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The Souls series (ソウルシリーズ, Sōru shirīzu) is a series of action role-playing video games created and developed by FromSoftware. The series began with the release of Demon's Souls for the PlayStation 3 in 2009. It was followed by Dark Souls in 2011, and its sequels, Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III, in 2014 and 2016, respectively. With the exception of Dark Souls II, the games were directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki.

Souls
Souls series logos.png
Logos for Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, respectively
Genres Action role-playing
Developers FromSoftware
Publishers
Creators Hidetaka Miyazaki
Platforms PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Platform of origin PlayStation 3
First release Demon's Souls
February 5, 2009
Latest release Dark Souls III
March 24, 2016

The Souls games are played in a third-person perspective, and focus on weapon and magic-based combat with monsters, and exploration. Players battle bosses, interact with the strange non-playable characters, and journey through the medieval-like, interconnected environments in order to progress through the story. The series is particularly notable for its difficulty, a common point of both praise and criticism.[1][2][3]

Contents

SettingEdit

The games take place within a medieval fantasy setting, where the player fights against knights, dragons, and various monsters. The recurring theme of the games' settings is that of a once powerful and prosperous kingdom, which eventually fell into decrepit ruins after a series of unfortunate events. The players' goal varies between installments; the plot of Demon's Souls follows an attempt to halt the spread of a demon-infested fog that would eventually shroud the world, while the plot of Dark Souls involved prolonging an age of prosperity known as The Age of Fire, Dark Souls II finding a cure for the ailment known as "hollowing", and Dark Souls III put an end to the undead curse and the repeating cycle of The Age of Fire.

GameplayEdit

The protagonist of each Souls game can have a varying gender, appearance, name, and starting class.[4] Players can choose between classes, including knights, barbarians, thieves, and mages. Each class has its own starting equipment and abilities that can be tailored by the player's experience and choices as they progress.[5] The player gains Souls from gameplay battles which act as both experience points to level up and as currency to buy items.[6] Souls gained are usually proportional to the difficulty of fighting certain enemies; the more difficult an enemy, the more Souls the player will gain.

One of the core mechanics of the series is that it uses death to teach players how to react in hostile environments, encouraging repetition, learning from past mistakes, and prior experience as a means of overcoming its difficulty. Upon losing all of their health points and dying, players lose their Souls and are teleported back to a bonfire where they last rested, which serves as a checkpoint. One chance is given for the player to recover their lost Souls in the form of a bloodstain, which are placed at or around where they last died. If the player dies again before reaching their bloodstain, which appears at the location of their last death, the Souls are permanently lost. As most enemies are respawned following player death, or if the player should rest at a bonfire, the player has the opportunity to regain more Souls by repeated combat encounters. Another core aspect of the Souls games is dependency on endurance in battle. Performing attacks, blocking, or dodging consume stamina, which otherwise quickly restores if the player stands still or just walks around. Certain moves cannot be executed if the player lack stamina, making them vulnerable to attack. Players must balance their rate of attacks against defensive moves and brief periods of rest to survive more difficult encounters.

Online interaction in the Souls games is integrated into the single-player experience. Throughout levels, players can briefly see the actions of other players as ghosts in the same area that may show hidden passages or switches. When a player dies, a bloodstain can be left in other players' game world that when activated can show a ghost playing out their final moments, indicating how that person died and potentially helping the player avoid the same fate in advance. Players can leave messages on the ground that can either help players by providing hints or warnings, or harm players by leaving false hints.[7] Players can also engage in both player versus player combat and cooperative gameplay using invasion or summoning mechanics.[8][9]

GamesEdit

Timeline of release years
2009 Demon's Souls
2010
2011 Dark Souls
2012
2013
2014 Dark Souls II
2015
2016 Dark Souls III

