|This is a /v/ related article, which we tolerate because it's relevant and/or popular on /tg/... or we just can't be bothered to delete it.|
|In the Grimdarkness of the far future, a brief life burns brightly. This article or section is a work of Grimdark. Expect a copious amount of depression, existentialism, hopelessness with a sprinkle of edge. So what can we say but exclaim: I LOVE BIG BROTHER!|
Dark Souls is a third person RPG created by From Software and Namco Bandai Games. It is the spiritual successor of Demon's Souls (would have been sequel, but the developers lost the rights to the Demon's Souls name), and is considered by some of its playerbase to be one of the hardest games ever created, which is very wrong. Veteran players will tell you that the game is exceedingly fair, and you only die as a result of your own fuckups. Just be ready to fuck the fuck up again and again until you learn it. And since it generally rewards skill and being a munchkin, it is popular in /v/-circles for its punishing gameplay.
For reference, imagine a fantasy tabletop game run by a Killer DM who wants your character to die if you get the least bit sloppy with your Spot checks, don't optimize your build (though that makes things easier, it's not remotely necessary), and don't carefully study the rulebooks and monsters manuals before you even start playing (or you can just learn through trial and error like you're supposed to). Oh, and other players in other groups will occasionally come to your table and roll some dice to kill you, often before you can even roll initiative, for some loot and lulz. At the same time though, the Killer DM is also fair by making your frequent deaths more of an inconvenience then it might be (loading screens, ugh) so that you can learn through trial and error if nothing else so that you do eventually beat his challenges. That is pretty much the Dark Souls experience.
Relevant to /tg/ mainly in that people sometimes throw it around as "this is how you do a grimdark setting properly", "wouldn't it be cool to set a game in this setting?" (Answer: No, because the damn thing is so vague), and "the material GMs can rip off file". It also pops up semi-regularly as the catalyst for quest threads and more than a few worldbuilding threads, most notably Lost Source.
Both Dark Souls and the younger brother Bloodborne have their own board game incarnations, with the former being a exploration dungeon crawler, and the latter a card game of collecting blood tokens and defeating monsters. Dark Souls also recieved an official tabletop RPG adaptation by Steamforged Games, using the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition system. It is kind of contrversial since many don't see 5e as a good fit to replicate the ultra-brutal gameplay and feeling of the setting, and because the first printings came filled with spelling errors and was clearly not playtested.
More pertinently, Fires Far Away is a homebrewed setting that owes its existence to the likes of Dark Souls, being designed for running games in a similarly-styled world.
Also explicitly said by the creator to have been heavily inspired by Berserk, be it in its aesthetic, character similarities, or just blatant references. That has to count for something. Also Fighting Fantasy, but people like to forget that part, for some reason.
One of the most definable aspects of Dark Souls is its method of storytelling... or lack thereof. Besides the opening cutscenes of all three games, nothing is outright explained to the player. Any lore you find is either based on dialogue with NPCs or descriptions of items and weapons, and even then it's often cryptic and intentionally vague, usually left up to interpretation. As you play through the games, a bigger picture becomes painted as you gather items and converse with the world's inhabitants, with the player connecting the dots and speculating what's happened. This can feel rewarding to someone who finds satisfaction in building the world piece by piece and interpreting things their own way, but understandably infuriating to anyone who wishes for something more straightforward. Much of the lore explanations that we have are often speculative or what little we know actually did happen, which isn't much.
Dark Souls I
At the beginning of time there was shit-all but a bunch of trees and immortal dragons. Then there was fire (no we don't know how, put your hand down), and four beings crawled out of the darkness and got souls from the fire: Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight; the Witch of Izalith; Gravelord Nito; and the Furtive Pygmy. The first three of them used the power of these souls to become badasses, kicked the dragons' asses (with help from the turncoat Seath the Scaleless, who helped them because he was a mortal freak) and built the realm of gods: Lordran. Things went pretty swell until the First Flame started fading. The Witch of Izalith tried to create a new First Flame with her lord soul, only for it to go wrong and become a horrifying abomination made of fire, cancer, and evil, as well as spawning the demons in Dark Souls. In a desperate final attempt Gwyn kindled the fire with his own soul, which worked for a while. Around this time a few people became unable to die, and thus were dubbed Undead. This was swell at first until they started to go Hollow, turning into crazed murderous zombies. A search for the cure of this undeath started, and for the meantime the Undead were shipped to an insane asylum in the north.
