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 25 which explores Memory of Jeigh.
“The flames roar, but will soon begin to fade, and only a worthy heir might burnish their light. What is it, truly, a claimant of the throne could desire?”
The “Memories of the Ancients” are a set of three levels located in Forest of the Fallen Giants via the dead trees we encountered all the way back in part 3. Players can now approach them with the Ashen Mist Heart gained from the Ancient Dragon, and in doing so be transported into the memories of the souls who reside within the withered oaks. Memory of Jeigh is the only mandatory area in this trinity, though Memory of Vammar and Memory of Orro share its defining geography and art style.
I’ll start with the negative. The fact that players need to discover these levels without explicit direction is not very helpful. There is no good indication of what the Ashen Mist Heart is used for, and expecting players to remember the whereabouts of one particular locked gate in the starting forest is stretching it. Back at Drangleic Castle you’ll find that Nashandra is now offering a few more hints, but the encounter with the queen was so distant and unmemorable the first time around, it’s hard to imagine new players remembering that she’s even there. The Souls games are vague and mysterious enough without confusing the endgame, so quite why FromSoftware had to muddle this is unclear.
As it is, Dark Souls II expects you to reach Drangleic Castle, find King Vendrick, ignore the open throne room, reach the Dragon Shrine, travel back to Forest of Fallen Giants, and then ultimately back to the throne room you’ve passed once already. The route makes a little more sense when you start unearthing chunks of the game’s lore, it’s just that the whole process for a new player will feel very obtuse. I can remember researching this ordering even as late as my third complete playthrough; which is very different from the simplicity of every other Souls endgame to date.
Another foible of these levels is the time limit. “One cannot reside in memory for long” says the message upon entering, and whilst that might be a thematic element, booting players out of the level early is a pointless gameplay alteration that discourages exploration and outright prevents online play. These factors have resulted in a collection of levels that are incredibly short, and it’s a huge shame considering how much potential they had to be truly excellent.
Like its sister levels, Memory of Jeigh takes place in a former time period. Players are whisked back to the past where Vendrick’s army can be seen clashing with invaders on fortress grounds similar to those we visited earlier. In fact, the strip beyond the fog gate bears a striking resemblance to the Pursuer’s lair; a connection that suggests both places are one and the same.
During this extended flashback we take part in a rare scripted sequence when a gigantic statue’s head falls from the battlements and threatens to crush those in its path. We also witness living human soldiers (another rarity) fighting against giants in a semi-scripted battle sequence. These are things that might sound unremarkable to your average gamer, but in a Souls title, a glimpse of scripted action can be a cause for excitement. These games rarely let players peak behind the curtain to see its fictional history in motion, so to see it break formula here, however briefly, is a welcome surprise.
Computer infighting is another rare occurrence that you get to see happening in the memories, and the sounds of battle that echo down every passageway only enhances the spectacle of being in a place that, for once, feels very much alive. Perhaps with a bigger budget to make more of their unique qualities, the memories could have been huge moments instead of this largely-forgotten coda that comes far too late to be appreciated properly.
The Giant Lord fails to make those dim impressions appear any brighter. He’s another sluggish boss who tries to crush players underfoot, but he’s so outgunned at this late stage in the game, players shouldn’t have any trouble dealing vast sums of damage before his powerful sword can come into play. Throw in a janky environmental concern involving a flaming catapult, and you’ve got a showdown here that doesn’t play as well as you’d hope.
If anything, this easy boss is most enjoyed for the tremendous amount of souls that he rewards upon defeat, which when combined with this sequel’s wonderful Bonfire Ascetic items (which reset boss encounters), allows players to farm souls to their heart’s content!
Giant Lord is at least a touch more interesting when taken in a wider context. Consider that this boss’s behaviour is eerily similar to The Last Giant we encountered earlier in the game. Could these bosses actually be the same individual? It makes sense that The Last Giant would act so aggressively towards us if we were indeed the same people who defeated it in the past. There are other parallels you can draw when it comes to the time-hopping portion of this level too, which no doubt makes it a popular place for lore hunters to ply their trade.
Overall Memory of Jeigh is a tantalizing glimpse at a fantastic idea, and something that could have been so much more were it given a bigger cross-section of the game to be realized in. Nevertheless, with the vital Giant’s Kinship item plucked from the Giant Lord’s corpse, we’re only one step away from the final location in the vanilla campaign.
Continue to Part 26 »