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FromSoftware’s “Dark Souls,” a game infamous for its difficulty, has won Ultimate Game of All Time at the Golden Joystick Awards. The game first released on Sept. 22, 2001, but remains relevant due to its expert design and influence on gaming.
“Dark Souls” is set in a dark fantasy world that is caught in a state between life and death. This world is beset by a curse that turns humans into immortal undead, which are identified by a magical brand called the Darksign. If an undead is slain, it returns to life as a hollow, which is a zombified form of its human self. Over time and repeated deaths, hollows go mad. To deal with the undead and hollows, most human nations imprison them in asylums, and the game begins at an asylum in the far north.
The curse is tied to a deeper mystery and a conspiracy of the setting’s gods, who feared the rise of humans and these gods’ actions against humanity. Humanity in “Dark Souls” is both a metaphysical concept and tangible resource, which takes the form of a dark and wispy flame-like substance. With this, hollows can reverse their condition and restore their humanity. There are other uses for this resource in game, but its primary use is to reverse hollowing. According to the lore of “Dark Souls”, humanity is found on corpses, and undead can hunt down humans for their humanity.
The universal resource of “Dark Souls” is souls. Souls are acquired through slain foes, and are used for everything, whether it’s acquiring and upgrading equipment, leveling up, or learning spells. The lore of Dark Souls says that everything has a soul, not just humans. The more powerful the entity, the stronger the soul.
Death is an ever-present danger in “Dark Souls.” Players are expected to die, and to die often. When they do, they will drop their souls and humanity where they died. Players must then reach this spot to reclaim them. The souls and humanity they dropped are forever lost if they fail to do so.
This gives death a very real consequence. Dying repeatedly leads to potentially punishing losses of resources. This dropping of resources upon death has since appeared in other games, such as Hollow Knight, but is almost ever-present in all FromSoftware games. It is also what contributes to the perception of “Dark Souls’” difficulty.
Dying in “Dark Souls” is part of its learning curve, and every death is a chance to learn and improve. Failure leads to improvement and eventually mastery. Even if players lose their souls and can’t level up, their gameplay improves. They still “level up,” but it’s the player that’s improving rather than the character.
The combat in “Dark Souls” is snappy and responsive, and it has an element of resource management. Stamina is the key resource for combat and is represented through a meter and tied to a stat that can be leveled up. Attacking and dodging use of increments of this meter, and blocking attacks with a shield or weapon also see it depleted. The meter replenishes itself while the player isn’t actively attacking or dodging, and it is up to the player to figure out their economy of action.
This stamina system and its ebb and flow was taken and mastered by developer Team Ninja in their game “Nioh 2.” The “Nioh” franchise is one that is heavily inspired by “Dark Souls’” gameplay, featuring the same mechanic where the player drops their resources upon death. Instead of Stamina, the player has “Ki,” which follows all the same rules as “Dark Souls’” stamina, but “Nioh” gives the player abilities that let them instantly recover their Ki with well-timed button inputs.
Enemies also have Ki in “Nioh,” and attacks can damage both Ki as well as health. Both the player and the enemies in Nioh are left in a vulnerable state if they are struck with depleted Ki. This makes Ki a more critical resource to master in “Nioh” than “Dark Souls,” but it’s a striking example of “Dark Souls’” influence on other games.
When not engaging monstrous foes in combat, the player explores the grim and stagnant land of Lordran. Lordran was once the land of the now absent gods but is now paradoxically caught in a state between life and death. For instance, the player ventures through a ruined medieval bug overran with undead hollows, but vegetation continues to grow along the buildings. Anor Londo, the city of the gods, lies untouched by the passage of time, yet not a soul remains in its streets. What life remains in Lordran is sparse and often hostile.
