From Software’s Dark Souls series is, of course, well-known for its punishing difficulty. Every area and battle is a struggle, and the satisfaction of taking down some of the series’ toughest bosses is second to none. However, there’s another aspect that fans of the Dark Souls series really dive into--the series’ deep lore. However, it can be tricky to piece all the bits and pieces of world-building tucked between the games’ stories, characters, and even item descriptions. Third Edition Books is helping with that with Dark Souls: Beyond the Grave, a dense book that focuses mainly on deciphering every bit of the series’ lore. We got a chance to read Volume 2 of Beyond the Grave, which covers Bloodborne and Dark Souls III, and it’s an interesting read.
Volume 2 of Beyond the Grave covers two games--Dark Souls III and Bloodborne. Demon’s Souls and the first two Dark Souls games are covered in the first volume. While Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne may not explicitly be a part of the Dark Souls lore and plotlines, analyzing these games can be important in making connections between From Software’s games. Even besides that, Hidetaka Miyazaki’s story-telling style is just fascinating, and there is so much to dig into for lore and more.
That, however, makes it quite the challenge to write a book on the lore of the games. Hints and information are hidden in item descriptions, missable sidequests, and just speaking to the right person at the right time. Untangling the timeline and characters of these games are not an easy feat, especially for Dark Souls, where even the flow of time is tenuous and vague at best. Third Editions makes an admirable effort, gathering as much information as possible and putting it all together in an easier to read format.
This does make the book very dense, though. Beyond the Grave: Volume 2 consists of three “books”: One shorter one for Bloodborne, a larger book for Dark Souls III, and a third book that takes an even deeper dive into the two titles, in relation to the series itself and other subjects that were not covered in Volume 1.
This book comes in at 360 pages and is just filled to the brim with lore tidbits, character bios, timelines, and deep analysis. For a lore nerd like me (and especially one that doesn’t have the patience to get through a Soulsborne title), this is wonderful. But even for me, it can be sometimes difficult to read everything through and retain all of the information. This is no real fault of the authors--after all, there is only so much you can do to compress the fountain of information available in the Souls games--but sometimes it can be an exhausting read.
One thing that I believe works against Beyond the Grave is the book’s avid devotion to citing everything. This is, of course, important for making an academic work, but when the footnotes themselves take a half of a page on their own, it can be tiring to glance down at each citation. This was rarely an issue with The Legend of Final Fantasy titles that I read… but then again, Dark Souls is on a whole other level regarding its complex lore. Also, while this is an issue with the physical copy, ebooks circumvent this easily by usually making the citations clickable, and removing them off the page itself.
From there, everything else is of the same Third Editions quality. The paper quality is great, and the ribbon bookmark is always appreciated. The first two “books” of the volume are laid out similar to The Legend of Final Fantasy titles, but with less of an emphasis on the development cycle and more on story and lore. Dense or not it’s a great read, it just might take you a while to get through.
If you’re a fan of the Soulsborne series, the Beyond the Grave books are definitely worth the purchase. There are not many other ways to absorb hundreds of pages of series lore in a digestible way. Those that aren’t fans, though, may not find this an easy-to-read tome. Beyond the Grave focuses in first and foremost on lore, there’s not a lot of more general development information to dig into. This can make it hard for a curious reader to get into it, but Third Edition clearly made these books for fans first, and it's a worthy addition to the shelf for any series fan.