Story & Context
I already went into some depth on the story of Dark Souls in my post about Gravelord Nito, so I won’t repeat too much. In the game’s backstory, 4 great lords fought to bring an end to the reign of the everlasting dragons. Among them were the Witch of Izalith and her daughters, whose magic contributed greatly to the defeat of the dragons. However, in time, tragedy would befall the witches. With the fire from which they drew their power fading, the witches sought to perform a ritual that would duplicate the flame.
They could not control this new power. The Witch of Izalith and her children were transformed beyond recognition, becoming the Bed of Chaos. This “bed” is the birthplace of all demonkind, who now rule the underground and make trouble in the lands above. As part of their quest, players must venture deep into the ruins of Izalith to destroy the Bed of Chaos. This is easily my favorite boss fight in Dark Souls from a story perspective. There is a lot of lore to be found about Izalith and its witches. Multiple characters either relate directly to the witches or have information to share about them.
Even if you aren’t a Dark Souls scholar who goes over every item description and exhausts every line of dialogue, the build-up to the Bed of Chaos remains excellent. You have to fight your way through hordes of demons it created and defeat several of the witches’ children before facing off against her. You are wiping out an entire family of world-saving heroes corrupted by circumstances beyond their control. It perfectly sells the tragedy of Dark Souls‘ story.
Like Nito, The Bed of Chaos has a spacious arena that is nevertheless lacking in defining features. In fact, it’s even less interesting than Nito’s crib was.
After sliding into the boss room, you find yourself in a grey, circular arena. The only decorations are various branches and roots, which utilize such toned-down browns that they blend in with the rest of the greyness. It is very drab and, unlike the Tomb of the Giants, is lit bright and flatly. There is no atmosphere to any of it, making it feel plain boring.
The Bed of Chaos itself has a unique design, but lacks appeals. It’s a big tree monster thing that sits at the very end of the room and swipes at you. All that story context and hype, just to face an ent stuck on a wall. It’s so lacking in spectacle. Especially when you consider the hellish feel of the monsters and environments that just preceded this fight.
The Bed of Chaos is best compared to something like the Icon of Sin from Doom II. It’s a stationary, invulnerable monster that you can’t attack directly. You have to work around it while dodging an onslaught of attacks. Unlike the Icon of Sin though, this fight blows. It is infamously bad and something I dread every single time I play through Dark Souls.
Your goal is to take out two weak points on the sides of the Bed of Chaos. It starts out with just a sweeping attack for massive damage, which is easily dodged. However, after taking out the first weak point, the room begins to crumble. Floors fall away to reveal instant-death pits while the boss itself gains new attacks. It starts casting fire magic right under your feet and gains an extra appendage to make attacks with. You have to make your way to the second weak point while avoiding these new dangers.
After taking out the second weak point, you have to charge at the Bed of Chaos’ main body. Land on a root below it, cut your way through the destructible foliage, and destroy the final weak point at its center. This marks the defeat of the boss. It’s over in 3 hits, but feels entirely unfair. No amount of equipment or levels can help you in this fight, it’s entirely gimmick-based. As such, attempts at this boss soon turn into a tedious process of repeatedly charging at it and being promptly knocked into a pit for your effort. Respawn, walk back, try again. Until luck finally sides with you and you reach the next target.
Seemingly as an admittance of the fight’s poor design, this is the only boss in the entire game where your progress against it is saved. No matter how often you retry the fight, any targets you have taken out will remain destroyed. It’s still a nuisance to get through the rest of the fight, but this lenience makes is slightly more bearable. Sure wish I could skip the entire fight instead though.
The crumbling floors are designed in such a way that players have to get in range for the boss’ attacks, which are awkward to dodge to say the least. The distances you have to move are too far to bait out an attack and move all the way past, so you will have to dodge around it. To this day, I can’t tell you how to do so properly. Sometimes I just finally happen to clip through its tendrils and emerge unscathed.
The boss’ damage output combined with the many pits make for a fight that feels determined to always kill the player instantly. Getting hit by the boss’ arms is almost certain to knock you into any of the pits that surround the narrow paths. Even if you are spared a fall, you take massive damage and are usually knocked down. By the time you recover your footing, a second attack is almost certainly underway already. I don’t think it’s realistically possible to have a build that can sustain 2 hits from any of these attacks.
The fire too is a major concern. There is some windup that signals it’s coming, but the attack covers a wide area. If for any reason you can’t move right away, you simply have no chance to dodge it. This includes being knocked over, having to break through branches, or even landing after the initial slide into the boss-room. You can die instantly before you even have a chance to move, just because the attack goes off as you land.
It is not a fun level of challenge to deal with. Rendering it unbearable, however, is the walk back to the boss itself. There is no bonfire in the inner sanctum of Lost Izalith. You have to cross the sea of lava every single time, which requires the usage of the Orange Charred Ring. If you took it off for the fight, that means you have to equip it again every single time you need to retry.
Additionally, the only bonfires near The Bed of Chaos are hidden. 1 is a reward for a covenant you need to grind for, the other is behind a fake wall. If you don’t have access to either, that means backtracking the entire zone every single time. Even with the bonfires, it’s a long journey with punishing enemies everywhere. If you get sloppy due to annoyance, they will take bites out of you and waste even more time.
A lot of factors to add even more frustration to an already obnoxious battle.
I usually enjoy it when Souls games experiment with their boss fights. Gimmick battles are novel ways to change up the pace of the game and present players with a memorable challenge. The Bed of Chaos takes it way too far, however. Its mechanics are plain annoying and the attacks are designed so that players are killed in ways that feel unfair over and over and over again. It takes forever to get back to the boss room afterwards and there is no way to really get better at this fight. You just keep trying, hoping to eventually get lucky. It’s not a fun way to overcome a boss fight.
It’s a failed experiment, unfortunately stuck to a massively important character in the game’s story.