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Feature

Visions of hell: Dark Souls’s cultural heritage

It’s the trees; the twisted, whorled trees, their skeletal branches raking the belly of the looming sky. Those are Caspar David Friedrich trees, unmistakably corkscrewed and bent. They rise out of collapsing stonework just like Friedrich’s do, and are touched by the same fading light, decapitated by the same dusk shadow. They crowd like pious pilgrims around ruined churches and abbeys, as if, like Friedreich’s painted forests, they were about to pull those ruins to the ground. Perhaps a few branches are woven here or there between the stone work. Getting a purchase, working their way through a century-long demolition,…

Dark Souls 3
Feature

Dark Souls III and the color purple

You first encounter them in the Undead Settlement. It’s a moment of incongruous reprieve: having rolled and dashed your way through a hail of human-sized arrows and swarms of rake-wielding peasants, you come up a hill and into a dark, somber cathedral that all but invites you to stop and smell its flowers. With their violet hue and soft yellow centers, these delicate beauties scattered around the building seem more unlikely than any of the monstrosities you’ve been busy butchering. Dark Souls III’s kingdom of Lothric has, up to this point, largely displayed the same taste for earth tones favored…

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Feature

Videogames and the digital baroque

During the 17th century in Europe and her colonies, mankind was forcibly removed from the center of the universe and cast adrift in an indifferent cosmos devoid of greater purpose or meaning. This was accomplished not by any supernatural power but by advancements in technology, particularly optics: telescopes could chart the motions of previously obscure celestial bodies while microscopes could, for the first time, see the living cells that made up human bodies. Earth turned out not to be the center of the universe but one of many planets that orbited the Sun; an average star among countless others in…

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Review

Dark Souls III: Super Dark Souls World

Spoilers for a few Dark Souls III bosses below. /// The hardest Souls game, people say, is the one you played first. That’s where you learned the language, starting with the common nouns: the grunting Hollows who bust through wooden barricades, the poison swamp, the dragon who toasts the same spot forever like a puzzle in an adventure game, the giant whose feet must be pummeled until he loses his balance, the soul-lovin’ lady who has suggestive level-up conversations with you, and so on. But internalizing the games’ finicky grammar is the difficulty. A fluent Souls player follows dozens of…

salt4
Review

Salt and Sanctuary has soul

Salt is an essential part of our biology. It helps regulate fluid balance between cells. Our entire system of nerves and muscles is designed around the special electrochemical properties of salt. Too much salt and we die. Too little salt and we die. It’s the perfect metaphor for the kind of complex equilibrium Salt and Sanctuary likes to brutally enforce. Get too aggressive and you die. Give into cautious hesitation and you die. Learn to navigate the invisible rhythms in-between these two extremes, though, and something beautiful happens. It’s a construct familiar to anyone who’s subjected themselves to the punishing…

Death's Gambit
News

Death’s Gambit finds the humor in its deadly medieval world

Death’s Gambit, the upcoming medieval action game from developer White Rabbit, likes to wear its influences on its sleeve. Like the recently released Salt & Sanctuary, it’s part Dark Souls (2011) and part Castlevania, sending players into a brutish world that could not yell “here be dragons” any louder. And yet, according to the latest post on the game’s development log, it also seems to have a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor amid all the danger. The post itself is short, simply reminding players that the game is still alive and letting them know that they can expect a new trailer soon. With…

sillyzelda
News

Japanese hashtag reimagines videogame covers using adorable clip-art

#いらすとやさんでゲームパッケージを再現する, or as Google Translate tells me, “#To reproduce the game package in Irasutoya’s,” is a hashtag currently making its way around Japanese Twitter. It’s dedicated to taking videogame covers and recreating them with royalty free clip-art, specifically from the Japanese illustration blog Irasutoya. With its soft pastel colors and cute, cartoonish proportions, Irasutoya’s art challenges the hashtag’s participants to take titles such as Dark Souls (2011) and look at them through the candy-colored lens of Hello Kitty. While the idea of recreating images from games and movies using clip art isn’t entirely new—there’s already subreddits and Tumblrs dedicated to doing…

necropolislead
News

Artists pick out their favorite critters from upcoming game Necropolis

It is well-known that upcoming dungeon-delving game Necropolis looks ludicrously stylish. Its stark angles, moody lighting, and cartoonishly exaggerated characters give it an aura that lies somewhere between art deco and fairy tale; as if Red Riding Hood were the emcee for a big-band show. It’s a striking aesthetic, and it does an admirable job of setting Necropolis apart from the gothic horror of its major influence, From Software’s Dark Souls (2011). However, part of what’s allowed Dark Souls to be so successful is its memorable cast of baddies, their gruesome appearances helping them to linger in the minds of its players. Necropolis, too,…

tharsislead
Article

In praise of the “bad” design of Tharsis

Tharsis begins with an event of astronomical improbability. Somewhere in the interplanetary medium, a meteoroid floating through space at 25 miles a second occupies the same bit of spacetime as the spaceship Inktomi, which is hurtling towards Mars at 11 miles a second. The ship and its crew have been travelling for weeks; the meteoroid, millenia. And there, in the emptiness of the cosmic void, they somehow meet. An impact; a burst of compressed air; a body blown into space; a crippled vessel drifting toward Mars. What remains is a quartet of crew and a fistful of dice to navigate…