Dark Souls sleuth Lance McDonald has released a new entry in his fascinating video series unlocking the secrets of From Software's games, this time offering a glimpse at Dark Souls 3's sadly axed "Ceremonies" system.
We first heard about Ceremonies back in April, when McDonald started to poke around the alpha version of Dark Souls 3's mysterious Untended Graves area. Not only did he uncover evidence suggesting that Dark Souls 3 was originally set to feature a very different sequence of events as it neared its conclusion, it also appeared that players would partake in 'ceremonies', changing the world state and time of day within certain areas.
While the optional Untended Graves area and its brighter Cemetery of Ash variant are the most obvious remnants of this cut Ceremonies system (with evidence also pointing to a third, axed iteration of the same location), MacDonald's latest video also notes that Ceremony effects can still be seen at other points in the final game.
Most obviously, it's use to display the Darksign eclipse in Dark Souls 3's closing act, but also features as the storm rolls in once Archdragon Peak's boss fight begins. However, MacDonald's dedicated probing and reconstruction of game's alpha code has also revealed a host of unused states within the Ceremonies database, all of which can be seen in his video above.
Some of these are fairly expected, with day turning to dusk, turning to moonlit night. It's obvious, however, that a substantial amount of work went into the system prior to getting the chop - and the results are often strikingly beautiful. Dusk, in particular, brings an entirely different atmosphere to otherwise gloomy locations such as the Undead Settlement.
Less clear, though, is whether From originally intended players to have control of these various Ceremony states as the game progressed, or if time would pass at certain adventure milestones - as is still the case with Dark Souls 3's changing sky, albeit now much-simplified.
Things get really interesting when MacDonald moves away from time of day, and starts to explore Dark Souls 3's more abstract Ceremonies. There is, for instance, a parameter titled "The Past" that casts the world in greys, while amplifying certain colours such as gold.
Even more dramatic are a group of Ceremonies themed around the sun, filling the sky with an imposing globe of fire and searing hues. The day version has a particularly moody counterpart, known as Eclipsed Night, and both stand apart from other Ceremonies thanks to an expanded state that introduces a mass of writhing winged creatures to the sky.
It's a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain of From's concluding Souls instalment, and throws up all manner of question around the game's originally planned progression - to say nothing of the lore implications. MacDonald's video series is a must for Dark Souls (and Bloodborne) aficionados, and is well worth exploring in more detail if you haven't done already.