Dark Souls: Archthrones, an ambitious total conversion mod for Dark Souls 3, got its first substantial gameplay trailer on January 4. The 15-minute video shows off three levels from the mod, as well as the team’s approach to combining remixed content from throughout the Soulsborne games with new, bespoke assets.
The gameplay trailer begins in the Rainswept Outpost, Archthrones’ own “you have to die in this tutorial before reaching the hub area” level. Fittingly, it ends with a gnarly HD homage to Demon’s Souls’ Vanguard, complete with oozing bug eyes and spider legs sprouting out of its chest. Upon getting predictably pancaked by the beefy boy, the player wakes up in the Nexus of Embers, a green, warmly-lit redux of DS3’s Firelink Shrine.
It reminds me of the Ringed City’s look, or else those ruins levels from 2D Sonic games. Curiously, the Sculptor from Sekiro can be spotted hanging out here, presumably functioning as a merchant, and the titular Archthrones all have the Golden Order Greatsword from Elden Ring as warp points to the individual levels.
In a big ole’ “Leo Dicaprio pointing excitedly at the screen” moment, the second level showcased is the Ruins of Blue, aka Heide’s Tower of Flame from Dark Souls 2, ported to DS3’s engine and given a stormy makeover.
This gameplay also reveals that Archthrones will sport a variation on Elden Ring’s guard counter mechanic, with the player’s shield flashing on blocking blows from a wandering Heide Knight. In the Dragon Rider’s boss room from DS2, the player instead finds an agile, crow-themed miniboss with the moveset of the Nightjar Ninja from Sekiro (you know, the wooooo guys.)
The level then diverges from DS2, with the path to No Man’s Wharf instead leading up into a new tower behind the original level. At the top, the player enters an arena seemingly lifted from the bottom of Irithyll Dungeon and encounters the Disgraced Knight, a boss with Iudex Gundyr’s moveset, a fresh coat of paint, and a few surprise tricks like tossing out Estus-blocking Lloyd’s Talismans.
Image 1 of 5
The last level shown is the War-Torn Village, an autumnal reskin of DS3’s Undead Settlement with new enemies and an alternate path through the level. After fending off a Bloodborne Executioner reskinned to look like Basuzo, the player enters the Curse Rotted Greatwood’s arena and finds the Angelic Wall Guardian, a riff on the first Dark Souls’ Iron Golem with some new tracking projectile attacks.
The whole thing reminds me most of classic rom hacks like Kaizo Mario or Undertale creator Toby Fox’s Earthbound Halloween Hack. There’s a ton of potential in creating a sort of Dark Souls Master Quest out of pre-existing content, and Archthrones is further elevated by its custom art, models, lighting, and music.
If the notion of a Dark Souls total conversion sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of Nightfall, a similarly-impressive upcoming fanmade sequel to Dark Souls 1. Archthrones currently has no release date, but you can follow the mod’s progress on YouTube and support its creators on Patreon.