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Dark Souls Shields-Only Run – The Conclusion

With the spiked shield now in hand, things were about to move a lot quicker.  The next target became the Four Kings, since the path to them was also filled with opportunities for upgrade materials I needed in order to fully reinforce my new shield.  With what I had on me, I was able to get the shield to a +1 lightning weapon, enough to push the odds well into my favor.  I set out to the New Londo Ruins and pushed my way toward the lower levels.  Wraiths fell with ease, and the darkwraiths took some maneuvering, but were nothing in the way of a threat.  After a few trips, and making sure to open the shortcut, my shield was now reinforced to +4.

I returned to the surface, and made a trip back to the Asylum to claim a titanite slab in order to push the shield to +5.  After that, I took a visit to Sif.  He was less awkward to fight than I imagined he would be, though landing hits still wasn’t the easiest task.  I had to focus on his front legs and chest, and unlock the camera from him in order to be able to see what I was doing while under him.  With his ring in my possession, I was able to confront the Four Kings.

It felt good to be dishing out far more damage than before.  The Kings didn’t even stand a chance.  A barrage of the new shield was all it took, and each of the Kings fell, every time before the next one made its appearance.  Once I even had the time to spin the camera several rotations, looking for the next one before it finally showed up.  With such stacked defense and health, it only took about one flask to undo the damage each of the Kings caused, healing each time before the next, in case, I don’t know, my controller died or something.

After exiting the Abyss, I decided to pay Nito a visit.  I returned to the Catacombs, running past as much as I could until I finally reached the Tomb of Giants.  The skeletons were a nuisance to fight through, as they were difficult to stagger, with the skeleton dogs being even more difficult.  After a short romp through the Tomb, avoiding what I could, I finally reached Nito.

I didn’t bother to take the time to switch in my divine shield, and instead let the skeletons run free throughout the fight, with Nito constantly burying them with each of the blows he threw at me.  He sent several of his swords through the ground early on, taking his sweet time coming to my side of the area.  After he arrived, the battle was fairly straightforward.  I laid into him with the shield, as he swung all around trying to hit me.  As he got low on health, he began to constantly spam his big explosion attack, which was nice, in a way, as it kept the battlefield clear of the rest of the skeletons, and allowed me to focus solely on him.

With 3 of the Lord Souls claimed, there was only one place left to go.  I returned to Anor Londo and made my way to the Duke’s Archives.  The skeletons inside were actually the biggest threat I’d seen in a while.  Though they were easily blocked, they caused fairly high chip damage through the spiked shield’s only-90 physical resistance, and the occasional unblocked attack was enough to worry about if it ended up happening frequently.

I battled my way through the Archives, throwing on a Ring of Sacrifice I had picked up a long while back to preserve the humanity I had on hand when confronting Seath the first time, and made my way to the Crystal Cave.  I charged past everything I could around and inside the Cave until I finally stopped to deal with the shells just outside Seath’s lair, because letting them follow and participate in the fight with him is never a good time.

Without having to worry about cutting off his tail, Seath is a fairly big pushover at higher levels.  Staying on his side tail, he had trouble hitting me all the way up until he pushed himself weirdly up against one of the walls, and started laying down a huge amount of crystals on top of me, to the point where I had to back off and heal.  After that brief interruption, I was able to rush back in and finish him off.

With all of the Lord Souls now in my possession, it was time to face Gwyn.  I did a few runs through the Kiln to build up red titanite chunks for my spider shield, and then continued all the way to Gwyn’s room.  The battle started out really ugly.  I planned on using my +10 fire spider shield and 1-hand my spiked shield in order to absorb a lot of the damage he would dish out, but ultimately had to toss that idea out the window as he consistently obliterated my stamina whenever I tried to block.  I swapped out the spider shield for the grass crest shield to help with stamina, and went back to 2-handing the spiked shield.

The fight was pretty brutal.  He didn’t hit extremely hard through everything I had, but he refused to let me do anything about what he was throwing out.  Several times, I had to find safe spots to heal up, and even heal while taking blows, letting my poise keep me alive.  The end of the battle got nasty, too, as he almost killed me as I backed off to chug some flasks.  As we traded blows, he ultimately fell, and the run came to a successful conclusion.

Now what?

Some bits of information for those that are interested:

Final Stats

That’s about 20 levels lower than what I usually beat the game at.

Final Time

Less than 40% of the time it took me to beat the game the first time.

