Author: Liam Riker
Over the course of the past several months, I’ve clocked in over 150 hours on the critically acclaimed ARPG Dark Souls 3. The game has quickly become an obsession of mine, probably an unhealthy one at that, and I can now confidently say that I’m a Dark Souls fan. There’s only one problem…I had never played a single “Souls” game before Dark Souls 3. I know that this might seem like heresy to many of you, especially those of you who have been fans of the series since the original Dark Souls was released in 2011, but I feel as though I may have redeemed myself ever so slightly, after a couple friends of mine sat me down this past weekend and “forced” me to play the original Dark Souls.
I didn’t get too far into the game in the 5 hours I spent playing it, but far enough to critique the game’s beginning and analyze how it compares to the beginning of Dark Souls 3.
The first major difference that should be noted between the two Souls games, is how much richer the story feels in the original Dark Souls. The game starts with a breathtaking and chill-inducing opening cinematic that, especially for the time that it was made in, is gorgeously animated. The opening cinematic gives the player a very clear understanding of the massive and dangerous world they’re about to venture in, while showcasing a few notable figures: a god, a cult of witches, an undead behemoth of plague and disease, and an infamous dragon that betrayed his own kind to end the war between the dragons and the Lords. While Dark Souls games have always been known for their rich and detailed lore and world-building, rather than their story, this opening cinematic for Dark Souls fleshes out this massive world better than any other Souls game could. It certainly does a more effective job of establishing the lore of the games and the game world than the opening cinematic for Dark Souls 3 does. I guess I should’ve started the series with the original Dark Souls right?
If you’ve yet to see the opening cinematic for Dark Souls or haven’t been introduced to the Dark Souls games properly, I highly recommend giving it a look. Trust me it is worth your time.
Although there appear to be obvious differences in how much richer the story feels at the beginning of the original Dark Souls, it should also be noted that Dark Souls 3 is the third and final chapter of the Dark Souls trilogy, and so vast world-building and rich lore outlining isn’t an essential element of the game’s opening cinematic. Fans of the series, who have already played the first two entries, won’t need as an informative of an opening to re-introduce them to the world they’ve already become fully immersed in. It could be that I only felt slightly disconnected from the story and world of Dark Souls after watching the Dark Souls 3 opening cinematic because of the fact that I started with the third entry of the trilogy instead of the first.
To compare, here is the opening cinematic of Dark Souls 3.
Here, within the opening cinematic to Dark Souls 3, there is very minimal world-building and lore, because at this stage of the series, fans of the games already have a firm grasp on those elements. In fact, it could be said that the opening cinematic for Dark Souls 3, establishes more of an outlined storyline and a relatively clear objective for the player, elements that aren’t seen as frequently in previous “Souls” game entries. The omniscient sounding narrator outlines how The Lords of Cinder are needed to rekindle The Flame, to prevent the world from returning to darkness, and even gives equal screentime to 3 of the Lords of Cinder: Aldridge, Saint of the Deep; Farron’s Undead Legion, The Abyss Watchers; and Yhorm the Giant, who she then states will undoubtedly abandon their thrones. At the end of this opening cinematic, the player already knows they are going to have to hunt down these elusive Lords of Cinder, while the player objective at the end of the opening cinematic for the original Dark Souls is more ambiguous. Some prefer the fact that the opening to Dark Souls is more open-ended than Dark Souls 3, which they believe to be too linear (I’ll be covering the difference in linearity in regards to level design with the two games in my next post in this series as well). But regardless of where you stand in the argument, it is worth noting the stark contrast in how the story is introduced to the player in both of these games.
One final thing that I believe is worth noting before I wrap up Part 1 of this series of blog posts, is how spectacularly cinematic the openings for these games feel. These cinematics are actually worthy of that title, as they truly feel as though they belong at the beginning of a major motion picture. The only thing that gives it away that you’re actually booting up a video game and not watching a movie, is the lower quality of animation that is used in video games in contrast to cinema. That, along with the faster pacing and the direction of the dialogue at the viewer.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Dark Souls 3 vs. Dark Souls 1 – Beginning of the Game Analysis”, where I’ll begin my analysis on the varying gameplay and level/environmental design elements of these ARPG masterpieces.