Reflecting the Darkness: A Window to the Past – Before Commencing ELDEN RING’s Future

Elden Ring’s anticipated ‘Shadow of the Erdtree’ DLC, set to come out any day now, strikes again as an example of how a FromSoftware ARPG release creates a kind of hype cycle as enthusiasts worldwide anticipate a new adventure in the Lands Between. It’s been award-winning and innovative, and clearly there’s still more to come. For Ordnung forgänglicher Dinge. In the meantime, back to the beginning, to the origins of the franchise, Dark Souls. Thanks to continued FromSoftware releases putting an incentive on collectors to buy them all and serious price cuts, both the original Dark Souls and its sequels are way easier to get plagued by these days.

Before the RING: The Dark Souls Legacy

Elden Ring is FromSoftware’s crowning achievement today, but the root and seeds of that success were planted in the Dark Souls series. From the cramped confines of Boletaria in Demon’s Souls, to the sweeping expanse of the Lands Between, the progression of FromSoftware’s design ethos is easy enough to track. With each subsequent Dark Souls instalment, the tenets of the Soulslike genre get further refined, amassing a dedicated cult following that has since come to define the very values we now request of action RPGs.

Dark Souls: Remastered – Revisiting the Origins

With its steep learning curve, intricate world design, and memorable characters, the first Dark Souls formed the basis of what would become known as the Soulslike genre. Its remaster has not only improved upon the core game through higher-resolution textures, smoother performance, and improved multiplayer interaction, but it also came with the Artorias of the Abyss DLC as an added bonus. At $17.20, this is a door to the world that started it all, polished for next 10 years of players looking for punishment.

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin – The Black Sheep's Redemption

Frequently critiqued by the community for deviations from the original's formula, Dark Souls 2 nonetheless stands as a massive and interesting Soulslike world unto itself: it's now available in the Scholar of the First Sin collection for just $17.20 (all DLC included), with tweaked enemy spawn points and balanced gameplay that breathes new life into the original retail release.

Dark Souls III: The Series Apex

Taking the best parts of its predecessors and spicing them up with speedier, more fluid combat, it stands as the best in the series for a lot of people – the Deluxe Edition, with all the DLC included, costs $36.54. Drawing on many of the same environments as Elden Ring, with some of the series’ best boss fights, it’s a true must-play for fans and beginners alike (and includes The Ringed City expansion, which many considered to have been the perfect way to end the series).

The Eternal Cycle: From Dark Souls to ELDEN RING

The way FromSoftware’s approach to game design evolved from the grimy corridors of the Undead Asylum through to the expansive vistas of the Lands Between between 2009 and 2022 mirrors the way that the Souls series’ games evolved, one by one, in order to match up to the ingredients and potential that would be distilled in Elden Ring: the core challenge within a difficult yet ultimately fair game design, with dense lore that fused environmental storytelling with increased opportunities for discovering both backstory and playable content.

Seizing the Moment: Unprecedented Sales Await

Green Man Gaming – a PC-based retailer – has a sale going that actually drops every Dark Souls title to 57 per cent off. While sales have become deceptively common, a complete price reduction is a rare example of something that reaches a new player and presents them with a major discount on something that they might otherwise be reluctant to investigate due to an investment of time and money. Veterans can also benefit from the sale as a means to return to earlier instalments in the series and reassess them in the wake of subsequent installments.

Beyond the Bonfire: What Makes Dark Souls Special

Dark by name and nature, the Dark Souls series’ period of dominance owes much to the way it could generate fantastical worlds that are simultaneously delightful and terrifying – rich in storytelling told using environments and sparse dialogue; offering gameplay that rewards plodding and planning with an innately earned sense of achievement far rarer elsewhere. It is part of her, in many ways. As a child, she wrote the opening line of her story: ‘Once upon a time, there was a kingdom on fire where monsters were born.’ That kingdom is gone now, waxing and waning into strange fantasies until it was finally obliterated and rebuilt again by FromSoftware as a dark fantasy universe. She continues to play – and so too does the world that helped shape her.

Engaging With the Past, Preparing for the Future

With ‘Shadow of the Erdtree’ just around the corner, revisiting the worlds that enabled Elden Ring is not only a way to pass the time before its release, but better helps us understand and appreciate what’s to come. The discounted Dark Souls series is both a salute to the canon and a prologue to where Soulslike games will go next.

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Conclusion: The RING that Binds

Yet the lasting popularity of the Dark Souls series preceding Elden Ring’s ‘Shadow of the Erdtree’ is indicative of the eternal struggle/triumph cycle that makes Soulslike games so immersive. Repeating our backtracking to its roots honours where the genre came from, and the time spent immersed in the development of these classics will enrich your appreciation of what they gave rise to. With these very popular classics now available for a fraction of their former cost (monthly Deals With Gold offerings are practically giving away the titles), there has never been a better time to jump back in – or to explore these maps that paved the path for Elden Ring for the very first time. Stream: Twitter: @1stIncursion Facebook: @FirstIncursion.

May 10, 2024
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