Published by – Namco Bandai Games
Number of Players – 1-4
Platform – Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PS3
Release Date – October 4th, 2011
Genre – 3rd Person Action, Role-Playing
MSRP – $40
If you’ve ever tried to learn a new skill, you know you’re bound to fail many times before you get any better at it. Dark Souls is the epitome of this concept and ranks among the hardest games I’ve ever played, the list including the Battletoads series and the Ghosts’n Goblins series. Going into this I knew that the game would be unforgiving and cruel, like the previous entry in the series Demon’s Souls, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from enjoying myself (it did for about a week).
The story for the game is very minimalistic and isn’t fully shown to you without work on your part. The information you’re given is that humans are becoming inflicted by the darksign which causes them to become hollows, beings without humanity, and it is slowly consuming all of humanity. Luckily there happens to be a legend that a hollow will be able to reverse the darksign and will restore humanity to those who have lost it. This is where you come in. The rest of the information you garner in reference to the story is through item descriptions, the hints in dialogue and the few cut scenes within the game. The developers make sure if you want to completely understand what’s going on you have to work for it. Nothing in this game is handed to you on a silver platter.
The game begins with the character creation portion of the game which is extremely detailed with sections ranging from your character’s job, name, facial features, ethnicity and more. After you complete your character and watch the initial cutscene, you’re dropped off in the initial area which acts as a tutorial.
This is where those of you who abuse your controller when frustrated by continuous deaths will begin to lose your mind and may even give up on this game. Dark Souls is a game of routine, you need to learn how to handle each enemy and every death is a lesson in what not to do next time. Now the game is unrelenting in it’s punishment, losing all the humanity/souls you have gathered at that point, but you do have the chance fight your way back to where you fell to recover the souls/humanity. There is a caveat though, if you die on the way to it that experience is gone forever. I think of myself as a hardcore gamer but this game has torn me to shreds on more than one occasion. Anytime I’d find myself doing well I would become overconfident and my character would soon pay for it when I’d run into a trap or ambush that was strategically placed by the developers.
The gameplay is fluid but the button layout takes some getting used to. The triggers/bumper are assigned to the item corresponding to the side it’s on, so for the right item your right triggers/bumper activate the item and the same goes for the left item with left triggers/bumper. Learning how to time your attacks correctly as well as understanding how much of your stamina each attack will take is a major part of the game and you’ll need to master it for each weapon you come across if you decide to use something other than what you’re initially given.
The enemies are intelligent and range in size as well as power. The weaker enemies may seem insignificant at first but unlike other games they won’t take turns attacking you. Prepare to be swarmed on occasion and repeat certain areas until you learn the enemy layouts so that you can take them down at your pace. Fighting bosses and even sub-bosses is intimidating in Dark Souls as they are usually massive and can swipe you away like a fly. Standing your ground against these behemoths usually ends with a “YOU DIED” screen, so leaning towards guerrilla tactics during these fights becomes key to your survival.
If you play Dark Souls while your console is connected to the Internet you’ll run into one of the most interesting features in the game, the ghosts of your fellow players as well as their phantoms. While roaming the world you’ll see ghosts which will be players who are currently in the same area as you and are trying to make it out alive just like you. After obtaining an item early in the game you will be able to access other player’s worlds and bring other players into your own. You can then act as a team to take down hard to beat enemies or bosses. There is a flip side to this though as you can also find an item that will allow you to enter the world of another player to kill them for souls and humanity. The game gives you freedom to do whichever you choose and you are rewarded in both respects.
Dark Souls provides a feeling that other games seem to gloss over. When you’re fighting these enemies and making your way through this world, it legitimately feels like you’re taking on an entire world full of evil and need to figure out how you’re going to take them down. Other games in this genre try to emulate this feeling but with subpar A.I. there’s no hope for them to contend with this game. A lot of gamers, myself included, now find themselves playing their new releases on the hardest difficulty to make a game last longer and for a greater challenge. I can guarantee that Dark Souls is the game this type of gamer will want to play.
Demon’s Souls was a game that’s not only appealing in terms of gameplay but in appearance. Dark Souls has amplified that feeling with upgraded graphics. The landscapes are beautiful and painstakingly detailed. At times I found myself distracted by a gorgeous background only to be blindsided and mauled by the incredibly rendered creatures in-game. The creatures range from being horribly grotesque to oddly noble and extraordinary.
The score is a wonderful match to the mood set by the enemies and areas throughout the game. The music for boss fights psych you up, getting you ready to fight something that should be able to eviscerate you with one look. While exploring, the tone of the score changes but it’s predominantly eerie which can send shivers down your spine as you don’t know what to expect walking into a new area.
Dark Souls is a test of endurance and patience. Once you have gotten into a groove and stand triumphant over the monsters of the game, one can’t help but feel an immense pride. If you’re unable to devote that kind of time and patience to a game you shouldn’t torture yourself but if you’re someone who relishes a challenge, you’ll find it here.
Story: 3 / Graphics: 5 / Audio: 5 / Gameplay: 5 / Overall: 5