Dark Souls: Zombie Face

A strange thing about Dark Souls is that, although it’s well-known, its reputation has nothing to do with its content. I personally had no idea what it was about when I started playing it, other than that it involved swordfights. So what is it about, exactly?

It’s about zombies. Well, sort of. Sort of, but pervasively. Other than bosses, every single enemy you fight is some kind of zombie. It’s just that the zombies come in various flavors and a lot of them wear armor. In fact, even the player character is an “undead”, albeit one that’s not yet “hollowed”, which I take to mean that you’re not exactly a mindless husk of a human being yet, but you inevitably will be. Undeads are kind of like Gulliver’s Struldbrugs: born with a special mark, cursed with an inability to die all the way, and kept away from ordinary folk in a sort of zombie ghetto. This is the game’s explanation for why you keep respawning when you die. Most games don’t see a need to explain this, but it does have a neat side effect: all the other zombies you kill similarly come back when you do, but the bosses, which aren’t zombies, don’t. Making the respawning diegetic makes it a little weird that the enemies don’t learn from their failures at all, that they position themselves in exactly the same places and fall to exactly the same tactics, but I’m assuming this is because they’re hollowed. They’re incapable of learning, and just carry out the same actions over and over. That’s what separates you from them: you too tend to keep dying to the same enemies repeatedly, but at least you do it in a slightly different way each time.

Now, the first time I played the game, the fact that you’re undead felt like a bit of a bait-and-switch. The character creation menu had me pick a face, but when the game began, I didn’t have that face, I had zombie face. Well, in fact there’s a way to unzombify yourself a bit and get your living-person face back. It hardly seems worth the price, though, because the next time you die, you’re back to zombie-face again. This notion of your whole face instantly changing when you become a zombie irks me a bit, too. Surely the whole reason zombies look that way is that they’ve been decaying for a while? And yet this is not the only work of popular media I’ve seen where the transformation is as instant as if they just put on a mask.

1 Comment so far

  1. malkav11 on 7 Mar 2022

    It’s got some other benefits, most notably being able to summon allies for coop (although it also exposes you to being invaded by enemies).

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