Reviews: Dark Souls
Prepare to Hate Me
Because I loathe this game. Utterly, utterly, loathe it. Hated every stupid, cheesy, time wasting, audience insulting, moment of it! And the worst part is I wanted to love this game. I wanted to be part of the cult following, to be part of a tight knit community, to prove that I'm a real gamer, and that I don't need all these modern conveniences that today's games have. Now I want to inject Krocodil into my brain to forget this game even exists. The game deliberately wastes your time, keeping bonfires (checkpoints) over half an hour of gameplay a part. That is bullshit. There is no reason for checkpoints to be that far apart, and is one of the most egregious examples of Fake Difficulty the game possesses. When I get killed because of some trap or swarm of enemies that I had no real ability to expect without pre-cognition, I get angry. I get angry because that means I'd have to fight through the last dozen dirty tricks to make up for lost time, only to get killed again in the next area. My time is not infinite, I have places to go, jobs to do, attractive young ladies to seduce, and I don't have the time or patience to take the excruciatingly slow pace the game has. When I try to hurry things along because I want to see what the next boss looks like, I get punked out by undead pikemen or big fuck-off knights. And to top it all off the game is BOOOOOOOOR-ING. Everything looks so dull! I have no idea where to go, what I'm supposed to be doing here, what the hell is going on, why there's a giant toothy vagina dragon (that I haven't gotten to, but looks badass), or what the chuffing hell any of these things in my inventory do? Dark Souls is hard, but it's the wrong kind of hard. A good hard game would have the difficulty come naturally, ramping up gradually over the course of the game. A bad hard game would go out of it's way to infuriate the player, waste their time and laugh at them while doing it. When I pass an area I should not be feeling shame over having spend an hour and a half trying to beat it. I should not feel miserable while playing a game.
Not my Thing
I wanted to like this game. And for the first few hours, I did. The challenges were legitimate (mostly), the maps nicely designed, and the enemies varied. But after a while, the lack of explanation on multiple levels made me start asking, "So what?" In the tutorial, for example, I'm told I can use weapons two-handed. So what? Does that increase my attack power? My attack speed? I couldn't see much of a difference. I need it to use bows, though, but bows were never covered there, so it was only through trial, error, death, and wasted arrows that I figured that out. I notice I can unlock an attunement slot if I raise this stat. So what? What does attunement do? The help feature mentions miracles. Is that magic? How do I get them? I don't want to put that much effort into finding out if it turns out to be less than useful. Or the story: Dark is coming back and I need to ring two bells. So what? Is Dark bad? According to the opening cutscene, we came from Dark. (Possibly. I'm assuming we're who They were.) How will the bells help? Well, I'm told that "something will happen". Probably. I'm not against piecing a story together bit by bit, but I'd like to start on something a little more substantial. This ties into my main problem with the game: as I played it, my reward for completing the challenges was just more challenges. New enemies, occasionally some new gear, whatever. But nothing outside of that. No story, nothing really personal behind all the struggle. Just variations on fighting. Every time I risk death by stepping forward, I'm left asking, "Why am I doing this?" Sure, there was that opening history, but for all I experienced it in the game, I could've played Mad Libs with it and it would've made little difference. Challenge for challenge's sake like this isn't my thing, especially with such large gaps between bonfires. I could've kept going. While hard, it wasn't that hard. I could've learned the enemy patterns and weaknesses. But I don't like having to fight for twenty minutes, only to be faced with a choice: keep going and likely die, thanks to my low health and zero estus, thereby losing all my souls, or spend a minute traipsing back to the bonfire to raise my skills a little, thereby bringing all the enemies back. I can understand the appeal, but for me, it was just lather, rinse, repeat.
D&D: The game
I remember seeing all the hype around Dark Souls. It was posted everywhere that this was the hardest game ever. So I got a copy on sale for five dollars. I remember saying "If this game is so hard, then let's have a go". I got lucky, I had watched the Zero Punctuation review and read the Extra Punctuation column on Dark Souls, So I picked a Knight first. I realized the Knight was too slow for my taste, so I switched to the Warrior. I cleared the Asylum without dying, I did the suicide run in the graveyard and found the winged spear. Then I realized something; I was playing this game like D&D but with re-spawns! As I went through the Undead Burg, I encountered my first Black Knight. It killed me, and that was when I reversed my hollowing and summoned a player who was on their seventh playthrough; he helped me kill the Black Knight, He showed me where some rare drops were, he helped me past the Tarous demon, and he left a message that said "Try Tail" on the bridge to the Undead Parish. So I did the logical thing and shot off the tail of the Drake and got the Drake Sword. I went on to find the first Halberd of the game, I went to the New Londo Ruins and enchanted all my gear to +2. Then I got to the rooftop boss fight with the two gargoyles, I died, came back as a human, summoned Solaire and he helped me to wreck the gargoyles and I rang the first bell. If this were Skyrim, that would have been the main quest line, but this was only the beginning of my adventure. I realized that this game isn't hard per say, but it has the old Ideology of "Games Must Be a Challenge" that seems to be lost in all of these fantasy RPG Hack and slash fest power trip #145 where the player is a walking doom machine and enemies scale to their level. Dark Souls reminded me of [[Morrowind]] and [[Dungeons and Dragons]] in the best way possible. And for those of you who want a number: 11 out of 10, It still isn't for everyone. Just remember; Your character is only human and can die fast, and all mistakes you make can lead to your death.
A Punishing But Highly Rewarding Experience
I went into Dark Souls expecting it to kick my ass from the get go. I was especially cautious considering the horror stories I've read from many a gamer proclaiming just how difficult and unforgiving this game is. Oh, make no mistake, it's quite difficult. However, I feel like people overstate this game's difficulty. The game is one of the best examples of a truly challenging and mostly fair experience I've ever encountered. The game's world is dim, grim, brutal, hostile, and nigh-hopeless. It thrusts the player character into the thickets of despair and expects them to wallow through it all just to find a glimmer of hope. But even as hard as it is... the game only really punishes those who do not pay attention or do not use proper caution. One cannot simply run full speed through everything in this game. To minimize frustration, care is needed. What a wonderful thing it is. Finally a genuinely difficult game that kills people for making stupid mistakes and expects them to learn from them, punishing those who do not. Every small victory attained, whether it's reaching a bonfire, leveling up, upgrading equipment, or killing the game's myriad of (mostly) FANTASTIC bosses feels like a monumental achievement. The game also has a very non-intrusive storyline, unlike many games I've played. The game does not constantly rip control out of the player's hands only to bore them with a half hour cutscene laden with exposition. The game does not force one to listen to the prattling of NPCs if one does not wish to. The story is there, it is minimal, but it is there for those willing to seek it. Otherwise, the game is remarkably focused on solid gameplay involving perilous combat and exploration of the game's hostile and intimidating settings. The difficulty curve is constant... I've rarely played any RPG this long with a constant difficulty curve. It's so refreshing to feel consistently challenged with New Game plus' that get harder and harder. The combat is so deep and character builds are so flexible that there's a constant reason to play it again. This game is essential for anyone looking for a genuinely challenging experience.
Game is, simply put, overrated. It is not a bad game, but it's overrated. Remember this while reading. Also, I am reviewing based on PC port. First of all, the much spoken difficult comes less from the game offering great challenges, but more from trial and error gameplay, clunky controls and numerous bad design choices. If this game had come from any of the big companies, Bethesda for example, none of these design choices would have been accepted and game would have been panned to the ground. For example, simple pause menu. Sometimes, I have to leave my game. Yet, the game lacks the very simple option of pausing the game. This is the first black mark. It really should have been there. Now, the controls. Like I said earlier, they are clunky. Too many actions are assigned to a single button when using the controlled and m/k control scheme? Horrible. Now, on controller, which unfortunately is the only way to play really, jumping, rolling and running are all assigned to the same button. Yes, you heard that right. All three, different actions, on the same button. Also, that famous difficult? Artificial. Bonfires are far and between and each time you die, enemies respawn. This itself would not be that bad, except that due to distances involved, this means fighting through at least 20 enemies again. Thankfully, bosses don't respawn. However, even if you don't die and find a new bonfire, enemies still respawn. Not to mention surprise deaths that you can't expect unless you have memories the level through numerous deaths. For example, after fighting a minotaur boss moved forward. I saw a route to where I needed to go. Out of nowhere, literally, a dragon comes and roasts me. Now I was back at the last bonfire with all the enemies back where I had killed them. Just because I couldn't realize that there is going to be surprise dragon from nowhere. Also, bosses? It's not about getting better with game mechanics. It's about observing and dying until you realize a flaw in AI and exploit it. Now, what is good in the game? Well, the lore is interesting, what little it is told. Maps are big. Combat is solid. That's about it. As I said, overrated, but good game. If you buy and like the game, don't act as if you are a member of master race due to it, okay? Game is not that good.
Prepare to die, and love every second of it.
