Review by Spirituous
"Dark Souls: Prepare For A Mess"
Dark Souls: The spiritual successor to 2009's excellent Playstation 3 exclusive Demon's Souls is a broken mess of a game, and is full of bugs, exploits, and a whole host of other issues. These constant issues really take away from the enjoyment of this title, as they are present throughout the entire game, and your constantly fighting these issues. There is no excuse to have so many issues in the game, especially when you consider how well made Demon's Souls was. But before I dive into the whole host of issues with this game, let me go down a list of what Dark Souls did right.
1. Memorable Boss Fights
The Epic Boss fights return in Dark Souls. And much like in Demon Souls, you'll be amazed at many of these bosses the first time you meet them. You'll experience terror, panic, nervousness, and then either rage or joy if the boss defeats you or you defeat them. Truly the strong point of the game. It's no bad that once you encounter them the first time, the magic wears off right away.
2. Excellent Music (when there is music playing)
The Music in Demon's Souls was great, when there was music playing. And it's identical here, although to a lesser degree. It's a shame that more music was not added to this game, as it really is great to listen to. The problem is, just like in Demon's Souls the music is far and few between. A shame really, as this is memorable stuff.
3. Offline Invasions.
In Demon's Souls, there was only one way to get invaded. And that was to play the game online, and be in human form. If you played in offline mode, then you never experienced the thrill o being invaded by another player. Well Dark Souls fixes this problem (if it even was a problem to begin with?) where a CPU controlled NPC will attack your game world, and it looks like another player is attacking you. This gives the thrill of being attacked, even if you play in offline mode. A nice touch, for those who don't want to deal with jerks online, or just shy away from PVP (Player Vs Player) in general. Now comes the bad part. And believe you me, this is a long list. So put on your helmets and get ready for a crash course of Dark Souls issues galore. In no particular order:
The Control Input Lag
Dark Souls hates you. It hates you so bad, that when you press a button it will sometimes just not register that you pressed the button/direction and will tell you to piss off. This makes you die, A LOT. The fact that your constantly dealing with this throughout the game is insane. This is not only in certain areas of the game, this issue is a constant. This issue alone is enough to make most people stop playing the game right away.
Graphic Lag And Slowdown
Again like the Control Input Lag, this issue effects the entire game. There are times when your game will literally come to a crawl and you'll barely be able to move around due to the Graphic Lag. Your FPS (Frames Per Second) will drop into the single digits and everything will move in super slow motion. This would be a cool effect, if it was actually an effect and not the game grinding to a halt due to poor programming. You'll scream at your TV when it happens, because you'll be fighting something intensely and then BAM, slowdown and guess what? Your dead.
The Targeting system is completely broken in this game. You'll try to target a different enemy, only to have the targeting system refuse to target another enemy. You then have to try and break the targeting manually, and most times this makes things even worse and again causes you to die needlessly. This is confusing as 2009's Demon's Souls had this system down perfectly.
The Camera angles will sometimes just up and decide to auto adjust through no input from you at all. You'll be walking carefully around a ledge and have the camera behind your character and the next second the camera loses it's mind and positions itself in the worse possible viewpoint. Almost as if on purpose to make you die more. It is frustrating beyond belief to say the least.
Severe Weapons/Magic Imbalance
Weapons that scale to your stats are much, much, weaker then Lightning/Fire weapons, Lightning/Fire weapons are severely overpowered, and certain magic spells are severely overpowered. What this all boils down to is a broken system where elemental weapons are vastly stronger then stat scaling weapons, stat scaling weapons do less damage then elemental weapons, and certain magic spells (I'm looking at you Iron Flesh) are so overpowered it makes the game's bosses in general a joke. Balance is thrown out the window due to all these issues. This effects the single player and PVP (Player Vs Player) experience immensely. And speaking of things that effect balance....
Game Breaking Exploits
Players of Japan had the game a month before other parts of the world and a week after the game was released someone figured out how to gain an infinite number of souls via this exploit. Souls in this game equal levels and increased stats. So within the first week of the games release you had players well over level 100+, 200+ etc and this threw the games balance out of wack when it came to PVP'ing. You had people level 100+, 200+, 300+, 400+ raiding people who where lower level. People also used this exploit to throw thousand of thrown items in PVP matches, doing hundreds of thousand of damage per second to other players.
