6. The Dying Land and Fire Dungeon
The Dying Land
This open desert area is not nearly as large or confusing as the Forest. Start by heading up and through a stone arch and you'll encounter a new bandit enemy. These guys will do a stationary spinning attack that ends with a short lunge, so you want to figure out the timing and distance to hit them with the normal/hard combo after their spin attack ends. Go up/left to find a Shrine of Power and rest. Head left and over a hill to find a pedestal with an Amulet of Shadows upgrade, then go back over the hill to the right and circle down and back to the left around the bottom of the area with the pedestal. Directly left of here you will find three pillars with flames and a central dragon pillar that you can interact with.
Push the dragon pillar six times (twice more after it faces straight up), then collect the Fragment of Luce (1/10, 41/100) next to the large rock just up/left from the pillars. Head up/left and you'll see some rocks with a burning torch to the left of them- go left at this torch, kill a bandit, then collect the Fragment of Luce (2/10, 42/100) on the left side of the large grey boulders nearby. You'll see a ground hint to the left that gives a clue to solving the dragon pillars puzzle and a strong shielded enemy up/right from there. Kill him, then head up to find a Shrine of Power and rest. Kill the two bandits near the small building to the right, then break a barrel to find a Fragment of Luce (3/10, 43/100). Go to the right and when you see a small hill follow down along it to reach an area with another dragon pillar.
Push it four times (once more after it faces straight down) and a brief cutscene will play out opening a path that was blocked previously. Head all the way left, then down, ignoring the blue-lit exit for now. You'll eventually come to a ground hint in front of a path leading left, so take the path and as soon as the area opens up, take out the archer that will shoot you from the bottom. You'll then notice a glowing shrine guarded by a knight with a flaming sword. Kill him via the usual means, then interact with the Shrine of Courage (2/4) and you'll be teleported to an ethereal area. Interact with the red hospital bed on the right side and you'll return to the desert with a notification that an Echo from the Other Side has been unlocked. Press to open your inventory and see that more of the microchip image in the upper left has been filled in by finding the second Shrine of Courage.
Head straight down from the shrine and kill two bandits, then collect a Fragment of Luce (4/10, 44/100). There is another archer to the left as well as a Shrine of Power, but don't rest here unless you're in a bad way as the nearby enemies will all respawn. Take the upper path to the right of the shrine and kill the strong red enemy, then cross a bridge and interact with the Shrine of Wisdom (3/5) to increase Aether's power. Backtrack to the main desert area and go upward to the Shrine of Power. Rest here, then take note of the symbol on the ground in front of the building to the right. This is the second of three secret areas towards the Down the Rabbit Hole achievement and can only be accessed once you get the Electric Shard but remember- this achievement doesn't seem to unlock in normal mode. Keep going right until you hit a see a small hill, then head upward. Kill a couple of bandits and look for the large blue stones sticking up from the ground. Climb onto one to collect a Fragment of Luce (5/10, 45/100).
Head into the building on the right and talk to the blacksmith.
Exhaust his dialogue and he will tell you that you don't have enough fragments. Once you find the last five in this area for a total of 50 he will give you an amazing weapon. For now, break the barrel to his right to collect a Fragment of Luce
(6/10, 46/100), then interact with the wheel on the blue wall
further to the right to open the adjacent door. Go through and rest at the Shrine of Power.
There's a strong enemy just to the right, so kill him and continue right and kill a bandit. Break a jar just at the corner of the building just below to find a Fragment of Luce (7/10, 47/100). Make your downward and stay along the left side, killing enemies as you go. After you pass through a stone archway, keep sticking to the left as you work your way downward and you'll see some wooden boards along the left wall and a weapon under a small blue tarp. Break several jars just past this to find a Fragment of Luce (8/10, 48/100). Go down/right from here and break a wooden crate to find another Fragment of Luce (9/10, 49/100). Go back up along the right wall until you see a circular structure on the ground. Climb the ladder on the right to get to a Fragment of Luce (10/10, 50/100). Head back upward and after going through the stone arch and note a path to the right that leads to a circle of stones. Continue upward/left and rest at the Shrine of Power, and go left and talk to the blacksmith and since you have 50 Fragments, he will create the Giant Sword for you.
Swap this for your Bastard Sword ++ as I believe it to be the strongest weapon in the game. The moveset is slightly different- the normal attack is an arc and the hard attack is an overhead slash, but the normal, hard combo still works and is devastating. The hard attack alone will one-shot most enemies. Go right and try it out on the shielded enemy just past the Shrine of Power to see how much harder it hits- you can kill him with a single normal, hard combo. Continue right and head upward when you can. Fight past a strong red knight and you'll come to an area with dragon statues and three golden urns. Swap to the lantern and use it on each of the urns as quickly as you can to open the way forward. Then proceed into the Fire Dungeon.