Demon's SoulsEdit

Released in 2009 for PlayStation 3, Demon's Souls is the first game in the Souls series.[10][11] It has also been described as a spiritual successor to the King's Field series of games,[12][13] while at the same time being described as a separate entity "guided by differing core game design concepts."[14] It also drew inspiration from video games such as Ico,[15][16] The Legend of Zelda,[14] and the early Dragon Quest games,[17] as well as manga such as Berserk, Saint Seiya and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure.[18]

Demon's Souls takes place in the fictional kingdom of Boletaria, which is being ravaged by a cursed fog that brings forth demons who feast on the souls of mortals. Unlike its successors, Demon's Souls uses a central hub system known as the "Nexus" where players can level up, repair equipment, or buy certain items, before venturing into one of the five connected worlds. The "World Tendency" feature is also exclusive to Demon's Souls, where the difficulty of exploring a world is dependent on how many bosses have been killed, and how the player dies. The gameplay involves a character-creation system and emphasizes gathering loot through combat with enemies in a non-linear series of varied locations. It has an online multiplayer system integrated into single-player, in which players can leave messages and warnings for other players' worlds, as well as joining other players to assist and/or kill them.[10]

Dark SoulsEdit

Dark Souls is the second game in the Souls series, and considered a spiritual successor to Demon's Souls.[12][19] From Software wanted to craft games similar to Demon's Souls but the exclusivity of the title to the Sony PlayStation platform prevented them from using the same name on other platforms. Instead From Software crafted a new intellectual property to be published on multiple consoles.[20] It was released in 2011 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[21] In 2012, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, featuring the base game and the Artorias of the Abyss downloadable content.[22] The game takes place in the fictional kingdom of Lordran. Players assume the role of a cursed human character who has been chosen to discover the fate of the Undead. The plot of Dark Souls is primarily told through descriptions of in-game items and dialogue with non-playable characters (NPCs). Players must piece together clues in order to understand the story, rather than told through more traditional means, such as through cutscenes. Dark Souls garnered recognition due to its grueling difficulty and unforgiving challenge.[8]

Dark Souls IIEdit

Dark Souls II is the third installment in the Souls series. Unlike the previous two games, director Hidetaka Miyazaki did not reprise his role.[23] It was released in 2014 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.[24] In 2015, an updated version featuring The Lost Crowns downloadable content was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, under the title Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin[25] - with the latter two platforms receiving retail releases.[26] The game takes place in the fictional kingdom of Drangleic, where the player must find a cure for the undead curse.[9] Although set in the same universe as the previous game, there is no direct story connection to Dark Souls.[27]

Dark Souls IIIEdit

Dark Souls III was officially announced at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015, and was released in Japan on March 24, 2016,[28] and worldwide on April 12, 2016, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.[29] The gameplay is faster paced than previous Souls installments,[30] which was attributed in part to the gameplay of Bloodborne.[31]

FutureEdit

In an interview promoting Dark Souls III, Miyazaki was asked how he felt about the current amount of Souls games. He responded by saying, "I don't think it'd be the right choice to continue indefinitely creating Souls and Bloodborne games. I'm considering Dark Souls 3 to be the big closure on the series. That's not just limited to me, but From Software and myself together want to aggressively make new things in the future... I believe that From Software has to create new things. There will be new types of games coming from us, and Dark Souls 3 is an important marker in the evolution of From Software."[32]

In April 2016, it was reported that Miyazaki and FromSoftware had begun working on a new intellectual property (IP), and had no current plans to continue the Souls series with sequels or spin-offs.[33] Miyazaki also acknowledged the demand for a Demon's Souls remaster, but stated that the project would most likely be handled through a different studio.[34]

Related titlesEdit

The King's Field series debuted in the mid 1990s for the PlayStation with King's Field and its two sequels. After the original trilogy, a fourth game was released for the PlayStation 2, after which, the series had some spinoff titles. The King's Field series is considered a spiritual predecessor to the Souls series.[12][13]

