‘Dark Souls’ on an iPhone? ‘Pascal’s Wager’ proves it’s not so crazy

The “Crazy Ascetic” boss killed me during my first battle with him, and you know what? I was glad. It showed that Pascal’s Wager—coming January 16 to iOS—has some real cred as a viable Dark Souls stand-in on the iPhone. And here’s the kicker: I knew I died because I got cocky and not because of any failing on the game’s behalf. That’s proper Souls.

I’ve played virtually all of FromSoftware’s brutally difficult “Souls” games from 2009’s Demon’s Souls to last year’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and so I came prepared for the punishment TipsWorks’ upcoming game threw at me in a preview build for around two of its roughly 20 hours. I waited out the rhythm of the ascetic’s three heavy attacks, and then I rushed in and swiped him a few times with my sword before jumping away. I dodged his followup attacks with carefully timed taps of my PlayStation DualShock 4’s “X” button and guzzled health potions in the rare moments when I had a breather. And considering that Pascal’s Wager borrows liberally from a series that tells you to “Prepare to Die,” I wasn’t all that surprised to find myself crushed when he slammed back to earth after a leap to the skies. So far, so Dark Souls.

Here’s me beating the first boss on my 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The preview build defaulted to the native Chinese, and I didn’t know I could change the language in settings.

I was surprised, though, that I was doing all this on an iPhone 11 Pro. Even a coworker was sure I was playing a proper Souls game on a service like PlayStation Remote Play. It’s a stretch to put Pascal’s Wager on the level of a proper Souls game like Bloodborne, but it comes closer than I’d ever thought we see in 2020 on an iPhone.

Even Apple is impressed. Tim Cook and friends showcased TipsWorks’ game at the company’s September event to prove the iPhone 11 Pro was capable of running a relatively graphically intensive game at 60 fps, even if the graphics look a little “last-gen”—probably so it’ll run on something other than the latest iPhones.

I’m shocked Apple showed it at all, as Pascal’s Wager is grim ’n’ gory in a way we rarely see on stages hosted by the folks in Cupertino. Within the first hour, a little girl shivved my character. Not long after, I was stabbing women—admittedly very hostile and creepy women—who looked like Russian peasants toting babies. And after two hours of carving up monsters, I’m still not sure what any of this has to do with Pascal’s wager, a 17th-century philosophical concept arguing that we should live as though God exists even though we can’t prove it. Clearly, few of the stabby people in this world buy into that idea.

A soul of its own

Pascal’s Wager might as well be called Pascal’s Souls, so closely does it riff on the creations of From’s Hidetaka Miyazaki. If you can’t see its obvious debts to Dark…


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