The first Dark Souls remains one of the finest examples of tough-as-nails action RPGs. If you’re playing through it for the first time, you should expect to die often. However, unlike death being the end-all possibility of a character’s timeline like other RPGs, the world of Dark Souls, rich with lore, embraces death, and shows that it’s not the end of your history.
When you begin Dark Souls, you start as a hollow, or an undead that has lost any trace of humanity. Upon dying yet again, you return to your most recent bonfire, and your souls are left in place where your body fell, waiting for you to retrieve them. Even enemies that you previously defeated return, showing that perhaps, they too are longing to hold on. If you, a hollow, are able to find humanity and use it, you can become human again. That is, until you die. Which you will.
But, once again, death is not the end in Dark Souls. As you die, you make it a little farther each time, getting closer to your ultimate goal of either relighting the first flame, or letting it fade, bringing in an era of darkness. However, upon reaching this goal and beating the game, you’re thrown into New Game+. You’ve struggled for so long, why would you want to play through the game again? And yet something compels you to try again, seeing if you can do things differently this time.
That’s where one of the biggest motifs of Dark Souls lies. The First Flame is doomed to eventually flicker out, waiting for someone to reignite it. Before you were many others that kept the flame lit. But the real person holding the First Flame is you, the player. You’re deciding to press on past the hardships, you’re continuing after you’ve lost everything to a sewer rat, you explore the world in several New Game+ modes. The flame lies within you, and it only goes out when you stop playing.
Just like several NPCs around Lordan, they all hold onto a sliver of hope. Once that hope fades, they also Hollow, and will attack you relentlessly. They’ve given up completely and never show up again if you defeat them. Their flame has faded.
Dying in Dark Souls is not the end of the game, giving up is. One of the largest themes in Dark Souls is to try again and do a little better each time. The game is only over when you turn it off for the final time.