Dark Souls review
- Posted October 3rd, 2011 at 16:59 EDT by Steven Williamson
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Finally the successor to Demon's Souls has arrived and it's absolutely brilliant.
- Addictive, challenging combat where you have to learn from your mistakes
- Incredibly varied bestiary
- Persistent online world mechanics that elevate it above and beyond any action-RPG we've seen before
- A few technical issues means production values aren't as polished as they could have been
- Having to exit out of the inventory twice can lead to unnecessary deaths
I can’t stop thinking about Dark Souls. When I’m not playing From Software's action-RPG I’m yearning for it, yet when I am playing it I’m like a lost soul wishing there was someone I could turn to for help in this lonely, unforgiving place. I knew it would be hard – Demon’s Souls set us all up for that - but I still feel unprepared, like a man sent out into the wild with nothing but a dagger and his wits.
Eight hours in and I’d only beaten the first boss. The Taurus Demon proved to be my nemesis, but even just getting to him was tough enough as I fought off legions of fire-bomb throwing, spear-wielding undead desperately trying to reach the safe haven of a warm, inviting bonfire. After dozens of deaths, holding my head in my hands in despair, and finally conceding defeat by switching the T.V. off at 3am in the morning totally exhausted, I was bitter but determined to be back. That night it took me forever to get to sleep, burdened by the weight of a battle that I knew I would have to face again.
The next day…a breakthrough! I take down the Demon and I reach the next bonfire knowing that I never have to meet this hulking great beast again – I hope. I feel elated and incredibly satisfied. The fog and heavy atmosphere that runs through the veins of Dark Souls lifts temporarily as I bathe in the light of victory. From an early stage, Dark Souls consumes you. It's a game of extremes, taking you through every emotion imaginable, sucking the soul out of you before building you up to make you feel like you’re impenetrable. That doesn't last though. Soon enough you're back again working harder than you've ever done before in your life to kill every single enemy you encounter.
I think I owe it to the readers of PSU to let you know that I cheated. Well, I got myself some help. With the lack of community prior to release to turn to for advice, I asked Namco Bandai for tips on how to beat some of the bosses. They kindly helped me out, sending across an extract from the beautifully illustrated and highly informative Dark Souls Official Guide by Future Press. In this relatively short period of time before launch, I needed help so I could experience as much as possible before I wrote the review. Even now, I've only just scratched the surface.
I’d describe myself as a hardcore gamer (talented at hack ‘n slash games and shooters) yet I've struggled intensely with Dark Souls. Of course, this isn’t a hack ‘n slash game. In Dark Souls you do spend a lot of time fighting a wonderful array of creatures, from zombies and undead soldiers, to Black Nights and Prowling Demons. And you also have an abundance of familiar weapons, from crossbows and long swords to axes and spears. However, you don’t just run through levels God Of War style slicing your way through enemies like butter. This is a game that requires thought, patience and understanding. From Software sums up the tactics needed to succeed in Dark Souls very nicely when it says that winning boils down to three things: observation, strategy and choice.
It’s meant to be tough, of course, and fans of Demon’s Souls will revel in the challenge, while those unaware of what they’re about to face will rush into their initial encounters only to be brutally killed by even the weakest of enemies. In truth, no enemies are weak in Dark Souls. Every last one of them has the potential to kill you if you don’t apply those three rules outlined by the developer. Success in combat is about watching enemies' behavioural patterns, exploiting their weaknesses, equipping the right weapons and using the right spells. It’s about running like hell when you really don’t have to fight and having the balls to try again and learn from your mistakes when you inevitably die. It's about hundred-and-one different things that you can only possibly learn by death.
Combat in Dark Souls is extremely in-depth, yet the control system is simple to use. Back-steps, rolls, light and heavy attacks are just a small part of a cat-and-mouse game ... (continued on next page) ----