Hollowing has always been a slightly confusing topic in the Dark Souls series. In every Dark Souls title, Hollowing is handled differently, so it’s easy to get confused as you progress through the multiple games.
Before you get any Dark Sigils, read this entire guide to know what you’re getting yourself into. If you decide that you absolutely hate the effects they bring, you’ll be stuck with some very expensive removal options. There’s a lot involved with these two mechanics, so I’m gonna tell you everything you need to know about it.
What is Hollowing?
Hollowing is a state of degradation that occurs when an undead being fails to consume a humanity granting item. I said “humanity granting item” because each game has its own consumables that consume humanity.
There are 3 important terms that I should clarify:
- Undead – An undead being is one that has been cursed by the Dark Sign. They are doomed to infinitely regenerate upon death at the bonfire last rested at. Your character is undead in both Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2.
- Hollow – Any undead is at risk of becoming Hollow if they die too much. The Dark Sign curses them to revive, but each revival causes them to lose a part of their being.
- Unkindled – an Unkindled is a being that attempted to link the fire, but failed. As a result, they were immediately consumed and their bodies turned to ash. The Firekeeper then resurrected all of the Unkindled in hopes that one of them would rekindle the flame. Your character in Dark Souls 3 is Unkindled, and can’t turn Hollow by default. You need the aid of the Dark Sigil, which then allows you to become Hollow.
Being Hollow is generally regarded as a pretty horrible experience. For most NPCs in the games, their questline ends if they become Hollow. Dark Souls 2 shows that as you die, you’ll slowly lose a bit of your health after each death.
Characters in-game will sometimes warn you to be careful, lest you become Hollow. As an Unkindled in Dark Souls 3, you never have to worry about Hollowing since you’re not undead.
Effects of Hollowing
Since I’m talking about the Dark Sigil aspect of Hollowing, I’ll explain what Hollowing does in Dark Souls 3 first. In the third Dark Souls game, Hollowing is purely cosmetic. It also give you a luck bonus when using Hollow infused weapons, but that’s a very minor benefit.
So wait, what the point in Hollowing if it just changes your appearance? Well, Hollowing is a big part of the other games in the series. Besides that, you need to become Hollow in the third game if you wish to complete the “Usurpation of Fire” alternate ending.
To get this ending, there is a long, complicated complicated questline that must be executed perfectly. I’ll discuss the questline later on, and explain how the Dark Sigil and Hollowing play into unlocking the ending.
If you need more information on Hollowing, I’ll explain how it works in all 3 games.
Since the character play as in the first game is the Chosen Undead, you spend most of the game being Hollow. Consuming a Humanity will bring you back to human form at the risk of being invading by players from other worlds.
I personally love the way Hollowing is handled in this game, even if being Hollow doesn’t seem as horrible as the game portrays it. Consuming a Humanity also restores your health, so you can use them as emergency health items.
There’s the argument that Humanities are too easy to come by, which I don’t think is a bad thing. There’s already enough bad stuff to worry about without needing to scavenge for humanities all the time.
Humanities really aren’t necessary for progression though, so I didn’t use many in my first playthrough. I had around 45 left over at the start of NG+, so I really didn’t need to search for any more.
Dark Souls 2
Dark Souls 2 is where you finally get to see the horrible effects of Hollowing. Every time you die, part of your health is eaten away, slowly diminishing your health.
This is indicative of the fact that Hollowing is a degenerative state that slowly destroys beings. Eventually, dying enough will leave you at only half health, leaving you more vulnerable to the attacks of enemies.
To combat the effects of Hollowing, Dark Souls 2 introduces Human Effigies instead of Humanities. They act similarly, but Human Effigies don’t increase your health. You must rest at a bonfire after using one if you want full health.
Like in the first Dark Souls game, reversing your Hollowing will make you vulnerable to invaders from other worlds. You can combat this by burning a Human Effigy in the bonfire, but the rarity of Human Effigies sometimes makes you think twice about that.
Unlike Dark Souls, the second game makes becoming human an essential tool for keeping yourself alive. They also make Human Effigies harder to find, forcing you to deal with some of the Hollowing effects.
