The lights are on
This is my first review. I don't know much about reviewing games but I did
Prepare to Die. Again and
Dark Souls, From Software’s spiritual successor to Playstation
3 exclusive Demon’s Souls, is an intense third person action RPG set in a world
where anything and everything is trying their best to kill you. Like Demon’s
Souls, Dark Souls is often heralded as one of the hardest games of all time,
and rightly so in some respects. The game is downright unforgiving at times but
not so much so that it seems unfair. The basic premise of the game is to slowly
make your way through the dark, dank world by killing anything in your path.
You’ll fight your way through undead mobs throughout the world and often be
forced to get your gaming self-esteem ruined by getting annihilated by the
game’s fantastic boss fights. You will die. A lot. That should be apparent
before ever selecting “New Game” after picking this title up. But with
equal punishment comes equal reward. Dark Souls can truly get under your skin
but once you’re hooked on it it can be one of the most rewarding, fun, and deep
gameplay experiences modern games can offer.
The most important thing about playing through Dark Souls is
also your undoing: Death. When you die in Dark Souls, you lose all of your
souls, which is the main currency in the game. It will be dropped where you
died for you to pick up if you can make it back. But if you die before retrieving
it, they’re gone forever. It teaches and shows you your mistakes throughout the
game ever so blatantly. It is a masterfully crafted game. As you progress
through medieval castles, poisonous swamps, and claustrophobic caverns deep
under ground, you begin to appreciate things as simple as a moment of safety
before turning the next dangerous corner. The game is beautiful in its own dark
creepy way. The farther you get into the game the more you begin to notice the
gorgeous environments, even if everything there wants to kill you. At times,
being stuck in the middle of a pitch black cavern, you’ll want to give up.
However you don’t. The game, after beating you down and spitting in your face
of course, gives you that feeling like you MUST finish the task at hand, as if
you cannot and will not let it destroy you. This it does very well.
The story in Dark Souls is essentially non-existent. There is
very little narrative during the game to give you any real clue as to who you
are and what the heck is going on in this rotted world. The game gives you
little direction as what to do next because of this. It adds to the
ever-present feeling of being alone in a terrible, dark world. If you want to
learn anything about the story you can do so by either talking with fellow
players about what they know or forming your own speculations as to why the
world is the way it is. More story clue actually come from descriptions on
items than from any NPCs throughout the game. Nearly every item in the game
gives a description as to where it came from and why it exists, another thing
that makes Dark Souls unique. Rather than picking up and using an “Iron Sword”
or “Steel Shield”, you get items with very detailed descriptions as to why that
single item is unique. A welcome feature among the genre that is so often
Gameplay and Controls
This is where the game truly shines. At first glance, Dark
Souls comes off as just another action game. Most potential players are scared
off by the difficulty of the desolate, lonely world you must traverse. However,
after spending some time with the game you begin to see that the gameplay is
actually somewhat genius. The combat is the game’s focus point. At no point
through the entirety of the game should you ever blame the game for dying. The
controls are crisp and animations are so well done that if you die it is
because you made a mistake, and you will most likely die. Fret not, for after a
few hours with the game you will find your comfort zone as far as equipment
goes and you’ll start to realize that you are indeed powerful enough to destroy
your enemies. With the controls being so well done you feel right at home when
you swing your great sword or cast a spell. Everything feels fluid and
flawless. Most weapons throughout the game have their own unique move sets so
finding your play style is a must. You may go with a very light, quick hitting
katana, or a heavy damage, slow broad sword. You may go with very light armor
to allow you to move around quickly and dodge enemy attacks, or go the tank
route and wear the most heavy protective armor there is. Once you find your
play style, you feel right at home with the game.
The only places of solace in the game are that of bonfires,
think of them as checkpoints as your progress through the world of Lordran.
Activating a bonfire saves your game at that fire. So if you should die, and
die you will, you will be returned to that bonfire. The only downside to
resting at a bonfire is when activated, it re spawns all the enemies in the world
except for bosses. This is where even more challenge comes in. Not only do you
get thrown off a ledge by a boss, you now have to fight your way to said boss
through enemies you just got done fighting. Fun right? While at the fire
you may use a special item call humanity to kindle the fire or restore you to
your human form. Kindling a bonfire is always a good idea because it allows you
to carry more healing items. Restoring to human form has some pros and cons.
While in human form, you may summon phantoms to help you fight bosses. If you
are playing with an internet connection then you may summon other players who
have put summon signs down that are relative in level. Sounds nice right? On
the flip side of that as long as you are in human form, other players may also
invade your world and kill you for humanity. So becoming human is as much risk
as reward, true to the game’s nature.
There are also covenants in the game that can offer unique
rewards. Some covenants focus on helping other players while others do solely
on invading and killing other players. Some items in the game may also only be
obtained from certain covenants. Joining a covenant can offer unique rewards
but betraying a current covenant for a new one will reset your status within
that covenant if you were ever to join again.
As far as dying goes, when you die all of your souls and
humanity will be dropped on the spot where you died. Souls can be obtained by
killing enemies and is used as the main currency in the game. It can be used to
purchase equipment from certain merchants, buy spells, and most importantly:
level up. You will leave a bloodstain upon dying with all souls and humanity
waiting for you to go pick it up. If it were only that easy. Starting at the
last bonfire you had sat down at, you must make your way back to where you
died. If you die before picking your souls back up, then they’re lost forever.
If this doesn’t give you incentive to survive, I don’t know what would.
The graphics in Dark Souls aren’t anything special. The game
looks good but doesn’t really shine in the graphics department until some late
game areas. Where it does shine is in the animations. Your character responds
to every command given with perfect stride and the animations reflect it very well.
Spell slinging or sword swinging, it looks flawless on the screen. The enemy
animations are no different, especially the bosses. You can tell that a lot of
care went into creating the boss fights for this game as they are some of the
most detailed, unique enemies I’ve ever faced off against in a video game.
Sound can affect your mental stability during the game about as
much as getting stabbed in the face repeatedly. During most of the game sound
is practically absent save for the slicing of your sword into and enemy
or a spell exploding. Like animations, sound is best during boss fights.
Beautifully orchestrated music picks up during the boss fights to get your
adrenaline pumping, the game does this very well. Fighting giant rats to nothing
but the hum of your footsteps can be nerve-racking, but fighting a near inside
out dragon to a sadistic sounding violin and opera is much, much more
satisfying but equally scary.
For me, this game has near infinite replayability. With the
game being moderately long as it stands as a single player game it also offers
some of the most satisfying multiplayer around. Some player simply enjoy
beating the game and beginning new game+, which starts the game over with all
of your equipment save for a few key items. Each time you start a new game with
that character, the game becomes harder and harder. I, however, enjoyed the
multiplayer aspect of the game the most. Either helping new players defeat
bosses or invading to kill the players, it is endless fun.
Originally there was to be no DLC for the game, but players spoke out
to have it made and it has happened. The PC release of the game includes all
new content apart from the original game which is set to be sold as DLC in the
future for console users.
I was a bit bitter when first starting this game. I died. A lot. Once
you get past the unforgiving nature of world then you begin to see what a
unique experience it can be for any gamer. However, if you’re someone who likes
an easy-going, relaxed experience, than Dark Souls probably isn’t for you. If
you’re someone who wants a challenge in one of the darkest, most unforgiving
worlds imaginable, then it is for you. As much as that may scare you don’t
hesitate to pick this game up and give it a try. Put in the time to get in the
same mindset as Dark Souls, reap the rewards for completing its gruesome
challenges, and it is one of the most absorbing experiences a video game can
Dark Souls available on
Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: From Software
by Danny Rowan