Unlike Demon's souls, which forced players to restart the level when they inevitably snuffed it, Dark Souls returns you to the last bonfire you've visited. These little camp-sites are few and far between, and finding a new one (often after trekking through the wilderness for what feels like hours) comes with the greatest feeling of relief you're likely to experience in a game. It heals all your health, refills your Estus Flasks - potions for restoring health - and offers a range of options for character development and equipment restoration. Oh, and it also respawns every enemy you've killed (excluding bosses) up until that point.
Once you're sat all cosy behind the flames, there are numerous options available to you. Most importantly, you can use any souls you might have to level up. With each level, you can choose to boost one parameter. I've been focusing on Strength and Vitality, as I'm playing as a character that's keen on getting up close and personal with his adversaries, and I need the HP and hit power. Others might choose to concentrate on dexterity, or intelligence, making use of ranged weapons and magic.
The game won't try and make you stick to one combat discipline; if you want to switch from a tank to a mage, go ahead - it's as simple as swapping out your equipment and equipping the right accessories. If one approach to a boss isn't working for you, use another. This can be frustrating when you consider certain weapons aren't usable until you've met certain stat requirements, but start farming some more souls and it's doable. Just.
Repetition is an essential ingredient in the Dark Souls recipe. You'll replay huge chunks of the game, ten, twelve times before reaching the next area. You'll be forced into perfecting a routine, doing exactly the right thing, at exactly the right time, and hoping lady luck is on your side at the same time. Is this enjoyable? Not especially, but - and the same goes for the game as a whole - a certain type of person will be conditioned into loving it. Like Stockholm Syndrome, spend enough time with it, respecting its regime, and you will (probably) grow to like it.
At times, you'll come across areas where enemies yield more souls than normal, at which point it's a good idea to set aside some time for grinding. Again, this is something many people will hate, but if you want to start lowering your frequency of deaths, it's worth it.
Death - as outlined in the anecdote at the beginning of this review - often feels inevitable. Unless you know what's round the corner already, you could be about to run into a trap that'll kill you in seconds. Thankfully, you're not alone on your journey, not really. Other players are able to interact with your game in the form of signs scattered about the world. These are formed from a small library of set words and phrases. 'Tough enemy ahead' one might warn. 'Use magic' another might say, preparing you for an enemy ahead. Often you'll see the phrase 'I did it!' decorating the ground after a boss battle, where players are so chuffed with their feat that they've felt the need to share it with others - to let you know it is possible.