Every From Software game seems to feature that one boss that just absolutely stops me in my tracks. This is such a feature of their games that, every time I fire up one that I haven't played (which seems to be regularly at the moment), I take those first tentative steps wondering when I'll come across them. Sometimes it's fairly early on - in the case of the original Dark Souls, I hit two of these roadblocks - firstly, the Capra Demon caused me some serious headaches. A few weeks later I encountered the weapons-grade bastards that are Ornstein & Smough, and literally spent nearly a fortnight trying to get past them.
It's taken a while... but I've finally come across that boss in Dark Souls 3.
Elden Ring lulled me into a bit of a false sense of security, I think. It saved its hardest bosses (for me, anyway) until the very end. Hoarah Loux tested my patience, while Radagon of the Golden Order very nearly broke me - and the dismay at dropping him for the first time only to have the Elden Beast appear was borderline heartbreaking. Perseverance was key though - in the same way that it saw me through Vicar Amelia and the Blood Starved Beast battles in Bloodborne. These two though? For whatever reason, they're on another level for me. Try as I may, I just cannot seem to get past them.
Their names are Lothric and Lorian, and together they are the Two Princes of Lothric. They are - and let's be fair to them - complete and total tossers. I reckon I've run from the bonfire at the Dragonslayer Armour site to their fog door about 100 times now, and the little ritual always ends in the same way; an unceremonious "YOU DIED" splashed across the screen to the accompaniment of a loud expletive. I've spent more time running to this door than I have any other door in the entire game. Or, I suspect, Elden Ring.
We've reached the point where my son will sit with me as I fight them. He claims it's for moral support - I think it's so that he can take the piss when I die, and simultaneously learn how not to do it so that when he fights them (and he will...) he'll be able to take them down with a fraction of the effort I've needed to exert. And he'll do it just to prove a point. I can tell how well or badly I'm doing by how tensely he's holding himself in my peripheral vision. Often the conversation will go something like this:
"He's gonna slam." He slams. I roll effortlessly aside and follow up with a swipe of a +10, lightning infused Astoria Greatsword. "You've got this bit down. It's like watching a ballet."
No sooner has the compliment left his lips than the first phase of the fight is over - at which point a brief cutscene plays. He looks at me earnestly and utters a phrase that all 12 year-olds like to be able to utter in front of their Dad. His voice is quiet, hushed.
"Don't fuck it up now." He says it with a grin - he knows he should get in trouble for using the F word... and he knows he won't because of the context, and who he's with. I let it slide, like I usually do when it's just the two of us. A moment later, the princes unleash a barrage of lightning bolts, teleport behind me and annihilate me with a single shot.
"For fuck's sake," I sigh - as "YOU DIED" appears on the screen. Again. He can scarcely contain his amusement. Again.
He's right in that I've got the first part of the fight down to an art - to the point where if I get hit at all, I'm happy to chalk it up as being my own fault. I know every telegraph, every attack - and I can carry out these dance steps flawlessly most of the time... unless I get hit by a cheap teleport. Which is any of them - because all of the teleports are cheap.
I think this is my single biggest complaint in relation to this boss fight. It's not that it's hard - this is a Souls game; most of the bosses are hard in one way or another. They're usually a combination of fast or heavily defended, capable of absorbing a lot of punishment while simultaneously being capable of killing you as easily as a human can crush an ant. The difficulty of these bosses doesn't put those of us who play and love these games off - if anything, challenging boss fights have the opposite effect. Without the challenge and the struggle of overcoming them, the highs the game can offer us - those feelings of achievement and progression and mastery - would be dramatically diminished. Here, though - the constant teleports have stopped making me feel like this is a fight I can win with skill or practice alone. Instead, it feels like luck has become a factor. And so far, my luck in this battle has been nothing but shitty.
Predictably, the internet is rammed full of videos that make these fuckers seem trivial - with the usual litany of clips of people beating these guys with their fists. Or dressed only in their pants. They could be doing it with a dance mat or blindfolded for all the help they provide me with - to the point that I've stopped seeking online assistance with this one. I'll be honest, I was trying to make it through the whole game blind and was annoyed that this boss slowed me down and frustrated me enough to have me reach for Google... but here we are.
So... where do I go from here? Back to the Dragonslayer Armour bonfire, out of the arena, down the steps. Into the castle, up the elevator... down the corridor and through the damned fog door. Again. And I'll keep doing it until they're dead. Because I'm a Dark Souls player - and this shit is what we do.
Don't you dare go hollow.
EDIT: Less than an hour after posting this, I managed to defeat the Two Princes. As is often the way with Dark Souls, I knew I was going to win the fight within 10 seconds of it starting. It all just clicked together. I lured them into the back corner of the room and systematically took them to pieces. There was only one moment where it felt like it was going off the rails; I backed up, healed, and picked my moment to hurl myself back into the fray. Feels good, man. Next up... the Soul of Cinder.