The Dark Souls trilogy is one of the most celebrated in video games, thanks in no small part to the enveloping feel of its world. Few games have felt so much like a distinct place, with its own history and logic and danger, as Lordran, the ruined fantasy landscape players are plopped into at the start of the first game. The games are notorious for their difficulty and lack of explicit direction, but this creates a feeling of real engagement with the hostile landscape. Put an experienced Souls player in front of one and they’ll start courageously slicing through secret pathways and hulking bosses, thanks to the fact that they’d previously died so many times exploring those dank alleys and mystical forests. You earn expertise over its world.
The game’s currently being remastered and rereleased, so YouTuber Mark Brown took a deep look at the construction of this world. For people who haven’t slugged through the game yet—or did for awhile before throwing in the towel at any of its preposterous difficulty spikes—it’s a great look at what veterans love about the series. And if you’ve already plunged below the depths of The Depths, it’s a welcome return voyage. Brown teases apart the pieces of Lordran’s “3D jigsaw puzzle,” making broader comparisons to the early games in the Zelda, Metroid, and Resident Evil series. He also expounds on a five-act structure to the game that alternates between linearity and wide-open structure, which provides a welcome give and take to the way the player approaches the world, even as that world is constantly finding new ways to disorient and challenge the player.
And the video celebrates Dark Souls’ refusal to let players fast travel between bonfires, even though later games in the series did add in this shortcut. It made things a hell of a lot more convenient, but stripped the games of some of their sense of desolate, terrifying adventure. It’ll be fun to dive back into the world when the rerelease comes out on May 25, although its Switch edition has been delayed until later this year if you were hoping to fight a monster called “Ceaseless Discharge” during your daily commute.