That's where the game begins. You (your player character is called the Chosen Undead in the Dark Souls community) escape the asylum and kill a series of powerful creatures to gain their souls, and gather power to link the First Flame. That's as far as the story goes if you do exactly what you're asked to do, don't deviate off the path, and don't read any item descriptions. Without going into greater detail, there's a lot more to it but you'll have to work for it.
If you want spoilers, are too scared to play the game, or just can't be bothered to read every single item description, here's what goes down in the game itself. Spoilers straight ahead!
You, of course, escape from the Undead Asylum and find yourself in Lordran proper, that is at this point in time almost completely destroyed and overrun by the Hollow Undead and very few people remain that are actually alive. You make your way from the central hub in Firelink Shrine to ring two bells in lower Lordran in order to open a gate to Sen's Fortress. After you rang them, you will encounter one of the Primordial Serpents (hideous snake-like creatures whose chewing sounds will absolutely drive you insane), Kingseeker Frampt, who gives you the mission to retrieve the Lordvessel (kind of a gigantic golden cereal bowl) and collect the souls of the 4 aforementioned Lords: The Soul of Death from Gravelord Nito in the Tomb of Giants, the Soul of Chaos from the transformed Witch of Izalith, now called the Bed of Chaos in Lost Izalith, and two different pieces of Gwyns Soul of Light from Seath the Scaleless and the Four Kings in the New Londo Ruins.
After you make your way up Sen's Fortress and reach the seat of the gods, Anor Londo, you find Gwyns Daughter Gwynewere, the goddess of the sun, fertility and PROMOTIONS. She gives you the Lordvessel and tells you essentially the same as Kingseeker Frampt: Get those Souls and relight the First Flame. This however, is a lie: If you shoot Gwynewere with an arrow, it turns out she was an illusion and Anor Londo becomes a much darker and emptier place than before. In her stead, her brother Gywndolin, who was left behind to guard Anor Londo against enemies, attacks and calls you a Heretic.
Furthermore, in the ruins of New Londo, after you have defeated the Four Kings and not given the Lordvessel to Frampt yet, you will meet the other Primordial Serpent, Darkseeker Kaathe, who tells you a very different account of the story the NPCs you have met so far told you. Kaathe seeks to spread the influence of the Abyss or the Dark (how or if these two are separate, different entities is not entirely clear, even in the later games) in order to overthrow the gods, whom he claims to be gigantic hypocrites. And he has a point: The inability of the Gods (Gwyn specifically) to just let time run its course and their refusal to give up their power led to the eventual slow decline of Lordran and its people into madmess and decay. Furthermore, he tells you that Gwyn actually fears Humans, because every human has a piece of the Dark Soul inherited from the Furtive Pygmy, (those pieces are in fact called "Humanity") that could potentially grow even more powerful than his own and he fears that they would surpass and overthrow him. The power of the First Flame and his own, however, supresses the influence of the Dark Soul, so in a desperate bid for power, he enslaved Humans, branded them with the curse of undead and indirectly forced them to keep the Fire burning. When common, enslaved human souls are offered to the First Flame and its decendants, the Bonfires you light through the game as checkpoints, a bit of Humanity goes missing every time. When a Human has no Humanity left, he goes hollow. All this is the result of Gwyn just refusing to follow the natural order and artificially prolong the Age of Fire, something that is constantly framed as something so fundamentally wrong, that it shook the very fabric of reality.
You still following? Good. Kaathe seeks to accelerate the decline of the First Flame, in order to bring about the Age of Dark, or Age of Man as its also called, to free mankind from the shackles the gods inflicted on them. Sounds great, right? Well here's the problem: Kaathe is also lying. In the DLC you go into the past, to the lost kingdom of Oolacile, where Kaathe convinced its kings and inhabitants to consume the Humanity of other people through massive sacrifices, murder orgies and the torture of the decendant of the Furtive Pygmy, Manus. This caused Manus to mutate into a hideous abomination, destroy Oolacile and kill or mutate most of its inhabitants. This and the state of New Londo, where the Four Kings struck a similar bargain with Kaathe, are good evidence that it's actually a really fucking good idea to stay away from anything related to the Dark and that Kaathe is, just like Gywndolin and Frampt, manipulating you for his own ends.
The game ends with you facing Gwyn at the Kiln of the First Flame, who at this point has gone Hollow too and you are presented with two choices: Do what Gywn did and prolong the life of the First Flame, keeping the World going for a little while longer, or refuse to light the Flame, snuff it out and become the Lord of Dark, leading Mankind into its own, but uncertain future.
