Dark Souls Architecture: How the Real World Influences the Game’s Locations & Lore

Dark Souls Architecture: How the Real World Influences the Game’s Locations & Lore

It would not be a mistake to say that one of the many reasons the Souls games are loved are their beautiful, intricate, and interesting location designs.

Often the locations are rather complicated, rarely linear, and use every square inch of the area. It’s something to be explored, rather than be simply scenery you pass by in your quest, presenting all the different ways and shortcuts that are opened as one progresses through the locations.

And, naturally, often the developers use real-life inspirations when creating their worlds.

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However, I believe that the architecture choices for the Souls series worlds might be something more than simply designs for particular locations, but rather that they reflect the lore behind the given locations quite consistently. Upon closer examination, it seems that there may be a deeper idea behind the concepts of different areas.

It’s not only simple like when seeing the same architectural style in different locations that implies a relation between the given locations, but it’s also when seeing the different, yet architecturally related styles that reflect certain lore connections.

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Archdragon Peak

Our first example of this and how it applies to the overall theory of this piece is the Archdragon Peak location in Dark Souls 3 and it’s lore, which is related to the Kingdom of Lothric and its history. This location has possibly the most easily recognizable real-life inspiration for architecture and design.

The Dragon-Kin Mausoleum building is obviously inspired by the Hagia Sophia basilica (and subsequently a mosque) of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul).

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But, the Byzantine style isn’t just limited to that building only as the elements of Byzantine architecture can be actually seen all over this location. For example, the paintings on the shields of  the Serpent-people (which are said to be a result of exquisite but painstaking technique) are in fact very similar to the Byzantine mosaic icons.

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Therefore, it seems that the cultural concept is that by the time of the game’s events, this Byzantine-inspired style corresponds to the dragon-worship culture, if we may call it that.

Consumed King’s Garden & Firelink Shrine

In fact the very same architectural elements, such as similar archways, floor mosaics, which are in fact inspired by the real-life Byzantine floor mosaics, may be found in the Consumed King’s Garden, particularly the building where we find the Consumed King Oceiros. This location is obviously related to the dragon-worship, as there we find a king obsessed with dragons, Serpent-men and, not coincidentally, the gesture that allows us to reach Archdragon Peak in the first place.

dark souls oceiros

Adding to the intrigue is that the building where we find and fight Oceiros appears to be actually older than Lothric Castle and is also quite similar to the old Firelink Shrine ruins, being built in similar style to the Archdragon Peak and these buildings could in fact have been parts of the same complex of buildings at some point in the story. The Firelink Shrine itself looks like it could’ve been inspired by Byzantine/Later Roman/Early Christian architecture.

History As The Thread That Connects The Worlds

Returning to the Archdragon Peak, I believe that there might be some parallels between historical Hagia Sophia and the Dragon-kin Mausoleum, which doesn’t appear to be a real mausoleum at all. Hagia Sophia was initially built as Christian basilica and became seat of the Orthodox Christian Patriarch of Constantinople and a principal setting for Byzantine imperial ceremonies. It had also been a Catholic cathedral for almost 60 years during the Latin occupation, but ultimately it was converted into a mosque after the Conquest of Constantinople by Ottoman sultan Mehmet II.

On the other hand, as we discuss in the title video, it seems that the Archdragon Peak hasn’t always been a place of dragon-worship either. It seems initially that Archdragon Peak used to be a shrine of Gwyn’s Firstborn and as we see a giant dragon corpse on the mountain beside it, it appears that it was built at the place of some victory once achieved by Gwyn’s Firstborn when he still was a Dragonslaying god of war. In such cases, those dead dragons we find in the ‘mausoleum’ could in fact initially be trophies put on display.

It’s quite peculiar that Archdragon Peak, which is related to the old gods as a really ancient shrine of the Nameless King likely built before his defection, has some Byzantine-inspired designs. Furthermore Firelink Shrine also seems to have that Later Roman/Byzantine style about itself, being an important place for the Way of White, which is effectively the church of the gods, as it sends its maidens to become firekeepers there.

In addition to that there are also several peculiar things about the Way of White:

  • The clerics of the Way of White often have Greek names (Petrus, Irina, Anastacia, Rhea) which are sometimes related to Orthodox Christian saints (such as Irina and Anastacia, for example)
  • In Dark Souls I the cleric class had the East-West Shield with double-headed eagle emblem as part of their starting equipment, while the double-headed eagle was also the symbol of the Byzantine Empire and subsequently the Orthodox Christian Church
  • The Cleric Armors of Dark Souls I looks somewhat similar to the gear historically widespread among medieval Byzantine warriors, for example, the cataphract heavy cavalry, namely the lamellar armor and helmets

3 Games Worth of History

Putting all of this together, it appears that all of it could be actually a part of the concept the developers at From Software came up with all the way back in the first game when working on the Way of White in which Later Roman/Byzantine style corresponds to the Early Way of White/Gods church outside of Anor Londo. This is somewhat similar to the real-life Khmer architecture that corresponds to Izalith, for example. Following the very same idea, the ancient shrine of the Nameless King, one of the old gods, also has a Byzantine design that is similar.

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As for the origins of the Consumed King’s building, built in a similar style to that of the Archdragon Peak, we know that Lothric knights were once dragon-hunters and we also can find the Dragonslayer Armor within the Lothric castle which apparently was something like a sacred relic for Lothric.