Remeber a little game by the name of Demon's souls? Remeber how hard that game was? Well, this is a sequal (in all but name) to that game. And it's harder. Much harder. The game places you in a vast open world with interconected areas, all linked together without the slightest bit of louding barring death, and filled to the brim with monsters of varying size and ability to kill you very, very quickly. Throughout your quest you will gain weapons, armor, shields and magic of great viraity to help you go through this world filled with a burning, undaying wish to end you very messily, and every time you over come a challenge, a new challenge will arrive, waiting to crush you to bits. Dark Souls is a game that places you in near impossible situations, looks you dead in the eye, and says "Get through this alive". You will die a staggering amout of times for even the slightest bit of progress, for every tiny victory you gain here you probably had about ten times the amount of failures. But the key word here is NEAR-impossible, Dark souls gives you everything you need to succede, and leaves the rest to you. Any bit of progress or every victory you gained will be deserved purly for the fact that you gained it. This game will make you work your ass off to make it through, and only those with a mind willing to learn will make it through. Dark Souls, obviously, is not a game for everyone, it is NOT forgiving, even for the most minor mistakes. But, for people wanting an imenss and thrilling challenge, that is also very fair most of the time, this game connot be missed.
Dying Over and Over and Over and Over and O-
Yes. You will die. You will die a lot. You will die a lot, and hopefully you'll learn from it. Difficulty in video games isn't new; it's the fact that the difficulty is actually meaningful. When you die, your souls and humanities are dumped away. Unless you touch your bloodstain, they're gone forever. This is a frustruating mechanic, but that is precisely the point. Through that one mechanic, the game's pace is lowered not by the game's combat, but by the player. A sense of fear is brought about because the player is fearful of what the demons in the dark will do to him, instead of just their designs. Don't get me wrong, the designs are imposing and terrifying, but the gameplay goes a long, long way into bringing about an atmosphere of horror and fear. Of course, that was in the original Demon's Souls, which is also a gem. But unlike Demon's Souls, there's a grand sense of scale. The entire world is open to explore, full of danger and fraught with terror. Everything is built around the player's own exploration and skills, with some hidden armor and shields and weapons featured everywhere. If you're good enough, you can, per say, kill that high-level black knight over in the Undead Burg. Maybe the player can kill that obnoxious Asylum demon with a stubbed sword, and the game doesn't just ignore this; it awards the player for being better than the developers expected. The Metroidvania setup is so well implemented that it stands head and shoulders above Demon's Souls. And, of course, there is that infamous difficulty. It is harder than Demon's Souls, but not just because of the larger world and the lack of direction. The monsters are larger and meaner. The Capra Demon is a bitch to new players, Blighttown has toxicity that makes it so much worse than the Valley of Defilement, and the fight against Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough. That said, the game's not artificially difficult, it's just strict. Although the enemy placement is sadistic (seriously, FROM, did you really need to sic four basilisks on me?), it's mostly planned around typical player behavior. Just give it a go, ya pansy.
I never thought i'd ever like this game to be honest. Having seen my friends play Demon Souls and then seeing them play Dark souls always fascinated me as I didn't get why they could get so engrossed in a game that was so hard. After playing games like Skyrim and Assassin's Creed:Revelations I decided to get this out of curiosity after watching a lets play by an American guy living in Japan. My first few minutes in the game ended with me getting sat on by a fat demon and getting pooped out of a bonfire like nothing happened (other than the obvious mental scarring.) However, after a couple of days of playing I got the hang of things and had done the following by then (Warning: spoilers.): - Beat the fatso tutorial demon boss. - Meet a dude with a sun fetish - Get burnt to a crisp on a bridge by a red dragon (or wyvern). - Get cursed by some frogs that look like avatars for internet trolls. - Waded through a nightmarish swamp - Fight a hot witch spider hybrid - Make a lava giant fall to his death by poking at his arm. - So through a fortress from hell - Fight the videogame representation of Kenan and Kel on crack - Shoot a well endowed illusion with my crossbow and I did alot more in the weeks to come. Before I knew it I was at the game's end and ended up in New game plus.Overall the game just sucks you into their world with the gameplay and deep lore that you get to appreciate if you stopped and examined for a minute or two. Rarely has such a game come along that actually affected my gaming experience with other games. When i tried to get back into other games like Skyrim or Dragon's dogma I find myself mentally comparing it to the experiences I had while playing Dark Souls. Yes its got that kind of charm to it. Overall if I had to give this game a score it would be 4.5 stars out of 5 stars. While its a very great gem of a game it felt shorter on future playthroughs given the knowledge and experience of your initial playthroughs and some parts feel rushed like a lava area where the lava is just blinding. Also pvp can be a punishing, rewarding or glitchy experience depending on player. Dark Souls is one game I'd recommend to anyone looking for a great gaming experience that punishes as much as it rewards. In fact this game convinced me to try out Demon Souls just to see the similarities.