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Dying is Such Sweet Sorrow

The tagline "Prepare to Die" describes From Software's Dark Souls aptly. This RPG set out to capture the difficulty of older games and does so in the best way possible. Every new enemy sets players' jaws wary and demands attention as they approach, wondering what kind of death awaits them. The fact that the game is one of the best-looking in memory, with animations as smooth as a polished skull and eye-widening landscapes, makes players stare in two kinds of awe, both fear and wonder. Killing an enemy rewards the player with souls, which can be used to level up and as currency for spells and items. Death penalizes the character by stealing all of their collected souls and humanity (used to leave your undead state and give a few bonuses) and leaving them at the location of death, to be recovered if the player can reach the spot without dying again.

Even when facing enemies felled before, players must keep their guard up as a single hit will probably eat a quarter or more or their health bar. Healing is as simple as drinking from your estus flask, which contains 5 uses at first but can be upgraded and is refilled at every bonfire stop, but takes a few seconds which makes in-battle drinking dangerous. The bottle can be refilled by stopping at any of the in-game save havens, the bonfires, but doing so comes at a price. Bonfires heal the player and banishes almost all negative status effects. They even let players level up and repair their equipment. Unfortunately, every enemy that isn't a boss or mini-boss revives at one of these stops, meaning that backtracking will undo all the damage a player has done. Add in the fact that going through an area the first time can mean over half an hour without safety--there is no pausing in this game--means that players must be prepared and always on-guard or else they will find themselves having to return to the previous bonfire to refill their flask.

Online play can be a huge part of the game if the player wishes. When connected to the internet, players are able to summon others who have left their mark in the game, for use in defeating bosses and areas. At the same time, players can invade others' worlds, locking away bonfires from being used and ending in a battle between the two characters. Since an invasion can come at any time, players can be killed at the worst of times. Those without an internet connection shouldn't despair. Those people can summon NPCs to help during boss battles, provided they meet certain in-game criteria.

Bosses are huge, hulking beasts at the end of areas that will likely require a few attempts to take down. With this in mind, players should realize that surviving an area isn't enough. They have to master it, learn the game mechanics well enough so that they can reach the boss with minimum damage. Dark Souls is an unforgiving game that either hardens modern gamers or chews them up. It is also one of the best games of the generation. Learning how to handle each enemy, boss, and event with next to no tutorials or help is rewarding and each victory comes with a feeling of accomplishment very rarely felt in games. In my first playthrough of the game, angry words and controllers were thrown and every once in a while my fist was pumped in the air. At 101 hours, my playthrough wasn't the best, but I did it. In fact, given paper and art skills, I could draw a map of the entire game and mark every enemy location down to the weapons they use. Even with the severely limited soundtrack, the most notable of which is the fully voiced characters, Dark Souls is not a game to be missed.

Comments
  • I agree!  This game is amazing!  Very few games can use their ability to anger you to actually improve the gaming experience.  This one does.