General Overview: Another poison swamp! We can’t get enough of those, FROM Soft!
Design Notes: OK, it’s not so bad, I guess...it’s just that this is the well they keep returning to. Still, the sight of a once-great keep sunken in the mire—once home to valiant soldiers, now home to slimes and some strange new species birthed from the poison’s effects on the trees—is grotesquely beautiful if you ever get a chance to stop and take it all in. It also reminds me of this:
The “light the three fires” goal to getting out of this damn swamp is a pretty standard-issue “warrior’s trial” trope, but I bet King Arthur and his knights never had to deal with giant, ambulatory trees casting death skulls at them.
Again, I do like DS3's commitment to new enemy types, even if the lesser Ghrus seem like reskinned versions of the aquatic creatures all over Bloodborne’s Fishing Hamlet. And they even have their own Grown-Up version analogous to the anchor-wielding giants* in that game, too. The Elder Ghrus—the ents I mentioned before—are a sight to behold.
*Not completely analogous, of course. Power-wise, nothing in the SoulsBorne games may compare to just how hard and fast those piscine leviathans hit.
Nitpick: The usual “slow movement in standing water” complaint stands, but that section of the level seems devoted to special treasure, a challenge for the devoted veterans, so it’s not really vital. I do wonder about the lone giant crab out on the fringes, though; did he get separated from his tour group?
My nitpick here is paradoxically focused on something that is less punishing than previous games. The poison effect of the swamp doesn’t seem nearly as potent which, given how big the area is, is probably a blessing. There were plenty of time when I didn’t even bother removing the effect, since it sapped your HP so slowly...and you were likely to build it up again in no time anyway. I do wonder if it was a harsher effect in earlier versions of the game, but perhaps it proved too onerous and they had to nerf it late in development. It just seemed slightly pointless, apart from aesthetic flourish.
Very Speculative Lore Notes: The Ghrus seem to be another version of whatever was happening to the Curse-Rotted Greatwood, given the tree theme and the references to Rot in the lesser Ghru’s load-out. I am also going to take a inferential leap and say that the weird, lumpy pods hanging from the trees—I kept expecting them to burst open but they never did!—are the birth-cauls for the creatures. Perhaps the Abyss—what happens when the titular “Dark Soul” of humanity grows out of control, for those keeping track— that the area’s boss is attempting to hold at bay has some role in the creation of these perverse abominations.
The Tourism Board recommends: I’m guessing your devotion to acquiring all the loot in this area is directly related to how much BS—slow movement, powerful enemies (with, once again, no limits on movement), a bunch of those curse-spewing freaks—you are willing to put up with to acquire it.
There are, however, reasons to explore this area further that aren’t nearly as annoying. One of those area-specific covenants—a giant wolf certainly isn’t the weirdest thing the series has formed a covenant around—is in the area, if you really hate the idea of embered players wandering into the area un-harassed. There’s also a Demon who has seen better days hanging out; killing him gives you a way to get a overencumbered knight’s best friend.
The Misanthrope’s Pro-Tip: Roll. Critics like to point out the parallels between this series and the Legend of Zelda series (especially the 3D entries), but we should consider that the protagonist has a few Sonic moves as well.