Dying 10,000 times in Dark Souls is a gaming rite of passage that I somehow missed out on when it first came out 8 years ago, so I made sure to subject myself to its horrors with the recently released remaster. Despite having never set foot in the world of Dark Souls, there was one place that I was already well aware of thanks to its infamy, Blighttown. I had heard countless stories of how this was the area that broke people either forcing them to quit the game completely or smash a controller in frustration.
About 12 hours or so into the game, I defeated the boss of The Depths and was rewarded with something I did not want to receive, the keys to Blighttown. Immediately, I began googling things like “What level should you be for Blighttown” and decided to take a little trip back to the Undead Asylum for a night of pain (seriously screw you Black Knights in tight hallways) and the fabled Rusted Iron Ring that would supposedly be useful among the murky swamps of Blighttown. Additionally, knowing that one of the biggest dangers within was poison, I bought a bunch of tasty moss and made my way back to the entrance located within The Depths.
For those super fans of Dark Souls, here is the build I brought in to face my greatest gaming fear. Initially overcome by all the different class options to select, I decided upon the classic Knight build to make my first run through the game more authentic. Perhaps a little overpowered at level 40, I had been focusing mainly on vitality, strength, and endurance when leveling-up. I stayed true to my humble knight beginnings with gear consisting of a mix of knight armor and elite knight armor that had been leveled once each. While, there is no trusty steed in the game, I did have my Drake sword (yes, I’m aware this makes me a n00b), spider shield, rusted iron ring, and ring of the evil eye to help guide me in my heroics.
I poured myself a glass of whiskey and courage and went to open the gate. The thoroughly demoralizing note left by another player of “I can’t take this…” was exactly the boost I needed to make sure I crept extra slowly into the unfamiliar terrain. In an instant, I was overcome with a sense of foreboding as the muted color scheme, sounds of howling in the distance, and lengthy ladder leading down into the abyss set the scene perfectly to match what my brain had already been building up. The seemingly endless tight walkways also amplified my paranoia imposing a smothering sense of constriction to my movements.
I dispatched of the first enemy, a rather portly infested barbarian, easily only to almost fall off the walkway to my doom while facing off against his buddy. Eventually, I made it past them only to be accosted by a new type of foe who appeared to be wielding a corpse as a weapon. Cool, cool, cool. This was going great….
As soon as the guy playing with a corpse like a doll had been taken down, I was hit by a blowdart and had to quickly hide to avoid becoming afflicted with the “toxic” status. With ladders everywhere, there was suddenly a new level to the madness of Dark Souls. Enemies were now materializing from all sides without warning, and nowhere seemed safe.
It was time to make my first path decision, and I chose to to go after a shiny object in the distance knowing full well it was probably a trap. Fortunately, my instincts were wrong, and I proceeded up to even tighter walkways where I got my first glimpse of the sacred bonfire. Instead of going straight for the bonfire, I decided to explore a little more since resting at the bonfire would bring all my downed enemies back to life. This brief bout of courage quickly faded thanks to an odd dude hanging out in a jar distracting me into not noticing another attacker in hot pursuit. At last, I reached the bonfire and rested up in preparation for the what I was sure would be countless deaths.
Dying is Easy
There appeared to be about 3 separate paths to take at this point, so naturally I chose the one with dogs first. But holy shit, these dogs breathed fire, so I got the hell out of there and returned to the land of ladders.
Unfortunately for my current sparkling record, I was immediately ambushed by 3 foes at the top of the ladder and suffered my first death. They seemed to have jumped from a rock far above, again hammering home that nowhere was safe. With over 8k souls at stake, I defiantly headed back for retrieval then darted to the bonfire to level-up. This left me with but one path I was brave enough to venture into, so I went that way, which featured more thin walkways and numerous enemies. Wisely, I baited these over one at a time and was busy celebrating my intelligent fighting when I clumsily fell off the walkway suffering my second death.
This retrieval proved simpler, but I then continued my anti-ballerina streak of blundering and fell off of a ladder at the cost of about half my health. At least I found a nice item and a very unhelpful note that was trying to send me to my doom.
Following yet another retrieval, I encountered a trap deadlier than any of the monsters I had faced thus far. As I stepped out onto a new walkway, it began moving, causing me to shout “Oh god!” and run back to safety. After a moment or two, I knew I had to cross it, so I summoned the courage and made it across while repeating that now familiar “Oh god!” refrain only to discover that all that was on the other side was a freaking “humanity”. Really?!!?
Edit: I just spent an hour farming humanity from rats in The Depths and now believe this to be a just reward.
Back across the scary as shit walkway, I then caught a glimpse of a shiny object in the distance that I’d need to jump to. In a moment akin to the dramatic McConaughey leap in Reign of Fire, I hit a post and fell a long ways. At least there were some demons nearby who I could maybe count on for help. They did not help me, though. Rather, they murdered me for death numero tres. Having no clue where a safe path to where I had fallen was, I attempted the jump one more time to great success and then dropped down to retrieve my souls and get my revenge. Once I got my bearings, I realized I was back at the god-forsaken swaying walkway.
It was now time to face my fear of the fire-breathing pooches. After dispatching them, I was quickly assaulted by another blowdart fiend, who was hiding in the shadows leading to a fun 5 minutes where I would duck behind a column then blindly shoot at the dark with about a 50% success rate. With the blowdart man defeated, I spotted a giant worm-like thing in the distance, and I knew this wasn’t going to be letting up anytime soon.
