Once upon a time in a land called Dark souls, everything was dark and covered with fog. Oh yeah, there were also a ton of Immortal dragons. Then somebody started lighting things on fire and suddenly people were able to understand the difference between light and dark. Then Four people found these ultra powerful souls in the flames and and became like those immortal dragons. And of course when two groups of ultra powerful people come together the most obvious thing to do is fight to see who is better. One of the dragons betrayed the other dragons which lead the other guys to be victorious and thus begun the age of fire. Unfortunately as all fires exist, so are they destined to fade. This is the plot of dark souls (mostly) In which your character is usually trying to keep that fire alive and for whatever reason you have to fight a gigantic tree in order to do so effectively. SPOILER ALERT: This is ultimately a suicide mission and your character dies when the fire is rekindled. But hey, the gods get to keep existing and fire continues to exist so aint that something?
It’s no secret That Dark Souls has some of the most subtle ways of storytelling. A first playthrough is usually done with the player not having a single clue of what’s going on other than some vague goal of “go here and ring these bells,” or “light all these fires and save us from our own stupidity.” No when it comes to world building and lore dark souls tears that to pieces and scatters it everywhere like a kid who has been given a bag of sugar and childlike curiosity of the inner workings of confetti. That’s not to say that the story isn’t there. That would be like saying that Samus isn’t in Federation Force just because she isn’t the main character, no the story is all around you in a Dark Souls game you just have to find it.
That’s what I love best about the Dark Souls series, it’s not the level design, or the feeling of when you finally beat a boss and have that immense rush of pleasure of knowing that you have finally bested that “spider” that is just a giant centipede masquerading itself as one, or the giant armoured douchebag who keeps pursuing me everywhere, or the teleporting “sage” that keeps blasting my ass with sweet spiky crystals. It’s none of those feelings at all even if I have gotten immense pleasure.
It’s the fact that Dark Souls gives you as much story as you want and need it to. Do you just want to run around and beat ridiculously huge monsters and get your ass handed to you constantly?
The story is hidden throughout the level design and item descriptions that aren’t particularly straightforward. Theories and images fly around only being led by a single item description and the words written there. Any dark souls theorist worth their salt knows that they have to have something in game to back up any sort of theory that they wish to present, but anything can immediately be overturned with future games down the line. Gwyn's firstborn is a classic example that was later disproved when Dark Souls 3 came out.
Subtle worldbuilding isn’t always easy, and Dark souls manages to do some of the best I’ve ever seen in my twenty some odd years of gaming. While I am still yet a baby in terms of understanding the story going on in the games I’ve gotten a rough idea from the countless hours I’ve spent playing the games throughout the years.
Dark Souls isn't always straightforward, and it isn't always easy to see, but it's damn satisfying. From the way it subtley builds a story around you without you noticing to it's unforgiving gameplay that breeds a feeling of satisfaction when success is finally reached.
If you ever want a game that gives just as much story as the amount of effort you put in; try out Dark Souls. Now when you do, just remember: