We’ve read your comments, and we get it. You want a Dark Souls video review. But what you should have been doing was watching our live playthrough of Dark Souls on our twitch.tv channel where we played the game from start to finish! Our head livecaster even posted a death counter for everyone to see how many times he died and kept it up to date in real time!
But, we’ve shuffled some priorities around for our fans and decided to put together a video review for Dark Souls. Just a fair warning though: anyone who is a diehard fan of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, cover your eyes. You may not like what we have to say.
A few years ago, our Demon’s Souls video review was one of our earliest hits. We gave the game some much needed media coverage. And the game itself was original, innovative, challenging, and to put it simply, it was a breath of fresh air in a market crowded with shooters. It took a western-themed fantasy action-RPG and injected it with some Eastern flavors.
But now Dark Souls is here, the semi-sequel / semi-spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls evil throne. This time around, it’s available for both the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360, so 360 owners get to see what PS3 owners have been chanting about in cult circles for a few years now.
Dark Souls is set in a fantasy realm turned nightmare. You are one of the many undead denizens trapped inside its spiritual walls, awaiting your inevitable doom. Lucky for you, fate intercedes and you fight for your freedom, and more importantly, your humanity. You choose one of many pre-set classes before you begin your adventure making it easier for those new to the game to follow a path for leveling purposes. But those familiar to Demon’s Souls already know, your class easily gets molded to reflect your playstyle. So becoming a mage, does not mean you have to be stuck waving a wand around. And as you continue, you slay dragons, giants, your fellow undead, and more and collect their souls.
Souls are the game’s one all-encompassing currency. You use them buy new or repair equipment, and of course, you use them to level up and boost your stats at one of the bonfires found along the way.
However–and here’s where Dark Souls retains its Demon’s Souls difficulty–if you die, you lose all your souls and they’re left in a steamy pile where you collapsed. In your second try, if you manage to make it back to your blood pool, you can recollect your lost souls. However, if you die on the way to your marker, you lose all your souls and have to start building all over again with 0. At first, this level of punishment isn’t so bad, but in later levels when you need over 20,000 souls to level up and improve your stats by a whopping one or two points, it can get frustrating.
Every enemy encountered in the game is a challenge. If you’re caught unaware, they can all take you to meet your maker. Which means that most of the bosses are an EXTRA challenge, especially since they’re typically found far away from spawn points.
We absolutely welcome the challenge and love how it makes us flex our nerdy video game muscles. However, most of the game becomes less about the skills and precise timing needed to defeat monsters, and more about learning how the game glitches and then exploiting those glitches. We’ve defeated giant bridge-defending red dragons with a single arrow only because of an exploit, and we’re not the only ones to have done it. We’ve slain other bosses without taking a single hit, and we’ve taken advantage of locations in the game that allows the quick and easy farming of souls of high value enemies. After you’ve beaten the game once and you’ve learned all the tricks of the trade, the game becomes a cakewalk. That’s a big red X in our book.
However, the game retains the same fantastic invasion system of co-op and PvP from Demon’s Souls which is a big plus. Invading and summoning depends a great deal on every players individual network, so it can get pretty buggy. There’s already been one patch for the game’s multiplayer, and it desperately needs a second.
Graphically, the game is on par with current offerings. It doesn’t do much to really wow the players. And occasionally, there is some significant slowdown when there is too much action on the screen.
The vistas are very pretty and fans of typical “knight and dragon” fantasies will enjoy this dark escapism. The labyrinthine passageways of the main castle and its surroundings are a true triumph in environmental design. You discover how the entire map is interlinking and not built in standalone chunks.
Finally, and this is a mixed point, everything in the game is up to the player. Finding out where to go, discovering how to use the kindling system, learning how to upgrade specific items, learning which items remove ridiculous status afflictions… everything is up to the player. On one hand, it’s great to not have the game constantly tell you which button is the attack button. There are no annoying quick time events. And there are no “spam X to live” moments. But on the other hand, to get a full understanding of the game and even the game’s storyline, you need to pick up the strategy guide or visit a ton of Dark Souls wiki sites and walkthroughs.
But if you’re a big fan of fantasy games, Dark Souls is definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a 360 owner and haven’t had the chance to try out Demon’s Souls. If you’re a Demon’s Souls fan like us, then you’re going to love it. It’s more of the same, and the game is practically tailor made for you. However, it is NOT a game for everyone. The learning curve is steep. The challenge level is through the roof for current game offerings. And to be blunt, the line that divides this game will separate it into people that love it and people that hate it.
We can’t recommend anyone rushing out and buying it straight away unless you’re already a fan of Demon’s Souls. We wholeheartedly recommend renting it first or borrowing it from a friend. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have more dragons to slay.
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Name: Dark Souls
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Developed by: From Software
Published by: Namco Bandai
Release date: September 22, 2011
EG Score: 3 out of 5 / “Worth Trying”