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 5 which explores No-Man’s Wharf.
“The sentry crammed inmates of the overflowing Bastille onto a rickety ship, and cast them out to the open sea. The majority of them drowned or starved, but a few hardy survivors made land to the south, and imparted their knowledge of sorcery to the people there.”
Once upon a time, No-Man’s Wharf was my favourite area in Dark Souls II. It’s strange what the thrill of discovery is like playing a vanilla Souls game for the first time, especially during those precious moments where you’re totally clueless and the online wikis haven’t yet been populated with sweet information. Happening upon this wayward cove felt like a genuine discovery at the time and the uncharacteristic lack of bonfires in the area ensured that every step taken forward was a little victory in its own right.
If it wasn’t clear from the name, this place has a bit of a nautical theme going on. The ramshackle dwellings that dot the quayside are filled with hostile pirates and venturing too far into the upper reaches will reveal hideous monsters on the prowl. The downplayed lighting system of the vanilla game makes it unlikely that you’ll discover the Darkstalkers’ fear of bright light, but in Scholar of the First Sin you’ll find numerous braziers have been installed to encourage you to light up, so to speak.
Quite a few changes were made in the remastered version in fact, with a welcome new shortcut transforming No-Man’s Wharf into one of the more well designed areas in the game. The progression route is clear, there are plenty of secrets to discover (including a level-wide light switch that looks cool), and it’s all handled in the classic Demon’s Souls manner of requiring only one respawn point. Lovely!
This is also the area in which most players will meet Lucatiel for the first time. Some players lament the quality of non-player characters in Dark Souls II, but I can’t for a second imagine those criticisms extend to include this female knight from the land of Mirrah.
As the game’s most memorable NPC by far, Lucatiel of Mirrah is a very welcome reinterpretation of those intrepid NPCs from the first Dark Souls who we meet at different stages on our adventure. Lucatiel is cursed by the Darksign just like us and so too has she journeyed to Drangleic in search of a cure. Unlike most popular NPCs in the franchise, Lucatiel has no imitable or light-hearted dialogue of any kind as her struggle to maintain sanity during her hopeless quest is played straight from beginning to end.
Her hollowing process is sadly already underway when we see beneath the mask that conceals her face and as is to be expected, her developing quest does not have a happy ending. The best that players can do for Lucatiel is accept her help as a summonable ally and keep talking to her. Whilst Lucatiel’s ultimate fate is left purposefully ambiguous, players who put in the most effort will at least inherit her belongings before hearing her final request:
“I beg of you, remember my name. For I may not myself…”
Moving on from Lucatiel’s tragic journey is a creature who does not engender much sympathy at all. Once the harbour bell has been rung, a ship pulls into port and on that ship is an army of murderous pirates who immediately swarm out and kill you. Well, if you’re playing the vanilla game at least because Scholar of The First Sin significantly toned down that encounter! But the creature I mentioned is actually the one occupying the ship’s hold; a Flexile Sentry who has sailed here to brutally torture his next cargo of prisoners. It’s another fairly straightforward brute of a boss then, though there are a few things here that make Flexile Sentry more interesting.
The first is the creature’s design which is far removed from the numerous armoured bozos that we’ve been assassinating up until now. Indeed, this multi-limbed horror – who you’ll notice is a lizard creature if you look very closely! – is strange in that it attacks with two diverse move sets depending on which of its two torsos is currently currently facing you.
Whilst most experienced players will have the fight sewn up pretty quickly, those who dawdle behind a shield will get a very nasty surprise as the hold slowly fills with water until the point where players can hardly move amidst the mire. This is one boss where you better not tarry and that goes double for players exploring No-Man’s Wharf during New Game+ because there the boss gains a couple of ninja allies to help him raise even more hell.
Another note about this boss concerns its accompanying music, which is unlike most similar themes in the franchise. The track here sounds much closer to Bloodborne with its brooding and sinister rhythm. The composition’s complete lack of bombast makes for something a bit different, and yet most players will probably never hear it because the default volume level for music is set so low and even then the persistent clash of weapons will still drown it out. The only way to really appreciate anything about this piece of music is to listen to it away from the actual game it supports! I’m not sure what the composer was going for here.
Once the Flexile Sentry is dead there’s no stopping you from accessing the helm whereupon you’ll be treated to an ominous cutscene of the boat leaving No-Man’s Wharf behind. In the next post we’ll see where we drop anchor.
Continue to Part 6 »