Dark Souls II
Your character, the Bearer of the Curse (a different person than the Chosen Undead from DS1), has lost their memory as part of becoming undead and travels to the land of Drangleic to get it fixed. Drangleic has been ravaged by a war with an invading army of giants, and it really shows in places. Here you meet the Emerald Herald, a top-tier waifu who tells you to gather the souls of the four lords so you can meet king Vendrick and become a "true monarch," which is elaborated on later on in the game.
While not necessarily a bad game by itself, many consider it the worst Souls game due to its clunky controls, enemy placements, and bland-ish bosses. Others point out that it has the best PvP, build variety and magic system in the series by far. A collected edition with extra content and all the DLC called Scholar of the First Sin was released later, patching up a few problems and adding a new final boss to attempt to tie up the narrative. However, one of the most controversial changes was altering the enemy placement and behaviour - sometimes drastically - which might have been fun for older players looking for replay value but made it even more difficult for new players.
This game is generally totally forgotten about by most, but still has enough of a fanbase that mentioning it on certain boards will reliably generate pages and pages of strongly-opinionated arguments.
But one guy here actually happens to remember the story, and if you're not afraid of spoilers, here's what happens in it.
You are again a Chosen Undead of sorts, this time called the "Bearer of the Curse", tasked with finding the pieces of the four Lords and do basically the same stuff you did in the first game: Artificially prolong the life of the First Flame and the Age of Fire. However, there are a lot of twists to it. Vendrick was the great King of Drangleic and, unbeknownst to him, built his kingdom directly on the ruins of Anor Londo, and even he wasn't the first lord after Gwyn to do so. At some time, a woman called Nashandra came along and seduced Vendrick. She convinced Vendrick to attack the Giants in a war that lasted generations and reduced Drangleic to ruins. As if that wasn't bad enough, the First Flame started flickering again and the Curse of Undead spread, slowly driving the remains of Drangleic into anarchy. Desperate to find a cure for the curse, Vendrick and his brother Aldia sent the undead away in the thousands and dedicated their lifes to disturbing experiments with this one single goal. However, in time, Vendrick realized that this was all a ploy of Nashandra to seize the first flame for herself, for in truth she was a fragment of Manus from the first games DLC, so in a last bid to buy his brother time, he sealed Nashandra and himself away, hoping that someone would come to kill Nashandra and rekindle the first flame or find a way to cure the curse of the undead.
Aldia on the other hand, eventually succeeded in finding a cure for himself, but this came at the cost of the lifes of thousands of people and his own humanity, only to be damned to live a torturous existence for all eternity. Aldia however also uncovered the truth of how the world works: He discovered that rekindling the First Flame doesn't save the world; it merely stalls its eventual end and damns the people in it to do this forever in a repeating cycle of a kingdom rising, the curse of the undead reappearing, rekindling the First Flame and so on. As long as this cycle keeps going, humans are doomed to eventually become hollow. In his last, desperate attempt in trying to break this cycle, he artificially created a young girl from Dragon DNA (Try not to think to hard about it), called the Emerald Herald who will guide the Bearer of the Curse (that is, you) to become the True Monarch, who will either rekindle the Flame, plunge the world into darkness or seek a way to break free of the cycle.
Dark Souls III
The fire is going out yet again, but it's so terribly weak now that it might not even last another cycle. In desperation, the flame uses the little power it has in a last ditch plan. This sees the rise of the Unkindled, those Undead who tried but failed to link the fire back in a previous age and were turned to ash. In practice they're pretty much the true undead. Now the Unkindled seek to gather the resurrected Lords of Cinder, four powerful badasses who did pull it off back in their day but don't feel like trying it again. So it's your job to find them, kick their asses and use the cinders you take from them to link the fire yet again, or let it fade away completely so the Age of Darkness finally happens. Whatever is your decision, you are aided in it by the Fire Keeper of the Firelink Shrine, which is your hub world of the game where you can buy stuff, level up and advance the plot. Unlike the previous games, there is a third option: scattering the sparks of the First Flame amongst all of humanity. The Dark will then come and you will be the Lord of Hollows but the sparks will remain in everyone and as the human population increases the sparks of humanity will basically replace the fire and so the Dark will be slowly reduced as humanity rises again and Light returns to the world in a distant future. This also has made it somewhat popular to use in various Dark Souls crossover fanfictions as superpowers (such as aura in RWBY) can easily be explained by these sparks of the First Flame and also tying the Ashen One main character to the crossed series.
Due to it coming off the heels of Bloodborne, it takes many notes from it's cousin; a hub world, faster combat, and several other mechanical features. The game itself is remarkably Grimdark and depressing, both in tone as well as in the story.
