Written by Jonathan Wojcik
The Best Monsters of
DARK SOULS III!
The souls series has been a pretty amazing ride in terms of creature design - by far
one of my favorite gaming franchises that I've still never played. For a while, it looked like Bloodborne was going to blow the rest of the loosely connected souls games clean out of the water, but the third title - or I guess fourth, if you count Demon's Souls? - really seems to have upped the ante with some truly weird, truly horrifying
The Cage Spider
Let's start with one of the simpler
, more down-to-earth enemies in this game. A "cage spider" is actually literally nothing but multiple undead corpses who all happen to be crammed into the same cage, so it has the effect of one enemy with a whole lot of arms and legs. How insidiously
straightforward. It never crossed my mind that a bunch of people in the same cage could constitute a single "monster." This is very applicable information to my everyday life. Thank you, Dark Souls.
The Sewer Centipede
Now for a monster that actually
has a whole bunch of arms and legs. This gorgeous animal evokes a house centipede with its many long, thin, rippling appendages, but its body has basically evolved to look like an emaciated human corpse from behind. Floating in the water, its long legs hidden in the murk, the "centipede" can be mistaken for the body of a drowning victim, but its underside is more or less pure teeth!
I always appreciate monsters that evoke gentle house centipedes, because I know they freak the hell out of other people for no particular reason. You would expect them to show up an awful lot more than they do.
The Rotten Slug
A lot less terrifying and a lot less imaginative than our last monster, but I just love
slugs, wherever they appear. Real slugs, fictional slugs, regular slugs, giant slugs, I just can't get enough of them. I probably have six different species as pets as we speak
, though hopefully none of them are "rotten" right now.
The Skeleton Ball
This might be one of the game's most "famous" enemies, and it's certainly hard to overlook a humongous, rolling sphere of skeletons. There are actually only two balls in the game, however, and they aren't even all that deadly, but they do knock you around very very frustratingly
. Each is telepathically controlled by a single spooky skeleton in a hat, who doesn't have any weapons and can only defend itself by running away,
but destroying them is the only way to stop the rampage of their balls. Who'd have thought.
For no known reason, one of the skeleton balls also has a live, very angry crab inside.
The Infested Corpse
One great thing about Dark Souls III is how many maggots it has. I'm not sure I've ever seen a video game with so many maggots. It could have also used some fully metamorphosed fly monsters to go with them, but that seems to be what its DLC is for, actually coming out in only a few days and likely earning itself a follow-up review.
Anyway, some undead just burst open into a whole second body of pure maggotiness, still dragging around its original host.
The Corpse Grub
And then, sometimes, you encounter these enormous maggot-beings who drag themselves along on their long, gangly arms, dragging the remains of a skeleton on the end of their long, maggoty tails. Perfect babies made of perfect babies.
The Starved Hound
I believe I may have said this once before about a Dark Souls or Bloodborne enemy, but I've seldom seen a dog enemy this haunting. You can still see enough of a dog's personality in that maggot-eaten face to get goosebumps, and they did a startling job rendering what old, wet, rotten fur and skin really looks like on a dead animal.
What we're seeing here is the "maggot ridden" variant, with an enormously bloated stomach. This version is encountered only in one small location.
The Irithyll Beast Hound
If there's only one thing worse than a rotten, matted old dog-corpse pattering around like it doesn't know it's dead, it has to be when it turns around and looks at you with a completely human
There are several different varieties of Ghru, but they all have goat-like feet and horns, bird-like scales, toothed beaks and a whole knot of gnarled, fleshy, branching warts or polyps down the backs of their heads. The dim-witted and bloodthirsty chimeras are apparently descended from humans mutated by some unknown magical cataclysm.
The Crystal Sage
This boss is actually an undead human, but an undead human with magnificent
fashion sense, including flowing, tattered robes, an enormously broad hat and a beaked bone mask. It's also quite a bit larger than a normal human, defies gravity, teleports and conjures a variety of damaging magical crystals, hence the name.
I've always loved hairy monsters with long, tapered, snaggly jaws like this, the way wolves were often interpreted in old cartoons and children's books. There's also a lot of rat and even crocodile in the anatomy of these monsters, who are, of course, gigantic.
The Demon Cleric
Due to some plot stuff, most
"demons" are dead in the Dark Souls setting, but these magic wielders are among their few survivors, and far creepier than most video game "demons." I love the larger, lankier set of hairy arms where you're kind of expecting a set of wings. They also have withered animal-skull heads and long, naked rat tails!
The Grand Archives Scholar
The aesthetics of an otherwise ordinary - if undead, like everybody else - human whose head is completely covered in dripping wax manages to be significantly more unsettling than most of this game's monsters, especially when you learn that the wax covering is there to protect them from the effects of the same books they study. How do they study books with wax coating their eyes? That question only makes things even creepier.
The Clawed Corpse
...And if you
don't cover your head in wax as you pass through the archives, you'll be attacked on all sides by the pale, branching, ghostly hands erupting from its arcane tomes.
The Carthus Sandworm
This is, perhaps, a bit
more than your typical giant, killer worm, seeing as its body appears to made from bones and contains thousands of human skulls. Like any good worm boss, it attacks mostly by bursting in and out of the ground, but it's also capable of emitting electrical bolts.
