I had somewhat of a crisis of conscience having left Blighttown and reached Firelink Shrine again. I’d made the wonderful mistake of reading a great deal of wonderful criticism about Dark Souls from some far more astute writers than myself and I, somewhat inevitably, ended up on a Dark Souls wiki that serves as testament to the depth and cult of fans behind the game: such dedication has been expended in creating canonical archives of all of the games’ items and lore that it beggars belief to think that games more shallow than Dark Souls have an audience at all. These are fantastic resources, and I really do love the fact that they exist. I had, however, made it this far without consulting such resources and felt that my acheivement had been all mine, aside from some tips on dealing with the Capra Demon picked up accidentally from forums.
Being the type of person that I am meant that even if I had seen things in passing on the wiki, I wouldn’t be able to forget them, so following on from picking up some pyromancies from Laurentius (quite possibly the only pleasant NPC in the game), I headed back to the Undead Burg to fire arrows at a drake for five minutes to obtain the Drake Sword. Physical questions of how shooting a drake’s tail makes a sword appear on your person aside, I quickly realised that if I had picked this up earlier in the game, there would have been so little challenge involved with the enemies I was facing: it is an incredibly powerful weapon, that I had only upgraded weapons to be roughly equivalent to recently. Though picking up the sword early is often recommended to new players as a method of avoiding early difficulty, I can’t help but think that it cheats people out of a wonderful experience of personal development and experiential learning of the world. Even at low levels, the Drake Sword can be a one-hit-kill weapon on many enemies. Though knowledge of secrets like this in the game is a wonderful thing to have, I can’t help but feel that people, myself included now, have cheated themselves out of knowing the true nature of early-game Dark Souls. It’s just as well that the Drake Sword doesn’t scale particularly well, otherwise all other weapons would be redundant.
Before heading into Sen’s Fortress, I thought it might be interesting to have another wander around the Darkroot Garden given that I was a little stronger than I was before. I ended up passing through a fog door to meet a boss: having thought that it was just one of the doors that led to another area rather than a boss, I was surprised to be met with the Moonlight Butterfly. A fairly uneventful bossfight later and I’d racked up some more souls and picked up a divine ember: things I was more than happy to use with Andrei the Blacksmith.
Sen’s Fortress is a vile place: plenty of traps, from floorplate-activated bolts to swinging axe pendulums, and hardy lizard enemies of both melee and mage types makes for an awkward experience. There is a saving grace, however, in Siegmeyer’s presence in and around the Fortress: that little knight that just could (if you help him out a little). Aside from the ridiculous appearance of his armour, his disarming little moans and “mm”s make him a welcome break from the madness of agility necessitated by precarious walkways and swinging blades. The Fortress is also home to one of Dark Souls‘s few “bullshit” moments in some sections where timing runs around the movement of boulders down sets of stairs. If one approaches and touches a then-stationary boulder perpendicular to its previous vector of movement, damage is taken by the player equivalent to them being rolled over by the boulder. Infuriating.
The tension of being surrounded by traps inside the Fortress is allayed once one reaches the roof: fortunately, only a couple of Balder Knights lurk around here, stronger than the ones in the Undead Parish but still incredibly manageable. A mad run across some of the higher levels of the roof owing to the area being firebombed by a giant leads the player, by way of a couple of towers, to the boss fight of the area, the Iron Golem. Though he packs a fair punch if his attacks are to connect with a player, they are incredibly easy to avoid and attacking the rear of his legs leads to him potentially lose his balance and fall from the platform. Quite possibly the easiest boss fight so far.
Golem Core in hand, I finally went to Anor Londo where I was greeted with a lovely vista; a vista all-too-quickly interrupted by a chime and a reminder that 25G is of no importance to me.