“Variations on a theme” is a phrase I’ve employed to describe the games of Hidetaka Miyazaki, but it’s all a bit more complicated with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. It shares ample DNA with the games that made Miyazaki famous—Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne—but it’s also much more distinct. Any particular SoulsBorne game is unique, but looks and plays basically like the others. Sekiro doesn’t. The result is a game that revels in its surprises while nonetheless feeling familiar as an old shoe, or a loyal dog that bites. Hard.
Uranium is one of the most abundant elements on the planet.
This surprises many people, who assume it must be rare because it’s valuable, and valuable things are typically rare. Uranium is not rare. It’s as common as tin or zinc. Swing a cat in the Earth’s crust and you’ll hit some uranium. If you want some uranium, go outside and get a rock. Pitchblende is your best bet, but so long as you pick a really boring rock, there’s probably a little uranium inside.
My biggest game-writing project to date wrapped a while back, and I thank you who chose to explore even part of it. Like all things, the story grows in the telling. I never planned to publish the Dark Souls Diaries. It started as nothing more than an email series to disinterested friends. The first several installments were just heavily edited versions of those emails.
When I elected to put them on Tap, it stopped being a goofy thing and became a matter requiring a degree of journalistic integrity. As the Diaries grew in popularity, so also grew my responsibility to be accurate. As such, the evolution of the Diaries took place alongside the evolution of my knowledge regarding the game. This epilogue is the story of that journey, plus the final moments of the game upon which the Diaries are based, and a short look at the recent Prepare to Die PC port. It may not be the last thing I’ll ever write about Dark Souls. But it is the end of this particular (and for most of you, unendurably tedious) chronicle.
The last installment of the Diaries left Steerpike the Dashing Sorcerer a little glum, O readers. One of my oldest friends had vanished, very possibly by flinging himself into a boiling magma lake. Another died because of my own terrible sword discipline; I accidentally struck him down even as he tried to step between me and a Chaos-eating hose-beast. I also appear to have misplaced his daughter, which means she’s almost certainly dead as well. All that is the injury.
As for the insult? I’m now all but certain that my most powerful and knowledgeable snake-dog thing ally, Kingseeker Frampt, has been manipulating me this whole time. I only hope that the ends to which he has influenced my actions have some honor attached to them, because it’s far too late to turn from this path.
Stephen King’s novella collection Full Dark, No Stars could – kindly – be dismissed with a casual ‘not his best work.’ But there’s one in there, briefer than the others, called Fair Extension.
Dave Streeter runs into Satan on a lonely Maine road and they get to talking. An offer is made, an honest to God deal with the Devil. I’m sure you know how those work. But Lucifer’s not really what you expect.
“…if you think I’m going to show up two decades or so down the line and to collect your soul in my moldy old pocketbook, you’d better think again,” sneers the Devil. “The souls of humans have become poor and transparent things.”
There are basically two schools of thought on how to approach a Souls game: use the wiki, or don’t use the wiki. I use the wiki. I don’t rely on it, but I use it. My experience is that a few spoilers are nothing compared to what you’d miss without those resources. Characters. Goodies. Immense swathes of storyline. Arguably, the whole theme of the game (Eastern-tinged postamble interpretation of Hellenic ‘Olympians vs. Titans’ creation mythology refracted through Knight of Faith concept in contra-Campbellian nihil-existentialist environment). Two entire regions I would have missed without the wiki form this, our latest (and gloomiest) entry in the Diaries.
I know this is likely to render meaningless the lives of many a reader, but you gaze upon the fifth-to-last Dark Souls Diary.
“Steerpike!” You cry. “No! Please for the love of all that is good and/or holy, say it’s not true! You have already written twenty thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight words, words we neither solicited nor enjoyed! Your own mother has asked you to stop! Say that we don’t have to read five more of these before the torment can end! We beg you Steerpike, just type this: ‘and then I did a bunch of other stuff and won the end forever.’ Wouldn’t that be a pithy closing?”
That actually would be pretty clever.
I completed Dark Souls a couple weekends ago – something I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to do. However, just because I’m done doesn’t mean that each and every one of you aren’t hanging on breathlessly for the next installment of my Diary! Far be it from me to deny you.
Today the adventure continues with all new topics: oral hygeine for snakes, the world’s worst library, dragons in the buff, and more crystal than you can shake a hippie at! Let’s go!
Time to stop stalling, people. There’s a giant snake-dog thing that wants me in Anor Londo, there’s treasure in Anor Londo, there’s plenty of reasons to go to Anor Londo. No more detours. No more diversions.
Let’s do this thing.
I’m trying to keep these funny, in part because there’s nothing funny about Dark Souls – almost nothing, at least. And making it funny makes it a little less… bleak for the rest of you. But there are moments when the morose nature of the game will intervene, and some of my experiences in this installment may qualify.
Steerpike the Handsome Sorcerer continues his journey today, with some business advice to a trio of unexpected entrepreneurs, a visit to the sunlit city of the gods, and another to a frozen realm of pure loneliness. What can I say? You can cover a lot of ground in 45 deaths.
I realized I’d better get cracking on these Diaries, because I’m really quite a bit farther in the game than this entry, and I’m beginning to forget things that have happened to me. Luckily I discovered a cool new technology called “A Pen” and “A Notepad” and have been writing things down so my brain doesn’t have to remember them unless it wants to.
When last we left our hero, he’d returned from the profound awfulness of Blighttown to discover a huge crowd waiting at Firelink Shrine, all in a frenzy about the campfires being out…
Deeper and deeper I ventured, a brave warrior in search of… jeez, I don’t even remember at this point. At first I thought no place could be worse than the Depths, that it was the darkest point in the universe. I had defeated Gaping Dragon, its nightmare boss, and was rewarded with a key to Blighttown. That name does not sound promising, but as a brave warrior in search of <REDACTED>, it was on my list of places to visit. After all, if you’ve been keeping up with these Diaries then you know… it couldn’t be worse than the Depths, right?
I am enjoying doing these Diaries, as someone should know my suffering, but since I waited until I had a solid backlog before publishing them, I’m beginning to forget some of the stuff that’s happened to me in late December and early January (you’ll note these Diary entries date well before that). In any case, I’m going to try and catch up a bit so I don’t forget stuff if I have a Dark Souls adventure and no chance to write it down.
Now, some of you may be getting sick of the Dark Souls Diaries. I can understand that. If you are, let me know, and I’ll polish the (currently) 6,554-word scholarly paper I’ve been working on in parallel – the one that talks about Kierkegaard and Kant, about the concept of the Knight of Faith, about Campbellian Monomyth Variances, and so on – and I’ll just run with that. It will be epic.
Slow and steady wins the race, my friends, and I have slowly and steadily been failing to make much progress in From Software’s bleakly brilliant Dark Souls, as my report here will attest. But it’s about the journey, not the destination, and thus do I share with you more of the journey. I promise, you’ll get sick of reading these long before I’m through writing them. To adventure!
Ahh, 2011. The year in which we were supposed to have the Rapture (twice), the year of the Arab Spring, of Occupy, of the Whipping Judge and Pepper Spray Cop. The year of Steerpike’s Neglecting To Get His Carpets Shampooed, Even Though They Need It. The year of the release of Titus Awakes, which I haven’t finished but which probably doesn’t include my namesake since he died in Titus Groan. The year Brandon, Amanda, Bearwhale, and Ravious joined us as contributors. The year I gained weight, and the year I played games.
As it happens, all the games I rank below came out in 2011, though that’s not a rule. Our objective is to tell you about the games that we’ll remember most from 2011, whether they shipped that year or a decade before. And we’re each taking it in our stride – ranking, rambling, sorting. There are no rules. These are the ones that stick out in my mind. Some made me irresponsibly happy. Others made me inconceivably sad. I leave the rest to you, because I love you all, and I wish you a glorious 2012. If the world doesn’t end in December, be sure we’ll return with that year’s batch.