The Pus of Man
A rather melodramatic name, isn't it? I'm not going to argue, though. These are seriously huge masses of black pus that surge out of certain undead, who still serve as the legs and the vulnerable center of the monstrosity. You may also notice that the pus is forming an almost dragon-like shape. Dragons are a pretty big deal
in this setting, and a lot of things are doing their best to get as close to them as possible - or bring them back from the dead.
The Ravenous Crystal Lizard
If you played previous Dark Souls games, then you've probably spent some time picking on harmless, fat little crystal lizards for the valuable upgrade materials they drop.
In Dark Souls III, they get their revenge.
Oceiros, the Consumed King
If you described this boss to me as a feather-winged man-dragon, which is accurate, I wouldn't be picturing anything a fraction as cool and unsettling as Oceiros. On top of his eyeless sockets, fungal skin growths and clammy white flesh, he has an uncannily beautiful, soothing voice, and believes he's protecting a baby
, a "child of dragons" named Ocelotte,
that is either invisible or purely imaginary, even cradling Ocelotte in one empty, gnarled arm.
More confusingly, you can
hear the sound of a crying infant throughout the fight, even after Oceiros seems to believe he's lost Ocelotte completely. Just watch it here
, if you can bear to.
The Curse-Rotted Greatwood
It's difficult to find, or make, a decent screenshot of a boss this humongous, but you can see it in action here
. The bloated, mutated tree is too heavy to stand on its legs, but can sluggishly scoot itself around on its ass. It also has a cluster of white, spherical "eggs" hanging out of its open stomach, and mid-way through the battle, a huge, pale, humanoid arm emerges from the same orifice.
The Deep Accursed
Not content with the ordinary "giant spiders" seen in every other fantasy game, Dark Souls III features what it clearly a human being distorted into a more spider-like form, hairy and long-limbed and capable of crawling on walls and ceilings despite a massive
Its body is also thick with tiny, skeletal humanoids and even egg-like warts. Whether these are its "babies" or something else is never explained, but that's a lot of the fun of this series. A great deal is left to the player's interpretation, as it would be to a real person encountering things that simply should not exist.
I mentioned that stuff about dragons, right? Encountered only in the Irithyll dungeon, the wretches appear to be the result of some sort of magical experimentation, appear to lack functioning eyes and can clamber up walls like a gecko. At least one of them is also completely unaggressive, just another innocent prisoner of the dungeons.
The wet, degenerated look of these guys is excellent,
especially the way their eyeballs look as though they're covered over in the thinnest layer of clammy skin.
The Monstrosity of Sin
Another cornball name, but one of my top favorite monsters. What's not to love about a creature with dozens of glassy eyeballs in its stomach, a hand for a head, what are either teeth or squid suckers in its palms and way
too much saliva? What makes these monsters truly horrible is that they're animated almost exactly like babies,
crawling and tumbling around and putting whatever they can in their mouths. It would be adorable if "whatever they can" didn't include you, seeing as they're roughly the size of an elephant.
This giant woman doesn't seem that scary at first, and in fact, she's not even an "enemy." By trading her the item pale tongue,
the player can be "reborn" and freely modify their stats and appearance.
After five rebirths, however, Rosaria will refuse to allow any more...and what's up with that big, fleshy chrysalis-looking mass she keeps stroking?
The Man Grub
...The answer presents itself in the number of these pitiful, floundering anthromaggots squelching around Rosaria's domain. Look at that face. This is one of the few games out there that truly
knows "creepy." Is this what happens to someone reborn too many times?
...That would seem to be exactly the case, since this hostile NPC keeps her face wrapped in an unusually large mass of bandages, and later in the game, you may find a non-hostile mangrub scooting around Rosaria's bedchamber with some of Heysel's own equipment in its inventory. You'll only find this out if you kill her, of course. Rude.
The Dancer of the Boreal Valley
Dark Souls can make something even as mundane as an armored, sword-wielding giant into one of my favorites. Just the flowing, slinking way this massive woman moves
is fascinating, her head wavering snakelike on an only just-too-long neck. Even more monstrously, her body drips with an acidic fluid and her armor is actually fused completely to her flesh!
The Dragon Slayer Armor
This empty but animated suit doesn't seem that strange on the outside, but defeat it and you'll learn that it was under the control of something called a "pilgrim butterfly." And what is a pilgrim butterfly?
The Pilgrim Butterfly
This. This is a pilgrim butterfly. They can be seen adrift in the distance throughout the surrounding area, and up close, they may be the absolute largest creature to appear in this series, hundreds
of feet from "wing tip" to "wing tip," if that's what you want to call those vast, filamentous appendages.
Up close, the "butterflies" exhibit a distressing level of humanity, resembling a stretched and twisted corpse of dizzying proportions. I've said this before about Souls as well as Bloodborne, but this
is how you pull off a "Lovecraftian" monstrosity, or to be more honest, this is how you pull off what Lovey seemingly intended
to capture in monsters that were, at the end of the day, far too cute for straight horror.
And don't get me wrong, pilgrim butterflies are cute too, but they manage to mix the eerily familiar with the hauntingly otherworldly in all the right ways to make their sheer immensity
truly terrifying to fathom. This is a monster I can actually
imagine someone going mad to behold.
...But what's the deal? What are
these things? Why are they called "pilgrims?" What do they have to do with the rest of the story?
That's the thing about this series. It has SO much going on at once, but offers only faint breadcrumb trails for players to extrapolate the storyline. There's one major clue to the nature of the "butterflies," or at least, an ambiguous glimpse into their "life cycle" in the terrain below their drifting bodies, but as usual, it only raises even more
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