Review

Dark Souls Review (Xbox360)

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 hollowed... 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 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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Comments

By axen (SI Newbie) on Oct 03, 2011
axen
Did you finish the game? After the bells there are fires (not bonfires), there are roughly 20 compulsory bosses.

Anyhow, seems like this review doesn't quite understand the appeal - and that's fine, the thing is Dark Souls is actually EASY, the dying isn't a factor. Dying often = not a hard game on the face of it. Ninja Gaiden, if you died often it's because the game was punishing. Dark Souls if you die often it's because you're an idiot (no offense, we're all idiots!) and weren't being cautious or using your brain.

You take your surroindings in, the lessons learnt from dying, and the fact that the souls element is stupidly addicting and you get the appeal.

Factoring in the online element - which remains the single most innovative thing done with multiplayer - and the way other players can come in to your game just to challenge you for a laugh,

it's the best ip made this generation.
By GrayFox (I just got here) on Oct 03, 2011
GrayFox
It's the fuck you moments that separate this series from the rest, and the men from the hairless girly men who play COD. Don't say it's a bad thing for this game to focus on the challenge, it's what makes it what it is. Like you said, pussy boys need not apply, this was not made for them so don't punish the games score because it doesn't hold their hand. You wouldn't say Mike Tyson was a 8/10 because he didn't go easy on other guys.

It's a mans world, man up or get the **** out. This franchise understands that life isn't all sweetness and sugar coated candy. If you've never had to deal with pain then you've never lived a real life. Life is not meant to be about being happy all the time, it's about overcoming challenges. The sooner people understand that the better.

You want to feel like you've achieved something?, work for it, earn it. From Software understand that, you sail through a piss easy game and you might enjoy it, but you never get any sense of accomplishment for what you done. So you either make a game hard and get satisfaction when you beat it, or make it easy and get nothing at the end of it. You can't fault this games difficulty, it has a goal, a purpose , and it achieved that goal.
By ARC4 (I just got here) on Oct 03, 2011
ARC4
So, your FUCK YOU call-out is to the first boss? I doubt the integrity of this review. You also forgot the bulletpoint of Covenants.
By ARC4 (I just got here) on Oct 03, 2011
ARC4
I mean, you could have tried. You could have expanded on "This game has a lot of hard and strategic choices in it - a lot more so than Demon Souls..."
By Ravzen (I just got here) on Oct 03, 2011
Ravzen
I agree with many of the comments - this review ignores many of the obvious junior reviewer bulletpoints. No insightful (or sometimes just zero) commentary on the environments, multiplayer etc. likely because they did not progress beyond the Taurus Demon. Its snarky tone, rather than witty, comes across as pouty juvenile frustration. You banged this review out in under an hour because you were behind on meeting your deadline. Your low self-confidence cannot handle the lack of cotton candy masterbation difficulty. Stop polluting Metacritic with your trash writing.
By Kres (SI Elite) on Oct 04, 2011
Kres
Thanks for the comments guys. The game did get an 8. Two people wont necessarily see one thing and have the same impression of it. Sorry if we're not on the same page for this game. There are other publications where you might read what you want to read on a review, for sure. Thanks for the insightful password NOGRACE x)
By thissitesucks (I just got here) on Oct 11, 2011
thissitesucks
you call this a review? you played a bit past the first boss, taurus demon, and marked it as your favorite moment? so you can completely rate a 80 hour game from only playing 2 or 3? how could the owner of the site let you publish this absolute trash review and have it show up on meta critic??

edit: ah there he is, right above me!
Lol. unbelievable. you need to get a new staff, dude, or at least replace this guy. maybe then you can join the big leagues of review sites that actually matter.
By FirstandOnly (I just got here) on Oct 16, 2011
FirstandOnly
The game's fantastic. If you hate it you give it a 9, as seen in the user ratings. This writer didn't make it past the beginning zones. Pathetic.

There are other publications for us? Good point - looks like every other review site out there. I'm all for going there instead of this atrocious site of pansy reviewers. And so I will.

Sucky review. Leave this site. Buy this game!
By Greyfoxisaloser (I just got here) on Apr 13, 2012
Greyfoxisaloser
Some pathetic people in here mainly Greyfox "it's a mans world" really? No it's not it's a game a great game to be sure but people like you take this shit way too seriously and it's just sad too many people get upset by this review but at the same time who really cares what he rates it it's one persons opinion and it makes it no more or less valid then anyone else's
By Kres (SI Elite) on Apr 14, 2012
Kres
There is no need to insult. If you're using insults to get your opinion heard, then again, you're at the wrong site. Indeed, we merely represent our own opinions. Feel free to drop in your user review if you want yours to be heard.

We'll delete any further post that contains insults toward anyone.

We will take into count on what was said here, of course. Thank you for letting us know that we did something wrong. You've surely upgraded the review page so anybody reading will _hear_ what you said. Just please drop the insults. Thanks!

Hi thissitesucks! I'm glad you appreciate our bytes here.