Review by Viridianbarry
"A Game of Skill"
Dark Souls is easily one of the more punishing games ever developed. This is either a good, or a bad thing depending on the type of person you are. First I would like to say who this game isn't for and who should completely ignore this review and this game. If you're the type of person who is on the more casual side of games, or enjoy a moderate challenge, then this is NOT the game for you. If you're the kind of person who enjoys growing into an unstoppable killing machine with a lot of time put into a game, then this is NOT the game for you. However, if you're the kind of person who loves putting a game on the hardest difficulty available when they first get it, the kind of person who is paranoid with every step they make that they're going to die in a game and prepare for the worst, then this is most certainly a game for you.
I will be critiquing this game on a few factors: The graphics, the sound, the story (without spoilers), and most importantly the gameplay score which also includes replayability. A score of 1 is one of the worst games ever. A score of 5 is an average game. A score of 10 is a perfect game.
GRAPHICS- 7/10: The graphics in this game isn't anything that will blow you away with how gorgeous everything is. I played the game in high definition and found the graphics to be about as detailed to an average XBOX 360 game. However while the graphics were not over appealing and highly detailed, they excelled in setting mood. This is truly a game where graphics make the player feel they are in a dark, and depressing world. And, surprisingly enough, its light enough to see them, where many games have taken an approach where the lighting is just set so low nothing can be seen at all. Not only are the settings appropriate, they are extremely varied as well. Every place felt like a new and interesting area. There was one problem with the graphics and that was during a section of the game labeled, "Blighttown," where the graphics had serious frame-rate issues This is apparently a problem across all people's games and is a problem with the game itself. Considering this area was one of the most difficult for me, it didn't help the graphics were hurting too. Moving onto the character models, they fit the setting as well. Every enemy looks dangerous as well as scary. Particularly memorable are the numerous boss fights with giant monsters that instilled the feeling of running for one's life. Overall the graphics would be a 7/10, Blighttown hurts the score as well as the fact that they are averagely detailed.
SOUND 8/10: When rating sound there are typically 2 areas that are examined: the music, voice-work, and everything else. However in a game where your supposed to feel fear there needs to be an appropriate lack of sound. So for the most part, the game has no music. Only during the boss battles (and there are numerous boss battles) is there music. The music that does play gives a feeling that can best be described as, "Que the choir! This guy is about to learn a lesson in pain." It sounds nice and gives a feeling that the following big baddie is going to be a tough fight. There is also voice-acting in the game, and the voice actors do a great job of making everyone in the world of "Dark Souls" to sound like some sort of psychopath. Everyone plays their part perfectly. Mostly because no one has more than a few things to say. This works well to increase tensions and fear. I wouldn't say anybody would be winning an Oscar, but at the same time they're believable. As for combat sounds, everything sounds great and moves have impact. If an an enemy with a giant hammer slams said hammer down, it sounds like a giant hammer pulverizing something (usually the player's head). Enemies make appropriate noise, the only complaint being is that the enemies don't make much noise. When I said less is better when creating fear, in this case there may be too little. However it did not deter too much. Sound is an 8/10 because the sound works well in this game. It does well to create a mood, and the only problem comes with a lack of enemy sound.
STORY 5/10: When I first played this game I was too busy trying to survive than to figure out what was going on. I thought the story would be given to me, but this isn't really the case. By the end of the game, I had only a vague idea why I was there, and what I was supposed to be doing. So at first this game was going to get a lower score on story until I made an effort to figure out the story (After-all, Dark Souls requires effort to play, so why shouldn't it require effort to figure out?). So on a second-time playing through, it was my mission to determine what was going on. The story of Dark Souls is up for the player to decide. Many items in the game have descriptions on them that give hints at the story, many NPCs have dialog that makes sense only until after hearing it the second time around, however very little is truly factual about the story. This story itself is interesting once the player figures out what to look for to flesh out the story. However, the reason the story gets a 5/10 is because it's very confusing until playing the game a second time. A good story is understandable the first time around with clever details hidden for those on a second look. Interesting, but too long to figure out.