You can find an item early on called the Ring of Binding, which limits the health drop to only 75%. This makes it so that you rarely have to consume Human Effigies, and in turn makes the game even easier.
If you need to know more about the health loss mechanic in Dark Souls 2, we have another article explaining it even better.
Dark Souls 3
Like I briefly explained before, you spend your time in Dark Souls 3 as an unkindled, meaning you are resurrected by the Firekeeper and keep regenerating. An Unkindled is separate from an Undead, even though they both respawn at bonfires.
Because of this, you are already human, negating the need for Humanities and Human Effigies. Instead, you receive Embers, which increases your health and allows invaders to come into your world.
If the player wishes to become Hollow, they need the aid of an object known as a Dark Sigil, which I’ll explain everything you need to know about this mysterious object.
What is a Dark Sigil?
There is a ton of confusion surrounding exactly what the Dark Sigil is, so forgive me if I misinterpret the elusive lore of this object. Here is the item description is given of a Dark Sigil:
A black, gaping hole in the flesh that resembles the brand of an Undead. The darkness of humanity seeps from this bottomless pitch-black hole, the gap filled by the accumulation of the curse. This Dark Sigil will never heal, but there is a tale told of a Fire Keeper who returned from the Abyss, and brought great comfort to a bearer of the curse.Dark Souls 3 – Dark Sigil Item Description
Based on this description, we can glean that the Dark Sigil is not the Dark Sign, so the player receiving it doesn’t become undead. This could also be the reason that Hollowing in Dark Souls 3 doesn’t ever affect anything besides your appearance, but another reason for that could be that the developers didn’t feel like adding any debuffs.
How to get Dark Sigils
There are a total of 8 Dark Sigils that you can receive in Dark Souls 3. In order to complete the alternate ending, you’ll need to obtain all 8 of them.
The first 5 Dark Sigils
As soon as you get to the Undead Settlement, make your way under the Foot of the High Wall bonfire where you’ll see a bunch of corpses bowing down facing the horizon. One of these is an NPC named Yoel of Londor.
Be careful not to kill him, as I accidentally did once, so I was unable to complete the alternate ending. After talking to him, he’ll give you the option to draw out your true strength, and exchanges a Dark Sigil with you.
Doing this also gives you a free soul level, allowing you to gain 5 extra levels after getting all of them from Yoel of Londor. After receiving the first one, you must gain levels of Hollowing to receive the next ones.
Every time you die while branded with the Dark Sigil, you’ll receive Hollow levels equal to the number of Sigils you hold. For example, possessing 3 Dark Sigils will grant you 3 Hollow levels upon death.
To view your Hollowing level, go to the status screen and look underneath your player level. You can receive a new Dark Sigil at Hollow levels 2, 6, 12 and 15, so all you have to do is keep dying between levels. Once you receive all 5, you need to go elsewhere to receive the last 3.
The last 3 Dark Sigils
Ok, so this one is much more complicated to explain. To put it simply, you’ll receive the last 3 Dark Sigils by “marrying” Anri of Astora.
Here is a wiki guide for completing the proper Anri questline. Follow the Questline B option, and you’ll be on your way to getting the last Sigils. You must complete the questline perfectly, or else you’ll be unable to receive the other ending.
What does a Dark Sigil Do?
Like I mentioned before, the Dark Sigil increases your Hollowing level each time you die. Once you have a Dark Sigil, the only way to remove it is to heal it.
Healing it permanently removes it from your inventory, making you unable to get the other ending. If you really don’t like the Hollowing aspect, there are a couple of methods to Reverse your Hollowing that I’ll discuss later.
Once you receive the Sigil, it’ll be branded on your character until you decide to heal it. The Sigils are automatically healed when starting an HG, so you won’t have to worry about them sticking around for your next playthrough.
Dark Sigils also apply a cosmetic Hollowed look to your character, as well as increasing the Luck stat while wielding a Hollow infused weapon. There really isn’t a downside to being Hollow, unless you just really hate the look it gives your character.
