FromSoftware’s Dark Souls III stands as the finale to the original Dark Souls Trilogy, attempting to wrap up the story in totality. The player character, this time titled the Ashen One, was given life to return the Lords of Cinder to their thrones and link the First Flame. The medieval aesthetic, sword-and-sorcery fantasy elements, and immersive worldbuilding challenge players in a fair, yet punishing fashion and culminates in a variety of endings for the player to choose from. Among those endings, one is created through the use of a new status to the Souls franchise, but not a new concept to the game lore; Hollowing.
Key details Up Front
Benefits: 5 Levels, Hollow Infusion, Luck Bonus, Ending Option
Downside: Change in Appearance, Possible to Fail Questline
Removable: Yes (once per Playthrough)
Reversible: Yes (without removing)
Related Questlines: Lord of Hollows Ending, Yoel of Londer, Yuria of Londor, Anri of Astora
Other: Must be started & 5 levels gained before defeating the Abyss Watchers.
What is “Hollowing”?
Hollowing is a status condition that has been around since the original Dark Souls. However, this is the first time the status can affect a character’s stats or a game-ending. The term “going Hollow” was used by various NPCs throughout the Souls franchise to describe the degeneration process from nameless Undead into a mindless zombie. Hollows comprise many basic and early-game enemies in the Souls franchise, with your character having a Hollow appearance until their Humanity was restored (typically using an item called Humanity). In Dark Souls III, Hollowing was changed to be of actual story significance and to have stat benefits. As well, Hollowing is tied to a particular ending and at least 3 NPC questlines. In my first playthrough of Dark Souls III, I knew about the ending before playing and actively sought to get that storyline, which led to a fulfilling, if not slightly stressful, experience.
Why should you go, Hollow?
One key reason to follow the path of Hollowing is to attain the Lord of Hollows Ending. I, along with some Souls fans, count this ending as the “true ending” of the Souls franchise, as it finally moves on from the repeating Age of Fire and into the Age of Dark, also called the Age of Humanity. As well, along the path, you meet Yuria of Londor, a servant of Kaathe, one of the Primordial Serpents from Dark Souls, who also tried to guide the player to the Age of Dark ending in that game. Finally, one of the best features of going Hollow is being able to gain a “free” 5 levels simply by accepting a Dark Sign from Yoel, “drawing out your true strength,” and dying, repeating the dialogue after each death. Five free levels in the early game can be a large boost to a low-level character.
Hollowing in Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, and Dark Souls III.
The term “Hollow” has been around since the start of the franchise; however, it was not always a status condition nor having ending significance as it does in Dark Souls III.
In Dark Souls, the term “Hollow” was used in gameplay to describe the Chosen Undead (the player character) when summoning was not available. In the Hollow state, the Chosen Undead could not summon NPCs nor other players to help clear zones or fight bosses. As well, the Chosen Undead could not be invaded while in the Hollow state by neither NPCs nor players. To “reverse Hollowing,” the Chosen Undead can offer Humanity, a passive resource, and consumable item, to any bonfire and restore their “Human” state. This would allow both summoning and invasions to occur. However, the Chosen Undead will return to the Hollow state upon death or by using the Darksign item, which rebirths the Chosen Undead at the last bonfire rested at but loses all souls held and acquired Humanity. In terms of visuals, the Chosen Undead is either Hollow or Human; there is no transition, and they are simply two separate visuals.
Dark Souls II
In Dark Souls II, Hollowing worked similarly to Dark Souls, with only a few key differences. First, being in a Hollow state does not prevent invasions by NPCs or other players. Second and more importantly, Hollowing is a progression that occurs with each death and has detrimental effects. Each death would reduce the player’s maximum HP by 5%, stacking until the player’s max HP has been reduced by 50%. If the player has a sin level of “wretch,” which would mean the player has killed many nonhostile NPCs or invaded and killed many host characters, this continues until the player’s HP maximum has been reduced by 95%. Finally, compared to the “off or on” differences in Dark Souls, each death will make the player’s appearance more Hollow, showing a degree of transition as more Hollowing occurs. Reversing Hollowing can be done with a Human Effigy, a consumable item similar to a Humanity. Alternatively, acquiring Vendrick’s blessing and wearing one of the four crowns (King’s Crown, Crown of the Sunken King, Crown of the Old Iron King, or Crown of the Ivory King items) will completely negate the effect of Hollowing, even through death.
Dark Souls III
As mentioned earlier, Hollowing has been revamped in Dark Souls III into having both a status condition and ending significance. The detrimental state of Hollowing from Dark Souls II has been removed, no longer reducing the player’s maximum HP. As well, being Hollow has no bearing on summoning allied NPCs or players or being invaded, with that mechanic now tied to when the Ashen One being “numbered”, or using the Ember consumable that boosts their maximum HP. Now, the Hollow status gives an increase to Hollow-infused weapons that scale with Luck and allows a new ending path to be followed by the player. I never made particular use of the Hollow infusion, since I used predominantly the Farron Greatsword, a boss weapon from the Abyss Watchers (which cannot be infused). However, I did achieve the Lord of Hollows ending without needing to change my weapon choices. A consistent effect of Hollowing through the three games is the change in character appearance; in Dark Souls III, the character model changes with each death and level of Hollowing achieved, shriveling the player until they are in a zombie-like visual state.
