Dark Souls III is a more referential Souls game than many expected it to be, and it’s hard not to notice the abundant callbacks to prior games in the series. But for those of you who don’t have the time or wherewithal to hunt down every reference, or those who just want to compare notes, here are connections I noticed during the course of my 90ish hours with he game. There’s far too much for a single article, and even multiple articles can’t be definitively exhaustive, as I’m only a single writer, but the document containing my lore notes is over 6,500 words at this point, so hopefully there will be at least a few things of interest to everyone.
Bear in mind, however, that these discussions will be loaded with spoilers. If you want to see it all for yourself first and haven’t finished the game, or if you really want to give lore-hunting a shot on your own, save these articles to your bookmarks and join the discussion once you’re done.
This first piece covers a few characters and concepts that make physical cameos in the game (with some exceptions due to later theme considerations).
1. Andre of Astora
Andre can’t be missed. He’s sitting in Firelink Shrine, ready to tend to the player’s blacksmithing needs right from the start of the game. Despite his appearance and voice, some have questioned whether this is really the Andre we know and love, and we get something close to confirmation in his dialog when we give him the Giant’s Coal:
“My my, the coal of that peaceable giant. Seems like ages past. I imagine his passing was long ago. I miss the ol’ bugger, I do.”
It’s safe to say this is our Andre and no impostor. It seems he and the Giant Blacksmith of the gods were at some point acquainted. Just what has Andre been up to in our absence? For that matter, what was he up to before we found him in the old Undead Church?
All of this does, of course, beg the question: just how old is Andre? He and several others make repeat appearances, and one’s opinion will vary on how this affects things. If you subscribe to any variety of the Multiverse school of thought, your explanation is simple: the flow of time itself is convoluted. Dark Souls III is set up in such a way as to make this theory appealing, with many strange places seemingly in convergence with one another. High Priestess Emma tells us that the Lords of Cinder “have left, gone. To their churning homes, converging at the base of this [Lothric] castle.” That conspicuous adjective “churning” makes considerable sense taken from this viewpoint, and it goes a long way toward explaining one’s confusion when playing the Six Degrees of Saint Aldrich game (whether he ate Kevin Bacon, we cannot yet be certain).
It makes some sense. We do certainly bounce around spacetime in various ways during the course of our travels. One might even imagine the First Flame as a central energy upon which all realities feed, and wonder if as it fades, so too does the stability of these many worlds.
Yet it’s just as easy to write off Solaire’s commentary as a way of explaining to players how Summoning works, a very “hey, this is a videogame” sort of explanation for why multiplayer phantoms come and go. Perhaps as much time has gone by as other elements have led us to believe, and the multitude of Lords we see in both the Lords of Cinder we quest after and the Soul of Cinder who bars our way to the flame are many people over the course of millennia rather than throughout the spans of myriad worlds.
Could Andre really have lived so long and still be in such good shape? Perhaps. His impressively shirtless form does bear the gnarled, veiny whorl we’re all so familiar with, a telltale sign of the Undead curse. Perhaps his demand as a smith has kept him from going Hollow while the curse kept him alive.
2. The Many Appearances of Unbreakable Patches
Everyone’s favorite trap-setting miscreant, Patches, makes a return appearance, as he often has. Whether one takes Patches to be a character worthy of lore consideration or just a running gag is a matter of perspective, but he once again calls the issue of time into question. The very same Patches, at least according to appearance, voice, and behavior, has appeared in Demon’s Souls as “Patches the Hyena”, Dark Souls as “Trusty Patches”, Bloodborne as “Patches the Spider”—who is, in fact, a spider with a human head—and now Dark Souls III as “Unbreakable Patches”. Though conspicuously absent from Dark Souls II, this is the only game in the franchise not directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, explaining the omission.
Patches is a wily sort, generally known for pushing the player into pits after promising them treasure, and has been voiced by the same actor since the beginning. Does this really mean that all of these games are linked together? Well, it certainly wouldn’t be the most compelling evidence to suggest so, but as always, confirmation just doesn’t exist.