Another FromSoftware game, Bloodborne, was directed by Souls series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki and released for the PlayStation 4 in March 2015. Although it is its own intellectual property and not a Souls installment, it shares many of the same elements and concepts and is often associated with the series.[35][36][37][38]

On February 28, 2016, Bandai Namco Entertainment partnered with American retailer GameStop to release Slashy Souls, a free-to-play mobile endless runner based on the series. The game is presented in a pixel art style, and shares the series' level of difficulty.[39] The game was met with highly negative critical reception, with reviewers such as Chris Carter of Destructoid and Jim Sterling both giving the game a 1/10.[40][41]

Other mediaEdit

 
Cover art for the first issue of the Dark Souls comic book

On January 19, 2016, Titan Comics announced that a comic book based on the series would be released later that year. The first issue debuted on April 6, 2016, to coincide with the international release of Dark Souls III on April 12.[42] That same month, a Kickstarter campaign for an officially licensed board game based on the series was announced, titled Dark Souls – The Board Game.[43] The campaign was funded within the first three minutes of its launch, and was published by Steamforged Games and released in April 2017.[44][45] In February 2017, music from the series, composed by Motoi Sakuraba, was performed by a live orchestra at the Salle Pleyel concert hall in Paris.[46] In September of that year, a limited edition vinyl box set containing the soundtracks of all three games was released in Europe.[47]

ReceptionEdit

Aggregate review scores
Game Year Metacritic
Demon's Souls   2009 89/100[48]
Dark Souls   2011 PC: 85/100[49]
PS3: 89/100[50]
X360: 89/100[51]
Dark Souls II   2014 PC: 91/100[52]
PS3: 91/100[53]
X360: 91/100[54]
Dark Souls III   2016 PC: 89/100[55]
PS4: 89/100[56]
XONE: 87/100[57]

The Souls series has been met with widespread critical acclaim. Demon's Souls won several awards, including "Best New IP" from GameTrailers,[58] and overall Game of the Year from GameSpot.[59]

Dark Souls originally did not have a port for Microsoft Windows, but upon seeing a fan petition for it, Bandai Namco community manager Tony Shoupinou lauded their support, and a Windows port was released in 2012.[60][61] Dark Souls is also considered by some critics to be one of the greatest games of all time,[62][63] and has influenced the development of other games, including Destiny,[64] Alienation,[65] Lords of the Fallen,[66] Salt and Sanctuary,[67] Shovel Knight,[63][68] Titan Souls,[63][69] and Enter the Gungeon.[70] The series inspired a social media app for iOS and Android called Soapstone, which uses a similar online messaging system used in the series adapted for the real world, using GPS to determine a user's location and bringing up a list of cryptic messages posted by other users in the area.[71]

Dark Souls II also received critical acclaim, and is the highest rated game in the series on Metacritic.[52] Before release, Dark Souls III was one of the most anticipated games of 2016,[72][73][74] and also received critical acclaim upon release.[75][76]

SalesEdit

As of March 2015, Demon's Souls had sold over 1.7 million copies, while as of May 2016, the Dark Souls games had sold over 13 million copies.[77][78][79] Dark Souls III broke sales records upon release, with the title having the most successful launch day in Bandai Namco's history, having strong first week sales.[80] Dark Souls III also became Bandai Namco's fastest-selling video game ever, selling over three million copies worldwide a month after its international release.[81][79]

LegacyEdit

The Souls series has led the video game industry to use the term "Souls-like" to describe action role-playing games from other developers that follow general principles of the Souls series, though there is no well-established definition for such games. These Souls-like games typically have a high level of difficulty where repeated player-character death is expected and incorporated as part of the gameplay, losing all progress if certain checkpoints have not been reached, and a means to permanently improve the player-character's abilities as to be able to progress further. Such games considered as Souls-like include Salt and Sanctuary,[82] Lords of the Fallen,[83] Nioh,[84] The Surge,[85] and Code Vein.[86]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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