Like many, my relationship with Dark Souls started a bit rough. I wasn't quite sure I wanted to continue on with such an abusive relationship. But then, all of a sudden, there was a brief serenity and calmness in all the death and stun-locking that taught me the value of the experience. If you work hard enough, you'll reap the ultimate reward: experiencing that majesty that is Dark Souls. It was at that point that my liking became an obsession. To this day, if I pick up the game I have to know that it will be a while before I put it down again, just for a breather and perhaps a swig of estus.
In fact, my obsession was so real that I had the original Japanese Dark Souls: Design Works imported from Japan less than a year ago. I knew that I had no chance in deciphering the vast text in the interview section but, for me, the art alone was worth the premium. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we North Americans would be intentionally treated to such a great work of art. Then, the wonderful people at Udon Entertainment made a dream come true with their announcement of an English translation of Dark Souls: Design Works.
After the long and eager wait that comes with pre-ordering an item months ahead of its release, it finally arrived at my doorstep. I was immediately greeted by the grandiose facade, very fitting for Dark Souls, that is its cover. The slipcover is a matte metallic silver stock with a sandpaper texture. The black title plate planted atop it is contrastingly glossy and smooth. On that back is a deeply implanted silver sword silhouette. But the real beauty comes when you remove the luxurious slipcover and reveal the ash black hardcover with text and ornaments as orange as a raging bonfire.
As if the presentation was not enough to warrant five stars, inside this tome you will find nothing but the most stunning content.
Chapter 1: Concept Art
The first 30 pages feature no words - solely massive, sprawling concept art on every page, all featured on glossy black stock. I spent a good minute at least on each page, just admiring the beauty and quality of each work.
Chapter 2: Design Materials
The following 80 pages are broken up into sections, each visually describing the design process of various elements and showing insight into the design of World Materials, NPC Materials, Boss Monster Materials, Monster Materials, Player Equipment Materials, Weapon Materials, Unused Materials (very interesting!), and a brief look at the First Edition Purchase Bonus Poster Materials from the collector's edition release of the game.
Chapter 3: Interviews
This section is undoubtedly what I looked forward to most. Having held onto the Japanese edition for so long with no hopes of gaining insight into the thought process of the masterminds who crafted the masochistic symphony that is Dark Souls, I couldn't help but skip first to the twelve-page interview with Hidetaka Miyazaki, Daisuke Satake, Hiroshi Nakamura, Masamori Waragai, and Mai Hastuyama. It was everything I could have hoped for. Their insight is breathtaking and inspiring and truly something I don't wish to spoil to any readers, but these twelve pages alone were worth the $30 purchase price.
I really cannot say enough to try and convince onlookers to purchase this, but please do it. Not only will you treat yourself to something truly unique and amazing, but you will be convincing Udon Entertainment to continue their great practice of bringing English translations of beautiful Japanese books to the west.