The Souls Retrospective – Part II – The First Flame

The Souls Retrospective – Part II – The First Flame


A year and a half
after Demonís Souls released in Japan, a new game by From Software was revealed
during Sony’s press conference at the 2010 Tokyo Game Show. Simply titled Project Dark, the trailer
was initially met with little fanfare, but showed an armor-clad warrior
battling several demons demons and a group of adventurers
gathered around a bonfire, ending with a look
at the hollowed warriorís face. The initial Project Dark website pointed
to Namco Bandai as the gameís publisher, who had previously released
Demonís Souls in Europe. The platforms listed
were PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. In February 2011, Japanese magazine Famitsu unveiled Project Darkís
official title: Dark Souls, along with itís director: Hidetaka Miyazaki. THE DARK SOULS RETROSPECTIVE PART II
THE FIRST FLAME Days later, Namco Bandai
gathered press from around the world to show their next lineup of titles,
including a deeper look at Dark Souls and access to developers with From Software. In an interview with PlayStation Blog, Miyazaki stated ìDark Souls is not a sequel
to Demonís Souls by any means. However, itís created
by the same producers and director so the ideologies, concepts, and themes
have carried over and are similar. Itís a totally new game
with similar concepts.” Of course, a practical reason
the game isnít a sequel to Demonís Souls is the fact that Sony
owns the Demonís Souls IP. Working with Namco Bandai, From Software distanced themselves
from the earlier game, bringing in new revenue opportunities
from appearing on multiple platforms. In a documentary trailer
called Dark Souls: Behind the Game, Namco Bandai Producer Kei Hirono stated ìThere are three concepts or themes
we put into the seamless world for players as they discover
the Dark Souls universe. First is the high fantasy
of Kings and Knights. The environments are based on this theme. Second is Death and Darkness.
This is another important theme. Last is Purgatory and Flames. These are the three main themes
that envelop the entire world and lie beneath the creation stages
in the game.î Despite the notorious difficulty
of Demonís Souls there was no intention
to make Dark Souls any easier to handle. Miyazaki and his team
actually wanted to sharpen the challenge but not by simply increasing how much damage any enemy could inflict upon the player. Instead they wanted
to create the freedom to strategize and conquer obstacles creatively. Moving away from the more stage-like
structure found in Demonís Souls, Miyazaki wanted areas in Dark Souls
to be seamlessly connected, letting players discover
the extensive world freely and providing ways
to reach far off locations. Dark Souls was released in the fall of 2011,
coming first to Japan on September 22, followed by North America
and other territories in October. Just a year after the initial tease, players would come face to face
with whatever nightmares Miyazakiís team had dreamed up. In the age of ancients,
everlasting dragons ruled the land which was covered
by grey crags, arch trees, and fog. Then there was fire. From the dark, beings came forth and found the Souls of Lords
within the First Flame. These souls were claimed
by Nito, first of the dead; the Witch of Izalith
and her daughters of chaos; Gwyn, the lord of sunlight and his knights; and the furtive pygmy,
who was so easily forgotten. With the power of the Lord Souls,
they challenged the dragons and defeated them with the help
of Seath the Scaleless, a dragon who betrayed his own. Then the dragons were no more. Thus began the Age of Fire
when the gods ruled. Eventually the First Flame began to fade. The gods attempted
to recreate it but failed, instead producing a wild flame
that spewed demons. Gwyn and his knights battled the demons
but were unable to stop them. With the light fading, Gwyn decided
to sacrifice himself to kindle the First Flame
and extend the Age of Fire. At some point, a curse began to spread,
causing beings to become undead. This curse was recognizable
by the Dark Sign, a black circle that binds to flesh. The gods feared the Undead, so they hunted and locked them away
where they would rot forever. The game begins with the playerís character
imprisoned in the Undead Asylum, soon freed by a lone knight
who is later found dying. In his last moments, the knight recounts
the Legend of The Chosen Undead: one from the Asylum must make pilgrimage
to the land of ancient lords and ring the Bell of Awakening
to learn the fate of the Undead. He asks you to carry out this task and, before dying,
hands over an Estus Flask, the main source of healing in Dark Souls. Unlike Demonís Souls, which lets you carry
a high amount of healing grass, you start with a limit of only 10 charges
on your Estus Flask, a design choice to keep players
from stocking up on healing items. This change also makes healing magic
feel much more valuable than in Demonís Souls. Eventually you can unlock
more charges for the flask, and its effectiveness can be enhanced
by obtaining Fire Keeper Souls, a rare and often costly commodity. After facing off against the Asylum Demon, the player is carried to the land
of ancient lords, Lordran. Here bonfires are properly introduced.
A bonfire serves many purposes. Besides being the best way
to refill your Estus Flask, itís also where you can store equipment,
attune magic, reverse hollowing, and most importantly,
level up your character. Unlike Demonís Souls
where you need to return to the Nexus and speak to several characters, all of this
is done quickly and efficiently at bonfires. Theyíre spread throughout Lordran,
acting as checkpoints and providing a welcome rest
