Super Arts – The Worlds of Dark Souls

There is no doubt in my mind that Demon’s Souls, the PS3 exclusive RPG, is the best game released this gen as well as the most important. It is unflinchingly unique from start to finish and, design wise, it never takes Route 1; it is as enigmatic and beautifully sombre as it is unrelentingly challenging. Nothing like it had ever come before.

An attempt to sum-up just the world would be folly – but taking cross sections of Art to look at the different areas might help explain some of the majesty of this troubled, slumbering and esoteric vision.

Thankfully Dark Souls isn’t the kind of simple swords and sandals RPG that tells you everything in dreadfully obvious narration, overly verbose NPCs or some-such lazy narrative crutch. The world’s story and history is shown through scars in the landscape, on monuments, on crumbling relics and palatial buildings with their-mirror-sheen environs.


Dark Souls is covered in areas such as this that tell a story seemingly centuries old and play with scale. In areas such as this sword laden memorial we feel a sense of monumental tragedy that represents the end of a troublesome scenario; warriors give one final thrust of their sword to show respect and devotion to the deceased. You can almost feel the sense of honour, subservience and valor of the warriors as they approached the monument in unwavering belief of the fallen. It’s quite a haunting scene in the game where you come across this site in the ghostly forest and, as you are surrounded by the physical representation of fallen warriors, you feel almost claustrophobic. It is done so well and seems so simple, yet it lets us sense the gravity of the situation that culminated in this area and, as we move around, we happen upon a seemingly endless number of swords which adds to the sense of sorrow and severity; you are quite literally surrounded by it.

Anor Londo


Here we see Anor Londo and this is the first time you will warp to an area that isn’t one of Firelink Shrine’s environs. Anor Londo feels weird mostly because it isn’t weird; it is a huge-scale area that feels clean -a little too clean! You see, the absolute best part of the Souls games is that the worlds you explore don’t feel like typical game areas, in point of fact they break almost all the rules. The undulating terrain feels random, the castles are in disrepair, there are broken walls and debris strewn everywhere, planks of wood left against walls and walkways are too thin or too wide. It doesn’t feel like typical, clean, angular design from almost all games that are only designed for the player to explore. It feels real, lived-in, an organically developed world created for the purpose and needs of the inhabitants, not the player’s. This is a subtle but SUPER important design ethos that make the world feel real. In Anor Londo where the walkways feel far too long it imparts a bizarre juxtaposition where you ponder about the purpose of the architecture. Unlike the former time-ravaged areas Anor Londo feels dramatically different, where marble walkways shine with wealthy glee and monuments of the grand deities have the kind of care and attention to detail that only wealth or obsession can create – in this case it’s clearly both.

The Asylum Courtyard

Even the Sun which shines eternally upon Anor Londo (unless you intervene) is created by the Goddess herself as she lies in a decadent room with her glorious breasts bigger than your entire body. It’s a rich, louche, oppressive, glorious world that feels soulless and austere; it feels fake. The grandeur of the world reflects the ego of the deities who need to be immortalised in marble or adorned with gold. It really is a jarring change of pace that contrasts sharply with the dishevelled, dismal dungeons and asylums you’ve traversed to get here and a far cry from the festering, putrid and vile pit that is Blightown. Up ’til this point you’ve experienced madness, turmoil, war, death, decay, torture, subjugation and disease but in Anor Londo we see huge marble archways and lounging, beautiful Goddesses with heaving, pendulous breasts. In the Dark Souls world the haves and the have-nots are separated thusly but all is not what it seems and, with Dark Souls, it never is.

Dark Souls is as close to Art as any game has come and not because it emulates what people think Art is or that it’s deliberately evasive or egregious but because it expresses thoughts, feelings, mood, atmosphere and does so without insulting the intelligence of the viewer or tying the plot up in a bow. It’s enigmatic and beautiful and I’m so glad it exists.








Leave a Reply