Dark Souls series. Play can not suffer

It all started long before the first Dark Souls, and even its predecessor, Demon’s Souls. The Japanese studio FromSoftware, which has existed since 1986, was previously known mainly for the Armored Core series of mech shooters.

But we, in the context of this article, are interested in other projects of game makers – King’s Field and Shadow Tower, action games in a dark fantasy setting, characterized by high complexity and demanding player skills. Those games sold poorly and were only available in Japan, but nevertheless laid the foundation for FromSoftware’s future hardcore RPGs.

King’s FieldKing’s Field

Talking about the studio, one cannot fail to mention the name of Hidetaka Miyazaki, a game designer who has gone from a simple programmer to the head of FromSoftware. It was under his leadership that all the games in the Souls series were developed, including those that are not formally included in it, but are considered the ideological heirs. Thanks to Miyazaki’s rich imagination, his passion for psychology and the desire to explore the unknown, the games turned out to be so distinctive.

Demon’s Souls

The first Souls game does not belong to the Dark Souls trilogy, but deserves attention. The action RPG was on the verge of being canceled before Miyazaki took on it, and the team didn’t even have a working prototype. Therefore, the newly minted development manager, in fact, did not risk anything if the game failed, because no one believed in it anyway.

Under the guidance of Miyazaki, Demon’s Souls was redesigned and released in 2009 on PS3. The dark fantasy world attracted players, but the high complexity scared away, so in the first weeks the project showed weak sales. Nevertheless, the same complexity served as an impetus to the popularity of the title: gradually the audience was imbued with hardcore and deep gameplay, designed for the player’s skill.

Demon’s Souls

Information about the game spread beyond Asia, where it was originally released, after which a Western publisher was found who released it in North America and Europe. Demon’s Souls has shown that gamers need games with high difficulty, and even slightly spurred console sales.

But the sequel did not happen: instead FromSoftware took up a new series, the highlight of our program, and in 2020 the release of the remake of Demon’s Souls took place – the game entered the launch line of the PS5 console. The triumphant return was warmly greeted by both ardent fans and those who know about FromSoftware’s trademark hardcore only thanks to Dark Souls.


Dark souls

The beginning of this very series was laid by Dark Souls, released in 2011 on PS3 and Xbox 360. The game became the ideological successor of Demon’s Souls: a different world, a different story, but a similar gameplay philosophy and, of course, which became the hallmark of the franchise, high difficulty.

Dark Souls sends players to the kingdom of Lordran, where they have to get used to the role of a living dead and go on a journey full of danger, adventure and mystery. The game allows you to create completely different character builds: sharpened for ranged or melee combat, light or heavy weapons, using or ignoring magic, and by trial and error conquer a harsh world in which even the most seedy enemy could send a hero to the nearest fire of resurrection.

Dark souls

In Demon’s Souls, the developers have integrated an interesting network mode: players could leave messages to other players, help them in the passage, or invade for PvP battles. This system has received a lot of positive reviews, and has been carried over to Dark Souls in full measure, with minor improvements. Players even designated some play areas as PvP locations, which allowed them to test their builds not on mobs, but on live opponents.

The success of the game could not affect the desire of PC gamers to get it on their platform. The players created a petition (in those days it was generally fashionable to send petitions to developers about porting console games to the PC, but the positive outcome with Dark Souls was rather an exception than an established practice), and Japanese game developers released a computer version of their hardcore RPG.

Dark souls

The port turned out to be bad, no – nightmarish, which FromSoftware honestly warned about, citing time pressure and lack of experience in working with PC as a platform. Weak graphics, 30 frames per second limit, terrible keyboard and mouse controls – gamers suffered, but endured, wanting to join the game. Fortunately, there are modders on the PC, and already in the first days after the release of the project, it became possible to download a fix that corrected many of the port’s shortcomings. Despite all the problems, the computer version sold well, so the sequel was announced immediately for all current platforms.


Dark souls ii

The fans were looking forward to the second part with impatience and apprehension, because Hidetaka Miyazaki almost did not take part in its development, focusing on Bloodborne for PS4. Given the popularity of the original game, the publisher allocated more money for the sequel, but alsoI did not make more demands on the team of authors. In general, in order not to risk it, the game makers decided not to reinvent the wheel and do something similar to the first part, but with a new plot (the game was set in the same universe, but in a different kingdom) and minor gameplay changes.

Dark souls ii

As a result, Dark Souls II received mostly positive ratings, but many players criticized it for being secondary and lacking fresh ideas. In addition, not everyone liked the change in the mood of the game from dark to lighter and simplified in terms of the gameplay. To the credit of the developers, they heeded the criticism and released the Scholar of the First Sin edition, which increased the difficulty, added new NPCs, enemies and bosses, weapons and equipment, and also expanded the ending of the storyline. This is not to say that this significantly smoothed the impression of the release version, however, some hardcore connoisseurs were satisfied.


Dark souls III

For the last game of the series, Miyazaki returned, and did what fans were waiting for – a good, complex RPG that made you learn from your mistakes and, with a series of defeats and victories, gnaw out the opponents’ right to exist in a depressive world, whose role was again played by Lordran – albeit through for many years already under a new name. Attentive players were happy to find references to the first Dark Souls, while neophytes were impressed by the enveloping atmosphere of despair.

Dark souls III

In terms of gameplay, the game has become both easier and more difficult at the same time. The series was at the peak of popularity, its name became a household name, and the prohibitive complexity gave rise to a lot of memes, which inevitably attracted a new audience, including from the camp of so-called “casual” gamers.

And the developers completed a seemingly overwhelming task: they made Dark Souls III more convenient, comfortable for beginners, but at the same time they hid challenges in the world that could cause a lot of problems even for hardcore players. For those who did not have enough of this, add-ons were later released that threw players a serious challenge.

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