Healing the Dark Sigil
Healing the Dark Sigil will permanently remove it, so make sure it’s something you want to do. The first step is obtaining a Fire Keeper soul and giving it to the Fire Keeper.
Fire Keeper Soul
To get the Fire Keeper Soul, you need to buy the Tower Key from the Shrine Handmaid for 20,000 souls. I know 20,000 seems like a lot, but that’s nothing compared to the amount it will take to heal it.
With the key in your inventory, you need to unlock the tower outside the Firelink Shrine that leads you to the top. Once on the roof of the Shrine, you’ll find a dead Fire Keeper along with the soul.
Pick this up and give it to the Fire Keeper in the main shrine. DO NOT consume the soul, or else you’ll have to wait until your next NG to get it back.
Removing the Sigil
As you can see, now the Fire Keeper gives you an option to heal the Dark Sigil. The cost to do this is determined by the number of Sigils you have and the soul level of your character.
If you have 5 Dark Sigils, healing will cost 5 times the amount it would take to level up your character to the next soul level. With all 8 Sigils, it’ll cost you the number of souls it’ll take to level up 8 times. This is a very significant number of souls, especially for high-level characters.
Not only does this remove all Dark Sigils from your inventory, but also completely removes your Hollow level. Due to the immense cost, it’ll probably take you a while farming souls to be able to do this.
If you plan on getting the alternate ending, don’t even think about healing the Sigil, because it’ll prevent you from completing the Yuria of Londor quest.
From a gameplay standpoint. there are no real reasons to ever heal the Sigil in the first place. You probably won’t even notice the Hollowed appearance if your character is armored up.
Reverse Hollowing makes even less sense than healing the Dark Sigil. I’m glad the developers give the option, but there really isn’t a point of doing this since the removal isn’t permanent.
The main reason is that it’s much cheaper to do than healing the Sigil, while still removing the ugly Hollowed look.
The first and most cost-effective way of doing this is simply to buy a Purging Stone. Yuria of Londor sells these for 4,500 souls each, a small price in comparison to the other way.
Make sure you don’t kill Yuria, because you’ll end the questline and also be unable to buy these stones. Four Purging Stones can be acquired from the Profaned Capital, but it’s much simpler just to buy them.
The only reason you should ever need this is if Yuria is dead and you used the ones from the Profaned Capital. Basically, you can be healed of hollowing visiting the Alter of Velka in the sewers under the Undead Settlement.
To get there, you need the Grave Key for 1,500 souls from the Shrine Handmaid. You can buy this from her after giving her the Mortician’s Ashes, which are found in the area that the giant throws spears in the Undead Settlement
After traversing into the sewers, slay the rats that will attack you. Eventually, you’ll come to a locked door that unlocks with the Grave Key. Through this door, you’ll find the alter, so select the option that says request dissolution. Curing your Hollowed state will cost you 100 times whatever soul level you are (ie a level 50 player will spend 5,000 souls).
While it’s not hard to get to, it’s annoying going there every time you want to be cured. Buying a whole bunch of Purging Stones will be cheaper anyway, so you should probably get a bunch of those and continue with your journey.
Usurpation of Fire ending
The questline to get this ending starts with finding Yoel of Londor, and recruiting him to the Firelink Shrine. From there you must strictly follow the questline, and ensure that everything is done perfectly.
Failing to complete one of the steps at the right time will end the quest immediately, forcing you to wait until your next NG. To save you some time, here is the wiki entry to complete the ending.
The last thing you do before linking the fire is to perform the “marriage ceremony” that gives you the last 3 Dark Sigils. Talk to Yuria, who will then tell you to link the fire. With all 8 Dark Sigils in your inventory, beat the Soul of Cinder and touch the bonfire. Watch the final cutscene and enjoy!
Unless you plan on completing an alternate ending, don’t bother with Dark Sigils at all. It’s too bad the developers didn’t make Hollowing a more prominent part of the game, but I’m really glad they didn’t include the annoying health loss feature.
All the lore behind these things haven’t really been worked out, but that’s why the Dark Souls series is so great. People are left to wonder about certain things, which creates mystery around these brilliant games.