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Video Game / Dark Souls

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Your journey, it began because
Out of your cell you ran and then
You pause to catch your breath and die another gruesome death
So now you creep around each corner terrified
— "You Died", Miracle of Sound

Dark Souls is a series of critically acclaimed Action RPGs developed by FromSoftware and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. The series, developed by a Japanese developer, is rooted in Eastern game design principles, but also has a Western flavor, making it very well-received on both sides of the pond.

The games take place in a Dark Fantasy world, where humans coexist with giants, dragons, gods, monsters, and "Undead", humans marked with a cursed brand that grants them Resurrective Immortality, but slowly leeches their body and mind till they're a Soulless Shell. In each game, you take the role of one of these Undead, who finds themselves swept up in a quest to rekindle the flame that keeps the world alight, and hold off the coming age of darkness... that is, unless you choose to usher in that age yourself.

The series as a whole serves as a Spiritual Successor to FROM's PlayStation 3 game Demon's Souls, and borrows many elements, including:

  • Gameplay that encourages players to learn enemy tells and draw out opponents one at a time. This goes double for bosses, which can kill even high level players in only a few hits. The games auto-save every few seconds, so you live with the consequences of every single action you take.
  • Weapon upgrades allow you to improve different stat bonuses to weapon damage, or, instead, add lightning/fire/magic/etc. damage.
  • Money and Experience Points combined into a single currency that is dropped on death and lost forever if the player dies again before reclaiming it.
  • Character classes that only determine starting equipment and stats. Builds are instead based on which stats you choose to level up and what equipment you wear. Each point you put into a stat counts as a Soul Level, which decides the level range of other players you can encounter online.
  • Atypical online components. Examining bloodstains while playing online will replay the last ten seconds of another player's life, which highlights potential hazards. You can also leave messages on the ground warning of enemies, hazards and treasure (or to lure others into traps). While online you can summon other players to help you, but you can also be invaded and killed by others. By entering one of the games' various covenants, players gain benefits to co-op play, invasion, hunting invaders, and so forth.

Games in the series:

Comic Books include:

Tabletop Games include:

  • Dark Souls: The Board Game (2017)
  • Dark Souls: The Card Game (2018)
  • Dark Souls: The Roleplaying Game (2022)

Novels include:

See also Demon's Souls (a spiritual predecessor to the Dark Souls trilogy), Bloodborne (a game with similar themes with a Victorian Gothic Horror/Lovecraftian setting and increased focus on mobile unarmoured combat and gunplay), Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (a game with similar gameplay and a mythical feudal Japan-esque setting, but retains the style of the Dark Souls games), and Elden Ring (a spiritual successor created in collaboration with George R. R. Martin), all also by FROMSoftware. Together, the so called "Souls-like" style of gameplay has inspired many imitations and seeped into the broader game design culture.

Not related to the Soul Series, which incidentally is also published by Bandai Namco.

The series provides examples of: