Thursday, 8 March 2012

Review: Dark Souls (f**k you!)

Every now and then, you play a video game that rarely picks up any speed. You know the kind I mean?
The games that walk you through each mission or level, makes sure it's never too hard for you...

Enter Dark Souls.

For those who don't know anything about Dark Souls, let me fill you in quickly.
Dark Souls is a dark-fantasy RPG set in a crumbling world of scimitar-wielding skeletons, dragons that spit lightning and knights the size of bell towers. Still with me?
It's the second in the series, the first game being Demon's Souls, which gained infamy for being the "hardest PS3 game" ever to be released. In my opinion, rightly so.
Dark Souls looked at it's prequel and without fail, managed to strip away anything that made the game even slightly easier. Upping the ante, Dark Souls is truly a game for those with bucketfuls of willpower and the patience of a saint.

Here's how the game works.
You create your unique character from a bunch of different classes, each with different starting stats and equipment. The customization here is amazing, you really do get the chance to make your adventurer YOUR character. Just don't go getting to attached to them, you're going to witness them be defiled in far too many ways to build any emotional bonds. Hell, from the get-go, your character is undead. I'll fill you in on that later.
Once created, you'll take this character all across the in-game land, fighting a multitude of different enemies and huge bosses, gathering new weapons and armour.

In many games I've played over my life, the general feel is that you fight off swarms of easy to kill AI and then face slightly harder bosses.
Dark Souls takes those "normal" enemies and makes them a real challenge. If you aren't ready to block the swings of their blades, you can easily find a quick death around every corner.
These enemies will bombard you with arrows, firebombs, blades, spears and more. Oh, and incase you were wondering... they can also dodge and block your attacks.
In certain areas, enemies even have a decent chance to poison you and if you don't have an item to cure it, you can quickly watch yourself die a slow and painful death.

What other ways can this game kill you? Rabid dogs, giant armoured hogs, poisonous rats, cartwheeling assassins, magic-wielding spirits... You name it, Dark Souls is going to throw it at you.
As you defeat enemy after enemy, you collect "souls", which are basically the in-game currency. These souls can be used to trade with merchants and level up your stats. Oh. and if you die? You lose them all. You DO have a chance to fight your way to the area you died and recollect them again, but if you were to die again, that's those souls gone for good.

Seriously, this game has TOO many weird enemies.
Eventually, once you've battled through parts of the map, you'll find camp fires. These are pretty much the most important areas in the game.
Here, you'll be able to rest and refill your Estus Flasks (these are used to heal yourself), level up/upgrade your stats and work as a "checkpoint" which you will be returned to every time you die.
Oh, remember I mentioned your character is undead? Well at camp fires, if you found an item called "Humanity", you can consume this to become a member of the living again. Huzzah! Now you have a pretty face again and don't look like you've walked straight out of Hiroshima.
Sounds fantastic right? Wrong. As a member of the living again, your world can be invaded by other players, seeking to kill you and regain their own humanity. These players are vicious, merciless and a very popular way to die.
Rejoice though, when you are undead, you can put out a Summon Sign for other players to summon you to their world. Working alongside these other players, you can regain your own humanity and collect some awesome items along the way. As they say, the more the merrier, and when it comes to facing bosses, it can often help to have another player by your side.
Like everything in Dark Souls, camp fires are a two-sided blade. Yes, you now have all your healing utensils refilled, but all those enemies you just killed? They've been respawned. That's right, camp fires bring back all the slain enemies you've worked your way through, except mini-bosses and the main bosses.

If you've managed to fight your way through the trapdoors, pitfalls, swarms of deadly enemies and more, you'll come to the boss fights. If you thought the game up to this point was hard, you better be prepared for these.
Giant dragons, huge knights, monstrous butterflies and 7 headed hydras are the norm in this world, and each of them are ready to rip away your health in two or three attacks.

Beating a boss will give you a large number of souls, rare weapons, access to new areas and more. Oh, and a real sense of personal achievement.

So overall, what do I think about Dark Souls? I think it's a fantastic RPG game which incorporates the real meaning of the word "challenging". This game has no difficulty settings, you're stuck facing the same game as everyone else. I wouldn't recommend this game for video game players who don't handle dying well. The game becomes a very quick way of breaking your controller. Why I've come inches from beating some of the hardest bosses, only to accidentally walk over the edge of a pitfall and lost all my progress AND souls.
If you can look past all the humiliation this game will place upon you, you'll find a truly enjoyable game that really gives you a sense of achievement after progressing to new areas and beating tough enemies.


Gameplay: 8/10
Better than most roleplaying games of it's kind and has much more challenging and enjoyable combat than games such as Skyrim.

Graphics: 7/10
Not the most fantastic graphics, but the dark settings and gritty world are very fitting. Lots of detail in backgrounds etc.

Customization: 8.5/10
Fantastic character creation, tonnes of different upgradable weapons alongside rare items and armours. Shame that for much of the game, your unique characters features are either obscured by being undead or covered up by armours.

Soundtrack: 5/10
Unfortunately, for such an enjoyable game, the soundtrack has nothing memorable going for it. The music and sound effects are fitting, but nothing goes out of it's way to stand out. No epic scores and battle music that other games offer.

Overall: 8/10
Truly an enjoyable, immersive game if you can get past your own impatience and accept the fact that all that you've worked for in the game can be stripped away from you in mere seconds.
Also, if you get the limited edition box set, you'll get a CD of the soundtrack (eh...) and a beautiful book of concept art etc. which is really worth looking through.