Here's the backstory in detail.
At this point in time, the cycle Aldia wanted to end has gone on for so long that the fabric of reality itself is slowly falling apart and different dimensions start to clash together like glaciers grinding against the earth. Different people of all manner of kingdoms eventually lit the fire, and the royal family of the Kingdom of Lothric eventually set itself up to produce people specifically for the purpose of rekindling the fire, culminating in the young prince Lothric. Lothric however, read about Kaathe, the Dark, and Aldia's discoveries in forbidden archives, and when it was time to rekindle the first flame again, he refused to do so, choosing to wait out the end of the world instead. This enacted a contingency plan of sorts, ressurrecting the Lords of Cinder, powerful entities and individuals that managed or were convinced to rekindle the flame in the past, to rekindle the flame in Lothrics stead. However, like Lothric, all but one, Ludleth of Courland, refused to take up their thrones and the other three, Aldrich, Saint of the Deep, Farron's undead Legion, the Abyss Watchers, and Yhorm the Giant made the choice Lothric made: Accept their fate and let the world end.
You make your way through the ruins of nearly every location of the first two games in some form or another but everything is decidedly bleak and horrific. Eventually, you face the Avatar of all past Lords of Cinder and face one of four decisions: Link the flame, Snuff out the flame and put the World to rest, usurp the flame and become the solution Aldia so desperately looked for, or simply take the flame for your own gains. Like a dick.
The game drives the point home that this may well be the very last time the flame could be linked, as all of the Lord of Cinders are horrible people that were appointed out of desperation; Aldrich was a cleric who, after a fateful encounter with the Dark, began cannibalizing his fellow priests and faithful. This went so far that his bloated body decayed into undead, but still conscient slurry. His first follower, Sulyvahn, founded the church of the deep as a means to seize power in Aldrichs native land, the hidden realm of Irithyll in a series of deeds so absolutely dispicable that they would give Honsou a run for his money (gave Aldrich thousands of people to devour, raped and enslaved Yorshka, Gywns bastard daughter, fed Gwyn's son Gwyndolin to Aldrich just moments before you arrive in ruined Anor Londo, corrupted the remaining gods to become his servants and many, many other things) and wanted to make Aldrich a Lord of Cinder, in the hopes that this will secure his power for all eternity. As far as Aldrich is concerned, he just really wants to eat everyone as long as he still able to.
The Abyss Watchers were an order of human knights descended from one of Gwyn's lieutenants, called Artorias, dedicated to the eradication of the Dark by the most literal means possible, they killed, murdered and burned uncounted millions of people and destroyed entire kingdoms at the slightest hints of corruption. The collective order was made a Lord of Cinder (combining the souls of its hundreds of members into one) as a means to escape the curse of undead so that they could continue their fight against the dark, but their process of resurrection got corrupted by said dark and they are all trapped in an endless, never ending battle to the death in their keep, unable to escape.
Yhorm the Giant was a king who started to care about his subjects as time went on but became increasingly depressed when he lost someone dear to him and swore to defend his unthankful subjects to the last. He was made a Lord of Cinder when the Profaned Flame, a corrupted fire born from the Dark, appeared as a means to stop it. As it turned out, it was all for naught; his people still hated him after his death, his kingdom, the Profaned Capital, was destroyed and everyone he tried to protect was killed.
As you can see, these people were the absolute bottom of the barrel; Aldrich became a Lord purely out of selfish reasons, the Abyss Watchers were in an eternal deadlock and Yhorm simply didn't care anymore. As if that wasn't enough, the "Link the fire" ending hints that the fire has grown so weak that it won't even survive another link. Luckily, (or unluckily) a group of followers of Kaathe, called the Sable Church, seemed to have found the answer Aldia from the second game so desperately looked for: To usurp the flame and elevate the Ashen One (you) to the Lord of Hollows to lead Mankind into its very own destiny. This does require a lot of preparation; you need to become a hollow yourself (Unkindled are different from regular undead), sacrifice a loved one and then defeat the Soul of Cinder.
Speaking of the Sable Church, the first DLC centers around the story of the first of the three Sisters who founded it; disillusioned with their cause and with no hope, she retreated into the Painted World of Ariandelle, which has its own predicament: It starts to rot. Normally, the guardian of the painting, Father Ariandelle would use his version of the Lordvessel to burn the entire painting and the world within to the ground, but the Sister, called Friede, convinced him to just let the rot happen. You get sucked into the painting by the Slave Knight Gael who seeks to help the girl who originally created the Painted World to create a new one, which leads into the second DLC.
