[The first piece of this wordy pie can be found here]
On his quest to return the accursed Idol of Sorrow to the Holy Land, prince Devian of Azalin made his way into the ancient city. We've only seen a tiny part of the city, but rest will have to wait a little bit. We're going back to the surface.
Which is none the friendlier, I might add.
There are a bunch ways to go from the start of this area. There's a cave with those hedgehogs, a locked door next to a giant golem, a fountain, an unlocked door with a bunch of locked chests and a hill with some herbs. Running up that hill leads to a solitary Earth crystal, which is always nice. Behind the open door lies the blue guide stone, as well as the locked chests.
These stones function like the gates in KF2. You place it at an altar and you can warp there with the matching wand, letting you customize your quicktravel. It's not exactly the same, as you need to stand on a transport circle for it to work. The upside is that it doesn't cost MP anymore. But we don't have the blue wand yet, so it remains useless. The chests house things of great importance, but will remain locked for a good while longer.
The fountain is actually an everlasting MP fountain, letting you fill up on as much grape juice as you desire. A woman who might be of the Forest Folk sits next to it.
Not helped by the game not having compass like the others do.
This is Aeine Vigil, who is probably the most useful NPC in the game. She drops some lore on our king character for the game, the king of the Forest Folk. I think they just replaced the elves and dwarves from the previous games with the Forest and Earth folk for the sake of at least sounding original. She can help us move forward if we get some food for the golem by the door. That food? Forest dew. I was this close to being able to do a Mountain Dew joke, this close!
Bunch of lazybones. Back in my day, golems would work before they got fed!
It's of course deep inside the cave with all the hedgehogs. One quick trip and it's ours.
Is dew supposed to look like a shiv?
Once the golem's tummy has been serviced, it opens the door for us. I'd like to mention now that this moment is extrememly similar to how you open Drangleic Castle in DS2. And that's not the last thing DS2 knicked from this game. In fact, there's amother thing not far off. Something tells me the DS2 directors likes King's Field at least half as much as Miyazaki loves Berserk.
Before leaving, I had a bit of fun by uncapping the framerate and abusing the MP fountain to level Endure Fire to max. It's the one worthwhile spell in the game (Except for Earth Heal with the HP draining Bone Hands.) that you can level next to the fountain. Not only is this good for the required fire area later, but also let's you do some fun sequence breaks. Maxing a support spell also gives your weapon a buff when you use it.
Behind the golem door, we start going underground again to the Knight's Hall and quickly run into the next thing DS2 decided to steal.
I know that staues coming to life is a popular trope, but Drangleic Castle is full of them, so I can only assume it was intentional. They're a bit beefy and can shoot ice as well. Thankfully, they can damage eachother with their spells.
Up some steps lies the entrance to the Passage of Light, which holds the king's Power of Passage, whatever that means. I have a guess for what it could be, but that doesn't matter at this point. Going into the passage at this point is suicide. As soon as you do, the music becomes really hectic and death by either bird monster or lightning soon follows. It's one of the beefiest Beef Gates I've ever seen. In a chamber with a comfy stone throne, there's this little slab of lore.
”To the land of the light
The garden of life
Remember the golden times”
There's also a door saying we're not kingly.
Bitch, I might be.
We need to recover proof of kinghood, in the form of a ring for this to open. Why does that sound familiar?
I'd like to take this moment to point out that KF4 doesn't have a Glass of Truth, so you can't get exact lore on individual enemies and places. It's a real shame, as there are a few weird enemies I'd like to learn more about. Next to the Chamber of Five Wands, there's yet another DS2 thing, some poisoned chests. Poison is not an issue at this point in the game, but it's still an annoyance. The hall is our goal at the moment, but it's locked. Aeine mentioned that the key is in her father's grave, so it's time for some good ol' graverobbing. But first, another thing that reappeared in DS2. This is starting to become silly.
Trust me, you do not want to hear the creepy whispers of these things.
These statues hold another magic crystal revealed by lighting a torch. They are very similar to the statues in the ceiling of the Undead Crypt in DS2. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I really love collecting stuff in these games. Things are usually hidden in small crevices and float into the center of the screen while spinning. It's really satisfying, even though there isn't a sound effect.
Further down still, there're these jackasses:
They propel themselves by skipping. Skipping!
These demons love flanking you and inflicting you with paralysis. It's here where the bow really shines, as the rooms down this path are filled to the brim with the bastards. The reward is just some loot and a trek through an acid pool (That might break your stuff, I didn't check.), but hey, that's adventuring for you.
