Review by jestert79

"Questionable Story, Great Gameplay"


This is probably the weakest aspect of the game. You are an undead character who wants to regain his/her soul. While it is refreshing to play a game that does not have a gravel-voiced, tough-guy main character, there is a lack of any character development or story detail as you play. This is a small thing, but occasionally you wonder why you're running around this forest killing tree-men, or why that metal-covered bull is running after you.


I'm playing it on the Xbox 360. Someone told me the game was made originally for the PS3, and thus the graphics suffer. The game is very dark; at many points, you are in poorly-lit areas, with just a small area around you visible. The design of the crumbling castles, graveyards, and forests is visually quite stunning, especially when standing on castle towers and looking around. They did a good job giving a general feel of decay that one would expect of an undead world. The sound is good – it doesn't particularly stand out as amazing or horrible.


My friends were not lying when they said this game was difficult.

You start out by choosing a character class, such as a knight, bandit, or magic user, and then select some introductory items. Without further ado, you are plunged into a dungeon which serves as the tutorial in which you learn how to attack, block, run, jump, etc. It seems like no problem initially; the first enemies you face are thin, weak zombies who often die in a single hit. This does not last, as you suddenly are plunged into a fight with a demon 3-4x your size.

You definitely do not play a heroic character, at least not starting out. You are clunky, slow, and unresponsive to controls. You press "attack" and your character slowly swings; in many cases, you watch in horror as you narrowly miss, leaving you wide open for a flurry of blows from the enemy. The game has a steep learning curve. The controls are quite basic - block, strong attack, normal attack, and some minor combos that let you kick or do a more damaging jumping attack. You do get a much better feeling of accomplishment when you manage to hack and slash your way through a series of enemies who at first easily vanquished you. Every enemy has a different set of attacks and defenses – some may just need to be charged and run through immediately, while others with shields may need to be kicked and unbalanced before you can take them on.

The bosses are the biggest challenge – most are extremely large and in most cases, kill you instantly, leaving you scratching your head as to how to even begin. I found myself having to consult online FAQs in order to progress. It usually turns out that there is some aspect of the environment that can be used against a given boss. In addition to the main bosses, there are several minibosses throughout the game that definitely keep you on your toes. These encounters can be frustrating, but they are very satisfying once you figure out how to get through them and pull it off.

I soon adjusted to the style of play that seemed best for the game: grinding. One main aspect of the game is finding bonfires, at which you recover all of your health and can level up using "souls," which is both the XP and the currency of the game. If you die, you lose all of your souls, but they are left at the site of your death, so if you fight your way back to the area, you can recover your lost souls. However, if you die a second time, they are all lost. This can lead to frustration, such as a time when I had collected a small fortune in souls and then died fighting a routine enemy. In my haste to return to collect the souls, I turned too quickly and plunged down a pit to my death, losing all of the accumulated souls. In the first major area I found myself dying repeatedly, so I settled into a pattern of grinding enough souls to level up. After doing these several levels, my character was able to take significantly more punishment.

This is not a game that holds your hand and leads you from place to place. In the second level you are dropped next to a bonfire, with 3-4 different paths you can take. These paths are not obvious, and the game seems to guide you not with any kind of compass, but by providing difficult enemies in areas that repeatedly destroy you until you realize you should try a different path. Just as there is no hand-holding with in terms of objective, you are also given little information about the basics of the game, such as inventory management, using spells, or weapon/armor selection. While some of this is fairly simple, other aspects are not. For example, one item's description is simply: “Allows engagement with ghosts.” Is this for a specific enemy? Is this for player vs. player situations?

One area this game suffers is how you travel from place to place. While there is usually a means of connecting portions of the map as you progress, it would have been better to have an option to auto-travel to bonfires you've already discovered. There is no central city area in the game, and shopkeepers are spread across the levels. This means you may save up enough souls to buy a certain spell or item, but then have to run across the areas you've discovered to get back to the person who was selling it. Another minor detail is that even these shopkeepers are capable of being attacked. I met one but accidentally pressed the attack button. Immediately he fought back and I had to kill him, which meant I could no longer buy arrows until I went farther into the game.

The multiplayer system is something I had not experienced before. Throughout the game you acquire “humanity” which allows you to access multiplayer. However, there is no multiplayer menu in the game; once humanity is used, “summon signs” appear on the ground. If touched, these signs will allow a friendly player to join you. Conversely, as you play you may receive a message that a “dark spirit” has entered your game – another player who wants your souls. The unpredictable nature of this can be frustrating, and the first time I dealt with players entering my game they toyed with me and then killed me. The fact that there is no option to shut off player invasions of your game is a bit frustrating. However, it pushes you to keep honing your skills.

Overall Recommendation

This game is definitely worth buying or renting for an extended time. It's not exactly a gripping game that you can play for hours on end in one sitting, but it will keep you coming back to slowly level up your character until you're ready for the next challenge. Those who are easily frustrated may want to consult the online FAQs to give you a better idea of how to play and beat bosses.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 07/02/12

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

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