At the same time we find Lothric banners on the Archdragon Peak, therefore it seems that Lothric knights, being Sunlight Warriors and worshipers of the Nameless King followed him in his alliance with dragons upon finding out about his defection, and so he taught them the lore of dragon-taming.

In this case, the old building of the Consumed King’s Garden that’s built in a similar style to the Archdragon Peak, would be an ancient Sun Worship (Nameless King) shrine of the early Lothric Kingdom as its knights were initially sun-worshippers. This means that this building is possibly even a part of the same complex of buildings within the Firelink Shrine, Cemetery of Ash and Untended Graves ruins.

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As Below, So Above

Sometimes it’s easy to go so far down the rabbit hole in the Soulsborne series that you begin to wonder if you yourself are imagining the depth of connectivity in the details. Yet, when you take the time to explore and lay out the evidence one begins to see that there is in fact something there, some incredibly detailed care poured into the game’s development. When a game is so richly designed that careful study of its world leads to careful study of the real world, as a work of art, it takes on a literal transcendent quality. And that’s just for one architectural example. There are so many others to investigate. I don’t plan on looking away anytime soon.


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I enjoy playing Dark Souls and researching its lore, especially from the etymological approach, and thus I developed a hobby of making videos discussing various interesting things related to it (also, once I even came up with some fan-fic lore story, lol). Being a Souls fan it's no wonder that I also love mangas by Kentaro Miura and works of JRR Tolkien. Generally I enjoy history, architecture and historical linguistics.

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7 comments on “Dark Souls Architecture: How the Real World Influences the Game’s Locations & Lore”

  1. Avatar Nahztek-Shadowpath says:

    I just skimmed this because my bus ride was ending soon. It looks like an interesting read. I’ll have to get back to it sometime.
    Impressive research and correlations for sure.

  2. Avatar skarekrow13 says:

    Awesome read. I only have one thing to add which doesn’t change anything you have here but I find intriguing.

    The interior and exterior views of where we find Oceiros are actually different buildings.

  3. Avatar Fexelea says:

    This was a very interesting read – thank you! I like lore and architecture pieces on Souls and other games, it’s really great :D

  4. Avatar Grehym_Blak says:

    Dang Oswald, my arch history prof would be envious of yours skills. Your comparison to real world architecture would have been an awesome extra credit report. I’ve been to Hagia Sofia and other mosques in Istanbul, definitely have an Archdragon Peak feel.

  5. Avatar OswaldFromCarim says:

    Thanks, I’m glad that it was interesting for you, and I’d also like to thank the editors team for improving the article, it looks way better now

  6. Avatar OswaldFromCarim says:

    Basically this video was really difficult to make (I started making it around the time I made videos about Sword Master in DaS I, Berserk References, Winged Knights) but only finished in December but it’s also very important to me.

    The thing is that I already had some of the ideas I finally discussed in this video back in 2013, and basically in April-May of 2013 I attempted to draw a "fanart" picture (if it may be called "art") inspired by some of the lore-ideas and possible parallels I had then (like possible Byzantine parallels about the Way of White church, a speculation I thought of because of the East-West Shield, Cleric Armor designs, Greek names of the characters):

    Image

    Now I know that it’s extremely lame and I can’t draw and it’s just copying the real-life mosaic of Emperor Justinian I, and that’s the reason I abandoned it in the end, lol. Just look at the face of the guy on the left T_T And painitng those mosaic pieces was really such a pain, I spent couple of weeks like that lol

    So, basically it was supposed to be something like an old, damaged Byzantine-like mosaic depicting Gwyn’s Firstborn along with his host of Warriors of Sunlight/Dragonslayers (Firstborn depicted in the middle, the part depicting his face was supposed to be damaged, erased, as he got expunged from history, his statues were ruined, and this was supposed to be something like a forgotten old mosaic in some old Way of White Church, because of the Byzantine stuff about its clerics we saw in DaS I).

    I wanted to depict him with a dragon head as a trophy because of course I knew nothing about his defection back then, but only knew that the ruined statue of the Sunlight Altar held a Dragonslayer Spear (though a normal one, not a Spear/Sword hybrid the Nameless King actually wields). Although it’s more like a head of blue wyvern/drake, not a dragon really, similar to those on the wall in Anor Londo, and the guys whom I never finished were supposed to bear Dragonslayer Spears. Also I thought that as a prince he had a different crown so I just made it similar to that worn by Justinian on the real-life mosaic.

    And with all that stuff, imagine my feelings when I found the Leo Ring in DaS3 that proved the link between the Firstborn and Dragonslayers and then visited the Archdragon Peak and saw its "Hagia Sophia". But as I still wasn’t 100% sure about some architecture things about Firelink Shrine so I wasn’t able to finish it until several months later (and it was really a difficult one to make, I even had to draw myself some charts to see in which order would it be better to place the different parts so it would be easier to watch, hopefully I didn’t pick the worst option at least)

    Another funny thing that I didn’t remember until finally finding this "fanart" on my old PC, is the sword inspired by the real life Korean/Japanese Seven-Branched Sword (七支刀) which now possibly looks a little similar to Morion Blade (that possibly could also be inspired by the real-life Shichishito sword), but I simply wanted to place something in guys hand that would look like some ceremonial thing.

    Well, the picture is kinda lame, but I really regret that I didn’t finish it back then, but at least I made this video and there’s this article now :)

  7. Anonymous says:

    What are the names of the real life places that was compared with the images from dark souls?


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