In the second DLC, you look for Gael who went missing in the Ringed City, a city that Gwyn gave to the first humans as a token of gratitude for their help in the fight against the dragons, but in reality was little more than a fancy prison at the edge of the world. Gael was looking for the Dark Soul itself so that the Girl may finish a second painting that save everyone else in Lothric. When you meet Gael, so much time has passed that everything has sunk into dust. Dark Souls 3, and the trilogy ends in the most Dark Souls-esque way you can even think of: Two nobodys, fighting at the end of the world, over something that barely even exists anymore and doesn't even matter.
The fight starts with Gael fighting like an animal, but after he bleeds he realizes his plan is working: His blood has become a pigment of the dark soul, appropriate for the painting. He stands and fights like an actual person once more. When you finish him off, you carry off his soul and his pigment and give it to the Painter. She then thanks you, says she'll name the world after you (Hopefully, nothing embarrassing, right?) and hopes that her Uncle Gael will come home soon. No, you don't tell her you just brutally murdered him for all of this to happen. You bastard.
So ends Dark Souls. Dark and depressing... But damn fun to destroy and be destroyed by.
Technically the first in the series, since Dark Souls was supposed to be a sequel to this. Notably this game actually explains the story a bit more so you know what's actually happening.
The Kingdom of Boletaria is engulfed in a deep fog and the fog is slowly spreading. Nobody knows why and all who go into the fog never return. Eventually one of the kings knights, Vallarfax of the Twin Fangs, manages to find his way out and tells that King Allant XII has awoken the Old One, and now demons have overrun the land, stealing peoples souls and driving them into madness, with the fog marking how far they can go. He also tells how awesome and powerful the souls of the demons are, and so a bunch adventurers, including you, set out to Boletaria to kill demons and find a way to stop the fog. You eventually die at the end of the tutorial and wake up in the Nexus, your hub world, where a lady with
pancakes stiched on her face candle wax covering her eyes tells that your soul has been bound to the Nexus.
From there you wander throughout the land, seeking a way to stop the fog, whilst going through the five levels that are now infamous among Western gamers. Filled with monsters both unique and familiar (and copyrighted by Hasbro), Boletaria is a post-apocalyptic medieval dungeon crawl where players will die, die, and die again to everything from aborted fetuses steeped in toxins to literal mind flayers. Unlike its successors, the plot is straightforward: kill all the Archdemons representing various sins and vices so you can free Boletaria from the fog and end the threat to the world. In the end, you must decide: Will you place The Old One, greatest of all demons, to slumber, or allow it to wake and spread demons and the power of souls throughout the world?
While it was made by From Software as a spinoff to the Souls series, fans are still divided on whether or not it is officially a Souls game (but it deserves an honorable mention, especially since it pretty much changed the name of the genre from souls-like to soulsbourne). Bloodborne changes the tone from the previous Souls games' Berserk-inspired medieval setting to a dark, gothic world which draws heavy influences from H.P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker. The biggest differences in gameplay is the inclusion of guns to replace shields from Dark Souls, both as a (mostly shitty) ranged weapon and as a parry tool. Yes, you read that right: the Hunters in Yharnam, through painstaking research and unflinching dedication, have discovered that shooting somebody in the face is liable to break their concentration. This is what the cutting edge of national security looks like in Yharnam. Aside from that, there is only one shield you can use in the game, and the game outright tells you only pansies use it here.
The player takes on the role of a foreigner who's come to Yharnam seeking its special healing blood, said to cure all wounds. One blood transfusion later, and you're plunged into a waking nightmare where horrific beasts roam the streets and hunters... er, hunt them. Upon your inevitable demise (or upon activating a mysterious lantern, if you're smart or talented enough to outrun or defeat the various horrors of Yharnam bare-handed), you are transported to the Hunter's Dream, a hub world for every hunter that partakes in the Hunt. The Dream's inhabitants consist of a waifu-tier Doll that helps level up the player, an old man in a wheelchair named Gehrman, and the freakish but reliable Messengers, who sell items and deliver messages.
In contrast to Dark Souls' more cautious playstyle, Bloodborne encourages aggressive, proactive action. You are frequently outnumbered, enemies are less susceptible to being split off individually than previous Souls games, and you can regain lost health by damaging enemies within a small time frame. This encourages you to go on the offensive as much as possible, as well as putting enemies down as quickly as possible. Many characters and factions also differ in their nature from Dark Souls as well. Whereas many characters in Dark Souls, even the villianous ones, are more or less victims or circumstance, Bloodborne has no shortage of absolutely horrible people. The main faction that drove most of the events in the story (as explained in the spoiler section), the Healing Church, has to be one of the most evil factions ever devised. Whereas Dark Souls characters exist in varying shades of grey, nearly everyone in Bloodborne is evil in some way or form, including the player character.