It is through exploration of this bleak world that the story of “Dark Souls” unfolds. Instead of expository cutscenes or dialogue, “Dark Souls” relies on atmospheric storytelling. What dialogue exists is untrustworthy, with characters often only telling half-truths or outright lying to further their in-universe agendas. Instead, players must read the descriptions of items they find and observe where they found them to deduce what happened in Lordran. Even then, much is left to ambiguity.
To reward this breadcrumb trail approach to storytelling, “Dark Souls” incentivizes the player to explore the world and find weapons, armors, and other items. There are two optional areas in the game that are only accessed by thoroughly exploring the world. One of them requires backtracking to the tutorial area, which can only be returned to after exploring the game’s hub. Players can wander in random directions, and they will find something worth their effort.
Aside from the bosses and the hub area, there’s no music to accompany this wandering. The sound design of “Dark Souls” utilizes a somber ambience, complementing the overall tone of an almost empty, ruined land. Boss music always suits the boss thematically, whether it’s the energetic brass of a legendary dragon slayer or the melancholy piano track for a god who is a shadow of his former self.
“Dark Souls” isn’t without its flaws. In the initial release on the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, the game suffered from unstable frame rates. Some areas in “Dark Souls” are like ones found in “Demon’s Souls”, FromSoftware’s previous game, and lose a degree of shock and awe. For instance, “Dark Souls’” Blighttown, a disgusting shanty town in a poison swamp crawling with ghouls, is similar to “Demon’s Souls’” Valley of Defilement, which had even darker themes. One of the biggest criticisms fans have of FromSoftware is that they repeat the same sort of areas and themes across their games, such as poisoned swamps and grim, dying worlds.
“Elden Ring” is FromSoftware’s next game and is set to release Feb. 25, 2022. It is an open world game set in a grim, dark fantasy world. FromSoftware
collaborated with George R. R. Martin, author of “A Song of Ice and Fire,” as co-writer to create the mythos of the game. “Elden Ring” builds on FromSoftware’s established mechanics that began with “Dark Souls”, but also games like “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice”, from which “Elden Ring” takes a jumping mechanic. “Elden Ring” is the first time in FromSoftware’s games where the players can fight atop a mount.
While most fans of FromSoftware’s “Dark Souls” series are happy to play another game, some aren’t thrilled about another dark fantasy world. Streamer and Indie Developer Marcus Sanders, known online as EpicNameBro, said he’s looking forward to the game, but also said that he is tired of the dark fantasy genre, which gained popularity alongside Dark Souls.
“Dark Souls” was not the first work to popularize the dark fantasy genre. “Berserk,” the manga written and
illustrated by Kentaro Miura, is set in a dark fantasy world rife with demons and the exploration of the worst and best of humanity. “Berserk” served as an inspiration for Dark Souls, and many monsters in “Dark Souls” can trace their design back to “Berserk”.
“Berserk’s” inspiration on Dark Souls goes beyond the terrifying monsters and grim world. “Berserk” puts its characters, especially the main character Guts, through some of the worst torture possible in literature. Despite this, the characters dig deep and press on, if just for a little longer. Much like in Berserk, “Dark Souls” players will be able to overcome any obstacle with persistence.
Miura passed away earlier this year. He left behind his story and world that inspired “Dark Souls,” which has since inspired even more pieces of art.
IUPUI opened registration for the 2022 spring semester on Oct. 25. As a part of registering for classes, students might investigate the backgrounds of their courses’ instructors. This is largely to see what to expect from the instructor, but it also notifies the students of any issues involving the instructor.IUPUI student journalists or students pursuing the online major of digital media and storytelling will eventually need to take the J410, Media as Social Institutions, course. The ethics of journalism is part of J410, and for students taking J410 online, the professor instructing the course is Dr. Andrea Quenette. Six years ago, a student activist group that called itself “Concerned Student 1950” held multiple protests at the University of Missouri following several racist incidents. On Nov. 12, 2015, these protests prompted communications students at the University of Kansas to discuss the topic of discrimination and how best to approach the topic on campus. This discussion was held in a class instructed by Dr. Quenette, who interrupted their conversation. Dr. Quenette said that she “as a white woman” never noticed any racism on the campus. Dr. Quenette also used the “n-word”, saying she never saw it “spray painted on walls.”Amy Schumacher, a student of Dr. Quenette at the time, wrote an open letter following the incident. According to Schumacher, Dr. Quenette’s following comments were “even more disparaging,” and that Dr. Quenette’s comments were an “active denial of institutional, structural, and individual racism.” Schumacher also wrote that Dr. Quenette refuted any further evidence presented by other students and said that academic performance was the sole reason for low graduation rates among black students.According to Schumacher, Dr. Quenette’s statements supported the idea that students of color are “less academically inclined and able” and that support, or lack thereof, from institutions does not reinforce academic success. Schumacher wrote that Dr. Quenette exhibited “aggressive, unprofessional behavior unacceptable of a university faculty member.” According to Schumacher, Dr. Quenette repeatedly violated the anonymity of students, joked about suicide in discussions about how to talk about suicide on campus, and mocked her graduate students for seeking aid in the form of additional resources and support.Schumacher also wrote that Dr. Quenette disclosed personal information about students despite risks to their safety. For instance, Schumacher wrote that Dr. Quenette “exposed information about the personal location of a former GTA in the midst of a domestic violence situation.”Concerning a violation of FERPA regulations, Schumacher wrote that Dr. Quenette had revealed the midterm grades of past students during a GTA orientation.Following an investigation which lasted for four months, Dr. Quenette was acquitted of any wrongdoing by the University of Kansas. Despite being cleared, Dr. Quenette was still let go by the university.During her time at IU East, where she has taught J410 for several years, Dr. Quenette said she has reflected on the incident. Dr. Quenette said she has learned how to talk about race in a more productive fashion, and that she understands how important the topic of race is. She said she has learned a lot through experience and is willing to discuss the incident despite it being a “difficult and sensitive issue.”According to Dr. Quenette, professors have a responsibility to “get it right,” and said she has improved her empathy skills since the incident. Dr. Quenette said she has not reached out to her past students since the incident.
Nick Roberts, an economics student at IUPUI, has always had a passion for maps. Growing up, Roberts and his identical twin would spend hours studying maps with his great grandfather, which naturally lent itself to the study of political maps. Today, Roberts uses his passion for maps to address gerrymandering in Indiana.
On Sept. 27, Roberts gave testimony at the Senate Elections Committee shared by Sen. Jon Ford about the current state of Indiana’s districts. In the testimony, Roberts said that Fort Wayne’s minority population of Burmese and blacks do not have proper representation because the city has been “so egregiously split.”
“The idea that a Fort Wayne resident has more in common with a rural voter an hour away than with their neighbor is unreasonable,” Roberts said.
According to Roberts, many voters view gerrymandering as a “non-issue” or they simply don’t know what gerrymandering is or why it’s a problem. Furthermore, they may see the issue and care about it but don’t know what can be done about it.
“When it comes to potholes on the road, when it comes to crime, when it comes to education, people see it,” Roberts said, “But when it comes to gerrymandering, it’s such an abstract thing to basically everybody that it’s challenging to make people care about it.”
Roberts said another obstacle to the issue is apathy in addition to ignorance. According to Roberts, using terms such as ignorance can be condescending. He said that politics isn’t “friendly” to people outside of it, and voters tend to be “plugged out of” politics as a result. Additionally, Roberts said politics doesn’t favor new faces that could disrupt the status quo.
Roberts’ political career started in 2017 when he worked an internship with the Marion County Democratic Party. From there, he worked his way up and was a full-time campaign manager for three local campaigns. Roberts is currently the College Democrats of Indiana vice president.
“I know it sounds cliché, but there is no career path that will have more obstacles than politics,” Roberts said.