You can probably see why the spiked shield is such a big deal now.

Consumables used:  estus flask, humanity, twin humanity, transient curse, homeward bone, purple moss clump, blooming purple moss clump.

No spells acquired throughout the run.  All other items were eventually fed to Frampt.  I hope he’s happy.

Dark Souls Shields-Only Run – The Search For The Spiked Shield

The second encounter with Kirk led to disappointing results.  He refused to make things easy, and we ultimately just lashed out at each other with neither of us blocking until somebody fell.  He lost, and kept his shield to himself once more.  I then pressed on further into the Demon Ruins toward Lost Izalith, to meet up with him again.

I learned more about the boss behavior in this area this time around, getting to spend more time with them than usual.  I pinned the Demon Firesage in a corner, realizing that if pressed against him, he only stands there and attacks in one of his various ways, or jumps backwards, allowing you to keep him stuck there in the corner while you have the rest of the room to run around in and avoid the explosions he causes.

After the Firesage fell, I pressed ever forward, passing up kindling the next bonfire, thinking, incorrectly, that I had one more to pass before the Centipede Demon – the one I thought before him was actually the one after, whoops.  I came in at almost half flasks, 12 of my 20, as I had kindled the bonfire before the Firesage.  I used practically all of them, and even a couple humanity, while trying to coax the Centipede into a better position so I could fight him more easily.  The most important part I found out about him, is if you fight up close, go for his left leg.  He occasionally does a stomping attack, which is the only thing that can hit you there, and he always stomps first with his right leg, giving you ample time to dodge before the left one comes down on you (as long as you’re paying attention and don’t continue to attack after he raises his right leg anyway).  I also had to switch back to my magic reinforced shield, as his fire resistance (or immunity) made my spider shield pretty worthless.

A lot of running followed.  I charged through the lava, avoiding everything I could, and even managed to find a path that doesn’t draw any aggro from the bounding demons.  I also sprinted past all the statues to follow, and made a short detour to pick up the red titanite slab for my spider shield, then continued on to confront Kirk for the third time.  We had it out in the middle of every enemy in the area, and I had to constantly draw the battle all over the place as everything followed us.  He ultimately fell after another unblocking brawl, and I became one shield richer.

I then finished up with the Bed of Chaos since I was in the area, as it definitely wasn’t the primary reason for having chosen that path first.  There wasn’t really any threat from her; I knew where all the pitfalls were, and with a small god’s amount of hitpoints, there was nothing she could do to me.  One Lord Soul down, three to go.  I’m still thinking of who will be next, because now I can cause some real damage, and Gwyn is getting ever closer.

Dark Souls Shields-Only Run – The Hunt For The Lords Begins

Another day of preparing for one of the more dangerous boss battles stood in my way.  I left the interior Anor Londo bonfire and sprinted for the main doors, my only purpose in the area being to gain access to the blacksmith there.  I purchased a full set of Giant Armor and all the upgrade materials I needed for both weapons and armor, and left back through Sen’s Fortress.  The destination?  The Catacombs.

I turned one of my two hollow soldier shields into a divine weapon, and headed into the skeleton-infested area.  After progressing through and clearing out the bonewheel skeletons on the lower floor, I climbed back up and dropped in to find the last blacksmith in order to reinforce my spider shield with fire – a shield I fully intend to use against Gwyn for its full physical defense and strong fire defense.  At Soul Level 57, I then went after Pinwheel in order to kindle the Anor Londo bonfire fully for the battle with Smough and Ornstein.  Usually a pushover, he was actually kind of a threat this time with me having such low damage output.  He constantly flooded the battlefield with duplicates that I needed to focus on from time to time before they got out of hand.

After Pinwheel fell, I did one last bit of preparation.  I went and claimed the Dark Wood Grain ring, as with only the Ring of Favor and Protection equipped, I was close to pushing my equip burden below 50%, and ultimately finished off what levels I needed for that, pushing myself up to Soul Level 63.

I returned to Anor Londo, kindled the bonfire all the way for 20 flasks, and went after Smough and Ornstein.  The battle definitely went quicker than expected, helped no doubt by the fire reinforced spider shield, which dealt more damage than the two hollow soldier shields I had.  I used the first moments to test what I could block, and then focused on Ornstein, because Smough second is less of a threat than Ornstein second.  I got a little aggressive against Smough when he was finally alone, and began to take damage more regularly as I tried to get in as many hits as I could.

