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Drangleic: a long journey through a forgotten kingdom.

Disclaimer: this being final thoughts, lots of spoilers ahead. Youíve been warned!

Fourty hours later, the Inheritor of the Throne stands tall atop Castle Drangleic, reminiscing of the challenges and perilous hazards left behind, prepared to rule with the four great Primal Souls in hand, until the time the evil presence which took over Queen Nashandra finds a new host with whom start itís reign of pain and damnation anew. But, how does the journey of this Chosen Undead compare to the one of his predecessors?

I played through the game as a Knight, focusing completely on brute force and resistances, as can be seen here. My endgame armor was the Vengarl set, which is all kinds of ugly, but had the best physical resistances of the bunchÖ in general, the art style of the armor sets drifts towards rags and battle worn plate, rather than the stylish ones from the previous games, though there are still some of those, most notoriously the Faaram armor shown on most of the trailers, which sadly has very mediocre stats for what is an almost endgame set.

Not shown here is the Broadsword +10 which accompanied me through the full game, as stats requirements are tighter this time around, though Titatine is way more plentiful, to the point I could raise both sword and shield to the mŠximum, this being a Tower Shield with lots of stability bur lacking a parry. Itís worth saying that it takes some time to get hands on a shield with 100% damage reduction, so the first hours can be daunting as those little knacks at the health bar quickly start to add up.

The game is a lot longer than the first one, with a lot of different locations to traverse, and many optional areas to explore. However, it is also less interconected, as it mainly consists of four big linear paths to take in any order, plus another one for the endgame, being similar to Demonís Souls. Thereís also the need to return to the town of Majula, Drangleicís versiůn of the Nexus, in order to level up, repair and buy supplies. I donít understand the need to go back to the Far Fire in order to level up instead of from any bonfire, as with the ability to travel between them since the beginning, it ends up as only putting an unnecessary loading screen between reaching a bonfire and leveling up. At least the place is easy to the eye, and with nice and relaxing music.†††

It is also very, very hard in the beggining, and rest assured that even veterans are bound to find some trouble in the first few areas. Of particular note is the descent through Black Gulch with itís penchant for poison, and the first trip through No Manís Wharf (pro-tip: light a torch!). Shrine of Amana is where a good part of these deaths happened, due to there being a lot open spaces for spellcaster to nail you with homing spells, not helped in the least by it being flooded, and lighting a torch in order to avoid falling into a pit and drowning making all and every lurking beast to zone in on you in a matter of seconds.† Bosses make the least part of these, amazingly, with only the Gargoyles, Dukeís Dear Freja, Smelting Demon and Baneful Queen needing a good couple of tries.†

While Boletariaís areas felt purgatory-hellish in nature, and Lordranís majestic and pompous, Drangleicís have a moreÖ primal tone to them. Like they have been forgotten for a very long time, and left to natural decay and slowly being occupied by wilderness. I particularly liked the end game areas, with Aidaís Keep and the Dragon Aerie being awe inspiring, and showcasing the capabilities of the new engine. However, none get to the level of the Painted World, or New Londo, which used atmosphere in a most sublime way.†

There are a LOT of bosses, around 30 to be exact, with some being really well designed like the Executioners Carriage, the Skeleton Lords, the Rotten and the Demon of Song. Of special note is the Smelter Demon, which is one now one of my favorites from the series, being challenging while fair, and requiring change of tactics on the fly because of it becoming deadlier as itís health decays. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the secret Darklurker boss, which ends up being a luck based misiůn due to it splitting in two mid fight, and proceding to stun lock you with attacks that, on their own are easy to dodge, but in tŠndem become unavoidable. Iíve yet to beat it, and as it requires an Effigy as token of entrance to itís lair, am unlikely to do, at least with this character.

Talking about specific moments, the first trip to the Huntsmanís Copse was pretty memorable due to the enemy design and oppresive ambience, along with the dragon skeleton coming to life and ending mine as swiftly; however the crown goes to finding the caged maiden on top of Castle Drangleic, with a Silent Hill-esque monster hanging in chains upside down as guardian, with itís total lack of context and being so out place making an impression. The way it is dealt with is also pretty strangely animated, and stands as my favorite part of the game. Ornstein cameo was also a welcome addition, though maybe being too early in the game lessened some of itís impact. The cursed painting also gave me a good scare!

Of the new characters, the return of a Dark Maiden type of character was very welcome, and her appearance at plot points of particular importance helped to give a sense of progress to the adventure. Lucatiel falls short of her role as the new Solaire, though. My favorite has to be Gavlan, with his jolly attitude and curious way of speaking helping to soften the mood of traversing the No Manís Wharf, ďGavlan Wheel, Gavlan deal!Ē is sure to become a fan favorite, along with the squawk of ďGive us smooth, give us silky!Ē from the new Snuggly the Crow. The singing ladies also are very misterious and help to raise the eerie atmosphere a good notch. There a lot more of NPC invasions, but most of them lack a defining of traits to make them shine apart, with sole exception of the Royal Sorcerer who loves to appear in the most annoying of places to wreck havoc all over your unsuspecting self with his hexes.††

Overall, I had a good time on Drangleic, however, it also suffers from what happens to be a common ocurrence in the gaming medium: while the first game surprises with lots of new ideas, some of them are not well implemented until the sequel, which elevates everything good from the first installment into a very high tier (think Silent Hill, whose sequel is a whole new level compared to the original). Then, the third game on a series appears andÖ doesnít advance things much. Itís refined, plays good, has better graphics, but feels more like an expansiůn pack that a true sequel. Luckily, we have a brand new generations of consoles on the rise, in which much can be done to surprise us againÖ at the very least, the concerns of From Software selling to mainstream crowd were entombed, and with the community sure to discover lots of interesting things to discuss in the near future, Iím sure to come back at a later date to this forgotten land (this time as a Sorcerer!), when itís secret are shared to experience, and new information helps to appreciate details in another light. Praise the sun!
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About SigfriedLionone of us since 4:55 PM on 01.25.2011