I’m making my way down a corridor, having prepared my spells, weaponry and gear for this specific area. I have two co-op partners I summoned for the occasion, one who is a mage, and a heavy hitter with a dragon’s head. I’m just about to go into the final boss area when a player who had invaded my game earlier decides to ambush us with the aid of some of some nearby enemies. As the host, I am the main target, and despite the efforts of my comrades, he quickly knocks me down and finishes me off, sending me back to the bonfire at the beginning of the area. In the world of Dark Souls, you never really “win,” you simply do a little better each time.

The set up for the game is that you are one of many “undead”, cursed with immortality and segregated from society until the end of the world. The story is very minimal, but incredibly engaging if you can find the time to look for clues and listen to the stories the characters will tell you. Your motivations, though murky at first, start to become clear, but even towards the end you aren’t sure of what you’re ultimate plan is.

If you’ve played Demon’s Souls you’ll already be familiar with much of what the game has to offer. If you die, you drop all your souls (the main method of leveling up and purchasing items) as well as your humanity (which is useful for kindling bonfires for extra health and returning to human form) at the spot where you died and end up back at the last bonfire you sat at.


If you can reach the blood stain where you died, you’ll regain access to your souls and humanity. Because of this, players are forced into a more cautious playstyle, which the tough enemies and deadly level design help enforce. This is definitely not the kind of game a casual gamer can blow through in a weekend.

The combat is where Dark Souls sets itself apart from other games, and is where the game is most thrilling. Different weapons do different levels of damage, have differing ranges, have different uses against different enemies, have varying speeds, use varying levels of stamina, and all follow different upgrade paths.

Dozens of spears, swords, clubs, hammers, catalysts and more are littered throughout the game, along with many different pieces of armor and various projectiles, spells and single use items that all go well with the different skills you can level to let the player decide how they will play the game.


Players also have limited amounts of use for healing items and spells at each bonfire, along with gear that diminishes in quality over time, which adds to the cautious style of play the game wants players to maintain. The game rewards smart thinking, using divine weapons against skeletons weak against them is a smart move, as is switching to a thrusting weapon to avoid catching your weapon on the walls in tight spaces, or timing enemy attacks so you can dodge or parry them at the right time for a critical counter attack.

The world of Dark Souls sets itself apart from Demon’s Souls in that instead of a single hub area, the world is one massive interconnected area that can be explored how you see fit. While the game does have a basic “path” they would like you to follow, many of the areas can be tackled at the order you would wish, and with a variety of secret areas, alternate pathways and hidden rooms you’ll want to keep an eye out for what the world might be hiding. One caveat is that high level areas are extremely easy to get lost in, particularly since the game never points you in a direction or gives you a map or indicator of where to go. Later on, you do get the ability to warp to different bonfires and get some semblance of an end goal from a few characters.

Of course if you do get lost, at least you’ll be lost in some of the most beautifully realized levels you’ve seen, from a forest full of deadly wildlife, to a swampland full of deadly creatures (and an unfortunate crippling frame rate), all the way up to a beautiful city of the gods. The best part is that any location you can see in the game, you can reach. If you want to, you could drop a soul sign in some demon ruins, go all the way to some catacombs and see the soul sign from what seems like miles away, or find an alternate route to an area if you want to avoid certain enemies or obstacles in the main path.


The online play really sets this game apart from other similar RPG games, especially with the importance so many covenants place on either helping or hindering players online. The game does allow certain features (such as summoning and invading) to exist offline, with certain NPC character available for both situations, but this is a game best played online.

The thrill of invading the world of a sinner as a Spirit of Vengeance and taking out the host and his friends with an ambush, or the feeling of camaraderie as you take down a boss with a couple of helpers make Dark Souls unique.  One problem I have is that the online infrastructure isn’t the best, with lag killing me just as often as actual skilled players, and with some difficulty existing in finding other people to play with, but the issues pop up rarely and aren’t enough for me to recommend players go offline.


Dark Souls is a game made for gamers, it will not hold your hand and can even be unfairly tough, but it is also one of the most rewarding and engaging experiences out there and I highly recommend it to any RPG fan or action gamer looking for something that breaks the mold. Days after taking out the final boss, I still think of Dark Souls, even now I’m itching to get back into New Game Plus to see what else the world might have to offer.