Hollowing ties three other NPC questlines together in a web of misdirection and ritualistic death. First, the start of the Hollowing process is also the beginning of Yoel of Londor’s questline, bringing him to Firelink Shrine as a Sorcery merchant and level trainer. Tied to Yoel is his killer and associate Yuria of Londor. She claims that Yoel knew his role and that his job was done, committing her service to the “future Lord of Hollows” player character. Yuria also acts as a merchant for Purging Stones, a consumable item to temporarily reverse the appearance change of Hollowing. Yuria also weaves in another NPC, Anri of Astora, a noble Unkindled and survivor of Aldrich, Devourer of Gods as a child. However, Anri also has their own storyline wholly separate from the Hollowing questline, so continuing towards the Lord of Hollows ending will cut off the end of Anri’s character questline.
How to unlock Hollowing
The first step to unlocking Hollowing is finding Yoel of Londor just after you arrive at the Undead Settlement. Yoel is located at the end of the bridge alongside a few dozen other dead Pilgrims (as seen in the intro cinematic). After exhausting his dialogue and accepting him into your service, Yoel will teleport to Firelink Shrine and become a merchant. This must be done before defeating the Abyss Watchers. If not recruited before then, Yoel will die and not be recruitable.
After returning to Firelink Shrine, Yoel will become a merchant for some Sorcery spells, but more importantly, he will offer to “draw out your true strength.” Accepting this will bestow a Dark Sigil to your character and grant a free level up (to make a note: the number of Souls needed for subsequent levels will go up like normal after accepting a free level up). After receiving a Dark Sigil and dying, the status screen will show a “Hollowing” section under your player Level. This number will go up in amounts equal to the amount of Dark Sigils you have. Each time you have Yoel “draw out your true strength” and get a free Level Up, you gain another Dark Sigil, which makes the Hollowing stat go up faster every time you die. You can only gain five free levels (5 Dark Sigils), with the first coming with no requirements, but the subsequent needing Hollowing at 2, 6, 12, and 15, respectively. Hollowing can go up to 99 at max. You need all 5 Dark Sigils for the Lord of Hollows Ending.
Once all 5 Dark Sigils are granted from Yoel, and you defeat the Abyss Watchers, Yoel will die in Firelink Shrine, and next to where he was standing will be a new NPC, Yuria of Londor. Yuria is the catalyst NPC for the Lord of Hollows ending, as she is part of the Church of Londor, Darkwraiths, and a follower of Darkstalker Kaathe, an NPC Primordial Serpent from Dark Souls. She also is a merchant for various items, including Purging Stones, the weapon Dark Hand, and the same Sorceries formerly sold by Yoel.
While continuing through Yuria’s questline is not required when becoming Hollow or gaining 99 Hollowing, following the questline will connect Yuria to the quest of Anri of Astora. As well, following Yuria’s quest and trying to achieve the Lord of Hollows ending will prematurely end the questline of Anri of Astora, compared to just doing Anri’s questline normally.
The Hollowing stat does give a bonus to Luck when holding a Hollow-infused weapon. This is a way to increase the Luck stat without actually leveling up.
Hollowing can be reversed but not cured through the use of a Purging Stone. This will reset the Hollowing stat number and reset the character model to their state before Hollowing. These do not remove Dark Sigils, however, and also do not interfere with Yuria’s questline. Purging Stones can be purchased from Yuria, or bought from the Shrine Handmaiden if you give her the Hollow’s Ashes or Yuria’s Ashes. As well, they can be farmed from Sewer Centipedes in the Profaned Capital toxic swamp. Alternatively, Hollowing can be reversed by the Velka Statue or at the Purging Monument using the Dissolution option. Note: Hollow-infused weapons will not give their Luck bonus if you are not Hollow.
Hollowing and the Dark sigils can be cured by giving the Fire Keeper at Firelink Shrine the Fire Keeper Soul, which can be found at the top of the bell tower outside Firelink Shrine (requires Tower Key). This also requires several Souls equal to the total amount of Souls for the player’s next five levels. The levels are not lost; this is just “paying” for the previous five free levels. Removing the Dark Sigils and Hollowing will discontinue Yuria’s questline, as she will leave Firelink Shrine. This will also remove any summon signs from the Londor Pale Shade and trigger invasions by the same Londor Pale Shade in both Farron Keep and Irithyll of the Boreal Valley. Curing the Dark Sigils/Hollowing will make it impossible to achieve the Lord of Hollows ending for that current playthrough. However, on NG+ playthroughs, the ending can still be achieved if the same steps listed previously are followed.
The idea of a Hollow has been considered the end of a story in prior Dark Souls games. Many NPCs warn the player of “going hollow” and striving towards a specific goal or set of values to avoid the true mindless zombie affliction of Hollowing. Even in the lore, those who go Hollow have forsaken their lives and loved ones, presenting a danger to anyone around them. However, with the player character being the Ashen One in Dark Souls III and not technically an Undead, the threat of going Hollow does not loom over your decisions. Instead, embracing the nature of a Hollow can lead an Unkindled into becoming a true Lord, ushering in a new age. Mechanically speaking, allowing the player to gain an early five free levels is a boon that any player should consider. In my playthrough, I took the levels and strove for the more difficult-to-achieve ending of becoming a Lord of Hollows, learning more about how the events of previous games were twisted by those in power and breeding a desire to break the system. Raising to Lord of Hollows does just that. Challenge the cindering ideals of linking the First Flame and go forth, ushering in the Age of Man, the Age of Dark!
Question: Is the Lord of Hollows ending my only option after Hollowing?
Answer: No, you can still choose another end should you have those options available.
Question: What weapons can be Hollow-infused?
Answer: Any non-boss weapon, as long as you have a Hollow Gem and have given Andre the Blacksmith the Profaned Coal.
Question: Can I remove my Hollowed appearance without losing the free levels?
Answer: Yes, through the use of a Purging Stone. Also can be done with the Dissolution option at Velka statue or Purging Monument.
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