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 14 featuring The Gutter.
“What’s it like at the bottom of the hole? Why in the hell would I know! Hah!”
In previous episodes we’ve mentioned what FromSoftware wanted to do in Dark Souls II with regards to lighting. The torch was once intended to be an essential piece of equipment for navigating the darkness of Drangleic and yet, as we know by now, things didn’t quite turn out that way. However, The Gutter is one of the few remaining locations in the vanilla build where a source of light is still necessary for making effective progress and whilst that has resulted in a suitably dreary level, it does lend this place a twisted personality that feels more its own.
The intricate wooden structures that make up this area sit high above a yawning chasm that will instantly kill any player unfortunate enough to lose their footing. The eerie blackness combines with a presence of rotting wood and many infuriating statues that spit poison in order to prompt a familiar feeling in Souls veterans. The Gutter is a location with many of the same design tropes as the Valley of Defilement from Demon’s Souls and the infamous Blighttown from Dark Souls. These areas almost seem designed to cause frustration and to create a feeling of helplessness in players who struggle to deal with their abundance of taxing status effects and near endless pitfalls.
Navigating The Gutter will be just as steady and stressful an experience as its forbears were and in that sense the place does have an authentic feel to it. As was the case with Huntman’s Copse though, the native enemies here are not very interesting. Those boring undead prisoners are out in force again and aside from a few grotesque hound creatures treading the boards, most enemies that live here can be found in other places across Drangleic.
The Gutter uses lighting tricks as its sole gimmick and the Scholar of the First Sin edition plays up to that by introducing a new mini quest involving sconces. Lighting a sconce with a torch is a persistent action and if a player manages to light them all then they’ll find a new red phantom waiting to invade them near the exit door. Lighting sconces makes perfect sense considering the darkness anyway, but the addition of the quest is still a nice touch as it presents completionists with a reason to chart the area and gives those players who enjoy being a tour guide another opportunity to battle invaders alongside their co-op charges.
Perhaps the main strength of this location is its lack of boss battles! Certain evidence suggests this may not always have been the case during development, but I think it fortunate that the location was left within its current boundaries considering the abundance of boss battles elsewhere in the game.
The path onwards from here leads us through a rocky tunnel towards this route’s final destination and the place where another Great Soul waits to be claimed.
Continue to Part 15 »