Dark Souls screenshot
Dark Souls screenshot

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.

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danieljjvv's Avatar

danieljjvv

love the game
need more expansions and some map changes after completion
Posted 13:14 on 09 May 2014
Feopachi's Avatar

Feopachi

***** review by a causal player who sucks at the game.
Posted 16:31 on 23 January 2014
Enemy's Avatar

Enemy

I liked your review, the first DS review that made me laugh.
I read sometimes about people not willing to buy this game because they don't like games that frustrate you with their difficulty. For this reason I did not like Ninja Gaiden, God of War and most games on hard difficulty. But Demon's souls (and probably Dark souls as well) is truely something else. Death is an essential part of the experience and the games would not nearly be as brilliant when death was not lurking around every corner. It's because you fear dieing so much that makes the game so thrilling and immersive.
I'm still on my first playthrough on Demon's souls and still die a lot but I'm rarely frustrated for it. Just try to see every death as a lesson.
Posted 18:58 on 05 October 2011
Get2DaChoppa's Avatar

Get2DaChoppa

Great review Jamin, I really like the look of this, I think it's the challenge that draws me to it. Although the prospect of perpetual self loathing does leave a bitter taste.

Oh well...:)
Posted 15:07 on 05 October 2011
TomPearson's Avatar

TomPearson

BOOOOM, that lemonade and So-Co is mine!
Posted 13:40 on 05 October 2011
guyderman's Avatar

guyderman

I actually do understand the idea of these games and the challenge that comes with the crushing difficulty levels but I also struggle a bit with the concept from a sales point of view - I will never buy either this or Demon Souls purely because I know how irritated I can get when a game gets too tough for me, especially with family commitments, work etc causing time restraints. I tend to play games as a form of relaxation, and a game that kicks you when you are down certainly seems less than relaxing. Don't get me wrong I don't want to just walk through a game with little to no challenge either. I'm pretty certain that I am not the only gamer in the world who would love to play these games for the games themselves, but really can't be bothered with the torment and the expense, (after I've launched my controller across the room), and therefore surely these are just lost sales from the get go. I'd love to play the games themselves, but not in this truly terrifying form - It sacres me too much - LOL!
Posted 12:14 on 05 October 2011
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee@ Woffls

Demon's Souls also had no pause. It actually makes total sense in the way the game is conceived. You are meant to be online and thus open to other players joining your realm. The tension this leads to once you actually get your body back is unlike any other you have experienced in videogame form. The phrase "I'm bricking it." is the most appropriate one in the whole review, if Demon's Souls is any indicator.
Posted 11:51 on 05 October 2011
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls

Tempted to play this, but the way I react to games being difficult in this kind of way is not conducive to my well-being. I'd like to believe that the presence of bugs and lack of pause option are intentional, but it's probably just complacency in development.
Posted 11:39 on 05 October 2011
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Nice review Jamin. The game has "challenge" written all over it, and Demon Souls was very impressive with my short gameplay time I had. Dark Souls is definitely something I would like to buy later this month or next, as it is something that I would commit too.

"Can feel unfair" Do you mean in a challenge aspect? If so, isn't From Software main ambition is to give a gaming experience which is different for each individual, providing such a challenge? To me, this has all the right ingredients, and I would happily hand my cash over.
Posted 11:28 on 05 October 2011
xenodoom's Avatar

xenodoom

i would play this game but i think after two days i throw my controller through a wall!
Posted 11:22 on 05 October 2011

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Dark Souls
8
Out of 10
Dark Souls
  • Devilishly hard, and with that, satisfying
  • Fantastic environment design
  • Will probably make you hate yourself
  • Can feel unfair
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 07/10/2011
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: RPG
Rating: PEGI 16+
Site Rank: 569 45
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