Dark Souls 2 Theory (part 1, 2, 3, & 4)

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“Look into the depths of your own soul and learn first to know yourself, then you will understand why this illness was bound to come upon you and perhaps you will thenceforth avoid falling ill.”- Sigmund Freud

1.In Summary

In Dark Souls, the gods’ souls are dependent on the fire, but not the dark soul. The fragment of the dark souls creates humanity, and the more humanity, the more darkness, metaphorically and literally. This shift in balance begins to make the first flame start to dwindle. The gods start using humans for their own benefit while searching an artificial extension to their reign since their souls are linked with the fire. Humans begin sacrificing their humanity to the gods, since humanity shards are used to feed bonfires, this implies that fire and the gods depend on the dark more than the other way around, and here the undead curse begins to cultivate. Izalith in the attempt to recreate a first flame that cannot fade creates a chaos keen to the splitting of the atom and nuclear bombs, Izalith falls. Seath the scaless begins to use humans for his experiments in the attempt to create immortality, transforming them into hideous mutations. This lack or overwhelming knowledge drives him mad. Rebellions begin to take hold, as the gods human servants begin to revolt due to the oppression and mistreatment of the gods, many end up locked away, others trapped in the painted world of Ariamis. Primordial Serpents rise up to guide this new movement, one searches for a chosen undead to prolong the fire and keep the gods in power no matter how much it has dissipated, in an attempt to bring a different age, another serpent  tricks a town into awaking primeval man, which holds an abyss of humanity and dark. This Serpent also tricks 4 human kings who were held in high regards by Gwyn, the serpent corrupts them with promises of power, a power that easily corrupts. Gwyn sends his knight to stop the spread of the darkness, but they fail. The chosen undead gets pulled to the past in Oolacile and we see what the abyss can do to humanity if abused. We stop the spread of the abyss. Gwyn’s last attempt is to sacrifice himself to the flame and leave his son Gwyndolin in power. This creates the curse. I believe the curse is what the dwindling fire is to the gods, natural oppressive entropy by nature or universal cosmic law to allow a natural change into existence. Once a civilization peaks and does not have anything more to offer, or does no longer learn from its mistakes or simply rejects the change, or share in power, it begins to collapse. The fire dwindling and the curse occur when a race (especially the ones tied to the great souls picked up by the first flame), does not accept a change in the natural order of things. Refusing the change creates stagnations; think of an assembly line, the natural order of things is to keep moving production forward, if one of the items being produced refuses the actual order of moving forward, everything behind it begins to fall apart. This is why we see the curse appear in dark souls, a line becomes a circle bound to repeat (this is just a mere touch of what the curse does and  what is to come in dark souls 2 as in dark souls 2 the curse is more harsh, oppressive punishing and meant to cripple humanity for good). In Gwyn’s arrogant refusal to allow the change happen, we see humans being dragged down with him. The curse is only broken when a chosen undead chooses the dark ending ushering in an age of humans, otherwise choosing to kindle the first flame ending will lock humanity in a vicious  circle, until humanity goes extinct or the flame dwindles first.

Dark Souls 2
It's important to know there are 2 cycles happening, within these cycles time keeps moving forward. Dark souls 2 is about the fall of humanity, a critique on the aspects that make us human and the dangers of the self and it's destructive overpowering willful reach, especially when it refuses to let go when it's time is over. One cycle is the many kingdoms that rise and fall within the human reign as balance is kept between ages of fire (civilizations and it's peaks)and the other the age of dark( restarting from scratch a new kingdom after one has fallen) the other cycle is the one started in dark souls, the cosmic law in which nature through entropic oppression allows something else into existence, for example the dragons came first, then the gods, then the humans, and in Dark Souls 2 we find the remains of a civilization that was meant to take its place, but unlike the humans being able to stop this stagnation created by Gwyn in Dark Souls 1, humans drag a once promising future race down with them. In Dark souls 2, as a king in an attempt to trick fate and cure the curse, arrogantly and repentantly steals their chance at existence. This race is known as the Giants in Dark Souls 2. Many of the same mistakes and desperate attempts the gods make in Dark Souls 1 to prolong their age and existence we see the Humans make in Dark Souls2. Experimenting on them, enslaved, subjugated bastardized ,using them for our convenience as they seem to hold some answer to the human curse, when all humanity really needed was some fundamental truths about existence and to learn from past mistakes, all these answers are found in Dark Souls 2 and I will attempt to explain and back up my interpretation below.

2. Dystopian and Dying Earth Literature

I will be citing from many books to get the point across,  but two genres will be cited mostly, dystopian and dying earth. I will be comparing and quoting from classic dystopian literature as I feel this is the genre that deals beautifully with identity, and collectivism, human flaws, and human potential, whether it's the greatness or dangers of these themes. Also to get the point across that the curse and it's cosmic indifference is the humanities oppressor in Dark Souls 2. I have always believed that the Dark Souls are a fantasy looking games presenting sci-fi themes. Familiar to the one genre that combines both elements, Dying Earth. Many of my theories are based on this particular genre. I recognized the familiarity in Dark souls 1 that touched the surface of Dying Earth; however, Dark Souls 2 captured the classification entirely. Dying earth usually takes place millions of years into the future in the ruins of a past kingdom or city, there's an impending doom either by the earths entropic state, cosmic indifference or years of evolution taking a toll on humanity. In these ruins humanity finds relics of the past in which they try to explain what the cause the civilization’s collapse. This makes the fiction shrouded in mystery and speculations, making the reader invest in deciphering the many questions this type of fiction is known to ask. In the Nightland by William Hope Hodgson the night is eternal and humanity recedes in a pyramid to shelter themselves from the creatures that have perhaps evolved in the dark. Nobody knows how this came to be and only speculation can be drawn from vague archives about the pyramids and the creatures. In Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, Severian the narrator tells of a distant future in which the sun is dying. A decadent Society of humans dwell in the ruins of the past civilization, they come across artifacts that have magical powers or to them it seems, since technology is hard to be conceived by their ignorance.  The story is told in vagueness with very little explained or the given of misleading clues that add a complexity of speculation to what had happened or what is happening in the story. Blending sci-fi and fantasy tropes together themes such a civilization cycles, evolution, technology, decay, the nature and origin of the universe and life's role with cosmic evolution, the meaning of good and evil, the nature of human memory and perception metaphysics, religion ,God  and even time travel. Speculation even adds more themes. In Brian Aldiss, Hothouse earth has stopped spinning and on one side of the planet faces a sun that is going nova and the other side faces darkness. The story unfolds with themes of evolution and survival as humanity meets many hostile new life forms that the endless sun and infinite night has spawned the indifference and nature of the world, it questions the faith of mankind and our place in the cosmos there's also relics of a past civilization that might explain its collapse. An interesting part of the story takes place with a fungus that clings to the head of the main character and shares depending on the reader, mankind's worse selfish traits as a parasite uses the main character to reproduce among humans elevating and progressing, both species. The parasite also reveals it was because of it that humans were able to evolve in its early stages. In Arthur C Clarke's the city and the stars, the main character Alvin lives in diaspora, a perfect city with the perfect that lives under the guidance of a central computer this computer stores the memories of its citizens and allows them to terminate themselves when life has not been surprising or pleasurable. When they decide to come back in a future that seems new to them, they will slowly remember the memories of the past. Diaspora is a s close world which never changes. It traps its citizens from the rest of the world by removing aspects of a person that makes them want to explore.  Alvin is different and as he tries to escape he finds many clues that lead him to speculate how the city came to be and what the outside might be like. In these revelations we find that Alvin is the city's creator's intention to shake things up and prevent stagnation of the culture by questioning and finding a way out to prove diasporas citizens of what lies  out there in the world. Alvin explores themes of man's drive to explore, isolationism, the future of humankind, stagnation, the surrender of humanity for paradise, and all the pros and cons of knowledge.

