The design of bosses in FromSoftware games has become one of the defining features of the developer, even laying the foundation for the highlights of games like Souls throughout the genre. At the same time, many boss fights from earlier games, such as Demon’s Souls or even the gold standard Dark Souls, act as nothing more than puzzles. The situation changed for the better with the appearance of the Knight Artorias.
Around the middle of the Artorias of the Abyss DLC for Dark Souls, players first get acquainted with the Knight character Artorias the Abysswalker, who acts as the main obstacle to reaching the second half of Oolacile. It is at this point, in terms of added content, that both the game and the series begin to turn sharply to a fast, aggressive battle, and not to the enemies that are a puzzle.
Early FromSoftware Boss Designs
Thanks to the remake of Demon’s Souls, the pseudo-prequel to Dark Souls finally got most of the attention and recognition from FromSoftware fans it deserved. However, this attention also means that players have encountered encounters like the Dragon God from Demon’s Souls, and have seen a massive piece of the set turn into a simple puzzle once the fight begins. Unfortunately, this applies to most of the bosses in this early title, and a few bosses with similar designs are leaking into the more action-oriented Dark Souls and its sequels.
Thus, even in Dark Souls, there are fights that can be reduced to “activating a specific thing, and then …”, for example, with the Bed of Chaos and its puzzle with moving limbs. Even though there are several cases already in Demon’s Souls where these puzzle bosses can work, having a supposed solution that ignores the combat leading up to these encounters can be frustrating. This is what makes Artorias of the Abyss such a turning point for the series, as it gave FromSoftware several opportunities to choose how it would approach boss design in the future.
Artorias Sets a Fast pace for Dark Souls
The main thing that Artorias brings to Dark Souls is the speed and aggression of his attacks, forcing the player to match this aggression if he wants to come out victorious. Not only does Artorias have access to a barrage of lightning attacks, he can also link them together to maintain pressure, with small gaps available between combos. This is followed by a phase transition marked by a temporary increase and a further increase in the pace and aggression of Artorias. Interestingly, this relatively new concept has been preserved in the development of FromSoftware, in games such as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice or Elden Ring, which give bosses several phases.
Attacks range from a rapid succession of sword strikes to powerful jump strikes that smash Artorias’ massive sword against the player. While these faster attacks most likely won’t kill the player right away, hitting a combo will surely result in the classic “You’re dead” screen and reset the entire fight. In addition, there is a way that the knowledge about Artorias found throughout the main game affects the fight, especially in the case of how the Abyss’s backstory dictates the strengths and weaknesses of the encounter with the FromSoftware boss.
How does history affect Artorias in battle
In the deeper knowledge of Dark Souls, Artorias is one of the greatest figures among those who follow Gwyn and the other lords of Lordran. However, what makes Artorias such an interesting character in this backstory is how he fell out of favor by being swallowed up by the dark abyss he originally left to fight on Gwyn’s side. According to legend, this leads to the fall of the greatest of the Gwyn knights and, ultimately, to the fall of these four loyal servants as Lordran beings falling into ruins.
Leaving aside all knowledge, the influence of the Dark Souls Abyss eventually manifests itself right in the way Artorias fights, and many of his attacks cause him to unnaturally slide on the ground, leaving a trail of dark mud behind him. Similarly, Artorias can throw this goo at a player by catching him with a low damage attack that causes severe stun, which can then be punished with any type of sword combination. The phase transition also depends on these new Abyss abilities, as Artorias covers himself with darkness and gains increased attack, resistance, and speed.
Artorias’ Legacy in Future Dark Souls Games
After more than a decade, FromSoftware continues to insist on developing bosses that replicate and maximize the effects of fights, such as Artorias. In fact, before the developer added some of his toughest bosses to the Elden Ring, one of the previously toughest fights was almost a direct response to Artorias’ successes.