Welcome to See Drangleic, an episodic playthrough journal exploring the world of Dark Souls II. Be sure to check out the introduction post first if you haven’t already, otherwise continue reading for Part 15 which explores Black Gulch.
“The Rotten embraces all, in the sanctuary for all things unwanted or tossed away.”
When you first enter Black Gulch and gaze upon its wonderful cragginess, you’d be forgiven for thinking it a playground for more of those torch-wielding escapades that we previously saw in The Gutter. Despite the clingy darkness though, Black Gulch is perfectly navigable without an additional light source and whether that’s because of the pre-release graphics downgrade or a purposeful decision based on the glowing rocks in the area is tricky to say.
“Green Gulch” would be a more accurate name, however less threatening that might sound, on account of the luminescent rocks that make up your short run through its canyon. This is a hostile place to be despite it being lit up like one of Joel Schumacher’s movie sets because within its depths you’ll find some nasty worm enemies. These hideous invertebrates look pretty damn scary and their grab attacks will murder any cursed one who is foolish enough to walk over the tar pits they call home.
Equipping a torch or pyromancy here actually allows players to set fire to the tar pits and cause persistent burning damage to anything that moves through them. The area looks quite cool when it’s aflame like this and it can lead to some fun hijinks during human and AI invasions alike; the latter of which being quite common in Scholar of the First Sin because of the new invader enemies that were introduced there.
Black Gulch also sees the highest concentration of those annoying statues which shoot poison. Aside from causing poison build-up with alarming potency, some lore enthusiasts suggest that these statues are actually a likeness of the Emerald Herald and that all of the poison-spitting represents the sculptor’s disdain for the lies she is telling to Bearers of the Curse like us. I really enjoy that interpretation.
There are more than a few secrets hidden in the tunnels beneath your feet, but on the whole this remains a short stage that you can actually cross in mere minutes if you don’t care about collectables. Seeing as The Gutter helped make this journey feel longer, a good boss battle here could have concluded our business rather nicely, but sadly Black Gulch features yet another underwhelming Old One for us to clobber senseless.
If nothing else, The Rotten at least upholds FromSoftware’s perverse tradition of modelling enemies out of human corpses. This boss is also favoured by fans for the many different interpretations it brings to the game’s backstory. The pre-battle cutscene shows the boss failing to repair one of the miniature statues- does this imply a connection between the two or an affection on the monster’s behalf? Is The Rotten a reincarnation of Gravelord Nito from Dark Souls? Is the corpse on his left shoulder controlling the hulk via a hive mind?
As thought-provoking as The Rotten may be as a character, as a boss it’s much harder to like. That giant cleaver may pack a wallop, but the ironic thing is that the boss itself is meat. Most of its swings and hammer blows are easy to dodge, its sorceries only leave it more vulnerable to repeated attacks, and its beefy arms can actually be cut off thus making the boss completely helpless. Summoning other players will make The Rotten even easier and the huge number of souls that it rewards only encourages more beatdowns that further dilute its status as a supposedly immense being.
This might be a slight niggle with FromSoftware’s less linear design as each Old One seems balanced with the possibility of it being the first big boss that players discover. Usually you’d expect that honour to go to the Lost Sinner, but it still could be The Rotten under the right circumstances, so maybe the temptation to make it a bit easier was due to that consideration.
Nevertheless, with another Great Soul in our possession it’s time to start down the final path that will lead us closer to the game’s second act.
Continue to Part 16 »