Souls games – Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls specifically – are all spiritual successors of one another, but what if it doesn’t stop there?
I’m well aware there are similarities because they were designed as such and developers often love to put easter eggs in their games, but what fun is that? Today I’d like to illustrate how Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls are actually direct sequels.
Needless to say, there are major spoilers for a bunch of Souls games ahead.
Demon’s Souls’ bad ending leads directly to Dark Souls.
In the bad ending of Demon’s Souls, you choose to kill the Maiden in Black before she can return the Old One to his slumber. In doing so, you’ve doomed the entirety of the world to being enveloped by the Deep Fog. The colorless mist pours forth from Boletaria and engulfs the remaining world, allowing the demons to reap all souls and return them to the Old One.
The opening of Dark Souls reveals that the history of its world begins with a vast expanse covered in grey fog and trees. Humanoids arise when the First Flame comes into being, shuffling about like mindless zombies until finding the Souls of Lords among the flames. These lord souls give them new forms, wisdom and power to the point that they can overthrow the eternal dragons and create their own society, basically beginning the second chapter of Souls games.
Where exactly did those souls come from and what exactly is the First Flame you may ask? That’s simple.
The Old One is the source of the First Flame.
The Old One is a giant demon whose body consists of gnarled branches and dried twigs, so basically it’s a tree demon. King Allant claims that its purpose is to collect and house all the souls of the world. The Old One is located beneath the Nexus of Souls and is surrounded by death and ruins.
In the Dark Souls opening, we see that the First Flame was located underground, beneath a massive tree. From within this fire all of the world’s souls were found, by the aforementioned mindless zombies. Souls gave these creatures their abilities and knowledge, they weren’t created with them. Knowledge of weapon, armor, magic, kings, etc were already in existence before the recorded history of Dark Souls began, preserved in the found souls.
We learned in Demon’s Souls that souls could grant wisdom and knowledge, and if the bad end came to pass, all of the world’s souls would be stored in one place. Inside of a giant, extremely flammable creature. Given the nature of souls, which produce heat and warmth, it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine that over time they could cause a desiccated tree to combust, creating the First Flame.
This logically explains the origins of the First Flame, why the souls were found within it, and why the beings that found the souls were granted instantaneous knowledge of magic and technology. It even explains where these ghoulish undead creatures came from, the dead surrounding the Old One’s resting place. The beginning of Dark Souls wasn’t the beginning of the world, it was the second beginning of recorded history.
Time, place, and circumstance fit neatly, so is there anything else that ties them together? Of course there is.
The Magic in both games share hidden similarities.
In both games, all magic comes directly from the soul, which is why it is called by the title of Soul Arts by some. Characters from both Souls games also believe that there are several distinct forms of magic, but item descriptions in the games themselves suggest otherwise.
Let’s begin with Demon’s Souls. Here there are two forms of magic: Sorcery and Miracles. The clerics worship their god and believe that Miracles come from Faith, opposing sorcery and those who practice it. The sorcerers do not believe in the clerics’ god, instead turning to the knowledge of the soul itself and their Intelligence to increase their power.
Eventually, it is revealed that the god the clerics worshiped was actually the being known as the Old One all along. The Talisman of Beasts shows us as much, and it allows for Faith based spells to be improved by Intelligence and vice versa, further illustrating that there’s no functional difference between the magics. They all arise from the soul, with Faith and Intelligence themselves arising from empowering one’s soul. The distinctions are arbitrary and created by ignorant humans based on their own preferences.
This same trait of magic is alluded to in Dark Souls. The Velka’s Talisman allows one to cast Miracles that are powered by the Intelligence stat. This again shows that magics aren’t distinct, all of them come from a single source, the soul, with traits arbitrarily assigned by the practitioners.
“But Dark Souls has a completely separate branch of magic called Pyromancy, so there is a difference,” you might say. In Demon’s Souls fire based magic is just another sorcery, but in Dark Souls it is given a distinction as a magical class all its own: Pyromancy. While this may seem like it shows the magics in both worlds are in fact slightly different, it’s a claim entirely based on ignorance.
By examining the Izalith Catalyst, we learn that Pyromancy was once simple flame sorcery, but that knowledge faded with the loss of Izalith when the Witches of Izalith inadvertently created the Bed of Chaos. The fact that the experts on Pyromancy created a massive disaster, directly through the misuse of their craft, makes it easy to see why people would avoid the fire sorceries and shun those who still practiced such arts.
Humans can become demons in both games.
Souls are a source of knowledge and power as is common knowledge for any fan of the series. An immediate and game play altering example of souls translating to power comes from the Ornstein and Smough fight. When one of these enemies falls in battle, the other claims his souls and immediately transforms, increasing in size and power. The interesting bit is that each has his own special cutscene for how he acquires said souls.
If the desire for something becomes great enough, humans can become demons through the power of souls. This is a driving factor in the Demon’s Souls story. Several of the bosses were once humans that had strong desires, not all bad either, and they became demons as a result. Old Monk, King Allant, Astrea (as a rare well-meaning example), and even your character in the bad ending all become demons.