from the gameís uncertain dangers When killed, the player resurrects
at the last bonfire visited. However, most enemies also return, except for bosses
and other special encounters. Like its predecessor,
Dark Souls is unapologetic about its challenging difficulty. Enemies are brutal,
punishing their victimsí mistakes, and locations are often diabolical
in their design. No area makes this more apparent
than Senís Fortress. Itís a madhouse filled with a succession
of nasty traps and troublesome enemies. There are several long narrow bridges
to cross while dodging swinging pendulums. Pressurised plates trigger bolts
to shoot from the walls, and giant boulders crush all in their path. Itís here that many
have their first encounter with a mimic. These monsters that disguise themselves
as treasure chests are an RPG staple, but their depiction in Dark Souls
is especially gruesome, and often devastating
to unsuspecting players. Bosses are even more challenging
and mesmerizing compared to their Demonís Souls kin. Though there are some annoying examples
like The Bed of Chaos, the game is full of great
and truly engaging encounters. None is perhaps more challenging
and memorable than fighting the boss pair
of Ornstein and Smough. They arrive at a point
when most bosses are manageable with focus and a little patience. In this instance, the player is forced to face the hyper aggressive duo
at the same time. After one is defeated, the other absorbs
their soul and grows even stronger. Although itís a brutal fight,
defeating Ornstein and Smough provides a huge sense of accomplishment
and feels like a proper rite of passage. Much of Dark Souls
is about the curse of the undead and how the world copes with it. Itís a tragic fate that From Software
manages to craft directly into the gameplay. Similar to Body and Soul forms
in Demonís Souls, there are two states for the player,
Human and Undead. Hollowed eyes and wrinkled flesh
are just a few effects of being undead, but itís not strictly limited to aesthetics. When undead, you can team up
with other players by being summoned into their world
to assist them, or invade to harvest
their souls and humanity. To become human, you must use
a humanity sprite to reverse the hollowing and bring life back to your face. While in human form, youíre able to summon
other players into your world to help you defeat bosses
or take on other enemies. However, other players and NPCs
can also invade your world to take souls or humanity for themselves. Dark Souls shares much
of Demonís Soulsí online DNA. However, new to Dark Souls
are the covenants. After swearing an oath to a covenant,
you carry out different tasks to gain favor and earn rare rewards. The Warrior of Sunlight covenant rewards you
for teaming up with other players. Meanwhile, the Forest Hunters
defend the forest from those who wish
to defile their sacred grounds, appearing in the games of any outsider
who stumbles across their borders. Unlike in Demonís Souls
where you returned to the Nexus to access disconnected levels, Dark Souls opens up its environments
in a singular world that twists and turns upon itself
in surprising ways. Areas are connected
through multiple paths and shortcuts. Roughly half of the bosses
are completely optional. You can reach The Depths after facing
the Capra Demon in the lower Undead Parish or you can head to Darkroot Basin
through a shortcut in a tower. The more open nature
also enhances the scope of the game. While making your way through Lordran,
you often see far off locations like the high walls of Anor Londo. They may seem like distant
set dressing at first, but when you eventually reach them, it really feels like youíve covered
substantial ground on your journey. Eventually you unlock the ability
to warp between most of the bonfires, but this is after a good chunk
of the world has been explored. Dark Souls is certainly a very obtuse game and it does a great job of not feeding
the player too much information. Though it can seem
like it isnít explicit enough at times it rewards those who are willing
to go the extra mile, and in some cases
hides significant new areas. The Painted World of Ariamis for example, requires several steps
and a specific item to reach, bringing players to a snow-covered ruin
filled with horrifying beings. Likewise, Ash Lake lies deep underground,
surrounded by gigantic arch trees. Itís home
to the Path of the Dragon covenant, but the only way to get there is to strike
a specific wall to reveal a hidden path. Characters are equally difficult to discern. While some are up front about their motives
like Big Hat Logan, many hide more sinister intentions. This is most apparent
with Knight Lautrec of Carim, who is locked away in a cell
in the Undead Parish. If freed, he will thank you
and promise a reward for later. This may seem fine at the time,
but Lautrecís true intention is to kill the Fire Keeper
at Firelink Shrine, Anastacia, which renders one of the most convenient
bonfires in the game useless. Another character, Petrus, posing as a man
of faith, is actually a heartless killer, abandoning Reah of Thorolund whom heís supposed to protect
in the Tomb of Giants. Since NPCs in most games
are either benign or bestow rewards, these characters subvert expectations, taking advantage of the gullibility
of good-natured adventurers. Even familiar faces like Patches
are still up to their old tricks. After defeating Ornstein and Smough,
the player receives the Lordvessel from an illusion of Lord Gwynís
daughter Gwynevere. She instructs the Chosen Undead
to succeed her father and inherit the fire of the world. In order to accomplish this task,
the player must gather four powerful souls in order to reach the Kiln