In less than half the time as either the Gaping Dragon or Quelaag, they both fell, and I was able to claim the Lordvessel.  I used it to return to the Firelink Shrine, and then headed to Blighttown to pick up one of the Firekeeper souls, and then toward the next place I could find Kirk.  I wanted his spiked shield.

Also, I’ve decided to amend the restrictions placed on this run:  No spells of any kind and no covenants are being used.

Dark Souls Shields-Only Run – To The Forsaken City

Today was a day of preparation for all that was ahead.  I was on the path to Anor Londo, and in doing so, likely the next largest roadblock:  Smough and Ornstein.  They were the target because they stood in the way of further invasions from Knight Kirk, who held the shield I wanted.  It began with the climb out of Blighttown, which oddly enough only took about 3 minutes with me hurriedly rushing past everything, only stopping once to push an entire clog of 4 ghouls off a ledge as they stood around a ladder I needed to climb.

The first stop was Sen’s Fortress, which I immediately realized should be the second stop.  My shield, in its current form, was no longer cutting it, and I needed to reinforce it magically.  The Fortress itself went by quicker than I expected.  I did everything I could to kill the snakes with traps and boulders, because they did far more damage than I could.  I then left as soon as I unlocked the shortcut and purchased some green titanite shards, and got myself a nifty +5 magical hollow soldier shield.  It essentially doubled my damage output.  Granted, it was doubling next to nothing, but every bit helps for this run (don’t let the screenshot below fool you, the damage shown is 11 hits worth).

While I was out upgrading my shield, I decided it was time to grab the Grass Crest Shield, for the added stamina regeneration.  After making the quick detour, I returned to the Fortress and took the shortcut back to the top.  The firebomb-throwing giant was surprisingly easy with the new shield; I was able to kill him by the 4th of his frenzy attacks.

The Iron Golem was also little trouble with this setup.  He didn’t seem to have nearly as much health as either the Gaping Dragon or Quelaag.  Each hit took off a noticeable sliver of the health bar, and there were far more opportunities to cause damage, especially during the times he gets staggered.  The only problem I ran into was when I had him down to about 30% health, I accidentally blocked one of his attacks instead of dodging or just taking the hit, and it sent me sliding an incredible distance, right off the edge to my death.  I then got to return and do the entire battle over again.

Before going to Anor Londo, I decided to exit the Fortress and gather some items that could be useful.  I wanted Havel’s ring, and eventually needed the divine ember for the Catacombs.  That meant the poor Moonlight Butterfly was in my way.  Luckily, with the new shields, neither it nor Havel posed much of a threat.  The Butterfly took a while, with only being able to attack it while it was perched on the bridge, not to mention it also constantly regenerated health while doing so.  It would have been more dangerous had I approached it at a lower level, as the shields I had available didn’t do much in the way of absorbing its magical attacks, and I was constantly taking small chunks of damage from the random spike attacks when I couldn’t dodge them, even while blocking.

Havel went down without ever touching me.  At a Soul Level of 47 (the same I was for the Iron Golem and Moonlight Butterfly), and with a fairly high endurance (with it being one of two stats that is consistently getting points allocated to it, and with the Ring of Favor and Protection), none of his hits could breach my stamina.  With Havel’s ring, I replaced my Tiny Being’s ring that I had taken as a starting gift (every bit of health helped early on), pumped in a few more stat points to endurance, and with my current equipment, brought my equip burden perfectly down to 25%.

I was now prepared for Anor Londo.  I pressed through the Fortress one last time, and made my way to the gorgeous city.  The first gargoyle went down easily.  I think he glitched out partly; after I got him to about 75% health, he did a jumping attack to what seemed to be outside of his aggro range, and I ended up in front of him as he tried to walk back to the area he is programmed to stay in.  He then just tried to walk through me as I beat him to death.  I didn’t even realize what he was doing at first.  The second gargoyle made up for it, though, and nearly killed me.  He was wildly aggressive, and kept attacking with his tail in the air, and hitting me in the back.  Don’t I have a shield there?  Why does that hurt me?

I returned to the bonfire one last time to replenish my flasks, and then set out to push through what I had forgotten about until I arrived in Anor Londo:  The silver knight archers.  I didn’t even bother trying to kill anything in the way.  It was the first time I had simply run past it all on that path, and it worked out surprisingly well.  The archer luckily attacked me how I wanted him to when I got close – not with his bow – and I found I could knock him ever so slightly back if I hit him at certain times.  Off the ledge he went, and I continued to the safety of the interior bonfire.  I sure hope it’s safe at least, because now I’m stuck in here until I manage to get a door open.

