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 6 which explores Lost Bastille.
“The longer I am here the more madness I discover. A wretched place indeed, but not without traces of its former glory. What could have caused such degradation?”
Featuring two separate entrances and a further two exits, Lost Bastille is one of the most connected locations in Dark Souls II. Your starting point differs depending on whether you chose to come here by air – via an eagle who carries you from the Pursuer’s boss arena – or by sea, aboard the ship we sailed out of No-Man’s Wharf in the previous episode. It’s an expansive level all things considered, even if the scenery leaves something to be desired.
Being a prison built to contain the undead scourge, there isn’t a whole lot to look at other than stony architecture and rotting cells and once again we’ll be fighting more humanoid enemies who attack with multi-hit combos and wear tin pots for helmets. There are some unpleasant difficulty spikes in this area too including frequent ambushes by gangs of royal soldiers and hellish attack dogs who were once named as the most lethal basic enemy in all of Dark Souls II! The abundance of hostile mobs here and in locations beyond Lost Bastille has always been a hot topic with regards to game balance and I think it’s a topic that’s best explored by jumping straight into the area’s biggest attraction: its boss battle versus the Ruin Sentinels.
Yahim, Alessia, and Ricce are three identical automatons created with the purpose of watching over the prison’s inmates. Why these robotic suits of armour have been given their own names is unclear, but what is clear is their intent the moment you walk through the fog door. With their huge size and equally impressive agility, the Ruin Sentinels are formidable early game opponents that if not handled carefully will quickly descend on you all at once, thus vastly reducing your chances of victory. Their variety of attacks which include wide swings, leaps, and a devastating spinning combo are rarely easy to dodge and with all three of them on the battlefield at once players must be careful in choosing when to strike back.
When faced with such overwhelming odds, you might be forgiven for thinking what exactly FromSoftware were playing at here, but looking at this battle is vital for understanding how the developers approached cooperative play in Dark Souls II. Summoning signs existed in previous Souls games of course, though their first intention was to act as a lifeline for struggling players and not really to support entire cooperative campaigns between groups of friends. With relevant Covenant rewards and general good vibes to be had from “jolly cooperation”, this method of play became very popular regardless and so the paradigm shifted in Dark Souls II as a greater number of encounters became designed with it in mind.
This was usually accomplished through the simple addition of enemies to both levels and boss rooms and depending on your party size such encounters will either be more exciting or a right pain in the neck. It proves to be an awkward balance at times and some of the harder boss battles in this sense were even made optional should a solo player get too frustrated with them.
There are several optional bosses in this game as it happens and as the premier co-op bosses in vanilla Dark Souls II, the Ruin Sentinels are chief among those that can be skipped. As a party player myself it’s no secret that I adore battles like these, but even then I’d go a step further and name Ruin Sentinels as my personal favourite boss in the base game. In 2014 it was common to see a mass of summoning signs outside the fog door to this encounter. Seeing so many players coming together to take part in the ensuing battle royal was really quite something.
In terms of design, it’s a shame that the Sentinels are carbon copies of one another. If they each had their own distinct combat style or the odd unique move or paint job, then it might have helped them stand out more. Even so the battle is still a frantic one and it really shines if you’re able to summon a couple of phantoms to help you out. Proceeding with a full party is terrific fun and it gives players with healing or buffing skills a chance to shine amidst the ensuing chaos too. Other things to note about this battle are its dramatic backing music (which helps offset the dull-looking environment) and an additional NPC summoning sign which was later added in Scholar of the First Sin to make the fight easier on solo players.
The remastered edition also has several other welcome tweaks to the wider area such as the relocated Dull Ember (a vital crafting tool that was previously accessed far too late into the game) and a similarly relocated Bastille Key that will help players reach various shortcuts much quicker and easier than before.
Also notable here is the correction of a terrible design choice involving an important non-player character located near a group of enemies. These enemies, who arguably beat out the flame salamanders for the title of ‘Most Annoying Enemy’, attack by running at the player before exploding in a powerful shockwave that damages anyone caught in the blast. It wouldn’t be uncommon for players to spawn into the area via the room’s bonfire, only to be instantly set upon by these suicidal freaks who could quite easily kill the nearby NPC by accident. Considering that bonfires are meant to be sanctuaries away from the violence is bad enough, but endangering the player’s access to services by putting a key NPC at risk is especially negligent. Fortunately the Scholar of the First Sin edition put an end to the misery by setting all of the enemies here to be non-hostile by default.
Owing to its co-op focus and infamous design blunders then, Lost Bastille is a much harder area than those encountered previously. It’s just a shame that the surroundings look so uninspired because as it stands the only major highlight here is the boss battle, which isn’t even mandatory for reaching the exit. This is still a fun and nicely sized area on the whole though and it’s also full of little secrets, not least of which being our next destination accessed by a secret door in the servant’s quarters.
Continue to Part 7 »