Dark Souls 3 was only just announced, but that hasn't stopped players (and yours truly) from coming up with some theories about what's going on.
Here's how Bandai Namco has described Dark Souls 3 so far:
The next chapter of the Dark Souls lore is back with Dark Souls III. FromSoftware returns to create a new blighted world for players to discover. The embers of a once proud kingdom set the stage for this new adventure. Players will battle against fearsome enemies and bosses with a variety of weapons and magic through a mysterious land riddled with secrets.
All we can take from this brief description is that it's set in a "new blighted world" that was "a once proud kingdom." That's not very much to go off on, but the trailer gives us (some) context:
The Souls games are meant to be vague and mysterious, but there's a story being told in every one of them, and there are connections between the various games. (Demon's Souls, however, does not take place in the same world as Dark Souls and Dark Souls II. Despite thematic and gameplay similarities, Sony own Demon's Souls, so any nods are simply easter eggs for fans.)
What follows is a mixture of my own theories and observations about what we know so far, in addition to leveraging some speculation fans are throwing around on various message boards.
There are, of course, spoilers ahead. Beware, if that's important to you!
Oh, before we get started. If you want to know more about Dark Souls lore, there is no better analyst than VaatiVidya on YouTube. If there is a Dark Souls scholar among us, it's him.
Theory #1: They're Resurrecting Gwyn
Let's start with the coolest part of the trailer, the lumbering giant at the end, since it's the one aspect of Dark Souls 3 where we have some information to go off of.
In E3 interviews, Miyazaki called this creature the Lord of Cinder. That should ring a bell to anyone who played Dark Souls, since the final boss of that game, Gwyn, was the Lord of Cinder.
Gwyn ushered in the Age of Fire by defeating the world's Everlasting Dragons during the Age of Ancients. He was able to challenge the scaled beasts by discovering a Lord Soul, a powerful soul that transforms those who come in contact with it. Three others found Lord Souls, as well, and banded together to destroy the dragons. (One of them was the Furtive Pygmy, a humanoid thought to be the player's ancestor.) Gwyn became Lord of Sunlight, which granted him a healthy dose of lightning magic that proved extremely useful against the dragons.
Dark Souls takes place during the never-ending Age of Fire. When the flames driving the Age of Fire began to die out, signalling the coming Age of Man/Dark, Gwyn sacrificed himself to the First Flame to keep it lit. While it diminished his power, he was still a bad arse, and became the Lord of Cinder. It's suspected by fans that Dark Souls picks up about 1,000 years after this.
When Gwyn refused to let the flame go out, however, he created the Undead Curse. It's unknown how this disease transfers, but when a living thing dies, it does not actually die — they resurrect at a bonfire and begin to hollow. Hollowing can be reversed with a dose of humanity (in the game, it's depicted at a consumable item), but if hollowing continues, the individual will lose their sanity, attack others, and become a Hollow. If a Hollow is killed, they truly die.
This is why players start in the Undead Asylum when Dark Souls begins. Gwyn and others started piling the Undead into jails to rot away. Players are an Undead, supposedly part of the prophecy where a Chosen Undead leaves to challenge the various lords. (That happens!)
You kill Gwyn at the end of Dark Souls, and decide whether to rekindle the flame by sacrificing yourself or walking away, dooming the Age of Fire and seeing what the Age of Man has to offer.
Does that mean Gwyn is back from the dead? Series creator Hidetaki Miyazaki isn't saying. Here's what GameSpot editor Kevin VanOrd said, after talking to Miyazaki at E3:
So clarification: Lord of Cinder, I specifically asked, and they are being mum on whether this is Gwyn or, Dark Souls I player.
— Kevin VanOrd (@fiddlecub) June 16, 2015
Wait a second...
Theory #2: Holy Shit, You're The Lumbering Giant!
Like I said, at the end of Dark Souls, you kill Gwyn. No matter which ending you choose, he dies. Given he survived the First Flame, however, there's no reason to believe he didn't pull a Voldemort and find a way to keep some part of himself around, carefully gathering strength.
Maybe Gwyn fears he's truly about to become extinct, and now it's his chance to strike back.
There's another wrinkle, though.
It's possible you're both a Lord of Cinder, based on what Miyazaki told YouTuber DaveControl:
"The Lord of Cinder...or...Lords of Cinder — we're using this term in general. And we're specifically talking about any specific Lord of Cinder in the past."
