Columns

Ranking From Software’s Top 10 NPCs | Column from the Editor

From Software has published several games now, and they’ve had well fleshed out combat as well as storytelling. In the process of developing these traits, they’ve introduced a number of important, interesting characters that have helped the player, hindered them or perhaps both. Today’s piece aims to discuss From Software’s ten best NPCs, starting at #10 and moving down to their best NPC.

Let’s begin.

10. Mensis Scholar Damian (Bloodborne)

Damian doesn’t have any actual narrative impact, but what he lacks in that he more than makes up for it in being an absolute machine on the battlefield. Damian can be summoned for help with the Rom the Vacuous Spider and Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos boss fights. In both of those fights, he will walk up to either boss and proceed to absolutely annihilate them. His secret? He is the only summonable NPC with access to A Call Beyond, the best nuking Arcane spell in the game. And boy oh boy does he take full advantage of this. He will happily stroll up to Rom and either obliterate her paltry spider minions, or he’ll disregard them and go straight for Rom herself. If you’re wondering why Ebrietas’ health bar just lost huge chunks in a few seconds, look no further than Damian blasting her to pieces with this spell.

Sadly, Damian is a little on the fragile side and likely won’t survive either boss fight unless the player has gone out of their way to protect him. That said, doing so may be a good strategy, as he certainly packs the firepower to make covering him worth your while.

9. Kingseeker Frampt (Dark Souls 1)

Kingseeker Frampt is an incredibly important NPC whose main duty is searching for an heir for Gwyn, Lord of Cinder. He appears when the player has managed to ring both Bells of Awakening within Lordran. The first thing of note he will do is urge the player to retrieve the Lordvessel, found within the beautiful Anor Londo and guarded by the iconic Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough. The second, arguably most notable feature Frampt offers is being the first method the player has had to sell the many useless junk items they’ve found to this point, thus granting them a way to level up more easily. Finally, Frampt is predictably tied to one of the game’s endings. Essentially, he wants to help the player link the First Flame, thus becoming the new Lord of Cinder.

8. Sirris of the Sunless Realms (Dark Souls 3)

Sirris is impactful both narratively and in aiding the player on the battlefield. She has an interesting, uniquely and largely interactive questline which involves the player essentially acting as a summon for her in two different areas. Additionally, she is largely tied to the Darkmoon Covenant and completing her questline is necessary to 100% finish the game. After helping Sirris kill her grandfather Hodrick, she will swear fealty to them and become their knight. If her questline is finished in a timely manner, the player will be able to receive her aid in fighting the Abyss Watchers, Deacons of the Deep, Dragonslayer Armor and the Twin Princes fights. This makes her the most frequently available NPC, as four fights are the most a single character has ever been a summon for in From Software gaming.

Sirris was the first NPC whose dynamic was actually fairly similar to playing with another real player. She requests their aid in two challenging fights, offers aid herself for a few other tricky boss fights, and is largely entwined within the game’s Covenant mechanic. As such, she added quite a bit of life to the game.

7. The Doll (Bloodborne)

The Doll is the NPC responsible for administering player level ups throughout the game. Unlike the Fire Keeper or Maiden in Black, who share that role in Dark Souls 1, 3 and Demon’s Souls respectively, The Doll actually has a name and an identity. Her actual name is Maria. Funnily enough, her human form ends up being a boss fight in the game’s Old Hunter DLC. Of course, this correctly suggests that The Doll isn’t an actual person, and is rather a projection of sorts created by Gehrman. Dialogue with The Doll will reveal that she is actually somewhat sentient and aware of this, adding some intrigue to her character.

It was good to see Bloodborne present a way to make The Doll a character of interest beyond just being level up fodder. While not totally necessary, there hasn’t been anywhere near the same depth in the Fire Keepers or Maiden in Black. As such, she definitely belongs on this list.

6. Emerald Herald (Dark Souls 2)

Also known as Shanalotte according to the game’s lore, the Emerald Herald gets a slight nod over the Doll as well as other level up NPCs across From Software games because she tends to have more of a meaningful presence beyond just leveling the character up, somewhat like the Doll. The Emerald Herald feels more of an actual guide than just being here for leveling up and spamming the same dialogue line over and over about the major goal at hand. The Emerald Herald also bears the most responsibility out of these types of characters, upgrading the player’s Estus Flasks, giving them the Aging Feather late in the game and offering important advice about other NPCs residing at Majula and the active journey ahead. 

Possibly one of the most important things to note about the Emerald Herald is that she is the only level up based character who can permanently be killed and prevent the player from leveling up again in that play through. If the Maiden in Black, Doll, or the Dark Souls 3 Firekeeper are killed, they simply come back, might lecture the player about what they’ve done, but will go on as if nothing happened afterward. If you kill the Emerald Herald, you’d better either be going for a “Soul Level 1” play through where you don’t need to level up, or you’d better be satisfied with what level you’re at upon doing so.

5. Blacksmith Andre/Andre of Astora (Dark Souls 1 & 3)

Blacksmiths found in Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls 2 are hostile and generally very rude to the player. In Bloodborne, the player essentially acts as their own blacksmith. Then in Dark Souls 1 and 3, we get Andre who’s much, much friendlier and pleasant to interact with. Andre returning in Dark Souls 3 was clearly an act of fan service. In both games, he’s incredibly helpful. In Dark Souls 1, he is solely responsible for making travel into New Londo Ruins doable for the average player, as he is the only way the player can infuse a weapon with Holy magic, which will likely be the only way they can permanently kill skeletons. In Dark Souls 3, he likewise becomes the only way, period, that the player can infuse their weapon with anything at all. In both games, he is helpful and can potentially help guide the player with useful advice if you select the ‘Talk’ option with him.

