Review by Ame_no_Murakumo
"Another Great Challenging Game from From Software"
Dark Souls is the spiritual successor to 2009's Demon's Souls. I feel that Dark Souls has improved and expanded upon many aspects of Demon's Souls. There may be minor spoilers in this review, but I won't reveal anything too critical.
This is where Dark Souls shines. The deep, immersive, challenging gameplay. Any Demon's Souls player knew coming in that you do not rush. If you rush, you are likely to die. Especially if you're a newcomer. Unlike Demon's Souls, Dark Souls is one big open world, rather than being divided into levels.
Soul Levels work exactly the same as in Demon's Souls, but the stats have a few changes. There is no longer a Luck stat, and the Magic stat has been changed to Intelligence. There is now an Attunement stat which is necessary to invest into for slots to equip magic. Another new stat is Resistance, which raises all defenses and resistances.
Dark Souls has an extremely vast array of weapons, armor, accessories, and magics compared to Demon's Souls. There are many ways to upgrade your weapons. You can turn them into Divine, Lightning, Fire, and many other paths, or just reinforce their basic form to make it stronger to suit your stats. Armor can be upgraded as well for more defense and resistances.
When defeated and sent back to your last rest point, you must get back to where you died to recover any lost souls and Humanity (explained later) before dying again. Die before you make it back to your souls, and they're gone. This should be familiar to any Demon's Souls veteran.
New to the Souls games are Bonfires. The bonfire system act as checkpoints. When you die, you are sent back to the bonfire which you most recently rested at. Bonfires have many functions. With the bonfire system came Estus Flasks, your health replenishment items. No longer do you find recovery herbs as loot. At a bonfire, you refill your used Esuts flasks. By default you can carry 5 Estus Flasks, except for bonfires linked to a Fire Keeper, which gives 10 by default. You can further kindle bonfires (requires Humanity, which is explained below) to give you 10 flasks, and after killing a certain boss you earn the Rite of Kindling, which allows you to kindle the bonfires up to a max of 20 Estus Flasks. During your journey, you will find Fire Keeper Souls. Giving these to a Fire Keeper will upgrade your Estus Flask to a maximum of +7, which increases the amount of HP they restore.
Also linked to bonfires, is the usage of Humanity. Humanity are items used to reverse your hollow state (looks like a zombie) back into a human. There are two different "types" of humanity. Some humanity goes directly to the counter at the top left, or you pick them up as a consumable item.
How Humanity is actually gained is in a few ways. If the area boss is still alive, you gain humanity randomly from killing enemies. Humanity is also found as loot from certain enemies (like rats), and from placed loot. If you help a player kill an area boss (explained further later) you will also gain humanity. Humanity has other functions besides reviving to human and kindling bonfires. When you consume a Humanity item it heals your HP, and it adds to the counter in the top left. Humanity in the top left adds to your defenses and resistances, as well as increasing your item discovery stat leading to better chances at finding items.
Another function of Bonfires is the ability to manage inventory with a Bottomless Box (purchased from an NPC), repair/upgrade equipment with Repair/Smithing boxes also bought from an NPC.
I will now explain co-op play, and invading. When in human form, you can summon people to help you through a dungeon/area and it's boss. As the host of a co-op session, it is your job to use your Estus Flasks to keep everyone healthy. Using a flask affects the whole party, except for NPCs you have summoned.
Also in human form, you can be invaded by other players that want to kill you. Another new feature is NPC invasions. In certain specific areas, you can be invaded by an NPC. They drop loot, humanity, souls, and sometimes items. Playing in hollow form will keep you from being invaded, but you aren't able to summon help. Also when the boss of an area has been killed, you can't be invaded. You can invade other player's worlds with Cracked Red Eye Orbs, or with other items from certain covenants (explained below).
Covenants are another new feature. Covenants can be joined at certain NPCs, and some offer items, spells, equipment, and other benefits. Certain covenants allow for easier PVP access. You can be kicked out of a covenant for doing certain things, and this causes you to earn "sin". There is an NPC where you can have your sin abolished for 2,000 souls multiplied by your current Soul Level. You can leave a covenant at any time and join another covenant, but you will sin if not done by the aforementioned NPC whom can remove you from a covenant without having to sin. You may also re-join a covenant that you have sinned against if you have had your sin abolished.
Next up: Combat. Combat is very similar to Demon's Souls, with minor tweaks. No longer are you invincible during a roll. You must time your rolls carefully, or it could mean your death. Plunging attacks are a new addition, and deal very high damage. A plunging attack is performed by pressing R1 after falling off of a ledge.
All of the other controls work the same as Demon's Souls. R1 is your light attack, and R2 is your heavy attack. L1 to guard, L2 to parry/shield bash, depending on your shield type. Light and medium shields can parry with R2, while greatshields perform a shield bash. Parrying allows you to then perform a riposte by quickly pressing R1. A riposte is an extremely useful, high damaging attack. Position yourself behind the enemy and press R1 to perform a backstab. Another high damaging attack. If an enemy's attack is deflected off of your shield, your first attack while they are being repelled will deal increased damage.
The story is told in a minimalist way, but can be very intriguing if you decide to look for it. It's told mostly through item description. There really isn't much to say here.
The graphics are beautiful. The equipment designs as a whole aren't over the top, which is the beauty of it. Everything is very well designed, and looks functional. Enemy designs vary from cool, to grotesque. The immersion and atmosphere are top notch.
From the clinking of armor, to the slashing of blade into flesh and against shield, to music played during boss fights and certain areas, everything is amazing. Some of the music is very haunting and fits it's respective boss quite well.
Dark Souls is easily my all-time favorite game. There are a few bugs here and there, but nothing that really detracts from the experience in my opinion. You are always kept on your toes, and if you ever let yourself start to feel safe, and think you can't die anymore; That is exactly when you'll die. I don't agree with any game being perfect. I give this a 10/10 because that is the amount of enjoyment I've had with this game, and aside from a few bugs I would have a very hard time finding a game I enjoy more. I highly recommend this game to anyone looking for a long, challenging action RPG.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 11/07/11
Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)
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