FromSoftware Inc.’s DARK SOULS series has allegedly reached its end. The conclusion of the Ringed City expansion for the third game caps off the story in video game format. However, the dark fantasy universe continues on paper. Titan Comics’ DARK SOULS: WINTER’S SPITE, written by George Mann and illustrated by Alan Quah, introduces a self-contained but nonetheless compelling adventure fashioned in the likeness of the games themselves.

You don’t need prior knowledge of the lore to enjoy this comic. Still, a familiarity with the games can make WINTER’S SPITE a tad more likable. As a casual fan of the series, I can recognize that the few names mentioned throughout the story may have a deeper context within the larger canon. Even though I lack extensive knowledge of the series, I can say that if you enjoy dark fantasy you should give DARK SOULS: WINTER’S SPITE a shot.

DARK SOULS: WINTER’S SPITE: A Hellbent Hero in a World of Ice and Death

The story follows the quest of Andred of Ithvale — a knight tracking the nameless warrior that stole his ancestors’ legendary sword. His journeys have brought him to a frigid world within a world — ruled by a kingdom of the undead. Andred is captured and forced to compete in a bloody arena for the amusement of a cruel master. The plot follows his battles, his escape, and his hunt for his ancestor’s Pyreblade.

Courtesy of Titan Comics

Before commenting on the quality of this plot, I must mention the unique way the games convey the story. Narration and dialogue are infrequent and cryptic, rarely ever expressing any clear facts or details. Item descriptions are actually one of the most helpful ways of understanding what the hell is even going on. Players end up piecing together the vast puzzle that is DARK SOULS through these descriptions. That, or they watch some of the many videos on Youtube that attempt to explain the story for the rest of us dummies (such as VaatiVidya).

DARK SOULS: WINTER’S SPITE doesn’t exactly follow this same trend. Unlike in the games, Andred narrates the entire story himself. This gives a first person touch to the denouement normally unseen in the main series. Thus he feels easier to understand and relate to. His hellbent desire to retrieve his sword and escape his bonds is very compelling, strengthening an admittedly simple character. Still, almost everything else remains very mysterious in classic DARK SOULS fashion. There is little exposition on the world and rules of the setting. Instead, we see glimpses of a wider world, a history of what happened before everything became so bleak.

READ: Interested in more articles about DARK SOULS? Check out this write-up on the mystique of difficulty in DS3!

Identity Through Combat and a Forgettable Reveal

Alan Quah meticulously crafts the numerous fight scenes,  which reinforces just how badass Andred is. Additionally, he fights enemies that players of the games may recognize. This allows them to relate to him in an interesting way. Obviously Andred is not the easiest character to relate to in real life. He does have a one track mind and murderous intent after all. However, his struggle against challenges similar to those presented to the players of the games lets readers put themselves in his shoes. This also helps WINTER’S SPITE feel more like the source material. While many of the dialogue scenes feel a bit off, since there isn’t really anything of the sort in the games, the methodical fighting is very reminiscent of the original works.

Generally, George Mann and Alan Qauh convey personalities of the other characters quite well. I particularly liked the undead Duke of Ambervale. However, I do have an issue with the final confrontation with Andred’s rival. His nameless reveal felt anticlimactic. At first I had the thought that he could be a stand-in for the nameless player character because of his wandering nature, but I’ve found no evidence for that within the comic. WINTER’S SPITE could have benefited from an extra flashback scene before the reveal to give him more screen time. As it is now, we wait until the end of the last chapter and we see… another knight in armor. Nothing stands out about his gear or his face, and he remains nameless. Because of this, his appearance doesn’t carry the same weight that many iconic characters in the games do. Artorius he is not.

A Wasteland as Beautiful as it is Unforgiving

Despite the issue of the climax, DARK SOULS: WINTER’S SPITE doesn’t forget the fans. One page in particular acts as a shout out to the those who played the first of the trilogy. It depicts fights against a skeleton warrior, a gargoyle, a black knight, and a titanite demon — some of the most iconic enemies in the original DARK SOULS. I have only ever watched a Let’s Play of the games, but even I got really excited after recognizing the undeniably DARK SOULS imagery.

READ: Wanna read about another adaption by George Mann? Check out my review of WARHAMMER 40K: WILL OF IRON!

Courtesy of Titan Comics

Aside from the callbacks to the games, the art is very beautiful. The muted whites and blues of the frozen wasteland convey both its haunting beauty and its unforgiving madness. The misshapen and festering undead are as disgusting and intimidating as they should be. Quah’s painterly style fits very well with the overall tone of the story. Each aspect of DARK SOULS: WINTER’S SPITE adds up to one satisfying whole.

DARK SOULS: WINTER'S SPITE BY George Mann and Alan Quah
DARK SOULS: WINTER'S SPITE is a compellingly brutal adventure. Players of the games will appreciate the familiarity and newcomers will enjoy the badass fighting and cryptic narration. The beautiful art manages to tie everything together.
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