of the First Flame. These great souls are held
by powerful beings throughout Lordran. One belongs to the Bed of Chaos,
deep below the earth in the ruined and ancient city
of Lost Izalith. Seath the Scaleless holds another,
in the Dukeís Archives, an enormous library filled
with many terrifying experiments, crystal caves, and ancient secrets. One lies with Gravelord Nito
in the Tomb of the Giants, filled with massive skeletons and dark arts. And the final soul is held by the Four Kings
in the haunted New Londo Ruins, flooded in order to seal them and their Dark Wraiths away
from the rest of the world. After defeating all the lords
and collecting their souls, the Chosen Undead
opens the Kiln to the First Flame. Here, the player faces off against the gameís
final challenge, Lord Gwyn. After the battle,
the player is given a choice: link the flame and continue the age of fire
as instructed by the gods or let the flame fade, ushering in an age
of darkness and becoming the Dark Lord. Dark Souls sold 1.19 million units in the United States
and Europe by March 2012, and by 2015, it had sold
more than 5 million units worldwide. It received high praise from players
and critics alike, winning several awards. Michael McWhertor of Kotaku stated ìDark Souls is likely to be
the most difficult and demanding game youíll play this year,
but itís also one of the best.î The ambiguity and challenge of the game also sparked one of the most passionate
game communities thanks to the help of Youtubers
like Epic Name Bro, VaatiVidya and several others. After the game was released, players rallied support
in hopes of a PC version, many communicating
in the form of an online petition that gained over 93,000 signatures. Namco Bandai administrator,
Tony Shoupinou responded saying that a PC version
of Dark Souls was possible, and on April 7th, 2012 it was confirmed
via PC Action magazine. On August 24th of that year, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
was released for the PC, including brand new content. It eventually came to PS3
and Xbox 360 in October, in regions outside of North America. Console players
could purchase the new content as a separate download
titled Artorias of the Abyss. Unfortunately the PC version
was poorly optimized. In a 2012 interview with Eurogamer,
Producer Daisuke Uchiyama stated ìTo be completely honest,
weíre having a tough time doing it due to our lack of experience
and knowledge in terms of porting to PC. First we thought it would be a breeze,
but itís turned out not to be the case.î He also talked about the performance
of the port saying ìIn terms of the PC version,
the quick answer is no, [we wonít be fixing
the frame rate problems]. Because we wanted to get the PC version out
as soon as possible, itís more strictly a port
from the console version. We havenít been able to step up into doing
any specific optimisation for PC.î This upset fans but, thankfully,
the mod community stepped in and solved many of the portís issues. Artorias of the Abyss, the new content
released alongside the PC version, takes players back in time
to the ancient land of Oolacile. Like much of Dark Souls, some information
is given to set the scene, but a great deal of the story
is left intentionally obscure. Tempted by a dark serpent, the citizens of Oolacile upturned the grave
of primeval man and drove it mad. This being is also known
as Manus, father of the Abyss. In his rage, Manus caused the Abyss
to spread throughout Oolacile, taking over the city
and threatening all of the land. Knight Artorias, one of Gwynís four knights,
and his wolf companion Sif came to stop the spread of the Abyss. Despite their efforts, they failed
and Artorias succumbed to the dark. Artorias of the Abyss is an excellent
companion piece to the original game. It tells an emotional and meaningful story
filled with themes like desire, fear, and tragedy. It expands upon the mythos of the world while remaining intimate
and self-contained in its execution. The locations visited give
an odd sense of tranquility and treachery that have lasting effects
on the player. Characters like Hawkeye Gough
and Marvelous Chester challenge the philosophy
and merit of the player with their enthralling dialogue
and mysterious motives. Along with several new hideouts
and chilling enemies, it features some of the most memorable
boss encounters in the entire series. Dark Souls changed video games. It took what made Demonís Souls
so successful and expanded upon its foundation in a way that had a deeper impact
across the industry. At a time when many developers
were looking for new ways to provide assistance for players
to complete games more easily, Dark Souls put up barriers
and punished players until they figured out how to pass them. Itís a threatening world
full of secrets to discover, and it constantly keeps you on guard, while still allowing you to forge
your own path and overcome its obstacles. Thanks to its multiplatform release
and a far stronger marketing push, millions of new people
were able to experience this trend in action-role-playing design, and Miyazakiís philosophy of challenging,
yet rewarding gameplay. With its considerable success, it became clear that Dark Souls
would be more than a singular project. From Software and Bandai Namco
would soon team up once again. Only this time,
Miyazaki would not be at the helm. The Souls Retrospective is made possible
by the support of our generous patrons. To learn more about Easy Allies
and how you can get involved, head to patreon.com/easyallies. Any amount will help us to produce
more retrospectives and further our goals. You can also follow @easyallies on Twitter for the latest updates
on when to expect Part 3.

