Going into Dark Souls, everybody was telling me to be ready. to prepare for an extremely difficult experience, and boy were they right. Dark Souls is probably one of the most unforgiving, brutal games I've ever played. One mistake, one badly timed attack, or missed swing, can lead to your death. And the game isn't going to hold your hand, or teach you zilch. The tutorial basically consists of "R1 attack", "R2 heavy attack", "now go fight that huge boss that can kill you with two or three hits".


Every single fight requires strategy thanks to the stamina bar. And this isn't The Elder Scrolls stamina bar that allows you to wail on an enemy, or only affects your damage. No this one depletes with three or four swings depending on your level and weapon, and effects everything.  To attack you need stamina, to block you not only need stamina, but you need enough to absorb the attack. To run, you need stamina. To dodge, you need...you guessed it! 


Every move is important since attacking, or blocking at the wrong time can lead to a quick death, even against normal enemies. This gives every battle tension that most games endings don't have. And keeps the combat interesting. Oh, and we haven't even started talking about the bosses yet !

(It's not a matter of if it kills you, it's a matter of when...and how many times).


More often then not, the first time you go toe to toe with a boss, it's going to kill you. It's going to kill you immediately. And it's going to kill you several times. Every boss fights differently, has different patterns, and weakness's that you'll have to learn to succeed.  This isn't the type of game that you can just keep retrying, and hoping to luck out.  This will make you learn the enemy and develop a strategy, or watch the "Game Over' screen a lot. 

The game world is also done extremely well. It opens up a lot like a Zelda game would. You'll frequently find locked doors, and enemies that you'll have to return to later. And as you'd expect, from a brutal game like this, it's not going to lead you through it. More often then not, it'll take getting beaten senseless to realize you aren't supposed to go that way yet. 


For the most part, the brutal difficulty does feel fair. You learn from nearly every death, and can adjust your strategy. However sometimes it feels like it goes a little too far. For example, you've have to run across a tiny beam while two archers attempt to shoot you off. You'll have to put away your shield for a lantern in a very dangerous, pitch black area. And every time you die, you have one chance to recover your XP, or it's gone. Getting shot off a beam steps away from enough XP to level three times isn't fun.

(This guy isn't your friend. Also, he's a jerk)

Dark Souls also has a very interesting and unique online mode. Players can leave messages on the ground to help (or hinder) other people. Also the bells you ring in certain areas can be heard in other people's games. And you'll see other players ghosts, showing how they died. 

This can be cool, and adds to the desperate atmosphere nicely. However, to me the ability to join and summon others hurt the experience more then it helps. Sure it's nice to summon another player for the boss that's been kicking your tail relentlessly for the pass two hours. But it also robs the sense of accomplishment. Ganging up on a boss, with another player (or two) hardly feels like a victory. 

And few things are more annoying then having your game disrupted my an invader that doesn't want to fight fairly and uses every dirty trick in the book. Which happens more often then you'd think.

(That ghost isn't for show, it's actually another player).

To me, Dark Souls feels more then anything like a classic game made with modern graphics The story is kept to a minimum . It isn't going to hold your hand, it isn't going to forgive your mistakes in the slightest, and it isn't going to allow you to breeze through it. It's going to beat you down so that finally overcoming a challenge provides a sense of accomplishment not many modern games provide.