The Dark Souls games are very different from other RPGs. While the trilogy does feature an overarching storyline, it's never really the main focus of the experience. We rarely receive cutscenes and when we do they're mostly to highlight the bosses we're about to fight, NPCs speak in cryptic riddles and cackle away to themselves, and the game's items can often give us convoluted and confusing hints at the trilogy's lore.
The thing is, you don't really need to know any of this in order to enjoy the Dark Souls games. FromSoftware elected to focus on atmosphere and gameplay as opposed to narrative. But that doesn't mean that a little background won't improve your enjoyment of Dark Souls 3. Therefore, we thought we'd take a look at everything you need to know before jumping into the final part of this remarkable trilogy.
Everything You Need To Know About The Souls Series Before Playing Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls games are hard. Let's get that out of the way. I want to focus on the narrative of the series primarily, but it's always good to know that these games will challenge you and are designed to test your skills and patience. That didn't sound like anything I'd be up for when I bought Dark Souls in 2011, but I loved every second of it. I sincerely hope you will too! There's no greater sensation in gaming than defeating something you thought impossible and this trilogy is stacked with unforgettable moments like that. Prepare to die, fellow gamers.
For those that have yet to watch it, this is the opening cinematic to the first Dark Souls - it's glorious. It perfectly sets the tone for the series and gives you an idea of what this dark universe is really like. But here are all of the important bits of information you need to know.
Dark Souls (2011)
Everything began in the Age of Ancients. The land was shrouded in fog and inhabited by everlasting dragons; neither alive nor dead. This is how the world was until the arrival of fire. This element upset the neutral balance of the Age of Ancients. It introduced light and dark, heat and cold and most importantly, life and death.
The fire brought to life a race of beings, 3 of which found souls of immense power within the flame. These three were Nito The First of the Dead, The Witch of Izalith and Gwyn the Lord of Sunlight. Together, with the help of a dragon that betrayed his own kind, known as Seath the Scaleless, these beings destroyed the dragons with the strength of lords and ushered in the age of fire.
It's important to know that everything in the Dark Souls universe is cyclical. Before the age of fire was the age of dark and this cycle will continue until the end of time. For thousands of years the age of fire brings prosperity to the lords and their lands. But the flames soon start to die out. Gwyn begins to fear humanity, for the ancestor of our race had actually plucked a soul from the flame and kept it hidden. This creature was known as the Furtive Pygmy and he took possession of the dark soul and all humans can be traced back to him.
With the flames dwindling, Gwyn feared the age of darkness and the prophesied human that would rise up against the lords and usher in a new age of darkness. In order to prevent this, he sacrificed himself to the flame, thus lengthening the age of fire and his reign. This event was dire for the human race. It meant that people would eventually die and turn hollow, essentially becoming mindless zombies. This is where your character comes in. You awake in a jail cell, a hollow man or woman, and begin a journey to defeat the lords of fire and usher in a new age for humanity. You eventually succeed and the climactic fight sees you take on Gwyn.
At the end of Dark Souls, you are presented with a choice. You can either sacrifice yourself like Gwyn did and thus extend the Age of Fire, or you can become a new dark lord and usher in the Dark Times. Ultimately, it doesn't matter which you chose. Because everything is cyclical, eventually a fire will be lit in the dark bringing about another Age of Fire, which will eventually burn out and so on, and so on.
Dark Souls II (2014)
Thousands of years have passed. Many kingdoms have risen and fallen since you took on Gwyn. One of these ancient kingdoms was that of Drangleic. It was ruled by King Vendrick, who had crushed the presence of dragons that existed there before himself. While enjoying life in his tower, he was visited by a woman one day from across the sea, Nashandra. She warned the king of a race of giants that existed across the ocean and managed to place the man firmly under her thumb.
She convinced him to travel to the land of giants, slay them, and return with their most prized possession, something of immense power. After succeeding in his mission, the land of Drangleic enjoyed a time of peace, until the arrival of the undead curse that we're familiar with from Dark Souls.
These people were unaware of what the undead curse was and began to hunt down all humans who had gone hollow. Vendrick eventually uncovered the way to bring about the end of this curse. It would involve ascending the Throne of Want, which was a powerful throne that was created by the fusing together of 4 Great Souls. It possessed immense power, something which he realized was the intention of the manipulative Nashandra all along. Thus, he sealed the throne behind numerous barriers that she couldn't penetrate. He eventually locked himself into his throne room and slowly turned hollow.