Dark Souls 3: The First Flame Ignited?

KnightTo say that I’m excited about the April release may be the biggest understatement I’ve ever made. Miyazaki is back in the developmental saddle.

The Demon’s and Dark Souls (DS1) story, gameplay depth, and tension will permeate the deepest dungeons that wait for unfortunate adventurers. The team reworked battle arts. Early gameplay videos on YouTube demonstrate a unified gaming experience (hopefully) that Miyazaki is capable of producing. And I bet there is just more and more and more that needs to be explored! I may explode into tiny bits of impatience and anticipation.

Okay, I won’t go that far. Instead, I’ll settle for a preorder on the PS4 console. But I’ll  most likely finish Dark Souls 3 on the pc.

Regardless of gaming platform, I can only guess at to what to expect from the new story. It may be that the First Flame is ignited, so the player is carried back in time. Or, the Flame has finally dwindled out. I can only guess, using a brief review of the DS1 story. You may recall the prologue:

The place and events are laid out for the gamer:

  1. There is a colorless, primeval time when dragons hold dominion
  2. The First Flame is  ignited, bringing into the world the disparity of light and dark
  3. Four beings, godlike entities, discover the Lord Souls within the Flame and, with this power, defeat the race of dragons

These gods are linked to the Flame and hold dominion during the Age of Fire. But the Flame cannot burn forever. When we enter DS1, the fire is dwindling. And the weakened Flame generates Undead. And that’s how our story plays out: As an Undead, we finally choose to rekindle the Flame or extinguish it, bringing in the Age of Man. (This story kind of reminds me of an inverted Tolkien’s book…)

As I said, I can only guess as to how DS3 ties into the ending of DS1.

Now, I’ve heard the modifiers good and bad applied to DS1’s ending. This is the wrong way to think of the conclusion. If I were Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight, then I would consider the Flame rekindled as a good thing. But if I’m Undead, might I not prefer to hold dominion during the Age of Man? After all, I was locked up and shunned by those who considered me cursed.

I’ve also heard lots of confusing and overcomplicated explanations of the DS1 story, in general, and its lore. The DS1 story spine is rather straightforward (albeit it is told in a minimalist way): A cursed undead is locked up by those who shun her or him; the undead escapes a prison; the undead seeks to escape the curse (and madness) by way of a path that eventually leads to the Kiln of the First Flame; finally, the player must choose to rekindle the Flame or usher in the new Age of Man. (Okay, so the main characters motivation is a little weak, but it’s still fun to play it out.)

Much of what else exists within the game may or may not have a backstory. Or that something is symbolic. That shouldn’t throw the gamer off from the main story spine. But I still hear a mess of things from gamers that search too deep for meanings that don’t exist (at least, not yet…) or the gamer gets derailed on tangents. This confusion stems from someone trying to break down art into mechanical pieces.

The important thing to remember is to look at the DS1 (and the soon to release DS3) story as a whole. Resist the temptation to smash it down down into its pieces. That’s like cutting up da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and studying just her smile. Each piece does not make the painting renowned.

Here’s a good example of someone breaking down DS3 into mechanical bits:

I enjoy the video for its sneak peak at gameplay. And VaatiVidya is articulate. But his approach to explaining a story is wrong. Notice how he breaks down every detail of the game into smaller and smaller components. And as he does this, he moves further and further away from understanding the previous stories. VaatiVidya approaches art with a blunt hammer swinging, ready to smash it up and dissect what’s left.

It’s important to remember that story-telling is about the whole, not its individual mechanical parts.  Miyazaki understands this: he starts with a premise and concept. The Bandai developmental team that initially released Dark Souls 2 didn’t stick to one. It seems like the team had listened to a lot of gamer input regarding mechanical elements of gameplay. The whole turned out to be a mess. And the mess was only somewhat cleaned up when the team released Scholar of the First Sin. Too bad it took a second production effort.

So, I’ll have to wait for the release of DS3. I don’t see a reason to guess at the story when I’ll most likely be wrong, anyway. Breaking previous games down won’t help. (Don’t believe me? After you play DS3, go back and watch VaatiVidya’s video. You may find a large disconnect from the actual game experience.)

So will the First Flame be kindled? I can’t know what Miyazaki has created until I experience the entire Dark Souls 3.

The artistic From Software creator has a big picture in mind. He understands the story as a whole. He has a premise and a concept. He’ll stick to it. And the mechanical elements of  play must satisfy the vision. Or those elements don’t belong. And because Miyazaki is back in the development saddle, I expect good things from Dark Souls 3.

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