Review by BBOYChaioth

"Anger Management 101"

Dark Souls (PlayStation 3) Review

I wanted to review this game the first day that I got it, I was so compelled to write about it, that it was hard to resist, but cooler heads prevailed. I want to give Dark Souls the most critical review that I have written, so pardon that it is coming so long after the release date. Dark Souls is not exactly what one would expect, at all. It is the spiritual successor to 2009's PS3 exclusive RPG, Demon's Souls. I say spiritual successor because it is not a true sequel by any stretch, and after all, how could you have a sequel to a story where everything was explained by “The Fog”? But it is the perfect expansion on a game that was a revolutionary step into punishing difficulty and epic gameplay. Now I know that sounds vague but I will definitely explain in detail within this review what I mean. Dark Souls is a game of death, which sounds really encouraging, right? Well let me tell you straight up, you will die. You will die a lot actually. I won't sugar-coat it for any of you. But at the same time, don't psyche yourself out. This game is probably one of the most, if not the most, rewarding games I have ever played. So, with the short introduction out of the way, how bout we dive in to the bulk of the review?

STORY – 7/10: Honestly, Dark Souls' story isn't one that is truly memorable, but is decent for the purposes of the game. I feel that the story leaves room for improvement, but the developers wanted to put so many different enemies into the game that they had to create the story the way they did, just to incorporate all of the main bosses. Also, in comparison to Demon's Souls, Dark Souls has come leaps and bounds further in terms of the storyline. I honestly felt unmotivated to play Demon's Souls for that very reason, but luckily the gameplay saved the experience. The premise of the Dark Souls story is this: The world maintained its existence for ages, before the age of fire began with the first flame. Dragons ruled over the world, and for all intents and purposes, it wasn't a bad place. With the fire, however, darkness was born as well, and out of the darkness came demons that rose up to challenge the dragons of old and take over the world for themselves. Essentially, this is all that the player has to go on, and it's apparently enough to want to escape your predetermined fate that you had initially (I won't go into that). Despite this vague introduction that you receive, the story does flesh out through a decent amount of reading… This comes in the form of reading the descriptions of items and weapons, etc., and to be quite honest, is a very good idea to implement. I don't mind doing some reading really, I don't need everything spoon-fed to me, and the pieces that you receive through this literature give you puzzle pieces to apply to the final product.

In an open-world RPG, typically the story is loosely tied into the overall game experience, and that is the case here. You have certain objectives that pertain to the story, but really, you can do whatever you want in the game, however you want, whenever you want. If you are looking for a cinematic-type experience and a truly deep story, I can honestly say that you will not find that here. If you want an overall epic experience with a loosely tied story and a real challenge, then this is for you. I don't want to ruin the story of any game by saying too much in a review, but there really isn't that much to tell either way, so I encourage everyone to experience it for themselves.

GRAPHICS – 9/10: There a few small things when it comes to the graphic quality of the game that prevent it from getting a 10/10 score. Overall the issues are very small, and will not affect the cumulative quality of the game, so have no fear. There is one exception, however, and that is Blighttown. I have seen this as written as Blight Town and Blighttown, but the correct spelling is “Blighttown” (people often misspell it). Anywho, the biggest problem with Blighttown, aside from the fact that it is really irritating, is that there is a terrible… TERRIBLE… drop in frame rate. I checked numerous websites and boards to see if people were having the same problem, and it turns out that they are, so I am not a unique case. With this game, the frame rate is important because the enemies will take advantage of ANY moment of hesitation, and it makes things somewhat difficult when trying to fight them when the frame rate just plummets. There are occasional frame rate drops outside of Blighttown, but these moments are few and far between.

Outside of the technicalities like frame rate drops, Dark Souls does a truly amazing job in its graphical presentation. I couldn't really ask for anything better. There is intricate detail in almost every environment and person… and monster. This simple statement is crucial to the Dark Souls game as a whole since it puts so much emphasis on graphics and gameplay. Compound that with the fact that it has less of a story to go on than most games, and it needed to put some heavy emphasis on presentation, which it delivers without fail. Fortunately, I was able to find myself impressed from Level 1. There is another thing that was working against Dark Souls from the beginning, and that is the fact that it is an open-world game. This means that level transitions need to be smooth, and the environments need to flow seamlessly into one another. Typically, games use level divisions to help cushion the lack of presentation and keep players satisfied… like Demon's Souls for instance, having everything separated by the Nexus and levels built in segments. Dark Souls, however, overcomes this adversity to an extreme degree.

