Review by DeanBetamberine

"Brutally Punishing, Utterly Rewarding."

Dark Souls is a brutal, unrelentless, old school style RPG which is hard as nails but enjoyable enough to have you coming back for more even after you've died 10 times on the same section. And you will die, a lot.

It's a game which leaves a lot to the imagination, with little to no direction given throughout the game. You'll be pulling your hair out but still want to carry on. The game is just too interesting to take sitting down.

The whole style of trial and error and the punishing nature of the game only makes your triumphs that bit more satisfying.

The world of Lordran is full of secrets and surprises, some sections are like having level 1 right next to level 10. That is, you may be safe in one section but then right next door is an enemy or boss who you won't be able to defeat until halfway through the game. This adds major re playability to every section of the game.

You may not be told exactly what to do but you always have a slight idea in your mind. Often you have various things which you can achieve allowing you to plot your own path, making use of the game's many shortcuts.

Exploration is key, you should never leave an area until you've fully explored it. And even then you've probably missed something as the game is full of secret areas and items. A lot of thought and effort has been put into making as many items and weapons as possible. You can upgrade your armour and your weapons, buy magic spells and items, or just level up your character.

The possibilities are endless, you will always be saving up for something. What do you save up? Well as the name suggests, souls. You gain souls every time you kill an enemy, naturally the tougher enemies yield more souls. There's an element of effort and reward to gaining the souls. You may have lost a lot of health killing the enemy but it only makes it that much easier to get the souls the second time round, once you know how to take the enemy down.

Although this is an RPG game, some parts are downright scary the first time you play them. I've never used such caution in a game which isn't an allout scarefest. Once you know how hard the game is, you will enter every area with caution. You don't know how tough the enemies are, sometimes you can take them down more easily than you thought, sometimes you get annihilated.

Speaking of the enemies, Dark Souls features some of the most impressive enemy variety ever, some use magic, some use fire, some use lightning and some are purely physical in their attributes. This just adds more tactics to taking them down. Some can even poison you, which gets pretty annoying but just adds to the showcase.

Dark Souls has a lot of bosses, some easy, some hard. This is where you learn that it's pretty easy to exploit this game. They could have done a better job to even up the difficulty of the bosses but the fact still remains, the imagination that has gone into the design of the bosses is pretty impressive.

If you don't die from the myriad of enemies in the game, you are sure to die from the bosses, forcing you to revisit the area. Why, might you ask? Because when you die, you lose all your souls, 1000 or 100,000.

When you die you return to a bonfire, which acts as your safe zone. Not a save zone, the game saves automatically. If you kill an enemy and immediately quit the game, you will reload the game right where you killed that enemy. The same goes for the NPCs, if you kill them, that's it. If you attack them, they'll be waiting for you.

You can level up at the bonfires, repair your equipment, upgrade your equipment and do other things once you get further in the game. However the first chance you get to upgrade and repair your equipment is from the Blacksmiths, they are invaluable as you will need better gear once you progress in the game.

You can buy armour and weapons from the Blacksmiths but your best bet is to find them yourself, there are countless amounts of item pickups in Dark Souls, you are always finding new gear, that's what keeps the game fresh. Often you will upgrade your armour and then find a completely new set of armour straight after, forcing you to spend more souls on the new armour.

You do a lot of grinding in this game, it can get a bit boring, you just need to visit different areas to keep yourself occupied. And the areas in the game are very different indeed, some areas are completely dark, others light up like a christmas tree.

The game is pretty big, it's been described as a gaming marathon. You're not going to find the same enemies in different places, each area is unique, again showcasing the amount of effort that went into making this game. The level design is impeccable, the buildings towering and the landscapes vast. There are no loading screens between areas, instead sections are cordoned off with a mysterious veil of grey light.

Most of these signify a boss fight, some don't but you are always wary of them. They will always be at the back of your mind, knowing that you can tackle them now and collect all of the items which may help you defeat the boss, or try to defeat the bosses before you gather a large amount of souls, in fear of losing all of them.

The boss battles are also the only places where you will hear music. It's a unique thing for a game to have. The lack of music throughout the game only enhances the mood. And it only makes the music that bit more epic when it does occur.

Whilst on your journeys you meet a small amount of NPCs, some are mysterious, talking in clues, you're never quite sure of what their game is, but you know that they can help you out. Most of them sell you items, and once you're done with them, you can choose to kill them and gain more items.

But if you do, you become guilty and can be invaded by phantoms. But this will only happen in human form, which brings me to my next point. You are hollow, meaning you are undead, if you capture the soul of an undead, called humanity, you can use that essence to become human yourself. In human form you can summon phantoms yourself to help you with boss fights, you can also kindle the flames at bonfires. If you don't kindle the flames you will only get 5 uses from your estus flask, instead of 10, or 15. Estus, as described to you early in the game, is a favourite among the undead, with it you recover health. And you'll want as much health as you can, so save up that humanity and kindle the flames.

Dark Souls is a rare example of a game which has everything. Punishing difficulty, high stakes, high rewards. Beautiful graphics and scenery. Moody, scary atmosphere. Minimalistic storyline whilst still retaining overall depth, a whole plethora of different enemies, a huge selection of items and weapons. Dark Souls has it all, it's easily one of my top 10 games of all time.

Whilst it will frustrate many, it will intice most. Dark Souls is a game which you may take a break from, but you will have it at the back of your mind. It can be addictive, often resulting in lengthy play sessions, you'll always want to know what comes next or be dying to beat the boss which is giving you a hard time.

It's magical yet brutal at the same time which positively has to be experienced by everyone, I'm not a huge RPG fan but I found myself playing it for hours at a time. It sways in the balance, it doesn't have a deep storyline, it has little character interaction indicating that it will be easy to get into, and perhaps a bit bleak. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/20/12

Game Release: Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition (EU, 08/24/12)

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