100 thoughts on “The Souls Retrospective – Part II – The First Flame

  1. I’ve played 3 of the 5 “souls” games, I don’t remember any of the story. I honestly forgot there were stories while playing. I’m glad I got this to catch me up on it.

  2. Are these retrospectives going to mention the terribad UI, trial-and-error gameplay, and awkward, clunky movement (which would be forgivable if the game weren't chock full of narrow platforms and jumping)? I wish one of the allies leveled genuine criticisms for the game other than mouth animations (which is actually indicative of the overall lack of QA in those games). They really are great and unique games, but Dark Souls exists in an echo chamber of praise it doesn't deserve with the Easy Allies.

  3. That whole video i was trying to think about a franchise where the first one was the best ? Sure the dark souls series is kinda cheating because demon souls was basically the first one but its not in the dark souls franchise :/ maybe dragon age

  4. I remember being skeptical about Dark Souls when I first played it. But then, when activating the elevator shortcut in the Undead Parish and realizing I was back in Firelink Shrine, I was hooked. It was such a cool feeling.

  5. I'm so glad you guys brought retrospectives back to the new channel. Your Final Fantasy retrospective at GameTrailers is what hooked me in the first place, and it's what made you guys my go-to for video game reviews and news. Every penny of my monthly pledge feels worth it right now. Thanks, EZA!

  6. It took me over 50 tries to finally down O&S. It's the only time I've danced a jig after any accomplishment in a video game.

    Fantastic video. It brought back so many memories of this, my favourite game of all time.

  7. Absolute masterpiece of a game. Would kill for a 1080/60 remaster! Hell.. even a rock solid 30 wouldn’t be bad! (Looking at you Blighttown!)

  8. I don't get the praise for this series. To me, it looks like a copy and paste Sonic Adventure clone. Like, what's different about it? The only difference I can spot is that the protagonist isn't blue. Besides that it's identical. Way to copy Dreamcast era Sega, From Soft, pretty fuckin lazy. Come up with an original idea at least once!

  9. I need to be brutally honest, this isn't one of your best videos. The writing was all over the place and for anyone that's played the game, there was hardly any interesting information here.

  10. I started with Dark Souls and man, didn't think i would go so in depth with a game, did everything there was to be done on this one.

  11. "the high-fantasy of Knights and Kings" – Jones. Bro Knights and Kings really existed, they aren't fantasy, they are European history. There are like 4 castles in my home town, we're not lying about it over here.

  12. I really think that PC version was still better than the console versions without any mods. It did perform better, but it wasn't great, no. But definitely better with the mods.

  13. For those of you reading who are enjoying the music from the games in these videos do yourself a favor and check out this amazing remix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOWxjBrrPvY&ytbChannel=Alex%20Roe

  14. Peak of the series in terms of its world. And then people complained about dying over and over at the catacombs, lack of warping and it's obtuse secrets and the series was never the same again in terms of world and level design.

  15. Dark Souls was such an important game for me. It changed how I think about all other video games. Truly one of the greats.

  16. So are after you cover all the games will you look at the possible connections between the 3 different universes? Like with the Zelda Retrospective timeline?

  17. gotta say guys this is pretty light on info for a Retrospective…take LobosJr's attempts…they go into the development issues and how the world was designed and built…I'd recommend taking a look at his before your next installment as this is more a kin to someone saying "I love Dark Souls and this is why…." A retrospective should reflect on the game and how it played…the design choices…dev issues…new mechanics…the story and characters and how you interact with them all…in detail…and it would mean a lot more coming from Brad himself rather than the sugar coated voice of brandon jones…you guys do realise that by using his voice it kinda detracts from your personal point of view…and all of your videos sound the same…same delivery…same pauses…same this…same that…comfy comfy….

