The journey has concluded. Where to from here?
I ended up playing the rest of the game across different, smaller play sessions. It was a pretty low energy week, so this seemed to be ideal.
I went to the Valley of the Drakes, killed all the enemies, and approached the giant gate. Couldn’t open it, so I climbed a ladder to the side. Found a Red Tearstone Ring. Increased damage at low health? Smells like speedrun gear…
Unable to open the gate, I went to the New Londo Ruins. I found our crestfallen friend, hollowed. Was it emotionally difficult? Confronting?
He didn’t last very long. Rolled straight into the water not long after his first strike at me. What an anti-climax. Godspeed, Crestfallen. Your end was so bizarre I couldn’t bring myself to even have any feelings about it.
I’ll make note that this wasn’t my first time here. Earlier in the game, I realised I could use the Transient Curse items to safely navigate the area. I had four, and used them all on silly deaths. None were because of the ghost enemies. I can’t recall what transpired, but I got annoyed and left.
This time, I made it all the way to Ingward, who was guarding over ‘Four Kings’. He suggested that I find Artorias and learn how to travel the Abyss, where my next objective was. Of course, Artorias is dead, and I already have his abysswalking ring. No need for a chat. Poor Sif.
I was eventually able to drain the water in the ruins by opening a gate… the same gate from the Valley of the Drakes! Oh god, dead bodies everywhere! I guess that makes sense… what a sight, though. Journeying deeper, I ran into Darkwraith enemies, and giant disgusting blob faces. They weren’t difficult, but they certainly had me cautious.
Finally, I discovered a staircase that greeted me with nothing but a deep void at its very bottom. I could only think of one thing that would be an analogy for. I equipped Artorias’ ring and dived right in. What came after… I was so stunned that I didn’t even record the events. Actually, I was so confused I basically fumbled through the boss fight.
I fought with the Four Kings, and honestly, if somebody showed me footage of the fight taking place without any of its accompanying audio, I would have assumed it was some debug test battle the developers put together for a particularly large boss, possibly the final boss. These guys straight up look like some Final Fantasy thing.
After a bit of slicing and dicing, quite literally in the middle of nowhere, I defeated the JRPG Kings and acquired the Bequeathed Lord Soul Shard. This left only one remaining target before what I assumed would be the grand finale… the Witch of Izalith.
And by extension, Lost Izalith too. God, no, please, no.
I cleaned up a couple loose ends before entering Lost Izalith. I also ran into Solaire at the bonfire for the area. Poor fellow is depressed… but at least he’s alive for now, right? The sunlight maggot is dead, after all.
I ran across the lava, treading deeper into Lost Izalith, and felt the intense need to facepalm at the level design. I couldn’t stand it, folks. That constant SFX for running across lava… and the dragon butts.
Just… why? Not only are they a pain to deal with if aggroed, they’re also easy to avoid aggroing. Why are they here? To make the place seem less empty? That’s probably it… or there were different enemies they wanted to place here, but couldn’t find the time for.
Along the way, I ran into some particularly disgusting enemies. Kind of like a Dark Souls equivalent of a Victreebel from Pokemon, and therefore incredibly unnerving. They might as well not have been there, though, because they all died in two swipes. Well, except for a couple that I found after falling into a nasty pit…
This pit was where I ran into Siegmeyer again. He was looking over another pit, with about four of those not-Victreebels. I had a bad feeling about where this was going to go, and I wasn’t about to let the man do something awfully stupid. I stood next to him, but didn’t speak to him. I pulled out my longbow and started killing each and every one of them.
I spoke to Siegmeyer. He displayed his appreciation, but also cursed himself for his inability to move forward using his own strength. I was rewarded with a new ring to equip, but I clearly didn’t help his self-esteem. I eventually found a way out there and continued on my way. I found and killed someone who resembled Quelana.
And Kirk. Oh, Kirk, you again. He went down without much of a fight, though I did get a chuckle out of him coming after me right while I was dealing with not-Quelana. I suppose that was one of her sisters?
I ventured further into Lost Izalith, and slid downwards into somewhere far, far away from all the dragon butts…
I was face to face with her. Or, them? It? This weird tree thing is called the Bed of Chaos? Ah, a corrupted Witch of Izalith and her daughters? Maybe?
I saw three spots that were glowing, and only two were off to the sides. I decided to trust my video game instincts and avoided gunning for the creature’s centre first. Instead, I decided to hack away toward whatever was inside the giant glowing orb to the left.
It progressed the fight. Clearly I was doing something right, so I ran over to hack away at whatever was in the orb on the right.
And this was where hell started. I started falling into the holes the Bed of Chaos was creating in the arena. The place was falling apart. I respawned at Quelaag’s Domain. Oh, no. Dark Souls, why?
(Also, I found Kirk’s gear on a corpse near Quelaag’s sister. RIP.)
Time to make that trek all the way back…
The return trips continued for a while. Taking down whatever was on the right took little time, but trying to make it over to the centre target was a completely different story. Oh, great, the floor collapsed! What now?
Oh hey, there’s a path down below! Let me just–
And death followed. The bed hit ridiculously hard, and quite frequently. I knew what I had to do, and it required little effort… at least mentally. This wasn’t an intricate learning experience, it was just cheap and irritating.
I eventually reached the centre, hit some sort of bug creature, and defeated the boss. I got the soul and left pretty much immediately.
Bravo, Bed of Chaos. You are the perfect embodiment of two play areas that never received the development they needed.
I returned to Quelana. She thanked me for freeing her family. I then returned to Frampt, and got lowered into the Firelink Altar. I decided to upgrade and equip something different for the end…
I’m off to meet Gwyn, with Ornstein’s helmet, Artorias’ armor, Ciaran’s Gold Tracer, and Gough’s… well. Uhh, he’s with us in spirit? “I’m sorry!”
The path to the Kiln of the First Flame opened.
The visual imagery was amazing. Walking down steps surrounded by nothing by white, crossing paths with ghosts, entering a dead yet beautiful land… it made me think of the afterlife.
The black knights in this area were on the offensive, yet they posed no threat to me. I felt my growth from the newbie that spent minutes trying to kill just one, to the person who could kill them as if it were natural.
I found a summon sign. It was Solaire’s. We headed toward the final door together, ready to face Gwyn. The music for the fight was amazing, and definitely conveyed the image of an old man that just needed putting down, well past his era. It was sad. That being said…
He and I killed each other at the same time, somehow, I guess!
So I did the fight again.
The first attempt had me dodging and blocking, but the second opened up with a parry! I thought to myself, hey, wouldn’t that be funny if it actually worked? Wouldn’t that be cool? And you can do it! What an awesome opener. And Solaire got the final hit. I didn’t mind at all.
With Gwyn defeated, all that was left was to kindle the last bonfire…
Except I didn’t. At least, not immediately. My video game senses were tingling. Frampt was clearly not to be trusted, even if he did have a weirdly likeable aura to him.
This is a game that is very insistent on its bleak atmosphere. Standing alone in the dark, I thought about this a lot, and what it ultimately meant.
Solaire only lived because of a series of convoluted events.
He’s depressed now, unable to find his sun.
Siegmeyer would have gotten himself killed without me.
His self-esteem is hurt, and he curses his inability.
With my success, the crestfallen warrior hollowed.
Could the other two follow a similar pattern?
Laurentius hollowed as a result of returning his kindness.
Keeping him alive would have meant not doing so.
Saving Lautrec caused a terrible event to occur.
Granted, I enjoyed the whole sequence...
Anastacia, the fire keeper, was revived.
She did not seem pleased with being able to speak again.
My first covenant, Way of White?
Tainted by Petrus being Petrus.
Anor Londo’s present day glory?
Nothing but a falsehood.
I hate that place.
Other things that crossed my mind too, but the conclusion was simple. I looked at the bonfire, and then the doors I entered from. Would something happen if I just… left? Could I do that? It is that kind of game. You choose what happens, the NPCs only guide you. You can even kill them.
I don’t have to light the bonfire, right?
I wandered around to see if there was anything I could do besides leaving or lighting the place up, but it became evident there was nothing. I did something I normally would not consider, and stayed on the main path.
And set on fire, I was.
I wasn’t sure when I was playing, of course, but I highly suspected there was an alternate ending… but I purposely chose not to investigate. Why?
Because I didn’t think it actually mattered. Dark Souls is a game which avoids giving happy endings. If something goes right, something else will go wrong. Or perhaps something was wrong to begin with.
In other words, I didn’t think I was being given a choice between a good, bad, or secret ending. Something awful was waiting regardless.
As a player, I also knew there was bound to be a New Game+ in which I could see any alternate resolutions. I saw this coming, but the game still managed to surprise with how it introduced that fact to me.
The credits rolled off the screen, and the opening cutscene in the Undead Asylum began to play. My chosen undead awoke in her cell once more, ready to break out with Oscar’s help. It didn’t matter. The fact there are two more games after this only serves to make me feel that more strongly. Nothing mattered in the end at all.