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4.6 out of 5 stars99
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on January 17, 2014
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.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon January 20, 2014
The English translated edition of the Dark Souls artbook ダークソウルデザインワークズ is finally out. It's another good job at translating by publisher Udon.

The book's still hardcover, 128 pages. The cover is nicer. I like the sandy texture and the cover design is somehow printed over it in high gloss.

Since I've already reviewed the Japanese artbook. The review that follows is roughly similar with minor changes.

This artbook collects the concept art for characters, enemies, background, weapons and items.

There are two chapters, one on concept art and the other on early designs. The chapters are not necessary because they are all concept art. In fact, the organization of content is a bit chaotic. Take the weapons section for example. They are not strictly grouped by type. There are axes together with broad swords, spears with shields, etc. Same thing with the characters and enemies.

The concept art featured are nice but with a slightly rough art style. I would have preferred a more finished look especially for the environment art. They are printed quite small because they don't have enough detail to go big, or too unfinished. The designs are great but somehow they don't have the same forbidding feeling you get when playing the game. The Dark Souls world is quite big and I'm surprised they didn't include more environment art.

I love the character designs for this game. The enemies are incredibly scary. There are lots of enemies featured. It's good that some have included many design variations, but many also come with just one design by itself. There aren't any 3D renders.

The weapon designs are interesting, but I felt that not all weapons are included. I've the game guide and there are a lot of weapons not included here.

The last few pages are interviews with the designers of the game. The book makes more sense to me now that I can understand the captions. One of the highlights would of course be the interviews with the creators Hidetaka Miyazaki, Daisuke Satake, Hiroshi Nakamura, Masanori Waragai and Mai Hastuyama.

This book is a bit underwhelming for me. Maybe it's because of the rough style of art (but hey, it's concept art), or because there aren't as much environment art which I was really looking forward to.

Anyway, it's still a very fine video game art book, especially if you're into the mythical-knight-armor-castles-monsters fantasy art.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)
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on January 4, 2016
This book will be re-printed some time when the Dark Souls II: Design Works book is released later this month, so wait until then to get it!

https://twitter.com/UdonEnt/status/684209933462536192
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on January 18, 2014
From the beautiful silver and textured slip cover that adorns the exquisitely designed cover beneath, this book is brilliant from beginning to end. Only true fans of the game will buy this book and you will not be disappointed in your purchase. All of our favorite locations, bosses, NPCs, weapons and enemies are seen from the fresh perspective of actual detailed art. Sure we love the 3D versions of these from the game, but seeing them (as they were freshly conceived by the ingeniously gifted team that produced them) is a delight that I will experience again and again through the years of this book's ownership.

The extensive interview that ends the book by the director of the game and his four righthand designers will delight each fan as you learn vastly more about the backend of the game than you ever could before. Tidbits and the game's journey from conception to completion is understood at a very personal level when we hear the masters tell their tales of how it all came to be.

The only negative I have is that I'm sure it could've been at least four times bigger & I would've gladly paid four times the price!

If you have beaten the game, I can safely say that you should buy this book. If you conquered the NG+, you NEED this book!
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on January 18, 2014
High quality pages,fine detail through every page. Bosses,levels,weapons and interviews from developers revealing some back story to certain characters. A must have for any fan that praises the sun! I can imagine its a limited run,so grab them while there hot.
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on February 21, 2014
Assuming that you are a Dark Souls collector since you've considered buying this item, you HAVE to get this art book. There is not much collectible Dark Souls merchandise available for purchase in America, so obtaining this item is a must-have. This book contains the bare bones of Dark Souls from its early stages to alternate forms of what didn't make it into the finished product (not to mention the interesting interviews with the From Software team included in the back). If you are on the fence about buying this product and adding it to your Dark Souls memorabilia, ponder no more and buy this product.
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on October 21, 2015
I got this as a gift for my boyfriend, and he loved it! The art inside is incredible, and the quality of the images is great. A really good gift for any dark souls fan or even someone who collects art books or has any interest in unique artwork.
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on June 1, 2014
This book gives you some background into the design of the areas and characters for Dark Souls. It is a good quality book, though expensive for what you get (hence 4 instead of 5 stars) as it is pretty short and does not give you the design elements of all the bosses or enemies/characters and areas. It gives you most of them and overall, if you are a fan of Dark Souls for the atmosphere and design, it is a great 'reference' book and art book to have on hand.
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on April 14, 2014
Art books in my experience fall into three categories:
a) lots of art, be that game and/or concept art;
b) Option a) + lots of nuggets of interesting tidbits; or
c) not much art and mostly irrelevant discussion.

This title leans towards c) and (curiously) it drops itself in it: things like Priscilla the Halfbreed originally being intended to be the main protagonist but then no discussion of what changed or how it was going to work. Back story for Andrei and opening a hidden pathway for you which raises the question of why is Andrei's background was culled (well that one is easy, but it does raise questions about how this backstory would have been communicated given Dark Soul's style of storytelling) and statues hiding pathways .. are there such secrets?

Dark Souls is a fantastic game. I've racked up more hours playing it and not beating it than any other game. And I still love it and look forward to spending more time with it. It's what so many games should be in my mind, mysterious and with a cult following of shared knowledge. This guide could have slotted into this ecosystem but instead lands on the outskirts and is largely irrelevant. What it does deliver is some art work and interesting alternative designs, though on the whole there isn't a lot here, and certainly not that much more than was in the artbook that shipped with the game.

Overall, I have to admit I'm disappointed. The interviews at the end of the book wore on and were not that interesting, and most of what stands out is that it could have been so much more, especially since it doesn't add much beyond the "free" artbook. Do I regret buying it ... no, but at the same time ... there were more interesting pictures of the world in the game guide and that's certainly a sad testament to the contents of this book.
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on May 30, 2014
If you know what this is before you buy it, this is a book that I would buy again with out hesitation. I knew beforehand what I was purchasing and I knew that this book was only 128 pages and that some were disappointed because they were expecting more content. I have no buyer's remorse because I knew about the amount of content and I guess I'm a bit of a fan when it comes to Dark Souls. Something that does slightly bug me though is the product description. I believe that it should give some information about the product itself, like page numbers and contents. Some more pictures of the book would also help people decide if they really want to purchase this book.

As far as the book itself, I only noticed one typo, a mix-up between a "Mimic" and a "Serpent Mage" next to their concept art. As for the concept art, it is beautiful to say the least. It was also interesting to see the development of some character's designs. Though I wish there was more. There's also a Q/A with Miyazaki and four other designers in the last "chapter" of the book which I found interesting.

I give the Dark Souls: Design Works a 4 out 5 (though I wish I could give it a 4.5 out of 5) for the memories it gives me from when I first played Dark Souls, and the great art inside. The Q/A in the back about the development of Dark Souls is also a nice touch. I take a star (or half of one) off for the poor product description (minor detail), the very small typo, and the fact that this is a relatively small package.

Should you buy the Dark Souls: Design Works? Maybe not if you're not a fan. But if you are nostalgic about your first play-through and you know how small it is, then yes.
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