Review by darkdragon_9600
"Punishing, Memorable...Truly epic."
When it comes to Action RPGs, games like The Elder Scrolls or Mass Effect come to mind. Great worlds, filled with hours of dialogues, multiple choices given to you by a quirky menu, potions and lots of things to find. But Dark Souls isn't one of those. This is a game designed to break the mold, to make you feel like never before. And damn, it delivers.
Ok, notice I said visuals, right? Great.
The graphics for this game are average, that's a given. I can't honestly look someone in the eye and say they are perfect. But there's more to it than simply how clean models are, how pretty that one leaf looks.
Enemy design matters alot, and From Software really paid attention to it. From zombies who can be more deadly than you expected to huge warriors clad in golden armor, every enemy has a reason to look like they do, motifs actually matter and best of all: you will remember them all. No entity in this game is forgettable.
The landscape is also gorgeous. Ranging from an asylum where you were kept, to the heights of Anor Londo (the city of the gods in the game), every area has a distinct feel, but still keeping the same themes the game embraces: Dread and Solitude.
Music in a game is essential. They make you feel anxious, wary, excited or even scared. That's why there is no music. Yes, you really did read that. No music. Except from bosses and some areas in the game. The whole point is to feel lonely, that the world is ruined and you will not go on.
Then, on the boss fights, you will find different ranges it. From eerie sounding songs to a huge orchestra, each song was made to set the mood of the battle, to fit the backstory of the enemy in question. Reach the final boss, you'll know what I'm talking about.
The sounds during gameplay are clean, and you will never mistake something. Heavy armor is noisy, light armor is silent. Swinging a greatsword will make rubble fly and squash anything in your path...if you can swing fast enough.
This is the high point of Dark Souls. Deep and hard, the game makes sure that it's motto won't be wasted: Prepare to Die.
Each enemy has a pattern, each area has it's traps, there are multiple variants to each enemy and there is always a small surprise to keep you on your toes.
Of course, the games gives you the tools to manage those threats:
There's rolling, something yo get used to quickly. That's your dodge, used for most of the game.
Attacking and blocking is common in the genre, but there's also parry and riposte, the technique to reflect and counter your enemy's moves. There is also the heavy attack, usually unique to each weapon. As a bonus, you can wield your weapon in both hands, increasing the damage you deal in exchange of being unable to use your shield or off-hand weapon. This also gives you a brand new moveset to explore.
Magic is also explored, divided in 3 types: Sorcery (the usual kind of magic, involving firing magic arrows or becoming invisible, among others), Miracles (based on your faith, includes healing, pushback spells and buffs) and pyromancies (powerful fire based spells that scale based on the level of your pyromancy flame). Those give you more flexibility in your builds and allow you to tackle multiple challenges.
Death is common on the game, the average gamer might die 1000 times or more in their first run. When you die, you lose your souls (XP) return to the last bonfire (checkpoints) you used and become hollow ("zombie" form). Where you died, a bloodstain remains with your souls and humanity (item used to return to human form or make bonfires stronger). You can go and recover it, but if you die it's lost forever. While playing online, you can see bloodstains belonging to other players, this allows you to see a replay of their death.
Bonfires are checkpoints, as mentioned above, but they also do much more. You can select your spells, sort your weapons, level up, return to human form, repair or upgrade your weapons and armor. Finding a bonfire is a relief. But it also has it's downsides: every enemy that isn't a sub-boss (or a boss) revives.
A huge part of the game comes from the online mode. It allows you to see messages on the ground left by other player to help (or trick) you, invade or be invaded or play co-op.
Invasion is when another player enters your world using some item and his objective is to kill you. This can only happen in human form.
Co-op also needs you to be human, then search for a signal on the ground, allowing you to summon another player to help you. It's a gamble, really: you can get help, but risk someone more powerful than any enemy entering your world to kill you. You can't be invaded or play co-op in an area you have already killed it's boss.
Covenants are basically clans: you do certain tasks to one, and you get a reward. Might be co-op or invading, that's what they're there for.
Each item has it's weight, slowing you down. This changes how fast you walk and roll.
Poise is how much each strike affects you. Heavy armor has higher poise, meaning you can take the heaviest of blows and keep moving, while if you get hit by a giant while wearing a just a dress, you might end up a few meters higher than you would be comfortable.
As any RPG, you can try new weapons, spells and armors in a new game. You can try to finish that one sidequest you missed, try a new covenant, a roleplay build...Or just go invade people like crazy, laughing at their deaths. Or co-op, if you're too soft for that.
I'm going to try and avoid spoiling the game here.
The game begins with a cinematic showing the backstory of the game: Lords found their souls in the First Flame and used this power to defeat the great dragons that ruled the world. Undead are showing up around the world, you are one of them. They are taken to the undead asylum do rot. You escape to Lordran, land of the Lords.
The rest of the story is explained via dialogues with NPCs around the world, where every sentence means something and might change your views of the world. NPCs are well written, their dialogues reflect their personalities well and might even hint to later events of the game. Paying attention to what is said to you might even change the ending you will get.
Also, every item has a little bit of history behind, explaining something about who wielded this weapon, who created this spell, what is the objective of this man. Checking each and every inch of the Lordran is rewarding and might offer something new to you.
Dark Souls is amazing, it will challenge you, reward you, take that reward away, spit in your face, pat you in the back and laugh. And you will want more, much more. Even when you figure you know everything there is to know, something new appears. When you find yourself a god, you will know that you are nothing more than a maggot.
You WILL Die.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 10/02/12
Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)
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