Down even further beyond, a skeleton rings a giant bell and this happens:
”I hate mondays.” ”Henry, shut up and draw your damn bow!”
As yet another thing that was sort of reused in DS2, this bell is similar to the bells that summon enemies in the Undead Crypt. But it's also a bit like the bell in No Man's Wharf, as you get rewarded by shooting it. Instead of summoning a ghost ship early, it makes the archers go back to sleep. If you don't do this, you'll probably get shredded like one does when trying to run into the Ringed City.
There's some nice loot in the coffins, alongside some greatsword-wielding Skeleton Warriors. One of the things is the Priest's key, which leads into the Hall of Five Wands. Continuing on leads us to Chad the thief again. He is a merchant now and sells some much needed supplies. Going down, we emerge at the top of the tower of the ancient city. It's very much advised to drop the Red Guide Stone here for a shortcut to the forest and Chad's shop. I noticed some fun detail when standing on the top of the tower:
Buddy, I appreciate the effort, but that ain't really helping.
I also notice that gold has permanence, just like in KF1. You can leave it and it'll stay as long as you don't reset the game. Back at the hall, there's supposedly some sort of puzzle with these eyes:
I say supposedly, because I haven't needed to do anything here to proceed. There's a pressure plate that I assume the eye puzzle will disable. It triggers a ceiling trap in the actual hall that'll instakill you. The trick is to cast Endure Fire and knick all the wands guarded by fire-spitting statues. Two of the wands are not present, but we do get the green one. And to proceed, we must use it. This is a nice moment, since it'll teleport you to an unknown place not far from the Silver Gate.
In this side area, there isn't much of note. On the way to an unimportant NPC, we run into a nasty emulation bug. It's not progress-breaking, but still very annoying. It makes it so that a chunk of a level just won't load. The fix is to fiddle with the recompiler options and set them to either positive or negative. It takes some busy-work, luck and walking backwards and forwards, but at least it's possible. Next to the NPC there is a window where you can snipe some skeletons. By doing this, you make it much easier to climb up to that room a bit later and claim a crossbow.
In the Craftman's area, there's a ghost of some sort that speaks to you about the leader of the Earth Folk. There's also the useless Earth Folk map and a locked chest containing the awesome Ice armor.
Back a bit, there's a hidden wall leading to a really determined set of digits.
I'm suddenly reminded of the ending of Coraline. Ugh.
You can knick a light ring from this hand and it'll fall into the darkness, never to be seen again.
The path forward leads to the Earth Folk's area, which is loaded with goodies.
There be gold in dem plants!
The area is circular with many rooms leading outwards. There's a good spot to drop the green guide stone, a breakable wall like the one in No Man's Wharf, the awesome Frostbite sword and a warning:
This is tells us that the leader of the Earth Folk destroyed the land either to stop the sealed one or because of him. It's a bit muddled, all you need to remember is that the sealed one exists. The way forward isn't very hard to find.
Don't think I don't see you, you dastardly fiend!
The demons guard a(nother) gravesite where the Earth Folk key is, which is good for a couple of chests around here. The next area is some sort of frozen over forge.
Bet you couldn't tell that from this screenshot.
The bugs from the start inhabit this place as well, except they have minty fresh breath as well. It's a fun little place, not even the ice physics are that bad. It was at this point I really noticed how much faster the combat gets when you've leveled up PHYS a bit. It's rather pleasant, not to mention necessary since we'll only fight stronger and stronger foes. One of those foes are these guys.
WE ARE BORN OF THE FIST. MADE MEN BY THE FIST. UNDONE BY THE FIST.
These Pepsi man-looking goobers are awesome. Their attacks look almost identical to the powerstance moveset of the Bone Fist in DS2. They're thankfully not as beefy as the pugilist demons in Shadow Tower, but still pose a decent threat.
There's also some frozen Earth Folk to be found.
This is is Hamurah Forgefist (Dat name!), who'll serve as our smith once he has been freed. But before that, there's a shortcut bridge to unlock and a slab to read.
From here, we can go to a fire cavern, completing the Hailfire Peaks aesthetic. This place has some of the beefiest and numerous enemies in the game.
Basically this, times 5.
I find it funny that this is the closest we get to dragons in KF4. It's a bit of a change coming from the Verdite trilogy where dragons were very important. I don't bother fighting them, as the XP isn't that good. What is worth fighting though is a boss!
Who is rather ripped, if my eyes don't decieve me.
