Dark Souls is often praised for its interconnected world design, and how it shows distant areas that you can travel to (indirectly, typically). I’ve been wanting to do a demonstration of all the notable views/ skyboxes to help point them out and explain them.
1) The Great Hollow and Blighttown from Firelink Shrine
From the Firelink Shrine, we can see a giant tree in the distance:
An up close look reveals that this part of the skybox is simply a 2D texture, though it represents the very same Great Hollow tree that you descend to reach Ash Lake:
Looking down from Firelink, you can see the pillars that run through Blighttown’s swamp:
If Firelink’s orientation to Blighttown is a bit confusing, remember that the Great Hollow tree is at one far end of the poison swamp, while Quelanaa and the entrance to Quelaag’s Domain is at the other. This means that Firelink is much closer to Quelaana’s side, and in fact the entrance to Quelaag’s domain is essentially far underneath the graveyard in Firelink. This can’t be seen in-game, but the 3D Map Explorer shows this relationship nicely:
The view from the 3D Map Explorer also shows us the actual Great Hollow’s shell and not the 2D skybox drawn from Firelink, which indicates that the placement for the skybox is pretty accurate to the game’s actual map data/ geography:
As a bonus fun fact, you can see the Gaping Dragon’s boss room to the left, meaning it’s meant to be behind the curved wall you see in the first image in this post.
2) Firelink Shrine from Blighttown
Did you know that you can also see Firelink Shrine from Blighttown? It’s kind of impressive that they even bothered because there’s only a couple select areas/ angles from where you can see it.
Down in the swamp, near Mildred’s spawn location:
And in upper Blighttown, by the Eagle Shield:
This version of Firelink uses a simplified LOD Model which looks a bit comical and distorted up close. You can see weird artifacts, something that looks like a bridge extending out from the bonfire area:
But if you consider the angle of view, we can assume that’s actually meant to be the aqueduct tunnel, distorted to be a bit more “2D-like” by not bothering to actually set it back further. Because all the way from the swamp, you’re not going to be able to tell (if you can see this at all).
Here’s more of Firelink, with the elevator shaft to the Undead Parish seen as a stone-textured object running up the wall.
You can see a more in-depth examination of this LOD Firelink here.
Looking back down at Blighttown from the LOD Firelink, we can see what Blighttown is actually supposed to look like if it was fully rendered from Firelink and not drawn in a simplified form:
(the brownish-red smudge that’s off-center is Mildred’s bloodstain on her spawn location)
Compare that to the screenshot above of the player looking down into Blighttown from Firelink, and it matches very nicely. The only noteworthy detail missing is the various branches.
3) “Other Burg”, seen from Firelink Shrine
One of the few cases of distant scenery that can’t be traveled to is the town seen from the Graveyard area of the Firelink Shrine:
There are already some pretty good up-close examinations of it, so I’ll link to an existing video from /u/CrestfallenWarrior:
But I’ve seen people ask about what this place is. What’s the “lore” behind it? My interpretation is pretty simple: It’s meant to be a nondescript town, positioned amongst the outer walls. It’s one of many unseen towns in Lordran that surround Anor Londo, as depicted in the opening cutscene:
The image here is almost entirely unrecognizable, asides from having a large city high up that looks like Anor Londo, with large outer walls and towns surrounding it. We can assume this is earlier concept art of Lordran, which wasn’t used as a literal blueprint for the world’s design. In-game, the outer walls are arranged more erratically and not in one large circle. But because the general idea is the same, we can interpret the “Other Burg” as the developers’ attempt at showing us something kind of similar to the above image. That there are towns beneath Anor Londo in walled-off areas, possibly home to lower classes.