I didn't find myself rushing through levels without being able to take notice of the scenery for different reasons, mainly because this game encourages slow play… but also because they were overall a joy to see. Very seldom did I feel that textures were overused and seldom did I find the environments beginning to get mundane. I did feel as if the Demon Ruins were a little bit bland, but overall since the devs were going for a Hellish look, I feel that they succeeded (especially coming down a certain hill and facing 7 Taurus Demons…). Although there are a fair amount of complaints about the lava brightness in Lost Izalith, I feel as if this was a great aspect of the level. People are overly critical about small things that really aren't imperfections, but instead are development decisions. I have nothing bad to say about any of the visual presentation aside from the frame rates in Blighttown.

Before moving on, there is still one crucial point when it comes to graphical presentation that I want to really put some emphasis on, and that is character models. In Demon's Souls, players had the ability to create a character and change everything on that character from outfits, to size, to facial features. When it came to facial features, players had control of literally everything…. And their player would still be ugly enough that you'd want to slap yourself. In Dark Souls, fortunately enough, that has been rectified. Also, Dark Souls gives some real thought and emphasis on its detail in the form of armor. I can honestly say that I had an easier time making a cool looking character than I did in Demon's Souls. Not that looks are everything, but they gotta count for something.

AUDIO – 7.5/10: Audio presentation, to me, is just as important as the visual presentation because the sounds you hear can immerse you in the experience just as much as what you see. There are so many games that I have played that master the audio game, and this is not one that is masterful… I will be honest. Despite the fact that I love the audio in Dark Souls overall, I feel that there is room left for improvement; and while I understand that there is room for improvement in every aspect of every game, there is still enough here to be mentioned. Other games put a really strong emphasis on their soundtrack throughout the game, and Dark Souls falls short in this respect. Before I put it down completely though, I will say that it trumps Demon's Souls by a tremendous margin, so much so that it isn't even in the same league.

The soundtrack from Demon's Souls, as it appeared, consisted of only about 4 tracks… which all in all is extremely disappointing and actually unacceptable. Even if there were more tracks, every one of the, sounded the same. Dark Souls, however, has a fair amount of variety in its tracks, with some of them even being quite emotional, which is good. I particularly enjoyed the track during the fight against Gwyn, Lord of Cinder. I expected for it to be a completely epic and operatic themed song, but I was pleasantly mistaken. Instead I was greeted by a melodic piano track that was a nice change from the mood of the rest of the game. It also helped me not to rage quit… because Gwyn can make you do that.

Despite the fact that the soundtrack made improvements, it still left room to be desired, like I said earlier, which is the reason that the score is only a 7.5. However, outside of the actual soundtrack, the overall atmospheric effects and sound effects of combat were fantastic. I definitely got a rush whenever I pulled off a successful backstab on a tough enemy and got to hear the weapon tearing him apart (I swear I'm not a sadist). And this game is so immensely difficult that you can't help but get that rush. To top it off with the voice acting being quite good for this type of game, and From Software really has themselves a happy player.

GAMEPLAY – 10/10: This is the meat and potatoes of Dark Souls. Even though I said it was aesthetically pleasing to an extreme, and even though it sounds pretty good, this is everything Dark Souls stands for. The staple of this series is its difficulty, which is unforgiving, enough to make one fly into a rage, brutal, and overall… really fair. As much as people so oft complain and say “OMG THIS IS BS!” or “HE GLITCHED ME!” among other things, the difficulty is actually quite fair. In all honesty, I can say that this game was one of the few that has given me a real challenge that has been legitimately fair. I came into this game expecting to die… repeatedly, and I did just that. However, I can say that each time I died, it was for a good reason and that I deserved it. Be it negligence on my part, or being too careless, or not dodging like I should, I was killed in the most fair manner possible. I can relate it to Monster Hunter with the game being quite fair. I know that that I am repeating myself a bit with saying it's fair, but it is THE BEST way to describe the game, and players that consider getting this game must know that up front. They are in for a challenge which is more than what many are accustomed to, but it is fair.

I also want to comment briefly on the multiplayer aspect as well, also known in this game as PvP (Player v. Player). Multiplayer works in different ways, as players can either invade one another's world as a phantom, or get invaded as well. This sets the current stage you are in as a battle arena. The battle ends when one of two things happens; either one player dies, or the person who gets invaded enters the Boss arena for that level. Should one of these two things happen, the invasion is over and the winner is awarded souls (currency). Conversely, there is also a Co-Op element as well. It is possible for someone who is struggling in an area to summon a phantom to their own world and have them help out to complete the level. There have been numerous people complaining about the mechanics here, saying that the multiplayer is glitch and unstable, but I personally never had an issue, and have nothing but praise to give.

OVERALL – 8/10: From Software has created a game that is absolutely remarkable and sets the standard for open-world RPGs on the current-gen systems. I highly doubt that Skyrim can overshadow Dark Souls and I can honestly say that this is one of the most fun games I have ever played. Congratulations From Software for making a timeless classic from the very start.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/02/11

Game Release: Dark Souls (Limited Edition) (US, 10/04/11)

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