Review by poopnolan
"Dark Souls: Prepare to be eviscerated"
It has been about a year since I have played the "spiritual predecessor" , Demon's Souls. In that year I have yet to be properly challenged, and engulfed in a game in the same way Demon's Souls managed to challenge and engulf me. From the ringing bells in The Tower of Latria, to the mach-speed leaps of The False King, Demon's Souls was an experience unlike any other I had ever had, one that would only recently be replicated, and in my opinion surpassed in nearly every way by Dark Souls.
Dark Souls begins in a similar fashion to Demon's Souls. You start off as a blank slate, a lonely hero who is about to embark on a journey that will pit him or her against countless horrors. From treasure chests that when opened will attempt to devour you, to a boss that will be triggered by falling through the environment, Dark Souls does not disappoint in regards to providing the player many chances die, and learn from their previous error and ultimately prevailing. The feeling you get when returning to an area that had previously caused you much grief and heat ache, only to be able to fell all of its horrid abominations with ease, is a feeling I have yet to experience since Demon's Souls. And just like Demon's Souls, slow and defensive exploration really goes a long way. If you are anything like me then you have no doubtingly followed Dark Souls up to its release. All of the game-play demonstrations that show players going about this game with the same mentality you would go into a twitch shooter with, only to be swiftly cast down by a simple, one-trick pony kind of enemy. Worse yet, they then proclaim this game to be an ungodly tier of difficult, stating that only the "masochistic" can truly advance in the game, when that just is not the case. Make no mistake, the game is punishing. But to state that it is "hard" in the same way that games like Ninja Gaiden or Ikarugi are is just misleading. Stick with it and observe enemy and boss patterns, and you will no doubtingly make it to the end.
If you have already played Demon's Souls, you know exactly what to expect from Dark Souls. Weapons and combat handle very similar to its predecessor, tight and rewarding. The key difference this time around is the sheer variety. Demon's Souls had plenty of weapons and armor options, and the meticulous detail put into all of them was truly something to behold. FROM really out did themselves this time around for it seems there are three fold the amount of items that were available in Demon's Souls. From the Elite Knight Armor set, to some armor you receive for defeating certain "foes", FROM truly managed to create a plethora of interesting items. One thing that differentiates from Demon's Souls is how useful armor is this time around. In Demon's Souls, armor was more or less cosmetic, and if you opted to use it in place of being able to roll properly, you were severely hindering you're chances at success. Dark Souls included a "middle" tier of rolling which is adequate for nearly every boss, and also included a "poise" stat that allows you're character to soak in some punishment without being staggered. Couple those attributes above with the defense that armor offers, makes donning a shiny new suit actually viable. Bosses vary in difficulty, and in my experience the harder ones are the ones that include multiple bosses. My biggest gripe with the gameplay is that some areas in this game are so ambiguous in design that they stutter in frame-rate. This is most apparent in a location known as "Blight Town", a level that will live in infamy much like 5-2 does in the Demon's Souls community, not only for its dark and ugly design, but for its poor optimization. Expect the frame-rate to dip considerably in this area. Other areas in the game have brief instances of slow down whenever there is a lot going on, but they are never bad enough to actually truly sully the experience. The game is so much fun that these instances are no more than minor nuisances in an otherwise magnificent game.
Another aspect of the game that seems to be a hit or a miss with many is its multiplayer. Just like Demon's Souls, Dark Souls was designed as a singleplayer game. But what made Demon's Souls so special was its unique multiplayer options, completely seamless and actually made sense in the context of the story. If you're character follows certain prerequisites, he or she may lay down a summoning stone to be summoned into another session, or may summon others into their session. The ultimate goal of doing this is to cooperatively defeat a boss that is giving the player a hard time. What made Demon's Souls multiplayer special is that it was running on a dedicated server, each region had one server. Many Demon's Souls players found ways to orchestrate playing with their pals by coordinating with them on the phone/internet/etc. I am no exception, I played with my younger brother quite a few times, and besides being summoned by other players who had stumbled upon my signs, it was a method that worked most of the time. Oddly enough, Dark Souls does not have dedicated servers, instead it has P2P (peer to peer). The game itself has an unknown amount of servers running in the background, and at the moment, there is no way to choose which one to play. This can create some problems with people that were use to co-oping through Demon's Souls, and try fruitlessly to do the same in Dark Souls. When it does work though it is very enjoyable. Hopefully FROM addresses some of these problems and proceeds to patching/adjusting the servers to please some of the enraged Demon's Souls players, only time will tell. Player versus player also makes a return in Dark Souls, and works similarly to how it did in Demon's, a player lays down an orb and invades another players world in an attempt to steal "humanity", a tool used for many things in Dark Souls. Again, in its current state, many players are reporting the pvp to either work or not work for extended periods of time, so its something that will probably see some tweaking and fixing.
Another feature that makes a return is the New Game Plus feature, and it operates similarly to Demon's. When you complete the game you pretty much start over with all of you're items and stats intact. Sound neat right? Finally you can grief the bosses that had slaughtered you earlier! I don't think so Tim. In NG+, enemies and bosses deal much more damage, but also yield better rewards. It really makes playing through this game a few more times a pleasure as it did Demon's, exploring locations ignored earlier, trying out new weapon/armor combinations, joining new factions. Factions, something I didn't really go into any detail in earlier for the sheer fact that so much mystery surrounds it so far. Conflicting reports of WIKI's about rewards and what not makes it a subject that's difficult to go into too much detail about. Needless to say, I myself joined a faction that gave me a neat sword that would inflict status ailments to invaders that would enter my world. I'm sure other rewards exist within the game, some better than other.
Lets be honest, chances are if you are reading this you have already made you're decision about Dark Souls, especially if you have already played Demon's Souls. Besides multiplayer, Dark Souls is an overall improvement to Demon's Souls, more items, more enemies, more locations, etc. If you loved Demon's Souls, or are just someone that likes video games that take time and skill to beat, you can not go wrong with Dark Souls. Its more of an experience then it is a game. It will take an average gamer about 60-80 hours to beat for their first time, much less if you had already mastered Demon's Souls or never stray from the beaten path. Like many open world RPG's, this game has locations that are entirely optional, and include optional items and boss fights. When its all said an done you will be ready for another play through, and the game will be waiting for you with even deadlier foes.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/14/11
Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)
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