Review by simonsteele
"This is THE premiere game of this generation"
As I sit here at the beginning of my new game ++ run, I think back to October when I apprehensively bought this game. The difficulty sounds scary to any type of gamer, I think, and while a number of people have obviously jumped at this title, I think quite a few held out for more tried and true formulas not yet released.
That's okay, a game like Dark Souls will never reach mass appeal in this medium. Its story is more like that of a dreary, fractured independent film, told through glimpses of the character's eyes in a world he can't understand. Big things are going on in Lordran, which as near as I can figure, is pretty much the edge of the world where everything has begun its descent into darkness. Your quest is a pilgrimage of sorts, picked up as a favor to a dying passer-by, and in a game as bleak and empty as this, someone who actually takes the time to talk to you with some kind words gains a lot of merit in your eyes. He is dying, his pilgrimage is at an end, but if you would take it up for him--go to Lordran and find out what the role of the undead might be in the upcoming events of the world, then this stranger will die a happy man.
The story doesn't give much more direction than that. The rest you learn through interactions with other npcs spread throughout the land. Some are forthright with their info, others are not and need to be pressed, but everything you need to know is there, right beneath the surface. The world doesn't feel overly packed with people, living or dead, and while there are some heavy areas of combat it never feels unrealistic. It is reminiscent of Shadows of the Colossus in how much of the world exists as a place, not just a place to fight. This game has an undeniable atmosphere to it--not of depression, but certainly of melancholy. It feels like a place that has long since crumbled from true greatness, you see remnants of that physically in the crumbling structures and sculptures that dot the countryside, sure, but it is more than just that. You see it in the stories of the weapons and those who once wielded them--the fallen black knights of Lord Gwyn, Artorias and his greatsword, or the gigantic Black Knight Tarkus who wore such a heavy suit of armor only he could carry its burden. When you find the remains of these fallen legends and heroes in this empty world it adds to a sense of history, majesty, and awe. And sadness too that days of legendary heroes and amazing feats are all but gone.
Some of these heroes still remain but they seem to have fallen into madness. Most will be your enemies, though some might offer help and assistance in your quest to return fire to the darkening world.
You will fight some immensely tough enemies too, and some truly epic battles will leave your head reeling with adrenaline when you stumble through the other side. The bosses themselves are so often archetypal patterns twisted into eerie creatures they begin to feel unfamiliar. You will learn to love this world, and your imagination will constantly push you, make you question what this mighty world once looked like. You will find yourself daydreaming about what Anor Londo must have looked like in all its glory, what the days were like when Gwyn and his fellow gods were close, bonded by a common cause.
Dark Souls is a game to be experienced, not beaten or fought through quickly. You should enjoy your exploration of a lost civilization, you should learn to fight and upgrade your weapons and relish every hard won victory for some will be very difficult--though never impossible. As a gamer I am bad a high difficulty games, cheap games, and though this game killed me hundreds of times, there never came a point I couldn't do.
You can't review a game like this--people will say it's hard, but that's a descriptor that is far too broad. If you want to explore an amazingly crafted world, with rich and subtle characters, and some of the most rewarding gameplay I've ever witnessed then this is the game for you.
This is the game that has defined this generation of gaming for me. In a time when other games are moving ahead "streamlining" their role playing experiences for greater ease, this game has come along and decided to embrace all that is wondrous about role playing. The exploration, the choice, and the ability to make someone insignificant into a great hero.
Buy this game, enjoy it, love it, curse yourself for not being able to stop playing it.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/16/11
Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)
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