Travel along the Road of Sacrifices in Dark Souls 3 and you’ll come across a massive, festering swamp. It’s a grim place, crawling with the undead and, most terrifying of all, giant crabs. But it’s also littered with useful items, making a dash through the sickly green sludge worth the danger of getting caught in their pincers. One of these items is the Fallen Knight set, an intriguing suit of black armour with decent protection against fire. It’s stylish and intimidating, looking like something Kylo Ren would wear to a Renaissance fair, and it’s one of my favourite sets in the game. But beyond its fashionable design, there’s also a secret tragedy lurking behind that menacing helm.
In the Souls series, lore can be uncovered by reading item descriptions. Checking the description for the Fallen Knight set, it describes the former owner of the armour as a member of an order of knights who disbanded and fled, but met untimely deaths. One of those deaths, it seems, was in this stinking swamp. Take some time to study the armour and you’ll see delicate gold patterns engraved into the black metal. It’s clear this isn’t just a bog standard suit of armour knocked up by a village blacksmith. The knight would have earned this, or been given it for some special reason.
Which makes the fact that he’s attempted to hide it with an old, tattered cloak all the more mysterious. At one time this knight might have worn this armour with pride, but now he’s trying to disguise it, as if he’s ashamed of it. Or, more likely, ashamed of himself. I get the feeling that, after whatever made him flee, and whatever he was fleeing from, he became something similar to a masterless samurai. I can imagine him wandering Lothric, working as a sellsword, looking for a purpose in life, before meeting his demise on the Road of Sacrifices, probably in the claws of one of those monstrous crabs.
The armour is badly worn too. There are dents, scratches, and weapon impacts all over it, indicating many battles fought, or a hard life on the road. You can’t help but wonder what this magnificent black and gold armour looked like when it was new, pristine and gleaming on the back of a proud young knight. But now it’s battered, filthy, and draped in a ragged cloak. Dark Souls is great at imbuing its world, weapons, and armour with a melancholy sense of history, and the Fallen Knight set is a wonderful expression of this. Even the slot on the helm makes it look like it has a sad, pained expression.
But there’s more. The helm, armour, and gauntlets have almost identical descriptions, but examine the trousers and you’ll find an additional detail about the troubled past of their former owner. It reveals that the trousers are “dampened and indelibly stained with the misery of flight”, which is a lyrical, poetic way of saying our knight pissed, and possibly shit, himself while he was running away. I love this, because at first glance the Fallen Knight set looks so cool and sinister, but then you learn the truth. It’s a nice subversion that only makes the backstory of the armour even sadder, and an amusing joke at the expense of players who don’t read the item descriptions.
There might be other items in Dark Souls 3 or clues from previous games that further embellish the story of these fallen knights, proving my speculation wrong. But that’s the beauty of the Souls games. You’re given subtle clues and left to piece the lore together yourself. That a single suit of armour found lying in a swamp can tell such an evocative story—whether my version is accurate or not—speaks volumes about the attention to detail in these games. I’ve fought through gruelling dungeons and vanquished fearsome bosses in this old, forgotten armour, so perhaps I’ve restored some glory to it and the memory of its previous owner. And you get used to the smell after a while.