Dark Souls is a very hard game to review, it is extremely long, difficult, has many confusing systems that no one knows everything about yet and has so many variables in it that my experience could be completely different to what anyone else experiences, and for that reason this game can be incredible. This depends on whether or not you are able to get past the extremely demanding first couple of hours. Many players will be immediately put off by this challenge, but they will be missing out on a rewarding, constantly interesting and breath taking experience that hasn’t really been seen before, except in it’s predecessor, Demon’s Souls, even though that game in my playthrough was not as enjoyable.
Dark Souls is a fantasy action role playing game. It consists of real time melee combat, ranged combat using magic or bows and crossbows. Almost all actions that your character does, except for casting magic, uses up stamina and a majority of the game is managing your stamina to make sure that you do not die, and die you will.
Dark Souls’ predecessor Demon’s Souls was well known for it’s brutality towards the player, in fact that is what drew most players in. This hasn’t changed and the game’s difficulty has not lessened. The game world is full of enemies that will kill you in one hit, in close quarters and at extremely long range, they will ambush you and push you off ledges and it will feel like the game is mocking you. However as you move through these levels you begin to learn where the enemies are, where they might come out from and what attacks they will use and how to avoid them, whilst also exploring, finding new items and shortcuts. A lot of the game’s enjoyment comes out of trial and error as you tackle more and more challenging encounters, until you hit something you can’t beat, then you move on to something else that you can, allowing you to come back later, stronger and able to beat the previous foe.
Whilst the trial and error nature of the game can be reasonable at times, what makes the game more tense is the fact that when you die you loose all of your currency and experience, which are in the form of soul’s. You can get them back, as long as you are able to get to the spot where you died and pick up your what you lost. Soul’s are almost everything in Dark Souls they are, as said above, your currency and experience, so you use them to buy new, repair current and improve your equipment as well as leveling up your character. After a while you’ll begin to realize that holding a lot of souls is not wise and that you’ll want use them as quickly as possible when safe or leave them if you happen to die.
Humanity is a new system that has been brought into the game that differs slightly from Demon’s Souls system. Before when you died you were brought back with half health and you would be revived to full health if you were to beat a boss. However now, humanity is a similar currency to souls, as it can be used at checkpoints to revive you to being human, though death does not hold the same health penalty as before. Now if you die you start with full health, but loose all of your humanity and souls.
It has the same unconventional multiplayer component to the game as Demon’s Souls. As you go through the game you will happen upon specifically coloured stones that will allow you to team up with other players to take on areas in the game as well as bosses. You place a “message” using a white stone onto the ground, this allows you to join other players worlds, or alternatively using a red stone you will be able to invade their world allowing you to collect their souls and humanity. However it can be difficult to team up with your friends for some unusual reason, though I am to believe that this is a design decision, similar to the fact that Dark Souls does not allow Party Chat, but does for some reason allow Private Chat on the Xbox 360. There is also no in game voice chat on the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360. I would imagine this is to make you feel as isolated as possible in the world, that it is your adventure, in your world.
Artistically Dark Souls is a great game, the creatures are creative and often scary looking (until you have seen a curse frog, you do not know what fear is), the environments are either vast and awe inspiring or cramped dark and detailed. Many times I have stopped playing the game in a safe location, and after killing nearby enemies, stared out over stunning scenery. It is just so unfortunate that the game rarely runs at a good frame rate on the Xbox 360. The game will often stutter and struggle as it tries to render many of the complicated surroundings and enemies. This can often cause deaths due to the fact that it can be hard to time your movement carefully especially when enemies can kill you in one hit. Sound wise Dark Souls lives up to the high standards of Demon’s Souls. Sound effects are clean and crisp, whilst the orchestral music is ominous and terrifying, often adding to the tension and atmosphere. Surround sound works well and you can pin point where enemies are coming from, which is always a plus.
Dark Souls is Marmite. You love it or hate it, there is no in between. You’ll either find it extremely challenging but rewarding, or cheap, get frustrated and quit early. However if you perceiver you will find many wild and amazing things that’ll leave you wanting more. It simply comes down to patience, anger control and having a lot of time to allow you to learn each section as you play through it. It is not a game that can be done in small bursts or through trying to rush each section after playing twenty times or more.
After thirty hours of play, many bosses and enemies lying dead on the floor, many of my own bodies lying next to them, treasure chests opened and some killed (you’ll see), this is a game that I cannot wait to carry on playing and enjoying and experiencing. It is not a game for everyone, it is not even a game for most, but for those who want a challenging, deep, role playing game that doesn’t pander to a mainstream audience and pushes you as far as you can go then you’ll be in for a treat, but be prepared to die!