Soul Long: The End of Dark Souls
It’s a bitter sweet moment. On one hand I feel that all stories must have an ending, even when I wish they would never end–I’m not much for on-going series. On the other, the Soulsborne games (that is Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne and the Dark Souls series) have been a singular source of entertainment and inspiration for me for the past eight years. With the recent release of the final Dark Souls III DLC, The Ringed City, From Software has brought an end to the Dark Souls story and possibly an end to an era in gaming.
It’s difficult to know exactly what to write. (I keep cutting, reworking and adding paragraphs as I type away, and though shorter than my other recent Soulsborne writings, I’ve spent a few days working on this, resulting in this late post.) I’m not certain I can give the Dark Souls series a proper send off in 500-700 words or less. Perhaps I don’t need to; I’ve certainly been doing a lot of writing about the series and may continue to do so for a little while longer (and I haven’t been keeping those even under my maximum 1,000 word limit). But as for Dark Souls as a whole and it’s ending, what can I say?
Although I don’t wish this to be a game review proper, I will say that The Ringed City offered a satisfying close to the series. Unlike the Ashes of Ariandel which recycled the painting idea from the original Dark Souls, The Ringed City offered a new adventure and some new lore (including bits which brought greater depth and purpose to AoA). I still have many questions which perhaps will be answered as the Soulsborne community delves deeper into the lore, but even if they are not, that’s okay. The best stories leave just a few unanswered bits which fans for years to come can debate. It keeps the stories alive. And that is one thing I do hope for Dark Souls.
To be clear, I’m not hoping for another installment. I do believe we have seen the last of Dark Souls, despite creator Hidetaka Miyazaki’s statements that he’s open to possible new installments in the future. In fact, I really hope there is not one. But most games seem to have a shelf life (much more so than films, and certainly more so than books), and somehow I hope Dark Souls doesn’t–that new players can be brought in and the games can be studied and written about for years to come. I’m honestly in small or large group (which I’m not certain) that believe video games (the really good ones) deserve the same merits and status as classic books and films–though that’s difficult to achieve with a still fairly new medium and one that relies on ever-changing technologies.
If there is a series that deserves that status, Dark Souls stands out as an achievement in gaming second to none. It’s not perfect (nothing ever is), but the games gave players a unique experience–one which I’ve been writing about for weeks. Indeed as many Soulsborne fans say, the experience was so rich I’m uncertain if I’ll be able to enjoy a non-Souls game again.
I will say, despite Dark Souls being complete, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the Soulsborne formula. From Software will likely create more games of this type. After all, there was Demon’s Souls before Dark Souls and Bloodborne in the mix. And there are other companies already attempting to recreate the experience of Dark Souls with games like Nioh, Salt and Sanctuary and the forthcoming Eitr. It could be an exciting time for gaming. But Dark Souls really had everything I wanted: its dark fantasy setting, its dark and depressing narrative, its intelligent and inspiring design, its challenge and the focus needed to complete it.
Thankfully, there’s still a little more I have to do in Dark Souls III before I’m done with it, but after that I suppose I’ll just have to let the dust (or in this case, ash) settle before I delve into another game. So thank you From Software and thank you Hidetaka Miyazaki. It’s been a wonderful experience.