3. The Shrine Handmaid and the Old Fire Keepers
In Firelink Shrine, a Shrine Handmaid greedy for souls sells items to the player, and she does so while dressed in clothing identical to that of Strowen and her sisters, the Old Fire Keepers in Dark Souls II. She’s also got a similar facial structure and that same crazy laugh; though to be fair, crazy laughter is pretty commonplace in these parts. Another version of her can be found in the shrine of the Untended Graves. Is there some connection between these women and the Fire Keepers of Dark Souls II? It’s impossible to say no, given the identical clothing, but specific lore has not yet been forthcoming. Interestingly, while the Old Fire Keepers of the second game weren’t wearing any coverings over their faces, the Shrine Handmaids of the third game are blindfolded, a recurring theme of Fire Keepers.
4. Batwing Demons and the Identity of Lothric
Not much needs to be said about these guys, as their cameo is brief and relatively unimportant, but they do raise further timeline questions, just like Andre and Patches, making us wonder whether spacetime is colliding and getting mixed up, or if the lands of Dark Souls III are, in fact, remnants of Lordran thousands of years after our initial visit. These creatures could well exist in other lands too, but it’s another facet in the overall framework we build as we go, one that also reminds us of the land’s relative lack of identity in III.
Dark Souls had its Lordran, addressed as a whole in the opening narrative, and of which these batwing demons always felt unique to up until now. Dark Souls II talked of its own land as Drangleic, a large place filled with multiple kingdoms past and present. III has its Lothric, but this designation seems somehow narrower in scope, more limited to the kingdom itself. Even the Demon’s Souls land of Boletaria felt wider-reaching. The narrator of III’s opening does go out of her way to tell us that “it is called Lothric, where the transitory lands of the Lords of Cinder converge.” This backs up the Multiverse Theory, or the idea that multiple worlds are colliding in unnatural ways, perhaps as a slow and gradual process through the fading of the First Flame.
Churning homes, indeed.
5. Laddersmith Gilligan
A more subtle corpse-cameo comes at the beginning of the Profaned Capital. Laddersmith Gilligan from Dark Souls II is found there, apparently dead, amongst the remains of some of his famed ladders. The question of long life or Multiverse tomfoolery comes up again, as his lifeless body hasn’t begun to decompose despite the implied passage of time.
6. The Giant Blacksmith
Once players reach the decrepit leftovers of Anor Londo, now a hiding place for the gluttonous Saint Aldrich, they also discover the pitiable end of everyone’s favorite Giant Blacksmith from the first game. Given that Andre specifically says that he imagines the giant’s passing was “long ago”, and that their acquaintanceship seems “like ages past”, credence is lent to the notion of a more concrete timeline in which Andre has lived through more than a few ages.
7. Elizabeth of Oolacile and the Xanthous Scholars
We actually find the “corpse” of Elizabeth from the Artorias of the Abyss DLC hiding in a small cave in the swampy Farron’s Keep. Here, you can find the Antiquated Set sitting in a nearby chest, clothing that we associate with Dusk of Oolacile from the first game. We know for a fact that the events of the Artorias DLC occurred long before those of Dark Souls proper, and even Dusk’s clothes reinforce this, as they are designated specifically as “antiquated”. Certainly this is a more concrete notion of time, and an indicator that even if worlds are colliding in the Souls games, time too is also reliably passing.
But this cameo also brings geographical links, along with the Golden Scroll and the Antiquated Set found by Elizabeth’s body, implying that Darkroot Basin, Oolacile, the Road of Sacrifices, and Farron’s Keep are different versions of the same place.
Going a step further, we also read the description of the Xanthous Crown in Dark Souls III and find that it was “made in imitation of a divine creature of Oolacile, land of ancient, golden sorceries.” Given its very odd mushroom-like shape, the creature it most resembles is, of course, Elizabeth.
But we can’t stop there. The Xanthous Crown also closely resembles the Monk’s Head Collar from none other than Demon’s Souls. In fact, it resembles it considerably more so in shape than the same item in Dark Souls or Dark Souls II. Given that Latria in Demon’s Souls was a dark center of magic, and that the Xanthous scholars are known to have obsessively sought after Oolacile’s golden magic, one can’t help but wonder whether there’s more to this story. Sadly, Xanthous King Jeremiah tells no tales, and if he ever did manage to visit Elizabeth, she’s no longer around to confirm.
