Cole Shoemaker ’20, Opinion Editor
The Dark Souls trilogy is renowned as one of the most difficult game trilogies to exist. The combination of fast-paced combat and occasionally difficult-to-understand controls make them a tough but ultimately fair challenge. With the full trilogy being released on the Xbox One and PS4 this month, it seems like the perfect time to go back and view this complex story as a whole.
Dark Souls technically came into being a bit earlier than the first game’s release. It has a similar playstyle and general vibe as its predecessor, Demon’s Souls. Released on Feb. 5, 2009 for the PlayStation 3, Demon’s Souls was developed by FromSoftware and directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, both of whom would continue on to create the Souls series together. While it met huge commercial success in the west, it suffered middling reviews in its home country of Japan. This led FromSoftware and Miyazaki to work even harder on the next installment in the Souls series.
When it first launched in August 2012, Dark Souls received critical acclaim worldwide, with praises going to the intricate combat system, the beautiful level design, and the complexity of the lore. The essential information however, is simple to understand. Long ago some gods found a mystical power that created disparity in the form of fire and light. They created empires that spanned eons, but eventually the fire that gave the land light began to fade, and a curse of undeath began to plague the land. The plot for all three Dark Souls game is the same, find a way to keep the fires going, or let the world plunge into the Age of Dark. The difficulty however, received mixed reviews. Some said it provided a fair challenge to be overcome, while others said it was far too unforgiving. Such issues would, unfortunately, be left neglected by the Souls series third game, Dark Souls II.
The second Dark Souls game, released April 24, 2014, is in some ways, the black sheep of the franchise. While it introduced many new ideas and concepts, some felt like it was far too much of a deviation from the norm that Dark Souls I and Demon’s Souls established. This was not aided by Miyazaki’s absence in the role of director, who was the driving creative force behind those two games. He instead worked as supervisor while Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanamura directed instead. Dark Souls II actually ramped up the difficulty from Dark Souls I, to the point where Justin Haywald of GameSpot said it “too often sacrifices fun, replaces it with tedium, and tries to defend that choice by calling it a challenge.” Despite this, Dark Souls II was also met with worldwide praise.
The third and final Dark Souls game was a return to form in many ways. Miyazaki returns as director and, as the last game in the franchise, it holds many callbacks to both Dark Souls I and Dark Souls II, as well as Demon’s Souls. Having been released worldwide in April 2016, Dark Souls III was, once again, met with huge commercial and critical success, with many calling it a fitting end to the series. This game features gameplay elements that combine the best parts of the other two Dark Souls games, Demon’s Souls, and even Bloodborne (the game that Miyazaki worked on between Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III). Dark Souls III ramped up the combat speed so that players can perform more actions in a shorter amount of time. While it remained just as difficult as the other games in the franchise, Dark Souls III was considered to be a much fairer challenge than the first two games.
Overall, the Souls series has had a long, fantastic run. Instead of choosing to run the story indefinitely and risk burnout, Miyazaki and FromSoftware have chosen to close off the series and move on to other projects, one such project is being released on March 22. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has many of the same elements of the Souls series, but moved into an all-new setting. So, although the Souls series has seen its end, everybody can look forward to the new projects FromSoftware and Miyazaki have in store for us.
Photo courtesy of FanGamer