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Top 5 ‘Dark Souls’ DLC Bosses

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Since Demon’s Souls was released back in 2009 upon the world, the Japanese development team From Software have been up to their ears in critical acclaim. While it’s universally accepted, understood, and feared, that the Souls games are beautifully brutal pieces of design which force the player to learn from what the world presents to them, without babying them too much. But the boss design in this trilogy is a separate beast entirely. Bosses in any RPG are a staple of the core mechanics, functioning as a skill test that makes players draw upon all of their inner power, in a single, usually brilliant, fight that can linger in your mind for hours, or days afterward. From Software takes no prisoners with their more grand enemies, as they understand how to balance the line between satisfying to fight, and difficult enough to present a challenge. However, the numerous packs of DLC that the series has seen since 2011 have had some of gaming’s best boss fights. The most recent addition, the Ashes of Ariandel for Dark Souls III, being no exception to that rule (please be aware, that the list below contains spoilers for the packs talked about).

5 / Crown of the Ivory King / The Burnt Ivory King

sotfs_ivoryking

Dark Souls II overstayed its use of boss fights that employed multiple, tough enemies for the Next Monarch to fight. The Ruin Sentinels, Royal Rat Vanguard, Royal Rat Authority, Throne Watcher & Defender, are just some of the far too numerous fights which make the player take on unfair odds, with design choices that simply existed to make your life harder. Oddly, however, this trend was bucked in the final DLC pack in the Crown of the Ivory King, with its last boss being a battle that feels more like a siege than a duel. Instead of fighting solo, which is how most Souls fights are designed, the Burnt Ivory King is to be fought with allies by your side, in the form of NPC Knights that remained loyal to keeping the king buried under the throne room. It’s completely fantastic to run across a room, and see your own soldiers keep the burnt knights at bay before they start to close off the portals that continually spawn more of them. This fight rewards players who explored the area because you’re capable of getting four allied knights in the fight, but you only start with the one. Meaning it’s easier if you go back, and try to hunt these poor souls down. The king himself is no laughing matter either, standing about twice the height of the player, with a wide variety of attacks, and spells that can devastate a huge area. It’s not the enemy that makes this stick in your mind then, it’s the atmosphere, the music swelling as you charge toward another line of enemies with support at your side.

4 / Crown of the Old Iron King / Fume Knight Raime

sotfs_raime
Raime is evil. No other word can be so accurately used to describe this monster of a man. Once you enter his arena, you might be fooled into thinking that maybe it’s a gimmick fight, as a sword is the only thing visible upon passing through the fog gate. When the player gets close enough, however, he erupts from under the ashen floor, grabbing the sword from under him, and begins casually wielding it like a stick. On top of this initial intimidation factor, if you didn’t use ashen bolts to destroy the idols around the arena, any damage Raime takes can be instantly regained if he steps near one of the four that line the outside of the battleground. Raime’s first phase is used, more than anything, to remind players that slow wind-up attacks are to be treated with care, as any one of his ultra-sword swipes can obliterate those who are unprepared, or under-leveled. In a cruel twist, though, he wields a longsword in his off hand, to counter the slow swings on his right. But once reaching sixty percent health, you’ll regret ever messing with him. Phase two is a total contradiction to the first, as Raime abandons his short sword, and powers up his ultra-sword, imbuing it with a sickly orange flame. Not only is he more aggressive now, he’s now unlocked new moves to kill you with. Raime is a perfect example of how a single, slow enemy can pull the rug from under players, and kill the unprepared in a single casual swing.

3 / Artorias of the Abyss / Manus, Father of the Abyss

manus

The Abyss is not a fun area. It’s dark, full of specters that endlessly respawn behind the player, and is very panic-inducing. Fittingly, the big bad boss waiting at the end of this expansion is precisely what this hellish locale deserved. Manus is the reclusive fourth Lord of Dark Souls, the furtive pygmy of man that discovered the original Dark Soul from the depths of the First Flame. Despite the timeline, and lore, on his revival in Oolacile being very difficult to piece together, the player finds out that someone urged the townspeople to overturn the grave of “primordial man”. After this incident, the Abyss spread through town, corrupting, and crushing all it came across. As a boss, Manus is warped, and absolutely abhorrent to look at. Multiple eyes line the horns, and bones that protrude from his face, and back. Aside from looking as he does, his aggression, especially considering his size, in your fight against him is one of the key reasons why he’s just so incredibly hard to kill. Not only does Manus dwarf the player in terms of physicality, his health pool is the largest of any boss in Dark Souls, and on top of that, he’s a powerful sorcerer. The range of attacks he dances between is violent, giving you little time for respite, or for learning. You’re put constantly on the back foot, trying to figure out what on earth is going on. Even as he’s brought down to the lower stretches of his HP, the attacks only become more erratic, forcing players to make perfect dodges between smashes, grabs, and dark magic that can instantly kill you. Defeating Manus is not only an achievement in-game, it’s a personal badge that you can brag about with honor.

2 / Ashes of Ariandel /Father Ariandel & Handmaiden Friede

For all it's shortcomings, the finale of Ashes of Ariandel is challenging, intense, and very memorable.

The first expansion for Dark Souls III, Ashes of Ariandel, takes the player to a frozen painted world that is lacking its own fire. Much like Ariamis from Dark Souls, the world inside the painting is forsaken, owned by creatures disowned by the land of Lothric, while only a few sane inhabitants remain. Despite the DLC’s length, Ariandel is oozing with lore implications that tie brilliantly into the base game, making the player think about what they’ve seen previously. But this boss fight is wholly unique, as no other boss in the Souls series has three distinct phases that it morphs through. While it’s not unusual for a boss to get a fancy cutscene after the player believes them to be dead, showing them springing back to life, awash with new strength, this fight takes the cake. First, you’ll have to fight the scythe-wielding maiden of the painting, Lady Friede, who’s a dead ringer for Priscilla, another boss from the formerly painted world. Not only is Friede fast, her moves are deadly, causing bleed build-up before you can react to the fact you’ve been cut in two. After likely a couple of tries, once you’ve mastered the art of reacting to her invisibility, she falls. This triggers one of those exciting cutscenes, where Father Ariandel looks up from his lordvessel, and screams at the sight of Friede laying dead on the floor. He loses what little composure he had, and uproots himself, pulling his body towards the player while spraying fire everywhere. And, then Friede is alive again. While this phase isn’t as spine-chilling as the first, it’s far more intense and tiresome. Because you’ll likely know Friede’s attacks, Father Ariandel becomes the largest problem, but the third, and surprising, phase is worse than the other two combined. Black Flame Friede is the answer to players who think that backstabs, and parrying is easy. Those who don’t show this reincarnated, hate-fueled handmaiden the respect she deserves will die in a flash. The best, and worst, part of this boss is that if you die, you have to cycle through every single phase again.

1 / Artorias of the Abyss / Knight Artorias

knight_artoriasFor those unaware, Knight Artorias is the original poster boy for the Dark Souls box art. Not only is he one of the four knights of Gwyn, the first Lord of Light, and the unwitting master of the Abyss Watchers in Dark Souls III, he’s the sole reason that the abyss didn’t swallow the entire world when it first emerged from Oolacile. From a lore perspective, he’s one of the most important, and documented, figures that the series touches upon. The battle with him, much like his lore, is rewarding, brutal, and impossibly harrowing. Entering a circular arena, that looks suspiciously like a coliseum, the player sees a deformed Oolacile resident, and then Artorias makes his entrance. Charging in, he impales the creature on his sword, before turning on the player. This is where things get sad again, as the abyss creeps up on him, taking control of his already broken body. His moves are erratic, but hit like a freight train, even the ‘slap’ attacks, where he simply butts you with the pommel of his ridiculous great sword, are painful. However, this fight will remain forever legendary for the spinning, sliding, and flipping motions that ended so many players’ lives. Artorias isn’t the toughest boss in the Souls series, he’s not even close to being the most hated, or even the hardest. But his fight, his character, and the way he fights you, is so perfect that it’s difficult to forget this duel, which feels more like a mercy killing than the player simply disposing of another annoying creature in their way.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. ahmad

    November 16, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    uhhm manus isnt furtive. primordial just means ancient. and its been stated in the game that the abyss is the corrupt form of the dark soul. just like how the choas flame is the corrupt form of the first flame. basically manus is to furtive pygmy what izalith is to gwyn. besides, manus is a former human. pygmy is a lord/god.

  2. truth

    August 29, 2020 at 11:58 am

    Gael not on the list? This whole list is invalid and irrelevant then.

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Games

PAX Online: ‘Unpacking’ and ‘Infernax’

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game the calm and relaxing Unpacking and the not-so calm and relaxing Infernax.

