General Overview: Though the name suggests a Bob Dylan deep cut, this is actually a winding route that leads through a treacherous stretch of woods, past a crab-filled (more about that in a bit!) swamp, and into a ruined keep.
Design Notes: After the dense, looping Undead Settlement, I like how this area makes the player feel like they are embarking on the first leg of a journey; this isn’t the destination, but rather the miles and trials to endure before getting there.
Over the course of the Souls series, the player may think they are ready for whatever creature From Software’s design team can throw at them and then...Giant Crab! Sure, it is such a simple concept—a whole subgenre of sci-fi/horror thrives on the notion of upsizing regular animals—but it still took me by suprise nonetheless. One expects twisted abberations—the ravages of hollowing or some other corruption working on the form of man or beast—so to see something so “normal” is out of the pale. In addition, I really like how they scuttle; it is a neat bit of animation flourish. I’d find it more adorable if not for its intentions to smash my character with its giant, up-raised claw.
Nitpick: DS3 gave us back the 100%-physical shields, so where’s the Rusted Iron Ring? It’s not a huge problem here—you can easily skim the edges of the swamp and avoid the deeper waters entirely if you are willing to abandon the item pick-ups—but it becomes such a big problem a bit later in the game that I may as well address it here.
Yes, I know that managing hazards like this is just part of the challenge of the series. However, I feel like this challenge only works if your enemies are just as affected by the slowing effect of deep water. The Great Crabs might be exempted, but when heavily-clad knights can effortlessly make their way through it, it feels like the core principles of the series have been betrayed. We learn pretty early on in the first Dark Souls that the series tries to play fair: any environmental hazard—a boulder, a precipitous drop—that can hurt the player can also hurt the enemies.
tl;dr: Having to use up most of your stamina just to move, leaving precious little for dodge-rolling out of the way, bypasses “challenge” and goes straight to “not-fun”.
Very Speculative Lore Notes: Despite my super-funny jab about the name in the first sentence, there is a potent quality to it. What kind of sacrifices does it refer to? Is it the sacrifice of soldiers and travelers lost to the dangers of the area? An overturned caravan in the early part lends credence to this notion. Or perhaps it refers to some sort of ritualistic set of sacrifices, perhaps related to the Crystal Sage’s adherents in the later stages of the area? Their magic seems centered on intelligence and willpower, but it’s possible that they required subjects for their thaumaturgic experiments.
Several obscure narratives seem to play out over your sojourn through this area. The first part, with its forest and rocky outcroppings, is full of bent-over, wing-sprouting figures (the official name is Corvians) that likely had a role in the overturning of the caravan I mentioned before. These might appear to be opportunistic bandits, but the existence of a higher authority in their ranks—spell-casting variants that are known as Corvian Storytellers*—indicates this might just be where they live and thrive.
[*The only story I heard from them is one about poison and fire, but I suppose it sounds better in its native tongue.]
The swamp area, fittingly called the Crucifixion Woods for all the crude wooden cruciforms dotting the area, has its own story, too. The Giant Crabs, I’m sure, are just naturally-occurring crabs; it’s possible their unnatural size may be the result of magical tampering but that really is just wild speculation. The area is also home to two other related enemy groups: Lyncathropes, aggressive hollows bound to the same crosses that litter the place, and Lycanthrope Hunters, regular hollows wielding sharpened cabers as a weapon. While the Lycanthropes don’t seem to show any evidence of transformation (canine or otherwise) despite red eyes and a slightly increased stature, I’m going to assume it is a very liberal use of the word. What vexes me most, however, are the Lycanthrope Hunters: I can’t figure whether they are meant to be hunters *of* the Lycanthopes or hunters who also happen *to be* Lycanthropes.
The Tourism Board recommends: You certainly may not be brave enough to venture out into CrabTown for all its many bits of loot, but it is a tempting prospect for the future, huh? Since this area has two branches leading out to new areas, you might eventually have to come back here later anyway.
The Misanthrope’s Pro-Tip: Really, it is tempting to square off against those crabs, but even if you carefully aggro them away from their crab-friends, they can’t present quite a challenge for players this early in the game. And if you try to cheap-shot them from afar, they will just get tired of your BS and dive under the water, only to emerge later. You can come back later when you’ve beefed up your HP and endurance, but for now, it’s best just to avoid them.