Alone in the Dark
A flickering flame shallowly illuminates a claustrophobic corridor of smooth, cold stone. Embers peel away like flower petals, in fear of what lies ahead in the incessant darkness, as the stalwart fool trudges on… Laboring for breath from his last encounter with perilous shadow, The Ashen One begins to hear muffled screams of agony, expeditiously approaching the paltry comfort of a now wavering flame. Dread begins to slowly corrupt his afflicted mind, in attempts to extinguish the last remnants of fortitude. Swift steel pierces the air and reverberates in the hands of the weary, as spark depicts the finality of this terminal miscalculation. Writhing anguish consumes the hero as black gives way to the warmth of unwavering flame.
Tentatively, I tread a gravity defying, feeble outstretch of brick and mortar, hovering above an ominous chasm below. Apprehension begins to set in, as I speculate as to what infernal fiend is lying in wait to administer callously efficient annihilation. Hurling myself from the edge, I plunge through a narrow opening and land with vigorous impact in an expansive cavernous ruin. A shrill scream fills the void, as I rise to my feet confronted by a towering demon engulfed in flame. My heart begins to pound as the enemy launches itself at me in a hysterical flurry of overwhelming swipes and slashes. Noxious flares of powerful energy surge and explode in a dazzling display, alerting me to a twin demon on the edge of my periphery. In a panicked maneuver, I roll directly into harm’s way and barely escape with my life intact. If I am to prevail, split second timing, fluid maneuvering and target acquisition must coalesce in flawless synchronicity. Acute focus overrides fear, as I narrowly evade each demon’s fervent lethal advance while making several of my own. Constantly transitioning between targets, I gradually chip away at my adversaries until they collapse and the flame of their existence begins to wane.
I naively breath a sigh of relief, as a fleeting, unnerving calm, gives way to violent tremors, as the pulsating fire within my enemies chest begins to reignite with frightening radiance. Akin to a phoenix rising from the ashes of its former life, the demon explodes into a brilliant conflagration. In blitzkrieg fashion, I am bombarded by a dizzying array of kinetic precision, raining fire, and savage aggression. Maintaining my composure is becoming increasingly difficult, as I hastily attempt to adapt to the deceptive timing of each deadly impact. Rigorous evasion, coupled with judicious assault, culminate in the outpacing of my malevolent foe and the conclusion of one my favorite boss encounters of the series.
My heart rate slowly begins to return to baseline, as the immensely gratifying, “heir of fire destroyed,” flashes across my screen. Tremendous challenge has resulted in tremendous triumph – a hallmark feeling for fans of the series.
Swirling verticality sweeps the horizon of Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City’s environments. Gnarled branches and baroque architecture bend and coil at the mercy of time and space. The world appears to be swirling into inescapable decimation, as the player delves deeper into increasing layers of mania and delirium. Intricate ruins stretch far and wide, embellished by delicate flowers which absorb a pale moon’s glow. Gothic cathedrals serve as hauntingly unnerving backdrops on the borders of reality. Viscous swamp devours the remaining architectural vestiges of the living, long gone, and looming towers peer into the souls of audacious adventurers.
Innovative gameplay harmoniously accompanies the atmosphere of The Ringed City, by illuminating elements of the world in deliberate order. Countless futile attempts at victory left me frustrated by my own shortcomings, and eager to hone my skills. As the player progresses from one encounter to the next, the entire world transforms, breathing new life into the lore and central themes of the game. Innovative art style, perceptive lore, existential themes, onerous challenges and sophisticated gameplay result in one the most atmospheric gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
The Souls series provides fans with an unparalleled level of escapism, through the vehicle of boundless immersion. FromSoftware has concluded the series on high note and I cannot wait to what else have in store.
“Welcome, Unkindled One, purloiner of Cinders. Mind you, the mantle of Lord interests me none. The fire linking curse, the legacy of lords, let it all fade into nothing. You’ve done quite enough, now have your rest.” – Prince Lothric
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows