems evil giants also like swimming.

You get powerful relic weapons at the end of this arc, with the only catch being you have to "restore" them to make them usable, via weeks/months of relic digging, heroic encounter hunting and sea fishing which in my book is still the biggest waste of time ever. Yes, the "new" fishing is more interactive but seriously loses the "fun" appeal after the first time you are forced to do it. Yes, I said forced. Despite Cryptic saying it's was an optional activity it is mandatory! Optional means there shouldn't people shouldn't be force to even do the tutorial, much less have it as a daily quest.

You want those weapons though? Look forward to hours of "fishing fun" or spending at auction house. Yep, Cryptic just showing more "Pay to Win" here. That is all on top of the grind to get the boons btw, which is a different set grinding months. This design is so disheartening and irritatingly money grabbing.

What I'm most interested in is to see how inclusive the next module is going to be. Is everything going to be scaled on the assumption that most folks would have "unlocked" these grindables, leaving everyone else "stuck behind a gear wall"? Will they make it easy content that the elite will complain about? Or are they going to give an easier alternative for the under geared to enjoy new difficult content making the current grind moot?

So I have a choice: do the ridiculous grind or find something more rewarding. I'm definitely leaning towards the latter.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Dark Souls II: Here be Pirates!

Tales from Dark Souls - spoilers ahead! You can follow the rest of the story here!

No, I don't actually have a beard.

Feeling good from the short forest adventure with Alfis, I warped back to the dark underground dock and was joined by Bradley of the Old Guard, a tanky miracle knight. The hollow pirates and their dogs were slaughtered in waves. Lucatiel was here too, though she just wanted to talk - revealing that under her mask, she too was going hollow and that she had come to Drangleic to find her brother. Pity she didn't offer to join the party though.

Bradley could almost solo this zone I think.

Near the top Bradley and I found the mechanism to activate the local lighthouse, flooding the zone with light. Bradley stayed to guard it while I pushed on, finding that it was very handy in pushing some black, alien looking monsters into shadowier parts of the ruins. Ringing a bell at the top of the ramparts summoned a large ship to dock so it was obvious where I needed to go next.

More heads does not necessarily make you smarter!

On the way I found a strange guy just watching the boat: Carhillion the mage. He turns his nose up and refuses to speak with someone so "uneducated". I guess I was right that he's a dick. Anyway, the boat is unsurprisingly filled with more pirates. The hull is also partially flooding and contains a shiva knight (two legs that support two full torsos). It's a little intimidating but fortunately easy to read, and after slaying it on my first attempt I inadvertently sail the huge ship to a nearby fortress island ... the Lost Bastille.