Dark Souls Shields-Only Run – Into The Swamp

When returning to pick up the journey today, I knew there would be grinding involved.  The gargoyles, I figured, would be one of the earliest roadblocks to this experiment.  Two strong enemies at the same time, while dealing pitiful damage in the early stages of the game?  Yeah, that wasn’t going to be easy.

Yesterday concluded at a Soul Level of 16; I managed to bump that all the way to 35 before climbing the bell tower – with almost all of that into Vitality, with some extra Endurance – not to mention I reinforced my shield to +5 and my entire set of armor to +3.  I figured if overkill in stats could make some of these bosses more manageable, the trek through the full game may be possible.

While they did slap me around a fair bit, I was able to finish off both gargoyles without being overrun or knocked off the roof.  I ended up having to approach them in the way I figured I would:  Focus on the second gargoyle the instant it shows up in order to get rid of the ranged threat.  I also managed to cut off the first one’s tail.  I’m not sure why, it’s become a habit at this point.  It’s not like he needs it where he’s going.

The Capra Demon followed, with my Knight now up to Soul Level 39.  The battle was hectic; I think I got bled once from the dogs, but the reinforced armor helped keep the situation well in my favor.  I noticed early in the day that the new shield I had picked up (one of the hollow soldiers was kind enough to drop one almost instantly) had a different set of attacks than the other shields I was used to using.  The strong attack wasn’t a slamming, downward strike, but rather a weak charge, followed by a strike.  The charge absorbs any direct attack coming from the front, as if you were just standing there with your shield raised, and also does minor damage that briefly staggers anything without poise, allowing the second half of the attack, the one with a majority of the damage-dealing capability, to be less avoidable.  This came in very handy when dealing with the dogs down in the Lower Undead Burg.

Progressing through the Depths was full of finding new ways to end up down with the basilisks.  Luckily, I’ve never been cursed by them, and don’t intend to ever start letting that happen.  I also had to hunt down Kirk, for a shot at the shield I want, which he ended up not dropping.  I got his sword, though.  Maybe Frampt is hungry.

I advise you not watch the whole thing.  It’s long.  I mean, unless you really want to.

Then came the Gaping Dragon.  The video above is the 30-minute fight I had with him.  It was the first clear indication of just what I had gotten myself into:  These boss battles are going to take forever.  It was also accompanied by the startling realization that I needed to be on the top of my game when fighting them.  Normally, the bosses aren’t much to worry about with how well you dodge (for experienced players, anyway; don’t think you can just stand there and take swords to the face with no consequences).  You can take a hit or two every minute and still be fine, because you’re actually dishing out damage.  With the damage output of these shields early on, though, a hit or two every minute extending now across half an hour will mean all of your healing items and then some.  I was half-watching tv while fighting the Gaping Dragon, right after I saw just how slowly his health bar was moving, but I eventually had to focus more when I noticed how quickly I began to go through my flasks and humanity.

After the epically-long battle, I got to make my way through the ugliness of Blighttown.  Out came the Spider Shield for the toxic dart-throwing jerks.  I dual wielded the shields through the necessary sections, and the rest of the time was spent pushing everybody off a ledge if they stood in my way.  There was no way to fight through this area with the shields, everyone simply had to fall to their death.  The ghouls had so much health that it was incredibly dangerous if more than one was present and participating in combat.  I found this out the hard way, and died to a swarm of 3 I had somehow picked up, just past the barbarians.

The rest of the time was spent running past as much as I could, and utilizing as many falling shortcuts as possible to get down to the bonfire in the swamp.  When there, I bumped up to Soul Level 43, stacking ever more Vitality and Endurance.  I was also in possession of the always-awesome Ring of Favor and Protection that I had picked up when I still had the chance, before its bearer went and left.

Then came Quelaag.  This was another half-hour endurance test, with seemingly much fewer openings for attacks than the Gaping Dragon provided.  Shield attacks are so slow, that they could only reliably make contact when she sat still, spewing out lava.  The attacks also only seemed to connect when aiming for the legs, as the attack animation regularly pushed me away from her when striking at the side of the body, resulting in a miss.  Quelaag eventually caved to the might of the pitiful shield.  After that, I played cleanup, quickly getting rid of Ceaseless Discharge – the way I said I would –  for the extra souls and humanity, and then returned to the bonfire in the swamp.

