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.

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