Dark Souls 2 is considered the runt of the litter by many-a-Soulsborne fan. Derided by some for not being as fluid as predecessors Dark Souls and Demon's Souls at the time, everything from its incongruous maps, to its gratuitous enemy placement, and overly-difficult boss encounters were dragged over the coals at launch in 2014. The following year, the action-RPG's Scholar of the First Sin edition smoothed over many of those rough edges, but it wasn't until the arrival of FromSoftware's latest outing, Elden Ring, that I myself fully appreciated everything Dark Souls 2 has to offer.
Elden Ring's most absurd locations have helped me appreciate Dark Souls 2's most divisive feature, I said last year while exploring the pros and cons of Drangleic's impossible layout. At the beginning of my revisit, I opted for a tried and tested sorcery build – mostly out of habit; ranged combat is especially helpful during DS2's opening stretch – but having now clapped eyes on a truly masterful, brilliantly devastating Hex spell combo on one awful boss enemy, I'm green with envy. Perhaps it's time to respec and start over.
"When I reached Royal Rat Authority, I was already experimenting with a few Hexes, namely Darkstorm and Dead Again," explains Reddit user and Dark Souls 2 player, KevinK15. "It was really satisfying to see this strategy work.
Hang it in Louvre
Royal Rat Authority, housed within the watery depths of the Doors of Pharros, is a royal pain in the arse. As you enter the boss arena, you're met with a horde of smaller rodents who will swarm you and either force your eyes away from the massive boss itself, or deal small but steady amounts of damage while you try to get at the larger foe. Similar to, say, Rom in Bloodborne, the most effective strategy involves taking out the little 'uns first, before giving the Royal Rat Authority your full attention.
In my sorcery playthroughs, I've always wiped the smaller rodents out with some Great Heavy Soul Arrows, before switching to something stronger for the main event. In my current NG+ save, for example, my go-to is Soul Geyser, owing to the sheer size of the Royal Rat Authority, and the fact that I can land all four of the spell's soul spears with each cast. I've admittedly never bothered with Hex magic in the past personally, but KevinK15's skills and intuitiveness to this end have changed that outlook.
By combining the aforementioned Darkstorm and Dead Again Hex spells, KevinK15 not only wipes out the smaller enemies in one fell swoop with the former, but he uses their corpses as weapons against the Royal Rat Authority by casting the latter quickly after. Firstly, here's Dead Again's item description: "(A) Hex that casts a dark flame upon corpses, causing them to combust violently. Hexes such as these, that tamper with life itself, are particularly abhorred."
And now here's KevinK15's masterclass in oversized rodent extermination:
Tell me that's not a thing of beauty. KevinK15 says: "Darkstorm came to mind right away here, to quickly deal with the little rats that rush you at the start of the boss fight. Then, after noticing that their corpses don't disappear (unlike with most of the mobs in the game), I thought it could be a good opportunity to cast Dead Again, and use the corpses against Royal Rat Authority."
"Again, it was really satisfying to see this strategy work. I'm trying a new playstyle with this build, and I was never using such situational spells before, so it was a great feeling to beat a boss more creatively than usual. Also, the damage it produced was a surprise."
Through discoveries like this, KevinK15 hails the replayability of the best FromSoftware games, wherein items, weapons, and spells wield unlikely advantages in specific situations. One Reddit user says KevinK15's manoeuvre was once used on occasion by speedrunners, but the fact that KevinK15 happened upon this by himself, essentially through trial and error, is what I reckon makes this so special.
KevinK15 adds: "FromSoftware games are really special to me and my friends. We often discuss their unique, mysterious 'show, don't tell' approach to both storytelling and gameplay, which makes them incredibly fun to explore and play through. Three of us are currently playing through Dark Souls 2 together and we're having a blast!"
Having lost count of the number of times I've watched and rewatched the above Royal Rat Authority-slaughtering snippet, I might just need to follow KevinK15 and his friends' into the dark Hex arts in Drangleic.
Here are 10 games like Dark Souls that will test your survivability