3. Beginning of Explanation

The creators of dark souls 2 said we were going to learn more about the curse and the fans were disappointed after playing the game because it didn't give a straight answer but we do learn more about the curse. Everything that makes a human life, human is telling us more about the curse fromsoft and the Soul’s games have not shied away from being critical on humanity, they even give the option to players to become the worse and invade and terrify instead of helping. These game mechanics are tied to the narrative. Fans have focused too much on the cycles and without even getting it right, here lies a great deal of  disappointment for many fans and perhaps it's the game's fault for dwelling upon it a bit too much and this leads to the game being greatly misunderstood. Nobody has mentioned the next civilization to take place. If you go by the actual cycle and how the souls have their way of explaining existence, then first was the dragons, age of dark, the gods found the 4 great souls and dethroned the dragons, welcoming in the age of fire. The peak of the gods and humanity rapidly increasing, the fire begins to fade the curse begins as the gods try everything to prolong the age of fire. Stagnation occurs and Gwyn nearly drags humanity down with him as he sacrifices himself to link the flame. The chosen undead escapes the asylum and starts the human journey towards either prolonging the flame or ushering a new age a kin to humanity. I believe we usher in an age of dark because the curse seems to try and balance things out. The age of man warrants no need for the curse and we don't see it until ages later once humanity has peaked. Also notice how we don’t give thought on how kingdoms are built and what leads us to peak, this is left only to the imagination and we experience the ruins and learn what caused the fall. Ivan Turgenev’s, Fathers and Sons, Bazarov is a great example of the old ideals (liberalism) coming into conflict with the new (nihilism), it deals with progress and stagnation, and explains it using generational differences and the conflicts occurring in Russia.

“These old idealist they develop their nervous systems till they break down... So balance is lost.”
 – Bazarov, Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

I don't believe once ushering the age of dark is bound to turn humans into the mutated creations found in Oolacile during the spread of the abyss. Humans became corrupted because the dark was abused, I also believe we turn corrupted if there is no balance, and a way to keep stability is through the fire and darkness cycles with many kingdoms rising and falling, this is how humanity depends on the balance of fire and dark to ward off the curse and keep progressing through time. But with stability comes over population, and with over population comes ecological devastation, and at this point a trickle effect occurs that builds up to the collapse of Drangleic, a peak has a long downfall.

“We shall see how you manage to exist in a void, in an airless vacuum;” -Pavel Petrovich, Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

We are vacuumed into the void and we fall into Drangleic searching for a cure for the curse. We discover the kingdom was facing many problems and so did neighboring lands, civil unrest, rivalries, violent religious conflicts, power struggles, war and to a certain extent some kind of climate change as we see Heide sunken, earthen peak drilled to exhaustion and poisoned, Eleum Loyce frozen, violent volcanoes and wild fires in iron keep, massive blinding fogs in shaded woods, huge quick sands in Brightstone cove. On top of all this the undead curse begins and humans become persecuted and imprisoned in lost Bastille. Due to overpopulation in the prisons, the iron king becomes wealthy in the business of war and chasing down the many undead in huntsman copse, becoming something like our military complex. Iron keep becomes too big and heavy that it caves in on itself. Is this starting to sound familiar to our world? In Drangleic the humans weren't able to keep it together anymore hence the curse returns. As all this was happening another civilization was being silently cultivated, the giants, such as how the furtive pigmy silently cultivated humanity. Any agent of dark has humanities best interest in mind because humans originate from the dark soul. This is why Nashandra sees the giants as a threat, such as how the gods saw humanity as a threat. The giants are the next inheritors, first dragons, then gods then humans, and the giants were supposed to have their time on this earth, this is what Vendrick stole from them. Nashandra knew of the looming threat across the seas, and the giants not being afflicted by the curse, caused paranoia in her, she spreads this fear to king Vendrick, a fear of a race that could advance further and become a threat to humanity, giants that could deliver a death blow to humanity while it's down and become the new inheritors of the earth. Many reason species go extinct is because they either reach an evolutionary dead end and the ones that adapt to change keep on going. Many went extinct due to human expansion and hunting, climate change, spreading diseases, cosmic catastrophe like an asteroid. The curse isn't meant to kill off like a plague or a disease, the curse is meant to burden, decay strangles and topples down a society until it goes extinct. The curse is humanities evolutionary dead end.

4. The problem with humanity and understanding the curse

“I swear to you gentleman, that to be overly conscious is a sickness, a real, thorough sickness. “-Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    Dark souls 2 raises questions of "the self “and going by Freudian analysis the self is composed of id, ego, and super ego ( I won't bother explaining these since it would prolong and deviate from the point), conscious and unconscious decisions based on drives, wants and forces. Unconscious desires motivate people to act accordingly making it an individual’s personality, shaping who they are. Combining all these factors makes us self-aware and self-conscious. Memories help shape ourselves since remembering our experiences help shape who we are. This is how we have an identity. All of this is what the curse and dark souls 2 attacks and sees as problematic to humanity.
      The curse here is the great oppressor every line spoken by O’Brien in George Orwell’s 1984, could be a representation of the curse or even the game developers of dark souls.

"What happens to you here is forever. Understand that in advance. We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back. Things will happen to you from which you could not recover, if you lived a thousand years. Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves."

"Men in the mass were frail cowardly creature who could not endure liberty or face the truth and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves"

"There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever."

"In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy — everything."

"Power is only a word so far as you are concerned. It is time for you to gather some idea of what power means. The first thing you must realize is that power is collective. The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual. You know the Party slogan: "Freedom is Slavery". Has it ever occurred to you that it is reversible? Slavery is freedom. Alone — free — the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal."

"If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. Your kind is extinct; we are the inheritors. Do you understand that you are alone? You are outside history, you are non-existent."

"When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him."

"We control life, Winston, at all its levels. You are imagining that there is something called human nature which will be outraged by what we do and will turn against us. But we create human nature. Men are infinitely malleable."

"We make the laws of nature"

 From this we can derive that the oppression in 1984 and the curse in dark souls have similarities on what they attack. Both stomp on the face of humanity and everything they represent; putting a boot to the identity and free will until eventually the oppressed hollows. 1984 is about a government that creates hollows just as much as Drangleic curse and the pursuer, haunting and oppressing the undead until they hollow. It's interesting to note that in 1984 the government rewrites the past so many times that nobody actually remembers or knows the actual facts; this applies to how they attack memory and history just how the curse erases memory. By these comparisons we can say that in 1984 and dark souls, the individual, the self is the problem with humanity, and curse targets this to simplify, eradicate or fix a mistake. And the giants tie up to all these three.


In nature when a civilization becomes too smart for itself it begins to fall apart and simplify. Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut is a great example of this. The theme revolves around humanities complexity due to their brain is what keeps them from actually advancing, to the point where years into the future after they collapse, human brains become smaller and lose conscious and self awareness but are able to finally Co exist and live in peace.

"Thanks to their decreased brainpower, people aren't diverted from the main business of life by the hobgoblins of opinion anymore."

"I'll tell you what the human soul is, Mary,' he whispered, his eyes closed. 'Animals don't have one. It's the part of you that knows when your brain isn't working right. I always knew, Mary. There wasn't anything I could do about it, but I always knew."

"Just about every adult human being back then had a brain weighing about three kilogrammes! There was no end to the evil schemes that a thought machine that oversized couldn't imagine and execute.
So I raise this question, although there is nobody around to answer it: Can it be doubted that three-kilogramme brains were once nearly fatal defects in the evolution of the human race?"

"Why so many of us knocked us major chunks of our brains with alcohol from time to time remains an interesting mystery. It may be that we were trying  to give evolution a shove in the right direction - in the direction of smaller brains."

"And this famine was as purely a product of oversize brains as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony."

"If those birds hadn't been so stupid, so incapable of learning that human beings were dangerous, the first settlers would almost certainly have starved to death."

