When Dark Souls came out I instantly loved it. The deliberate movement, the bleak world and the feeling that you are just a small gnat in the machine. A gnat that for some reason, mostly perseverance and bullheaded stubbornness manages to kill the old gods. I remember liking the music in the game, the graphics and environments, but the one thing that stood out to me was the worldbuilding and storytelling.
For a lot of people Dark Souls is the brutally hard game with no story. You are just going from place to place, killing monsters and undead. The way the story is told is, in my opinion, brilliant. The hidden depths of it, the uncertainty there is about many aspects of the history of the world and its champions. It all makes sense in the context of the game. You are one of many who tries to kindle the flame that keeps the world moving. Or something, who knows what the flame does. Maybe it is better if it is put out? In any case, with the flame dying, time and space is also breaking apart. You meet people who have been long dead in places that no longer exist. Or exist, just not where it is now. No wonder history is breaking apart.
Dark Souls 2 just expanded on this lore, but not in the way a lot of us had hoped for. The Dark was more the focus, and the way you link the flame at the end is so different from the first game. But by now we know for sure that the fading of the flame is cyclical. It has happened before, and it will happen again. It is likely that the boss in the first game, Gwyn, was the first one who tried to link the fire, starting it anew. Your player character in that first game was the second. How many times the fire has faded and flared up again between the two first games is completely unknown.
Which brings me to the third and final game in the series, Dark Souls 3. They said it would be the final one, and so things would have to be clarified, put to rest. In that regard not much has. The lore is as difficult to parse as the first two, more questions are asked than answered, and even long standing mysteries that are explained leads to more questions.
But even so the game has this feel about it. It feels like the end.
Every boss, even the beasts just standing in your way, has a theme-song playing in the background that has seared itself into my head. The music in the game is my favorite aspect of it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s perfect in every way.
Now I come to why I love the last boss of this game so much. I managed to keep almost everything spoiler-free when I played the game, and everything about the ending was thankfully not spoiled at all.
While the arena of the fight is fantastical and pretty damn awesome, the boss in itself was, at first, a letdown. Just a guy in armor, with a sword. It just didn’t fit with the “epic last boss of a great trilogy”. Then the fight changed as the boss transformed his weapon. He did so again. It started dawning on me by the third kind weapon change that I was fighting myself. Myself from the first game, where I linked the fire with a mage. The second game where I linked the fire with a katana-wielding dexterity build. Fighting the final boss is fighting everyone who has ever linked the fire, every player character.
After several attempts I got the boss healthbar down to zero. I was expecting something, as almost every boss has two forms in this game. That first time I got to the second form I died because of three notes on the piano. Everyone who has beaten Dark Souls will most likely remember it vaguely, everyone who has beaten it several times will have it seared into their souls. I recognized it instantly before I got killed by a familiar move. Gwyn was back.
Maybe it’s my highly sensitive nature that does it, but I just loved that. Making you first fight yourself, then fight the one who made the World of Man possible. Again. After he sacrificed himself to keep the fire burning the first time. Pieces of his soul is still there, doing its work to… stop you from doing the same mistake he did? Test your worth? Who knows.
Anyway, I find the fact that From Software only had to play three notes on the piano to elicit such a response to show how well they have made their lore. At least in my case. It is a fitting end to a grand series. It turned a slightly underwhelming last boss into something special, something I will remember for a long time.