Document Type

Research Project

Publication Date

Spring 2022

Faculty Sponsor

Kir Kuiken


Thesis Seminar II, AENG 499


Any work involving a made-up universe is reliant on the mastery of its author in the conventions of its universe. In most works of high fantasy, authors proudly (often superfluously) showcase their worldbuilding: Languid, heavy-handed exposition and colorful, winding descriptions are the norm. However, the fictional worlds of the dark fantasy subgenre strive for the opposite, utilizing understatement as a mode of storytelling. Exposition through imagery, ambiance, and little pieces of lore picked up organically throughout a story is how the worldbuilding of dark fantasy settings is expressed. Such is the case for the fictional universe of the 2016 video game Dark Souls 3, where the history of the game’s universe is revealed slowly to the player through interactions and perceptions of its setting. Rather than the bustling, colorful civilizations that usually populate the fantasy genre, Souls’ medieval post-apocalyptic setting is depicted as broken-down, abandoned, and overgrown: A mere echo of the once-grand civilizations that precede the game’s present timeline.

The presence of these ruined spaces prompts an essential worldbuilding question: Why create a grand civilization, only to desecrate it? I posit that modern dark fantasy narratives cannot be evaluated through a literary lens without the foundational ideas generated by the Romantic writers, whose fixation on ruins -- marks of human achievement and design, seemingly suspended in time -- revolutionized a previously anthropocentric understanding of the world. This new way of thinking about history (and its skeletal monuments) is essential for parsing through the settings of dark fantasy worlds, whose rich histories are obscured by the decay of time.

For this project, I will unpack the understated storytelling within the game’s natural progression, and how this lends to a rich exploration of a mythical universe from the lens of its dilapidated present.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

santos_reflective_essay.pdf (66 kB)
Santos Reflective Essay

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Santos Works Cited



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