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Unpacking and Infernax

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game that takes a hated activity and somehow makes it relaxing and another game that will leave you clenching your buttocks.

Unpacking

Unpacking game

Platforms: PC
Release: 2021

As someone who is coming fresh off of moving just a little over a month ago, you couldn’t have blamed me for being a little skeptical going into what was dubbed a “zen puzzle” game based on the final stretch of the process. Unpacking is just that, though. It’s a calming, almost therapeutic exercise that happened to serve as a wonderful way for me to unwind at the end of a day.

Unpacking is exactly what it says on the tin. There are no scores, no timers, no leaderboards, just you, and a few boxes with various items in them that need to be placed somewhere. The demo starts with a single bedroom in 1997. There’s nothing in the game that tells you where something should go, only your own taste and intuition; a locked diary would probably go in a desk-drawer while a soccer trophy would probably be displayed on a shelf.

As I slowly unearthed items one-by-one, I gradually got a feel for what the room’s new inhabitant was most likely like. The endless supply of stuffed animals implied someone of younger age while the numerous art supplies indicated someone inclined to right brain thinking. It’s rather engaging to learn about this person’s life purely by their belongings.

Every item taken out was like a delightful surprise and would sometimes even make me feel a little sentimental such as when I took out a small device that was clearly a Tamagotchi. More importantly, Unpacking nails that sinking feeling of when you feel like you’ve used all your available space but still have boxes left. Reaching the point of just throwing stuff wherever it fits is such an immediately relatable feeling that I was almost offended. And that was only for a single bedroom!

Unpacking game

The demo’s second stage was a little more involved with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen in the year of 2004. The hilarious moments of finding a boot in your kitchenware box or a bra with your toiletries also felt like a call-out to my own hodge-podge packing methods. It’s something I can’t help but let out an exasperated chuckle at.

It was also neat to see how this person has grown since their earlier abode. Much fewer stuffed animals but more art supplies and a brand new computer imply this character is maybe entering the working adult world. I’ve never actually seen this character, but I can’t help but feel a connection to them already, and that was only after two moves. The full game will have eight total moves to follow them through and I am genuinely curious to see how our nameless and faceless protagonist grows throughout them.

Now if only unpacking in real life could be this soothing.

Infernax

Infernax

Platforms: PC
Release: TBA

Some players may recognize Berzerk Studio for their excellent 2018 bullet-hell, rhythm game Just Shapes & Beats. Coming hot of the heels of that hit they immediately pivoted in the new direction with Infernax, a delightfully edgy 8-bit adventure platformer that takes cues from old-school Castlevania titles.

Our hero returns to his land after a successful crusade only to find it overrun by horrible monstrosities in every which direction. With nothing but mace in hand, he sets out on a quest anew to rid the land of the undead filth. Immediately apparent upon starting is just how tightly the game controls; anyone fond of earlier NES titles will feel right at home with Infernax. I quickly got a handle on my exact attack reach down to the pixel and began mowing down the zombies in front of me. It emphasized how much joy a game is possible of eliciting from simply a jump and attack button.

Getting to that proficiency is important too because the game doesn’t waste any time in taking off the training wheels! Even the base enemies shaved off half my HP if I got careless and that difficulty ramped up at a rapid rate as new enemy types were introduced at a decent clip such as flying evil eyes and jumping rodents. Not only do these foes burst into tasty experience points and gold to be spent on upgrades, but also into extremely satisfying fountains of blood.

Infernax isn’t particularly shy about turning up the gore factor, but it’s still impressive by just how creative they get with it using simple pixel art. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are killed. Every single enemy type has a unique kill animation when they deal the final blow to our hero. From the chump ass pillbugs to the big bad bosses, all of them mutilate you in a different way and it’s honestly morbidly mesmerizing to witness. It made me want to suicide against every enemy I came across just so I could see what creative way they took my life.

Infernax

Depending on your playstyle you might not want to do this, though, as Infernax features two different ways to respawn when you die. Hardcore respawn sends you all the way back to your last save point, just like in those classic NES titles. Casual respawn lets you restart right where you left off with no loss in progress, but choosing to do so locks you out from Hardcore the rest of the game. It’s a sort of mark of shame that I was glad to wear during the demo after I came up against the final boss and promptly got my ass handed to me. It sounds a little cheeky on paper but is actually very consistent with the game’s overtly edgy tone.

