The place to discuss Dark Souls II
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bukharajones

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#1
I elect to post this here, because I think this work worth supporting. There may be spoilers.

TLDR: This book is great. Buy this book. The English website can be accessed by searching Third Editions English pre order on Google and clicking on the third result.
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France always seems to be ahead of the curve in embracing new media, whether in painting or, more recently, film, and giving it serious critical consideration - in Third Editions, video games have a publishing house dedicated to that. By all accounts, they are successful, and I backed their Kickstarter seeking to translate their works into English. I, having already read "You Died" by Jason Killingworth and Keza McDonald, eagerly backed them last September and waited.

While I have not received my printed copy, I have received "Beyond the Grave" in ebook form, and wish to bring it to your attention as good, solid work. For those wanting an in depth and authoritative examination of Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and Dark Souls 2, nothing else compares. The authors, Demian Mecheri and Sylvain Romieu, while obviously fans of the series, engage with From Software and Miyazaki's most influential offerings as critics - accessible critics, eschewing jargon for the most part, writing in clearly translated prose that should be appealing to anyone interested in this series or video games in general.

It is clearly organized, beginning with, so far as I know, the most extant biography of Hidetaka Miyazaki and his career available in English. While Romieu and acknowledging that video games are the product of many, not unlike film, these games would not exist without his powerful creative drive and leadership, never mind his struggles with the English language fantasy books of his childhood. They lead us through the genesis of Demon Souls and on through it's turbulent development and unexpected success, then on into the emergence of Dark Souls 1 into "glory and triumph," which necessitated the more fraught emergence of Dark Souls 2. These are the most cogent and authoritative examination of their origins and should be considered authoritative for sometime.

Indeed, every chapter clearly states their intention, which, through the gathering of evidence, all carefully footnoted and accessible to their readers, they support in meticulous, whether it is their explorations of the lore or the importance of the sound design and artistic

The second chapter examines the game play in detail, going over the fundamentals and then diving deeper, covering character creation, the "learning through failure" philosophy imbricated throughout all of the games, it's novel online components, battle mechanics, and boss encounters. There's much to consider here and all worthwhile.

In the third chapter, they cover the universes of the Souls game. As Vaatividaya notes in his introduction, their explication of the lore for all of the games covered in this game is sound and worth reading even if you know it - or think you know it. Without a sound grounding in the lore of the Souls games, they would have nothing. When Vaatividaya received his copy, before he read anything else, he went straight to authors' exploration of the Souls' universes, and after all hundred plus pages, he felt it a worthy effort.

I must agree. Mecheri and Romieu definitely bring a new perspective that can be refreshing. Clearly organized, they begin with an exploration of how the Souls games, through their environment and items, allow players to unlock a narrative if they elect to do so. They explain all of this in great detail, and then systematically lead the reader through Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and Dark Souls II, with particular emphasis on the Dark Souls 1, gathering and analyzing their own investigations in ways that I often found refreshing and plausible, particularly their views on Gwynn and the end of the first game, which, in light of Ringed City's revelations of Gwynn's familial and political machinations, feel more plausible than on my first reading them. While not as detailed as their analysis of Dark Soul 1, their will be much to consider for veterans and neophytes alike. No character, no npc, no matter how minor, escapes their notice, whether DS2's Rat King or DS1's Undead Prince Ricard, never mind the main characters. Each, from Dark Souls 1, receives their own meticulously crafted entry and explication, and can be quickly referenced from the well organized index.

From here on, the book makes some of it's most original best contributions. Mecheri and Romeiu dive deep into the overarching themes and motifs hammered over and over again in the games, from the cyclic nature of their universes, which, through multiplayer, form a chaotic multiverse endlessly mired in decline and resurrection, to investigating their roots not only in Buddhism but in western mythology. Other sections investigate serpents, fog, architecture. Their exploration of Kings, particularly from the perspective of Japanese and Chinese culture, will illuminate the characters of Allant, Gwynn, and Vendrick in ways that have not been generally considered. Pointedly, they observe that in Dark Souls, the discovery of fire signaled a new age of freedom and independence through the power granted through "creating and manipulating flames" much like Prometheus, when he gave fire to humankind "radically increased the species' evolution by making metalworking possible."

There examination of the games' rich use - or restraint of sound, bears close reading as well. For those wondering how the scores were made, from the choice of composers to the budget or, in the case of Dark Souls 2, the lack thereof, Mecheri and Romeiu provide detailed illumination and analysis of their scores. Shunsuke Kida receives overdue approbation for Demon's Souls. When they turn to Dark Souls, even as they conclude Motoi Sakaruba exceeded himself with Dark Souls, only to fall short with Dark Souls 2, one cannot help but find the conclusion warranted. They make their case through analyzing the way music works, or fails to work, in the respective games' boss fights, considering the implications of a real instruments and budgets along with, which most do not consider, poor mixing. Even though disappointed, they nonetheless recognize the composer's great gifts.

Their final summation, as the rest of the book, examines how these varied design elements, wrought skillfully from "western culture and Japanese sensitivity" continue to resonate and generate interest in an industry notorious for it's thirst for novelty. This cultural appropriation by Miyazaki and his collaborators, culled from dark fantasy novels and cprgs, European myths, and the like, combined with that undeniably Japanese sensibility, has proven undeniably powerful. It is doubtful that a Western developer could so effortlessly marry horror and wonder so well as Fromsoft's Dark Souls undeniably does. Is the game survival horror? I think this a case they make very well. Particularly worthwhile, too, is there exploration of "hardcore" gaming in Japan and how this philosophy, common in Japan and exemplified in the true Super Mario 2, never released as such to Western Markets, and how Dark Souls is a modern iteration of this design with a difference and how this has impacted their legacy for better or worse, even as this element, among many, influences more and more modern games. They also examine the vibrancy of the community, particularly as it exists in France, where Demon's Souls pvp can be found to this day, even as they conclude with speculation about what the future holds for Fromsoft and Miyazaki now that the Souls games' stature is effectively established. With the conclusion of Ringed City, this question is more salient than ever.

This is the best available examination of Souls as game and cultural artifact and should be supported by not only fans of the series, but anyone with an interest in the video game medium in and of itself. When I finished, I immediately purchased their volume on Zelda and wish I might get my hands on Castylvania. Alas, my French is lacking. With a second volume to follow in the near future, and, while some exceedingly minor typesetting errors mar the flow, as a whole, I look forward to the success of their endeavors and encourage anyone so moved by this review to search out their English site and preorder their own copy of Dark Souls: Beyond the Grave.