Part 14: - Farron Keep Part 1
Poisonous swamp areas, at this point are a staple of the Soulsborne games. Every game had some variation of that theme as a gameplay area.
It started in Demon's Souls with the Valley of Defilement, feeling like a journey into the Heart of Darkness. Through a shantytown up above further and further down until you reach the vile swamp. If you go further still you'll find another shanty town in the middle of the poison, fly's buzzing as you trudge through. All of this is leading up to the Maiden Astraea fight, one of the most powerful moments in the Souls series, I've covered this in a previous post, though.
Dark Souls explored this idea again with Blighttown, a shantytown up above and you travel down into a swamp. Dark Souls II is the odd one out, while it has areas that mirror the swamp-area mechanically it doesn't actually have a swamp area. Harvest Valley is, instead, a daylight area with several mining tunnels that have poisonous gas seeping out of them. Another area in Dark Souls II covers the Shantytown aspect: The Gutter. Blightown on the other hand skips the shantytown part and goes straight to the swamp in the Nightmare Frontier. I will not get into the latter here, mainly because it takes a different approach and I also haven't played Bloodborne as much as the other games.
Dark Souls III brings us Farron Keep. Out of the swamp areas this is probably the most well designed one, though, I personally like the Valley of Defilement more due to the atmosphere and by association with the Astraea fight.
Whether there's a shantytown or not, these areas always share a few of their elements. The Valley, Blighttown, The Gutter and Farron keep all guide you by placing fire to draw you to specific places. Dark Souls II being the exception/subversion to this rule. In the Gutter there's barely any flame, instead you have to light sconces yourself allowing you to easily retread your steps in case you die. You do get to see a fog gate in the distance, at least, giving you a vague idea of where to go. Although I never liked the area when I played Dark Souls II, looking back on it it's probably one of the better ones in the game.
The other areas, again, guide you with various fires around the area. The thing is that the swamps of the Valley of Defilement, Blighttown and Farron Keep are fairly open and potentially allow you to go places and get lost, so the path to progress is always lit. If you feel like wading through the poison later on or if you're just feeling lucky you can ignore this and just get some treasure that you otherwise wouldn't be able to get depending on your build there may be some essential items, even. We haven't found them yet but there's two Socrcery Scrolls in the swamp of Farron Keep. Aside from those there aren't really any treasures that are essential for other builds, just nice to have. Whether they are worth being poisoned is your call.
The shantytown part has been cut in more recent variations or, in case of Dark Souls II, it's been relegated to being it's own separate area. Valley of Defilement 1, Upper Blighttown and The Gutter are arguable more easily navigated. Here too, there's some fire showing you the way. Mostly easily missed ladders. It's easy to get lost here. They tend to be very vertical areas as opposed to the horizontal swamp aspect.
Generally, if you want to boil these areas down to one aspect they all share it's that they try to push players out of their comfort zones. I mentioned in the video that when I played Demon's Souls first I thought I was missing some kind of trick to get through the swamp, an item that makes me immune to poison, or a way around that I'm just not seeing. I thought the game wouldn't make me do THAT! This is true for the vertical aspects of the areas too. They encourage you to drop down ledges, something you'd usually avoid, to get through the area more easily. One of the paths in The Gutter makes you actually jump over a large gap down onto a different platform. They include an area that does this in every game simply to teach players to be a bit more daring sometimes. They also want you to know that they don't fuck around.