There isn't much strategy to be had, beyond facetanking with Endure Fire and killing him as fast as possible. When he dies, the lava flow he blocked rushes down into the iced area and thaws it up. It brings to mind what happens when you kill the Ceaseless Discharge in DS1, but in reverse.
Being able to see the place does wonders for the atmosphere.
Parts of the area have been flooded, but the ice is gone. This let's us engage with another boss.
This is the leader of the Earth Folk who betrayed his people and turned himself into a dwarfsicle. I'm really not sure about his motivation for that, maybe someone dropped his favorite pair of shoes in a hole and things just escalated. When he dies, he leaves us the Icon of Ice, which can be used to lower the lava flow a bit. We can also talk to Forgefist now.
”Dem anime tiddies were out of this world.”
He is a bit discombobulated at the moment, but agrees to help. He goes back to his cave in the central zone and resumes smithing. I didn't feel like backtracking yet, so I went ahead to where you need to place the Icon of Ice.
No wonder these guys are dead!
Placing the icon lowers the lava in the forge, allowing progress. But it also unlocks a bonus boss nearby.
This demon knight is a right bastard and probably the best humanoid fight in the game. He looks like a Predator and even does some quicksteps! It's still a bit bullshit damage-wise, but points for the cool-factor.
”You ready to get a taste of hell, human?”
He guards a fire crystal and drops his fire mail. It's good, but nowhere near as good as the Ice Armor we'll get soon. Back to Forgefist (I'm typing out this name as much as I can.) we go!
Ok, what kinky shit did you actually dream about?
And it's now that we talk more about durability. Forgefist will repair and upgrade weapons for free, except for the Earth Shard needed for the upgrade. The problem lies in implementation. He works in real time, so you need to wait around for 3-8 minutes before he's done. This adds nothing but tedium to something that needs none. And upgrades aren't worth it either, since the weapon only gains a single point of damage. The silver lining is that he can work on multiple things at the same time. So after running and grabbing the Ice Armor (Which seals away fire spells. Whatever will I do?) in the Craftman's area with the Craftman's key he grants us, I just drop all my stuff in his care and uncap the framerate.
Before going down the path liberated from lava, it's time to start another fine From Soft tradition. Walking on lava!
… who taught us how to make Orange Charred rings.
Even with fire armor, Endure Fire and healing it's barely possible. But the Black Scar is about equal to the Frostbite sword, so it's a worthwile endeavor.
Next up is the South Gate, where the loading bug emerges yet again. It's nothing a bit of fiddling with recompiler options can't fix though! The area is a bit bland. There are more Widdas, but they aren't minibosses anymore. I did have some fun sniping some exploding barrels next to them though.
Man, when was the last time someone used a duster in this place?
The crossbow I talked about earlier can be claimed now and the guy on the other side is still alive, surprisingly enough. Something that isn't still alive are these spooky ghosts!
Who we can stab to death for money. Video games!
They guard a light crystal and to get out, you need to break down some planks. I think that's the last time this happens, which is nice. Swapping to a two-handed weapon when you need to bust down something gets annoying after a while.
“You went to the wrong dungeon, meatsack.”
Beyond a slab with parts of the opening script on it, there's some kind of ice, thingamajigger.
Well, what'd you call it? My dictionary is only so big!
It houses a sword that you can get if you melt it down. Not a great sword, but hey, loot. There's also the yellow guide stone behind a hidden wall. Back out to the tower, there's a way back up to Chad and the wall of magic. Further onwards, I ran into a bug that kept a key from spawning. It turned out that the recompiler tinkering I did was to blame, so it's best to reset it at this point. There aren't any more bad bugs in this game. Except for this thicc mofo!
Girth and earth to spare.
It's not much of a fight, but actually enjoyable when compared to the bug bears in DeS. There's a merchant that sells the yellow wand, putting our total pairs of wands and stones to 4. That's all you need, the last one is rather useless. There's also a neat little floor board you can remove for loot. The game never lets up when it comes to fun ways to hide treasure. There's also a Widda's Needle around here, that works like a Demon's Pick in the earlier games. It just buffs magic a bit, which might have been useful if they weren't so rare.
And then, there was fire. Boatloads of the stuff even.
Stone makes for surprisingly good fuel in a pinch.
Here's the first spot where you can do some sequence breaking with Endure Fire. I recommend trying it if the nearby boss proves too much of a cheater. The source of the fire is a volley of continuous arrows fired from the King's Field staple wallfaces. These faces regenerate until their leader has been slain, so you can grind rather easily here. I always make sure to get a few levels here for insurance.
