Review by sakura4994
"You got another death coming."
Without a doubt, games back in the day were very unforgiving to the point where you had to devote a lot of time and effort into mastering it, much less completing it. Whether or not you are playing this game out of whim, trophies or because you want a good challenge, be warned; you will struggle. Is this a bad thing? Not at all, when you are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment after completing each goal.
So what makes a game that promises many, MANY deaths so god anyway? For anyone who's played and loved Demon's Soul will understand. For those who have not, well, come into papa's dojo and prepare yourself for one of the ultimate gaming experiences. Like many difficult games before, this game is very unforgiving for any amounts of carelessness, oversight, lapse of judgment, and/or being too aggressive/defensive. The first couple times through a stage you will die, guaranteed. Oh, don't get frustrated or upset over this simple fact. It happened to all of us. It's part of the learning curve and it is expected. The reward for figuring things out through trial and error- instead of the game telling you how to do it- makes this game so rich and satisfying. What kind of game would it be if it were to hold your hand through everything, a la FF13? There are many different ways to do beat this game and don't be afraid to try to "break" the game. What's the fun in not trying to find the best solution to each enemy and problem? That is the reason why you should play.
Since I am fresh coming off of playing another remarkably difficult, yet unsatisfying game in Catherine, I am glad to get my hands on a game that wants to kick your butt hard (without having to rely on randomness) and offers a wide array of ways to counter and survive. It's amazing depth in game play is refreshing and never boring and there is many different area's to visit. Unlike Demon's Souls- with its limited, yet difficult area's- you may think you don't have anywhere else to go, you will find other places that can, and will, push your gaming mettle and- not only to think "how do I beat this"- but to observe as well. This game is absolutely relentless and it is a joy that I cannot express.
First off, unlike it's "direct" predecessor, this game is an open world arena - although Dark Souls does use a central "campsite" as a hub to rest and talk to NPC's. Some area's are unusually brighter and a little bit more colorful than what you would expect from a dark fantasy game. Other area's will remind you of levels from the first game- with its dark, grimy atmosphere along with it's amazing plethora of relentlessly aggressive opponents. There are an amazing amount of places that you venture into and seek different ways to be challenged. With each new levels you discover, you will be horrified at first, yet realize that you can beat it.
Secondly, the atmosphere of the game will give you hope and despair all at the same time. The landscape is beautifully designed and the monsters terrifying, you know what is going to happen. The music (or lack of any) adds to the suspense and causes your heart to pound when you are close to beating the bosses. The music that accompanies the central campsite is my personal favorite. It is melancholy, yet reminds me that there is still hope and that I can do it, no matter how frustrated or scared I am of the game. Sometimes all I need is seeing the sunlight come through the church windows after beating a tough enemy to a seemingly random bonfire at the end of a swamp to see hope in the game, and conversely, fighting the depraved Dark Knights, the humongous, oddly designed dragon, or even wading knee high in poisonous swamps makes me feel hopeless and resigned to death. This game isn't for the feint hearted or the weak of soul.
Thirdly, you are not relegated to one style of play. Like the previous Souls game, you have several classes to choose from- ranging from the magic wielder, holy soldier, a warrior, and ranged attacker amongst others, you have multiple ways to tackle the game. Multiple new types (and some surprising choices and ways to get them too) of weapons make their way into this game as well to help. The different amounts of weapons seen offers a much different game play than previously seen. Items, stones, equipment and rings pretty much stay the same- except for the healing items. I won't say how, but it is interesting. Magic, as well, is changed fundamentally in terms of usage- after a certain amount of uses, you can't use them until you find a bonfire. A radical change that may bother some, but it adds to the tactical thinking that makes this game so unique. Much to my chagrin, like Demon's Souls, this game does not really segregate these classes enough- meaning you can start off as a sorcerer and then slowly turn him/her into a dexterity build soldier.
Lastly, this game looks and feels amazing. It brings enough beautiful backdrops into an otherwise morbid and sometimes out right dreadful surroundings. But be warned, I wish I wasn't subjected to HD quality pictures of some of these creatures I had to fight. Between the desperate struggle survival and advancing, this game brings it to you hard and knows how to pull off how to convey hopelessness, relief, and a sense of accomplishment. This game generally strikes the right balance of light and dark to pull you into the dark fantasy world that was made for adventuring into. If you are into trying to find out what makes this game so special, try it. Fight with it, struggle with it, and beat it.
While these are the best features of the game, I do have to nip pick on a couple things. A couple things come to mind, especially with the frame rate drops in certain areas. While in frequent, the choppy game play made it very hard to deal with the game. Another was that you usually had no idea where to go. Most of the time, I like the way the game was subtle with information, and that you had to dig deep to figure out stuff, this one bit I had to complain about.
If you love gaming, than you will not regret getting this game. Trust me. Like Demon's Souls, you will come out a better gamer because of it.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/12/11, Updated 10/09/13
Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)
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