Everyone who has played a Soulsborne game (or a Soulsborne esque game) will have various achievements they will cherish. The time they beat a troublesome boss in one try as opposed to the many. An area that was once a nightmare repeatedly navigated without concern. An entire game complete with single figure deaths (perhaps zero even). All of those achievements don’t just happen. They are built on hard work, and (more than likely), a lot of deaths. A lot of deaths shouldered by the first characters of Soulsborne (and Soulsborne esque games).
The first characters of Soulsborne get it in the neck. In addition to all of those deaths belonging to them, there is – the hours upon hours spent wandering around the same area in utter befuddlement – while missing the door just to the left. The NPC they let go missing, never to be seen ever again – even though they were hiding behind the next corner. On the flip side, they are the ones who make all of the important break throughs. The first ones to beat the bosses – number of deaths of damned. The first ones to navigate that maze of a level – finally making that left turn. The first ones to get that NPC to the end – mostly in one piece. The first ones to finish the journey – no matter how they did it, it is a source of pride (for the most part – foreshadowing).
Sometimes all of this can get lost. In some cases, a player will run through a Soulsborne game once and never play it ever again. Not completely relevant for this post but included for completions sake. In the case of multiple play throughs – more characters are created and the first character slips in obscurity (or worse, deleted) as other characters go on to great and greater achievements, or more enjoyable memories – not bogged down in hundreds of deaths. The deleted one is a sad fate, particularly when they don’t get a chance to finish the journey. Not their fault a players skill level lands them in a hole. Those struggles not having the closure of a completed journey… that’s a sad fate indeed.
I’ve made it a habit of holding on to my first characters (barring save corruptions and things of that nature) – as a way of reminding myself of that first play through, and a way of reminding myself of what my current skill set is built upon. I’ve seen people in comment sections saying people should uninstall the game if they die to a certain boss – yeah, because you never struggled once.
Sometimes a first character does not get a fair shake. In my experience, it’s not uncommon for someone’s first experience with a From Software game to go south and then a restart happens. Not a deletion – more like a postponement. 6 or 7 hours in, hopelessly lost, stuck on a boss – a new character is needed. That happened with me. Bloodborne was my first From game and after 6 hours of flailing around Central Yharnam Hunte Skyraft was abandoned and Kaneda was created instead. Kaneda also flopped around but he pushed on, beat the game and birthed a love of From Software. And he made it so every first character after him had an easier time. And Skyraft returned to finish her game.
First characters can lack identity. Because the first character will be the one who see’s all the armour and weapons for the first time, and because they are coming in thick and fast first characters can end up with a mish mash of armour, and a weapon that does a job. My most memorable characters are the ones that I knew in advance what I wanted them to be – the armour and the weapon choices coming together. Of course, the only reason I knew the locations of the weapons and armour was because of the efforts of the first character finding all of it. Hyuga the first Tarnished ended up being decked out in Radahn’s armour with twin katana’s so everyone else could have the good fashion and matching weapons. First characters can also lack focus in the stat department. After all, which stats are the good stats – just level all of them to be safe. Then you learn it’s incredibly simple – level health, get some stamina and then level the primary damage stat. The first character fumbles through all of that so the rest of the characters can run.
Just to wrap this up, let me give a few examples of how my first characters let the rest of my characters have an easy(ier) ride. Hunter Kaneda died to Ebrietas for 2 hours – an absolute ass kicking. Every other hunter? Once, between like 10 of them across another 10 or so runs of the regular game. Hunter Kaneda also made numerous DLC sacrifices as well. Ashen One Thora took a battering from almost every DLC boss, so that ever other Ashen one had a better shot at it. And Hyuga walked through hell in Elden Ring god knows how many times – she let everyone else handle Radagon with ease.
So, here’s to the first characters of Soulsborne games. Those unsung heroes who march headlong into some incredibly hostile situations and encounter some of the most dangerous enemies with no prep time. They do all of this with the knowledge with might be forgotten and deleted to make space for other characters.
Thank you first characters of Soulsborne. Your efforts are recognised and acknowledged.