Infernax feels like a game that was lost to time during the NES era and is just now being rediscovered. Those looking for for a game that harkens back to the simplicity of the olden days need not look any further.

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Games

Indie Games Spotlight – Going Full Circle

We’re featuring five exciting indie games in our latest spotlight, including the internship roguelike Going Under and the cozy puzzles of Lonesome Village.

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Journey of the Broken Circle

Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some of the most exciting new and upcoming independent games. Summer may have come to a close, but that hasn’t stopped big announcements from rolling in. With events like PAX Online and the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase flooding the web with announcements, trailers, and gameplay footage, there’s been a constant deluge of news to keep up with. With so much coming on the horizon, we’re spotlighting five exciting indies that you’ll be able to play sooner rather than later. Whether you’re in the mood for a brutally addictive action game or a cozy adventure and social sim, there’s bound to be a game that speaks to you in this spotlight.

Moving Up Professionally in Going Under

Work is its own payment in Going Under. In this action game from developer Aggro Crab, you’re put in the shoes of an unpaid intern who must explore the endless ruins of failed tech startups while fighting off the monsters that spawn within them. It’s hard work to do without a single paycheck—but hey, at least you’re gaining valuable experience!

As a former unpaid intern myself, the writing in Going Under certainly resonates with me and it’s sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt underappreciated or overworked. Its vibrant and colorful 3D graphics, as well as its satirical story, only make it all the more enticing. It really should offer a great working experience when it hits all consoles and PC via Steam on September 24.

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Fill in the Gaps in Journey of the Broken Circle

Something’s missing in Journey of the Broken Circle. Like its name would suggest, this puzzle platformer follows a Pacman-like circle with a hole to fill. It wanders through a world that is whimsical and existential at once, searching for a companion to fill its gaps. As the circle rolls through ethereal environments, it encounters different shapes to use that allow for new gameplay mechanics.

Journey of the Broken Circle might be about an abstract shape, but in its quest to become whole, it strives to capture the human experience. It promises to be an intimate experience that clocks in at about five hours to complete. If you’re interested in getting this ball rolling, it’s already available now on Switch and Steam.

Prepare to Get GORSD

There’s a delicate balance between unsettling the player without being outright scary. GORSD treads the line here as a one-hit-kill shooter that stars humans encased in the skins of octopuses, dragons with human faces, and nightmarish environments. Something feels off about GORSD, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

Brought to life with detailed pixel art, GORSD supports up to four players who can face off in chaotic matches in varied arenas. It also features a full-fledged single-player campaign with a vast overworld with dozens of unique stages. Its concept is inspired by its developers’ native Southeast Asian cultures, making for a unique gameplay and aesthetic experience. If you’re ready to dive in and see it for yourself, it’s available now on all consoles and PC via Steam.

Get Ready For a Foregone Conclusion

Saying Foregone is a 2D Dark Souls would be cliché, but accurate nonetheless. It’s a hardcore action game where you’ll fight against insurmountable odds to prevent monsters from overrunning the world. It has a brutally addictive gameplay loop—its difficulty may be excruciating, but because it offers a wide assortment of abilities to leverage, it’s immensely euphoric once you overcome the challenges before you.

This beautiful 3D/pixelated hybrid action game has been available on PC in early access since February, but at long last, it’s seeing its full console release in October. It’s been a promising title ever since its pre-release days, and now that it’s finally seeing its complete iteration, there’s never been a better time to dive in and give it a shot. It’s hitting all platforms on October 5, so there’s not long to wait!

Finding Good Company in a Lonesome Village

Mix Zelda with Animal Crossing and you might get something like Lonesome Village. This newly-revealed puzzle adventure game features Zelda-like adventure in a hand-drawn world populated by animal characters. Players control a wandering coyote who stumbles upon a strange village and decides to investigate its mysterious happenings by interacting with villagers, solving puzzles, and exploring its dungeons.

It’s more than a simple adventure game. In addition to puzzle-solving, you’ll interact with Lonesome Village’s eclectic cast of characters to forge relationships and unravel brooding mysteries. It’s showing plenty of potential with its cozy gameplay loop, and if you want to give it a shot, check out its official demo from its Kickstarter page! It’s already been fully funded in less than 24 hours, but if you want to help the developers out even further, consider contributing to their campaign.

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PAX Online: ‘Inkulinati’ and ‘Pumpkin Jack’

The PAX Online celebrations continue with the strategy game, Inkulinati, and spooky Halloween themed Pumpkin Jack.