Players also found a way to duplicate as many shards/chunks/slabs of ore material they need. Thereby being able to max out multiple armor set and weapons in a much shorter time than intended. They also found a way to duplicate items via vendors. Thereby giving them unlimited items. Again completely unbalancing the game. There are a host of other exploits going on right now, but the ones listed above are the most prevalent. Needless to say, this utterly ruins any semblance of a fair fight in this game if your playing online. The only way to avoid these issues is to play the game in offline mode, sad to say. Which defeats the entire purpose of playing the game online in the first place. And that bring me to online play.
Online Multi-player/Matchmaking is broken
Dark Souls Online Aspect is not only a broken mechanic, it is possibly one of the worst, if not THE WORST matchmaking system I have ever seen in my life. It uses some form of P2P (Peer To Peer) matchmaking system and it is totally random as to who you get matched up with when you play online. You get the messages of "Failed To Summon" constantly in Dark Souls and it is beyond frustrating to say the least. Some areas you won't even find people to summon to help you out (Lost Izalith I'm looking at you) as most people seem to place there summoning signs before boss areas or at the very start of certain areas.
You can traverse the game for hours before running into a summoning sign, and even then it's 50/50 if your even going to be able to summon them to help you out. Most of the time you'll see the ever familiar and frustrating "Failed To Summon" message. Here are a few examples of just how badly the multiplayer aspect is implemented.
I tried using an item that let's you invade other people's games to fight them. I had 10 uses on the item and tried 10 times in a row to invade someone's gaming world, and all 10 times failed with the "Failed to invade" message. I tried to use another item (unlimited use) which lets you invade players who have sinned in the world, and failed to invade each and every time I tried to use it in multiple areas of the game. (I tried over 30 times to use this item without success)
I literally spent over 20minutes trying to summon my friend in game, as did he, all without success once. We where both around the same level ( minus one or two levels) and tried over and over again to join each others game to help out without success. Also very large percentage of the people that invade your game are exploiters who are 100-200-300 levels higher then you and kill you in one hit, use the exploit I mentioned above to rain thrown weapons down on you from across the map, and use every exploits in the game to cheat to win in fights. The sheer amount of people cheating and using these exploits is staggering. Worse yet is that there is still no patch to address these issues with balance. By the time From Software does patch the game, the battlefield will be so unbalanced and ruined it will be pointless by then to even patch the game.
No Directions At All
Demon's Souls at least had some direction of what your purpose was. There was some layout and structure of where to go and what to do. Not so in Dark Souls. Your told to "Ring Two Bells" and that's it. Even the directions given to you by the NPC at the start of the game is not clear. Nor are you told what general direction you need to go. You literally have to figure out where your supposed to go and where your not supposed to go from the get go. Without looking at a Wiki page, here on gamefaqs, or using the strategy guide, you literally will have no idea which way to go. Your never told, "Hey don't go fight those skeletons until later in the game, because you need a special type of weapon you can only make later in the game". Nope, your given absolutely no information whatsoever.
At least in Demon's Souls you had the Archstone system. And it clearly said world 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, etc. You could instantly see, ok I'm supposed to start at world 1-1 then, and proceed. Dark Souls literally just dumps you on the ground in the middle of nowhere and says to you, "Screw You". This is confusing, as in Demon's Souls you could clearly see what the different worlds where via numbers, there was a description of said world, and the NPC's generally had helpful information. Not so in Dark Souls. You'll have no idea where to go, and what to do. And the NPC's aren't much help either. Which bring me to my next issue with the game.
Critical Information And Poor Translation Work
Imagine this scenario. Your working your way through a level and find yourself an Item. You read the description and it tells you "Use this item to Strengthen your Estus Flasks. (Health Drinks) So you proceed to use the item, yet see no change to your Estus Flasks. You wonder to yourself, "Hmm did I read the information wrong, or did I mess this up somehow? Only to later find out in the game, your not supposed to use the item, but your instead supposed to give that item to an NPC to get the bonus to your Estus Flasks. Oh and did we mention this special NPC is just down the stairs in a jail cell against a wall that is very easy to run by without noticing? No? Oh well to bad for you!