Parasites for Everyone!
At this point in my journey, I had a critical choice to make. After approximately an hour and a half, my whiskey was now empty. If I refilled it, I could gain another momentary boost of courage, but I’d be risking dulling the fast reflexes I needed to respond to threats. In the end, I chose to keep my senses sharp and moved on toward the giant parasite.
After exhausting all paths near the parasite that didn’t take me directly in front of it and surviving several vertical ambushes, I ascended a ladder that led me into a hole in the wall putting me directly behind the worm and presenting my favorite note yet, “Imminent Rear”. What at once seemed like it would be a test of my skill, was now a complete breeze as I wailed on the poor helpless parasite’s backside for an easy and much-needed victory.
Eventually, after going through another far less fortuitous cave, I came upon a dreaded white light gate, which typically signaled I was about to get my ass kicked. Fortunately for me, this merely took me to a new area where I chose to skip what appeared to be an extremely treacherous cave in favor of facing off against some new creatures that appeared to be hybrids of spiders, crabs, and flies. Sure they may have breathed fire, but my Drake sword made quick work of them. Continuing down the path past another sniper shootout and some extra-large mosquitos, I found myself at the bottom of Blighttown at last.
At last, the scales would certainly be tipped in my favor. If I could just muster my inner New Orleanian, I could have the upper hand in a swamp environment. This notion was swiftly put to rest when my first steps into the murky water led to being poisoned and running back onshore like a scaredy cat. Mercifully, there was another bonfire nearby (you know a Dark Souls area is particularly troublesome when it houses multiple bonfires), so I took some time to level up and switched to my recently acquired Shadow Gear that has a lot better poison resistance but also made me feel a little naked since I had been wearing a suit of armor the entire game.
From the bonfire, I then conducted a sweep of the swamp from left to right featuring mad dashes from one small island to the next to avoid further poisoning. Along the way, I disposed of a ton of giant slugs and infested barbarians wielding giant boulders, and I received a pretty nifty new sword called the Server to go along with the Tattered Cloth gear set that I then switched to due to it being even more resistant to poison.
Following the exploration of a large tree featuring a ton of hidden walls that led to a new area called the Great Hollow, I returned to the swamp only to have my world invaded by the Dark Spirit Maneater Mildred, who I easily vanquished despite her ferocious cleaver. I did feel kind of bad about it, though, since my sweet grandmother’s name was Mildred, too.
I knew that I must be getting close to the boss of the area, so I proceeded on toward a set of three boulder aficionados. I made a made dash across the swamp leading to being poisoned once again and ran into a nearby cave atop the hill, at which point I was immediately overcome by 2 of the 3 aforementioned barbarians. After barely surviving that ordeal, I decided it was indeed time for that second whiskey and headed into the cave.
Inside of the cave, were possibly the most disturbing creatures yet. These poor souls were laying on the ground begging with giant egg sacks on their backs. Since they did not demonstrate hostility and I rather pitied them, I moved on to yet another white gate. This one, however, was sure to lead to an ass-kicking.
The Chaos Queen Quelaag
For my first round against what was basically like a centaur but with even more terrifying spider-parts instead of horse ones, I attempted to mimic my strategy from the Undead Asylum’s Stray Demon boss by getting behind the fire breathing, lava-spewing, slashing fiend. After rapidly depleting about a quarter of the boss’s health bar, I was then swiftly killed by a giant blast encircling the beast that indicated some experimentation would be needed.
Aside from discovering that poison didn’t actually affect my health all that much on the trek back for round 2, the second time around did not produce any better results, as I was quickly engulfed in flames and perished. I switched things up slightly for my third attempt, as I took a nearby note’s advice to heart and moved to holding my sword with two hands for more punishing blows. Still, after about a quarter of her health was depleted, the Chaos Queen destroyed me with her sweeping slash.
In the end, the fourth time was the charm, as I spent the entire battle running like hell and then pouncing on the boss while she was stuck in her flame-spewing animation. As she neared the end of her life, I decided to wail away at her and just hoped that she wouldn’t unleash a massive all-encompassing blast. The gambit paid off, as with just one healing Estus flask left, she finally succumbed to my blows netting me a well earned 20k souls for my efforts.
As I breathed a sigh of relief at being done with Blighttown, I heard bells off in the distance that reminded me of my main quest. I trumpeted my success throughout the entirety of Lordran by ringing them and descended further down into a hidden room foretold by another helpful note. There I encountered a far more eloquent strange egg-sack being who asked me if I was a new servant. Following standard Ghostbusters protocol, I responded with “yes” and was introduced to the Chaos Queen’s sister and granted entry into the Cult of Chaos. With another bonfire in this lair, I rested and called it a night.
Now, with my greatest Dark Souls victory behind me and my biggest gaming fear squashed, I feel like I am ready to take on whatever challenges the remainder of my journey have in store for me. Despite only dying 6 times (due to what I’m guessing was over preparing/ over leveling), I found myself immensely appreciative of the gauntlet that I had just completed. Blighttown represented the culmination of everything I had learned up to that point, and it built me up into a true warrior. Every step was fraught with peril, and the trials will surely stick with me.