GAMEPLAY 8/10- This is most important factor of any game and Dark Souls delivers FOR THE AUDIENCE ITS INTENDED FOR. I can't stress enough how important it is that after reading this review, its understandable if this game is for you. Let's get the first hurdle out of the way. This game is hard and unforgiving in its difficulty. It has a steep learning curve....like trying to run up an 80 degree incline. Think of how times you died in a previous game on normal mode. Multiply that number by 100 and that is approximately how many times you will die in this game. There is a lot of trial and error that is involved in Dark Souls, and a lot of frustration. However after completing an objective, taking down a giant boss, or even managing to make it to a new area of the game, the accomplishment feels so good. The game does a fantastic job of making the player feel like they managed to beat the odds (IF they beat the odds). Every single enemy poses a threat to the player. In other words, this is one difficult game. If the preceding statements made you salivate with delight, then read on, however if dieing in a game frustrates you, then stop reading and do not get this game. Difficulty=HARD
Combat in Dark Souls requires a lot of finesse. This isn't a "My sword is bigger than your sword" kind of RPG, even if that does play a part. It's entirely possible to not die in Dark Souls. However, when Dark souls recently came out with a "Prepare to Die!" edition, dieing is just part of the game. Going back to combat there's the standard, magic, bow and arrow, and melee combat system in fantasy RPGs. However this system is somewhat different, instead of mana there is a particular amount of times one can use a spell before it runs out and must be recharged at a re-spawn point. Other than that, there's the standard hack, slash, and shooting of the bow. Every enemy in the game drops souls. These souls are used for experience as well as currency, but when the player dies, every souls is lost. Souls can be regained if the player reaches where they die before dieing, however if the player dies again before reaching those souls, then they're lost for good. This makes souls exceptionally valuable and dieing somewhat dangerous. Also, when the player dies, every enemy besides boss monsters re-spawn. This is important because it allows the player to level up or buy more items. It gives the player to chance to become slightly stronger before moving on (even if leveling isn't all that important). Enemies in the game hit hard. Every enemy can kill the player in a few hits. In my opinion dieing was a little bit too easy from enemies. However, once enemies patterns are learned, it's possible to never take damage from that same enemy again.
The boss fights is where Dark Souls really shines. All the bosses are fun, difficult, and take a great amount of ability to defeat. Once defeated these bosses drop their own souls that can be used to create oneself stronger, or to make powerful weapons. The bosses are extremely varied as well, and only once did a boss fight feel like it was a repeat of another. Every boss has different immensely powerful attacks, they feel very big, and they describe the general feel of dark souls in general: Against the odds. There was one boss fight that took hours upon hours for me to personally complete. The other boss fights were either beaten on the first try, or within the first few deaths. Boss fights are great and are a highlight of the game.
There are certain moments in this game where death feels unfair. In these moments it's usually an enemy coming from out of view that was hidden away, or an enemy doing something strange that has never been seen before that just so happens to be a really powerful attack. Other times, there is a certain item needed that will decrease environmental effects that is not knowingly needed until its too late. The problem is, the player doesn't know these items even exist because they must be found. Sometimes this game is unfair, but usually its very much possible to not even take damage (even if I had very few times like that).
Gameplay gets a well-deserved 8/10. The game is just fun to play. It's exciting to go through and has a great atmosphere. There are a few flaws that make the gameplay not deserving of a higher score, but they rarely detract from the game. The story was confusing but interesting, the graphics were good, and the sound worked great. Overall score is a well-deserved 7/10. GameFaqs describes this, "Good - a few problems, but worth the time to play," and that is the best description I feel. Dark Souls is an amazing experience (but not for everyone keep in mind) for those that enjoy this kind of experience.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 10/08/12
Game Release: Dark Souls (US, 10/04/11)
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