Sen's Fortress as seen from the entrance of the level.
|Dark Souls location|
|Created by||Hidetaka Miyazaki, Masanori Waragai|
|Genre||Action role-playing game|
|First appearance||Dark Souls (2011)|
Sen's Fortress is a fictional fortress in the third-person action role-playing game Dark Souls. Described in-game as a "deadly house of traps", it guards the entrance to the city of the gods, Anor Londo, from intruders, while also having served as an ancient "proving grounds" for the Silver Knights, the army of Lord Gwyn. It has been singled out as one of the most difficult levels in Dark Souls, and received particular critical attention for its design.
Sen's Fortress can be accessed roughly before the mid point of the game, after the player character rings two "Bells of Awakening" and causes the giant guarding the fortress's gates to open them. The first and most challenging section of the level introduces the player to its unique elements - such as pressure plates that trigger arrow traps, powerful snakemen and lightning-shooting snake-women, and platforming sections that force the player to dodge large, swinging axe blades. If the player falls off the catwalk and survives, they become stuck in the tar beneath the fortress and must also contend with powerful Titanite Demons.
Following the first two catwalks, the player is then forced to dodge boulders, before being able to turn a lever and reroute them. The player may also run into the game's first Mimic. After two, more difficult catwalks, the player emerges onto the roof, where they must dodge firebombs thrown by a giant located at the fortress's highest point. After a hidden save point, the player can access an area guarded by the undead Prince Ricard. At the end of the level, they must fight a boss called the Iron Golem, which is generally seen as easier than the fortress itself.
The "gauntlet" like lore and design of Sen's Fortress ostensibly allowed the game's designers to "drop the pretense of fair play" and place traps in a "sadistic" way without the necessity to make thematic sense. The traps were designed to appear obvious and part of a trial to reach Anor Londo. The steps inside the fortress are worn away where boulders roll down them, an idea thought of by Miyazaki to warn "diligent" players about where a boulder could roll down.
The "imposing" appearance of Sen's Fortress was cited in GamesRadar+ as "intrigu[ing] and intimidat[ing]", as well as making the player's entrance to Anor Londo extremely rewarding. In Kotaku, the level was noted as containing "almost every design decision that makes Dark Souls great".
Sen's Fortress was praised in Shacknews as "the pinnacle of Dark Souls level design" and "the archetypal Dungeons & Dragons campaign" in which there is no "long-winded" story or exposition, but rather a battle of wits against booby traps. It was also lauded for its "remarkable sense of place", and was called the Souls franchise's "cream of the crop" with regards to its progression and environmental cues.
- Dahlen, Chris. "What Dark Souls Is Really All About". Kotaku. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
- "YOU DIED Extract: Inside Sen's Fortress – You Died". you-died.com. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
- "Dark Souls 1 - Design Works Interview - Souls Lore". soulslore.wikidot.com. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
- "Lore and The Order: How Dark Souls can fix gaming's storytelling struggles". gamesradar. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
- "Why I love Dark Souls' Sen's Fortress". pcgamer. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
- "Best Levels in the Dark Souls Franchise". Shacknews. Retrieved 2018-02-19.