Dark Souls is an action role-playing video game developed and published for PlayStation 3 by From Software in Japan, and published for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by Namco Bandai Games internationally. Previously referred to as Project Dark, Dark Souls is the spiritual successor to Demon's Souls. It was released in Japan on September 22, 2011, on October 4 in North America, and on October 7 in Europe of the same year. Like its predecessor, the game is known for its high level of difficulty, which has prompted much interest and discussion.
The game consists of dungeon crawling in hostile environments and exploits the tension instilled by risk versus reward game mechanics and penalties upon player death. Dark Souls takes place in an open world environment, with the player able to travel to and from areas and explore various available paths. Dark Souls allows players to light Bonfires, which function as respawn locations.These bonfires also replenish health, magic, and special items like Estus flasks - limited vials that restore health, but also respawn all enemies previously defeated, except for bosses and certain special enemies.The player must fight their way through various locations and defeat bosses to progress.
Dark Souls features an elaborate online mode, very much like that of Demon's Souls, which is active whenever the console is connected to the internet (an Xbox Live Gold subscription is required on the Xbox 360 version). The online mode adds numerous dynamic interactions between the individual worlds players, including limited co-op and player versus player within certain conditions. Communication between players is deliberately limited.
Like its predecessor Demon's Souls, Dark Souls has a notably minimalistic plot. Events and their significance are often implicit and left to player interpretation rather than fully shown or explained. Much of the story and lore of the world is given to the player through dialogue from characters within the world, item descriptions, or the scarce cutscenes. It is up to the player to put the pieces together.
In the founding of the universe, the earth was unformed, covered in crags, and dragons held sole dominion over the world. However, The Fire of Lords along with the human race eventually came into existence for reasons long lost to time. From the Dark, which gained meaning in contrast to Light from the newly kindled flame, emerged four powerful entities--Nito, the first of the dead; the Witch of Izalith and her daughters of chaos; Gwyn, the Lord of Cinder, and his faithful knights; and the furtive pygmy, so easily forgotten--who harnessed the Fire of Lords to combat the dragons, eventually overthrowing them and launching humanity and their new lordly gods into a golden era known as the Age of Fire.
The protagonist is a male or female Undead, who has yet to become Hollow. He escapes from the northern Undead Asylum with the help of another Undead and learns of the prophecy concerning a chosen Undead who leaves the Undead Asylum in pilgrimage and rings the Bell of Awakening in the land of the ancient lords, Lordran.
Once the character has rung the Bells of Awakening, the gate leading to Sen's Fortress and Anor Londo is opened, and the Primordial Serpent Kingseeker Frampt is awoken. He tells the player that he is the Chosen Undead who must succeed Lord Gwyn and remove the affliction of the Darksign. It is implied that Frampt is very old and has awaited the protagonist's arrival for a very long time. To achieve this given task, the character must get the Lordvessel from the land of Anor Londo, a forsaken city bathed in sunlight. When the task is done, the character must obtain the four powerful Lord Souls: one from Seath the Scaleless, the proud dragon who betrayed his own out of deep anger over his lack of immortality; one from the Four Kings, ancient rulers of New Londo who fell to Dark and were banished to the Abyss; one from the Bed of Chaos, a mass of life and the source of all demons which was the result of the failed experiments of the Witch of Izalith to recreate the primeval Flame; and Gravelord Nito, the first of the dead.
However, in the Abyss if the player has not placed the Lordvessel on the altar at that point then he can instead meet Darkstalker Kaathe, a different Primordial Serpent who opposes Frampt. After informing the player that he is a direct descendent of the pygmy, who obtained the Dark Soul, Kaathe will present the protagonist with a different path: to end the Age of Fire and "usher in the Age of Dark." Kaathe stated that Gwyn had wished to "avoid the course of nature," prolonged the Age of Fire, and in doing so branded undead with the Darksign, which only caused suffering. The Age of Dark will erase this curse.
After offering the four Lord Souls to the Lordvessel, with the help of either Frampt or Kaathe, the character must go on to defeat Gwyn, the Lord of Cinder. Once the character has slain him, the player is given a vague choice which affects the ending. By choosing to link the fire, the character continues the Age of Fire and is consumed entirely by the fire as it burns intensely bright. The screen then goes white, before fading to dark as the credits roll. By choosing not to link the fire, the protagonist instead walks out of the area and is greeted by Primordial Serpents who bow down to the character, accepting him as the Dark Lord and the Age of Dark (Humans) begins.