Roberts said that his career in politics was a long time coming. His family always had an interest in politics, but no one had ever gotten involved. At age 14 and 15, Roberts spent his free time delving into world topics, and by the time of the 2016 election he began to attend rallies and supported Bernie Sanders. Following the election with the victory of Donald Trump, Roberts said he felt the need to finally do something.
“I saw what was going on, and thought why not get involved?” Roberts said.
According to Roberts, independent commissioning is the solution to gerrymandering. Independent commissioning is present in France, Canada, and the U.K. In the U.S., Iowa has an independent commission, and zero counties are split in the entire state. The commission is appointed by the state, made up of geographers and other community members with no political ties, and its goal is to keep cities and communities together.
Roberts said that more grassroots work needs to be done, and that people devoted to changing the current system are needed. Roberts knows people dedicating 80 hours per week, but he said even five hours would be more than enough.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” introduces an excellent cast of skilled martial arts heroes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film features multiple action scenes one expects from a martial arts movie, barring the painfully generic battle scene, and most of the fight scenes in the movie are thrilling and keep narrative momentum. Chief among these is a fight on an out-of-control bus.
A fight scene must be more than a series of skillfully executed stunts. The scene must establish or reinforce character traits and motivations, and viewers must be able to identify what is at stake during the fight. Furthermore, a fight scene can be broken down into smaller components. Using terms originating from professional wrestling, these are the shine, the heat, the comeback, and the finish. After a fight scene ends, there should still be loose ends that tie into other fight scenes until the final showdown. The bus fight scene in Shang-chi provides an excellent example of all these.
Early in the film, Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) is gifted a jade pendant by his late mother Ying Li (Fala Chen). It is this pendant that set off the bus fight. While Shang-chi and his friend Katy (Awkwafina) are riding an articulated bus to work, a man approaches Shang-Chi and demands that he hand over his pendant. This is where the fight begins. The stakes and motivations are established. This man wants Shang-chi’s pendant, and Shang-chi isn’t handing it over. The man tries to grab the pendant, and Shang-chi leaps out of his seat and out of arm’s reach. Adding to the tension of the scene, we learn that the man isn’t alone. Two other men spring out and grab Shang-chi. Shang Chi tells his assailants he doesn’t want trouble, but in response, he is told, “Then give us the pendant.”
Fists don’t fly until Katy is thrown back into her seat for trying to defuse the situation, at which point Shang-chi punches the first man in the chest and sends him backward. Queue the fight music and queue the shine. This part of the fight establishes the good guy’s superior ability in relation to his foes, and why they will need underhanded tactics to beat him. In this instance, Shang-chi soundly defeats the initial goons through superior hand-to-hand skills, acrobatics, and clever use of his jacket as a defensive tool.
As the goons writhe on the floor, a man stands up from the back of the bus and removes his jacket. Razorfist (Florian Munteanu) is with the men who started the fight for the pendant, and he has a technological, super-heated sword for an arm which cuts through anything like a lightsaber. This is the cut-off from the shine to the heat. The bad guys now have the advantage and Shang-chi has to go on the defensive. Shang-chi uses his acrobatic skills to evade Razorfist’s slashes, but the bus breaks and the middle section connecting the two halves are cut away in the action. The stakes are raised, and Shang-chi must figure out how to save himself and the other passengers while still evading Razorfist’s sword-arm.
The bus driver, who failed to notice the brawl behind him, attempts to control the vehicle but is rendered unconscious after the bus collides with a car and his head hits the steering wheel. Fortunately for Shang-chi, his friend Katy is a skilled driver and takes control of the bus, allowing Shang-chi to focus on the fight. It’s time for the comeback.
Razorfist and the goons rally in the front half of the bus, leaving the passengers in the loose back section. Shang-chi resolves himself, quickly defeats the goons and puts Razorfist on the defensive, pinning him to a wall acrobatically. In the brief moment he can keep Razorfist restrained, Shang-chi yells, “Everyone to the front of the bus now!”
