The Dark Souls II Diaries: Red Means Stop

I literally can’t see two feet in front of myself, but I have to walk myself home. The outline of the pedestrian crossing is no longer representative a jovial little green or red man. Just a blurred pool of light oozing towards my retina. Green means go. Red means stop.

I feel like I’m going to vomit.

I’ve just spent the previous two hours at the Opthamologist’s office, where I’ve had very different pools of light poured into my retina. There were also eye drops. Eye drops that numb my eyeballs, eyedrops that deliberately blur my vision. It’s the last one that’s making it so difficult to see, and making me nauseous as I stare at the pavement, clumsily trying to navigate home to my apartment.

Indirectly (or directly depending on your perspsective) Dark Souls II has been partially responsible for giving me a nasty viral infection in both my eyes. I’ve been staying up late, waking up early – all while exercising fairly intensely on a regular basis – and this infection has been my body’s way of telling me to slow the fuck down.

So I’ll be slowing the fuck down for a while. Mainly because it’s hard to do anything when you can’t see a goddamn thing.

Just an hour earlier the Opthamologist told me that if I hadn’t stopped wearing my contacts when I did, after three days of increasingly intense pain, there was a good chance I might have gone blind. That wasn’t going to happen now, of course (in fact I’m in full recovery mode) but it remained a pretty confronting fact. I’m not going to lie: it was a sentence that fully freaked me out. I can’t go blind. I haven’t finished Dark Souls II yet.

In fact, I was almost late for my Opthamologist’s appointment because I had been playing Dark Souls II. Trying to get rid of those pesky Ruin Sentinels. A friend has ‘lovingly’ described them as the ‘fucking Hammer Bros’ of Dark Souls II. It’s been a tough slog for me. The kind of boss battle that forces you to question everything you’ve done up until that point: have I been leveling up the correct stats? Am I rolling with the right gear? The right weapons? Plenty of my friends cruised through this battle, but I’m really struggling.

Part of it, I think, is my refusal to use summons. I managed to get through the original Dark Souls, why can’t I get through this. That’s my thought process. Most likely I’ve just attempted this fight too early. It might be a good idea, I think, to go back through other sections.

But my eyes continue to suffer. Since I don’t have a pair of glasses, I’ve been using my wife’s prescription: a mismatched set of lens with a left eye that bends light like a goddamn fish lens. This can’t be good for my brain, for my well being, for anything. I’ve decided to stop. For now.

But things are getting difficult. The temptation is there. And my own new set of glasses, which were supposed to arrive today, have been delayed until Friday. I don’t know how bad it is to continue using the wrong prescription but when I get the house to myself tonight it’s going to be next to impossible to fight that urge. That Dark Souls urge. This game – this series – is perhaps the most compelling experience I’ve had across any media. It’s always extremely, extremely difficult to turn off the console.

But, for the meantime, I’ll simply have to. Red means stop.

For previous entries in the Dark Souls Diary series, click here.


    This diary series has become life imitating art.

    The Universe has started dumping loads of Dark Souls style difficulty in to daily life in an attempt to make it impossible for you to throw yourself into a universe full of difficulty and adversity.

    If only one eye of your wife's glasses is helping, wear an eyepatch so you don't strain it further.

      Also it will mean he looks badass and kewl.

        Seriously, @markserrels you should check this out and see if the optometrist/ophthalmologist have advice on durable, comfortable eyepatches. We so rarely have legit opportunities to do this.

    Dark Souls 2 = Serrels crack pipe. Can't stop, won't stop.

    Ahh, good to hear about the summons. I've been determined not to use them in my DS1 play, it feels too... different. I like going in like a lone wolf, I feel like I'm cheating having a summon there changing the play.

      Every summon adds either 25% or 50% (can't remember which) to a bosses health so it doesn't necessarily make it easier. Some fights it can actually make harder.

      Plus half of the people I summon usually seem to die pretty early on leaving me to solo a boss with increased health.