The “Other Burg” could be any random collection of buildings from the above picture, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not really meant to be anywhere specific. If you go out even further, you can find a couple more lower-res towns in different sections behind this one:
4) Darkroot Garden and Valley of Drakes, from the Undead Burg
The Darkroot Garden can be seen from the Undead Burg, though due to being daytime and very, very low quality, it can be easy to miss. Here’s the view from the wooden platform with the Firebomb-throwing hollows:
Look familiar? That darker-thing in the middle is the zig-zagging path that leads down into the Darkroot Basin. The green area in the upper right is meant to be the Forest area of the Darkroot Garden, and the flat area in-between is where you can survive the fall from the Forest into the Basin:
If you pan the camera down from this angle, you can see even further into the Valley of Drakes below, particularly the bridge that enters New Londo Ruins (New Londo Ruins is on the left of that bridge, Basin elevator would be on the right):
Here’s a closer look at the LOD Basin/ Forest:
Going down to the LOD Valley of Drakes Bridge, looking towards the Basin elevator:
Looking the other way, into New Londo Ruins:
They even included an incomplete/ low quality version of the Valley of Drakes path itself, though there’s no angle where you can actually see this from the Burg:
5) Capra Demon’s Room from Upper Undead Burg
Being able to see parts of the Lower Undead Burg from up above is no surprise, though sometimes the Capra Demon’s room is overlooked. It can be seen from the beginning of the level, on the return path from the side-area that you drop down to (you climb a ladder to get back out). The room is less detailed from up here, but the staircase is obvious:
Headed back to the ladder we just climbed up, and looking more to the left, we can just barely see the staircase and the edge of the doorway that leads into the tower (the one with the Female Undead Merchant at the top):
6) The Duke’s Archives from the Undead Burg
The Duke’s Archives can be seen from the Undead Parish, Sen’s Fortress, and Anor Londo. Though more impressively, it can first be spotted all the way back from the Hellkite Drake’s bridge:
It’s not exactly a fully-to-scale model, but it gets the point across:
6) Sen’s Fortress and the Undead Parish
This is a pretty obvious one that doesn’t need much explanation. You can see Sen’s Fortress from the Church Rooftop in the Parish, and vice versa.
(you can also see the Duke’s Archives from here if you pan the camera up over Sen’s Fortress)
One detail that’s kind of neat, is that you can see the Giant that mans the portcullis from up here in Sen’s Fortress. Perhaps a little reminder that he’s there if you haven’t found the illusory wall yet.
7) A couple more views of the Duke’s Archives.
I wanted to mention how Dark Souls continues to show off the Duke’s Archives as if it’s some kind of ominous, final destination. It can be seen in both cutscenes where the Gargoyle Demons take you to and from Anor Londo. The cutscene where you return to Sen’s Fortress from Anor Londo I find a bit more interesting, since it shows Duke’s Archives for longer and carefully pans down in such a way that you get a good look at it without being obscured by the mountain:
It reminds me of Castlevania 1 on the NES, where Dracula’s final tower is looming off in the distance. In addition to showing us the tower in the map between every stage, there’s also a single spot in level 3 where unique background art is dedicated to hint at what’s ahead:
Here’s a closer look at the LOD Duke’s Archives, as rendered from Anor Londo:
8) Various views from Anor Londo
Anor Londo includes a very hard to see LOD of lower Lordran. I find it interesting that they bothered, since you can’t really get a good look at it. Unless I’m completely missing another viewpoint, the best you can see is trying to peek around the corner from where the Gargoyle Demon drops you off:
Oddly enough, this area includes mostly everything nearby asides from Sen’s Fortress, which has an empty area where it should be:
Then there’s also the city of Anor Londo itself. There’s not much of note here since it’s just a bunch of random buildings, but here’s a few screenshots showing them up close:
9) Demon Ruins and Lost Izalith from the Tomb of the Giants
My favorite surprising vista is the Demon Ruins skybox seen from the Tomb of the Giants:
If you’re having trouble recognizing familiar terrain from the Demon Ruins, bear in mind that everything in the upper half of the image doesn’t belong to anywhere you can reach in game. I refer to this as the “Upper Shelf” of the Demon Ruins, which you can see when looking up while you’re down there:
(you can see more pictures of these structures here)
What’s recognizable is what’s down below:
How accurate is this view compared to the game’s actual map space? It’s pretty close.
