I want you to picture something:

A lone figure peers wearily into the stygian abyss yawning ahead, naked blade in hand and lantern held aloft. He pauses, listening searchingly to the omnipresent silence, then strides forward, raising his gruesome light higher. Clenched in his steely fist is the desiccated head of some long conquered foe; its peeling face permanently twisted in a horrifying grimace. From its sunken eyes emit soft motes of sickly yellow light, casting harsh shadows on the rocky crags and deep recesses of the cavern wall. The warrior's once fine armor is dented and scorched, and his slung shield bears the claw marks of some foul beast. Yet he presses onward, weaving between the bones of those who came before him. Suddenly malevolent eyes shine out of the murk. The warrior's shoulders sag in resignation as thunderous footsteps carry an abomination into the ghost light. Burning sockets glower from under a sloping brow and broken teeth gnash in fury as a colossal twelve foot tall skeleton creaks to life brandishing an equally enormous scimitar.

Sounds like a pretty slick boss fight, huh? It's not, but it's as difficult as any boss from a lesser game. Welcome to Dark Souls:

Hi, happy to be here!

It took me about forty five hours to conquer the twisted realm of Lordran. In that time it quickly became a serious contender for my favorite game of all time. I navigated a trap filled fortress and explored a lost city of the gods. I delved into pitch black tombs and magma filled caverns. I slew demons by the truck load and met literal gods blow for blow. I have screamed in rage, hit myself in the forehead, and cursed more than I'm comfortable admitting. Yet I don't regret a single moment. Let me explain:

The first thing many people think of when they think of Dark Souls is its infamous difficulty. This same infamy actually caused me to put off purchasing the game for several months. I was worried I couldn't handle it; that I'd give up, and the whole thing would be a waste of cash. Fortunately, while Dark Souls is difficult and uncompromising, it is rarely unfair or cheap (I only found one such situation in my entire time playing). In you are cautious, observant, patient, or skilled, you will be able to conquer many of Dark Souls' challenges relatively easily. If you can't claim to have any of those traits, then I'm sorry, it may not be for you. If you do however, then I beg of you to go purchase the game right now. Seriously, I'll wait. You'll see! It's not that hard...

...except these guys. F*** these guys.

Dark Souls' combat is unique among RPGs, even action ones. I would equate it to something almost like Monster Hunter. Play style and effectiveness in combat is as much or more determined by your gear than by your stats. Because of this you can swap between vastly different "classes" on the fly; you can be a powerful fireball flinging pyromancer, a heavily armored tank, or a quick and agile swordsman all through a brief trip into your inventory. This allows you to always have multiple ways to approach any given combat scenario. However, no matter how you play, the combat always remains consistent, difficult, and fun. Players must quickly learn to watch their enemies attack patterns, learn their weaknesses, and punish them for it. Through quick thinking and smart playing, a player can easily defeat massive beasts and mobs of smaller enemies all with the same deep combat system.

Fighting naked is generally not the go-to option.

The combat of Dark Souls is accentuated by a unique multiplayer system. With this system players can leave helpful tips for other players, summon or be summoned by another player to help in tough spots, check the bloodstains of dead comrades to see their last few moments, or invade each other with the intent to kill. The emphasis is clearly on helping others, and invasions are rare outside of popular PvP zones. If you'd prefer to go it alone, this can be easily accomplished by playing offline or remaining in a "Hollowed" state. A few nitpicks; PvP can have severe lag issues (resulting in being slashed to death with your opponent twenty feet away, or circling a foe and suddenly being stabbed in the back) and more often than not your attempts to summon others will be met with failure. With that being said, Dark Souls has some of the most fresh and well integrated multiplayer I've played in years.

It's fun to die with friends! Honest!

The story of Dark Souls told through traditional exposition is sparse to say the least. With an eye for detail and a little digging, however, one finds an absolutely massive amount of lore. The level of detail in the world is astounding; almost all statues represent an actual in game figure, or have a deeper meaning than just looking pretty. All unique items and NPCs have a story behind them and all are interwoven beautifully. The game merely gives you the backstory of the universe through a brief (and awesome) opening cut-scene and then chucks you into the world to figure the rest out yourself. If you could care less about the fiction you can blow through the game and enjoy it just as much, but if you fancy yourself a virtual historian there is a ton of lore to sift through and discuss.

Most things are more than meets the eye...

If atmosphere is more of your thing, Dark Souls has it in spades. Decrepit fortresses and dilapidated churches comprise the most of the early game, but things quickly open up into a variety of environments. Murky woods, ornate libraries, golden cities, imposing fortresses, crystal caves, massive tombs, lava lakes, crumbling catacombs, poisonous swamps, foul sewers and more awaits the adventurous spirit. Each poses its own unique challenges and trepidations. You can easily go from dodging dark traps and swinging blades to battling hydras in a primordial lake deep below the earth. Every new location brings with it a fear of the unknown and an excitement to see what marvels await around the next corner.

You never know what lies ahead.

In summation; if you love action RPGs, excellent combat, rich worlds, or even just a good challenge, please do yourself a favor a pick up Dark Souls. If you give it a legitimate shot and aren't discouraged by the many deaths that come with learning the ropes, you'll find one of the deepest, freshest, and most innovative titles to hit the market in the past ten years. You'll be sucked into its beautifully dark and twisted world, and when you claw your way out to joyous victory I know you'll do just what I did; jump right back in again.

Praise the Sun!


Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold.