Ringing the Two Bells
This is your first task in Dark Souls upon arriving in Lordran. There are two bells. One at the top, and one at the depths of world you’re in. The crestfallen warrior tells you to ring them both and… something will happen. The journey to ringing both bells is an arduous one. After finally reach the churning belly of Blighttown, defeating Quelaag, and ringing the second bell there, you feel like this should mark the end of the game. Instead, the gate to Sen’s Fortress opens, and more terrors await.
Speaking of Blighttown, there’s not another stage in the Dark Souls series that has earned as much ire from players as this one has. Filled with disgusting toxic foes, a ridiculous number of ladders, and the frustrating (though also impressive and brilliant) level design, nothing beats the feeling of discovering the shortcut that takes you back to New Londo. Enter the elevator here, go up, and you’ll be greeted with the soothing tunes of the Firelink Shrine theme.
Arriving in Anor Londo
After spending hours upon hours in the dark and gloomy environments of lower Lordan, there’s just nothing quite like the sight of the sun-bathed vistas of Anor Londo. It’s all an illusion, of course, but it’s beautiful while it lasts.
Fighting Ornstein and Smough
Ornstein and Smough are the bosses that will make or break your Dark Souls playthrough. Fittingly referred to as Pikachu and Snorlax by series fans, this pair will test your ability to keep both enemies in your sights at the same time, while trying to take down a focus target.
Meeting Knight Artorias
You’ve killed his wolf, and now it’s time to fight the master himself. The introductory movie to the Artorias fight is brilliant. You enter the arena, and you see a deformed creature in the middle. You start wondering what monstrosity the game is pitting you against this time, and without warning, Artorias himself drops down to the arena, smashes the creature, and looks at you as if to say “You’re next.”
Finding Ash Lake
Ash Lake is one of the most memorable environments you’ll see in the original Dark Souls. It also happens to be completely optional and missable. Ash Lake is hidden in the Great Hollow, behind not one, but two illusory walls. Once you make the tough descent down the large tree roots, you’ll find a new stage, unlike anything else you’ve seen in the game so far.
Solaire has got to be the best NPC in Dark Souls, hands down. He speaks of jolly cooperation, and serves as the friendliest face you’ll meet around these parts. When he finally finds himself at the mercy of the bright Sunlight Maggot (if only he could be so grossly incandescent, indeed), the Chosen Undead can save him and repay the debt. Watching Solaire sit down and question his purpose for the first time is heartbreaking.
After defeating the countless bosses Dark Souls has to offer, the Chosen Undead finally finds themselves facing off against Gwyn, the Lord of Cinder. We know that he sacrificed his body to relight the fire, and that he’s now merely a husk of his former self. The music isn’t overwhelming or bombastic like previous boss themes. Instead, From Software opts for a low piano theme, as if egging the player on to put Gwyn out of his misery.
Arriving in Majula
Say what you will about Dark Souls II and all its shortcomings, Majula is the most beautiful main hub in the Soulsborne series, and it being bathed in a gorgeous, orange sunset certainly lends it a sense of peacefulness. Couple it with the soothing music, and the Emerald Herald’s calm voice (bearer seek seek lest, anyone?), and you’ve got a nice little home in Drangleic that you’ll never want to leave.
Meeting the Ivory King
The Ivory King is one of the best and most epic bosses you’ll fight in Dark Souls II. Jumping down to his arena was insane enough, but instead of finding the boss himself, you’re instead treated to an all-out war between his soldiers and yours. Survive the bloodshed, and the Ivory King will eventually grace you with his presence.
Meeting Gwyn’s First Born
For years now, lore buffs have been trying to figure out who exactly Gwyn’s first born son is. Many have guessed Solaire, and some have guessed Andre the Blacksmith. As it turns out, Gwyn’s son was someone we hadn’t met yet. The Nameless King shows up as an optional boss in Dark Souls III, and serves as one of the most challenging fights you’ll come across in the base game. After years of speculation and guessing, there was a certain sense of satisfaction that came with finally closing the book on that one lore mystery.
Returning to Anor Londo
Anor Londo was one of the best stages in Dark Souls, and coming back to it in Dark Souls III was truly a memorable moment. Things have changed since the first cycle of flame, and the majestic castle now lies largely in ruins. The friendly giant blacksmith is dead, and Ornstein and Smough’s room is overrun with sludge, defiled by the vile Aldrich. Oddly enough, someone did take the time to repair that one broken window on the top floor.
Getting married wasn’t something I expected going into Dark Souls III. But that option is there. Instead of being treated to a traditional marriage like any ordinary monarch might expect, players instead get to find their spouse (Anri, in this case) lying dead in Darkmoon Tomb. The Ashen One then plunges the ceremonial sword straight into her face, and the ritual is complete. Very morbid stuff.
Sister Friede’s Third Phase
Since From Software refined the whole concept of bosses having different phases in Bloodborne, they brought them into Dark Souls III as well. Some bosses will have two health bars, but that’s usually it. The Ashes of Ariandel DLC completely subverts players’ expectations by introducing a third phase with the Sister Friede boss fight. It’s pretty crazy too; the game tricks you into thinking the fight is over by giving you a Titanite Slab at the end of the second phase. Then, you hear Gael’s creepy laugh as Blackflame Elfriede rises from the ashes once more.
Defeating the Soul of Cinder
“Since Lord Gwyn, the first Lord of Cinder, many exalted lords have linked the First Flame, and it is their very souls that have manifested themselves as defender of the flame.” The Soul of Cinder remains as the best boss in the Dark Souls series not because of the challenge it poses (having to adapt to so many different fighting styles is a little nuts), but because of what it means to series fans. Players started their journey as the Chosen Undead who linked the fire. And now, what better way to finally break the cycle than facing off against the original lords of Lordran?