Part 23: - Irithyll Dungeon
The Kid Gloves are Off
Well, honestly they've been off for a while. But, for just a moment, I want to go back to my post about the High Wall of Lothric in which I walked you through how the game holds your hand throughout the area. Mainly because that's not even necessary, but let's talk about some of the areas right here.
The Undead Settlement does its best to guide you towards the optional boss fight against the Curse-rotted Greatwood by making sure you see a huge door if you go the other way first, Farron Keep tries to funnel you with lights as well as points of interest in form of the paths up to the towers, the Catacombs make sure you get an overview of the area as you enter to make sure you immediately know where you want to end up eventually. The Dungeon of Irithyll on the other hand takes away that guidance. Not for the entirety of the level, of course. The longer it goes the more it wants you to go the right way. In the beginning, though, it wants you to feel lost and forces you to explore. Honestly, there isn't too much to the first section of the level. It certainly seems bigger than it is.
You could just go down the correct path by chance at first but even if you do you might not immediately find your way back if you die. both sides of the initial area are mirrored to some degree, so they appear very similar and most people are not able to immediately draw an accurate mental map of the place and there's already a shortcut with in that section and multiple shortcuts to and from it. Alternatively I could argue that it tries to discourage you from going down the path to progress first by placing all these jailers there, but that obviously didn't work on me because I was too busy not noticing that I have no health.
But the game does try to make the jailers as scary as possible. They drain your max health for a short duration, their attacks slow you down and most likely kill you if you let them follow up. So naturally, you'd walk the other way if you see one first, to see if you can avoid them. But eventually you'll have to dare or/and die. This all culminates in what I call the boss fight of Irithyll Dungeon. That one freaking room with a lot of them. To be fair, you can just walk around. If you wait for long enough they'll walk past and be on the other side of the pillar in the middle allowing you to escape from the room towards progress.
As you can probably tell, the above is much less structured than my post about the High Wall. The game now directs you less, though, it still tries to show make the paths that lead to bonfires more appealing. In this case specifically by not being a dozen healthdrain jerks. Don't get me wrong, this level and all the others still guide you to some extent using all the tricks we already know and some unique ones occasionally but the game doesn't hold your hand anymore.
And I know it's weird to say that a Souls game holds ones hand, the truth is it also jerks you around a bit, but for the most part it's not your enemy. It can be a dick at times, and the frequency with which it attempts dick moves increases over time. One of my favorites is the bits earlier on in Irithyll, when we first encounter Silver Knights, there is one staring at a painting of Gwynevere with his back to you. A lot of players will just walk up to him to backstab him only to have a Greatbow Silver Knight pin you to the ground with a giant arrow prompting the first Knight to turn around and attack you. It's easily avoidable, but a lot of people don't for the first time.