Beyond some really annoying enchanted armor sets that play dead, we find one of the more difficult bosses.
I believe this magician is one of four dark lords. They are servants of the dark one and await his return. I'm not so sure on how true this is, but it seems credible enough. What I am sure of is how much of an asshole this boss is. He spams spells, summoned swords, status effects and makes the floor travel upwards like a sorcerer in Spyro the Dragon.
He's surprisingly tanky for a caster as well. The fight is a mad DPS race to kill him before you run out of healing items. That's why I grinded and recommend continuing forwards for a bit. Once you kill the boss mask down here, the smaller ones die too and you don't even need Endure Fire to proceed.
Once he falls and gives up his juicy xp, the way to some sweet loot opens up. First of which is the Water Talisman that extends Devian's time under water. Almost essential in the upcoming area. The stone guardians also make a return here, so you better have brought binding crowns along. Once they've gone back to sleep, we can pick up the Engineer's key. This is one of the keys for the four chests in the forest, as well as some shinies nearby. It also unlocks the Silver Guantlets back at the area with the spider boss, but I've never bothered to pick them up. There's also a puzzle leading to a worthless greathammer.
The solution lies not with genitals, but in archery. There's a small hole in the wall you can shoot that brings down a hidden staircase. According to my notes, the map belonging to Infinite Keys Zastari is here somewhere. It's noteworthy because it actually shows your location. The downside is that it's only useful in the central tower, but hey, improvements.
After that trial, it's time to enter the best level in the game, the North Cliff.
I...don't have a good picture to summarize the whole area. Sorry!
On the way there, we find one of the Swordmaster Septiego's men, who is of no help to our quest.
I have like 15 on me, take your pick.
He says that Septiego allowed himself to be captured in order to save his men. He is now a prisoner of the Widda queen in their palace. It seems like finding him is the sound thing to do. One little problem though.
Note to self: Fucking with fire on a staircase is a bad idea.
In order to quench these flames, we must find a set of three Widda items in the nearby ocean fort. You can also slap on Endure Fire and run through it, but that would exclude you from a whole bunch of treasures, so I won't recommend doing it. Still, it's nice to have options. The music of this area really sounds like something out of American Mcgee's Alice. It's really creepy, well befitting of the Widda's region. But they aren't the only threat around.
These things are real dickheads.
The area consists of a bunch of wide caves that connect to the outside shore. It really reminds me of the start of KF2, sans giant squid. What remains of the expedition cowers inside a makeshift camp.
This place could really use a houseplant for some Feng Shui.
They are rather broken inside, but offer some hints at least. One of them gives us the Icon of Fire, which can be used in a nearby lighthouse. That's probably a reference to KF2 as well. One of them is trying to dull the fear by stuffing his face with a gigantic egg.
A man has to get his protein. And then some!
Up on the cliff where the lighthouse is, there is a grave with the Thief's necklace. This is an early incarnation of the Thief's ring in DeS, but not as useful. King's Field combat is very intimate, so sneaking around and skipping enemies isn't really useful. Except in one place, then it's really useful. But that's for later, let's light up this joint!
Look at all that water being rendered properly. It's so okay-ish-looking!
I'm not sure if you have to light up the path here, but I still do it every time. Mood lighting is important. After sniping some mushrooms down from a wall, it was time.
Time, TO VENTURE FORTH INTO THE ENDLESS DEPTHS OF THE UNFORGIVING SEA, WHERE HORRORS UNFIT FOR HUMAN EYES LIE IN WAIT.
I don't do well in deep water in games. I forget what the phobia is called, but it's somewhat paralyzing. Just looking past the underwater cliff were we land is enough to make me a bit shaken. Hiking it up to where there's air leads us to the local spitting champion.
”My throat is burning with an awesome power!”
After the champion has been bested, we find a random hobo named Paul who hates fishmen.
What a relatable fellow!
Say, do you recall that poison I've been lugging around since the start of the game? Well, now is the time to make use of it! If you didn't bring it along, you'd have to walk aaaaaaaall the way back in order to get it. But it's a worthwhile journey, as he gives you the Fortune Bracelet as thanks. This is the other thing, besides the Clarity Bracelet that shapes a playthrough. It has the power to double xp gained, it's that useful. I don't like this, as it sort of ruins the leveling curve. I suppose that not getting the bracelet is the intended path the game is balanced for, but letting you break that balance feels wrong. It also replaces the Clarity Bracelet, for those that insist on relying on the magic system.
These things have a paralytic stare. Not fun.
I think the game should have rebalanced xp gain from monsters a bit and made the Fortune Bracelet double gold instead. But now it's mine and we're approaching the last really hard encounter. But before that, there's that thing I promised at the end of the last part.
A fitting state for a Pig Iron butter knife.
Much like in KF2 and KF3, we find a katana near the ocean. It needs repairing and serves as a pretty good weapon, even though you have to forsake a shield to use it. There's a really well hidden cursed item around here too. By shooting some floating barrels, you can get your hands on the useless Sacrificial Mask. I forget what the curse is, but I find it surprising that they would hide a cursed item so well. From Soft gonna From Soft, I guess.
Beyond some more evil fish and a sweet water rapier lies the save point just before the Ocean Fort. Here, the most obscure secret in the game is hidden. By backing a few steps from the save point and humping the ground whilst walking towards the shore, you find can yet another katana!
Pictured, for reference.
This is the Wavecrasher and it's even stronger than the other one. The other downside to these two swords is that they melt in a few strikes. That's why they're better saved for bosses and tough encounters. But enough talk, time for the fort!
Please ignore the line in the water that signifies the texture repeating. That's my fault.
The Ocean Fort is about as close as we get to an early incarnation of Sens's Fortress. There's treasure and traps galore. Highlights include a floor trap that dumps you into the outside ocean, a poison room, more mini-shrooms and a slew of arrow-traps. Once it's done, we have three pieces of Widda wear. That means we can storm the Widda palace now. Over at the camp, the guy who ate the egg has locked the door and his friends are nowhere to be seen.
You have no idea how hard it is to screencap a a two-frame animation with lag on your software.
Seing as he's gained a snake tongue, I think it's fair to assume that he's well on his way to become a Widda. He probably ate his friends too. But that doesn't make him useless, as he'll trade a potion vial for another egg.
After putting on the Widda stuff and entering the palace, a devious trap lies in wait.
Evil Widda eggs that sap MP. Oh no, whatever will I do?
The palace is similar to the fort, except that there's a higher concentration of snakes in various formats. But that's not all. The ascetics aesthetics look like a lovecraftian interpretation of Egyptian architecture, and you know what that means!
Super tanky mummies!
Not only that, there are some wizards about as well. They aren't as tanky, but can curse you, which is never fun. What is fun is an arrow hallway with some safe spots. One of which dumps you in a scorpion pit.
In a throne chamber of sorts, we find a human servant of the Widda queen called Akryal.
Onwards still, there's a snake pit full of regular, safe, normal-sized snakes. It's really refreshing to not have to deal with giant ones for a change. They still paralyse you, so it's not all fun and games.
After that little adventure...
GIANT GIANT SNAKES!!!
These guys do not fuck around and almost require some sniping to defeat. Here's where the lowered detection range of the Thief's Necklace comes in handy. Once they have been pierced to death, it's time to face off against the queen.
She is a really tough fight. The snakes cause paralysis and she uses poison, swipes and those thunderdomes. I just went nuts, ate some buff items and offered a prayer to whoever would listen. It turned out fine, but I burned through a bunch of Forest Roots thanks to the paralysis. Our reward is the Widda key, which opens up the way forward into the Egg Field.
But before that, we must remember what Septiego's underling said.
A sword to dispell darkness you say?
In a sidechamber we find Septiego's body and it looks like he wasn't turned into a Widda. Must have been to much of a man for such sissy corruptive power. The sword is pretty dope looking though.
It's known as the Lawful Blade. Must get bonus damage against chaos aligned demons.
Akryal upstairs doesn't really care that we killed the queen. He still just stands around, waiting for the Dark One to return. We don't have time to wait, so it's time to go to the Egg Field. Here's a great place to put the blue guide stone and warp back to Forgefist. The initial part of this area brings back everyone's favorite part of KF2. Minecarts!
With goofy snake heads!
It's much better than in KF2, as there are no snipers when riding and the draw distance makes it easier to see when to jump off. But like before, there's another sneakily hidden cursed item here. It's actually under the cart, so you have to send it away.
Tell you what, let's cut here. There's not much game left and I'd rather not make the last part super short. But we've made pretty good progress. Met a dwarf, found a bunch of things DS2 would later recycle and stabbed some snakes. Good times.
But what could await us in the finale? Skeletons, golden showers, trolls and a certain light attribute blade perhaps? Only one way to find out...