Dark Souls Review
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games America
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Dark Souls is one of those gems that comes around only once in awhile. Dark Souls is the sequel to the Playstation 3 Greatest Hits title, Demon’s Souls. Yet despite being a sequel, it can still be easily picked up whether you’ve played the original or not. And when I say “easily picked up” I do not mean, in any form, that the game is easy. I mean, you won’t be missing out on any key details from the previous, as Dark Souls has its own characters, world, and story.
The protagonist in the story (created by you) starts as a Hollow in an asylum. You then escape the asylum and go on a journey to ring the two Bells of Awakening.
Where this game lacks in story, it makes up tenfold in not only the combat, but atmosphere.
In the original game, Demon’s Souls, you are transported into separate worlds. You complete each world, one at a time. Exit the world or die, and the enemies respawned. The only way to clear a world was by defeating the boss at the end.
In Dark Souls, you have camp fires that serve as check points. In some respect, this makes parts of the game easier. Still, the game is unforgiving.
Each turn you make can send you to your death. And most likely, it will. Die, and you lose all of your souls which serve as experience points or currency for armor, weapons, and repairs. The only way to recover your souls is to find your body and touch it, before dying again. Die before reaching your body, and all your souls are lost.
The game is hard, probably one of the hardest games I have ever played, but at the same time it’s not impossible for those looking for a challenge. What makes Dark Souls so special is despite how difficult it is, is the addictiveness to return and try again.
Yes, you will shout expletives at the TV. And I can’t guarantee you won’t break your controller. What I can guarantee is that Dark Souls will bring you into a fully imaginative world with some of the best gameplay to date.
This is not your typical hack ‘n slash action RPG. One wrong swing and you could be dead, back to the last campfire, soulless, and very ticked off. Dark Souls reminds me of old school games, where as you had to complete it in one go, not make one wrong jump, or you were sent back to the beginning.
You learn how to attack each enemy, which ledge not to fall off, and which area is too tough for you. When you learn your lesson, you proceed, triumph, and have a sense of accomplishment.
When you finally have enough souls to level up, you can put them into an attribute of your choice which allows you to fully customize your character. Once you apply your skill level up, your level becomes permanent. This adds some relief to the game, allowing a player to keep their levels. (In Demon’s Souls you could actually de-level on a certain boss.)
How you maneuver around an enemy, your swing and block timing all proves to be an important strategy in Dark Souls. If you believe for even a second you can go into the game smashing buttons and beat it, you will be proven wrong time and time again.
At campfires you can undo your Hollow form if you have a Humanity item. Humanity can be found from either a random drop, helping other players defeat a boss, or defeating a boss yourself. Though there are several ways of acquiring Humanity, it is still something that should be used sparsely.
By reversing your Hollow, (undead) status you become vulnerable to other players invading your game. Not only can they kill you and send you back to your campfire, but steal the souls you are holding.
The online play in Dark Souls is unlike any other, allowing you to play cooperatively with another player, or defeated by randoms. To play with others, not only do you have to turn human and use your Humanity items, but this leaves you open to be attacked by another player. When I played I normally stayed in my Hollow form the entire time to prevent from being attacked. And unfortunately, I was unable to ever connect with a friend to play together. I don’t know if this ever improved or was just intentional to make it hard to connect with others you knew, but I would have liked the ease of connecting with friends for cooperative play, as it was for Demon’s Souls.
There are also little hints on the ground, left by other players. It was almost like an echo of their existence in that world, even though they were not playing with you. It’s a really neat idea, that can even be helpful at times.
What I appreciate about this game is not only the combat, but every little sound and rendered tree in the game. It sucks you into the world, even with a very little plot. You realize very soon how alone your character is, up against all the enemies.
Dark Souls is not for the casual gamer. But those looking for a challenge and interested in a fully immersive world should give it a try. Do not avoid this game, just because you’re afraid of failure. Those screams of frustration will eventually turn to battle roars of victory. And that, my fellow gamer, is how a game is meant to be played.
Pros: Strategic action combat, Immersive and haunting world, Rewarding gameplay
Cons: Too difficult to match up a game with a friend to play cooperatively, Grinding levels can become repetitive
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.