As soon as you enter, swap to a light weapon so you can move more quickly. Press so Aether stays where she is and run to the left. Sentries will shoot tracking projectiles at you that you need to roll to avoid. Once you get to the other side, hold to call Aether and wait for her to run to you. Follow the path down, then interact with a pillar to the left of the base of the steps. Go up the steps and kill the knight, then kill a second and go down the steps ahead to interact with a second pillar at the bottom which will deactivate the projectile sentries. Then head back up the steps and continue left up another set of steps. Kill a shielded knight and continue left until you reach a room with two pillars.
Notice the blood around them- these are traps that will swing around and kill you if you get close, so keep your distance. Let the bandit come to you and kill him, then go left until you reach a knight with a large hammer. Kill him and collect the Fragment of Luce he was guarding (1/5, 51/100), then backtrack slightly and head upward and down some steps. Take a path going right and kill a bandit, then notice the blood around a pillar with a switch in the next room. Ignore this as pulling this lever triggers a trap that kills you. Interact instead with the lever on the wall to the right of this pillar to open a nearby door. Enter this room and kill the two bandits, then break a barrel in the upper left corner to reveal a Fragment of Luce (2/5, 52/100). Go down/right and through an arch. Kill the knight with the large hammer and approach the nearby pedestal for an Amulet of Shadows upgrade.
Backtrack to the room with the trapped lever and head upward and down some steps. Kill the shielded enemy on the left, then go right and kill a bandit and you'll see a Shrine of Wisdom (4/5). Interact with it to increase Aether's power, then go all the way right and break some wooden crates in the top right corner to reveal a Fragment of Luce (3/5, 53/100). Backtrack to the left, then down through the room with the trapped lever. Go left from here, then upward down some steps under an arch. Kill a gold knight and continue forward until you reach a room where you can see two bandits, one on either side. Kill them, then break a barrel in the back left corner to reveal a Fragment of Luce (4/5, 54/100). Go right and down some steps and kill a shielded knight, then go into the gated area and kill a tough red knight. Interact with the pillar at the far right of this area to trigger a brief cutscene. Then backtrack.
After passing through the arch flanked by two fires, continue downward, up some steps, then down another set of steps. The path will turn right and you'll have to kill a couple of knights. Go up the steps on the right and kill another knight in a room with blood all over the floor. Go down a set of steps to the right and continue into a room with several benches. Interact with a book on the pedestal (Book VII, 6/7), then break a wooden crate below to find a Fragment of Luce (5/5, 55/100). Backtrack left, then down from the bloody room. Go down some steps and then take another set of downward steps just to the left. Kill two bandits at the bottom and continue forward until the path forks. The path to the right leads to a chest with the Bastard Sword +++, but the Giant Sword is stronger, so don't bother going that way. As you go left you'll see several square grey plates on the ground.
Stepping on these plates causes fire to shoot out of the nearby pipes. You want to be very careful as this fire will kill you instantly, but it can be used to kill enemies, as well. Avoid the plates as you follow the path around and upward, letting the knight come to you so you can kill him safely. There is a sorcerer beyond the next set of plates and it can be tricky to avoid his projectiles while trying to not kill yourself with the fire traps, so I suggest running up towards him, then hitting the two plates as you run away and hopefully he will come at you and walk into one of the fire traps. Continue forward after he is dead and you'll see two knights in the back corners of the next area. Inch forward slowly and four shadow enemies will attempt to abduct Aether, so be prepared to protect her. Should they succeed, you'd need to run all the way out of the Fire Dungeon and down through the previous area to find her jail cage (which you can press to trace a path to once you get outside).
After dealing with the shadow enemies, kill the two knights and continue forward up a set of steps. Kill one last bandit and activate the runic portal to the left. Should you die to the Guardian of the Fire Shard, you can run from the Shrine of Power near the blacksmith to the circle of stones I pointed out earlier to travel directly here and not have to traverse the dungeon again (just remember to reactive the runic portal after using it).
You need Aether's help to open the nearby door. Hold to take her hand and bring her to one of the levers beside the door, then let go and press so she stays next to it. Interact with the other and Aether will pull hers, causing the door to open. Then continue through to reach the Guardian of the Fire Shard.
Honestly, the Giant Sword is so strong that this should be an absolute joke. I was able to kill him in three hits. After you kill him, an achievement will unlock:
Unlocked by 3 tracked gamers (2% - TA Ratio = 8.00)
You can then proceed upward so that Aether can absorb the Fire shard, after which the second sunray sequence will begin. This one is much easier and shorter than the one on the forest so I didn't even bother showing the path when we were in the desert.
Pick Aether up by holding , then run downward and into the swirling lights to be teleported to the desert shrine. Pick her up again and run right and up until you see a path leading through some trees. Take this path through a small wooden structure with a tan tarp, then follow the trees around and up to the left. When you see the red knight, set Aether down and run to him, killing him quickly. Then pick Aether up and continue up/left to get to the circle with the sunray. Set her down inside and she will absorb the beam of light for several seconds, after which the second sequence will be complete.
From here, make your way to the Shrine of Power in the upper left part of the area and rest. Then head left/down and into the blue-lit exit that leads to the Mountains of Solitude.
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