Whilst initially a fairly conventional gothic horror setting, the game gradually morphs into a Lovecraftian cosmic nightmare. One of the in-game currencies - insight - is gained upon interacting with various characters, seeing horrific monsters, and consuming eldritch knowledge from the trepanned skulls of madmen. As your insight increases, you start noticing things that weren't visible before, like lanterns being covered with eyes or huge multi-limbed creatures perching on church spires (and yeah, they were always there). It also means the local shoggoth can blow your head off more easily. In a pretty big twist to the usual Lovecraft formula, the religion worshiping the Great Old One analogues are actually the overwhelming majority in Yarnham, not a hidden cult plotting in the shadows (although there are a few of those as well). It garnered largely positive reviews, both from Souls fans and new players alike.
Here's the backstory in detail.
Hundreds of years ago, a civilization called the Pthumerians found the Great Ones, godlike cosmic beings who they worshipped as gods. Their late queen Yharnam had a particularly strong connection to them, but things started to go awry when she got pregnant with the Great One Mergo and the Pthumerians sealed themselves into the ruins of their civilization.
Centuries later, a group of scholars found said ruins under the Village of Yharnam and traces of a substance called the Old Blood (basically a mix of bodily fluids produced by the Great Ones). To study the ruins, a guy called Master Willem founded the academy of Bygrenwerth to research and try to understand the cosmisc lore the Pthumerians left behind, but he remained highly suspicious of the Old Blood and advised against its use, preferring to gain insight (literally, he grew eyeballs inside of his own brain!) instead of actively experimenting with the stuff the Old Ones left behind.
His pupil Laurence, however, couldn't care less about Willem's fears and used the Old Blood to develop Blood Ministrations with the help of The Choir (a sect within Byrgenwerth that worshipped the Old One Ebrietas that lived in the ruins); essentially meaning dissolving some of the Old Blood in regular human blood or something similar and injecting the stuff directly into your veins. This had the immediate effect of curing any disease whatsoever, opened access to magic and arcane secrets and made the Choir, by this point in time known as the Healing Church, famous and brought them and the town of Yharnam fame and fortune.
Laurence and the Healing Church did this not out of altruism however. They hoped that the widespread use of the Old Blood would eventually elevate mankind into a higher state of being and bring them closer to the Old Ones. As it turns out, Willem was right and the abuse of the Old Blood turned out to be extremely dangerous; every time an Old One tries to procreate in a cosmic event, users of the Old Blood would turn into werewolf-like beasts. To keep the connection between Old Blood usage and the beastly affliction a secret, the Church found an answer in the proposal of the bounty hunters Gehrman and Ludwig; simply murder everyone who turns into a beast.
After a series of events the majority of the population of Yharnam was transformed into beasts and the hunters themselves also succumbed to the curse. It was then that Gehrman, in a desperate attempt to still do his job, was picked up by an Old One called the Moon Presence and transported to the Hunters Dream, a pocket dimension of sorts where he would send new Hunters to stop the birth of new Old Ones.
Enter the third faction of the Healing Church, the School of Mensis. The School of Mensis under the guidance of Laurence's protege Micolash, tried to create methods of communicating the Old Ones with dreams. To this end, they abducted a lot of people and did horrifying experiments on them that put the Nazis to shame, resulting in the creation of a being called the Celestial Emissary. Encouraged further by this success, they found one third of Queen Yharnam's umbilical chord and used it to ressurrect the infant Old One Mergo and have an audience with him. However this failed spectacularly and they were all killed. Only Micolash survived and was trapped in a nightmare of his own creation, not that he minds.
Got all that? Good. Now, onto the main story:
The player arrives in Yharnam with an undefined disease that needs Blood Ministration to be cured; this however causes them to get trapped in Yharnam after they pass out and get transported to the Hunters Dream, where Gehrman gives them gear and tells the player to go out and hunt the beasts. Eventually, this escalates into a fully fledged attempt at stopping the Old One Mergo from emerging, which would likely transform almost all humans that are still left into beasts.
The game has three possible endings: After you kill Mergo, you get back to the Hunters Dream, where Gehrman offers to kill you in the dream. You will wake up, forget everything and go about your day, being none the wiser about the cosmic knowledge you have gained (Yharnam Sunrise). If you refuse his offer, he will attack you. When you defeat him, his elusive master, the Moon Presence, descends from the sky and binds you to it; you effectively replace Gehrman as overseer of the Hunt, bound to forever send new Hunters against the new Old Ones (Honoring Wishes).
The secret ending is unlocked if you manage to find the three thirds of the Umbilical Cords scattered around Yharnam and, erm.... consume them (yuck), then kill Gehrman as in the Honoring Wishes ending. The Moon Presence will try to embrace you, but you resist and kill it as well. As the dust settles, it's revealed that you achieved what Willem and Laurence didn't: You've become an infant Old One, and it's implied the Doll intends to raise you to adulthood (Childhood's Beginning).
The DLC "The Old Hunters" details the events surrounding the experiments the Church and the School of Mensis conducted as part of their efforts to create something to communicate with Ebrietas, the aftermath of the death of the Old One Kosm, who was worshipped by a fishing hamlet "Shadow over Innsmouth"-style which lead to the Church genociding through the entire village in search of insight. You start out in a strange tower filled with Hunters going mad. As it turns out, every Hunter who is overcome by their bloodlust will end up here in the Hunter's Nightmare, agonizing in an eternal hell of insanity and murder.
That includes you, so best try and fix this right?
You go through the tower and fight all manner of lost legends, including Ludwig The Accursed, one of the legendary hunters, now reduced to a foul giant horse centaur monster thing with eyes in his mouth. Halfway through the fight, he sees the Legendary Moonlight Sword, a constant element of Dark Souls and even old From Software game Kings Field. He regains some sanity and fights like an actual person, if said person was a giant centaur horse thing. After you kill him, you have a chance to talk to his decapitated head. He asks if the Healing Church were actually good people. You can either lie to him and he dies peacefully, or tell him the truth and drive him mad with grief as he dies. Or you can just kill him. Either way, you have a Moonlight Sword now. Yay!
You also eventually find Lady Maria, the basis for your level up doll waifu. She safeguards the dream entrance to the Fishing Hamlet, and one of the first, if not the foulest, travesties Byrgenwerth was responsible for.
This leads to the Fishing Hamlet. The Healing Church experimented on the townspeople here, turning them all into aquatic sea monsters. Maria was part of this, and it was her greatest shame, leading her to throw away her old weapons and cast away her title as a hunter, safeguarding the secret of the Hamlet and the only way of lifting the curse.
Eventually, you finally make your way to an endless beach, and the source of the curse: Those Byrgenwerth researchers, being utter madlads, actually managed to find Kos. And they also managed to murder her. This, along with the horrors they visited upon the Fishing Hamlet, led to the Hunter's Nightmare. You are then treated to the lovely sight of the birth of a new Great One, the Orphan of Kos. Just like Guts, he was born out of his dead mother. He is NOT Happy. He just stands there, staring in sorrow at the endless sea. If you approach unprepared, prepare to get beaten to death by a seconds-old baby wielding his severed placenta.
After you kill THAT, you notice that, somehow, it isn't over yet. The "True" Final Boss: The Sweet Child of Kos, rising from its dead mother's corpse. Fortunately for you, it's just a shadow, staring at you, and all it takes is one hit to kill it. The Nightmare is Slain. And not just this one. The Hunter's Nightmare is finished.
You go back to the Hunter's Dream and the Doll tells you that, for the first time in eternity, Gehrman has had a peaceful sleep. Fine work... At least until you have to kick his ass and end him, but hey, small victories.
In another departure from the traditional Souls formula, Sekiro placed players in the sandals of the imaginatively named Wolf, a one-armed shinobi tasked with protecting his young (as in, literally prepubescent) lord from a variety of different enemies. Nominally set in the Sengoku period of Japan, there are plenty of mythological elements in addition to historical reproduction. The gameplay is paced very different from previous Souls games, relying on perfect timing to parry enemy blows and break their posture, rendering them more vulnerable to attack and giving you the ability to finish them off. You have fewer weapons at your disposal (technically just your sword) but a variety of tools that can all be used and upgraded as soon as you find them. You can also come back from the dead without going back to the bonfire-analogue, although usually only once, there's a light smattering of stealth elements (you are a ninja, after all), the boss fights are even tougher, and the story carries more samurai cliches than you can shake a fedora at. Also at least twice as difficult due to both it being more difficult and some walking in expecting it to play like Darksouls, with all the rolling that comes with, which WILL get you killed quite quickly. If you learn to play Sekiro like Sekiro and not Darksouls/Bloodborne, you will be miles ahead of the rest.