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Inkulinati and Pumpkin Jack

The PAX Online celebrations continue with a strategy game whose tales are writ in ink and a game sure to put you in an early Halloween mood.

Inkulinati

Inkulinati

Platforms: Switch and Steam
Release: 2021

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Competitive strategy games stress me out. Chess? Stresses me out. Checkers? Stresses me out. Star Craft? Stresses me out. Managing that stress as a form of stimulation is what makes the best strategy games shine, though, and Inkulinati is so far demonstrating all the facets of such a game.

The titular Inkulinati are masters of a craft that brings their inked creatures to life on parchment, including a caricature of themselves. The two Inkulinati do written battle with each other until only one is left standing. The battles are carried out in a charming medieval art style that looks like it was taken straight out of a manuscript you’d find carefully stored in a library. These aren’t the masterpieces of Da Vinci or Van Gogh, but the kinds of scribbles you’d find the layman making on the edges of pages either out of boredom or mischievousness. The playful art makes for a playful tone and jolly times.

The core thrust of the gameplay is that each Inkulinati utilizes ink points to conjure units, or “creatures”, onto the parchment in a turn-based manner and sends them into the fray. There were a fair amount of creatures available in the demo — ranging from a simple swordsdog with well-rounded stats to a donkey capable of stunning foes with its trusty butt trumpet. Many many more creature types are promised in the full game, but I found even with the limited selection of the demo the gameplay was still able to be showcased well.

Your primary Inkulinati also has some tricks up its depending on the type you’ve chosen to take into battle. Instant damage to or healing a unit were the two shown off in the demo, as well as being able to shove units. Shoving is particularly useful as you can push enemies into the hellfires that encroach the battlefield as the battle wages on, instantly defeating them.

Doing battle with an opponent it all well and good, but what’s the point if it’s not immortalized for generations to experience down the line? Inkulimati understands this need and will record every single action of the battlefield in written word. It’s infinitely charming, and the amount of variations in how to say what amounts to just “X unit attacked Y enemy” is astonishing. How can you not chuckle at, “Powerful Morpheus killed the enemy and may those who failed to witness this live in constant pain and regret”?

Pumpkin Jack

Pumpkin Jack

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam
Release: Q4 2020

Halloween may be a little over a month away but that didn’t stop the 3D action platformer Pumpkin Jack getting me in the spookyween mood. The human realm is suffering from the Devil’s curse and have elected the aid of a wizarding champion to save them from it. Not to be outdone, the Devil also chooses his own champion to stop the wizard, choosing the despicable spirit Jack. With the tasty reward of being able to pass on from hell, Jack dons his pumpkin head and a wooden & straw body on his quest to keep the world ruined. The premise sounds slightly grim but make no mistake that this is a goofy game through and through, a fact only emphasized by a brilliant opening narration dripping with sarcasm and morbid glee.

The demo took us through Pumpkin Jack‘s first stage, a dilapidated farmland full of ambient lanterns abandoned storehouses. The visuals are compliments by a wonderfully corny soundtrack full of all the tubas, xylophones, and ghost whistles one would expect a title that is eternally in the Halloween mood.

We got the basics of traversal, like dodge rolling and double jumps, before coming upon a terrified murder of crows. Turns out their favorite field has been occupied by a dastardly living scarecrow and they want Jack to take care of it. One crow joins Jack on his quest, taking the form of a projectile attack that he can sic on enemies. Jack also obtains a shovel he can use to whack on the animated skeletons with a simple three-hit combo. There’s nothing particularly standout about the combat, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be this early on. More weapons such as a rifle and scythe are promised in the full game and should go a way towards developing the combat along with more enemy variety.

Pumpkin Jack

Collectible crow skulls also dot the map and seem to be cleverly hidden as even when I felt like I was carefully searching the whole stage I had only found 12 out of 20 by the end. Their purpose is unknown in the demo, so here’s hopping they amount to something making me want to find those last eight in the full version.

After accidentally lighting a barn ablaze and escaping in a dramatic sequence we came across the scarecrow in question. Defeating it was a rather simple affair that was just a matter of shooting it out of the air with the crow then wailing on it with Jack’s shovel. We were awarded a new glaive-type weapon as a reward but unable to give it a whirl in the demo, unfortunately. All-in-all, Pumpkin Jack shows promise as a follow-up to action 3D platformers of yore like Jak & Daxter, so here’s hoping to a solid haunting when it releases later this year.

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