All in all, being the game’s most memorable blacksmith and with the most general utilities of his contemporaries, Andre was a shoo-in for this list.

4. Patches (Various From Software games)

Patches is in every From Software game except for Dark Souls 2. In Demon’s Souls, he’s known as “Patches the Hyena.” In Dark Souls 1 and 3, his moniker becomes “Patches the Unbreakable.” Finally, in Bloodborne, he is no longer even a human, becoming known as “Patches the Spider.” He makes a return in Elden Ring without any particular nickname.

Patches is as recognizable as he is irritating to deal with. In every game he appears in, he strives for nothing more than to mess with the player. In Demon’s Souls, he kicks them into a trench where they’re locked with a Red Phantom. In Dark Souls 1, he will wait for a player to cross a bridge in the Catacombs before pulling a lever that closes it, preventing the player from using the bridge to return from them. In Dark Souls 3, he not only kidnaps and robs Siegward of Catarina of his armor set, he also will kick the player into a trench at the bottom floor of the Cathedral of the Deep where they’ll have to fight several enemies, a Red Phantom and a Giant to escape. In Bloodborne, he will kick them off of a cliffside in the Nightmare Frontier into an open field, where a group of Rock Trolls gain the opportunity to use the player as target practice. Finally, in Elden Ring, Patches places a trap inside a treasure chest. When opened, it will teleport the player away from the area and will temporarily disable their ability to fast travel.

Patches’ reputation is such where it’s not unusual for an experience From Software player to just walk up to him and kill him the first time they see him in their playthrough. As it happens, he’s actually a boss fight in Elden Ring, but he’s the only boss fight that will actually forfeit halfway through and beg the player for mercy before getting killed. 

Patches is as iconic as it gets for a From Software NPC, easily justifying his positioning on this list.

3. Eileen the Crow (Bloodborne)

Eileen is the first NPC From Software ever made that was, in every little way, a complete bad ass. Eileen is such where the player is meant to feel frail and weak in comparison. After all, she has a wonderful aesthetic, is in possession of the Blades of Mercy, arguably the best Dexterity weapon and one of the fastest weapons in general and unsurprisingly hits like a truck. If the player is foolish enough to actually pick a fight with her, it will almost definitely go poorly.

This is why Eileen’s questline is very enjoyable, with excellent character development and a thrilling, albeit somewhat sad ending. It begins with the player killing a couple of bosses right before Eileen was going to do the deed. Upon spotting her at the scene each time, she will lecture the player about getting too ambitious and challenging progressively harder threats they’ll eventually fall to, though she does also express admiration in their efforts. Eventually, her questline ends with the player finding her at the Grand Cathedral, on the ground and bleeding out. She had just tried to fight the Bloody Crow of Cainhurst, clearly failed, prompting the player to head inside and defeat him despite her pleas against doing so. In essence, the player is being challenged by the game to kill a foe that even Eileen couldn’t handle. Thus, when the player manages to do so, the feeling of triumph will be quite great. After finishing her questline, the player is granted her weapon and a badge to go buy her cosmetics with before she presumably dies. 

As the most aesthetically pleasing NPC arguably ever, Eileen was an easy choice for this list.

2. Siegward of Catarina

“To your valor, my sword and our victory together. Long may the sun shine!”

Siegward is by far the most recognizable, influential NPC in Dark Souls 3. A direct video gaming descendent of the very first ‘Onion Knight’ found in Dark Souls 1, Siegward’s questline is fun, unlocks himself as an unconventional ally against Yhorm the Giant as well as grants the player numerous new, fun gestures for use. His armor set is among the heaviest in the game, but aesthetically speaking, it is without a doubt the best. If the player finishes Siegward’s questline then enters Yhorm the Giant’s boss fight, Siegward will enter during Yhorm’s opening cinematic and join forces with the player for the fight, rushing in with his own Storm Ruler.

Overall, Siegward was a very easy pick for this list as a result.

1. Solaire of Astora (Dark Souls 1)

As if it could be anyone else! When Dark Souls Remastered came to the Nintendo Switch, it’s no wonder that Nintendo had one amiibo made to commemorate it. Was it of Ornstein, Smough, Frampt, a Catarina Knight or even the Chosen Undead themselves? Nope, it was the original “Sun Bro,” the first major advocate of “jolly cooperation” and the one who gives the player the means to summon other players into their own world or be summoned themselves. Solaire is an immensely friendly character the player meets that serves as a countermeasure to seemingly everything else attacking them on sight and without any warning. Incidentally, he’s a possible summon for two boss fights- the Gaping Dragon and Ornstein & Smough themselves. He also had a questline where his interest is ‘finding his own sun’ or, essentially finding and achieving a grand purpose in life before inevitably dying and going hollow somehow. This questline can be emotionally pleasing, but it also bears the weight of burden on the player- if they do not complete Solaire’s questline, he will later become brainwashed and attack the player as a hollow, forcing the player’s hand in killing him. This can be a triumphant experience, but it can also turn into yet another reminder of how dreary and seemingly hopeless the world of Dark Souls is. As such, Solaire absolutely has to be at the #1 spot for this list.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: