Review by hyperknees91
"A fun game that can leave you a bit sour"
In 2009 a little game that really came out of nowhere called demon's souls was released. It was extremely hard and unforgiving, but still managed to be addictive and very rewarding. Dark Soul's carries the trend but fans of the former might not be fans of this game.
The gameplay in demon's souls was the reason everyone was able to forgive its difficulty, by having probably the best sword and shield combat system you could have in any game really. The problem with Dark Souls is that it is, essentially the same in all aspects when it comes to the gameplay (with minor differences). This makes the game feel more like an expansion then a full fledged sequel at times which is a bit disappointing.
The main changes is that the game offers a more convenient checkpoint system and a more streamlined health potion system. This makes the game far less repetitive then its former self because your not required to go and collect healing items and nor are you punished as much for dying by going all the way back to the entrance to a dungeon. For me this made the game far more enjoyable. In Demon Soul's I never wanted to explore because I feared dying and losing too much progress and having to kill tons of enemies over and over again, while I was able to explore freely in this one without much stress.
However the game still managed to do some rather silly things with the checkpoints. Sometimes they would be right next to bosses and sometimes they would not. Now I'm not saying the bosses would be exceedingly difficult, but chances are that they are going to take few tries or possibly several depending on what class you picked. Having to run all the way back to the boss, can get rather tiring and frustrating. Notice I said run back to the boss, that's right even if you go to the nearest checkpoint to the boss chances are you'll memorize where all the enemies are as well and you'll just run quickly past them rather than fight them (trust me its possible no matter where you are in the game) because you can easily outrun every enemy in the game. This was just silly to me and seemed more like game developers wanted to waste as much of your time as possible during these moments. It makes even less sense since some of the bonfires are right next to the bosses, but I digress.
Now most people think the best part of the game is the challenge, and while the game certainly is that I feel just the overall level design deserves praise. None of the areas in the game feel too large nor do they feel to tight and compact and all have unique terrain and design. Exploring became very fun because of this since you really want to see all the places the game has to offer. However then comes another problem, the loot system or rather just the loot itself. This is a dungeon crawler and what comes with a good dungeon crawler is good loot. This might be a bit of a stretch, but I can't name many dungeon crawlers with such worthless loot. You would think the game would reward you by going out of your way to explore off the beaten path, but constantly throughout the game you will receive equipment that you will never use, cannot sell until near the halfway point (and even then most loot sells for a absurdly low amount). It just begs the question in why they even put some of this stuff in the game. For example, throughout the game I used a total of 4 weapons (even on re-roll). For any dungeon crawler that would be an absurd number, but it is more than enough in this game. Plus I only used 2 sets of armor, the second in which I bought halfway through the game and carried through the end. Now you would think I would have a hard time with the game because of this, but no I was able to easily mop the floor with the end of the game more than the beginning (due to learning the mechanics). The fact that I had no desire to get better equipment after only changing it up so little is a very hard blow for a dungeon crawling exploration game.
Now lets talk about another little problem, the level up system. It's about as old school as you can get with being to pick one stat point to level up in per level. Now that in itself is not bad because some people enjoy this degree of customization, I find it a little boring that your only given one point per level because you won't see much of a difference until you level up several times but no biggy. The problem with this is that the stats are not very balanced, in that leveling up others can be more than a bit of a waste of a time which can lead to screwing up your character build. Namely 2 stats, strength and dexterity. These stats have 2 purposes, one you need a certain amount of each to be able to wield certain weapons (for most this amount is quite low). The other purpose is that certain weapons will give you a boost in attack power if you have a higher amount of strength and dex. Sounds great right? The problem is that some of the best weapons in the game require low dex and strength and also give you no bonuses for having high of either. This makes raising these two stats almost a complete waste, and the points are better spent on others. Now it is possible to raise your strength and dexterity so high that it will eventually over power the non-bonus weapons, but you will have to waste too much on them for only a slightly boost in attack power. This really limits your options when creating characters and is a major balance flaw. At the end of the game I was able to wield a weapon that I could 2 hand and killed the final boss in under 2 minutes with, was able to survive all of his attacks easily and could run decently fast. The at first difficult game soon became a breeze to stat unbalance, which is a real shame.
Onto other balance issues, there are certain spells in the game which make you damn near invincible, which quite honestly have no place in this kind of game. I didn't use these spells on my 2nd character but my first character was able to tank most bosses even while wearing light armor, hopefully these spells get patches because they pretty much are game breakers.
Another change with this game from demon's souls is that it is now an open world game rather than a level based game. This makes the experience much less linear but it also makes it more cryptic on what your actually suppose to be doing sometimes. Sometimes NPC's will touch on what your suppose to do which is all fine and dandy but sometimes I wonder if it would be possible to figure out somethings without a guide. Not trying to spoil anything but there is a section in the game where you have to go down a tower and jump straight down into it. However if you do this without a certain ring equipped then you die instead of traversing to the boss. So where is the ring? Held by a giant wolf that is far far away from this location. Does the game tell you this? Heck no, it doesn't even hint that the tower even is the place where your suppose to equip the ring. I'm not sure how people figured this out without a guide but I think the developers were going just a tad far here. Thankfully this doesn't happen often and for the most part you should be able to figure out what to do.
This section really needs no mention if you played demon's souls. The game has about as much story as any Castlevania game, your not playing it for some deep story your just playing the game for some solid fun. I know this isn't typical for a JRPG to have a story, but look elsewhere if you want one.
The music also takes a note from demon's souls in the fact that its mostly absent outside of bosses and a few areas. Now when the music plays expect the same gothic orchestra business you heard in the first game. Lets just say the music is a bit repetitive and even though all the boss themes are different, sometimes its hard to tell them apart. Though there are a few bosses that have very nice themes to listen to which is appreciated (moonlight butterfly and crossbreed in particular stand out).
Visuals are the least of my concerns while playing games, but I will say that the graphics are decent in the fact that they are no different from demon's souls. The art direction does deserve some praise on bosses though as they are all very cool looking. Some areas also really are a sight to see (anor londo mainly). Anyway it gets the job done.
Let it be known that there is a minor control issue I had, and several others had. It doesn't seem to happen to everyone but it can be annoying when it does happen. There is minor input lag which barely ever happens. Still it can be annoying if your trying to back up after a failed attack only to see your character attack again when you don't want him to. It's a minor issue though and can be easily be looked past. The most annoying control issue is the camera, which really can give you some terrible angles and especially during locking onto targets it seems to get rather flakey. Several times I would have to delock on targets, run a little past them, and then finally lock on to them again just to get a better view. I really think the camera should be pushed back a bit more and not so close up. I know it makes the game more dynamic but it just makes it more difficult to position it correctly. Otherwise the combat handles quite well like said before. I've heard some people said demon's souls was a bit smoother but it's been awhile so it feels the same to me.
Overall the game had a great sense of challenge. It reminds me of old MMORPG's such as everquest with the whole pulling enemies in small spurts because too many would overwhelm your character, not saying everyone will appreciate this but it requires a good amount of thinking for the most part. Bosses were somewhat challenging, but ever since demon's souls I always kind of found them easy. This game is no devil may cry 3 if you know what I mean, as long as your smart and paying attention then you should be fine. There will be the occasional stupid insta-kill but those can be mostly ignored. I did feel like the final few bosses were a bit too much of a pushover and had a rushed design (easy to exploit so they couldn't even hit you at times) but still its not a huge problem.
With all that is said I had myself a pretty decent experience with this game. I do feel a bit disappointed still, due to the final dungeons and bosses being rather boring and easy (especially the last dungeon). But it was a decent run, not a fantastic game by any means especially with how much time it can require, but for anyone looking for an action rpg with a solid combat system I think its worth a checkout.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/17/11
Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)
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