  18. I invested so much time into fight clubs and the PvP community as well as playing through the PvE in this game with people i didn't even know through the simple but effective gestures and the occasional private message through xbox live. I almost exclusively played just this game for 3 years straight and learned something new every time i logged on and talked with or played with someone. The community thanks to the Youtuber's you described and also Martyr's Brigade in the PvP side of things, and Fextralife in her website on lore and all things Dark Souls really was an all encompassing experience for me for years. Dark Souls fight clubs helped me find twitch.tv even. I knew the in game names of every Dark Souls great PvP player, we all knew each other and many of them still talk to each other on discord and play games together to this day outside of the souls series. People didn't even reach the skill cap of PvP in the game for years!! There is so much depth to the combat! I'm so glad Dark Souls was successful, it deserves it 100% and i've been playing video games since the SNES and i don't think i'll ever have such a rewarding experience in a game as well as in a community built around it as i did with Dark Souls. Here's to hoping i get even a taste of that same love in the years to come with Miyazaki and his team. Day one purchase on anything his brilliant mind comes up with next.

  19. Thank you Allies, this has to be one of the best videos I've ever seen
    Dark Souls is my favorite game, still to this day I cherish it and miss it at the same time

  20. At 8:42 is that actually true? I thought you can only invade and be summoned in human mode. I always play offline so I am not sure myself

  21. Side note: Sen's Fortress was one of the easier locations for me for some reason. Way more trouble in New Londo Ruins

  22. Awesome video Brandon. I've missed you from GameTrailers. Glad I stumbled across this video.

    Awesome video. Makes me want to play DS again.

  23. Man, what a return to form! This takes me back to the gametrailers retrospectives I'd watch as a kid, but now I can appreciate your efforts even further now that I'm older, this time for a game series that has me re-evaluate what I truly love about games. You guys are still the best in the business, it makes me proud how far Easy Allies has come. Keep up the great work 🙂

  24. This is so god damn amazing missed the good ol Gametrailers days and to find this channel and these videos… fuck man this made my day;D

  25. Understandably, there are some complaints about breadth of content covered in this video however tge content produced by EasyAllies like GameTrailers before it is meant to be more straightforward and informative for those newer to these series or gaming in general.

    VaatiVidya, Sunlight Bro, EpicNameBro, Super Bunny Hop and a whole host of other channels have available for thise of us who enjoy a closer look at the games we love.

  26. Vaatividya has been caught plagiarizing small content creators on YouTube and Reddit to make himself famous on YouTube. I don't understand why people continue to support that fraud considering everything he's been CAUGHT doing.

    To even mention that fraud and enb in the same sentence and insinuate both have equally contributed to the growth in popularity in the souls franchise is absurd!

    ENB has been preaching about the souls franchise since the original Japanese release of Demon's Souls. He is credited with making significant lore discoveries about the souls franchise, has met Miyazaki in person and has even worked on a couple of Souls games! Vaatividya is just a guy taking the content enb and others have discovered through the years and puts his own VA over it.

  27. the voice ohhhh how i have missed it so. everything involving games has just been confusion and haziness. no bull over the years i used gt videos to go to sleep. granted i could've kept watching old videos but it just never felt right. i didn't even know you guys started making videos again. awesome

  28. As a gamer with more than 18 years of experience, I can easily state that in my opinion Dark Souls is the best game ever created. No other game granted me with such emotions and so deep immersion in its world, exploration, and combat. A unique masterpiece which proves that games are truly an art form.

  29. One of the things that make this game stand out in today's market is that its structure and tone are remeniscent of the old Resident Evil formula. In both games you're in this semi closed area that stsrts off simple and linear but opens up with interconnecting passages and shortcuts as you find keys to unlock doors and make general progress. Much like in Resident Evil where you stocked up on supplies and creeped through the mansion towards the next safe room, here you do the same with bonfires. Both treat enemy encounters the same way in that even the weakest zombie is a threat if you don't pay attention. Both handle death similarly: you lose a lot of progress so it's something to be avoided at all costs. Boss design and environmental storytelling are similar in design, too. Only in Resident Evil you uncover past events through diary entries, in Dark Souls it is via item descriptions. Those are just some of the comparisions that struck me the most, there might be more.

  30. I still say Demons Souls was the best in the series, it was just so different and new from anything made at the time

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