You might not believe it, but I haven’t played Dark Souls III yet, so I’ve been grasping at all the possible straws. In doing so, I’ve stumbled across the Dark Souls comics, an upcoming series that will grant players entrance to the franchise without the usual punishment.
The comic channels the themes that fans have come to love from the series. But in saying this, it’s a definite step away from the renowned Dark Souls formula. Firstly, we’ve got actual concrete characters: Fira and Scryer. Of course, their motives and histories are still vague this early in the series, but the conflict of duty and family seems to be an important part of Fira’s background. Yes, the idea of personality in the protagonist is totally new to Dark Souls, and fans of the series aren’t overly receptive to change. But the introduction to these characters is handled well. From what this comic tells us, their intentions aren’t dissimilar to that of the Dark Souls player in that they revolve around exploring, seeking trinkets and defeating imposingly named bosses – in this case Dragon Augerer.
This kind of familiarity is plentiful in the comic. While the story could very well explain itself, references back to the games provide a sense of depth. Appreciating the lore of Dark Souls will make certain scenes infinitely more interesting. Knowing the history of The Age of Fire, will give a greater context to the story – that man is slowly regaining power in the worlds. And understanding the ‘Hollows’ and their plight will nuance the themes of death. In fact, the ‘Easter eggs’ and references spliced throughout the comic are what really held my attention. For instance, at one stage, we see Fira sitting by a bonfire. On another we see corpses springing to life. And there’s even a Solaire cameo. Short of the presence of everyones favourite sun-praising knight, these inclusions wouldn’t seem odd to the casual reader. But at the same time, they are pleasant surprises for fans of the series.
As is typical of the Dark Souls franchise, the first issue of this comic series also looks fantastic. A major part of Dark Souls gameplay was the lust for exploration; players know of the dangers that exist in the world, yet, even in the face of peril, they continue to explore. Now it’s ridiculous to expect a comic to recreate this same adventure-lust, but George Mann and Alan Quah have done a solid job of capturing the ambience of the Dark Souls worlds. The artwork is spectacular. And Fira and Scryer seem to be possessed by the same sort of drive to explore. This, in itself, can bring the reader a sort of nostalgia of the feelings that these games inspired.
Of course, there’s a much more obvious story to the comic – even if this issue only gives us a quick introduction. And that’s the one thing that feels odd. I’ve become accustomed to extracting story from Dark Souls. The universe has always been the focus of instalments in the series. So, to be honest, it seemed totally out of place to be handed character and story from the outset of this comic. This isn’t a criticism. Literally no one on earth would read a comic about the scenery of a fantasy world – not even the masochistic Souls fans. So, I understand that a central story is essential to the success of this series, but the observation had to be made. In saying this, I will admit that it’s refreshing to experience a Souls world without the impending threat of ruination.
The Dark Souls comics should shape up nicely, so long as it preserves the ‘Dark Souls’ feel. See, as nice as it is to have concrete character, the existence of actual people almost takes the ‘Dark Souls’ out of this comic. Luckily though, Mann and Quah draw heavily on the pre-established lore of the series. The references to the games and the hidden surprises make this a worthy – though, very different – addition to the Souls series. I’m interested to see what lies in story for Fira and Scryer as their adventure continues. Let’s hope they’re prepared…