Review by TheGoldCucco777

"The Fire Still Burns"

With the Demon's Souls server shutting down, I realized that I should probably give the spiritual sequel a try to see if it could stand up to the high standards set by it's predecessor. What I found was a game that was similar to Demon's Souls in gameplay, but was still unique and engaging enough to stand on it's own. And it had me hooked. I don't get addicted to games often, but Dark Souls definitely had me. After only 5 days I had 24 hours of gameplay finished, and was still only half-way through the story, simply because I was enjoying the treasure hunting and finding tough enemies in later zones to get more experience. Still, Dark Souls is not with out it's flaws, so let's have a look into it.

Story
While Demon's Souls had a very subtle storyline (to say the least), Dark Souls brings the story out much more. With massive side-quests and new characters being introduced continually, it is very absorbing. In a world where the dead are cursed to come back as Undead and be corralled into a giant asylum, you play as one of these poor souls, until a mysterious stranger sets you free. From there, you escape the Asylum, and try to take back the land and reverse the curse that plagues the dead, whilst overcoming the Dark that blacked out the fire of the Lords. However, like Link from the Legend of Zelda series, your character says practically nothing, save for a "Yes" or "No" to a computer character. Despite the hero's general silence, the story does a good job of driving the game, and the cutscenes, though usually short, are interesting and very dramatic.

Gameplay
This is where the game both shines and fails. You play in third-person, using the trigger buttons to attack, the analogs sticks for movement and camera controls, the circle button to move faster, the x-button to interact with the environment, the d-pad for quick select, and the square button for item use. The combat is quite good, and the A.I is very smart, meaning you can't simply hack-slash your way to victory, and that once you start a fight, you better be prepared to finish it. This makes the game both pleasingly challenging, as well as teaching players to use strategy and patience as opposed to brute force. The bosses are huge, the enemies are tough, and the levels are as beautiful as they are massive.

One fighting mechanic that gets annoying is the critical back-stab. Basically, if you are behind an enemy, instead of a regular attack, you will impale/ chop/ bludgeon them and do a lot more damage. And while this seems like a very good feature in a difficult game, it can be very temperamental. If you aren't behind the enemy EXACTLY the way the game wants it, then you just do a regular attack, and often hit the enemy's shield, doing next-to-nothing. Also, the enemies can spin around impossibly fast, meaning you have to get the perfect alignment in a short amount of time. The hit registration can be annoying to, because if any part of you weapon touches the enemy's shield, or if the enemy is dodging, your attack does nothing. Unfortunately, this is not true for you. But if there is one thing that has caused me more rage than anything, is the attack animations. If you are on a small ledge or thin bridge, which happens more than I would like, and you must fight an enemy atop this precarious ledge, your character will often fall off the edge because he feels the need to take a large step every time he swings his sword. I have fallen and died many times due to this. Really, shouldn't your character be more aware of his surroundings?

The levels are also extremely large. And I mean HUGE. This make the game seem very epic, but also can mean that the frame-rate slows down in some areas, particularly those with lots of enemies or fire/breaking crates (A problem that was present in Demon's Souls). Also, although some levels may LOOK big, they can actually be rather small on the inside, with narrow passageways and straightforward structure. But there are also those that are indeed very large, and the large ones vastly outnumber the small ones, making for lots of exploration. Rather than having a central area, there are bonfires, which act as healing stations, checkpoints, inventory boxes and warp locations. And while they are very useful, they can be very far apart sometimes, and every time you rest at one, all the enemies you killed come back to life (except bosses, thankfully). But these problems are minor, and more often than not can be overcome.

Another addition, which I particularly like, is Covenants. You will meet many characters, and have the chance to join their cause. Giving them certain items gives you rare and valuable items. Also, many Covenants encourage online play, either by helping other people or by invading their worlds and attempting to kill them. It is a great addition, and adds both to Dark Souls' gameplay and story.

The online play is virtually the same as that of Demon's Souls. You can go to other people's world either to invade or help them. You can also leave messages for other players, either to give them tips, or to trick them into a fatal trap. The aforementioned Covenants also add to the experience, as you can get rare items by invading other players' worlds. However, being summoned, summoning, and finding worlds to invade can take a while, so be prepared to wait a while until you are matched up with another player.

Graphics
The graphics were something I had a trouble judging in this game. They weren't really better than Demon's Souls, but at the same time, they aren't really worse either. The game, in general, looks SHINY. Your armor is shiny, the ground shines, everything that should shine, shines. Perhaps this has to do with the whole "fire" theme the game has. However, this brightness not only makes some environments seem pretty, it also makes the dark places seem creepier and damper by contrast, which does a great job of setting mood. Other than that, there isn't much else to say about the graphics.

Sound
The music in Dark Souls is purely background. However, it is very good background music. It can be either peaceful or creepy when it needs to be, and makes the game very impressive and intense. Certain areas, particularly boss fights, have great music compositions that make the battles seem extremely epic. Game music is something that is often overlooked, but Dark Souls has a soundtrack that really stands out, and creates a great environment.

So, in conclusion, Dark Souls is a great game. The challenge makes victory all the more satisfying, and helps draw you in. The levels are huge, and are a lot of fun to go through. You will find yourself scouring for items very quickly, making sure you didn't miss any armor or items that might help you defeat the multitude of enemies that swarm against you. It is a true PS3 classic, and will be remembered for generations.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/21/12

Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)


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