You are undead—trapped within the Undead Asylum to spend your remaining time there awaiting the eventuality of becoming a Hollow. However, that would make for a poor game and you are soon freed. What awaits you outside the Asylum is a world of suffering and death.
The title says it all; prepare to die.
Dark Souls’ story is steeped in mystery and shrouded in shadows. In fact, the story is largely left up to the player’s interpretation right down to the ending. The player, toward the beginning, is given the goal of ringing two bells and aside from that, not much else. Getting to these bells requires traversing various areas filled with all sorts of nasty things that want you dead. They will succeed in doing this, there is no question of that. You will die, and you will die a lot. Your penalty for dying is the loss of your collected souls, which act as money in the game. Souls also act as experience points and can be used to increase our stats. When you die you’ll need to return to that point in order to re-collect your lost souls. If you manage to die before you get them back… well, too bad as they are now gone.
While dying, in itself, seems punishing enough, the rest of the game does a good job of helping. The controls, while great, don’t allow a lot of wiggle room in terms of combat. If you make a mistake during combat, it could very well get you killed or, at the least, very hurt. Knowing when to attack, when to dodge/block/parry, or when to get the hell out of the area is key to survival, and learning is a trial-and-error ordeal. Every weapon, shield, piece of armor, and magic spell has it’s use and how they are used is up to the players discretion.
The way the world and the characters that inhabit it are what really sets the mood for the game. Toss in the absence of music, save for tense situations or a few atmospheric tracks, and a lot of really well made sounds and you have an atmosphere that is as nerve-racking as it is amazing. There are details in all of the environments, some very apparent while others more subtle, that give each it’s own distinct feel. The enemies all share in this aesthetic with widely varying designs and sounds that will definitely keep you on your toes. Coming into a new area always struck me with a sense of wonderment and dread. I would often times catch myself looking around the area before quickly scanning for enemies, afraid one might catch me off-guard as I was staring.
Speaking of getting caught off-guard, there is an online aspect to the game where players can invade the realms of others around their level. While fighting the monsters in the game can be challenging, facing other players can pose an even bigger threat as they can have all of the same thing as you, or in many cases have better equipment as well as better combat skills. This can also be used in another way as players can join into another’s realm for the purpose of helping them. In many cases this can alleviate some of the work that goes into taking on many of the game’s challenges, but can open you up to invasion as there is no way to have one without the other. Whether you choose to play online or not is up to you, as there are advantages and disadvantages to both methods of play.
As stated previously, the game is difficult and unforgiving in just about all aspects. If a player is having too much trouble with a particular part of the game, then they’ll need to grind for souls and items to enhance their equipment. Even the “easy ways” of grinding can be excruciatingly time consuming and the rewards might not live up to the time spent. In fact, rewarding the player is something that the game does begrudgingly as main rewards granted to the player only serve to help get to the next part of the quest. While the world is set up much like most metroidvania styled games, there are no special items which give an advantage outside of special weapons and armor that generally require crafting. So, in short, the game can become very tedious and frustrating very quickly for most players.
Dark Souls follows in the footsteps of Demon’s Souls and other FromSoftware titles in it’s difficulty and learning curve. If you are a fan of their games, then you’ll certainly come to love this one. This is a great chance for PC gamers to get in on the action that console players have been enjoying. Ignore all the complaints about the game begin a straight port as that doesn’t hurt the game in the slightest. However, if you don’t mind waiting until October to get the content included in the PC version it will be available as DLC for both consoles.
GO Rating: 3/5