Review by pvssvge
"Truly, At It's Roots, A Game"
In the art world, it's fair to say that certain mediums can accomplish certain things. Film as an art medium is unique, as are novels, paintings, etc. Usually, you have crossovers; some novels are cinematic, like films, while some films are reflective and poetic, much like novels. Games are no different. Games like Mass Effect or Call of Duty really go for a cinematic effect, much like a movie. There's nothing wrong with it at all.
But ever so often, you get something that truly can only be done by its own medium. Dark Souls is a game, moreso than any other game I've ever played. This is a true work of interactive entertainment art.
The reason I say that Dark Souls is truly a game is mainly because of its excellent, unforgiving gameplay. You are undead, a term which really doesn't seem to mean much until you discover more of Dark Souls' cryptic story. You are given only enough information to know what goal to accomplish, but where to go and how to do it are up to you to find out.
Now, to be fair, Dark Souls is hard, hard enough to really turn some people off. This game has received a lot of attention for its difficulty and it's well-placed. However, I think the game's difficulty really comes from the lack of information the game gives you. You really have to figure out most things on your own, and I think it can augment the adventure if you keep a computer nearby or research on the numerous Dark Souls Wikis. This is a world truly worth exploring, so learning off the work of other players is a huge part of it. If you don't, unless you have a huge tolerance for failure, you'll probably end up frustrated. This game is very unforgiving; choosing the wrong stat to level up or not upgrading when you should could lead you down a road that would be very very difficult to come back up. Stay educated on your decisions and it will be a very rewarding and exciting experience.
Now for some actual gameplay. This is a third person adventure with quite possibly the best combat you'll ever have. Imagine Zelda but grittier, realer, and much much more rewarding. You traverse a beautiful open world, defeating fantastic creatures and huge, challenging bosses. They're difficult, and death in Dark Souls is a part of the central experience. Throughout the world are small checkpoints called 'bonfires'. They serve a purpose in the story and whenever you die you respawn back at them. The catch is that you drop your 'souls' where you died. Souls stand for a type of currency you need to both level up and purchase anything in the world, so they certainly are valuable. You have to go back to reclaim them but if you happen to die again, you drop your current souls where you died, overwriting the previous death and thus, erasing all your souls. It's a tough mechanic, but one you get used to. At times, it can be very frustrating, but when you triumph in Dark Souls, you triumph hard.
There are more details to the gameplay, such as a truly fleshed out loot and upgrade system, both unique and core to the experience. This is a game where you mold your own play style. Sure, you could pick up the unique powerful new armor you just found, or you could farm and work hard at acquiring materials and souls and upgrade your old junk into something even stronger. You could choose to level up your strength stats to carry huge weapons at the cost of mobility or you could prefer to use only magic instead. It's very, very diverse, and it's all up to you.
I tie these two together because they truly are one and the same. A lot of people have complained that Dark Souls has no story or a very minimal one that's fairly standard. The story IS minimal, but it's anything but standard. In fact, it's really something beautiful, a reflection on the nature of inevitability, loss, and moral ambiguity.
The way you interact with the story is through cryptic conversations with NPCs, item descriptions, and small cutscenes. It really is a unique storytelling vehicle and the closest game I can think of that's relative would be Shadow of the Colossus. The ending and overall atmosphere of desolation and darkness have been sitting in my mind for weeks now, worthy of discussion.
All of the story elements are present in the world. The world of Lordran is beautiful and immense, filled with history that's been lost. You enter at a turning point in its history, which means that you are witness to events but an outsider to its stories. Sprawling abandoned cities, hidden swamps, lakes made of ash, tombs of giants, crystal libraries...it's all filled with history that you can only guess at. So much beauty waiting to be explored and understood, yet...you get the pervading feeling that trying to understand why everything is the way it is, is simply impossible. You are only in Lordran for one specific reason, and it is not your purpose to understand everything, but merely to be a catalyst in the immense change that is to come.
Ahh...I love it.
In closing, this is a beautiful game, one worthy of all the attention it gets, both in its gameplay and story. Any seeker of art in video games or anyone just ready to immerse in a fun adventure owes it to themselves to purchase this game.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/13/12
Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)
Got Your Own Opinion?
You can submit your own review for this game using our Review Submission Form.