I got back from Gamestop one rainy night with my copy of Dark Souls. If you’ve been reading my posts, you should know that I love RPGs. A whole lot. I had heard rumblings from other reviewers that Dark Souls was hard. Not a “Wow this is surprisingly difficult!” kind of hard, but soul crushingly difficult. I can honestly say, that this is about as accurate a statement as you can say regarding this game.
That’s one of the earlier boss fights, the Moonlight butterfly, and this video makes it look easy. This fight took me about 10 tries to finish off (Albeit, it’s because I had no ranged capabilities). Difficulty isn’t only a feature of this game; difficulty IS this game. And that’s a good thing.
This is beyond your run of the mill RPG. The plot isn’t relevant, hell it’s barely there at all. The character’s aren’t gripping, and there’s no Mass Effect world writing here. And while I would normally just say “What’s the point!” in an RPG, this game doesn’t need any of those. As a matter of fact, I might venture to say a game like this would be hindered by such things.
One of the greatest things about this game, is the absolute overwhelming sense of despair and loneliness it leaves you with. The world is dark, and desolate, and absolutely beautiful. The graphics are not only amazing, but at the same time it’s not just the graphics that are beautiful, but the world itself is unbelievable. It’s the combination of not only utter despair, but absolute beauty of the world that makes this game a joy to play, even in the face of difficulty.
Which brings me to my next point: This game is hard. One of the main points in this game is gathering souls by defeating enemies. Souls basically act as both experience points you use for leveling up, and currency for buying items and using a blacksmith. When you die, you drop all of the souls you had where you died, and if you die again before you reach that point again, you can kiss goodbye to those souls. But only rarely is this game unfair. And I mean VERY rarely. At early levels, poison can be absolutely trying, because it just DOESN’T GO AWAY, and the curse ailment, which halves your maximum health, stacks, leaving you at times with 1/8th of your health! But in the scope of the game, this is really just a minor gripe, as with the right items, this can be more or less circumvented.
It’s also worth noting the almost genius online features of this game. I mentioned the overwhelming loneliness this game presents at times, but when you play online, you are never alone. Occasionally, you’ll see the ghost of another player walking around, or see the blood splatter where another player dies, giving a look at the last moments of the players life before his unfortunate end, or hear the ring of the bell signifying someone else finishing the end of the level, which presents the glimmer of hope and the idea that it IS possible, and shows that you can keep going. but the greatest idea that this game presents, is the soapstones. these items let you leave messages on the ground for other players in other worlds to see, or leave yourself available for other players to summon you so in cooperation, you and the person who summoned you to fight together. These soapstones are the highlight of the online, in my opinion, creating an environment of indirect cooperation of players, all moving toward the same end.
There is also another part of the online, where you can invade another player’s world, but in all honesty, I can’t get it to work out. I never played it, but apparently in Demon’s Souls, Atlus hosted servers where invading and invaded came together. In this game, The invading player hosts the match, which isn’t exactly reliable. You see a lot of “Finding player” followed by “connection failed.” And the item that you used to partake in this goes away whether it was successful or not. Does it work well? Probably, I can see how an epic struggle between players would be amazing in this game. but the servers are just too unreliable.
This is not a game for everyone. You WILL die. A lot. And you will always be better for the experience, learning something else about your adversaries. And then adjust your strategy accordingly. Its this kind of character growth, not only by level, but by actual growth of knowledge that makes the difficulty of this game amazing, and simply a must play for everyone who thinks they have the stones to finish it off. So, you must ask yourself. Are you prepared to die?
My score: 9 and a half bloody, bloody, soul crushing deaths out of 10.
This is probably the best holiday season in YEARS, and I’m in no way gonna be able to keep up with everything. But, I have a preorder down on skyrim, and I’m preparing my body to never see daylight again.