Review: Dark Souls

Review: Dark Souls
5.0/5 Review Score:

Dark Souls is the spiritual successor to the painfully difficult, massively popular 2010 hit Demon’s Souls. FromSoftware have taken what they have learned and made the game bigger, better and whole lot harder.

Dark Souls starts with you, unnamed genderless hero number one-ten, a member of the race known as the Undead in the Undead Asylum. Once every so often, an Undead escapes the Asylum and makes it the mystical land of Lordran to fulfil a prophecy of some sort. Yeah, the story is not exactly brilliant, and to be honest outside of the very few cutscenes the story is pretty nonexistent and only serves as a means to transport you from one area to the next.

Lordran is a vast land, filled with dungeons, caves and places generally filled with deadly enemies and/or traps. Whether you are scaling the vast Undead Parish or delving into The Depths there is always something new to find, and by extension something new to kill you.

Death is a certainty in Dark Souls. It is not: “Will i die?” or “When will I die?” it is actually “How many times am I going to die before I learn to not do that?”. Dark Souls is not HARD, it is actually a learning experience. How quickly you learn will determine just how well you will fare against the denizens of Lordran. Learning of course, is not exactly easy. Dark Souls never actually tells you anything. Sure it explains how to walk and fight to a basic degree, but after that you are left to discover everything your self. Questions like: Where do i go now? How do I Craft? How do I beat this Boss? How the heck am i supposed to get past that dragon? are all common, and are all things you are just going to have to discover for yourself.

Despite its ‘difficulty’, Dark Souls is not unfair in its approach to mercilessly praying off your ignorance. You see, Dark Souls does not punish you for making mistakes. The game knows you are only human, and understands your incompetence. What Dark Souls does, is punish the same mistake repeatedly. Dying has very little impact on the game, you simply lose all your Souls and Humanity (your two forms of currency). You can get these back by going to where you died, and activating your blood pool and everything is fine and dandy. The problem of course, is that all enemies respawn when you die, so you have to fight your way back to your pool. If you die before you reach it, your souls are lost for all eternity.

Dark Souls also punishes you for letting your guard down. One of the most memorable moments is within the first hour or so, where you defeat your first real boss. The boss is pretty darn hard, but when you eventually defeat the demon you can advance. You see a bridge leading to a new area, you cross it. You die as a dragon burns you to a crisp from behind. You would thinking: “That is so cheesy!”. But actually, the game warns you, and if you were not so euphoric over your first real victory you would have noticed the long line of burnt corpses and scorch marks along the bridge. Dark Souls knows how you think, slaps you in the face and reminds you that this Dark Souls, not some pansy ass kids game!

To help you learn there is the online aspect of the game, which is something found throughout the journey. Blood Splatters are common, and activating them show the last few seconds of another player’s life in that area. Whilst it does not show what killed them, it can help you prepare for the coming doom. Similarly players can leave messages on the floor, allowing you to get some tips before you delve into the unknown. To balance the ‘help’ given by the failure of others is the Invasion system. Players can invade your realm in an attempt to kill you, steal your Souls and gain some Humanity. Of course if you defend yourself from invasion you gain some goodies, but the thought that someone could attack you at any moment combined with the thought that the game is trying to kill you makes for a truly unique experience.

It is not all doom and gloom of course, players can help you in other ways that don’t require them trying to kill you, or them dying. You can summon friendly players to your realm to help you defeat bosses, and of course you can be summoned to their realm. The rewards are well worth the effort, and this is the only real form of cooperative multiplayer to be found.

If you look passed the dying, the grim darkness and the inevitable crushing defeat you will find an extraordinarily in depth RPG. The first choice you make in the game is what class you want to be, and within about 30-60 minutes you will realise that your choice is meaningless as every character can do everything. You can be clerical sorcery loving pyromatic claymore wielding thief if you so desired. Everything is built of equipment, and stats. Unfortunately, both require Souls. Souls is your currency and your experience. Leveling up requires a heft soul investment, and will limit what you can buy. Buying, or upgrading things will obviously limit how you level up. It is a fine balancing act, and one you should learn rather quickly…in between deaths naturally.

Graphically Darksouls is nothing special. The game has ok textures, ok lighting, ok character models etc. but nothing really stands out. There’s a distinct lack of polish in just about every area. Special effects are poorly done, the physics are hilariously unrealistic and the game has never even heard of lip synching. The music does rescue the presentation somewhat with some terrifying scores that set the mood well, and what little voice acting there is, has been done to a reasonable standard. This is one of those games that proves gameplay>graphics, as Dark Souls is hideous.

Overall, Dark Souls will take you about 40 hours to complete, then you have the New Game+, New Game++ and New Game+++ up to a seemingly infinite number of plusses with each playthrough getting significantly harder. If you are looking for a game that is painfully engrossing, mercilessly brutal and genuinely fantastic, pick this game up. An absolute must buy game for those with the balls to handle it.

1 Comment
  • Milo Ambrus
    October 3, 2012
    GD Star Rating

    I have Demon’s Souls, and was reading your review hoping to see any differences between the two games, but seems they’ve made another painfull game. It’s rewarding, of course, but when I think of inserting Demon’s Souls disk in my PS3, I also remember the 2 hours gameplay I had before dying and losing all souls I’ve absorved. PAINFUL game, indeed!

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