It's Jade Empire but with ninjas, right down to the plot twist about your adopted father figure.
So instead of writing the sequel to Winds of Winter, George R.R. Martin wrote the backstory and did the worldbuilding for From Software's next evolution of the Soulsborne formula, Elden Ring. There are quite a few elements that observant fans of both Miyazaki and GRRM will pick out as being distinctly his influence, but suffice to say that Elden Ring opens with more political conflict and motivation than previous Souls games. In a divine kingdom overseen by the towering, glowing, fate-twisting Erdtree, the metaphysical Elden Ring is shattered and a plot to murder the demigods devolves into a massive civil war among the remaining scions of the royal family. The fates of all within the Lands Between are set adrift, and in the midst of chaos the lone fragments of grace that remain call to The Tarnished, the descendants of a tribe driven from the kingdom for losing the grace of the Elden Ring long ago. You, the player, are one of those Tarnished. Travel the Lands Between, recover the shards of the Elden Ring, and restore the kingdom as the Elden Lord.
With Elden Ring, From decided to take everything they refined through Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro and combine it with the open world format. The result is a game that is much, much more freeform than any prior title while still retaining the distinct style of combat and exploration that Soulsborne are known for. But now you can JUMP. You also ride a horse; the horse can double-jump.
With game director Hidetaka Miyazaki rumored to be working on a new Armored Core game, Elden Ring represents the culmination of his dark fantasy work. As such, there are tons of callbacks, references, and cameos from other games on this page, including everyone's favorite back-kicking bastard.
This is a real doozy of a plot...
Imagine Ragnarok happening and the world not ending in fire and ice. That's where Elden Ring starts.
The war between the demigods results in a long-lasting stalemate between the survivors and those seeking to slay them, the Tarnished from beyond the fog. Having returned to the Lands Between over a long, long period of time, many Tarnished have subsequently lost the guidance of grace which first called them, and have either gone mad like most of the remaining natives or sworn themselves to other powers. As a newly-awakened Tarnished, you can still see the glittering golden light of grace leaping through the air and guiding you to sites of grace and towards the powerful lords who claim shards of the Elden Ring.
Except, the guidance of grace may not be the benevolence it seems. Supposedly, grace is the guidance of the Greater Will, the omnipresent power which guides the course of all things in the Lands Between. With the shattering of the Elden Ring the Greater Will has turned back to the Tarnished to restore the Golden Order, the rules and concepts which govern the Lands Between as both a political system and as laws of nature. As might be imagined, not everyone was happy living under the Golden Order. Let alone slave races like the misbegotten and demi-humans, rival powers that once challenged the Golden Order and were subjugated by the Elden Lords or which had their own designs on fate chafed beneath its rule. These resentments coalesced into the Night of Black Knives, when Death was stolen from its gaoler and wielded against the demigods, slaying so many that Queen Marika the Eternal, their progenitor and goddess, could not protect them. Or would not; for Queen Marika herself took the opportunity to shatter the Elden Ring and free the lands from the inescapable guidance of the Greater Will.
For this the Greater Will punished her with imprisonment within the Erdtree, where all souls are sealed after "death." Her children were set against each other and abandoned, and the Greater Will now calls on the Tarnished it discarded to slay them all, recover the shards of the Elden Ring, and restore the Golden Order. Almost none of the demigods know this; those who did were either betrayed by their fate, turned against the Greater Will in favor of more ancient powers, or seek vainly for forgiveness.
As of now, there are at least 6 known endings to Elden Ring:
- Restore the Golden Order status quo.
- Restore the Golden Order but accept death as natural and end immortality for all. Instead, grant them undeath.
- Perfect the Golden Order by purging the influence of fallible demigods.
- Defile the Golden Order by cursing all life with the Dung Eater's pox. When everyone is cursed... no one will be.
- Replace the Golden Order with the guidance of
the stars, accepting the influence of cosmic entities of great power and inhuman knowledge.the moon, shutting out the influence of all alien and eldritch Outer Gods and freeing humanity to find its own path and determine its own fate without the intervention of higher powers. Or so people claim based on the translated Japanese ending text. Which would make a lot more sense as this is thematically similar to the Lord of the Dark endings in prior Souls games.
- Reject the Golden Order and embrace the flames of chaos which once threatened the Erdtree itself. Kill everything. Burn it all to the ground in a frenzied firestorm, leaving only a land of fog, towering archtrees, and immortal stone dragons...