8. Quelaan and Quelana of Izalith
Quelana, the hidden pyromancer from the poison swamp at the bottom of Blighttown, has a small cameo in Dark Souls III, along with her half-spider sister, Quelaan, whom Eingyi served. Deep within the ruins below the Smouldering Lake lie two bodies, seemingly solidified, and the Quelana Pyromancy Tome lies close by. One of these bodies appears humanoid, while the other resembles a giant spider. It seems that after the events of the first game, Quelana returned to care for her ailing sister until they both ultimately met their ends. It’s a touching conclusion to the stories of these last members of the Witch of Izalith’s family.
9. Yuria of Londor and Yuria the Witch
One of Dark Souls III’s more surprising inclusions is a secret ending, known as the “Usurpation of Fire”. After Yoel of Londor returns with us to Firelink Shrine, and draws out our “true strength”, he passes away. Suddenly, near his corpse, appears Yuria of Londor. The choice of name is the connection here, as there’s a witch named Yuria in Demon’s Souls. Yet this reference appears to be skin deep, as the old Yuria actually more closely resembles Karla, the resident witch of III.
Despite the thin connection, it’s yet another nod to Demon’s Souls, which has always officially stood outside the Dark Souls timeline. One can’t help but wonder whether the official word is just a smokescreen, especially given our final item of discussion.
10. The Fire Keeper and the Maiden in Black
One of Dark Souls III’s most jaw-dropping references happens to also be one of the most notable callbacks to Demon’s Souls, which had a character similar to the Fire Keeper. She existed in the game’s hub world, called the Nexus, and would level players up in addition to featuring heavily in the game’s plot. The Fire Keeper in III says some extremely similar things, and also echoes the Maiden in Black’s chanting during the level-up process. This isn’t a direct cameo, but it does relate to a pair of characters, and is so important I wanted to include it in this first article.
The deeper connection between these women is revealed to those who look closely. The Shrine Fire Keeper wears something of a crown over her eyes, returning to the theme of blindness, as the Maiden in Black had her eyes covered by melted wax. The Shrine Handmaid, wearing the clothing of the Old Fire Keepers from II, also has bandages over her eyes, and Irina of Carim, who is blind from the start, can eventually become a Fire Keeper if players buy all of her divine miracles (avoiding the dark ones).
But if we go to the bell tower behind Firelink Shrine in III, we discover the fate of previous Fire Keepers, where they have gone to “find their rest”. This rest appears to be death, as they either leap or are pushed from a great height to the depths below. Many players have seen them, as heading to the bottom is a natural part of exploring the area (and escaping the trap Patches sets here), but it’s very easy to miss the details of the bodies themselves.
Compare the image to those of the Maiden in Black here. These women all have wax over their eyes in the same manner as the Maiden in Black, and the dead Fire Keeper within the dark shrine of the Untended Graves does also.
What does it all mean? We know from the Eyes of a Fire Keeper, found upon the lone corpse in the dark shrine, that sight is a big issue for these women: “Said to be the eyes of the first Fire Keeper, and the light that was lost by all Fire Keepers to come. It reveals to the sightless Fire Keepers things that they should never see.” Ludleth has much to say about these things, and the eyes themselves tie into the game’s “dark” ending. If we give them to the Shrine Fire Keeper, she tells us that those of her kind “are not meant to have eyes. It is forbidden. These will reveal, through a sliver of light, frightful images of betrayal. A world without fire.”
Sadly, the deeper questions about where Fire Keepers come from, and who removed their eyes so they could not witness these visions of a darkened world, are deeper than the scope of this article allows for.
Stay tuned for further lore discussion about Dark Souls III in the near future. We’ve got more enigmatic figures, members of the royal family, and even brand-new lore yet to talk about! If you think I’ve missed anything, or have your own theories, let us know in the comments below.