      I've gone lone wolf for every boss except the one where I summon a wolf. The distraction it gave to the boss proved the difference between defeat and victory.

    Ruin Sentinels were my first major hurdle too, spent a lot of time on them. playing as a mace wielding strength/faith cleric, I recommend fighting the first on on the platform he starts on, circle strafe his double swing then only go in for attacks after that combo, block the rest. stay up on the ledge and take on the second guy when he jumps up. magic weapon enchant is helpful, crushing seems to be king for me anyway. try to avoid jumping down unless it is an oh shit moment because you then have to deal with annoying whirlwind and captain america shield throws along with huge jump slashes.

      This really is a game about how you spec and how you approach a situation. I found them relatively easy. Similar strategy to yours. You take the first one down on the platform. Once he's dead the other two come towards you. I fired 4 shots of a soul arrow before one came up. Hit him a couple more times for good measure on the platform and then ran down.

      If he's down a fair chunk of health, it makes the lower area much easier. Otherwise 2 against 1 can really screw you up. Once one of them was down, the second one was just careful patience the same way the first was taken down on the platform.

        Definitely seems to depend on how you spec as to how hard this boss is. I'm playing a high dexterity/endurance build with no faith/magic and it actually went pretty smoothly (only took 2 attempts). I was kinda surprised because I know a lot of people with other builds that are finding this fight near impossible. I guess it's fair though, because they've had a much easier time in other areas where I've really struggled and started screaming/punching things.

        I started off by taking out the first guy on the platform by side-stepping his double attack then sneaking in a hit or two. Should be pretty simple, so just repeat this until dead. With a leather shield (90% physical blocked) I only really needed to heal once by the time he went down.

        After that I dropped into the arena and had a long overly cautious dance of chipping away at the other two, healing when necessary. Very similar to taking on the first guy, but you have to be a lot more patient and choose your openings carefully. I found it easiest to approach them both at an equal distance with shield up, hoping to force them both to swing at the same time. If they both attacked in sync, wait for them to stop, then sneak in a hit and retreat, dance around and let stamina regen. Repeat until you take out the second sentinel, and once he's down, taking out the third should be pretty easy.

        It probably also helps to have a fast attacking weapon for sneaking in hits (I used Fire Longsword/Scimitar) and plenty of lifegems in case you run low on flasks.

    There's burning the candle at both ends and then there's burning the candle in the campfire. You, Mr. Serrels, conducted the latter.

    Made some further progress last night, was able to take down 'The Last Giant' after two or three attempts. Spent the rest of the time exploring the rest of that castle area and had a few tussles with the turtle guy.

    Made way way through and to 'The Pursuer'... his first charge attack that I tried to roll away from took away over half my health, I then tried to chug a flask to which he promptly removed all the health I had just regained whilst being "glued" to the ground. Will have to retackle him again tonight.

    I've got a few questions, as I'm trying to playthrough without using a guide. Although, I gave up last night and googled how to light torches! Couldn't work this out for the life of me! ;)

    * How does the parry system work with a shield?
    * Why do I almost always get knocked back/stunned when blocking attacks with my sheidl
    * How can I sell items
    * With summons, how does this work? I can see 'gray ghosts' regularly and read message etc but I haven't been invaded or anything as yet.
    * Why does everyone praise the sun?

      * How does the parry system work with a shield?

      You have to parry just as their hit is about to hit you. Then they get stunned. Easier enemies fall to the ground completely for you to keep hitting.

      * Why do I almost always get knocked back/stunned when blocking attacks with my sheidl

      A combination of a crap shield and low poise I suspect. Need to increase your poise (or find the ring that gives you + poise.

      * How can I sell items

      There is an NPC that appears in a few areas. But the prices suck so they're almost not worth selling. Also the NPC moves to another area if you leave that place, so always carry all your stuff with you if you want to sell it. First I encountered him was the cave with the ship.

      * With summons, how does this work? I can see 'gray ghosts' regularly and read message etc but I haven't been invaded or anything as yet.

      Those ghosts are just other players that you briefly see. You can't summon those. You can find signs on the ground that allow you to summon others. Covenants also change how/when you can summon.

      * Why does everyone praise the sun?

      A bit of an in-joke for the series because it's always so dark/gloomy. So when you finally exit an underground area, people praise the sun. :P

      It's also a covenant.

      Praise the Sun is a reference to Solaire of Astora from the first game, a sun-worshipping knight who did just that


      I fought the Pursuer last night. Boss tips: He's really easy *if* you can lure him into the path of the ballistae at the opposite end of where you start and get to them in time to cock and fire before he moves. It's generally just about getting lucky. When you dodge him, I found rolling to the shield side usually ensures he misses.

        I preferred backing away most of the time so you don't get so many 3-shot combos, and in that way luring him into his long-range charge attack. Where he hunches over, pulls his arm back and charges over a long distance. Rolling behind him then turning around will usually give you time for two good hits with a greatsword.

        Also, running backwards away from him all the time means you're usually at a pretty safe distance for when he does his blue-glowy-sword impale, which takes like... 50-75% of your health and curses you and powers him up. You DON'T want to wear that.

        Otherwise, blocking while walking away most of the rest of the time. He'll sometimes recoil at striking your shield, but it's rarely long enough to get a good hit in. Just to drop your own shield for long enough to get some more stamina. Stamina... so precious.

      Thanks for the tips everyone. I'll attempt to make some further progress tonight.

      Also you have to be fully human to summon people.
      Also with the shield, make sure you do not run out of stamina - if your shield gets hit and it drains it all you will be staggered and open to attack for a few seconds. The shield stat "Stability" determines how much stamina is used to block attacks - the higher the stability the less the stamina cost to block.

    I've only played maybe half an hour of the first Dark Souls yet this series of articles is essentially the best thing I've encountered in 2 years. Well played Serrels, well played.

    Keep playing Mark. Imagine the glory when you finally beat DS2 blind. Will be totally worth it.

    I thought it wasn't too long ago that I read a piece by @serrels explaining how around a year ago he was in a gaming funk - basically had no motivation to play games and wasn't sure wtf he was doing as editor, etc.

    I think it's pretty clear that this relationship with DS isn't good. He's gonna burn out, no question. :\ Lifehacker should use this as a case study, but ffs I'm sure some of his colleagues can say something - they have articles about it.


    Use the Craftsman's Hammer on the Ruin Sentinels - it's super effective.
    Also, get well soon mang!

    Last edited 19/03/14 3:43 pm

    Stared at my PC waiting for that version to release. Died 30 times.

    Yeah, uhm. Maybe stop playing a while. :> Going blind is one of the worst things that could happen to an avid video-gamer. That, and losing your thumbs. (Or fingers/hands.)

    (Edit: Which would also be a critical blow for the boudoir. The involvement of hands is not 'optional reading', children - they are part of the core curriculum.)

    Last edited 19/03/14 5:29 pm

    As someone who wore contacts religiously for years I feel your pain Mark. If there's one thing I've learned the hard way, it's that it really pays to keep a cheap pair of glasses around just in case you injure your eyes. You always think you'll never need them, but it's worth it.

    I once had someone jokingly throw a clump of dirt in my face while I was wearing contacts, and it was not fun. Imagine sand in your eyes, but it's stuck underneath the contacts, tearing up the surface of your corneas until the contacts completely disintegrate. I was on holidays without any glasses and my eyes were so painful and inflamed that I couldn't use contacts for weeks.

    Mark, I've been following your distress from the start and I'm really pleased you've decided to pull back. Sometimes it takes something like this to realise that our priorities don't lie in the right place. I'm the last person to tell someone how to manage their life but family and health should always be first....always. Otherwise we have nothing.

    Last edited 19/03/14 6:00 pm

    This game needs to come to Next gen consoles.

    getting sick to death of great games going out on older gen platforms and bypassing the new.

    FFS this is WHY we need backwards compatibility on next gen consoles on release!!!!

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