Not only do you have to deal with a poor translation job, which is bad enough but then you have to deal with the fact that critical information like this is just not given to you in any way, shape or form in this game. Your almost required to constantly check the Wiki pages, gamefaq pages, or strategy guide to make sure you don't screw your game and character up. This is not enjoyable in the least, and adds even more frustration to an already hair pulling experience. Demon's Souls information was there right in front of you. Critical NPC'S where not hidden from you, and translation and voice over work actually told you important information, not this train wreck that is Dark Souls. And speaking of a wreck, let's talk about the storyline.
Storyline Is Non-Existent
You literally have no idea what the hell is going on with the storyline. All you know is that your undead, you have to ring bells to proceed, and that's about it. Your not given any back story as to why your undead, who the hell all those other undead NPC'S are, why your supposed to kill these bosses, and what your mission is even supposed to be. I know Demon's Souls did not have an "amazing storyline" but you actually knew what your goal was in Demon's Souls. You had a purpose and it was laid out clearly for you. In Dark Souls you have no sense of direction, no information is given to you, and what little you do have you have to decipher like your in World War II intercepting encrypted enemy transmissions. The lack of any real purpose or even filling in the player on what's going on with the story really hurts the overall experience of Dark Souls. And there is no reason for this, and is completely confusing as Demon's Souls did it so well. And finally the last issue with Dark Souls.
Running Around The World, And Running, And Running, And Running.
Hey you! Do you enjoy running non-stop for 10minutes straight from point A to point B in video games? Is that not the most awesome thing ever? No? It actually sucks and is boring as hell? Yup, it sure as hell is. And that's exactly what your going to be doing in this game most of the time. Running endlessly from point A to point B, because you have no other way to get there, but to run, run, and run some more. Many Bonfires (Dark Souls version of Archstones from Demons Souls) are hidden behind normal looking walls you'd never find on your own without looking very, very carefully is the texture of the wall is the same as the others, or by randomly smashing walls. Who in the world thinks that's a fun time? I certainly don't. And who in their right mind though that placing the Bonfires behind hidden walls was a great idea? You don't even get the ability to transport between areas until much later in the game. Which is insane, since you could do this in Demon's Souls right away via the Archstones.
Worse still, is that even after you get the ability to transport between Bonfires much later in the game, you still can't go to the ones you want. It's a preset number you can transport to, and it only allows you to transport to the ones the developers allow you to go. Such as Gravelords, which is totally pointless as you can't even leave that area if you zap to it via normal means. The fact that your not even allowed to go back to ALL of the Bonfires you've been to before via the transportation method is insane. This makes the game feel cut off from the rest of the world, and isolated. It kills the immersion factor by punishing you, even after you unlock the transportation ability. Games should reward your efforts, not punish you even further.
In Closing while Dark Souls is enjoyable if your willing to deal with the issues above, but it's a lot to ask for from the player. (new and vet alike) Add to that all the rampant exploiting going on, and the hollow feeling you get at the end of the game (pun intended) and it's just to much. Once you beat the game the first time through, the game completely losses it's appeal. Mostly due to the fact that Dark Souls PVP (Player Vs Player) is broken, unbalanced, full of exploiters, and the online matchmaking does not work well at all. This is the complete opposite of Demon's Souls, as that game lasted for a much longer time due to the fact that it does not have any of those issues that PVP'ing in Dark Souls has.
It's hard to believe that the same company who made the excellent Demon's Souls is behind this product as well. It's clear this game was released to early and still needed some major testing to be done on it, instead of releasing it in this state. There is no way I can recommend this game to anyone in it's current form. Perhaps once From Software patches the game, and addresses the many issues with the title (hopefully) it will be a better product. But in it's current form, I can only recommend people rent the title first, due to the overwhelming amount of issues with the game. If your looking for a superior title to pick up, without any of the issues of this title, then I would suggest the original Demon's Souls. It's simply a better game then Dark Souls.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 11/02/11
Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)
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