Review

Dark Souls Review (PS3)

Let's get one thing straight: Dark Souls hates you. It hates who you are and what you stand for. It hates your friends, it hates your spouse, it hates your family, it hates your pets, it hates every single little thing about you right down to the fact that you even exist. It's not your fault - you didn't upset it, you didn't insult its mother or its religion... the only thing you really 'did' was want to play it, and for that it hates you so much it will do its very best to kill you. Often.
 

Yeah... Have fun with that
For the uninitiated - Dark Souls (the 'spiritual successor' as opposed to the literal sequel of Demon Souls) Is a very 'hardcore' RPG/dungeon crawler that provides a loose plot, and a lot of challenges along the way. It's not story-driven, not by any means - instead, the joy from the game (if 'joy' is even appropriate in the context of this game) is derived from the journey, the fighting your way through tough enemies and even tougher bosses towards the end goal. You'll get so wrapped up in the challenge that you'll probably forget why you're there in the first place. It has something to do with bells and a prophecy. Along the way you collect souls which is used as in-game currency, and you can spend them on either levelling up your character, or buying better equipment.

It seems though that Dark Souls took the wrong lesson from its predecessor regarding death. Instead of making dying a part of the process by presenting an alternative 'level' of gameplay that you need to interact with until you revive yourself, this game simply uses death as a form of punishment. Checkpoints in the form of 'bonfires' are loosely scattered throughout the world of Lordran, and we mean VERY loosely. At a bonfire, the game automatically saves, as well as revive any health and items that are eligible, as well as re-spawning all non-boss monsters. If you die, you simply revert back to the last bonfire you were at. As before, if you manage to get back to where you died before dying again, you get all your lost souls back, but that's as far as it goes.

There's nothing different about playing post-death apart from the fact that you're in a 'Hollowed' state - something which apart from having some minor stat decreases doesn't really affect the game at all. It does have some contextual affects - characters will talk to you differently whilst hollowed, certain bonfire actions aren't possible whilst hallowed... but nothing terribly important. The fact that the difficulty has been ramped up as well only serves to make this game more frustrating than usual. Don't get us wrong - we applaud the principle of making a truly challenging game that drove Demon Souls - we just don't think that's what's going on here.
 
The opening cutscene is all fire and brimstone... very flashy
We truly do believe this game is more sadistic than fun, but on the other hand once you play it (and die) often enough, you do realise that sometimes you need to stop thinking of this as an RPG/Dungeon Crawler, and more of a puzzle game almost. Whenever the game ramps up the difficulty to stupid, there's usually a relatively simple way of getting past it. Sometimes, it's finding that escape route which suddenly makes you realise you weren't supposed to be fighting the uber beast in the first place. Others its using the environment to basically spam an effective attack. This game preys on your feelings, and is very skilled at manipulating them. Make no mistake, it takes a certain kind of person (never mind gamer) to stick with and possibly enjoy this game - we believe they are sometimes called Masochists - but Dark Souls does what it does extremely well, and it's to be applauded for that at least. We won't slam this game for being too hard or too frustrating, but this not a game that's going for mainstream appeal.

There is some online functionality Dark Souls, if you can take enough time away from dying to explore it. Like in Demon Souls, you can leave messages on the ground that everyone will see - these can range from hints and tips, to general stock anecdotes. You have to choose from preset words and phrases though, so you can't type in anything. There is also co-op, where one person is invited into a another persons 'world' as a soul, and you can help each other with challenging areas. There is also a competitive mod, which is simply player vs. player combat.

Some final thoughts: the key to enjoying this game can be boiled down to one word - momentum. So long as you keep having a sense of progression, you can go on. Restart, if need be, as once you do a section once you pretty much can breeze through it, provided you don't mess up any fights (which happens more than you'll ever want to admit to). If something seems too hard, you're probably not supposed to be even fighting in the first place (or you're fighting wrong). This game has a lot of hard and strategic choices in it - a lot more so than Demon Souls... a lot of walking too. There's no Nexus anymore, and vendors are dispersed around the game world - usually behind a batch of enemies that you'll need to defeat to get past.
 
We beleive this message translates into "WHY GOD!? WHYYY!?"

Dark Souls perhaps takes the whole 'dying' thing a bit too far. It was interesting and an added challenge in Demon Souls, the same can't really be said here. Dark Souls simply wants to punish you for failure, and you will feel it. Every time you have to go back to the last check-point, every time you realise you've taken too much damage to get through a section and so have to trundle back to the checkpoint , re-spawn the enemies, and try again, you will feel silly, you will feel stupid, you will feel incompetent... but when you finally succeed, you will feel like a God. If you can handle that, welcome aboard. If you can't, I suggest you turn back now.

Best Game Moment: Beating an especially troublesome enemy. Fuck you, Taurus Demon. FUCK YOU.

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