One of the terms used in other interviews was "resurrection."
Anyone who sacrifices to the First Flame becomes a Lord of Cinder. It's possible that hundreds, if not thousands, of years have passed between the player's sacrifice in Dark Souls and where Dark Souls 3 picks up. There could have been many, many Lords of Cinder since then. Perhaps Dark Souls 3 has players being tasked with defeating all of the previous Lords of Cinder? Hmm.
Theory #3: Drangleic Castle Returns
We've mostly talked about the original Dark Souls so far, but Dark Souls 2 may be important, too. nowhere2hide outlined his idea in this GameFAQs thread, suggesting we may see the return of Drangleic Castle in Dark Souls 3. Let's take a look at what he's got.
Here's a shot from Dark Souls 2:
Let's go a little wider:
OK, now here's a shot from Dark Souls 3:
Theory #4: That's Actually Anor Londo
Other folks, however, think it might be one of Dark Souls' most infamous locations:
When Dark Souls 3 was leaked, one of the screen featured an enemy in the background. No one thought much of it, but it's come under closer scrutiny now, thanks to Silver_Skull on reddit:
In one of the pictures from "The Know" leak there seems to be an enemy that resembles an Anor Londo giant sentinel, seen in the distance.
Thanks to some CSI magic tricks, we can doom in closer and...analyse.
Gotta admit, that looks pretty dang close, don't you think?
Still, this is all I can think about when Anor Londo comes to mind.
Theory #5: It's About Breaking The Cycle
Gywn wasn't willing to give up his power, so he rekindled the flame. Though Dark Souls has two endings, it's long been suspected the one where player rekindles the flame is canonical. (We should find out for sure in Dark Souls 3.) Thus, the Age of Fire continues, progress be damned.
When Dark Souls 2 received its Scholar of the First Sin update earlier this year, a ton of lore was added to the game. Specifically, the Scholar of the First Sin character who talks to the player at various points. He's Aldia, older brother of King Vendrick, ruler of Drangelic Castle.
At one point, Aldia tells you this:
- Once, the Lord of Light banished Dark, and all that stemmed from humanity.
- And men assumed a fleeting form.
- These are the roots of our world.
- Men are props on the stage of life, and no matter how tender, how exquisite...
- A lie will remain a lie.
- Young Hollow, knowing this, do you still desire peace?
He seems to be talking about Gwyn, who was Lord of Sunlight before Lord of of Cinder. It's not clear when Dark Souls 2 actually takes place in the Dark Souls timeline, as Miyazaki has only said the two are "connected." If Dark Souls was "North Pole," Dark Souls 2 is "South Pole."
As I mentioned earlier, when Gwyn refused to let the First Flame die, it created the Undead. Letting the flame die out could end the curse, but it might also mean the end of everything.
In Dark Souls 2, player travelled to Drangleic, following rumours of powerful souls to restore one's humanity. They're told to find King Vendrick, ruler of Drangleic, but it turns out Vendrick has gone Hollow. This leaves a leadership vacuum in Drangleic, a spot on the Throne of Want. At the end, whether they like it or not, the player assumes control of the Throne of Want.
The original Dark Souls 2 didn't provide players with two endings. You sat on the Throne of Want and that was it. With Scholar of the First Sin, it introduced a second ending, one where you reject the throne, possibly setting the stage for the story to play out in Dark Souls 3.
Upon defeating Alida, he tells you this:
- I lost everything, but remained here, patiently.
- The throne will certainly receive you.
- But the question remains...
- What do you want, truly?
- Light? Dark? Or something else entirely...''
"Something else entirely."
As the credits rolls, he passes on this final observation:
- There is no path.
- Beyond the scope of light, beyond the reach of Dark...
- ...what could possibly await us?
- And yet, we seek it, insatiably...
- Such is our fate.
"Beyond the scope of light, beyond the reach of Dark...what could possibly await us?"
If the true ending to Dark Souls was cynical and depressing — cling to the past, reject change — and the true ending to Dark Souls 2 was hopeful and progressive — there has to be another way — perhaps Dark Souls 3 will explore the consequences of both. It could all still end in madness.
Bandai Namco has said Dark Souls 3 is coming in "early 2016". Given that Dark Souls 2 arrived in March, I'd expect Dark Souls 3 is coming around the same time. In other words, we have plenty of time to speculate about what's really going in Dark Souls 3. Theorise away below!