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 26 which explores Throne of Want.
“Brave Undead, you have proven yourself to me. Now, be one, with the Dark…”
Although located within the depths of Drangleic Castle (seen earlier on our tour), the doors to the Throne of Want can only be opened by those wearing the King’s Ring found further on. The throne room is less a location and more a singular grotty arena where players will do battle with the final bosses of the game. Of all the finales seen in Souls games though, this particular climax is easily the most overbooked of them all.
The location itself becomes the staging ground for a glorified boss medley, with a player’s exact number of opponents being determined by the circumstances of their arrival. It’s not much of a gauntlet seeing as players have the option of fleeing to replenish their strength, and yet the whole idea of fighting up to three bosses in a row merely dilutes what should be one of the game’s most exciting segments. And the primary reason for that, aside from the sheer volume of combat, is uneven difficulty.
The first scuffle is a team-based affair featuring two enemies that must be fought simultaneously. A similar boss battle in Dark Souls is actually a famous franchise moment, but Throne Watcher & Throne Defender only seem to suffer from the comparison. Throne Watcher is agile and quick, the Throne Defender is armoured and tough, and the interesting differences between these two pretty much ends there.
They both have the ability to imbue their swords with magical power, they dress similarly, and they can both revive each other if not slain within a certain time frame. These similarities aren’t a huge detraction, it just means neither foe behaves in a way that makes them feel less interchangeable. It’s also a fight where the difficulty level varies considerably. When fought alone the Throne Watcher & Throne Defender can be taxing opponents whose tandem offence affords players very few windows for retaliation. Their ability to fully restore each other means that players must wear down both foes equally; a prospect which will often lead to intense struggles.
The duo is also quick to cycle their attention from target to target, so even when fighting alongside help, your team will find it tricky to fully isolate one from the other. Summoning allies is still an effective way to make these bosses easier, mind. They lack the earth-shattering tactics that Ornstein and Smough used, and another problem is their physical damage output. A stable character carrying the right shield can always block the bosses’ attacks without fear of losing health, which is quite strange considering their apparent ability to imbue their swords with magic.
Once players have dealt with the throne geeks, they’ll finally have the opportunity to face Nashandra; the shadowy manipulator who was the real threat all along. Having the Giant’s Kinship is what triggers the entrance of her majesty, and yet this somewhat nonsensical requirement isn’t the only awkward quality of the upcoming encounter. Nashandra’s status as the final boss could have worked considering the support she gets from her imposing character model and dramatic theme tune, but final bosses usually need to be tough tests, and the Queen of Drangleic is a test that’s far too easy to pass.
Her primary form of attack comes from her sorceries that scour the battlefield both as laser beams and as nodes that emanate dark magic. Characters can easily suffer a curse; a rare status effect that steadily reduces maximum HP. However, Nashandra’s scythe is quite easy to avoid, and it’s similarly easy to bait her into using weak swings whilst in close quarters. Healing curses is also extremely easy compared to Dark Souls, and unlike other final bosses in the series, Nashandra isn’t very good at applying pressure. Had the curse mechanics remained as severe as they sounded in early builds of the game, Nashandra could have been a lot stronger and thus more suited to her prestigious position.
Another reason why these concluding battles feel so unimpressive is due to the surrounding environment that, aside from a pointless concern involving a nearby cliff edge, doesn’t add much spectacle to the game’s closing moments. The difference between other games in the series is stark, especially when you consider King Allant’s glistening throne room in Demon’s Souls, the moody kiln that Gwyn inhabits in Dark Souls, and especially the rose-filled garden that features at the end of FromSoftware’s soulslike darling, Bloodborne.
Once Nashandra dies, players witness a familiar ending sequence set before the throne itself. Owners of the remastered edition may not be done yet though, as defeating Vendrick before Nashandra prompts yet another boss battle with Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin.
As a boss, Aldia isn’t as easy as Nashandra because of the wreath of fire that surrounds his monstrous form. The window in which he can be attacked is fleeting and so the battle with him is mostly a test of patience. Aldia can’t be rushed even when you do know his routines, and whilst characters with ranged attacks might have a slightly easier time of things, Aldia remains a sturdy beast who won’t expire quickly.
This bonus boss doesn’t reward anything upon defeat, and since his voice lingers in the background afterwards, players don’t really earn closure after the earlier disappointment of Nashandra. Aldia is backed by brand new music and a well-defined place in Drangleic’s lore, which is good, though adding yet more bosses to a finale that already had two is just plain excessive, even by this game’s standards.
The remastered release also presents a new ending that gives players the option to turn their back on the Throne of Want altogether and thus plunge Drangleic into darkness. Narrated by Lord Aldia himself, it has to be said that this new ending is one of the finest additions that FromSoftware made for Scholar of the First Sin, and I now struggle to comprehend how Dark Souls II ever managed without it. Regardless of that though, the bosses themselves don’t live up to such high expectation, and as a result it becomes easy to label Dark Souls II as having the weakest finale of the entire series.
And that sentiment would make for a rather depressing finale to this blog series, but fortunately the Dark Souls II story isn’t quite over. The Lost Crowns DLC trilogy is still to come, so sit tight for the next installment that will begin by exploring yet another cursed kingdom.
Continue to Part 27 »