Dark Souls is an infinitely complex series of games, stuffed with tons of character statistics, gorgeous locations filled with horrible beasts and more importantly: one of the largest and most complex stories in the video game industry to-date. Every nook and cranny in each of the Dark Souls games has the potential to be a valuable piece of the lore puzzle From Software has created — which is why so many people are still working to understand it to this day.
With Dark Souls 3 releasing right around the corner in April, we at Inverse figured it might be a good idea to brush up on the story behind the first two games in order to prep for the final chapter of the franchise.
So let’s get started.
In the beginning, there were two planes of existence: the above and the below. The above was gray, filled with dragons who had existed forever 00 here, nothing changed, progressed forward and lived or died. The below was dark — but when the First Flame came to exist, it awoke the creatures hiding in the below. Some of these creatures stepped into the flame to investigate it and the power within the flame, claiming it for themselves to emerge from the below and fight the dragons for the above. Known as the Lords of Flame, four key figured emerged who wielded the true power of the flame: Nito, the First of the Dead, the Witch of Izalith, Lord Gwyn, and the Furtive Pygmy. These pieces of the flame would make them more powerful than the dragons who ruled the above.
And so Gwyn brought the fight to the dragons, but with their immortality his army didn’t get very far. Hundreds were dying to the power of the dragons until one of their own, Seath the Scaleless betrayed them. Born without the scales to make him eternal like the rest of the dragons, Seath revealed the weaknesses of his kind in exchange for gifts from the Lords of Flame. With this weakness as their ally, Lord Gwyn, the Witch of Izalith, and Nito destroyed the dragons together — claiming the above for themselves and ushering in the Age of Flame.
With the Age of Fire came great prosperity for Gwyn and his kingdom, which spread throughout the above; building cities and castles, which smaller towns would surround for protection. While Gwyn was spreading his kingdom of fire, however, the Furtive Pygmy was unleashing the power of his gift from the First Flame, the Dark Soul he had kept a secret for so long. The Dark Soul is said to be the power that have birth to humanity — because while the other pieces of flame got weaker over time, the Dark Soul became stronger. It spread across the above, creating humanity and spreading their kind across the entire above. Unlike the Flames, the Dark Soul grew in every human being — spreading like a disease that could not be contained. During this period of time the Lords of Flame became royalty, however, with humanity worshipping those more powerful than themselves. For hundreds of years they ruled, but eventually that would come to an end as the First Flame was extinguished.
As the First Flame was losing its power, the Lords of Flame tried to keep it alive while darkness spread across their kingdom — but with so many people fighting against them to bring their rule to an end, they only delayed the enviable. The Witch of Izalith tried to duplicate the First Flame using her own magic and her soul from the original, but this plan entirely backfired — twisting her soul and turning her and her followers in the first demons of the world. Gwyn sent his remaining knights to fight the demons as darkness continued to spread, but they failed; returning to him with charred armor. With his knights at his side, Gwyn sacrificed himself to the to the First Flame so that it could burn a little longer for those still living in the light.
Upon his sacrifice, Gwyn brought upon the curse of undeath, which grants some members of humanity eternal life until they lose every piece of their humanity, thus going insane and truly become a member of the undead. It is said that one of these undead would have the power to rekindle the First Flame and usher in a new Age of Fire. In the original Dark Souls title, you become one of these undead and fight your way through those who still remain — until your reach Gwyn and the remnants of the First Flame. Here, you can choose to use your own soul to do as Gwyn did, or step back and let the First Flame die out to usher in the Age of Dark.
Dark Souls 2
Assuming the player chooses to rekindle the flame, this cycle of Light and Dark would continue on for hundreds of years, with many kingdoms like Gwyn’s rising and falling between. But throughout each of these periods of time, none of those who ruled were considered to be true monarchs. With Dark Souls 2, the latest of these kingdoms is Drangleic — founded by King Vendrick with the help of his brother Aldia. Their kingdom was still technically within the Age of Fire, holding on to what little power the rekindled First Flame had provided over the years. Shortly after establishing the base of this kingdom, Vendrick was approached by a woman named Nashandra — who warned him about an army of Giants across the seas. Under her influence, Vendrick staged an attack on these Giants and won the war against them. Upon doing so, he made the decision to capture many of these to give to his brother Aldia for experimentation.
By using the souls of the captured Giants, Vendrick and Aldia built living suits of armor known as Golems to construct Drangleic Castle to rule over the kingdom. Vendrick would also go on to marry Nashandra and the kingdom saw peace for it, but as time went on the Giants began to retaliate against Vendrick and Drangleic for their transgressions years earlier. Led by the king of Giants, the Giant Lord, they laid siege to Drangleic — but instead of fighting against the invaders with all his might, Vendrick had his mind focused elsewhere.
His wife, Nashandra was becoming power hungry with each passing day, consuming the souls of both humans and giants to gain strength with each death from the war. Soon, Vendrick found out that Nashandra was a fragment of the Furtive Pygmy (who had claimed the original Dark Soul), and was seeking to overthrow his rule of Drangleic to claim the First Flame for herself.
As the invasion progressed, Vendrick and his troops eventually killed the King of Giants — forcing the remainder of the giant army to flee back overseas. But, with his kingdom in ruins and the fear of Nashandra in the back of his mind, Vendrick started his descent into madness.
During this descent, Vendrick worked with his brother to find a cure for the curse of undeath — which was slowly turning the humans of his ruined kingdom undead, with no chance of being saved. Not only were his people losing their lives, but their sanity and humanity as well. While conducting this research, Vendrick and his brother Aldia split into two separate schools of thought. Vendrick believed that in order to cure the curse of undeath, he would have to become the one True Monarch — while Aldia believed that the curse of undeath could be used to study the secret to everlasting life. This drove them against each other morally, and while Vendrick never could bring himself to kill his brother for his research — he did banish him from the kingdom completely, isolating him in a tower.
After banishing his brother from the kingdom, Vendrick became paranoid about Nashandra’s takeover. In order to keep her from taking the throne and the soul in his possession, he took his most trusted knights and had them help him seal the Undead Crypt. In this crypt laid the Throne of Want, which was the secret to becoming the True Monarch — and by sealing Nashandra out of it, he was successfully preventing her from gaining his power and becoming the one to control the First Flame.
At this point, the player character from Dark Souls 2 comes into a ruined Drangleic. As a member of the undead, you’re already starting to lose your sanity and memory — but rumors about a cure engineered by Vendrick bring you to his kingdom. Throughout Dark Souls 2, the player character works to understand and uncover the various secrets of the kingdom, eventually unlocking the Undead Crypt and, thus, the Throne of Want. Eventually, the player gains control of the True Monarchy — and confronts Nashandra, who has been waiting to kill the player and gain everything Vendrick worked to hide from her. After defeating Nashandra — you then have a choice: sacrifice yourself and rekindle the First Flame once more, let the flame fade and usher in the Age of Darkness, or leave to find a more permanent solution on your own accord.
And that’s that — at least, the main story behind the franchise so far. The truth is that Dark Souls is an infinitely revolving base of lore, with revelations and discoveries still being made by players today. It’s filled with stories of characters, both good and evil, that echo on between both games and well into the third. Granted, we don’t know much about the third game at this point in time — but it’s safe to assume that come Dark Souls 3? We may finally be able to break the cycle entirely.