Saturday, 14 December 2013

Dark Souls review


Hi and welcome to this review on Dark Souls, the "sequel" to Demon Souls which was released back in 2009.

It's a bit strange to write about games that have been out for years since they pretty much everything has been said about the game, yet somehow Dark Souls eluded me till a couple of months ago, I hadn't heard of it and when did I couldn't have imagined what a game it would be.

In fact at the start of the game Dark Souls tricks you a little by pretending to be a rather generic game, you're in some sort of prison and you fight weak slow zombies while you learn the controls and thinking how many times you've done this in countless other games. That is until you encounter your first boss and realise you're going to die in this game. A lot.

Within a very short amount of time you'll start either despising Dark Souls or loving it, ironically for the same reason which is the game's infamously high difficulty since almost everything about this game will make you die. Meet new enemies? die to them. Find a new area to explore? water every inch of it with your blood. Boss fight? prepare to die to every attack they can do. Enemies can cause status effect? you're dead. Your level is too low for an area? you're gonna have a bad time. Oh you managed to somehow level up a lot and are ready to face new challenges? die anyway.

It might sound sadistic to keep saying you'll die, but the thing is you will and players can either learn to accept the fact that Dark Souls was made to challenge you, it's not a game any monkey can pick up and play, this is one of the hardest gaming experiences out there and it takes real effort to achieve anything in Dark Souls.

This same insane difficulty is also what makes the game so worth it, whenever you manage to get through any obstacle you know it's because you tried so hard, for hours and it finally gives results which is too rare in games these days where everything is given to you far too easily.

Gameplay

Dark Souls combat is easy and simple to get into, after creating a character you learn how to run, dodge and fight with them, controls are easy and it doesn't take very long till you know exactly what you can do.

Souls are the currency of the game, there is no gold or anything else, it's all Souls which you acquire from killing enemies in the game, with Souls you can spend them on buying new equipment, repairs, supplies and levelling your character up at Bonfires which are safe checkpoints you can rest at. When you die all the souls you're currently holding drop on the spot you died and you have to go retrieve them if you want to use them, the sad part is if you die on the way to retrieving the souls you lost then they are gone. Forever.

Well usually safe.
Bonfires are the key to your journey, you're given very limited amount of healing potions that can only be replenished every time you rest at a Bonfire, not only that but if you die you re-spawn at the last Bonfire you used and since you'll be dying a lot you'll want to get to the next Bonfire really badly or risk going through the same area again and again.

Another key aspect of Bonfires is that they bring back all the enemies you killed, while bosses cannot re-spawn after being killed all their minions will come back the moment you use a Bonfire so even areas that have been cleared can still be full of enemies ready to kill you.

Lastly when it comes to game play is the aspect of Humanity, see in Dark Souls you're technically a zombie yourself, yet you can revert back to human form if you use items called Humanities, these allow you to summon help during boss fights and experience certain events that you can't while a Zombie, sadly you lose your humanity if you die so you're just gonna spend most of your time as a zombie.
Story

Dark Souls doesn't really have a story actually, you're the chosen undead and you go around killing stuff, that's about as much story as you'll get, sure you'll encounter some NPC along the way which you can recruit and send back to your base but for the most part this is a very solitary game with little interaction between the player and the people around him.

Presentation.

So...pretty.
Dark Souls is a couple of years old at the time of this review and it's gorgeous, the way enemies move, how projectiles look as they are hurling towards your face and the many different ways your character can look depending on the equipment setup you give him clearly shows that there has been a lot of effort put into this game.

When it comes to game music I seem to be able to ignore most of it for some reason, I can't remember most of the soundtrack in Dark Souls though I know it's good but it just isn't that memorable, perhaps the best soundtracks are the ones you hear during boss fights because when you're fighting a 50 foot giant you need music you can enjoy.

Criticism.

Dark Souls is not without it's flaws, some of which are probably intentional. The first major issue is the game's difficulty which while challenging at most points can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming, there is no setting in this game we all play it on hardcore from the start and that can occasionally be incredibly frustrating when you die 20 times to the same crappy archer.


Another aspect of the game that is quite frustrating is the lack of information you're given, everything you find out you have to do by experimenting, this includes how you level up your character, find secrets and even equipping magic involves several steps none of which you are told, you have to just find out how to do it by yourself. Dark Souls doesn't want to hold your hand and that's fine but at least point me in the right direction sometimes.

The story is non-existent basically, if you're looking for an epic saga look elsewhere, this is almost pure action and that's great but sometimes you wish you have a better reason for fighting than just because you're the "chosen undead" who kills people.

Lastly some people say this game is non-linear, well it kind of is actually because you may have access to 3-4 locations you can explore but in reality only 1 of them can be finished and the others will either have enemies that kill you in one hit or some sort of barrier that prevents you from completing that area. An example is early game you can go to the Catacombs or to some ruined castle, I picked Catacombs and found out I can't progress because I have to use special weapons to kill the residents there, forcing me to tackle the castle instead.

While certain completely optional areas do exist, all in all you will tackle the same areas of the map in the same order every time you play the game.

Rating.

I loved Dark Souls, it's the first challenging game I have experienced in quite a while, while incredibly frustrating at some points it's combination of action, monsters and just plain high quality production makes this game a must-play for everyone, sure a lot of people will be turned off by it's difficulty and that's okay since it's not a game everyone can get into but a game everyone should try and decide. I give Dark Souls a 4 out of 5 and recommend it highly.

Prepare for nightmares.