Dark Souls never wears its lore on its sleeve, and when it does it’s stitched into the fabric, hidden beneath the folds.
There is rarely much in the way of exposition in the game to handily explain to us what in the world is going on. No glowing markers or exclamation points point us in the right direction, and the villains are typically the silent types. We’re meant to go searching.
I’ve written previously that uncovering the mystery, hints, and secrets in the game is almost archaeological. You have to dig, sifting through the clues and cobbling together various tidbits, item descriptions, and bits of dialogue into something resembling a backstory, a purpose.
Dark Souls II is no different, though we are no longer in Lordran, no longer walking the sunlit streets of Anor Londo. Now we come to Drangleic, yet another fallen, cursed kingdom. And like its predecessor, Dark Souls II feeds us little hints even in the trailers, like the new “Cursed” trailer Namco Bandai released today:
In the original Dark Souls, you became the “Chosen Undead.” (Or one of the chosen undead. The story of Dark Souls is one of endless cycles; the rekindling of the flame again and again. Time is fickle.)
Dark Souls II appears to place you in the role of the “Cursed.”
In Dark Souls, the mission of the Chosen Undead was to end the curse of the undead and extend the Age of Fire. However, you can take another path and choose to not rekindle the flame, ushering in the Age of Dark. In effect, neither path truly ends the curse, since even extending the Age of Fire merely prolongs the inevitable.
Or perhaps it’s something else. The narrator has an odd line at the very end of the trailer.
“Your wings will burn in anguish,” she says ominously, “time after time, for that is your fate, the fate of the cursed.”
Your wings? What an odd thing to say to a human, hollow or otherwise. We know that Dark Souls II has dragons—we’ve seen them in previous footage and here again swirling above the parapets of Drangleic. There is something draconic even about the name Drangleic, or angelic. (Swap the “l” and the “e” and you actually spell “angelic.”)
Both winged creatures, angels and dragons./>/>
The dialogue in the trailer is hard to decipher, but a reddit user watched the Japanese version and it had (Japanese) subtitles. Here’s the dialogue translated into English by reddit user DracoExpolire:
- The “Balrog” dialogue: “The Mad will never be forgiven…foolish human” (Note: Mad as in how the hollows turn mad. He is referring to the hollows gone mad as a whole.)
- Narrator dialogue: “We [the] undead…will never be dead. You’ll go hollow instead…and become one more of them.”
- Male narrator dialogue: “We need the abyss…”
Ah, so we come back to the abyss, to Manus and his hunger, to the madness of the Hollows, and I suspect to the Age of Dark and the curse of the undead still consuming the world.
The story of a curse befalling a kingdom goes back to Demon’s Souls and the mysterious, demon fog encasing Boletaria. And in both Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls we encounter, and do battle with, fallen kings.
The Souls games are variations on a theme, endlessly cyclical, almost nihilistic. Fallen kings. Demonic fog, world-devouring abysses, curses with no real antidote, heroes corrupted, quests whose ending merely lead us back to the beginning again and again. Even death is little more than a setback.
Time after time, for that is your fate.