"Nobody today is nearly smart enough to make the sorts of weapons even the poorest nations had a million years ago. Yes, and they were being used all the time. During my lifetime, there wasn’t a day when, somewhere on the planet, there weren’t at least three wars going on. And the Law of Natural Selection was powerless to respond to such new technologies. No female of any species, unless maybe she was a rhinoceros, could expect to give birth to a baby who was fireproof, bombproof, or bulletproof"

"What made marriage so difficult back then was yet again that instigator of so many other sorts of heartbreak: the oversize brain. That cumbersome computer could hold so many contradictory opinions on so many different subjects all at once, and switch from one opinion or subject to another one so quickly, that a discussion between a husband and wife under stress could end up like a fight between blindfolded people wearing roller skates."

"Only humans celebrate the extinction of another race, thanksgiving"

     The curse in dark souls can be seen as this, it simplifies humans and makes them hollowed out versions of what they used to be, but they don't seem to attack each other, they are in a state of nothingness, with no ambitions they are just like the dragons in the age of arch trees simply existing with no disparity, peacefully but with no purpose, until some hollows see you, the player who attack everything it sees. It’s also important to note that the giants have a hole in their face, a representation of no brains being what gives us identity. Perhaps the solution to humanity in dark souls is like Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos.
     In art we see a cycle of simplicity and complexity. Art started of simple from cave painting to simple sculptures, throughout the years art became complex with detail, skill and symbolism, further into the stages of art, the technicality becomes center stage rather than the meaning behind the artwork. An example of this era is the renaissance. Reaching its peak, we start seeing art regress into simpler, abstract, minimalism with direct meaning in art again, examples of this is modern art, where even the question "is this even art?" emerges
      The same thing can be seen in gaming now. Where games used to be simple in design but with so much potential, like ping pong, then reaching heights of detail, storytelling and cinematic experience to the point where at its height, the technical marvel replaces gameplay and innovation leaving little game left and becoming something else entirely. We are seeing this regression to simplicity but more focus to gameplay in gaming right now, with old school game design and retro graphics. Games today even hit a minimalism point where we start asking "what makes a game?" "Can this even be considered a video game? The Souls games are a great example of this when it comes to the cycles and seeing the curse as a means to simplify a complex race that constantly tries to reach impossible heights and collapses under its weight of civilization and ambition. At its peak we end up forgetting the simplicity of just being.


Like I've said, I also believe the curse functions as nature’s way in dark souls of eliminating stagnation and uses entropy as a means for further species to progress when another reaches an evolutionary dead end, or can no longer learn from their mistakes and is too stubborn to let itself die out and prevents others to come into existence. Sweet Shalquoir says “This place is already dead. Everything will crumble and waste away, so that something new may be born." This happened to the dragons, the gods and in dark souls 2 it's happening to the humans. The tragedy of dark souls 2 lies in all the strength a stubborn race used to cheat the curse and nature to try and stop the natural cycle of life and evolution to just simply keep existing, this ties up to what the curse targets in humanity, the arrogance and ego of man to think himself undefeatable and god like. In the process they succeed and end  up destroying themselves and what was meant to be the new inheritors, the giants. Majulas state of sunset/sunrise is a representation of Drangleic stagnant state, not knowing if a day is ending, or welcoming a new one. In Dark Souls 1, humanity is a potential, in dark souls 2, humanity becomes a danger and by the end it's even questionable if what we did was justifiable or selfishly wrong. This is why in dark souls 2 the curse is more aggressive than in the first game, it is meant to make your progress harder with each fail, as your life shortens. It wants you to give up. Your image disintegrates mocking you just like sweet Shalquoir mocks you by saying that you smell lovely, evident that the curse in dark souls 2 is using entropy to rot your body. In Nausicaa Valley of the Wind by Hayao Miyazaki, humans live in a wasteland brought by industrialization. Industrial society had peaked and after the plunder and abuse done to the earth, violent decline was inevitable. This brought fires and poisonous atmospheres. In this wasteland there are civil wars, religious crusades, power struggles. The daikaisho occurs here and it can be seen as similar to the curse. The daikaisho is nature’s way of poisoning everything in order for it to be rebirth anew, to heal its wounds, this includes killing of the humans, the ones that corrupted the earth.