It’s time for the finish. Razorfist reverses Shang-chi’s grapple and tells Shang-chi that him and his sister will “pay for what they’ve done.” As Razorfist is speaking, Shang-chi signals Katy to make a hard turn, kicks Razorfist in the chest to use as a springboard, and lands on the front section of the bus. The back half of the bus rips away and crashes along with Razorfist. Katy manages to bring the bus to a grinding halt, and our heroes and the passengers emerge from the fight scene intact. Meanwhile, Razorfist emerges from the crash site of the back half with Shang-chi’s pendant.
After the scene, the narrative keeps its momentum through elements introduced during the fight. What’s so important about Shang-chi’s pendant? Where did he learn to fight so well? Just who were the men who attacked him? What about the sister? All of these questions and more are answered in following scenes, but they’re introduced during the action which drives the story.
The four-part fight scene structure is present in all of the fights in Shang-Chi. There’s a fight scene on building scaffolding in Macau, China. In this fight, the shine is when Shang-chi is once again the superior combatant to the goons after him and Katy. The cut-off to the heat is when some of the goons go after Katy, who struggles to navigate the scaffolding. The hope is when Shang-chi’s sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) jumps into the fight to help Shang-chi, and the finish is when a ninja called Death Dealer (Andy Le) uses an explosive device to knock Shang-chi and Xialing down to steal Xialing’s pendant.
The four-part structure again applies to the follow-up fight, where Shang-chi catches up to Death Dealer, and they have a knife fight. The shine is before the Death Dealer draws the knives, where Shang-chi is the superior unarmed fighter. The cut-off to the heat is when the knives are drawn. The hope is when Shang-chi gets one of the knives himself and disarms Death Dealer of the other. The finish is when Shang-chi is about to deal a killing blow but is stopped by his father Wenwu (Tony Leung).
Wenwu is the primary wielder of the ten rings, which augment his martial arts, and his fight scenes demonstrate his skill with them. The opening sequence in particular demonstrates the power of the rings, when Wenwu almost single-handedly defeats an army and destroys their fortress. In his first major fight scene, Wenwu is bested in combat by Ying Li after she uses her mystical abilities to temporarily seize control of the rings. Wenwu and Ying Li would grow close, marry, and start a family after this duel.
Shang-chi eventually inherits the rings from his father, first by seizing control of them in a confrontation with him, and later when Wenwu willingly bequeaths them to his son. The technique he uses to gain control of them is a callback to the duel between Wenwu and Ying Li, and everything we see Wenwu do with the rings we see Shang-chi do at least once. It’s a fine example of set up and pay off through the use of visual storytelling and action.
In the Marvel Comics, the ten rings are portrayed as conventional rings worn on the fingers. However, the movie portrays them as five rings worn on each forearm, which is inspired by various forms of Kung Fu, such as the Southern Shaolin Hung Gar style, which use metal rings are a strengthening tool. Wenwu’s actual style in the movie looks closer to “Bajiquan,” which features many forearm and elbow strikes, as well as explosive punches with both arms simultaneously. Save for the occasional kick, every strike Wenwu makes utilizes his rings, which have a satisfying sound effect when used.
The weakest part of the story is the fantasy element, which takes place on another world. This element is introduced early, and it’s where Wenwu and Ying Li have their duel, but once Shang-Chi gets there, a lot of exposition is thrown at the viewer through dialogue, and the big monster behind everything is finally introduced. This is where the trope-y MCU battle scene is, which is as unengaging as the battle scenes in other Marvel movies. The final battle with big CGI monsters is also uncompelling, even though Shang-chi is the one to deal the final blow. A narrower focus on the character action over CGI monsters and fantasy worlds would have elevated this movie to a Kung Fu classic.
The movie has many flashbacks that could have been placed better in the narrative. A flashback critical to the narrative shows what happened to Shang-chi’s mother, which should have been placed earlier in the film, since it’s a pivotal event for most of the cast.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” for all of its flaws, is a solid Marvel movie featuring great martial arts action.