One thing that always renders regardless of distance is the player’s bloodstain. Even if you drop it in a different level that isn’t loaded at all, it’ll still display at its exact coordinates (assuming you have a clear view to it). We can drop our bloodstain right at the fork of the side path tunnel:
And see if it shows up from the Tomb of the Giants:
It certainly doesn’t line up perfectly, with the bloodstain appearing quite a bit further back in the skybox. However, the “general idea” is correct in that you really would see this area from the Tomb of the Giants.
10) A quick tangent on the Lost Izalith dome
The large dome structure we see when first entering the Demon Ruins (and also from up in TotG) houses Lost Izalith. I’ve seen people ask about the dome before, so I wanted to point out how we know that Lost Izalith is inside it. Apart from the map data clarifying that it’s located behind it, we are also shown this in-game.
When you walk through the wall into the area with all the Dragon Butts, you can see that you’re passing through a crack at the base of the dome:
Once you’re inside, you can look up and see the curvature of the dome:
11) A couple missed opportunities with the TotG/ Demon Ruins skybox
Despite being my favorite skybox, I feel like they missed two things which would’ve made it cooler. When you drain the lava after defeating Ceasless Discharge, this change isn’t seen from Tomb of the Giants. The lava remains.
Secondly, you can’t see Tomb of the Giants from the Demon Ruins. I’d understand if you couldn’t see into it due to it being too dark, but there should at least be that massive “window” that allows us to see the Demon Ruins from up there.
To get an idea for where it should be, the Map Explorer shows us. This is looking back from where we left the bloodstain in Ceaseless’ arena:
In-game, it’s just a solid wall:
I wonder if this has anything to do with Demon Ruins and Lost Izalith being rushed in development. While the skybox probably wasn’t high on their priority list for things to get right, is it something they would’ve fixed if they had a lot more time to work on this area? Who knows.
12) The “Ash Lake Expanse” from Tomb of the Giants
Not much further into the Tomb of the Giants, we’re provided another interesting view with a very different aesthetic from the Demon Ruins:
I refer to this area as the “Ash Lake Expanse” because it depicts the primordial underworld seen surrounding Ash Lake. This is not actually a view of the Ash Lake level, it’s nowhere near here nor is it meant to be. To get to Ash Lake from here, you’d have to fly forward, take an acute turn right around the rock structure, and then fly a pretty far distance. So it’s not even close to being in view.
This view of the underworld is also technically impossible given the map/ world design. Not even with a bit of stretching could it really fit, this is a lot more like the world design of Dark Souls 2 where things don’t try to fit 1:1 with the map data.
The violation here is that we should be not far from a valley wall in the Valley of Drakes, near (and underneath) the bridge leading into New Londo Ruins. Standing in the doorway where the yellow fog gate is and looking up, you can see the Valley of Drakes Bridge nearby in the Map Explorer:
In-game it looks like this:
So we shouldn’t be able to see far forward at all, due to being behind a wall in the valley, but additionally the valley simply doesn’t seem to exist at all from down here, because we can see empty space far beyond where the opposite side of the valley should be.
Given the consistency of the world design otherwise, I’m sure this wasn’t a “mistake”. They likely ignored accuracy here and went for environmental storytelling instead.
13) Bonus Kiln Fun Fact
There’s nothing really special to see in the skyboxes of The Undead Asylum, The Painted World, or the Kiln, because they don’t try to fit in with the rest of Lordran’s geography in any meaningful way. Players have noted losing a bloodstain somewhere (Anor Londo IIRC?), and being able to see it in the sky of the Kiln, but that has everything to do with the maps needing to be placed somewhere in the data and nothing to do with where the maps are actually supposed to be in canon/lore.
But one structural detail I find interesting is Gwyn’s lair, which is hard to see in-game. It’s basically like a giant version of the Lordvessel. You have a round structure which houses the flame on top, and a series of branches supporting it at the base:
14) Oolacile and Darkroot Comparisons
This also doesn’t have much to do with skyboxes, but it does pertain to the geography of Dark Souls. A while back I made an album of animated gifs that compare The Royal Woods to Darkroot Garden, showing how they’re mostly the same location, with some minor changes. Even things like trees are in identical locations in the past, only somewhat smaller due to being younger: