Dark Souls: The Clearing of the Way

After you retrieve the Lordvessel (a big bowl) from Anor Londo, the next step is to fill it with souls — and not the generic Souls that you collect and lose by the thousands in the rest of the game, but specific “great” souls, presumably the souls of bosses that I need to kill to harvest them. It occurs to me now to wonder about the morality of what I’m doing. The big goofy-looking “primordial serpent” who gives me my marching orders tries to reassure me by saying that everyone on my hit list has either turned wicked or “outlived their usefulness”, which isn’t reassuring at all. It’s a very “I cannot be bothered with the petty concerns of mortals” thing to say. I don’t expect the game to push moral dilemmas too hard, but I can easily see it pulling tragedy out of necessity, pointing out how sad it is that this noble creature had to be sacrificed or whatever.

The cutscene where you get this assignment cuts away to three magical barriers in different parts of the gameworld dissipating to let you into the next chapters. The zone where this cutscene happens must have its own little dioramas of the barriers and the area immediately around them, just so it can show them in the cutscene; for all that the game does an excellent job of creating the illusion that it’s all one huge continuous sculptural object, it can’t possibly be holding the entire world in memory. Two of these barriers, I recognized immediately. The third left me in that uncomfortable state of not being sure if I should recognize it or not, like a stranger at a party, but I found it before too long, and as of this writing I have explored all three to varying extents. As anticipated, the addition at this late stage of the ability to warp between bonfires helps a lot here, allowing for quick exits whenever I feel like things are getting too heavy — although the game pointedly denies this at one juncture, throwing you in a jail cell with a bonfire that isn’t connected to the others. Why wait until you can warp to spring this? Wouldn’t it be easier to do, and to justify narratively, when you don’t have warping ability, and are just naturally stuck wherever you are? Ah, but it wouldn’t have as much impact then. You need to experience freedom before its removal can be meaningful.

1 Comment so far

  1. malkav11 on 5 Apr 2022

    Dark Souls isn’t really very interested in presenting moral dilemmas. There are characters you can kill that don’t deserve to die (as you discovered) and ones that arguably do that are at least initially not hostile and can hold conversation with you. But I don’t anticipate you having any qualms about any of the actual bosses, with perhaps one or two exceptions and those not the ones you’re being tasked with currently. This isn’t Shadow of the Colossus. At least, not in that way.

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