Welcome to Mechanically Beautiful, where we look into the widely debated topic, “Are Video Games Art?” I am here to say that yes, I do believe video games are a form of art and I’m going to give you readers amazing examples of why I believe this. If you are not a believer of this idea, then maybe these articles will change your mind. But even if they don’t, you will get a chance to hear about and maybe look into some beautiful games in the industry. Today we look at the dark and gritty fantasy RPG “Dark Souls 2.”
The “Souls” series, as I’m sure many of you know, is a hyper difficult dark themed fantasy RPG where you run around battling horrifying creatures and fearing for your life. You play as some random guy or girl trapped in this world trying to fight your way out. I personally haven’t played the first “Dark Souls” and have only played a bit of “Demon Souls” so I will only be talking about “Dark Souls 2” as it is the one I’m most familiar with. The game has you running around in very interesting, if somewhat depressing, environments fighting off some terrifying looking monsters and undead while wearing very rugged looking knight armor. The game has you on edge, as you are afraid to turn every new corner not knowing what might be there and how that thing will kill you. While slowly making your way around though you see some very nicely designed environments and backdrops to explore. Although it does not have a particularly bright color palette, the game is still beautiful in its own dark way.
You start your journey in a dark and moody looking woods area called Things Betwixt. It has a grim fantasy kind of feel with huge gray trees and creepy caves for you to enter. After spending your short time in Things Betwixt, you enter Majula, which is a beautiful safe haven over looking a vast ocean with a large monument on the edge of a cliff. You of course immediately yell “Praise the sun!” and go off and meet something very rare indeed: people who aren’t trying to kill you.
The game opens up and you go around to many much more bleak and creepy areas. You go into an old forest with a destroyed castle where giants once roamed called the Forest of Giants, unsurprisingly. You drop down a huge pit in Majula until you make your way to a poison filled death trap called Black Gulch. The area is covered in a green glow with weird underground architecture and life. You walk around a huge structure that looks like something Romans would have built sitting on the ocean called Heide’s Tower of Flame. Heide’s Tower is probably my favorite area I have seen so far. If you continue deeper underground you come across dark caverns filled with pirate zombies. This place, called No Man’s Wharf, has an entire village made of stone and woods down there as well as a pirate ship that sits on an underground river that leads into the ocean. I despise No Man’s Wharf with all my heart and soul but it was a very cool looking area. The list goes on and on of crazy thoughts and cool looking areas to explore. None of these places are bright and colorful, like they were in my previous article on “Dust”, but they are still beautiful. I found myself constantly interested in every new area I come upon, when trying to not be horribly murdered anyway. Now the structures are nice but I can only care so much about buildings and such strange enemies however I am a big fan of.
Some enemies are simple undead men in basic soldiers armor like the ones you see in The Forest of Lost Giants but there are much cooler things to see. Even these basic soldiers are pretty interesting, as many games try to make everything you fight outlandish, which is fine, but “Dark Souls” has a certain charm to because you are just fighting men but they are still dangerous and can still kill you. You are by no means a beast of destruction in the “Souls” series. Those guys aside, I have come across some grotesque looking enemies. In No Man’s Wharf, you find odd ghoul lizard creatures with arms longer than your body and poison tipped claws. In the area called Earthen Peak there are huge mummy-like men swinging glowing blue javelins called Grey Wardens. Not like the ones in “Dragon Age”, though, sorry. I had trouble fighting one creature that looked like a cousin of Pudge from “Dota 2.” He is a giant fat man covered in weird leather armor and chains swinging two massive sickles.
The bosses are also rather insane and sometimes down right nasty. The Covetous Demon is a huge fat slug-like beast that looks a lot like Jabba the Hut. Mytha, the Baneful Queen is a medusa-like boss who is decapitated and carries her head around in her right hand. The Ruin Sentinels are three towering suits of armor that look as though they could adorn the entrance to a palace. One boss that was especially awful was the Skeleton Lords. Three towering skeletal kings with dark gray robes and large staff or scythe weapons that you fight in a room made entirely of bones. There is no shortage of the strange for sure. The game also doesn’t tell you anything about what you are fighting so you come across enemies wondering why they look that way and what they do. My friend came across big creatures in full pitch black armor with a large shell looking bulge on the back that swing mallets. My friend saw one of them and says “The heck is this dude, a ninja turtle!?” and then got crushed. The monsters you find very much poke at curiosity and would be interesting to look at if they weren’t trying to kill you all the time. Last but not least is the armor that the game gives you.
Many RPGs has your character or characters wearing and gaining some very colorful or weird looking armor. MMOs have always had this going on. In “WoW” when you get high level gear it often looks very flashy and colorful and sometimes impractical. You don’t have many games where you just look like a knight. “Dark Souls 2” doesn’t really do the colorful or flashy. The gear you get in the game- although it does improve-often just looks like something a normal knight back in medieval times would wear. There are some parts that look a little different but this can be attributed to the world and its oddity. Some armor is bigger, some is smaller, but for the most part you always look like a high ranking knight. The armor is by no means boring and usually looks nicely designed and thought out but it never gets to the point of crazy. People in the “Souls” universe would bust a gut looking at some of the weirdness “Final Fantasy” characters wear. With this simplicity though the armor is still beautiful to look at. It has the same kind of beauty that actual knight armor has in a museum and that’s what makes it interesting. Few games can pull off the simple but beautiful look, especially when it comes to character armor and weapons. The Alva set my character is currently wearing I especially like, and it is light armor with some cloth tassels of red the drape over your shoulder and around your waste. Simply but awesome.
“Dark Souls 2” is a game that is able to make the dark and dreary beautiful, much like I said for the “Metro” games. A muted color palette doesn’t have to mean that the game is ugly. If you have the skill, you can make anything appealing. I love the visual of this game and greatly appreciate the feeling it is going for. As for a recommendation, if you can deal with the giant amounts of salt and rage that with undoubtedly ensue the game is a very good third person action RPG; a master piece really.