In Dark Souls, The Witch of Izalith and most of her children become a demons after trying to overstep their limits and using their souls to reignite the First Flame. There’s also the Covetous Demon of Dark Souls 2, who was clearly human once upon a time. These are just more connections between elements of both stories.
Demons themselves are another tie between the Old One and the First Flame.
The Old One, the Bed of Chaos. and the First Sin
The Old One brought demons when summoned in Demon’s Souls. They essentially served as burrowing retrievers that, in the bad ending, would eventually claim every soul in the world and bring them to the Old One. This gives us a simple explanation of the origins of the demons that plagued Boletaria and destroyed the world.
This would lead to the loss of all recorded history and the beginning of Dark Souls when the Old One completed his task and was immolated by souls within his tinderbox body. The mindless Undead were then drawn to the, now freed, souls in the flames. None of this really calls for too much stretching.
When the Age of Fire began to fade, the Witch of Izalith tried to recreate the flame and mistakenly created the chaos flame that birthed demons into the world once more, herself becoming the Bed of Chaos. This is written plainly in the games themselves. Look deeper though, at what might have been revived by mistake.
Out of fear King Allant woke the Old One and eventually claimed it would free all from suffering, by removing their souls and making them mindless husks that were incapable of perceiving the concept of suffering. To this end the Old One released said demons, so on and so forth, but look at the Bed of Chaos. It’s the creature that awakened when old fools that were afraid of the Dark tried to reignite their precious flame.
The Bed of Chaos is the source of demons in Dark Souls. It was created, or awoken, by a fearful leader’s actions. And get this: it takes the form of a giant burning tree monster. That sounds really familiar.
This is my theory: When trying to recreate the First Flame, the Witches of Izalith resurrected the Old One whose body was the fuel for said flame. Perceiving that it had been summoned to end fear once again, it brought forth demons in an effort to steal souls once more. This chain of events would come to be known as the First Sin.
The Bed of Chaos is defeated by a Chosen Undead, but it clearly persists as the Old Chaos rears its head in the Crown of the Ivory King DLC within Dark Souls 2. This may be a result of the Lost Sinner’s attempt to reignite the Flame again bringing about the Old One’s will, the Curse of the Undead, once more.
Notice how the two closest beings to the First Sin, the Witch of Izalith and Aldia (pictured above), are both flaming freaking tree demons? Yeah, I really just wanted to hammer that home. By peering into the soul, Aldia would learn the maddening truth about life being just an endless cycle of desire and suffering. When he tried to cast off the yoke of this great lie and the suffering it brought with it, he took the form of a giant burning tree monster.
What is the curse?
Since Dark Souls came out, players have wanted to know what the curse is, and everyone tries to explain it in their own way. You can chalk my theory up as another one too, except mine’s right because it’s mine and it makes sense, and I said so.
First, you need to ask yourself three questions: What is the real curse? When did the Curse of the Undead come about? What is its function?
The Old One’s stated purpose is reminiscent of Buddhism, in a twisted sense, as its main enemies are the desires of life that cause suffering. While its methods may be suspect in the eyes of mere mortals, the end is absolute: those who go mad or hollow no longer have the faculties to understand suffering. In this sense, he frees the soulless from the curse of life. King Allant and the Crestfallen NPCs echo this point, sharing the belief that going soulless or becoming hollow would solve all their problems. This train of thought seems to lead to cross-talk between the curse of life and the phenomenon known by mortals as the Curse of the Undead.
If the Old One – a god like being of seemingly limitless, reality-warping power – was summoned to end the suffering of life, the Undead Curse would be its greatest tool as it turns fear into a weapon to achieve those very ends. Those marked as Undead are unstoppable creatures that relentlessly pursue souls. In their fear of hollowing they collect great quantities of souls, bringing them all together in one vessel.
The Chosen Undead kills all of those who possess incredibly powerful souls and adds them to his own in order to become more powerful and escape the hollowing process. He or she is bringing relief to those suffering through the end of an Age of Fire and concentrating souls in one area. While this is happening, a powerful force is contorting time and reality around Lordran, similar to Boletaria before it. This means there are an unlimited number of Chosen Undead, opening infinite possibilities and ensuring that the Old One’s goal is achieved if it simply waits long enough. Inevitably there will be a Chosen Undead that becomes a Lord of Dark and manages to collect and embody all souls in one vessel.
It may sound cheap to use time and reality warping shenanigans as part of my theory, but time being convoluted in Boletaria and Lordran is an expressly stated fact and Lovecraftian horrors often use such means to secure their desired ends. That’s a discussion for Part 2 though where we explain the absence of Souls in Bloodborne and how the Old One is actually one of the Great Ones.
So do you think I’m full of it, or are you a believer? Sound off in the comment section below, as discussion on Souls lore often leads to new revelations.