BOOK REVIEW | You Died: The Dark Souls Companion

The Definitive Dark Souls Book Gets the Deluxe Treatment it Deserves


An image showing the front cover of the You Died book. It is all black with an embossed pattern. The words You Died are shown in a large cross formation.

Release: 2020
Authors: Jason Killingsworth / Keza MacDonald
Buy from: www.tuneandfairweather.com
Buy from Amazon: The Dark Souls Companion (Original Version)


Published in 2016, ‘You Died: The Dark Souls Companion’ was written by Souls devotees and respected video-game writers Keza MacDonald and Jason Killingsworth. Most would agree that the book itself is a brilliantly written, informative and entertaining love letter to a game that enthralled both them and many others upon its release in 2011. But this is Dark Souls, one of the most influential titles of modern times and a game that elicits devotion and passion from its fan-base like few others, and there was always a nagging feeling that the book Edge Magazine called “the definitive Dark Souls book” deserved something just a little more… special.

In an incredible retrospective written a year after its publication, Killingsworth discussed the making of the book in great detail, from its initial pitch by MacDonald right through to the finished product – even discussing sales figures and financial gains (or lack thereof). The article is highly recommended for anybody with an interest in writing or publishing in general, but it is towards the end of the piece that Killingsworth lets slip some information – a hint of regret – that seems particularly pertinent now; “I was disappointed that You Died never got a hardcover edition… I still feel like hardcore Souls fans have a collector’s mindset and would embrace a higher sales price for more elegant production values. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be able to do a small hardcover print run to coincide with the game’s 10th (or 20th or 25th) anniversary.”

And so here we are, not far from the game’s 9th anniversary with the arrival of a selection of hardcover editions; a successful Kickstarter campaign proving emphatically that yes, Dark Souls fans would indeed embrace a higher price for a deluxe version of the book. Published under the guise of Tune & Fairweather – founded by Killingsworth himself – the book is a lavish re-imagining of the original with the singular goal of doing justice to this most staggering of games.

“I have just killed the gargoyles, and I am fucking SHAKING.”


Content

In terms of content, the book’s greatest strength lies in its variety and structure. This is not a singular 300+ page essay on the game, but rather a collection of self-contained chapters discussing both the game itself and the culture surrounding it. The backbone of the book, and its continuing thread throughout is the ‘Tour of Lordran’ feature, which consists of individual write-ups for each of the game’s locations and appears after every other chapter throughout the book – locations arranged in the rough order in which many (but of course not all) would have encountered them in-game. It does a fantastic job of portraying the general importance and relevance of each area, alongside capturing the general feelings players would have experienced upon first discovering these places for themselves.

The standard black cloth cover and the ‘Way of White’ prestige cover, alongside the original paperback book. There is also a rather elaborate genuine leather ‘Gravelord Servant Edition’ available, complete with it’s own handcrafted oak “coffin”.


The chapter ‘You’ve got Chainmail’ is a particular delight, detailing how before the game’s release – and indeed before any online help – reviewers who received early code banded together and created an email support group dubbed “The Chain of Pain”, in order to seek help, share hints and strategies, and to discuss the game’s many intricacies – even genuine concerns that the game had completely defeated them. The excerpts included in the chain of pain will be familiar to any Souls fan; talk of first discovering how the world links together, nerves being shredded, jubilation at beaten bosses and hundreds of hard-fought hours in between. It’s a fantastic addition to the book that really demonstrates how Dark Souls can completely consume players who are lucky enough to fall for it.

Similarly ‘Twitch Plays Dark Souls’, a chapter covering an extended quest in which thousands of concurrent players attempted to, and ultimately (against all odds, but not before a change of rules) succeeded in completing the entire game, is another example of how the authors capture the passion which exists around the game, and not just of the game itself. There are articles on VaatiVidya (a name widely known throughout the Dark Souls community as a player who left University in order to make Dark Souls lore YouTube videos), an extended interview with the game’s creator (and now studio head) Hidetaka Miyazaki, chapters discussing the translation of the game’s idiosyncratic dialogue from Japanese, and many more besides. It is a hugely diverse and interesting collection of articles that any fan of the game will delight in reading and re-living.

The game would pause, agonisingly, just as the Asylum Demon’s hammer was about to smash the player into the ground, and you’d see thousands of players typing “ROLL! ROLL!”


Design

Of course, aside from two new chapters from Killingsworth (one exploring the game’s elusive vagrant creatures and another defending the game’s length), and one in which MacDonald details her experience taking part in the first ever Dark Souls live-stream, this was all true of the original book too. So the question is; what is it exactly that makes this new edition so special?

The answer, quite emphatically, is production values on a whole other level than before – and indeed to most gaming books in general. These new editions of You Died are right up there with the very best offerings from established and esteemed publishers such as Read Only Memory and Bitmap Books. The cloth covers and embossed detailing are exquisite and the print quality throughout for both text and imagery is of the highest quality. The decision to bring in Edge magazine’s art director Andrew Hind is also a shrewd move; his elegant and unfussy design style bringing a sense of class to the production. Unlike the original book, the new edition has been printed in full colour too, allowing for large in-game screenshots (notably lacking from the first book) to be included, and – in a wonderful touch – all quotes from Miyazaki to be printed in red. There really has been no expense spared in the creation of this publication, and it will no doubt be a permanent fixture on the coffee tables of Souls fans the world over.


Verdict

The authors’ love of the game shines throughout. Dark Souls creates fans in the most literal sense of the word, and like many who have been affected by it, Keza and Jason are fanatics. Make no mistake; this book is biased in the extreme, but then anybody who has been consumed by this game will fully understand the reasoning, and no doubt recall a time when they too gushed similarly about it to any non-converts they happened upon. Indeed, anybody looking for a detailed critique of Dark Souls’ faults may come away disappointed, but for those who were similarly affected by this most wonderful of games – or for those curious to discover what it can bring out in the people who play it – it is an essential purchase.


You Died is not just the story of Dark Souls the game, but of the people who made it, the people who played it, and those who strived to uncover its lore and solve its mysteries. Dark Souls was the most influential game of its generation and one which will be revered for years to come. You Died does this remarkable game justice, and that’s truly the highest praise it could possibly receive.


You Died: The Dark Souls Companion can be ordered online at www.tuneandfairweather.com
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Buy from Amazon: The Dark Souls Companion (Original Version)


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