Incredible level design
Countless secrets to
Challenge will be too much
Lack of guidance at times
here for scoring
Dark Souls is the
spiritual successor to From Software's surprise
Souls. Keeping the original game's dark
tone, difficulty, and intense combat, Dark Souls manages
to create a unique experience quite unlike
anything on the market, even its predecessor.
Though this action RPG experience is certainly
challenging, it provides an astounding number of
options by which the player can persevere. Those
who manage to adapt will find one of the most
engrossing RPGs in recent memory.
places players in the role of the chosen one, an
undead, player-created mute, who is tasked with
saving the land of Lordran. Awakened in an undead
asylum, the player escapes and soon
discovers his/her destiny to save the land. The
story never really goes much beyond this, with
NPCs encountered along the way providing vague
hints about the history of the world. Largely the
story is told through the areas the players
explore, the enemies they fight, and through
the many different weapons and items they collect.
For those used to heavy character interaction, it
can be a bit off-putting, but it expertly creates
an interesting world without getting in the way of
gameplay. Still, a more in-depth history of
Lordran would have been nice.
Gameplay in Dark Souls
revolves around its intense battle system. Similar
to its predecessor Demon's Souls, it features
a stamina system where each action, such as
blocking and attacking, uses up stamina. One can't
simply hack away at enemies with no thought to
defense. This lends the combat an intense feel,
requiring one to block and parry and wait for an
opening. There are also ranged attacks with both
spell-casting and archery providing a plethora of
different options. Despite this, the game
not-so-subtly suggests a balanced approach, as
enemies will close distances quickly and
there often won't be room for ranged combat.
Enemies hit hard, and there is a strong focus on
defense in contrast to the typical action RPG.
Foes vary in size and have access to the same
variety of ranged attacks, so players will have to
keep on their toes. The boss fights provide a
greater challenge than regular combat, but
generally are not unfair so long as the play uses
a sound strategy.
Souls' bosses are often large
To support the
player in combat, Dark Souls provides a variety
of character and equipment upgrade options. Most
enemies reward the player with souls, which serve
as the game's currency both with vendors and
upgrading stats. Unlike many RPGs where stat
upgrades will quickly show very noticeable
results, in Dark
Souls the benefit of these upgrades will
generally be slow to show up. Stat increases allow
one to wear heavier equipment, use more powerful
weapons, equip more spells, etc. rather than
providing tangible benefits on their own. Finding
and developing more powerful weapons and armor are
the primary ways by which a character is upgraded.
Many powerful items are hidden throughout the
world, and more can be developed by improving
normal weapons with the help of the game's
blacksmiths. The sheer variety of weapon types and
upgrade paths provide so many different options
that it is almost overwhelming. The game even
offers a robust new game + feature where these
stats carry over to be built upon to allow for
even more customization.
As far as exploring
the world, Dark
Souls progresses in a far different way
than its predecessor. Evoking classic games such as
Symphony of the Night, Dark Souls
features a huge interconnected world with many
short-cuts between the sections, and even several
completely optional areas for players to discover.
Though some areas are locked until about halfway
through the adventure, the player is given a ton
of freedom to explore the world. The sense of
discovery one will find opening a new short-cut or
finally reaching an area seen in the far distance
is amazing. Still, at times the game can be a bit
unclear about where to go next, providing only
vague hints to the next destination. This can lead
to a lot of needless wandering, even if said
wandering could result in finding rare items and
and sound are also highlights. Though music is
absent most of the time, it will play while in
certain areas, and always against bosses. The
music always proves to be haunting and
atmospheric, and helps to lend the game a very
dark feel. The various sound effects are quite
effective, from shield blocks and sword strikes,
to the twang of bows and roar of dragons. There
are some sounds that can overstay their welcome
such as the creaking of armor while moving.
Overall, the sound effects more than accomplish
the job of keeping the player immersed. The
visuals do the same, providing a world that is
both beautiful and foreboding at the same time.
Animations are smooth and character and enemy
designs fit in perfectly with the game world's
dark theme. There are some occasional issues with
the graphics, however. Occasional frame rate drops
pop up in certain areas, and clipping of
characters shows up at times. Thankfully these,
issues don't usually hinder gameplay.
invaded is always a terrifying
Though Dark Souls is
primarily a single player affair, it does have a
number of multiplayer features in the vein of Demon's Souls.
In undead form, players can be summoned into
another player's session as assistance or
conversely invade another player's session as an
Souls features a Humanity system, where
players can restore their human form by spending a
point of this currency at the game's checkpoints.
In this form, one can summon other players, but
can also be invaded as well. There are even NPC
helpers to summon, and NPC invaders, which is a
nice touch for anyone forced to play offline.
Human form is lost if the player dies, but
Humanity is somewhat plentiful in Dark Souls'
world, making multiplayer easy to access. There is
no way to communicate with summoned players beyond
gestures, or to easily summon friends, making
playing with specific players a bit of a chore. In
addition to these direct features, one will often
find blood stains of dead players to see how they
died, phantoms of those who are in the same areas,
from others scattered around the world as well.
Identical to the same feature in Demon's Souls,
the majority of the messages are extremely
helpful, pointing out hidden passages and rare
At the end of
the day Dark
Souls succeeds in producing a game that
is both incredibly challenging and fair. Nothing
it throws at the player is insurmountable, and
death is not the obstacle it was in Demon's Souls.
A new system refills health potions whenever one
rests at a bonfire, and spells are now limited by
their number of uses rather than a mana pool, so
that death never means wasting precious
regenerative items. Though the system of losing
the souls one has collected upon death returns,
these souls can again be retrieved by returning to
the spot of death without dying. With so much to
spend this currency on, it is unlikely players
will travel far with a large collection of souls.
Indeed, this is Dark
Souls' triumph, challenging players to
the limits of their abilities, but never doing so
unfairly. With patience and exploration the game's
many challenges can be conquered by anyone, and
the feeling of triumph by doing so is simply
unmatched by any other RPG.