Review by ham_sandwich_

"Prepare to be lag-stabbed!"

I could talk for a long time about the things I love about this game--the atmosphere, the sense of mystery and the brilliant items, weapons, armour and enemies.... but, I've come here mainly to gripe. There is just so much that needs improvement in Dark Souls.

Many others have said that the control mechanics are flawed, and that the frame rate is very bad in some areas. True! But I won't repeat what others have said, and a lot of these minor issues should be fixed in the patch--as far as I know. My main problem with the game concerns the online play and the core philosophy of the game.

The game is hard. It's not overly hard, but compared to other games out there at the moment it is pretty much the most challenging experience on offer. However, and this is what annoys me, this does not mean that to beat the game you have to be a skilful player! Pretty much everything you do in Dark Souls has to first be researched in a strategy guide or an online wiki. This is mainly because there is little explanation in the game about what you have to do beyond the most basic of actions. The game needs more built in hints to let the player experiment on their own instead of running to the internet every time they need to know how to do something. Obviously, the strategy guides and wikis have everything you need to know... but they also detail every exploit and cheat too. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the game is meant to be exploited! With the right combination of a couple of ridiculously overpowered spells and miracles and a nice buffed lightning weapon, you can beat anything in the game EASILY. More importantly, there are so many terrible farming glitches that any player who does a little research can attain virtually unlimited souls and shards.

This exploitation problem makes the experience of the game less rewarding and less balanced. For example, my two good friends who own this game both found glitches that gave them unlimited souls, they also exploited the crow trading glitch to get all the shards they ever needed early in the game. Countless other players, with only a little research, can and have done the exact same thing. This means that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of seriously overpowered players running around out there. This would not be a problem if the level matching system for invasions and other online elements worked properly... but unfortunately it is beyond broken. There have been times when I have invaded other worlds at below level 30 and come across players who have insanely high vitality, are running and rolling in the heaviest armour, and are loaded with lightning weapons and all the annoying miracles which unbalance the game. This is most apparent when you join the forest covenant. Most players you come up against once you are a forest hunter will be much higher level than you, and they sit in the forest with a summoned buddy just to bait invasions because they know it will be an easy victory. One player who I communicated with via psn after an invasion admitted he was level 85. I was level 32 at this stage.

They may fix these problems in the next patch, but the problems with online play do not end there. Every time I have been backstabbed in pvp matches it has been due to lag. In other words, on my screen the opponent is nowhere near my back and then suddenly the back stab animation kicks in and I'm dead. Obviously, on my opponent's screen it's a different story, but that's the problem with the online pvp gameplay, it's completely mismatched in every way. The backstab mechanics are dubious enough without the lag problems, and I would suggest that it should be removed from multiplayer altogether, so that criticals only occur through parrying.

As for the the general online experience of being summoned and summoning others, it can be either really great, or terribly frustrating. There have been many times when I arrive in area with summon signs all over the place, and then others where there are none no matter how long I wait in the most likely areas. What I think would be better than a system where people leave there signs wherever is a universal summoning sign that is always in certain areas, like at every bonfire and before every fogwall which can be accessed upon arrival to see a list of players in the same area, their level and signal strength, how long they have been waiting to be summoned, and whether they want to be summoned or whether they would like to be invited to invade for a pvp match. Of course, keep the red cracked orb random invasions as well, at least if the level-matching can be balanced. I think such a system would neaten things up a lot and reduce the frustration of the online experience.

There are many more things I would like to say, both good and bad, but I think you get the picture. It;s definitely a cool and innovative game like Demons Souls was... it just could be so much better.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 11/16/11

Game Release: Dark Souls (Limited Edition) (AU, 10/06/11)

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