Now that I’m down here in Blighttown, I have to somehow make it back out.  The biggest hurdle lies shortly off in the distance as well – Smough and Ornstein.  I have a feeling it’s going to be a lot of upgrading before going after them.

Dark Souls Shields-Only Run – The Beginning

The initial realization upon starting the game was that the Knight class was slow, and I needed to begin stacking Endurance immediately.  Adding in the weight of all the armor and the shield, even with no weapon, and you begin at over 50% of your equip burden, meaning dodging is nearing non-existent, and movement is fairly impeded.  Every point I was able to squeeze out of kills and consumables went into Endurance, and brought my equip burden just below the 50% threshold by the time I made it to the Undead Burg bonfire.

The Northern Undead Asylum was fairly quick and dry, however I did come out of it with one bit of important knowledge:  Plunging attacks are worthless with a shield as your weapon.  Against enemies that are generally weak against the attacks, where you get the added animation and damage, using a shield you get nothing; you slam into the enemy and glance off straight into the ground, dealing the standard damage you would if you started on even ground, and then taking the full fall damage yourself for the height you jumped from.

I’d love to say that I then made it through the Undead Burg without a death, but sadly I can’t.  Before making it to the bonfire – in fact, right outside it – I decided to challenge the archer before the 3 undead below him were taken care of, because I didn’t want him shooting at me while fighting the group.  I then got swarmed before I could slowly bludgeon him to death, and died right there right at his feet.  I chalk it up to still being at over 50% equip burden at the time, because it was impossible to roll out of the situation I had placed myself in.

I ignored the Black Knight, because that would have gone the opposite of amazingly, and pushed on toward the Taurus Demon, making it through with surprising ease.  I was reminded of how difficult it was the first time through the game, and that I still managed to have a harder time then than I was now, outfitted with only a shield.  I fought with the Taurus Demon for a while, slowly chipping away at him, as he then connected with my raised shield, sending me careening toward the edge of the bridge that had no wall.  No no no no no, I yelled out.  Luckily, I stopped mere inches from sliding off, and continued to fight.  Shortly after getting the Taurus Demon below half health, he hit me fiercely again, this time as I was fresh out of stamina from a barrage after knocking him off balance.  As his hit connected, my body was hurled off the bridge to death number 2.

I pressed on again through the Undead Burg a second time, quicker than the last, and returned to the Taurus Demon, sporting fewer Estus Flasks and a hunger for revenge.  I chipped him down 20-30 hp at a time, coaxing his attacks and countering with a rush, this time making absolutely certain to keep the fight within the walled sections of the bridge.  After several minutes of bludgeoning his shins, he finally fell.  I celebrated with a sprint across the following bridge, unlocked the first shortcut, and took a much-needed rest at the bonfire and increased my Vitality and the 1 Dexterity I would eventually need.

And thus concludes the first steps in the journey.  No doubt it’s only going to get more difficult from here on out.

Oh yeah, and Gold Pine Resins can’t be applied to a shield.  Bummer.

Dark Souls is too easy, let’s play with only shields

Wow it’s been a while.

Following the success of my newest Dark Souls PvP build, I decided to try something along the same lines:  How far can you get in this game using only shields?

The rules are simple:  No weapons, no damaging spells (I’m allowing myself buffs [assuming they can be applied to a shield, I haven't tried yet] and heals, if needed), no damage-dealing consumables (ie. no firebombs, however pine resins will be allowed), and no co-op.  Just a man and his shield(s).  And, I’m assuming many deaths.

Any amount of grinding necessary will also be allowed, as will abusing Ceaseless Discharge’s jump to his own doom and similar programmed events.  I won’t be abusing glitches such as the bottomless box or infinite souls; this will be a legit run as far as I’m concerned.  Or rather a very slow trudge.  There will be nothing runny about it, except the floor which will be coated in my blood.

To start things off, I’ve selected the Knight class, purely because it has the strongest-damage starting shield, and also some reasonable Vitality, and is only 1 Dexterity away from using the Spiked Shield that my PvP character fights with.  Let’s see how this goes…

I’m preemptively calling right now that Sif will be trouble.  I tried to fight him earlier while I was getting summoned for PvP, and hitting his legs with a shield is incredibly awkward.  Nito is also going to be interesting.

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