Review by Raiden782
"An Addictive Experience Unlike Any Other"
Having finally completed Dark Souls after sinking in almost 100 hours, it is time to share my thoughts. I loved Demon's Souls, and naturally I loved this as well.
First off, the most common complaint. You may have heard the complaints about the online experience, and indeed it is not as easy to connect with others as it was in Demon's Souls, but I still was able to find people whenever I wanted to. Staving off invaders or having other players help you works the same way it did in Demon's Souls, with some new additions, and greatly adds to the fun. Also, like Demon's Souls, the game does not do a good job of explaining the various systems in the game, forcing players to look online for even basic information. Other than some glitches which are going to be patched, there is nothing else to complain about.
The story is told in a very minimalist way, with not much explanation of what's going on. There IS a ton of back history and lore present though, but you'll need to uncover it yourself through reading item descriptions and talking to NPCs etc. I found the backstory and lore to be fascinating, more interesting then Demon's Souls.
The greatest thing about Dark Souls is the outstanding level design, perhaps the best I've ever seen. It is not set up as a hub world with warping to various stages, like Demon's Souls was, instead it is one coherent world with tons of shortcuts leading to various areas. The way in which this world is structured and levels overlap and lead to each other constantly amazed me: most games cannot even come close to the brilliance of the level design. Furthermore, the levels themselves are a blast to go through. It's not easy to explain in words, but it is incredibly satisfying making your way though each area. I don't want to spoil any particulars, but I really mean it when I say the levels are some of the best you'll find anywhere.
The combat, like in Demon's Souls, is expertly realized, lightyears ahead of other action RPGs, and indeed being high quality enough to be an action game in it's own right. In fact, it has BETTER combat than even most straight action games. It's quite sad how juvenile other action/RPG battle systems seem, compared to this. The combat is fluid, and NEVER feels hack and slashy. All of your attacks require stamina (which constantly recharges automatically), as does blocking attacks with your shield or executing evasive maneuvers. So you cant just mash non stop or turtle behind your shield forever, but as you upgrade your equipment or your stamina, you are able to dish out and absorb more hits at a time. It is up to the player if they choose to buff these sorts of stats, or pump everything into attack power or magic power.
There are so many different viable ways to play. The weight of your equipment affects your movement speed. You can be a quick moving thief that focuses on parrying attacks, which requires excellent timing, or you can pile on the armor and tank enemies to death with massive swords. You can hold weapons in one hand or both hands, which affects your power and whether you can hold a shield simultaneously. You can choose to acquire and gain enough strength to use the best and heaviest shields in the game, and be able to even absorb massive boss attacks, or you can choose to use your speed to evade them. Everything is designed perfectly and well balanced.
Boss battles are once again well done, allowing even drastically underlevelled players to tackle them, if they master the boss's patterns. This is as it should be. Of course, they are tons of fun to fight against, especially when you've got a couple summoned allies with you. Some seem impossible at first, but perseverance always leads to finding a weakness.
The visuals are very good, with excellent animation and gorgeous textures, especially noticeable on your armor and equipment. The horizons are also some of the most beautiful I've seen, prepare to be amazed. Two of the areas suffer from serious framerate problems, but other than these, the game keeps a steady and smooth framerate. Overall, like Demon's Souls, the atmosphere is dripping in style and pulls you into it's bleak areas and beautiful areas alike.
Sound wise, there is generally only music when you are facing a boss (with a few exceptions), but this lends itself well to the atmosphere. The music is composed by Motoi Sakuraba, so epic battle tracks naturally follow. It is not like his typical work, but the quality is as high as ever. He also has some slow pieces that play in certain spots, and these are hauntingly beautiful. Voice acting is excellent, as are enemy sounds. You'll sometimes hear disturbing groaning coming from somewhere, and other small details that add to the atmosphere.
My first playthrough was nearly 100 hours, and during that time I was addicted far more than I care to admit. Any time I was NOT playing the game, I was thinking about the game, and actually it caused a number of problems in my work life. The reason for the addictiveness is the level of satisfaction present in all aspects of the game, from the traversing of the world to the growth of your character, and the tight gameplay mechanics and gorgeous vistas. This game has hooked me more than any other in years, and despite a few minor issues, I can't give this anything other than a solid 10.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 10/21/11
Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)
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